Early days at KHTO
East Hampton Airport (identified as JPX since 2022) was founded in the 1930's for use as a local recreational airport by pilots who flew mostly small propeller-driven planes (smaller even than the one shown below). The original grass landing strip was replaced by a runway constructed during the 1940’s, likely an initiative of the Work Projects Administration (WPA). Around that time, the 628-acre property was deeded in perpetuity to the Town of East Hampton.
For almost four decades, East Hampton's Airport remained an airfield beloved by local recreational flyers and a good neighbor to nearby residents. There was no reason to believe that the small local airport would be dramatically expanded but, once expansion began, it quickly transformed not only the airport but many of the surrounding communities as well.
Small changes occurred over time, but in the early 1970's, when wealthy East End homeowners began to commute to East Hampton by air, rather than by automobile or railroad, the wide-ranging problems which afflict us today began to develop. Once development began, there was no stopping the calls for expansion, and they continue today with some pilots renewing their calls for the town to once again accept FAA money.
Fast forward 2016
When the permanent air traffic control tower opened in 2013, (following a much contested battle by anti-noise activists), the airport was quickly designated a regional airport by the FAA, at the behest of the aviation special interests, supported by airport management and members of the town board (Wilkinson Administration). Those two events ushered in a new era for the airport. The quiet, local airport was gone forever.
Although the airport's control tower is seasonally operated, it welcomes more traffic during those three months than many airports accommodate year round. During the 2015 season --May 1st through September 30th, 2015--9,561operations were registered and 27,814 complaints filed, according to a document found on the town's website (http://ehamptonny.gov/HtmlPages/Airport/AirportHome.htm). More complaints on operations at JPX than some larger airports have in an entire year!
JPX has become a hub for private air taxi operators peddling lucrative Hamptons flights, and touting East Hampton's reputation as a bucolic summer resort to lure the tri-state's many medium-to-high-income individuals.
Unknown before it incorporated in 2014, industry newcomer BLADE, Inc, is an indirect air carrier which over the past twelve months or so has partnered with other aviation operators to gain access to a fleet of around 60 aircraft including jets, helicopters and seaplanes. With such an array of aircraft at its beck and call, the company can employ less noisy aircraft and so avoid some current airport restrictions.
BLADE last year began crowd-sourcing air taxis which has lowered the formerly high price per seat; these cheaper seats (on both helicopters and seaplanes) are being aggressively marketed to weekend visitors, even to day trippers. Aggressive advertising has made BLADE a very big player in noisy operations at East Hampton Airport, and its carbon footprint will continue to grow.
New flight destinations to distant cities are available on demand, and frequent charters to other Northeast resort areas such as Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod and Nantucket are readily available. What's next: Jet Blue?
Business is booming and residents the length and breadth of Long Island are reeling from the noise and are very concerned about the polluted air.
Seaplanes like the one above, flown by BLADE Inc., have become the new menace, flying at far lower altitudes than helicopters, most jets and other planes.
“BLADE is now poised to become the leader in short distance aviation. It owns a unique and powerful technology platform and is building a terrific brand. That combination creates great expansion potential for the company which we are now beginning to see with additional routes and operator partnerships.”
--Kenneth Lerer, BLADE Chairman