It’s quite common out here to see a large Air National Guard C-130 in flight coming in low, the unmistakable deep rumble of its four turboprop engines a reassuring reminder that the Westhampton Beach-based 106th Rescue Wing is always on the job.
The aircraft certainly are noisy, but fortunately the noise fades fast. The same cannot be said for the steady stream of non-military helicopters carrying the well-heeled back and forth to the South Fork during warm-weather weekends. Those copters are loud, and it seems as soon as one passes by another approaches — and that awful sound hardly fades.
Anyone unable to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own backyard could be forgiven for concluding that Hollywood had come to town to film a Vietnam War epic.
This has been going on for many years now, and on more than one occasion there’s been word of a “breakthrough” resolving the problem once and for all. Such was the case a few weeks back, this time from Senator Chuck Schumer, who announced the FAA was planning to require helicopter traffic traveling between Manhattan and the East End to stay over the Sound. It is a major step that the FAA is formally proposing to require helicopter pilots flying visually to stick to any route — but it’s not a breakthrough the helps people here. It helps Sen. Schumer’s much larger constituency in Nassau and western Suffolk, not us.
The reason is the FAA’s proposed rules will allow pilots to break away from the offshore route to reach their destinations. And that means they go the same way they’re going now: across the North Fork to East Hampton and Gabreski airports and the Southampton helipad.
There’s only one way to resolve this, and that is for the FAA to require all helicopters on their way to and from those destinations — and especially East Hampton Airport, which makes up the majority of local flights — to stay clear of land, except for takeoffs and landings. We tried the voluntary approach, with pilots staying higher and sticking to water routes a little longer than they used to. But the noise around is still intolerable. Why should so many people suffer for the benefit of so few?
Enough talk. Time for action. Set mandatory routes right to each airport, not just along the North Shore, then insure there are no deviations. Anything else at this point is just rotor wash.