The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has joined with other stakeholders in filing a pair of motions in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York asking to pause the planned closure of East Hampton Airport (HTO) and supposed conversion of the embattled publicly owned airport to a private-use facility with access restrictions under a Prior Permission Required (PPR) framework.
“Allowing this airport’s closure and reopening to proceed would undermine decades of federal policy and create a dangerous path by which other communities could similarly claim ‘local control,’ restrict access to their airports and destroy the functionality of the national air transportation system,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen.
The town of East Hampton stopped accepting federal grant funds and ran out the 20-year clock on its grant-based obligations in September 2021. The town board intends to close the airport May 17 and then reopen the facility 33 hours later as a “new” private-use East Hampton Town Airport (JPX). The town asserts the closure will “extinguish” its remaining and ongoing statutory obligations and enable it to impose onerous restrictions to curtail aircraft operations.
Those restrictions include some of the highest landing fees in the nation, bans on aircraft weighing more than 50,000 lbs. and on aircraft with an Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels (EPNdb) on approach of 91 or greater, trip limits on Part 135 and 91(k) operations, curfews and burdensome requirements for IFR operations.
In a motion of contempt filed May 14, NBAA and other claimants assert the town’s plan violates the permanent injunction issued by the court following a 2015 attempt by the town to unlawfully impose very similar restrictions in direct contradiction to the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA).
Read the Motion for Contempt in its entirety.
“This new attempt [to curtail operations] is too clever by half,” reads the motion, adding the town’s scheme to impose restrictions “has no basis in law and is contemptuous of this court’s prior ruling.”
A new complaint further calls on the court to declare that the town’s attempted reclassification of HTO is preempted by ANCA, and to enjoin town officials from any further attempts to close the airport or impose noise restrictions until the town complies with ANCA’s requirements.
“The town’s actions – yet again – are an impermissible attempt to circumvent ANCA,” the motion reads. “The court should enjoin the Town Board from doing indirectly what it previously enjoined the Town Board from doing directly.”
Read the Motion for Injunction in its entirety.
Leading up to the litigation, NBAA and other general aviation partners attempted for years to collaborate with the town on mutually beneficial solutions to address community noise concerns and determine a viable path forward under the existing regulatory framework established under 14 C.F.R. Part 161 Subpart B.
NBAA and other stakeholders also have encouraged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to itself put the town on notice that its plan is inconsistent with ANCA and other federal laws that continue to apply to the airport. However, beyond a strong recommendation that the town suspend implementation of its PPR framework until the matter has been considered and resolved, the agency has not taken any formal measures to stop the town board’s actions.
“NBAA will always vigilantly defend access to airports across the country,” Bolen concluded. “Our preference is to work cooperatively with communities – but after exhausting all other means, this legal action demonstrates the business aviation community will remain proactive in combating access to our nation’s aviation infrastructure.”
Read more about NBAA’s efforts to keep HTO open.