Southold Town and Suffolk County officials have for years now tried to combat what many North Fork residents say has become — some at fairly low altitudes — flying over the North Fork en route to South Fork heliports.
Despite repeated attempts at putting the pressure on federal representatives and the Federal Aviation Administration, the entity in charge of regulating flight plans, helicopter pilots still choose the northern route from Manhattan to the South Fork. And to residents like Connie Shapiro of Mattituck — these flight paths make absolutely no sense.
“We hear them every day on the weekends, and it seems like all day,” she said. “I don’t know why we have to get the brunt of the noise — they fly so close it makes a vibration in my house.”
Pilot and flight path expert a Southold resident, and Suffolk County Legis. Ed Romaine spoke to a group of people gathered this week at the about the reasons why pilots choose this seemingly nonsensical route — and why there is little town and county officials can do to change things. The meeting was hosted by SoutholdVOICE, a group of concerned local homeowners and business people.
“The solution is very simple — and you would think it would be more convenient for pilots since all the he said. “It’s just that JFK airspace is very hard to get through.”
Using a map of New York City and Nassau County controlled airspace, Fischetti explained that in order to get around JFK and Islip airport airspace, in 2007 pilots chose to start flying north over LaGuardia and continued over the North Shore, breaking over Shoreham to heliports at Gabreski and at Southampton airports and flying over Mattituck and Cutchogue to hit East Hampton.
“They wait until they fly over more populated areas past Calverton and all that traffic goes right over Cutchogue — it’s all voluntary and that’s what is happening,” he said.
Fischetti said that the Federal Aviation Administration has made it clear that they do not want to get involved in noise abatement.
“There are 4,500 airports in the country, large and small, and every single one of them has noise problems,” he said. “They do not want to get involved.”
Phone calls to the Federal Aviation Administration were not returned by press time. Fischetti added that though federal officials like Sen. Charles Schumer have tried, “you cannot legislate helicopter traffic and altitudes nor tell pilots where to fly.”
“A pilot has the ability to control his plane at his time and is responsible for the safety of his passengers,” he said. “Regulation is not an option.”
Leg. Romaine said that he would continue to pressure federal officials to implement a change in flight paths from Manhattan to the East End.
“This is a federal issue — the county can’t really do anything, and when we step in, it’s like firing a flare in the night just to get their attention,” he said. “But this is one of the busiest air spaces in the country and it’s better than sitting around saying I can’t do anything. We are waiting for the federal government to step up and do the right thing.”