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Pilots seek to hold Hartford developers at bay

The rinse-and-repeat rhythm of local and state legislative attempts on the historic airport’s life is not expected to subside this year, and local pilots who banded together to coordinate efforts to protect this prized resource will host a pancake breakfast February 11 at the Hartford Jet Center from 9 to 11 a.m. Eastern—and AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins plans to attend.

“We are keeping a close eye on the legislative docket, anticipating a possible return of bills similar to what we’ve helped fight in recent years,” Collins said. “The most important thing Connecticut pilots can do is stay alert for Advocacy Alert messages that we will issue when a bad bill is raised. Those seeking to redevelop Brainard Airport know we are here, and they know they will have a fight on their hands, so they may try to slip something into another bill at the last minute. There may be limited time to act.”

Collins and the Hartford Brainard Airport Association are not just sitting back and waiting for the dagger to come out: They are rallying constituent support for a proposed bill that would establish an “airport development zone” around the airport and help reverse active efforts to do the opposite, dating back years, arguably decades.

The airport’s 211 acres remain an economic driver, as a 2016 legislative study clearly established, evidence that AOPA and other advocates cited when marshalling opposition to legislation proposed in 2022 that would have required the state to begin the redevelopment process.

Supporting legislation seeking the opposite is not the only item on Collins’s to-do list. He is also working with pro-aviation lawmakers and pilots to speak up for another bill that would extend the aircraft sales and use tax exemption to include all aircraft below 6,000 pounds maximum gross takeoff weight (aircraft above that threshold are already exempt).

The legislative season varies by state, typically most active between February and May. Collins is also working with fellow advocates in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont to pass pro-aviation legislation.

In New York, AOPA and the Recreational Aviation Foundation are backing a bill to add “noncommercial aviation” to the state’s recreational use statutes, providing some liability protection for landowners who allow recreational use of their property. New York members can express support for this bill online.

Collins is working with the New Jersey Aviation Association to pass a bill that helps small airports by enabling grant funds to carry over. This bill recently passed the state Senate and now awaits final consideration in the House.

In Vermont, a bill to exempt general aviation hangars from environmental construction codes (Act 250) is also being backed by AOPA.

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