Flight Idea

L et’s say you’re running late for a flight.

Do you: (a) utter a few—ahem—colorful phrases; (b) fume over the infuriating nature of traffic; or (c) vow to never fly again because it’s just too stressful?

Maybe all of the above. On the other hand, if you were a regular at Tweed New Haven Airport—someone who flies in and out on a weekly basis, perhaps—you might simply call the gate when you’re running behind, hoping that the pilot will hold the plane.

It’s not that the airport encourages this behavior, exactly. But the fact that it happens at all goes to show that flying out of Tweed is not your run-of-the-mill travel experience. Long lines? Never. Open parking spots? Always. Wi-Fi? Sure.

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Of course, being on a first-name basis with the guy who issues your boarding pass has a lot to do with Tweed’s size and restricted flight schedule. The airport—located on the edge of New Haven’s Morris Cove neighborhood, with the New Haven/East Haven town line going right down the main runway—offers just four departing commercial flights and four accompanying arrivals: U.S. Airways to Philadelphia. Using Philly as a connecting hub, travelers can get virtually anyplace in the world.

It’s still a limited roster, admits Tweed’s Executive Director Tim Larson, though it could be getting bigger soon. “We’re in the process of evaluating our business,” he says in his office at the top of a retired airport tower. It’s an excellent spot for watching planes land, which he enjoys doing, complete with a pair of binoculars.

It’s also where Larson, who was Mayor of East Hartford for 8 years and is currently a state representative, spends time communicating with airline carriers about bringing new options to New Haven’s only airport. Even though flights can be pricey—earlier this month, a search for one-way flights from Tweed to Philly in late January included no choices less than $500 for a one-way ticket, although there are deals to be found booking farther in advance and looking at connecting to multiple destinations—planes are usually pretty full, which indicates that there’s room to grow.

Growth would actually be a return to Tweed’s roots. Originally called the New Haven Municipal Airport (then renamed after Jack Tweed, who served for 30 years as Tweed’s first manager, in 1961), the airport was once a much busier place. Commercial carriers including Air Canada, Delta and United ran direct flights to a number of destinations. But that business dried up in the early 2000s as the airline industry struggled, Larson says.

He’s hoping to bring some of it back to Tweed. First on the list is a direct flight to D.C., which he thinks would be particularly popular.

Even if that expansion happens, Larson assures me that the airport will retain its current feel. The miniature terminal has its one coffee stand (which seems to close when there aren’t many people around) and a decidedly stress-free vibe when compared with the big league airports, where navigating the packed departure curb is an exercise in anger management on its own. For comparison, the smiling, relaxed gentleman behind the counter at Tweed told me that my car would be just fine in the “drop-off” parking area for a little while.

Clearly, Tweed’s size allows for more personal attention and accommodation than we’re used to. The small administrative staff, which includes Manager Lori Hoffman-Soares and Assistant to the Manager Diane Jackson, reportedly goes far beyond its duties—shoveling snow on the runway, for instance, when needed. At the same time, Tweed’s security protocol is exactly the same as a major airport’s.

In addition to commercial flights, there’s a busy charter service out of the airport, lending runways to the Coast Guard, Yale’s air ambulance service and Angel Flight (an association of private pilots arranging free transportation for those needing medical treatment), and occasionally receiving planes carrying political or other important figures.

There has, expectedly, been some resistance from nearby residents in response to rumors of growth. Larson says their perspectives are being taken into account. It’s hoped that a recent noise study conducted at nearby homes will result in federal money to help insulate neighbors from a future escalation in airport-related noise. Larson is also looking for grant money to build a raised walking trail around Tweed, giving residents and visitors an attractive place to stroll or jog, with a close-up view of those airplanes.

Tweed New Haven Airport
155 Burr Street, New Haven (map)
(203) 466-8833

Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.

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Cara McDonough has been a journalist for over ten years. She writes regularly about family, parenting, religion and other issues for The Huffington Post and chronicles daily life on her personal blog. She lives in New Haven with her husband, two children and two dogs.

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