Westerly Airport situation impacts Block Island

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 8:00pm

Town Councilor Martha Ball, at a meeting during which the situation at the Westerly Airport was discussed, made the salient point about the importance of a safe, functioning mainland airport: the Westerly Airport may be more important to the island than it is to Westerly.

The days when the only transportation off the island is by plane may not be frequent, but they certainly are not abnormal. To have a mainland airport that is operating at anything less than its optimum capabilities is folly.

The New Shoreham Town Council has now at least started to have a discussion about whether to take an official stance on the fact that RIAC has already taken steps to displace, or shorten, the landing space on as many as three of the runways in Westerly. Bill and Lois Bendokas, owners of New England Airlines, have said that the shortened runways will have a negligible impact on their operations, but they also stress that longer runways are safer than shorter ones. 

Lisa Konicki, President of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, said last week that in the past year Block Island Airport has had four recorded accidents, while in the past seven years Westerly has had none. Westerly runways are an average of 4,000 feet in length, while Block Island’s are 2,500 feet long. 

The Block Island Town Council, the Tourism Council, and the Chamber of Commerce all need to weigh in on this matter, and quickly. We hope that RIAC will listen, and, if not, then our state representatives, Rep. Blake Filippi and Sen. Susan Sosnowski, may need to get involved.