Floyd Arlen of Warwick has been flying planes for Cape Air for 21 years, and as of Thursday his commute to work got a lot shorter.
Arlen, who usually drives to New Bedford Airport to work, piloted the regional airline’s inaugural flight from Green Airport and Block Island. And while Arlen’s commute has been shortened, it is the short landing and take-off of the Britten-Norman Islander, a two-engine, nine-passenger plane, that has enabled the airline to open the service.
The Islander, made in the United Kingdom, needs only 400 feet to take off and 500 feet to land, which means Block Island’s 2,500-foot runway is more than adequate.
“I could land it in my backyard,” Arlen quipped Thursday morning while waiting for the flight’s first passengers. The plane is the newest addition to Cape Air’s fleet, which provides service to 42 cities.
“It’s like a brand new car,” said Arlen. “The same smell and everything.”
Earlier in ceremonies in the terminal’s Mary Brennan Room with a prelude from a steel drummer, Andrew Bonney, Cape Air’s vice president of planning, said “what we love to do is connect small communities with the rest of the globe.” And that’s what has happened.
Bonney said passengers are able to check their luggage to any airport nationally or internationally from Block Island. While Block Island has scheduled flights to Westerly Airport, it hasn’t had a connection with Green that would give passengers convenient access to flights across the country.
“It was something we’ve been working on for some time – enhancing access to the global aviation grid,” said Tim Pimental, air service marketing manager at Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC). Bonney said the acquisition of three Britten-Norman Islanders made it possible.
“We could not fly at economical payloads with the 402,” he said, referencing the Cessna 402 aircraft that is a staple of the fleet. Fully loaded, the Cessna needs a 4,100-foot runway to operate. One-way flights to Block Island range from $59 to $79 and take 34 minutes.
RIAC President and CEO Kelly Fredericks hailed the new service, noting that Cape Air has been providing seasonal service between Green Airport to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for the last 17 years and saying that “this new destination only strengthens that relationship.”
“We’re in it for the long haul, so we’re delighted to have you,” he said.
The airline will resume its seasonal non-stop service between Green Airport and Nantucket (ACK) and Martha’s Vineyard (MVY) on June 20. Flights between T.F. Green Airport and Martha’s Vineyard are a quick 26-minute flight, and Nantucket is just a 37-minute flight. Several daily flights will be offered to these popular destinations, and the flight schedule will increase as summer travel peaks in July and August.
Cape Air has been operating seasonal service at T.F. Green since 1997. The airport and airline are popular alternatives to driving and ferrying to the islands. Travelers are encouraged to book their flights early. Green’s Cape Air seasonal service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket runs through Sept. 22 and service to Block Island runs through Oct. 19. For schedule and fare information, call 800-CAPEAIR, 800-227-3247, or visit www.capeair.com.