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Airport association formed to combat closure threats

Concerned by increasing chatter about closing Hartford-Brainard Airport in Connecticut, local pilots, friends, and tenants established an airport association to defend the century-old airport.

The AOPA Expo in 2007 drew a crowd to Hartford-Brainard Airport in Hartford, Connecticut. The airport remains an asset to the city and state, which would both be well-served by increased investment, not closure, a legislative investigation concluded. AOPA file photo by Chris Rose.

Sitting on 201 acres just three miles from downtown Hartford, the airport is nestled on prime waterfront real estate in central Connecticut. Its location has subjected the historic airfield, once the launching site of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 heroes tour, to the forefront of closure discussions.

But despite decommissioning talk backed by the city, mayor, and a state senator, Hartford-Brainard accepted Airport Improvement Program funding in 2015, meaning it is federally obligated to be maintained until 2035. The airport is one of six general aviation fields controlled by the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA), which has stated no intention of closing it.

CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon said shutting down the airfield would be a burdensome, expensive process—one that would likely cause tenants to file lawsuits. Additionally, the CAA would have to prove that Connecticut’s other airports would be able to absorb air traffic from Hartford-Brainard.

But political pressure has naysayers arguing Hartford would be better served if the airport were repurposed to nonaeronautical uses. And while statistics have shown that the annual activity has declined some 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, the airport is still an economic driver. Hartford-Brainard brings in an average of $43 million in annual economic activity and provides more than 100 private sector jobs at the airport according to a 2016 study sponsored by the Connecticut General Assembly. This study also determined that the “highest and best use” of the property was as an airport.

AOPA has been vocal in opposing the Hartford City Council’s resolution to close the airport and sent a letter in June urging the city to work with the state to invest in the historic airport. Instead of calls for decommissioning Hartford-Brainard, efforts could be made to invest in airport improvements to revitalize the field such as lengthening the runway to attract larger corporate aircraft and working with the CAA on meeting FAA tree removal requirements for takeoff and landing.

Despite AOPA’s plea, the city council subsequently passed the resolution in October to move forward with closing the airport.

But with a newly established Hartford Brainard Airport Association, AOPA is hopeful that the city and community of Hartford will learn to embrace the airport as an infrastructure asset. AOPA has found that having an active and engaged airport association is the best way to preserve and defend airports like Hartford-Brainard.

The city should adopt a pro-airport outlook by recognizing the current value and future potential of Hartford-Brainard and take steps to enable investment that increases the airport’s economic benefit to the community.

Any area pilots should consider joining the newly established airport association by contacting its leaders via email.

Amelia Walsh

Communications and Research Specialist
AOPA Comms and Research Specialist Amelia Walsh joined AOPA in 2017. Named after the famous aviatrix, she's a private pilot working on her instrument rating in a Colombia 350.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy

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