Business & Tech

New Bedford Regional Airport courts international corporate travelers, domestic flights

New Bedford Regional Airport has its sights set on domestic and international expansion.

The municipal airport hopes more corporate jets from international locales will start landing here after its aircraft service providers were recently approved to handle garbage and other waste left on foreign flights—a process heavily regulated by the government.

Federal regulators recently certified NorEast Aviation and Colonial Air, two of the airport’s fuel and maintenance providers, to handle items, particularly food-based garbage, left behind on international aircraft, under strict federal guidelines. A third provider at the airport, Sandpiper Air, is expected to receive its certification soon.

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“Everything on the aircraft [the service providers] have to make sure is in compliance with our regulations, and a big part of that is trash, with fruit and food etc.,” said airport manager Erick D’Leon. “Everything from how does that trash come off the airplane, what happens if there’s a spill, the cleanup, etc.”

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The airport, run by the city of New Bedford, has accepted international flights for months, assisted by US Customs while the aircraft providers waited for federal certification. Business aircraft that have already used the airport hail from Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and Portugal, D’Leon said.

Corporate jet traffic at the airport has increased by about 25 percent from last year. In July, the airport received 170 business jet aircraft, its highest number since the airport started tracking jet operations two years ago, D’Leon said. The numbers are not broken down by international flights. Domestically, D’Leon said corporate jets from companies such as Little Debbie, The Home Depot, and Entergy have used the airport.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “You see things start to improve here. People have vacation homes here; maybe they’re interested in the fishing community.”

Since completing a five-year $30 million face lift, New Bedford Regional Airport is positioning itself for growth. An air taxi service to Cape Cod and the islands from New Bedford is in the final stages of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, D’Leon said. Cape Air, which operates a similar commercial passenger service out of the airport, expects to move 8,000 passengers this year, an increase from prior years, D’Leon added.

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Conversations are also being had with other airlines that would offer commercial flights to new destinations, including New York and Florida, from New Bedford, D’Leon said. The airport has two runways running 5,400 and 5,000 feet, that can handle single and twin engine aircraft.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.