Town-Owned Airport Flourishes
March 16, 2015
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  • Plainville is proud of Robertson Field, the oldest airport in the state. It was opened in 1911 and generates revenue for the town today.

    The town bought the airport in 2009 and paid only $100,000; the bulk of the $7.7 million price tag was picked up by the state and federal government.

    The airport is leased by Interstate Aviation, which operates four hangers for 40 planes owned by individuals and 15 of its own planes that are leased on an hourly basis.

    Bill O’Leary, president of Interstate Aviation, and the airport manager, said Robertson Field “is a fixed-base operation that includes all airport services, including aircraft hangering, tie downs, flight school, aircraft rental, a fuel facility and a charter company.”

    In December, 2012, the runway was repaved and new features were added, including the addition of pilot-controlled lighting and precision markings on the runway.

    O’Leary said taxi way and main ramp rehabilitation is underway and an instrument approach facility that assists planes flying in inclement weather will be implemented in April.

    O’Leary is grateful for Plainville’s purchase of the airport. “Who knows what the Tomasso family would have done with it if they didn’t sell it to the town,” he said. “It has enabled me to stay in the aviation business.”

    Town Manager Robert E. Lee said the town bought the airport after the Tomasso family gave it the first purchasing opportunity. “The Town Council felt it was important to keep the airport operating, and conducted a feasibility study that concluded the airport can stand on its own and bring economic benefits to the town. It was determined that the airport would generate enough revenue to support itself and that’s been the case every year.”

    Lee said the airport generates enough revenue to make up for the loss of property taxes paid by the private owner, which was about $70,000 a year. Revenue of $163,508 is projected for this fiscal year with $90,100 in expenses, which means the airport will generate a profit for the town. Most of the revenue comes from rent paid by Interstate Aviation.

    The financial support from the state and federal government is provided to keep the airport open in Plainville. “If this airport closed for general aviation, small planes would go to larger airports, and they want to keep the planes out of larger airports because they interfere with big planes,” Lee said.

    The town benefits from Robertson jobs, added revenue and events held at the airport that welcome residents. The Fly In and Classic Car Show will be held June 15, featuring more than 500 classic cars and antique airplanes flying in, O’Leary said.