Expanding Robertson Airport’s 3,600-foot runway to allow more private jets is under discussion by the town Aviation Commission.
Commission chair Byron Treado said last week that such an expansion is at best years away.
“But it’s important for us to bring it up,” he said. “If we don’t look out every window and open every door, we don’t know what’s out there.”
He cited recent discussion in the state legislature about the future of the 201-acre Brainard Airport in Hartford as one reason Plainville should at least consider expanding for charter jet traffic.
The most recent state report in 2016 said Brainard should remain open. Its longest runway is 4,400 feet, and several charter jet services fly in and out of the airport.
Right now, Robertson’s airport operator occasionally flies a small private jet into and out of the airport. Federal rules require a longer runway than than Robertson has for chartered jets that carry passengers.
Robertson, founded in 1911 and considered Connecticut's oldest airport, was purchased by the town in 2009. Its flights are primarily small, private, propeller-driven planes. There are about 40 private planes tied down at the field.
The last time work was done on the runway was repaving in 2015, which cost $2 million.The town portion’s was $50,000.
At its last meeting in November, the aviation commission talked about runway expansion, with members making clear that it would be good to have but is not feasible anytime soon.
One roadblock would be the estimated $35 million to $40 million cost of upgrading and lengthening the runway, the approaches, the taxi areas and tie-down section.
“Federal and state grants would pay for much of this type of work, but it isn’t a good time now to seek this, given the state’s budget problems and general current economic situation,” Treado said.
The commission also would need town council approval for any plan it eventually proposes, he said.
The engineering consultant used by the aviation commission said this fall that any runway expansion would require “addressing environmental issues and obstructions.”
“There is an environmental application process through the FAA where wetlands hazards are to be identified and remediated. The Army Corp of Engineers will also be involved in addressing environmental concerns. The estimated cost of this project is $35-40 million,” the commission reported in its November meeting minutes.
Treado such expansion is speculative, “purely part of a general conversation.”