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East Hampton Airport Future in Jeopardy

Residents Battle Over the Operations of One of Long Island’s Most Popular Airports

The future of East Hampton Airport (KHTO) on Long Island, NY is up in the air as neighbors engage in a legal battle over it’s operations.

Town of East Hampton Airport
East Hampton Airport / wikimedia

The FAA had initially approved a conversion plan that was to go into effect on May 17th, closing the Eat Hampton Airport (KHTO) as a public-use airport, and re-opening as a private airport and renamed as the Town of East Hampton Airport (KJPX) on May 19th, 2022.

A temporary block was granted on the operational changes at the airport, allowing general aviation activities to continue while the case plays out in court.

The changes were set to allow the airport to operate under prior permission required (PPR) rules while imposing curfews, higher landing fees, and a variety of other restrictions.

In the meantime, an FAA Regional Administrator stated in a letter that “The deactivation of the East Hampton airport is a process that cannot be quickly, and more importantly safely stopped, or undone, by the FAA, as certain steps have already been taken.”, and the airport has been renamed Town of East Hampton Airport, which includes a change to the airport code from KHTO to KJPX.

Reasons for Change

The distance between New York City and East Hampton is around 100 miles. Helicopter flights between Manhattan and East Hampton’s airport only take around a half hour, compared to a 3 hour or more drive via the Long Island Expressway and the two-lane Montauk Highway.

Since 2014, the airport began to see a steady increase in helicopter traffic as charter programs began offering ride-sharing flights to ends of Long Island. This increase in helicopter traffic also saw a rise in noise complaints by locals and residents of Long Island along their flight paths.

The move to convert the local airport into private-use stems for a large increase in helicopter traffic to and from the airport – there were 32,298 operations logged in East Hampton in 2021, up 27 percent from the year before.

The town allowed FAA grants to expire in September 2021, which cleared the way for the Town to govern the airport rather than the FAA, and earlier this January, the town announced the conversion of East Hampton Airport as a public-use airport to a private entity, requiring advance permission for any aircraft wanting to use the facility.

Operational changes the town was seeking included:

  • Special procedures for all IFR operations must be applied by airport users in advance
  • Ban on aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 50,000 pounds or more
  • Ending the sale of leaded fuels
  • Establishing curfews from 8 PM – 8 AM from Monday to Thursday and 7 PM – 9 AM Friday through Sunday and on federal holidays

Landing fees were also proposed to be significantly higher based on aircraft weight, with helicopter fees ranging from $300 to $750 and airplanes weighing between 4,500 and 50,000 pounds costing between from $300 and $1,750.

Although locally-based operators were not exempt, the landing fees for fixed-wing aircraft weighing less than 4,500 pounds was only set at $20.

Continuing Arguments

Some charter operators have filed lawsuits against the airport’s conversion, with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) filing a pair of motions challenging the transition’s compliance, arguing that the changes violate the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA).

While these cases are handled over time, many are comparing the local battles of this popular private jet and helicopter hub to that of Santa Monica Municipal Airport – another aviation hub with a contentious local battle that is now set to close in 2028.

An attorney with the law firm handling the airport’s transition on behalf of the town said at a June 7th town board meeting that East Hampton would explore closing the airport in response to the “mountain of litigation.”