PLAINVILLE — New taxi and apron surfaces, high-tech lighting and a universal GPS system are among $4 million worth of upgrades planned for the town’s small airfield, which it purchased in 2009.
Byron Treado, chairman of the town airport commission, told the council Tuesday that the improvements will make Robertson Airport better suited for night use and provide pilots with information about the facility, which has a 3,600-foot runaway and is used mainly by small private planes.
The money for the work is coming from the Federal Aviation Administration, which provided a grant two years ago to repave the runway.
“The airfield is not a drain on town finances,” Treado told the council during a periodic report about the facility. “We pay for all expenses and reimburse the town for any work town crews may do at Robertson.”
Robertson Airport, founded in 1911 and considered the state’s oldest airport, makes a small profit each year from the fees paid by people who keep planes there and from fuel sales. Most of the revenue goes to Interstate Aviation, which leases the airfield and operates it for the town.
About 40 private planes tied down at the field.
The town bought the property from Tomasso Brothers Inc. for $7.7 million to ensure that it remains an operating airport, and also uses Robertson for community events, including the annual Wings & Wheels car and plane show, scheduled for June 13 this year.
Afterward, Treado said the airfield is an important part of the state airfield system and should eventually see increased usage as the pavement, lights and GPS systems work is done. Robertson is more of a “mom and pop” general aviation field, but the upgrades will make it more of a destination to pilots, he said.
“Flying is expensive but you’d be surprised how many private planes there are in our state,” he said. “It’s a good airfield convenient in central Connecticut. It is a long-term investment but I’m sure use will grow.
The airport is off Johnson Avenue. A plaque near the entrance says the land was where Connecticut air pioneer Nels J. Nelson became the first man to fly in Plainville on May 18, 1911.