Members of the newly created Connecticut Airport Authority held their first meeting Friday and began the transition of running Bradley International Airport and five other regional state airports.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said he in part because he wanted to have the airport authority to oversee the plan, opened the meeting by the swearing the 11 members of the authority saying it is an important moment in state history. Malloy said the state needs to maximize the economic potential of Bradley and the five other airports.
“Understand that if we can drive more traffic, passenger traffic, we can bring more jobs to our state,” Malloy said. “You’re charged in bringing that about.”
The authority was created by the state legislature to be a quasi-public agency to oversee Bradley, Danielson, Groton-New London, Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford and Windham airports. Proponents of the authority said the new structure will be able to act more quickly in making decisions without being hampered by state bureaucracy.
During a three-hour meeting at the legislative office building in Hartford, members of the authority discussed how they want to proceed. Among the priorities is transitioning the running of the airports from the state Department of Transportation and meeting the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration to do it.
James Redeker, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, said key operating staff who have been running the airports are being transferred to auspices of the authority.
Currently administrators Bradley have expanded their jobs to the other five airports as well, officials said. During the transition to full authority control, the transportation department will continue to oversee the airports’ operations, Redeker said.
“We guarantee support and customer service throughout the transition,” Redeker said.
The filling of staff vacancies at the airports has been accelerated because that process is no longer under the same restrictions as the rest of the state government, Redeker said.
Authority board members said another one of their immediate priorities is begin a search for an executive director. Mary Ellen Jones, chairwoman, said the search could take four to six months, and they likely will need someone to act in a temporary role until the executive director is found.
Jones, who is also president of Engine Alliance, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and GE to build engines for the Airbus A380 plane, said the authority will be transitioning over the a number of months. The board created four subcommittees Friday to concentrate on things such as personnel, finance, operations and procedures.
“This is very much a learning phase for us,” Jones said.
Besides shaping how the authority will work, board members said they want to get to know how Bradley operates and what needs to be done to grow its business. They asked for information on why attempts at international flights didn’t work, any freight opportunities that might have been lost because of state bureaucracy, and information on increasing private flights there.
Jones, who flies frequently, said Bradley is an easy airport for passengers to navigate. Increasing domestic flights to and from the airport, and bringing international flights back are among their goals. They want Bradley to be an alternative to airports in New York and Boston for international flights, she said.
“The holy grail is transatlantic flight,” Jones said.
The board’s next meeting will be in November at Bradley.