In a victory for public-use airports nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition filed by the town of East Hampton, N.Y., that sought the court’s review of a 2016 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“This decision reaffirms the longstanding policy that America has a national aviation system, not one subject to a patchwork quilt of local regulations,” said National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen.
“This national framework ensures that citizens, companies and communities can work together to meet the needs of all stakeholders. The court clearly understands that reality, and we welcome today’s ruling.”In an earlier decision, the Second Circuit had agreed with NBAA and other parties that the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) applies to all public-use airports, such as East Hampton Airport (HTO), and prohibits operational restrictions adopted by the town.
For nearly two years, NBAA and Friends of the East Hampton Airport argued that the town’s adoption of noise and access restrictions was a violation of that federal law.
ANCA, which was specifically adopted by Congress to prevent access restrictions from being imposed on a piecemeal basis by airports across the country, requires airport operators to engage in detailed studies and obtain FAA approval for any noise-based and other access restrictions before they can be implemented.
The Second Circuit ruling, now left in place by the Supreme Court, holds that ANCA continues to apply to HTO.
The East Hampton litigation was triggered in April 2015, when the town adopted three, unique and selective restrictions for aircraft operations at HTO:
- A year-round general curfew (11 p.m. – 7 a.m.);
- A year-round extended curfew for “noisy” aircraft (8 p.m. – 9 a.m.), and;
- A summertime one-trip-per-week limit for the aircraft deemed by the town to be noisy.
In June 2015, a federal district court judge upheld the town ordinances instituting the mandatory nighttime curfew, as well as the extended curfew on noisy aircraft, but enjoined the town from imposing the one-trip-a-week restriction.
The Second Circuit issued its decision in November 2016, finding that, based on ANCA, the curfews also were impermissible, and on Jan. 11, 2017, the U.S. District Court entered an injunction based on the Second Circuit’s ruling, prohibiting the enforcement of the curfews and other restrictions at HTO.
Bolen noted that helicopter operators, in particular, have developed new routes to avoid noise-sensitive areas.
While applauding the Supreme Court’s denial of the town’s petition, Bolen said the association would continue to be vigilant regarding attempts to restrict access to the nation’s public-use airports.
“NBAA will oppose any efforts to limit the utility of airports like HTO, as well as initiatives that seek to cripple the overall viability of the National Airspace System,” said Bolen.