New Haven’s airport faces a new setback in its plan to expand its main runway.

A federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought by the Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority aiming to overturn a 2009 state law that restricts the length of the airport’s main runway to 5,600 feet. Though the airport received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to expand its main runway to 7,200 feet, the conflicting state statute is blocking the aviation administration’s mandate. The aviation administration has refused to review the master plan to expand the runway until the state law is nullified.

“The judge ruled that the authority does not have standing to bring the lawsuit because he did not feel there was proof of an immediate injury attributable to the state statute,” Hugh Manke, the lawyer for the Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority, said in an email to the News.

The size of the current runway inhibits aircraft with a significant number of passengers from departing from or arriving at the airport, Manke said in an April interview.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Richardson heard the lawsuit during a one-day trial without a jury in March. In his recently released written decision, Richardson ruled that the Tweed airport authority lacks standing to bring its suit and noted that Tweed’s claim that it is “injured by the mere existence of the statute” is “unpersuasive.”

During the trial, Manke also argued that the state statute conflicted with the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, which undermines state laws that interfere with federal laws.

Because of the aviation administration’s mandate calling for the expansion of Tweed’s service, he said, the state statute should be nullified.

In his ruling, however, Judge Richardson noted that the state statute is not pre-empted by the Supremacy Clause.

As a result of the decision, development of the airport could stall or halt entirely. That could mean the end of hopes to expand airport service to cities like Charlotte, Atlanta and Chicago.

“Service to locations other than Philadelphia — where we now have service — is unlikely to happen without a longer runway because commercial airlines are increasing the size of their aircraft and those planes need more than the 5,600 feet of runway at Tweed,” Manke noted.

The main source of Tweed-New Haven Airport’s revenue — its American Airline Philadelphia flight — could be canceled, Manke said. The aircraft that currently flies the route is in the process of being phased out, and its replacement aircraft may require a longer runway.

According to Richardson’s ruling, Manke added, only the total discontinuation of airport services would qualify as “imminent injury and grant standing,” and mean the court would rule in the airport’s favor.

Though the Tweed-New Haven Airport generates most of its revenue from its flights to and from Philadelphia, Oyinda Alliyu ’20, who lives in Philadelphia, said she has never been to Tweed-New Haven and would never use it to take a flight back home.

Out of 8 students surveyed only half had even heard of Tweed-New Haven Airport.

The airport opened in 1931.

Ashna Gupta |