Sikorsky Airport – Failed Flights Ownership Fights
Sources: Stratford Patch, Connecticut Post, CT NewsJunkie
Mayor Laura R. Hoydick and State Sen. Kevin Kelly last week announced that they are going to enter Stratford into the “airport sweepstakes” to buy Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Hoydick and Kelly released a joint news release calling on Gov. Ned Lamont and the City of Bridgeport to prevent a state takeover of the airport and are “requesting that any change in management or ownership be undertaken through a transparent competitive bidding process.”
The call comes as the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) is attempting to proceed with a no-bid acquisition of the airport from the City of Bridgeport, which has owned it since 1937, according to the news release. The entire airport is within the territorial boundaries of the Town of Stratford.
The Connecticut Airport Authority, which operates Bradley International and five other state-owned airports, is looking to pay up to $10 million to buy Sikorsky Memorial Airport from the City of Bridgeport, according to the Connecticut Post.
Kevin Dillon, Executive Director of the CAA in a statement in response to Stratford’s wanting to buy Sikorsky said, “That in addition to the purchase price, it will take “tens of millions” of dollars to bring that airport up to standards for air service operations.”
The Post reports the CAA board recently approved a “term sheet” outlining the requirements of final negotiations with Bridgeport Mayor Joe Gamin’s administration. However, CAA Director Kevin Dillon told the Post that if an acquisition agreement cannot be reached, a long-term lease could be revisited.
A Sikorsky Airport History: What is Old News is Still News
The airport was originally Avon Field, a racetrack where aircraft landed on the grass infield. It was the site of the country’s first air show held in 1911, on the grounds of what is now St. Michaels Cemetery. It became known as Mollison Field after Captain Jim Mollison‘s crash landing there in 1933 during an attempt to fly across the Atlantic. The City of Bridgeport purchased the airport in 1937, after which it became Bridgeport Municipal Airport. (Wikipedia)
Excerpts from: The View From: Sikorsky Memorial Airport; After 60 Years, Stratford Finds a Use For Its Airport, Top of Form
Bottom of Form
By Robert A. Hamilton, Aug. 13, 1989
In the early 1920’s, Stratford welcomed the City of Bridgeport’s purchase of 800 acres on Lordship Point for an airport. At the time, there was little use for the flat land, much of it salt marsh. However, in recent years the relationship has not been so rosy.
Bridgeport contends that Stratford does not acknowledge the presence of the airport when drafting land-use rules. Stratford residents and officials complain about aircraft noise.
But as Stratford and the airport, formerly Bridgeport Municipal Airport but renamed Sikorsky Memorial Airport in 1973, celebrate several key anniversaries with an air show this weekend to benefit a Stratford beautification project, there are signs that the relationship may be warming.
A Stratford Event
”This is the first time Stratford has used the airport and the first time an event there will raise money for Stratford, so maybe the air show, in a way, will serve to soften people’s attitudes toward the airport,” said the Stratford Town Manager, Ronald W. Owens.
The Sikorsky Centennial Air Show is being presented by the Stratford Chamber of Commerce, and Lynne G. Liscek, the coordinator of the event, said it had not been easy putting it all together.
But there was a reason for such a major undertaking. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the airport; the 50th anniversary of the first flight of a practical helicopter; the 100th anniversary of the birth of the aviation engineer Igor Sikorsky, the airport’s namesake, and the 350th anniversary of the town of Stratford.
The 800 acres for the airport were bought for $160,000 in 1928. The airport opened in 1929 as Bridgeport Airport. It was renamed Mollison Airport in 1933 in honor of James and Amy Mollison, a famous flying team of the era whose plane crashed on the main runway after a flight from Europe.
That was the second famous crash on the site. Gustave Whitehead, who is said to have flown a plane of his own design two years before the Wright Brothers, crashed one of his earlier planes on what later became the main runway.
The airport was later renamed Bridgeport Municipal Airport and, in 1973, six years after Sikorsky’s death, it was given its present name.
