If you’ve noticed small planes and private jets flying just above Concord, it’s probably because they’re coming in for a landing. At the Concord Municipal Airport, of course.
For those of you who didn’t know, Concord is home to a two-runway, city owned spot where planes can really come and go as they please. And go figure, it’s actually located along Airport Road.
But don’t feel bad, we didn’t know much about it until we took a field trip there last week. We knew it was there, had driven by it a bunch of times, but inside that fence remained a mystery.
It’s not like the bigger airports we use for our whirlwind weekend tours of the world. This one doesn’t have all the fancy stuff like restaurants and gift shops. There’s no arrival/departure electronic board, baggage claim or long security lines.
So what does it have? And how does it work?
Well, we were lucky enough to get inside the airport to take a look around, saw a few planes land and take off and learned the ins and outs of the operation.
First of all, the airport is owned by the city, one of 24 public use airports in the state, but Concord Aviation Services is in charge of the operation.
Concord Aviation leases the facility from the city and has two contracts with the city. One to be the fixed base operator with the city – essentially meaning they run the show and take care of all the day-to-day details – and the other for CAS owner Dave Rolla to serve as airport manager.
The airport opened in its current location in 1927 (there was an earlier one near where Everett Arena is which opened in 1910) and Concord Aviation Services is just the third operator of the airport, taking over in 1994.
“It’s as good of an airport as it is because it’s the capital,” Rolla said.
Now if you’re looking to use the Concord Airport for your next vacation, you might want to have a back up plan. Because unless you know someone with a plane or can fly one yourself, there are not a lot of options. There are only three airports in the state that have airline service and as you can probably guess, Concord isn’t one of them. You’ll have to go to Manchester, Portsmouth or Lebanon for that.
And there really isn’t a schedule of when planes are coming and going. Sure, they get a heads up when someone needs their plane taken out of the hangar, or one of those more professionally run private jets are coming in, but sometimes you can look out the window and a plane is touching down. Of course, when the primary is approaching, candidates are using it as a quick in and out of the capital, and NASCAR weekends also generate a lot of traffic, but usually it’s an unknown. The National Guard is also a huge component of the success of the airport.
“You can get a phone call and an hour later you’ve got three airplanes coming in,” Rolla said.
There’s no air traffic control at the airport – that’s handled at an FAA facility in Nashua, and on a nice day there’s really no need to touch base with them in the airspace around Concord.
“They can really come and go as they please,” Rolla said.
The airport is generally used by pilots flying for recreation, keeping up their proficiencies and companies who find it more productive to use private planes.
“The main reason to use general aviation aircrafts is to save time,” Rolla said.
This time of year, a good foliage day can bring in private planes from all over, while a heavy snow season means more landings for a day on the slopes.
If you land and then take off, there’s actually no fee. It’s only if you plan to leave it over night that there’s a parking fee, which runs around $100.
“It depends on the size of the plane,” Rolla said.
You can even rent a car on site or have your radio equipment fixed at Craig Avionics.
The airport is technically open 24 hours a day, but is only staffed 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Although there is a 24-hour call out service where someone will be there if an incoming pilot would prefer it that way. And if a plane is just in need of some fuel, the airport supplies both aviation gasoline and jet fuel at its 24-hour self-service pumps.
“An airport is kind of like a small city. You’ve got every service right here at the facility,” Rolla said.
For those who are coming in after hours but don’t need any assistance, the runway lights can be turned on by the radio.
As of last week, the airport housed more than 90 private planes, both in the outside lot and in the many hangar spaces. To park your plane outside, it will cost you $45 a month. Inside storage costs $375 a month, but if you just want to be indoors during the winter months, the price is between $500-600 a month. Got to pay the price for convenience.
“Aviation can be pretty expensive,” Rolla said.
If you do have a pilot’s license, Concord Aviation Services owns four planes you can rent, ranging from $108 an hour to $300, depending on the complexity of the aircraft and what you’re able to fly. We could go into more detail, but if you’re interested just give the airport a call.
“Generally the people who are renting our planes are doing so for recreation,” Rolla said.
And if you’re interested in what flying is all about, you can take a one-time, half-hour discovery flight for $104, but unfortunately the airport doesn’t offer scenic flights, so you can’t just show up and get chauffeured around the skies whenever you want.
Concord Aviation has six full-time employees and 10 part-timers, and it an be hard for Rolla to determine how many are needed on a given day – considering there really isn’t much of a schedule.
But that’s what Rolla likes about it – no day is ever the same.
For more info, visit confbo.com or call 228-2267.