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blank 05/22/15 08:46AM Federal Grant Assurances, NBAA

NBAA Says Restrictions at East Hampton Airport Violate Federal Grant Assurances

Washington, DC, May 20, 2015 – Aircraft operating restrictions adopted by East Hampton, NY at its public-use airport (HTO) are in violation of federal grant assurances received by the town and must be revoked, according to a formal complaint filed today with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and other parties, including a number of its affected Member Companies.

The complaint requests that the FAA issue an immediate cease-and-desist order regarding the airport restrictions and take corrective action as necessary – including the withholding of federal transportation funds from the town.

“The restrictions that the town has adopted, by its own calculations, would prohibit a significant share of all airport operations – up to 23 percent of operations at HTO, according to a study performed for the town – and are likely to permanently cripple the airport by driving existing tenants out of business and undercutting the airport budget,” NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown wrote in the complaint, which was submitted pursuant to Part 16 of the FAA’s regulations.

Read NBAA's full Part 16 complaint submitted to the FAA with regard to East Hampton Airport. (PDF)

The Part 16 complaint is the latest in a series of efforts by NBAA to ensure safe and unrestricted access to East Hampton Airport, an integral part of the national system of airports, and one used frequently by NBAA Members. Last month, the East Hampton Town Council voted to adopt three noise and access restrictions at HTO: a mandatory nighttime curfew, an extended curfew on so-called “noisy” aircraft and a limit on “noisy” aircraft of one trip per week to HTO during the summer.

“There are multiple reasons why the adoption of these resolutions by the town is impermissible,” wrote Brown in the complaint to the FAA. Brown warned the FAA that without an expedited cease-and-desist order, “there is a significant risk that an ultimate ruling by the FAA in favor of the Complainants … would be a pyrrhic victory,” as the restrictions could have an immediate and devastating impact on airport tenants and the many users of the airport.

According to Brown, the unlawful restrictions that the town has adopted on aircraft operations – especially during the summer months ─ will have an irreparable economic impact on airport businesses, as well as the significant number of jobs, investments and revenue that East Hampton Airport provides to the local area and eastern Long Island.

In the complaint to the FAA, NBAA maintains that the resolutions adopted by the town are incompatible with the federal grant assurances that the town has received for the airport, which prohibit East Hampton from providing “exclusive rights” to any category of airport user. In addition, the complaint states that the town’s stated intent to use airport revenue to support the restrictions in legal proceedings is also incompatible with the town’s assurances. NBAA requests that the FAA direct the town to “take corrective action subject to the suspension of further AIP [Airport Improvement Program] grants and other enforcement measures, and all other relief that is necessary and proper.”

In a related development, the town of East Hampton said on May 18 it would not enforce the restrictions for at least three more weeks. The town’s announcement came at a U.S. District Court hearing in response to a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order filed by the local organization Friends of the East Hampton Airport and other parties, which had been joined by NBAA.  An opinion on the TRO request by U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert is expected by June 8. Read more about the delay in enforcement.

“We are pleased that Judge Seybert recognizes the need to consider a temporary restraining order, and will take the time to study the situation at HTO,” said Brown. "East Hampton Airport is part of a national system of airports, and operational restrictions like those the town wants to impose present a threat to the national air transportation system.”

The federal government, on behalf of the FAA, had also written to the district court, stating that a temporary flight restriction is necessary in order to give the agency adequate time to study the overall issues and respond to the implications of a separate federal lawsuit that also questions whether the restrictions comply with federal law and FAA regulations.

 

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