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City council presses on to close historic Connecticut airport

The Hartford City Council and members of the city’s legislative delegation have continued to press for closure of the airport. AOPA and airport advocates are concerned that seemingly innocuous language may be inserted into legislation pertaining to other matters that would force the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) to close the airport with the deadline to introduce new bills having already passed.

In its quest to shutter and redevelop the airport, the Hartford City Council has ignored a crucial 2016 bipartisan report that determined the highest and best use of the land is to invest in the airport to maximize its full potential.

In 2015, the state-owned airport accepted Airport Improvement Program funds, meaning that it is obligated to remain open and maintained until 2035. The CAA has also stated that it has no plans to close the airport, saying it would be a burdensome, costly process.

Even so, the city, the mayor, and a state senator all back decommissioning the airport, claiming it would be better served for nonaeronautical uses. But pilots, tenants, and friends of the airport have pushed back and established the Hartford Brainard Airport Association to defend the historic field.

Michael Teiger, a pilot and physician who has worked in Hartford for years, spoke out against the potential closure in a recent op-ed posted by the Hartford Courant. Hartford and the region’s public safety priorities should be carefully considered before a vital airport is closed for a speculative development project. We need to keep this critical facility open and operating rather than replace it with unnecessary additional development projects or shopping centers. Airports are vital resources in the event of a major disaster, and services and medical emergencies require the availability of exceptional transportation facilities. Hartford and neighboring towns should not accept second-rate status by closing Brainard. Prioritize the important health and safety needs of our community first,” Teiger wrote.

AOPA has also been vocal in opposing the airport’s closure and is working with the airport association to encourage the city to invest in Hartford’s valuable infrastructure.

“Part of the challenge of this effort is that legislators elsewhere in the state may question the necessity of supporting an airport outside their legislative districts. But as the aviation industry understands, like all airports, [Hartford Brainard Airport] generates tangible economic and practical transportation value that extends far beyond its local municipal boundary,” said AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins. “As a state-owned asset, we should all take pride in the value afforded to Connecticut residents as affirmed in a Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee—a bipartisan statutory committee—[determined that] retaining the property as an airport is the highest and best use of the Hartford-Brainard property.”

AOPA will be issuing a ”call to action” alert for Connecticut members urging them to contact their legislators to oppose anti-airport language and actions.

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