NBAA welcomes favorable resolution of East Hampton Airport litigation

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At the conclusion of the precedent-setting case for public-use airports nationwide, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of New York on Aug. 7 issued a permanent injunction that strikes down access restrictions for New York’s East Hampton Airport (HTO) and resolves multiple years of litigation by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and others.

Federal District Court Judge Joanna Seybert officially ended the litigation by recently signing a permanent injunction against the noise and access restrictions at East Hampton Airport.

“We are gratified that the judicial system upheld our position that the restrictions at East Hampton violated federal law,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “For aircraft operations to be successful, it is essential to have a uniform and consistent set of rules. The courts clearly understand the longstanding policy that our country has a national aviation system, not one subject to a patchwork of local regulations.”

The East Hampton litigation was triggered in April 2015, when the Long Island town adopted three restrictions for aircraft operations at HTO:

  • A year-round general curfew, which was in effect from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily
  • A year-round extended curfew for "noisy" aircraft, which was in effect from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily
  • A summertime one-trip-per-week limit for aircraft deemed by the town to be “noisy”

In June 2015, Seybert preliminarily upheld the ordinances instituting the mandatory nighttime curfew and the extended curfew on noisy aircraft, but preliminarily enjoined the one-trip-per-week restriction.

NBAA, Friends of the East Hampton Airport, the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC) and others had argued that federal law - The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) - applies to all public-use U.S. airports, and that the town of East Hampton’s adoption of all three noise and access restrictions was a violation of ANCA.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York issued a decision in November 2016, agreeing with NBAA’s position that all three restrictions were impermissible, the U.S. District Court entered a revised preliminary injunction based on the Second Circuit’s ruling, prohibiting the enforcement of all the restrictions at HTO. The town of East Hampton sought to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court denied the petition in June 2017.

“Even though restrictions have been permanently lifted at East Hampton, aircraft operators have long respected the concerns of local residents and will continue to make every attempt to fly neighborly, thereby minimizing aircraft operations’ impact on local residents,” said Bolen.

“East Hampton has one of the most extensive voluntary noise-abatement programs in the country, and our members are committed to flying responsibly,” added Bolen, who noted that the ERHC has even developed new routes and procedures for helicopters to avoid noise-sensitive areas. “NBAA will remain vigilant regarding attempts to restrict access to the nation’s public-use airports and oppose any efforts to limit the utility of airports like HTO, which would cripple the overall viability of the National Airspace System."

BlueSky Business Aviation News | 10th August 2017 | Issue #428

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