Cry for Help Over Roar of Chopper Noise in Hamptons

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Mike Hewitt/Staff

    On a typical Friday afternoon, the helicopters land, one after another, at the East Hampton Airport.

    "It's like the scene from the film 'Apocalypse Now,'" said East Hampton resident Peter Wadsworth.  "It makes you not want to go outside -- and that's ridiculous because that's why we live here."

    Wadsworth is one of many residents who has been complaining since 2003 about the roar of helicopters flying over their East End homes every summer weekend.

    "Our voicemail is just filled with complaints every Monday morning," said Long Island Congressman Tim Bishop.

    Residents claim the chopper noise is destroying their "tranquil" quality of life.

    But the helicopters keep coming.

    After a drop in flights last year, the number is up again this summer.  More and more well to do New Yorkers are apparently opting to make the trip to the Hamptons by air, rather than fight the brutal summer traffic jams.

    The Federal Aviation Administration is considering a plan to abate the helicopter noise.  But a statement released Friday said a decision on that plan will be delayed until later this year.

    The reason for that delay, in part, is that there is little consensus on how to solve the noise problem.

    The FAA wants to impose a flight route that would take the helicopters over Long Island Sound, away from most homes.  But Congressman Bishop and officials from several East End towns want the FAA to make the so called "North Route" longer, taking the helicopters past Orient Point before allowing them to fly to the Hamptons over inland waters.

    East End officials are also pushing a second, or "South Route" that would take the helicopters over the Atlantic Ocean.

    "The helicopters should stay over water for as long as they can," insisted Bishop.  "That's where we want them to be."

    The helicopter companies, while working with local officials to reduce noise, see problems with FAA imposed flight plans.  Routes over water, said Jeff Smith of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, would add time and expense to every chopper flight.

    "There are a lot of issues that will have to be looked at before that happens," Smith said of the proposed flight routes.

    "It's just a difficult situation to resolve," said Jim Brundige, the East Hampton Airport manager.  "If you push planes away from one community, you push them toward another."

    Still, Wadsworth, who heads an East Hampton helicopter noise abatement committee, remained optimistic.

    "They have solved this in other areas," said Wadsworth.  "I think we can do it here, too."