The Montauk Highway, better known as 27, is the inching one lane artery delivering sweltering Manhattanites to their East End Xanadus. For those more prescient, less patient or more able of pocket, the faster commute option is the 40 minute helicopter ride from lower Manhattan to the Hampton of choice.
The swiftest, most fuel efficient helicopter route is along the North Shore of Long Island, cutting overland near Noyack and Sag Harbor. For years North Fork residents have complained of the helicopter drone that ruined their summers–a Munsey Park civic leader says helicopters rattle her dishes.
Now, in an effort to placate those disgruntled citizens, Senator Schumer kicked off the summer season announcing the FAA’s proposed route regulations that would mandate helicopters’ altitude (2500 feet), distance from the shoreline (1 mile), and require that when crossing overland pilots traverse the least populated areas.
“I realized what a terrible problem this was when I was in people’s backyards in Nassau and Suffolk counties and heard the helicopters at a frighteningly noisy pitch,” the senator explained recently. “One came over backyards every 15 minutes.”
On May 24th the FAA published a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) stipulating that the North Shore route will become compulsory (until now use of the route was voluntary). The public has 30 days to comment on the NPRM before it becomes regulation in time for July 4th weekend.
The proposed regulations, which only address the North Shore route, will likely increase traffic on the little-used South Shore route, once the only route available, until the North Shore route was created five years ago. The South Shore route requires significantly less overland flight as the three airports used–Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, East Hampton Airport and the petite heliport in Southampton–are on the Southern edge of the island, but is a less efficient commute (adding about 15 minutes to flight time) and requires pilots to navigate JFK’s airspace. This is the official reason why the North Shore route was created, however what many sources alluded to off the record was that the wealthy seasonal population with homes in the Georgica Pond area of East Hampton used their political and financial muscle to lobby for the new route to avoid helicopters flying low over their homes.
Suffolk County Legistlator Ed Romaine suggested that the FAA and helicopter companies look into stealth technology, “You know helicopters have the possibility of being quiet. How do you think they land in secret military operations? Whisper mode! All these problems are related to noise so they should pay a little extra for the whisper mode technology.”