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New Bedford Regional Airport Plans Up in the Air

Photo from MassDOT
Photo from MassDOT

NEW BEDFORD — The City Council’s Special Committee on the Airport received their first update from New Bedford Regional Airport officials in over two years Monday evening during a meeting at City Hall. 

Councilor at Large and committee co-chair Linda Morad controlled most of the meeting with questions for airport manager Scot Servis.

Though the meeting was to focus on the airport’s upcoming Federal Aviation Administration 139 Airport Certification and TSA Security Plan, questions quickly shifted gears to the subject of Runway 14-32, the airport’s 150 foot-wide secondary runway.

As for 139 certification and the TSA security checkpoint within the terminal, most of the work has been completed and officials are awaiting a June 9 inspection by the FAA. If granted, the certification will allow for commercial airliners to utilize the Whaling City as a hub but also require heightened operational standards across the board.

“We have to live to a higher regulatory standard,” Servis said. “Maintenance vehicles, fuel trucks, safety areas, runways, taxiways, lighting ways, snow removal will have to be done better, safer, more efficient.”

If all goes to plan, travelers could board a flight to Melbourne, FL via Elite Airlines by this fall.

Despite the possibility of increased air traffic, councilors were curious why there hadn’t been a feasibility study conducted before committing time and money to project designs for a new, commercially active airport.

Paul Barton, chair of the Airport Commission, said during the meeting a market study was conducted about three years ago and that he would supply copies to the council. Barton also announced an island shuttle that will be coming within the next two months between New Bedford and Hyannis, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

As for 14-32, the FAA has offered to cover 90-percent of reconstruction costs if the city agrees to shave it’s width down to 75 feet, a proposal that has gotten push-back for nearly a decade. The cost of reconstruction is $8 million and the city would be on the hook for five-percent of the cost.

Morad said she’s heard from private pilots that say they wouldn’t feel comfortable landing on the narrower runway and still isn’t convinced the project should move forward.

“I understand we want to upgrade it but if we don’t need to upgrade it now, maybe we can wait a little bit but that doesn’t seem to be the logic here,” Morad said. “The logic seems to be that ‘We have the money granted to us so we ought to use it and improve the assets.'”

The runway was built in 1943 and resurfaced in the 1970’s and is the oldest operational runway in the Commonwealth, according to Servis.

The FAA has not budged on a compromise of 100 feet and officials believe the discussion will continue further.

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