In December of 2020 the first A220 aircraft entered JetBlue’s commercial fleet. They now have eight of these models and the expectation is that they will add an additional 92 of these aircraft to their fleet by 2026 after an agreement earlier this year.
Once these aircraft enter the commercial airline’s fleet, the E190 aircraft islanders see coming and going with tourists during the summer will be phased out of the fleet and no longer used. These A220s seat 140 passengers compared to the E190s 100 seats, are heavier, and are longer in length with a slightly broader wing span.
For a small airport, it is fair to wonder whether these aircraft could present a problem for Nantucket. But assistant airport manager Noah Karberg said they have been aware of this development and been preparing for years to accommodate the arrival of these larger aircraft.
He said with any FAA covered project, there are design standards forming the basis of the project that are determined by the aircraft operating at the airport. The airport had projects such as their $20 million reconstruction of their main taxiway echo done with these aircraft in mind.
“Fleet changes at our incumbent airlines are something we follow very closely whether it be Cape Air moving to the Tecnam or JetBlue moving to the A220,” Karberg said. “Obviously the A220 is a lot bigger and people are going to look at that but even the Tecnam has a change in how we orient the ramp, how we plan for taxiway intersections.”
Karberg said the airport does not need to be rebuilt or expanded upon with surrounding land, but emphasized the reality that the airport is going to have to begin preparing future projects around these large aircraft and that these aircraft will only become more and more common moving forward.
“(Nantucket Memorial Airport) was designed 40 years ago around smaller aircraft like the Cessna 402,” he said. “ Also, FAA standards have changed over the past 40 years.”
Karberg said JetBlue gets a lot of attention given their investment in the island with over 10 flights daily during weekends at the summer’s peak, but said other major airlines that come here such as Delta are also transitioning to these larger aircraft.