VRFF Action Plan for our 2022 “Year of the VRFF!”

Sun, May 15, 2022 • Westchester Airport

“Westchester Airport Curfew” News received from April L. Gasparri Airport Manager - Avports / Westchester County Airport

VRFF Action Plan for our 2022 “Year of the VRFF!”

(April 16, 2022) In 2022, the Westchester County Airport Avports / Westchester County Airport will redouble its efforts and focus more time on the Voluntary Restraint From Flying Program, known as the “VRFF.” This is the airport’s most important noise abatement program and continues to receive the most scrutiny from the general public, local press and environmental groups along with noise complaints. New initiatives will be implemented and further dissemination about the Program will begin in 2022 to ensure VRFF Program information is shared with all potential users and operators at the airport, with the hope of reducing the total number of flights during these noise sensitive hours.

The Voluntary Restraint From Flying Program (VRFF) Action Plan for 2022

Introduction: In 2022, the Westchester County Airport will redouble its efforts and focus more time on the Voluntary Restraint From Flying Program, known as the “VRFF.” This is the airport’s most important noise abatement program and continues to receive the most scrutiny from the general public, local press and environmental groups along with noise complaints. New initiatives will be implemented and further dissemination about the Program will begin in 2022 to ensure VRFF Program information is shared with all potential users and operators at the airport, with the hope of reducing the total number of flights during these noise sensitive hours.

Legal History: In September 1981, the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed Act 54-1981, establishing a mandatory curfew at the airport from midnight to 7 a.m. In October 1981, the Curfew was implemented. The County was subsequently taken to Federal Court and in August 1983, Judge Ward of the U.S. Federal District Court declared the curfew unlawful, and issued a permanent injunction against the County of Westchester from enforcement of the curfew. In September 1983, the Westchester County Board of Legislators endorsed a voluntary restriction on nighttime operations, now known as the VRFF.

Program: The Voluntary Restraint From Flying (VRFF) Program is in effect daily, from midnight to 6:30 a.m. In an effort to reduce aircraft operations at night, all operators are requested to avoid flying during these hours in order to minimize noise during this sensitive time and to be good neighbors. Also, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”), citizens have access to copies of their noise complaints along with the name and address of the operator, if and when, requested by the complaint. For residents and communities living near the airport, many neighbors and callers mistakenly believe that there is a “mandatory curfew” in place, when in fact, it is not a curfew at all, not even a “voluntary curfew” which is a misnomer, but a voluntary restraint on operations.

Monitoring: The Environmental Department identifies all operators who arrive or depart during the Voluntary Restraint From Flying (VRFF) period. The Environmental Department monitors the program and the VRFF operational data is published in the monthly Airport Monitor newsletter. Most of these operations are conducted by transient corporate jet and turboprop aircraft, fractional owned and chartered aircraft and by the scheduled airlines. Based aircraft operators typically account for only around 5% to 15% of the VRFF operations on an annual basis. The Noise Abatement Office/Environmental Department has been monitoring VRFF operations since 1984. Historically, VRFF operations peaked in 2007 with 4,798 operations conducted, averaging 13 VRFF operations per day and has been declining ever since 2007. See attached Historical VRFF Operations Chart.

Proposed Action Plan Items:

NBAA Northeast Regional Forum: This year’s forum will be held on June 22, and the airport will participate by staffing a dedicated booth with members of the Environmental Department to discuss noise abatement and the VRFF program with visitors. Also, the possibility of a discussion panel or workshop could be held on the VRFF, if the NBAA agenda allows.

Tenant Leases: All corporate and FBO leases will be reviewed for clauses regarding the VRFF Program and their adherence to the lease. A small sampling of leases conducted indicates that some tenants may not be following the intent of the VRFF lease provisions as outlined in the lease. The Airport will follow up with the tenants and FBOs to ensure this is being completed and request that any copies of VRFF correspondence with customers or other lease requirements are met and documentation be provided for our files.

HPN’s Top 20 Focus List:  A list has been compiled on the top 20 most frequent corporate based and transient operators during the VRFF, for 2019, 2020 and 2021. The same companies appear year after year, i.e., NetJets, Flexjets, Tradewind Aviation, etc conducting the highest number of VRFF flights. A special outreach will be made to each operator’s CEO with their VRFF numbers over the past three (3) years to encourage greater efforts by their leadership to reduce and curtail some of these flights. Continue to coordinate outreach efforts with aviation groups, like, WAA, NBAA, WFC, etc.

Outreach: More information about the VRFF Program will made available at each FBO and corporate hangars. Review and updates of various publications, flight planning websites to make sure pilots and the aviation community at large is aware and knowledgeable about the program with visible signage and possibly large posters in pilot and passenger lounges. Airfield signage on the VRFF could also be undertaken. Share and publish on the airport website the VRFF numbers and general trend in reductions.

VRFF Flyer: In an effort to broaden outreach, a brochure was developed to target the actual passengers/owners/customers of the corporate, chartered and fractional shared VRFF flights as a friendly reminder to them to adjust their trip times around the VRFF, whenever possible. These flyers can be disseminated as handouts and made into posters for display in pilot and passenger lounges at the FBOs and corporate hangars for educational purposes.

FBO websites: Request that each local FBO website has information on the VRFF prominently displayed for all customers and pilot planning to use their facility.

Spirit Awards: Revival of the Spirit of Noise Abatement Awards. This award recognizes based operators of helicopter, turboprop and/or jet aircraft who are in full compliance of the VRFF and no noise events of 90.0 decibels (dBA) or higher at any noise monitors as part of our High Range Noise Event (HRNE) Program for the preceding calendar year with positive press and reinforcement. Since 2019, the Spirit Awards took a pause in deference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spirit Awards Recognition: Recognition of Spirit Award winners in the airport’s main terminal lobby with either banners or a recognition board with listed names of winners for each award category and posted on the airport’s website. Consideration of new Spirit Award categories, like, “Most Improved” or inclusion of transient operators in the Awards in the future.

Updated Noise Abatement Brochures: Revised and updated noise abatement procedure handouts will be made available to all operators of helicopters, heavy aircraft, and light general aviation aircraft at each FBO along with posting of the brochures for pilots on the airport’s website.

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