‘We’re ready to go’: New Bedford airport gears up for next big thing

After an Elite Airlines flight landed at New Bedford Regional Airport last winter, three administrators walked onto the runway with umbrellas.

As passengers exited the plane, Airport Director Scot Servis, Assistant Director Michael Crane and Airport Commission Chairman Paul Barton shielded them from the rain.

“We’re not a big airport like T.F. Green or Logan. We can’t offer things they offer. But we can offer things that they can’t offer,” Barton said. “We can offer these little things.”

Barton hopes little things like $5 parking per day, quick processing through security and the aforementioned plane to terminal service add up to attract not only passengers but airlines.

Elite Airlines didn’t extend service beyond its initial six-week test flight from December through January, but Barton is hopeful Elite will return in the fall. The airline would join Island Shuttle, which will rival Cape Air in small flights to Cape and the Island. Barton said service for Island Shuttle will begin this summer.

He was also optimistic about a third airline that could provide round trips to JFK Airport in New York in 2019. While Barton chose not to name the airline, he said it is affiliated with a larger airline, which would allow passengers an array of options through New Bedford.

“You could actually buy a ticket in New Bedford and end up in California,” Barton said.

The airport launched a new website (flyewb.com) as another way to facilitate passengers’ experience, providing flight updates and parking and rental information among other things.

He was also optimistic about a third airline that could provide round trips to JFK Airport in New York in 2019. While Barton chose not to name the airline, he said it is affiliated with a larger airline, which would allow passengers an array of options through New Bedford.

“You could actually buy a ticket in New Bedford and end up in California,” Barton said.

The airport launched a new website (flyewb.com) as another way to facilitate passengers’ experience, providing flight updates and parking and rental information among other things.

“If New Bedford is dreaming up service, there’s other airports dreaming about it too,” Servis said. “I’m sure we’re not the only ones knocking on the doors. And in the end, it depends on which airport could provide the best deal for the airline and where they see the most passengers coming out of.”

Whichever airline lands in New Bedford it will be on new runways.

Runway 5-23 was repaired about three years ago and crews began tearing up 14-32 three weeks ago.

“There’s so much potential sitting on the plate right now,” Barton said. “Once this is done, we’re going to have two new runways. We have a lot interest, believe me, from the public. We’re ready to go.”

The work will cut the runway’s width in half from 150 to 75 feet. A lack of funding didn’t allow for the runway to be renovated at its original width, however, Servis said the shrinkage hasn’t turned off airlines.

The neighbors living around the airport may have noticed less traffic around the area compared to the last runway repair. Since that time, the airport installed a maintenance road.

“It was a big lesson learned from the 5-23 project,” Servis said. “Hauling all these trucks and all this equipment with the asphalt back and forth through the neighborhood drove the neighbors crazy.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.

Karyn Polito: State, SouthCoast working to ‘unleash’ region’s potential

With FAA 139 certification, more commercial airlines will follow

NEW BEDFORD— A pair of propeller-powered planes parked on the runway behind Jon Mitchell on Wednesday. Another buzzed over the mayor’s head as he announced the game-changing impending arrival of commercial airlines at the city airport.

Propeller-power planes will be sharing runways with jet engines soon as the airport gained FAA 139 certification, opening its airspace to planes that can carry more than nine passengers.

“This is really a big triumph for the city and the region,” Mitchell said.

In order to obtain 139 certification, an airport needs a letter of intent from an airline to begin the process.

Airport manager Scot Servis confirmed one airline has committed to New Bedford, but wasn’t ready to state which one.

Once it’s official, Servis said flights should take off in about two months, then others could follow.

“A lot of airlines say ‘Once you get your 139 inspection, give us a call. We’ll take a look,’” Servis said. “Not a lot like to jump out ahead because they know it’s a long process.”

For now, passengers should be able to count the flights per week on their hand.

Servis estimated at the start, there may be only one or two flights per week. The destination will likely be New York City where travelers can connect to locations across the country.

“We think that local businesses can gain an advantage and we can attract other businesses by having an airport that allows for convenient travel from New Bedford to New York, in particular, and beyond,” Mitchell said.

The current terminal includes a restaurant and offers Budget car rentals. As the airport becomes more popular, Mitchell envisions a new terminal.

More commercial airlines may be months away, but the certification, which began on July 1 should instantly increase the volume of air traffic.

The attraction lies in New Bedford’s lower landing fees and cheaper gas.

“That’s going to help the city because when we sell fuel we make money,” the chairman of the New Bedford Regional Airport Commission Paul Barton said. “In landing fees the city’s going to make money.”

The 139 certification attracts private planes because it lowers insurance rates for incoming transportation. New Bedford is now one of 22 airports in New England that possesses 139 certification.

The airport held the certification in the past but it lapsed in the 1990s.

Re-obtaining it required an update of the main runway.

“Once the main runway got resurfaced it really opened us up to doing more,” Servis said.

The FAA looked into every aspect of the airport, including how it ran during the day and night, scanned through its records, and examined its fire equipment.

The addition of more commercial flights also requires a TSA checkpoint, which has been constructed and awaits federal approval. The city had no doubt it would be federalized and labeled the 139 certification a much larger hurdle.

“It is more expensive to run a 139 airport because the level of maintenance that needs to get done is higher,” Servis said. “But it also means it’s safer and better.”

The expansion should be felt within the city’s economy too.

“The ability to fly commercial and private aircraft will help boom the economy locally,” president and CEO of SouthCoast Chamber Rick Kidder said.

“If you were trying to get over the bridges this weekend, you’ll greatly appreciate the proximity of the New Bedford Airport and our ferry services.”

Original story here.