East Hampton Warned By FAA Of Airport Closure Consequences


The East Hampton Town Board on Long Island plans to press ahead with its plan to close the public use airport on Feb. 28 and reopen it March 4 as a private facility despite a warning from the FAA that it may not happen the way board members envision. The airport has long been a source of political and public friction with the stream of helicopters and private jets that whisk the rich and famous to the toney rural escape from the big city. When the town’s obligations to the FAA for past funding expired in September, the town saw its chance to take control of the facility and restrict access with a prior permission requirement. According to the East Hampton Star, the agency has since reminded them that closing and then reopening an airport is more complicated than locking the gate and publishing a NOTAM.

In a letter to the Board, local FAA supervisor Marie Kennington-Gardiner said that rather than closing for four days, they better count on the facility being unavailable in its current form for two years and that the facilities and services currently provided by the agency may not all come back. If the airport closes, even for a few days, all the approaches will be canceled, the navaids and weather gear will be decommissioned and the air traffic control agreement with the New York TRACON will be canceled. 

Before it could be reopened as a private airport the agency will do an airspace analysis that will consider “the effect of the proposed airport on existing or contemplated traffic patterns, its effect on the existing airspace structure, and the effects that existing or proposed manmade or natural objects would have on the airport proposal.” Kennington-Gardiner also noted that private airports have to pay to have their own instrument approaches designed either by private companies or through a reimbursement scheme with the FAA and any changes would trigger even more analysis. The same goes for all the gear on the ground that the agency now provides for free.

Board Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told a virtual meeting earlier this month he was “floored” by the FAA’s letter and vowed to continue with the closure plan. He said the facilities available on March 4 will be up to the agency. “The town believes that all of the issues raised by the F.A.A. can be easily addressed by the F.A.A. if it chooses. Any delay by the F.A.A. will be self-inflicted and unnecessary,” the Star reported him as saying. “To the extent the airport is not authorized to open or any of its capabilities not improved, that is the direct result of the FAA turning its back on the town and deciding at the 11th hour that it cannot accomplish what it previously told the town was possible.” 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. The Board Supervisor is obviously unaware of how supremely indifferent the FAA will be to the plight of his airport after he takes it private. Suggesting the FAA can address the issues? Might as well park his car on the train tracks and suggest that the railroad can easily address the issue.

    On the other hand, if his goal is to eliminate the disturbances from helicopters and private jets, taking the airport private will definitely do that.

    • That’s about what I was thinking. Seems like the city wanted to stop activity at the airport anyway. Now, suddenly, it’s the FAA’s fault.

  2. I’m sure he was ‘floored’, but shows the nature of typical inbred political hacks that think their sinecures can act with impunity in the face of federal power and are taken aback when they’re spanked.

    Pretty sure the FAA will not back down, and if this hack and his minions do close the airport to make it their little private domain…they will find the consequences (especially when all the “right people” can’t land their private conveyances there on Friday afternoons in the summer) far outweigh what they projected would happen.

    One almost wishes they would close it and attempt to take it private…and have the FAA erase it from the NAS…and then have to find a way (oh, it would end up as starter castles or insanely expensive tract housing) to explain to the Rich and Famous ™ why the facility no longer exists.

    I’ll bring the popcorn and soda to watch.

  3. This was all outlined in a FAA letter sent to the town that pointed to all the FAA communication with the town that had occurred over the last year. The politicians and attorney have long known the consequences of its actions. Many in community foretold that the town politicians would try to push the blame onto the FAA. So predictable ,so stereotypical
    I tried to attach the letter of 2 Feb 2022 but was unable . KHTO was the first flight with my PPL and mom on board over 50 years ago.

  4. Follow the money. They have no intention of reopening the airport. There are developers in the background who have already bribed these guys to turn over that real estate. Count on it.

  5. I think the city is playing “outrage theater” for the press in the hope they can cow the FAA into submission to their money and power. Good luck with that.
    My guess is that they’ll complain to their legislators next in an effort to get what they’re demanding.
    I’m joining Bryan in buying soda and popcorn.

