Legislature weighs sale of Connecticut airports

February 25, 2009

AOPA, the Department of Transportation, and other organizations testified before the Connecticut legislature last week against the proposed sale of state-owned airports to private owners.

Members of the General Assembly have introduced bills to investigate the feasibility of selling Bradley International Airport and five general aviation airports as a short-term fix to try to alleviate the projected budget deficit. In a Feb. 18 hearing, AOPA Northeast Regional Representative Craig Dotlo testified that the privatization of the airports would be unwise and could even lead to the eventual closure of some Connecticut airports.

“Given the current economic and credit conditions in the United States, it is unlikely an investor could profit from the purchase of a small- to medium-sized general aviation airport,” Dotlo said in his submitted testimony. As a result, a private owner may be inclined to raise fees on GA aircraft to maintain profitability.

Financial pressure could even force a privately owned airport to close. State-owned airports currently receive substantial funding for airport improvements from the FAA, which is given on the condition that an airport cannot close within 20 years of accepting grant money. Private entities may try to violate the agreement if the airport fails to make a profit, or forgo the federal program all together to avoid these obligations

Representatives of labor unions and the National Business Aviation Association also spoke out against the bills before the joint hearing of the transportation and commerce committees. In addition to Bradley, the proposals would allow for the privatization of Waterbury/Oxford, Hartford Brainard, Groton, Danielson, and Windham. The committees have yet to take further action on the bills.