Groton-New London Airport should have commercial flight service

For those hoping Groton-New London Airport’s future includes commercial flights — a group to which The Day belongs — recent updates from the Connecticut Airport Authority are a mixed lot. Certainly it’s good news that the CAA’s discussions over Tweed New Haven Airport and the potential to expand commercial service there will not interfere with any similar plans for the airport in southeastern Connecticut. 

“There is nothing occuring right now that will change the direction we’ve set for Groton-New London Airport, which calls for the development of that airport, and in particular, commercial airline service at that airport,” CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon told a Day reporter recently. 

Still, the CAA also points out that the path toward restoring commercial flight service in southeastern Connecticut, something the region has been without for some 15 years, is strewn with numerous potential stumbling blocks. Business realities, for example, mean that expanding flight service at Tweed, or restoring it at the City of Bridgeport-owned Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Fairfield County, where such a proposal is being discussed by municipal officials, would make adding flights at Groton less viable.

Adding commercial services at either Tweed or Sikorsky also could make the $250,000 annual cost to maintain Groton-New London Airport’s certification for commercial service seem a less worthy investment. The Groton airport is the only one of the authority's five general aviation airports that has the certification to allow passenger commercial airline service, although there are a few commercial flights serving Tweed.

The 5,000-foot main runway in Groton is 1,000 feet short of the length considered the minimum for commercial activity, although that is not an absolute. Similar airports sometimes serve smaller commercial aircraft.

The CAA also seeks a level of commitment for restored commercial service in Groton from the area’s businesses. 

“There’s a reality that has to factor in to where development dollars are being spent,” Dillon said. 

The Day in the past has advocated for restoring commercial service in Groton and we continue to urge the CAA to work towards this goal. Such service would be an asset for the region’s major employers, the tourism industry and many members of the traveling public. The importance of Electric Boat, Pfizer, the Naval Submarine Base and the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resort casinos to the entire state’s economy must be given weight in any discussions about future airport services. 

While Fairfield and New Haven counties are closer than is Groton to a large population base and more economic diversity, state officials should strongly consider that eastern Connecticut holds powerful potential for the state’s total economic recovery. Groton-New London Airport also is in the heart of the state’s prime tourism region and is close enough to Rhode Island to be a transportation alternative for businesses and residents there. The airport boasts a healthy array of aircraft support businesses and an attractive terminal building. No doubt, also, many local residents, some of whom can still recall hopping commuter flights from Groton years ago, would prefer to start and end their travels in Groton instead of driving the traffic-clogged highways to larger airports in the New York City area. 

It’s unfortunate that last year’s CAA-airline carrier discussions to add service between Groton and Washington D.C. proved unsuccessful. Still, we are convinced continued work to restore commercial service to Groton is a worthwhile venture, one that would result in a healthy economic boost not only for southeastern Connecticut, but for the state as a whole. 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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