    • Greg: You got it right. Politics and brinkmanship. Now if local businesses feel the pain AND see the hand writing on the wall the pressure willl make brinkmanship less attractive.

  6. Michael beat me to it: This is nothing more than Reid-Hillview on the East Coast.

    As soon as everyone else figures out that the FAA ain’t messin’ around, they will throw up their hands and announce that the Feds forced them to sell the property.

  7. There really is no reason to close the airport to change it to prior permission required (PPR). There are private rights and the airport fund that are in play here and the town believes that closing it for a day or two will solve those issues. Closing even for a day will get the anti-airport crowd’s lawyers filing an injunction to keep it from reopening. I think the town is playing chicken with the FAA but my hope is if they are sincere in trying to keep the airport open but as private use, they will shelve the 4 day closure strategy and come up with a plan that will work with the FAA.

    Either way watch as the law suits start flying here any day now….

  8. The loss of public airports is something all pilots should be concerned about and should oppose, especially when a local governmental entity wants to take a public airport and make it private. I hope the FAA has the b*lls to either prevent or severely punish such action in this case, more so than it did back when the City of Chicago ripped up the runway at that Chicago lakefront GA airport some time back. We’ll see.

  9. “The airport was constructed around 1936 as a Works Project Administration (WPA) project under the Roosevelt administration on federal land. The airport thrived. During World War II (1941–1945) it was used to transport fighter planes and war materials to Europe. After the war ended, the feds declared the airport war surplus, deeded the property to the town for $1, and added the restriction that if it ceased being an airport, the feds would have the right to reverse the deed and take back the property.

    You think they wouldn’t do that? Talking to town councilmen about this, I was told this is only done if this were a stage 3 airport, with commercial scheduled flights. It’s never been done with a stage 2 airport such as East Hampton which has chartered aircraft, helicopters and private planes.”
    –Dan Rattiner

  10. There’s nothing here to tell me what to think except both sides appear to be acting rather like jerks. I said appear because there very well may be good reason for them to behave this way that isn’t offered here.

    If the FAA is going to get nasty about the town closing the airport, then they should have never let the feds sell it for $1. That’s water under the bridge. They should now be working with them to tell them what it takes and to help make that happen.

    The town leaders are crazy. They are a government entity. They will not be able to discriminate on who can use the airport. I’m not an attorney, but i cannot see a scheme where they won’t get in trouble for telling people who can and cannot use the airport. They could limit types of aircraft if this is about noise, but what else? Their behavior sure does support the idea they just want to close it permanently.

  11. Politics at any level is relatively rotten. And often stupid. A small fish in a small pond can feel pretty big, but throw it into a large lake, and it’s just a small fish. But when you’re the small fish, you don’t take on a big fish with impunity. You get eaten. Now if that’s the “secret plan” of the Board of Supervisors, to get eaten, then they’ll get their wish. If on the other hand, they really think they’ll reopen the airport “just like always” with the blessing of the big fish, that’s pretty unlikely. They’ll be able to reopen it, but it’ll be a one-lung airport without approaches, weather, tower, or anything else that they’re accustomed to. They may not even be on any chart without the big fish’s blessing. So if they’re plan is to be eaten by the big fish, that’ll happen, and the leavings will be available for redevelopment. Condos? Multi-bathroom estates? Who knows?

    Oh, just for the record, any privately owned airport owners can prevent others from using their airport. The only penalty is that the big fish won’t provide most of the services that a public airport can get.

    • For it to be truly private, they’d have to sell it. They are a town. So once again, they’ll have a good time figuring out discriminating against anyone. Given the money around there, they’ll have to outsmart every lawyer on the east coast.

      That’s what I don’t get. They could have already put in noise and time restrictions couldn’t they?

  12. Close it down. Never was a welcoming airport. I hope the FAA sticks it to the political self serving scum. It would be a warning to other airports threaten in this way.