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    Local News
    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Upgrades planned for Groton-New London Airport

    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, second from right, listens to LTC Jeffrey Wiesner Jr. before entering the 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD) Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, during a tour of the Groton-New London Airport. Courtney stopped by AVCRAD after taking a tour of areas that will benefit from federal grants for safety and infrastructure upgrades at the airport. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Tony Sheridan, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, on left, listen to LTC Jeffrey Wiesner, Jr., and LTC Christopher Barker, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, about the Chinook helicopter while visiting the 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot during a tour of the Groton-New London Airport. Courtney was taking a tour of the airport after the announcement of recent federal grants for safety and infrastructure upgrades at the airport. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    John Moody, left, director of general aviation for the Connecticut Airport Authority, talks with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, during his tour of the Groton-New London Airport. Courtney took the tour to discuss federal grants for safety and infrastructure upgrades. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    A taxiway that will have new LED lights and signs was shown during a tour for U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, at Groton-New London Airport. Courtney took the tour to discuss the federal grants for safety and infrastructure upgrades. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Groton ― The head of the Connecticut Airport Authority said Wednesday that federal funding for safety and lighting improvements and snow removal at the Groton-New London Airport continues to help position the airport to realize its longtime goal of commercial airline service.

    While the airport faces competition from Tweed New Haven Airport and T.F. Green International Airport in Rhode Island, it has a lot to offer with the population and businesses in the region, said Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin A. Dillon.

    The airport authority believes there’s enough demand to support “niche” commercial service, such as regional jet service to the Washington, D.C. area or Philadelphia.

    “I think that’s a real potential for the airport,” Dillon said.

    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, toured the airport on Wednesday morning with airport authority and Federal Aviation Authority officials, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President and CEO Tony Sheridan who chairs the Connecticut authority’s board, and Groton Town Manager John Burt, to highlight almost $3.5 million in federal funding for the airport.

    Courtney helped obtain the funding from Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program funds, Transportation Security Administration funds, and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds.

    During the bus tour, officials pointed out the areas of the airport that will be improved with the federal funding and discussed other projects being planned.

    About $2.9 million in funding will benefit improvements, starting this spring, on two of the airport’s taxiways, said Bob Bruno, director of planning, engineering and environmental services for the Connecticut Airport Authority. Existing lights and signs will be replaced by brighter, more energy-efficient LED lights and signs that will provide a better line of sight for aircraft and save money on utility bills.

    Extra pavement on the taxiways’ shoulders will be removed so there will be more grass and less impervious surface, according to the airport authority.

    Specialized snow removal equipment for the airport also will be purchased at the end of the year or beginning of next year, said Bruno. That funding is for $590,000.

    Separate from the $3.5 million in projects, work is being planned to make the terminal more energy-efficient, including new HVAC equipment, changing boilers and water heaters to gas, and installing hurricane-proof windows and doors, and improving the parking lot and entrance road, Bruno said.

    Officials during Wednesday’s tour stopped by Modern Aviation at the Groton-New London Airport, which provides services such as fuel sales and hangar storage.

    Modern Aviation Regional Vice President Thomas Dunn said aviation helps the local business community, pointing out that Electric Boat, one of its largest tenants, is able to fly employees that work in the Groton shipyard to Newport News, Virginia, so they can work there for a day or more, and then fly back to Groton.

    The officials were welcomed at the hangar where the Connecticut Army National Guard repairs helicopters.

    After the tour, Courtney said airports are precious installations and if they aren’t maintained and kept usable, there’s the potential for the property to be redeveloped and then lost forever.

    He said he heard during the tour that the volume of business justifies the airport’s operation, but the airport “is looking a little shabby and long in the tooth” and the infrastructure bill was timely in terms of funding basic but necessary improvements.

    Courtney said many people, including himself, would love to see commercial traffic at the airport. The last commercial service at the airport was about 20 years ago.

    The Groton-New London Airport, a general aviation airport is a Part 139 airport, which means it can operate commercial passenger service, according to the Airport Authority.

    Dillon said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Airport Authority got very close with bringing a commercial carrier to the airport, but unfortunately the economics didn’t work. He said the Airport Authority is constantly talking to potential carriers about Bradley International Airport as well as Groton-New London Airport.

    Courtney said at the end of the day, commercial passenger service at Groton-New London Airport is a market decision for the airlines, but there’s no question that a state-of-the-art airport helps that effort immensely.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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