New Bedford Regional Airport is a public airport located two miles (3 km) northwest of the central business district of New Bedford, a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States. This airport is owned by the City of New Bedford.
New Bedford Regional Airport was constructed between 1940 and 1942 as a commercial airport, but was soon drafted into use for the U.S. Army Air Corps until the end of World War II. After the war ended, the airport was converted back into civilian use and has been improved over the years with additional runway lighting and approach guidance systems.
Northeast Airlines, a major east coast carrier, provided frequent scheduled airline service throughout the 1950s and 1960s until it was bought by Delta Air Lines who eventually cut service to New Bedford. In the 1970s, Air New England provided regional service throughout New England and New York until its demise. Following this, Provincetown-Boston Airlines (PBA) was the primary airline at New Bedford until 1989, when it ceased operations at New Bedford. At the peak of the airline's business, 102,880 passengers passed through its facilities in New Bedford.
For 12-month period ending June 1, 2006, the airport had 184,750 aircraft operations, an average of 506 per day: 89% general aviation, 7% military and 3% air taxi. There are 136 aircraft based at this airport: 90% single engine, 7% multi-engine, 3% jet aircraft and 1% ultralight.
However, despite the economic benefits that a new cargo facility could bring to the area, there is a substantial local opposition. Large cargo jets will create more noise and pollution than the smaller planes that presently utilize the airport, and the runway extension itself could affect 17 to 58 acres (69,000 to 235,000 m²) of wetlands. Safety could also be a concern, with large aircraft following a flight path directly over populated residential areas.
Due to this opposition, in addition to environmental and safety concerns of the FAA that were not fully addressed by the expansion planning, the plan to extend the runway was rejected by the Airport Commission on May 4, 2005. The commission voted instead to implement various safety upgrades.