Push to make permanent detour for helicopters


A temporary Federal Aviation Administration requirement that helicopters fly over Long Island Sound rather than homes on the North Fork is set to expire on Aug. 6, according to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). Mr. Bishop and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) are now working on a bill to make that requirement permanent and to also extend the area where helicopters must stay over the water. 

The North Shore route, as it is called, mandates helicopters operating along the North Shore between Huntington and Orient Point, unless otherwise authorized, must fly one mile off the coast to limit noise for residential areas, according to Mr. Bishop.

However, pilots currently may deviate from those requirements when required for safety, weather conditions or transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing.

This is where the problem has occurred, according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who says pilots routinely have deviated from this path and crossed over his town on the way to the South Fork.

The new proposal asks the FAA to require helicopters to remain over water and go around Orient Point on their way to South Fork destinations, according to Mr. Bishop.

While officials in Brookhaven and Riverhead towns have supported the current regulations as written, Mr. Russell does not.

“This has led to a substantial increase in helicopter noise in Southold Town, not a decrease,” he said.

The current regulations allow pilots to deviate from the route at their discretion in order to transition to and from South Fork airports or landing points, Mr. Russell said. In addition, he said, requirements that pilots fly at certain altitudes also don’t apply when they are transitioning to a location.

“It didn’t bring relief, it brought grief to Southold Town,” he said. “The proposed new route that would require them to fly around Orient Point, if that gets adopted, would provide substantial relief to Southold Town.”

The current route was mandated in 2012 after years of complaints from homeowners about noise from helicopters flying across, rather than around, the North Fork.

“For the last two years, residents on Long Island have finally had some relief from the onerous helicopter noise,” Mr. Schumer said in a press release.

“It is imperative that the FAA continues to require helicopter pilots to utilize a route that travels over water rather than residential communities,” Mr. Bishop added.

Sid Bail, the president of the Wading River Civic Association, which has called for the over-water routes, said the current regulations have made a difference over the past two years.

“We’ve noticed a lot less noise over the past two years,” he said. “It has gradually gotten better.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter also have added their support to making the helicopter route permanent.

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