MERIDEN — Meriden Markham Airport could be at the forefront of aerospace innovation following a proposal from electric aircraft company eVertiports to install a compact landing pad that would open the facility up to chartering taxi flights to the surrounding region.
According to airport officials, the deal is only in a preliminary stage and likely won’t see significant movement for the next couple of years. The city is awaiting a written proposal from the firm to evaluate whether the project would fit the site well, said City Manager Tim Coon during the last City Council meeting.
The project would entail installing a helipad-like structure at the airport which would service small four-to-six-seat electric planes that would operate similarly to Uber or a taxi service, allowing for ease of access from Meriden Markham to other airports like Bradley International.
The service area would extend beyond Connecticut, Coon said, providing flights to New York airports like LaGuardia and JFK, along with other locations like Martha’s Vineyard. According to information on eVertiport’s website, the company is aiming to establish an affordable by-seat pricing taxi service with rates comparable to chartering an Uber XL. eVertiport hopes to link not only airports, large and small, but also resorts, universities, and retail spaces.
“It was just a preliminary meeting, and they're going around all around the state to other airports and so forth as well. I'm waiting for their proposal and when that does come, I'll have more information for that,” Coon said of the city’s meeting with eVertiport.
The aircraft, manufactured by JOBY Aviation, are still being reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration. They’re being marketed as emission-free and look similar in design to drones, with the capability to take off and land vertically.
“It's really early. We really don't have any set plans or any commitments,” said Constance Castillo, airport manager. “We were approached by a company that's a site development company that's just reaching out to airports in the state, looking for locations to set up an air taxi service.”
Bringing in companies like eVertiport to expand the services of Meriden Markham was an idea put forward by Castillo and Mayor Scarpati during a presentation on federal funding in early August to complete the repaving of the tarmac, which will increase the number of planes that can be tied down outdoors.
Scarpati and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who was also present, said they saw great potential in the future of the airport and the commercial opportunities it could provide to the city by expanding its services.
Nearby residential areas may have concerns about what the addition of the vertiport platform could mean for noise pollution in the area, which has always been a factor in discussions between residents and the airport regarding expansions. JOBY Aviation’s demonstration videos, however, indicate that noise and air pollution would be extremely limited. The emission-free aircraft are virtually silent, and much quieter than conventional helicopters and propeller planes.
Castillo was pleased that companies saw the continued growing potential of the airport and how it could be made to service community transport.
“Anything that can serve the community. It's definitely going to be an asset to our residents in the community today,” said Castillo. “This is something to consider. It is going to be the future. But again, it's still in the initial developmental stages and there's a lot of FAA approval as far as the aircraft and as far as the airspace and regulations etc. So we'll follow it.”
More information about eVeritport can be found online at their website.