This letter is in reply to the article concerning the Westerly Airport and its considered closure by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (“Could RIAC close down Westerly Airport?” The Sun, Sunday, Aug. 6). The people and property owners in Westerly are beginning to better understand the health and safety hazards — along with the personal economic jeopardy from unacceptable property devaluations — associated with having property in the zones outlined by the airport corporation.
There is actually not all that much that the town has to lose from the airport’s closure, I think, less than some may postulate. Little revenue is actually gained per landing. New England Airlines, the only consistent carrier to and from Block Island, could be better served at a larger venue such as Trumbull, and the larger airport also invites possible future growth for them, as well. The matter of medevac helicopters is moot as hospitals now have helipads. In case of larger scale incidents there is the Quonset State Airport, which is better suited to handle such situations. Both of these facilities are only a 15- to 20-minute flight farther than Westerly.
In matters of safety I’ll say it’s quite startling when you are coming out of Stop & Shop and an aircraft passes about 50 feet, more or less, over your head. I have seen the faces of some tourists who have had the experience. They seemed startled as well. From that parking lot you can clearly see the house whose trees were all cut down one day by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, which wants the legal authority to do the same to others’ land without prior notification to the property owner.
Also, I would like to take this opportunity to make note of an irresponsible helicopter pilot who had flown erratically hither and yon, following no flight pattern and flying recklessly low. So close to my treetops was he once that I could see his Ray-Bans, On another occasion, he was so close to my house that he scared my wife, my mom, and my granddaughter into the house from outside!
One Saturday night about three years ago I was awakened by the sound of a loud helicopter hovering over the runway near the Chamber of Commerce. This was at approximately 2:30 a.m., so what he was doing there is anyone’s guess, but it kept me awake, I can tell you.
Now for the health issues. Hatsy Moore (bless her for her vigilance) told me that people near the end of runways were finding a greasy film on their cars and homes. A spectrographic analysis of this film would be required to determine its nature. If this is jet fuel, or its residue, this is carcinogenic and should not be touched with unprotected hands, much less inhaled, or ingested if it’s in your vegetable garden. Airports are ranked high among the most polluted of areas.
There is also a psychological stress factor involved in hearing the repetitive sound of jet or helicopter engines. Economically, you stand to lose up to 80 percent of your home’s value if you try to sell in the Rhode Island Airport Corporation zones, or maybe you will lose your home to eminent domain, as has already occurred.
Tourists to Westerly come almost entirely by car or boat, only a very select few fly in. Could not a helipad be built just for them?
At any rate you might go to work one day and then come home and voilà, your trees are gone, courtesy of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. This is not an exaggeration.
In summary, it seems to me that the airport corporation is a predatory corporate entity that Westerly would be better off without. It would be an inconvenience for Block Island, but we must look to the future health, safety, and economic stability of our town. The health risks, safety issues, potential for invasions of property by the overreaching of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation and economic Russian roulette with our property values are not offset by the monetary benefit to the town realized by the airport’s functions.