The saga over New York’s embattled East Hampton Airport (KHTO) reached a new phase last week when the East Hampton town board voted unanimously to close down the field to public use beginning March 1. According to the plan favored by town supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who was re-elected in November, the airport serving the wealthy communities on the East end of Long Island would reopen several days later as a private-use facility, subject to prior-permission requirements.
The airport’s fate had been in jeopardy for the past several years as activists railed against the noise of what they said was an increasing volume of aircraft using it. Yet, for those individuals who own their own aircraft, KHTO remains a convenient and vital link for their comings and goings.
While the move would preclude regular use by charter and air-taxi operations, the town board, in a nod to those owners, noted that the new system would allow it to impose restrictions on air traffic “without foreclosing the ability of certain operators to continue operating out of the new airport.”
The move is being opposed by groups such as NBAA that wish to see it remain open for public access.
“We do not see the path to a private-use airport in order to institute restrictions to be viable as proposed by the town, and its ability to receive FAA approval for this course of action remains to be seen,” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA’s director of airports and ground infrastructure. “Nevertheless, choosing this option indicates the town recognizes the value of its airport, and NBAA appreciates the town board making a commitment to keeping KHTO open so that it can continue to play an important role and to serve the communities on the east end of the island.”