Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport officials are anxiously awaiting a decision from a federal judge in Hartford that could pave the way for a runway expansion and more commercial flights.
The judge heard oral arguments Wednesday afternoon on Tweed’s lawsuit challenging a 2009 state law that limits the length of the airport’s main runway.
"We feel the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations supersede what the state did and the premise here is that we want to pave the runway that we actually have," Tweed Airport Authority Chairman John Picard said.
Picard is talking about paving runway safety areas on both ends that have been in place now for seven years.
"The standard regulation now for airport commercial service is 6,000 feet of takeoff space," Airport Authority Executive Director Tim Larson said. "Right now, we have 5,600 feet of paved runway surface."
In the lawsuit, Tweed’s attorneys argue the FAA has the "exclusive sovereignty" over changes to an airport’s layout and facilities.
"Regularly scheduled commercial service at the Airport is not only jeopardized at the moment but also may be terminated in the future if the length of Runway 2/20 is not extended," the lawsuit states.
Right now, American Airlines has up to four flights in and out of Tweed to and from Philadelphia.
"We continually evaluate our network to ensure we are maximizing our profitability and our fleet while matching supply with demand, and New Haven is no exception," Nichelle Tait from American Airlines corporate communications wrote in an email. "We will not be discontinuing service to New Haven. Over time we plan to shift from Dash 8 service to small regional jet service."
The airport’s neighbors in New Haven’s East Shore neighborhood have mixed feelings about the possibility of more flights.
"Actually no, only cause of the noise," Jacquelyn Surro said. "They can get pretty loud coming in low for landing and taking off too since we have little ones that like to sleep early, so it is kind of a noise barrier that upsets us."
Surro’s friend Nikole Fucci, who also lives in the neighborhood, likes the idea.
"It’s going to bring in jobs," Fucci said. "It’s going to bring in tourists."
Fucci also said she’s hopeful the judge rules in favor of the airport because it could make travel easier for her family.
"We go to Philly when we go to Florida," she said. "But it would be so nice to just hop on and go to Florida from here.”
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp told NBC Connecticut that Florida and Washington, D.C. are two potential destinations for new direct flights out of Tweed.
Tweed is receiving a nearly $3 million FAA grant to continue noise mitigation work on 49 homes near the airport. Renovations have already been completed on two dozen houses.
"The noise mitigation has been going on for years," Picard said. "But I do think it will help if we get increased service to D.C., Florida and Chicago and places like that, I think it will help with the neighbors."