1939 Helicopter Flight
Sikorsky was born in 1889 in Kiev, Russia, and immigrated to the United States in 1919, settling in Bridgeport. His VS-300 helicopter made history in 1939 when the four-cylinder, 75-horsepower one-seater lifted off the ground. Two years later, his company, which is now known as Sikorsky Aircraft, had the first Government helicopter contract. His company, and other aircraft and avionics production companies in the area, have helped Sikorsky Airport prosper.
”The airport is moving forward like crazy,” said the airport manager, Morgan Kaolian. ”This is already the busiest airport in the state. We have nowhere near the passenger volume of Bradley International, but by virtue of total takeoffs and landings, we’re the busiest.”
Each year, 180,000 planes land or take off from 6:30 A.M. to 10:30 P.M., when the tower is open, Mr. Kaolian said. He said he hoped to increase passenger traffic, from 60,000 a year to 90,000. ”If we could get direct service to Florida, I could fill a plane every day,” he said.
Direct flights are available throughout the Northeast on such carriers as Business Express, Continental, Piedmont, US Air and United Express.
The airport primarily served small aircraft when it opened in 1929 with an office, a restaurant, two runways and a hangar. After a period of disrepair, the airport was renovated and it attracted increased military business during the World War II era.
Mr. Kaolian recently implemented stricter, modern security regulations, and he has also urged Bridgeport, which owns the airport, to open a marina on city-owned property along the Housatonic River.
But being owned by Bridgeport but situated in Stratford has limited the airport’s potential. The uneasy alliance between the two municipalities has limited the growth of the airport, even though it is in the shadow of the state’s largest city.
Rental cars must be parked on the grass because the airport has only 516 parking spaces and lacks sufficient pavement. Parking is in open lots instead of garages. Because a walk from one end of the terminal building to the other takes only a few minutes, there are no escalators or people movers.
”You probably wonder why the airport isn’t a lot bigger than it is, and the answer is the fight between Bridgeport and Stratford,” said Sam Braca, owner of Sam Braca Aviation Services, who has been providing flight services at the airport since 1946. ”Bridgeport is such an industrial center, and so many companies want to use the airport, it could grow a lot faster. If someone put up a corporate hangar, for instance, we would have it filled before it was finished.”
”When the airport opened, Lordship Point was deserted,” Mr. Braca recalled. ”People knew the airport was here, but they still built their homes, and now they want it out.”
Much of the dispute between the two towns has been played out in court. Bridgeport sued 10 years ago to prevent Stratford from taxing the airport property. That suit restricted taxes for the airport as long as it was not a moneymaker. Two years after the settlement, the airport made about $2,000, and Stratford imposed a tax bill that is now up to nearly $9 million because of interest and the value of airport property. The suit over that drags on. Bridgeport also sued two years ago to force Stratford to implement regulations for low buildings and limited development in the runway ”clear zones,” as required by Federal regulations.
”From an economic development standpoint, we are looking at the airport as being more important to our future,” said Mr. Owens, the Stratford Town Manager.
”Not only do airport-reliant businesses create jobs, attract investment and pay taxes,” he said, ”but there is some hope for surplus property at the airport. I do not personally expect to ever see them paying taxes, but the airport does own property that could be developed commercially, and that could generate revenues.”
”The tensions are lessening,” he added. ”But the problem has not gone away yet.”
Wikipedia Outlines Turf Wars:
Bridgeport has pushed for runway and terminal expansion, hoping to attract new service to the airport, arguing that service to the airport is necessary for the growth of Bridgeport’s economy.
Stratford has opposed terminal expansion and runway lengthening that would interfere with existing roads. Even when major carriers served the airport, Stratford advocated for limits on flights because of noise in the Lordship and South End neighborhoods.
In 2003, the Federal Aviation Administration mandated the lengthening of the two runways with unpaved safety overrun at each end. Stratford and Connecticut officials have resisted the FAA effort to install the overruns, but the FAA has notified Stratford, Bridgeport and state officials that it may obtain a federal court order to use eminent domain to complete the overruns.
In June 2006, US Helicopter began scheduled flights to New York’s Downtown Manhattan Heliport, continuing to John F. Kennedy International Airport. This was the first airline service since 1999. On September 25, 2009, US Helicopter suddenly shut down.
