Survey to Connect Regional Airports to Economic Opportunity

Survey to Connect Regional Airports to Economic Opportunity

Eastern Connecticut is home to three of the state’s General Aviation airports: Groton-New London, Windham, and Danielson. These essential resources both drive and facilitate economic growth.

“There’s a tendency to overlook the economic value of our airports,” said Tony Sheridan, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT and Chair of the Connecticut Airport Authority Board. “When we talk about transportation infrastructure, the airports play a key role in our state’s economy and the CAA is working hard to maximize their value.”

To discover opportunities for growth, the CAA is conducting a survey of Eastern Connecticut businesses, collecting data on businesses’ commercial air travel needs and annual expenditures. This information will help CAA assess the prospects for commercial flights out of Groton. The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut appreciates the support of partners in this effort to collect data: the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, and seCTer. 

The largest of the three Eastern CT airports, Groton-New London was approved for commercial flights in 1984 and had commercial service until 2004. It has two runways, a taxiway system, and an air traffic control tower above a terminal with a full-service restaurant and car rental agencies. Retaining its certification, the airport located in an established tourism region and manufacturing center is ripe for a reinstatement of commercial service.

Currently, Groton-New London airport serves general aviation, corporate jets, recreational and tourist-related flights. The airport offers private charter flights, underwater egress training for pilots and passengers, and houses the Army National Guard’s 1109 Theatre Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group.  Groton-New London supports 837 jobs with $33.8 million in labor income, $108 million in economic output and generates $6.54 million in state taxes.

Groton-New London holds the distinction of having hosted aviation superstar Amelia Earhart who was married in Groton in 1931. During WWII, the airport was a major training center for U.S. Army Air Force pilots and aircrews and then transferred to the U.S. Navy who further developed the infrastructure.

Windham Airport accommodates single and multi-engine aircraft, focusing on corporate and recreational flights, with a location convenient to the University of Connecticut’s flagship campus in Storrs. Learn 2 Fly CT, which operates out of the Windham Airport, is offering a drone pilot certificate program at Three Rivers Community College Workforce & Community Education program. Constructed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and expanded from its single runway during WWII, the airport played a role in the safe emergency landing of Hollywood royalty Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. With 120 jobs, $5.1 million in labor income and $15.2 million in economic output, the 280 acre airport is a valuable local contributor as well as a state asset with $940,000 in tax revenue.

The smallest of the six state-owned airports, Danielson serves recreational pilots, business travelers, cargo flights and flight training at its 257-acre facility. Thrill seekers leave the plane behind with skydiving out of Danielson Airport, a unique opportunity for tourists and residents for a life-changing experience. Its economic contribution is 82 jobs resulting in $3 million in labor income, driving $9.6 million in output and $580,000 in state taxes.

The airports host annual open house days that welcome the public for a behind-the-scenes look. Groton-New London invites people for an up-close look at aircraft, a chance to speak with pilots and a look at the businesses, hangers, and training facilities on August 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Danielson hosted their event early in June with a packed day of flying, skydiving, and exploring all things aviation. Windham Airport will be hosting an open house in September with details to come.

For more on the survey project, read The Day article 'CAA surveys businesses on air travel to interest carrier in Groton airport' from July 6, 2019.