It’s another busy morning at Westchester County Airport. On the runway, a JetBlue flight is about to take off to Orlando with several young Westchester families en route to Disney. Another runway has a handful of business travelers coming in on a United flight from Chicago. Meanwhile a Westchester-based CEO is boarding his corporate jet for a meeting in Rochester.
Opened in 1945, Westchester County Airport operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and currently has six airlines offering flights, serving approximately 1.75 million passengers a year. The airport’s code, HPN, actually stands for Harrison, Purchase and North Castle, not White Plains Airport, as many people mistakenly believe, because the airport’s footprint is owned by all three towns. The airport employs 1,300 workers full-time and brings in an estimated $735 million to the region, according to a 2010 analysis.
The airport first began commercial flights in 1948 and the National Guard maintained a base at the airport from 1952 to 1983. In 2005, the airport began to offer discount flights to several key destinations for the first time.
With residential properties surrounding the airport, the county works hard at limiting noise and other environmental hazards.
A Westchester County Airport Advisory Board meets monthly and the board discusses topics such as noise/odor complaints with meetings open to the public. The board consists of eleven members appointed by the County Executive with representatives from the surrounding areas and aviation specialists. Residents can track flights and complain about any noise issues via www.airport.westchester.gov under the flight tracking tab. The County and Board have also been instrumental in capping terminal use to 480 passengers per hour to limit the impact on surrounding communities.
“The Westchester County Airport serves a very important purpose for the residents and businesses not only in North Castle but in the surrounding region,” notes Michael Schiliro, the Town Supervisor of North Castle. “In April, the North Castle Town Board adopted a Resolution requesting that North Castle be considered an Interested Agency for the proposed legislation modifying the Terminal Use Agreement. It is important to strike a balance between sustaining the level of service expected by the users of the airport while addressing the environmental, traffic, and noise impacts of North Castle residents. We intend to be an active participant in the process.”
“I think when people hear the words development or expansion they confuse construction with that,” notes Richard Conrad, an Advisory Board member from North Castle who is also the CEO and Owner of GP Aviation, a company that operates and sells business jets. For example, the airport recently built a separate building on the right hand side of the terminal for baggage screening to make it safer and efficient for all passengers. “The airport really is a jewel of Westchester, offering accessibility, ease of entry/egress from the airport and civilized travel with fewer crowds than other nearby airports. The county and [County Executive Rob] Astorino are huge proponents of it and are constantly looking for ways to improve the airport experience for everybody.”
Samantha Shinnick, an Armonk resident, uses the airport frequently and likes that “it’s a small airport with pretty good service (except when it snows). They run the operations smoothly based on security lines, etc.” However, she wishes there were more reasonable taxi services available and would like Uber to be allowed on-site.
There are several fixed-base operators (FBOs) at the airport such as Million Air and Signature Flight Support and these operators offer the convenience of driving right up to your plane and having staff handle your baggage. “It’s just another level of civilized travel,” comments Conrad.
In addition, Conrad notes that the airport is a “mecca for business aviation,” bringing in millions of dollars to the area.
Stacey Pfeffer lives with her husband and three young children in Chappaqua. She has written for New York Family Magazine, Kveller.com, Westchester Parents and Inside Chappaqua. She has flown to Florida several times via Westchester County Airport.