In February 2007, state legislators from Bridgeport, in an effort to force expansion, introduced legislation allowing the State of Connecticut to take over the airport. Officials from Stratford would prefer the town take ownership of the airport and oppose the proposed state takeover.
In October 2016 runway 6-24 re-opened after closing in late 2014 so a 300-foot length of engineered materials arrestor system (EMAS) could be installed at its east end
Connecticut Airport Authority
The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) was established in 2011 to develop, improve, and operate Bradley International Airport and the state’s five general aviation airports (Danielson, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford, and Windham). The CAA Board consists of 11 members with a broad spectrum of experience in aviation-related and other industries, as well as government.
The goal of the CAA is to make Connecticut’s airports more attractive to new airlines, bring in new routes, and support Connecticut’s overall economic development and growth strategy.
The role of the CAA is to enable Connecticut to get the highest levels of performance from its five airports. Our work is focused on providing 1st class aviation facilities and services, because by keeping our airports operating at their best we deliver a powerful and positive impact on the state’s economy.
Airports are economic engines that require planning and strategy to succeed. This is why the CAA works closely with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DECD), the MetroHartford Alliance, municipal leaders, and civic organizations.
Hartford-Brainard Airport: Lawmakers will debate spending $1.5 million to study the Hartford-Brainard Airport and whether it should be closed or redeveloped “Today, our total estimated value for the airport is almost $42,885,000, which would produce an annual tax bill of $2,230,149. CAA currently operates the airport. The CAA believes that the airport can be a useful economic development tool, and we look forward to working with all interested parties to maximize the airport’s benefits to the City and the Greater Hartford region,” the CAA said in a statement.
CAA is led by a volunteer Board comprised of regional leaders in transportation, aviation, business, law, politics, economic development, and other areas of industry.
Current CAA Board Members are:
Thomas A. (Tony) Sheridan, Chair (Waterford) – President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut for the past 15 years. As an Irish immigrant, he has used his positions to help promote tourism between Connecticut and Ireland, undertaking a variety of initiatives to help grow the European tourism industry in the state.
Michael T. Long, Vice Chair (Simsbury) – previously Vice-Chair of the Bradley International Airport Commission and most recently reappointed as Vice Chair of the BDL Board of Directors. Prior to his retirement in 2007, he had been Interim President and Chief Operating Officer of Ensign-Bickford Industries, Inc., a Simsbury manufacturing company specializing in explosives technology, reliable energetic solutions for aerospace and defense, biotechnology, renewable fuels and real estate.
Shawn T. Wooden, State Treasurer – Shawn Wooden was elected State Treasurer on November 6, 2018, following a successful 21-year career as an investment attorney specializing in public pension plans.
Commissioner Joseph J. Giulietti, Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) –directs the agency in charge of developing and maintaining highway, rail, and transit assets throughout the state. His background has been in the rail industry, progressing through Penn Central, Conrail, Metro-North, and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, before being named as CEO of Metro-North in 2014.
Commissioner David A. Lehman, Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) – his agency is responsible for attracting and retaining businesses and jobs, revitalizing neighborhoods and communities, and fostering appropriate development in Connecticut’s cities and towns. Prior to joining DECD, he was a former top Goldman Sachs executive.
Robert J. Aaronson (Greenwich) – aviation executive with extensive experience dealing with global aviation business from every perspective over the past 40 years. From 2002 to 2008, he served as Director General at the Geneva, Switzerland headquarters of Airports Council International (ACI). Previously, he served as: Director of Aviation for The Port Authority of NY & NJ; President & CEO of the Air Transport Association of America.
- Scott Guilmartin (Suffield)– Principal at NuPower, LLC, a renewable energy development company based in Easton. His previous business affiliations have included Principal Member, Envirocycle, Managing Partner, VIP Airport Parking, and Principal Member, R&G Parking & Transportation.
