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FAA dismisses Southold’s petition to change North Shore Route for helicopters

May 31, 2017
In The News

The Federal Aviation Administration has dismissed Southold Town’s petition asking the agency to require East End-bound helicopters to use the FAA-established South Shore Route.

The FAA notified the town of its decision in a letter dated May 16 to Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

The agency said its decision was made “after carefully reviewing the information provided in Southold’s petition… [it] determined that the petition does not identify an immediate safety or security concern that would be resolved by eliminating the NSR [North Shore Route] and mandating the SSR [South Shore Route]. In fact, the FAA finds that terminating the NSR and mandating the SSR, as Southold suggested, may not be in the interest ofaviation safety,” according to a letter signed by Gary Norek, deputy director of airspace services at the FAA.

“The FAA recognizes the concerns residential communities, such as Southold, have about helicopter noise. However, after carefully reviewing the information provided in Southold’s petition for rulemaking, the FAA has determined that the petition does not identify an immediate safety or security concern that would be resolved by eliminating the NSR and mandating the SSR,” Norek wrote.

“Because your petition for rulemaking does not raise an immediate safety or security concern, the FAA finds that the actions requested in your petition cannot be addressed at this time due to other priorities and resource constraints in the agency,” Norek wrote.

The FAA finds that “Southold’s petition does not justify the FAA taking the actions Southold suggested,” he said. In fact, Norek wrote, “the FAA finds that terminating the NSR and mandating the SSR, as Southold suggested, may not be in the interest of aviation safety. Therefore, the FAA is dismissing Southold’s petition for rulemaking in accordance with 14 CFR § 11.73.”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous for the FAA to be able to cast aside our concerns as a community because they don’t have the time or the resources to deal with it or have other priorities to focus on,” Southold Councilman Bob Ghosio, the town liaison to the helicopter committee said tonight. Ghosio had not seen the decision until it was forwarded by RiverheadLOCAL’s sister site, SoutholdLOCAL.

“In fact they were mandated as part of the original plan to come to Southold and get our input before renewing the North Shore Route — which they bypassed and now they say they don’t have to,” he said.

“This is an autocratic decision. The fight continues.”

The town filed its petition to the FAA in November. See prior story.

When it got no reply from the federal agency, Rep. Lee Zeldin in mid-January warned he would renew his call “in earnest” for the FAA administrator’s immediate replacement.” 

The town is prepared to take the federal agency to court, according to officials, but decided to give the FAA the chance to remedy the wrong on its own.

The FAA last July published its decision to summarily extend through 2020 the north shore helicopter route, which has been funneling virtually all NYC-Hamptons helicopter traffic over the North Fork since 2012. The rule was due to sunset Aug. 6.