24 May East Hampton Town Petitions Feds With Concerns About Two Po…
East Hampton Town announced on the brink of Memorial Day weekend that it has filed formal objections to the federal government raising questions about two aviation companies, BlackBird Air Inc., and Helicopter Flight Services, about their compliance with aviation laws and authority to operate planned transportation services.
After learning of the companies’ plans to launch commercial air services to and from East Hampton Airport, the town asked the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation Consumer Protection Division to investigate the companies, according to a statement released late Friday afternoon by Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.
BlackBird Air Inc. announced that it will begin offering “prescheduled” plane service to and from the East Hampton Airport beginning Friday, May 24. According to BlackBird’s website, passengers can use a phone app to choose where they to go, select an aircraft to lease, and select a pilot.
Once the passenger makes these selections and enters into the aircraft lease, additional passengers, unaffiliated with the primary passenger, can also select a seat on the aircraft for an additional fee.
Friday’s statement from the town warned that passengers should be aware of possible safety and legal risks associated with BlackBird’s business model, asserting that BlackBird does not necessarily comply with federal safety requirements for commercial air operators and that the aircraft, including its maintenance, quality and handling, in addition to the pilot’s experience, licensing, rest time and safety record, are not necessarily required to comply with the minimum standards applicable to commercial and charter flights. Instead, the release says, aircraft and pilots on BlackBird-offered flights are held to safety standards applicable to non-commercial aircraft and pilots.
According to the town, BlackBird states in its user contracts that passengers assume “operational control” of the flight—which the town said means assuming legal liability incurred by the aircraft, the pilot or the flight and is answerable in court for any accident, safety incident, or regulatory violation.
A spokesperson for BlackBird could not be immediately found for comment.
The release also stated that the town objects to Helicopter Flight Service’s application to conduct scheduled service to and from East Hampton Airport. The New York City helicopter operator, which already runs charter flights to East Hampton, recently petitioned the Department of Transportation for authority to make scheduled helicopter flights between New York City and the Town of East Hampton, Mr. Van Scoyoc said. Under federal regulations, an air carrier must receive authority from the United States Department of Transportation before it can offer certain types of scheduled air service. The town filed an objection to the application on several grounds, including that it application did not comply with federal regulatory requirements. According to Friday’s release, the Department of Transportation has taken the application under advisement and the company does not yet have authority to conduct the scheduled services.
Although the town owns and operates the airport, it is the federal government that has regulatory authority over aviation services, and the town cannot, on its own authority, bar the companies from operating at East Hampton Airport.