After having listened to the Rhode Island Airport Corporations’s responses to questions posed to them at the Westerly Town Council meeting earlier this month, I am now very concerned about the lack of regulations and accountability for proper procedures and safety considerations at the Westerly State Airport.
Time after time, members of the council asked the airport corporation’s representatives questions concerning safety, noise and air pollution regulations, and persistently the response was “there are no regulations regarding that situation.” There are also no means to monitor or regulate flying patterns or behaviors such as noisy engines, treetop flying over residential areas or rapid descent-and-approach landings.
Indeed, some time ago I found myself calling the Westerly police one Sunday morning at around 2:30 a.m. to complain about what seemed to be an extraordinarily loud helicopter hovering for 25 minutes near my home, and the officer said they have no authority over airport doings. He suggested that I call the control tower and I did, but there was no answer.
This sort of lack of oversight should be unacceptable to any residents who live within 2-3 miles of the airport. Incredibly, the airport corporation is still being cagey about what they actually intend to do with the airport regarding their potential new regulatory powers and access to individual properties. I have noted previously that the Rhode Island Airport Corporation is just that: a corporate entity that has demonstrated a ready willingness to use eminent domain and other ruthless tactics to achieve its goals. Corporations are like cancers. They can only survive through growth, therefore I believe expansion of the airport is the true, long-term objective. Incidents like the runway crash in early summer may repeat themselves or something more serious may take place. This is made more likely because of the reckless flying habits of certain helicopter pilots, the use of oversized aircraft, and skydiving on the runway. And again the questions present themselves.
“Exactly what benefit does the town derive from the presence of a questionably run and possibly hazardous air facility in its midst? And does that benefit offset the noise pollution, psychological stress from loud jet takeoffs, jet-fuel-covered homes, potentials for property invasion, risks to life and limb of the nearby residents from irresponsible flying and air pollution?” I believe the answer to those questions is none and no. Other uses could be found for that land
And if the airport goes away, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation goes away, too.