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Loud concern over new chopper service

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

Concerns about helicopter noise are mounting after a new luxury helicopter service announced plans to shuttle passengers between Manhattan and East Hampton.

Wheels Up, a company that allows members to book private aircraft, has partnered with HeliFlite, a helicopter charter service, to offer 40-minute flights from Manhattan to East Hampton Airport in Wainscott on Fridays beginning in mid-June.

One-way flights start at $995 and can be booked through the Wheels Up app.

Similar services have become more prevalent in recent years, marketed as a way to beat the highway traffic.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule approved in 2012 requires helicopters to fly over the water east down Long Island Sound — one mile offshore — and go around Orient Point rather than fly over houses on the North Fork and Shelter Island.

But the rule allows pilots to deviate from the prescribed route when necessary, for safety reasons, due to weather conditions or to transition to the South Fork.

Local officials have said this only makes the situation worse, because it provides a loophole that allows helicopters to cut across the North Fork on their way to East Hampton Airport as they move south.

In a May 10 letter to FAA acting regional administrator Maria Stanco, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) requested that public hearings be held on the North Fork and that an all-water route be implemented ahead of the peak season.

“The ‘workshops’ held on Long Island last year did not meet the clear mandates of the law and insulted my constituents,” Mr. Zeldin wrote. “The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public, but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts …”

The congressman also criticized the FAA for implementing new routes for neighborhoods in northeast Queens affected by aircraft noise.

A six-month trial requiring helicopters and sea planes to fly farther out over the water began in October. Mr. Zeldin said the measure was “a slap in the face” to East End residents, who have sought similar relief for several years.

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