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East Hampton Town
Democratic Committee


 
 

1997 Trustee Campaign, Airport Incident
 

     As a Democratic candidate for East Hampton Town Trustee I have generally withheld my opinion on matters other than those with which deal directly with duties of a Trustee.  However, due to all the disinformation circulating about the Town Airport, I am compelled to set the record straight about a few important items.  Firstly, the Beech Sundowner that crashed last week.  The aircraft was occupied by a student pilot and an instructor pilot.  They were practicing touch-and-go's; a procedure that is basic to flight training and is normally a safe operation, especially under the oversight of an instructor.  They were using runway 04 at the time of the incident.  This runway is 100 feet wide by 2501 feet long with a displaced threshold for landing on runway 22 that makes the useable length 2121 feet.  Due to length, this runway is used primarily by small single engine aircraft like the Beech Sundowner, Cessna Skyhawks and Piper singles.  During the procedure of touch-and-go's using flaps, after a successful landing, the student will increases power to full and attempt to increase speed to a specific speed, and take off again.  Once airborne the student will incrementally reduce the amount of flaps in use based upon speed.  Unfortunately, that is not what happened.  In this case, once airborne the student retracted all of the flaps in use resulting in the wings losing lift and the aircraft settling back to the runway.  With little runway length remaining and with no lift being generated by the now flapless wings, the instructor was left with the decision of attempting another take-off without flaps and very few remaining feet of runway or attempt an abort by removing power to the engine and standing on the brakes.  Fortunately for him he chose the latter.  At relatively low speed, control surfaces like the rudder, elevator and ailerons are ineffective resulting in a loss of directional control.  The aircraft drifted right of runway centerline, still under full braking, across the intersection of runway 16/34, across a grass divider, where the landing gear broke off, skidded across a taxiway and part of an aircraft parking ramp and came to rest approximately 145 feet right of runway centerline and approximately 2135 feet from the beginning of runway 04 and just barely missing a multi-million dollar business jet.  Aside from a broken airplane, the student pilot and instructor were unharmed and were very lucky.  In order for this aircraft to have stopped on the runway, it would have required that Runway 04/22 would have to have been 310 feet wide.  The runway width of all runways at JFK International Airport is 150 feet wide.  Runway width was not a factor in this incident.  No amount of runway can mitigate a poor procedure.  This event was due to pilot error, plain and simple.  Secondly, the "widening" of Runway 10/28.  Republican candidates and others will extol all the safety virtues of widening Runway 10/28 from 75 feet to 100 feet.  As you can see from the above incident, a wider runway is not necessarily a safer one.  However these wider runway advocates are not giving us the full story.  The current plan also calls for increasing the thickness of the runway.  Thickness equates to load bearing capability which equates to heavier aircraft.  What this means simply is that with an increased load bearing capability, regional commuter aircraft, like those seen at Islip's MacArthur airport, can land here.  Additionally, lightly loaded, larger corporate aircraft can also land here safely.  If you read the 1994 Airport Update Plan that Tom Knobel uses as a Bible,  you will note that this is the only existing document that recommends an increase of runway 10/28 length from 4242 feet to 5300 feet.  With a thicker runway and nearly 1100 feet more runway, any large commercial aircraft could land here.  It also recommends purchasing 6 acres of land in Southampton and an easement for another 60 acres on the west side of Townline Road for installation of approach lighting systems that include high intensity strobes.  Additionally, it recommends that Daniel's Hole Road be moved to a point at which Daniel's Hole would be paved over.  Pat Mansir is fully supportive of paving over beautiful Daniel's Hole and admitted such at a recent East Hampton Star interview.  Airport issues are undoubtedly complicated.  It takes wisdom and aforethought to do what's best for both aviation and the Town.  It's my belief that Cathy Lester, Lisa Grenci and Job Potter possess, not only the knowledge, skills and abilities required to deal with airport issues, but also the wisdom to do what is in the best interests of our Town, now and in the long run.  
 
Barry W. Leach
Democratic Candidate for
East Hampton Town Trustee