The East Hampton airport is a local hot-button issue. When I first moved to East Hampton in 2003 Nancy Keeshan was both a real estate agent and writer for the same Montauk weekly free paper I was writing for. She and her dad were a tremendous help to me on a few stories.
Ms. Keeshan is a recreational pilot as was my dad who was also in the US 8th Air Force flying B-17’s. Since the airport issue has become so heated I asked her to explain some things about it via an interview. She said, “The number one reason to keep the airport open is the many irreplaceable benefits it provides for our community. Then she added, “The airport brings approximately millions in local business revenue every year and supports hundreds of local jobs in our community. She pointed out, “The airport provides critical emergency services and lifesaving MedEvac services to all members of our community. MedEvac helis can only land in fields and open spaces during the daytime and when the weather is clear and winds are good. If it is dark, raining, snowing, sleeting, high winds, foggy, or there are low clouds, they need to use the airport, its brightly lit wide open runways and ramps, and its instrument approach paths to safely land, pick up, and urgently transport their patients. Most accidents and emergencies don’t happen on sunny, calm, clear days.”
Nancy Keeshan also said, “The airport is currently a globally rare grassland wildlife refuge that supports so many species that are listed as endangered or threatened!” She also pointed out that, “The airport functions as a critical mobilization point for Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol search and rescue operations and regional coastal monitoring missions.
Then she mentioned, “The airport serves as an operation point for many important volunteer organizations that depend on local pilots providing their time and aircraft to help others in need, such as Medical flights and free air transportation for needy individuals through Patient Airlift Services (PALS), including bringing dozens of kids whose lives have been affected by cancer to summer camp on Shelter Island; Rescue flights relocating shelter dogs and cats from high kill to our local no-kill shelters (Pilots N Paws, Four-Legged Fliers, and ARF Flights)”
Ms. Keeshan pointed out that, “The airport serves as a flight training area for the next generation of men and women who want to have a career in aviation. I would never have discovered my passion for flying or realized that it was an option for me as a girl without visiting HTO. It truly changed my life!
Nearly every single statement being published by those opposed to the airport is wildly inaccurate, but the one they are most incorrect about is that closing HTO will eliminate concerns about aircraft noise and frequency. Not only will the number of aircraft flying over the East End and the South Fork not decrease, but it could INCREASE.”
When asked about the studies done on the issue she said, “Multiple studies have already shown that nearly all 30,000 flights will still fly into our area through Westhampton Airport (FOK), Southampton Heliport (87N), Bistrian (EH) Helipad (4NY5), Sag Harbor waterways, and Montauk Airport (MTP). Large jets will go into Westhampton, which has its main runway approach over Bridgehampton, Noyac, Southampton, and Hampton Bays. Those passengers will jump on “last mile” helicopters which will fly them right to their final destinations in SH, EH or Montauk, rather than it in 1-1.5 hours of traffic on 27.
Montauk will see a huge increase in traffic and a major adaptation from small business jets for regional and East Coast travel to much louder luxury turboprop aircraft. Since Montauk is so small it will turn into a bus stop with a constant flow of planes just rapidly dropping off and picking up passengers. Closing HTO won’t make aircraft noise or frequency go away and may end up making things a lot worse. Especially for the residents of Montauk.”