Residents respond to airport master plan with approval

Martha's Vineyard Airport relies on a contract air traffic control tower, as opposed to an FAA control tower. - Nelson Sigelman

Residents left informed and mostly in approval of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport master plan, presented on Thursday, Nov. 17. A representative from Jacobs Engineering Group, who advises the airport in its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) preparation work, presented the final version of the plan, laying out long-range business goals over a 20-year period. It is approved and largely funded by the FAA.

About 15 people, including some members of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC), attended the presentation at the Katharine Cornell Theater on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven.

Rather than suggesting airport expansions, many of the projects focus on making improvements to the terminal itself to better accommodate passengers.

The capital improvement plan (CIP) is a major component; it maps out 17 projects over the course of seven years, costing a total of $27,585,500. The FAA pays 90 percent of that, while the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) pays 5 percent. The airport is responsible for the remaining 5 percent — $1.4 million.

Airport manager Ann Crook addressed many of the questions and concerns voiced by residents. When asked if the $1.4 million falls on taxpayers, Ms. Crook explained that the share the airport pays will come out of its own revenue, generated by fees from airline ticket sales, fuel, and cargo shipping.

One resident asked about the potential of putting affordable housing on airport property. The airport has roughly 130 acres available for nonaeronautical use, but providing housing on airport land is not permitted by the FAA. Housing for the airport manager, or airport rescue firefighter housing, are exceptions, as are hotels. But Ms. Crook emphasized that the purpose of the airport is first and foremost to be an airport, and everything has to be approved by the FAA.

One resident asked if larger airlines would attempt to set up year-round service on-Island, but aircraft operators base that decision on market demands, and no major airlines have shown interest in year-round service.
Ms. Crook said there are plans to expand service into the shoulder seasons and provide bigger aircraft during the summer.