Mary Ellen S. Jones (Glastonbury) – Vice President Sales – Asia Pacific & China for Pratt & Whitney Commercial Engines in 2014. She leads P&W’s Asia/Pacific and China sales organizations in selling Pratt & Whitney and IAE products and services. She was Vice President of Commercial Engines Customer Support and Americas Sales. She is responsible for Pratt & Whitney’s worldwide Commercial Engines Customer Support organization and initiatives, as well as for sales of Pratt & Whitney Commercial Engines products and services in North and South America. Prior to this role she was president of the Engine Alliance, the 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney that manufactures and supports the GP7200 engine for the Airbus A380 aircraft. Mary Ellen has also led Pratt & Whitney’s Commercial Engines and Global Services Marketing organization, served as Vice President – Marketing and Sales for the Engine Alliance, and worked for three years in Toulouse, France directing P&W’s operations at Airbus headquarters. Her other experience includes management positions with Pratt & Whitney and United Technologies Corporation in Sales, Contracts Management, Communications and Government Relations, and also serves on the Board of Governors of the Wings Club and on the Board of Trustees of the ISTAT Foundation.
Mishone B. Donelson (Farmington) – Senior Vice President and Senior Managing Director at Horizon Technology Finance, a provider of venture debt to technology and life sciences companies. He is responsible for deal sourcing and business development in the East Coast life science markets. He is also a member of the firm’s senior management team
Sikorsky Airport Commission (The Commission and ultimately the Bridgeport City Council would have to approve the sale.)
Laura Hoydick: Mayor of Stratford since 2017; served in the Connecticut House of Representatives from the 120th district from 2010 to 2018; graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Sacred Heart University. Executive Director, Stratford Chamber Of Commerce, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council Jan 2003 – Aug 2007. Property Manager Winstanley Property Management, Aug 2007 – Jun 2016; Property Manager, Station House Square, Limited Liability Company, Stratford; Co-chairman, Board of Education Stratford Public Schools1997 – 2007;
Connecticut State House of Representatives Record:
Former Member, Banks Committee
Former Ranking Member, Energy and Technology
Member, Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee
Former Member, General Law Committee
Former Member, Insurance and Real Estate Committee
Former Member, Legislative Management Committee
Former Member, Stratford Planning Commission
Former Member, Subcommittee on Transportation Bonding
Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, Chairman; is in his eighth term as Mayor of Bridgeport, with a population of approximately 147,000 people. Ganim had served six previous terms as chief executive of Bridgeport from 1991-2003, and led the city out of municipal bankruptcy by overcoming a $21 million budget deficit and a 5-year projected deficit of $250 million; had 10 consecutive years of balanced budgets, and a surplus of $58 million; successful negotiation of a complex 25-acre urban redevelopment project by securing a $10 million corporate donation for the construction of a $21 million municipal baseball stadium and parking garage; Led the effort to construct a new 10,000 seat indoor sports and entertainment complex by obtaining $60 million in grant money and $10 million in private funding, to serve as the home for a new minor league American Hockey League team; Leading and successfully overseeing urban redevelopment projects including 40 acres of waterfront land for the relocation of a major ship building business and the creation of close to 50 jobs; Successfully leading an urban renewal project that relocated Housatonic Community College out of a deteriorated building and into a new $60 million state-of-the-art downtown facility; Launched new after school programs for Bridgeport youth and reduced crime in the city by hiring new police officers with a refocus on preventative community policing.
After being released from a correctional facility, Ganim was a consultant for five years, representing a number of businesses and non-profit organizations with various needs ranging from internal management of specific projects to overall organizational improvements. Ganim led and advised management teams on energy savings projects, revenue enhancement projects, internal process improvements and the mitigation of sudden and unexpected business challenges. This includes sophisticated business and real estate transactions and complex capital projects as well as government relations and the securing of funding through grants and loan programs.
Ganim launched his campaign for Mayor in May of 2015, asking Bridgeport voters for a 2nd chance where he pledged to improve the quality of life for Bridgeport residents by helping to improve the economy, grow jobs, reduce crime, improve public schools, reduce the city’s tax burden and get Bridgeport’s finances under control.
Since taking office as Mayor in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, Ganim has:
- Reined in spending after announcing the city has a $20 million dollar deficit, while renegotiating several city labor unions.
- Joined forces with Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo to launch the most comprehensive government transparency in Bridgeport’s history. The project, called ‘OpenBridgeport’ will make all city financial data available to the public in real time through an online portal.
- Pledged to hire an additional 100 new police officers and created the Bridgeport Violent Crime Reduction Initiative as part of a reorganization of the Bridgeport Police Department.
- Under the new Ganim administration Bridgeport has also been awarded a nearly $40 million dollar federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for flood protection to guard against rising tides, coastal storms and the impact of climate change.
- Mayor Ganim has also led disaster relief efforts following a fire New Year’s Eve in a condominium complex that displaced more than 120 people, one of the largest displacements due to fire in Connecticut history. This included working with Governor Dannel P. Malloy to apply for and receive federal disaster assistance to the victims through the U.S. Small Business Administration
Ganim attended the University of Connecticut, played football for the Huskies and graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. He received a J.D. degree in 1983 from the University of Bridgeport Law School (which later became Quinnipiac University School of Law).
Aidee Nieves, President Bridgeport City Council, she is the City Council’s first Latina president. Nieves was reelected to her 137th District seat last month, the East Side neighborhood that features the highest concentration of Latinos in the city. She was first elected in 2015.
Lydia Martinez, City Clerk;
Ken Flatto, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Finance City of Bridgeport, in February announced a $9.1 million budget surplus for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2021,“city of Bridgeport finances are solid and stable,” he told council members in a virtual presentation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report with audit representatives Nikoleta McTigue and Santo Carta of accounting firm CLA.
Previously to serving as the Finance Director for Bridgeport, Ken Flatto was the First Selectman of Fairfield, a position to which he has been elected five times. As First Selectman, Flatto was responsible for more than 500 employees and a budget of $260 million. Ranked by CNN/Money Magazine as the 9th best mid-sized community in the country, under Flatto’s leadership, Fairfield achieved and maintained a AAA bond rating. Flatto administered twelve balanced budgets and led efforts to revitalize brownfields and expand Grand List growth. In addition, Flatto led audits and cost savings initiatives, saving over $3 million per year through restructuring, management efficiencies and negotiated collective bargaining givebacks.
Prior to serving as Fairfield’s First Selectman, Flatto served as the Chief Financial Officer for Orangetown, NY, and Comptroller and Deputy Commissioner for the City of Yonkers, NY. Flatto is a Licensed Certified Public Accountant (NY), who received his MBA from Cornell University. He is the Former Chair and Vice Chair of the Greater Bridgeport and Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Chair of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Health and Human Services Committee.
Hoydick and Kelly are developing a formal offer with the Stratford Town Council, which would need to vote for a purchase, for submission at the April airport commission meeting. The Sikorsky Airport Commission will meet virtually on Tuesday, April 5th.
Hoydick said in a statement. “We will ensure capable management commensurate with the concerns of the region and surrounding community, and the sensitive environmental assets located there. The future of Stratford and the future of the airport are intertwined, and Stratford would like the fair and proper opportunity to direct this shared destiny.”
Kelly said Sikorsky Airport in Stratford is “very much a piece of our community and history.”
State Sen. Kevin Kelly: Senate Republican Leader in 2020. He represents the 21st Senatorial District which includes the towns of Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford; Senator Kelly is the Senate Republican Ranking Member of the Children’s Committee and the Legislative Management Committee. He also serves on the Aging Committee, the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee, and the Regulations Review Committee.
- In 2021 Senator Kelly passed legislation to strengthen protections for nursing home residents
- He advocated for and passed legislation to increase the personal needs allowance for nursing home residents
- and to fight age discrimination in the workplace.
- In 2015, Senator Kelly played a role the in passage of the CARE Act which requires hospitals to provide caregivers the important information and services they need to care for their loved ones at home upon discharge.
- He was central to the enactment of An Act Concerning Life Insurance Producer Licenses which protects insurance consumers from unethical stockbrokers.
