Deep-pocketed travelers have long appreciated the convenience of general aviation airports that are typically small with little to no security, though the COVID-19 pandemic added another level of health safety that private aviation could provide.
There are about 5,000 general aviation airports in the US, which most private jets use. One of the better-known ones in my state is Bridgeport Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The small airport is home to a few fix-based operators (FBOs), which are organizations that offer aeronautical services, flight instruction, aircraft rentals, and more.
Services comprise things like fueling, maintenance, hangaring, tie-downs, and parking for general aviation, including private charters.
At Sikorsky, the two main FBOs are Atlantic Aviation…
Source: Air Nav
My boyfriend, who is a former flight instructor based at Sikorsky, flew in and out of the airport for several years. One perk of the job is access to aircraft that he can fly for fun.
Late last year, I got to tag along on one of his adventures and experience first-hand what it’s like to fly out of a general aviation airport, and now I dread going back to commercial flying.
My journey started around 2 pm at Sikorsky airport, which is about a 20-minute drive from my apartment. It was a perfect day for flying, with few clouds and calm winds, which was a nice change after a week of fog and rain.
The airport is easy to access, with the entrance right off a service road that connects the main street to a small community behind the airport next to the Long Island Sound.
Because the airport is small and does not have regularly scheduled passenger service, there was no traffic or lines to get in, and I was able to simply drive right up to the FBO and park. In fact, parking at Sikorsky airport is free for customers, and the lots are huge with plenty of space.
The FBO itself was extremely nice and cozy, with a medium-sized lobby featuring comfortable armchairs…
The FBO’s bathroom was private and clean, which was a pleasant upgrade from the stalls at major airports.
Meanwhile, there were also complimentary drinks and snacks available for passengers, which included water, Coke products, sparkling water, chips, and pretzels.
There was also a Keurig coffee machine stocked with plenty of K-cups and cream and a hot water machine for tea. I helped myself to a Dunkin’ medium roast while I waited for my boyfriend to arrive.
Once he got to the airport, he started to preflight the plane while I waited in the “VIP lounge,” which featured large reclining leather chairs, a couch, and a TV.
The room was down the hall from the lobby and was much quieter and provided enhanced privacy and comfort that is absent from commercial airports unless you have access to a club or lounge.
I also spent some time exploring the facility, which has two hangars onsite, one housing several aircraft, like helicopters and private jets, and the second for maintenance.
I also talked to the line crew workers, whose office is next to the VIP lounge and overlooks the ramp. The employees spend their day directing, parking, fueling, and cleaning planes.
Once my boyfriend was ready to fly, I headed directly to the ramp and boarded the small Piper Warrior aircraft. The easy access to the plane was extremely convenient as I did not have to wait in line at a gate or show a boarding pass.
Moreover, I did not have to go through any sort of security, which was the best part of the trip. From the moment I parked to the second I stepped out onto the ramp, I did not have to take off my shoes, get a full-body scan, or have my purse searched.