Friday, July 2, 1999
Trouble on takeoff for Hanscom shuttle proposal
About 300 people attended a public hearing on June 15, to voice opposition to Shuttle America's proposal to operate the first commuter airline out of Hanscom Field since 1991, according to Wayne Davis, Carlisle's representative to the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC). Said Davis, "Nobody in the audience wanted to stand up and say we want a commuter airline here."
Shuttle America is a Connecticut-based company, started last year, to serve uncongested small airports on the fringe of major cities, said Davis, and currently flies out of such cities as Buffalo, New York and Wilmington, Delaware. The airline notified Massport on June 1 that it wanted to start operations at Hanscom Field. The company uses 50-seat airplanes that Shuttle America claims are state-of-the-art in terms of low noise generation. Four arrivals and four departures a day are anticipated at Hanscom, said Davis, but no destinations have been determined yet.
According to an article in last week's Concord Journal, Shuttle America's vice president Mark Cestari stated at the presentation, "Hanscom fits the exact profile of the type of airport we serve." But, as Davis revealed, the airport is actually very different from any of the other airports because of Hanscom's proximity to Minute Man National Historic Park. Davis said that the superintendent of the park stood up to emphasize this point and to say, that the park would not consider giving up part of its property in order to widen Route 2A, the access road to Hanscom that runs through the park.
Davis also reported that Representative Jay Kaufman from Lexington spearheaded a group that is urging Massport to give the application of Shuttle America a thorough investigation. The next step, according to Davis, is a meeting of HFAC on June 29 to formulate a list of questions for Shuttle America and Massport to gather more information about the proposal.
Currently, Hanscom Field is the largest general aviation airport in New England. The airport services private planes, charters and corporate aircraft but does not have any scheduled commercial passenger or freight service. Davis said that Massport's intent is to maintain the general aviation use of the airport, but that this is not an ironclad policy. The airport receives federal funds, so Massport cannot prohibit commercial traffic there, added Davis.
In the past, 17 commuter airlines have operated out of Hanscom but none was able to succeed financially, said Davis. The last commuter operation closed in 1991. Davis pointed to the traffic access problems at Hanscom as a reason these past ventures failed. In 1994, Massport rejected an application for another commuter airline based on improprieties of the management, according to Davis.
HFAC is a commission established by state mandate to advise Massport about the use of Hanscom Field. The commission is composed of representatives of neighboring towns and users of the airport.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito