The unclear future status of East Hampton Airport (KHTO) has forced the FAA to issue an interim rule that extends for four more years the regulation requiring pilots operating civil helicopters under VFR to use the current New York North Shore Helicopter Route when operating along the northern shoreline of Long Island. The regulation had been scheduled to expire on Aug. 5. The interim rule took effect immediately but the agency will accept comments on the extension through August 29.
Because East Hampton is the airport of choice for those traveling to the Hamptons due to its location and available services, particularly fueling, the facility has been a key factor in the route design.
In May the town of East Hampton was expected to have closed KHTO as a public-use facility and reopened it as a private, prior-permission facility. But, due to several lawsuits, the New York State Supreme Court issued temporary restraining orders prohibiting the town from changing the airport's status. What's more, on June 8, the town indicated that it may close the airport permanently.
Given that there is no available timeline for resolution of the airport’s operating status and subsequent route adjustments helicopter operators may have to make, the agency said the four-year extension should provide sufficient time to resolve those issues.