- He led efforts to pass legislation that establishes pregnancy as a qualifying life event, so pregnant women can obtain health insurance during their pregnancy and access needed prenatal care.
- In 2012 legislative session, he co-sponsored legislation that focused on improving access to breast cancer screening.
Senator Kelly is an elder law attorney and the owner of Kevin Kelly & Associates, PC; a Stratford law firm. Prior to working in private practice, he worked as an investigator for the Department of Social Services for over 13 years.
Senator Kelly earned his bachelor’s degree at Assumption College (B.A. 1982), his master’s degree at Fairfield University (M.A. 1985), and his law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law (J.D. 1997).
Show Us the Money
For the second year in a row Stratford was recently designated one of the 25 distressed municipalities in the state, indicating poor fiscal capacity. This is important information to understand as Stratford is readying to receive substantial amounts of money from the federal government and the state of Connecticut.
What exactly are distressed municipalities?
- aging housing stock
- low wealth (Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List)
- low per capita income
- low or declining job creation growth rate
- low or declining population growth rate
- low or declining per capita income growth rate
- high unemployment
- high poverty
- low high school degree and higher
This information is used by state agencies to target funds for needs which may include housing, insurance, open space, brownfield remediation, and economic development programs, among others. The results from our own housing authority’s sobering survey underscores why we are on this list and should guide us toward solutions.
Is Stratford Connecticut’s most fiscally stressed municipality? In a report released from the Hartford-based Yankee Institute this year, the answer is yes.
Yankee Institute develops and advances free-market, limited-government solutions in Connecticut. As one of America’s oldest state-based think tanks, Yankee Institute is committed to empowering the people of Connecticut, and focuses on state government, and recently updated its 2018 report “Warning Signs” that claims the town is overburdened by its pensions to government employees.
As part of its report, the Yankee Institute also issues a series of recommendations, including removing retirement benefits from collective bargaining, and more frequent financial audits.
However, those recommendations probably will not solve the town’s unfunded liabilities issue, according to David Schleicher, a law professor at Yale who also teaches municipal finance. What probably would, is not politically advisable, he said.
“There’s not much of a solution for a place that’s heavily indebted other than sharply cutting services, raising taxes, somehow magically seeing fast economic growth or getting state aid,” Schleicher said.
Also Of Interest, (Could there be competition?)
In a CT Post article by Brian Lockhart, Robert Christoph Jr., the developer of Bridgeport’s Steelpointe development and owner of Three Wing Aviation, indicated he would interested in bidding on Sikorsky.
This comes after the Sikorsky Airport Commission said they were going to hold off renewing Atlantic Aviation’s lease. Atlantic has been a Sikorsky Airport tenet for over three decades and provides fueling, baggage services, catering and hotel arrangements. Atlantic was under consideration for a new 20 year lease, with an rental increase from $310,000 annually to $1.1 million, and $300,00 in new fees and infrastructure investments.
Airport Commission Meeting
Tuesday, April 5, 2022, 4:30 pm
This meeting will be conducted via teleconference
The public may listen into this meeting by calling the following conference line
Public dial-in meeting number (929) 436-2866
Meeting id: 823 5713 8497
**Due to the on-going public health emergency and virtual meeting format, public speaking will be through advanced sign-up or written testimony. Please submit written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org by 2:30 pm on Monday, April 4, 2022**
Airport Commissioners: Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, Chairman; Mayor Laura Hoydick, Town of Stratford; Aidee Nieves, President City Council; Lydia Martinez, City Clerk; Ken Flatto, Director of Finance
- Public Speaking
- Approval of the Airport Commission Special Meeting Minutes of March 18, 2022
- Discussion/Vote on Airport Sale
- Executive Session
- Approval of Connecticut Air and Space Center (CASC) Permission to Record Restrictive Covenant and Negative Pledge
- Approval of the United Illuminating (UI) Pole Relocation Permit
- Approval of Request to Perform Aircraft Maintenance Services for Commercial Purposes
**Due to the on-going public health emergency and virtual meeting format, public speaking will be through advanced sign-up or written testimony. Please submit written testimony to email@example.com by 2:30 pm on Monday, April 4, 2022**