Worcester Regional Airport

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Worcester Regional Airport
Worcesterairport logo.jpg
Worcester Airport Aerial.jpg
Aerial view
Airport type Public
Owner Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport)
Operator Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport)
Serves Worcester, Massachusetts
Location Worcester, Massachusetts
Elevation AMSL 1,009 ft / 308 m
Coordinates 42°16′02″N 071°52′33″W / 42.26722°N 71.87583°W / 42.26722; -71.87583
Website www.massport.com/worcester-airport
A map with a grid overlay showing the terminals runways and other structures of the airport.
FAA airport diagram
ORH is located in Massachusetts
ORH is located in the US
Location of airport in Massachusetts / United States
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11/29 7,001 2,134 Asphalt/grooved
15/33 5,000 1,524 Asphalt/grooved
Statistics (2015)
Total passengers 117,604
Aircraft Operations 40,207
Based Aircraft 74

Worcester Regional Airport (IATA: ORHICAO: KORHFAA LID: ORH) is a public commercial airport located three miles (5 km) west of the central business district of Worcester, a city in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The main property lies within municipalities of Worcester and Leicester, with substantial supporting facilities in adjacent Paxton. Once owned by the municipal administration of the City of Worcester, the airport has been owned and operated by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) since June 2010.[2]


Downtown Worcester, with Worcester Regional Airport tower in the background
Worcester Regional Airport

Worcester's entry into the world of aviation began in 1925, when city officials commissioned a study to examine suitable sites for the city's first airport. On the list of probable sites was the land owned by a wealthy local citizen, Whitin Whitall. In 1927, Whitall, independently of the city commission, set up an airport on his land in North Grafton, 500 feet (150 m) above sea level. This two-runway airport opened for leisure travel on October 12, 1927.[3]

As air travel became more popular throughout the country and Central Massachusetts, the question of airport expansion became the subject of a second study commissioned by the Worcester city government. The Grafton airport was deemed too small to accommodate the air travel needs of the region. The location of the present airport, Tatnuck Hill, an area that straddles the borders of Worcester, Leicester, and Paxton, was high on the commission's list. One problem noted by the commission and several prominent citizens was the weather: at 1,000-foot (300 m) above sea level, the Tatnuck site was often surrounded by fog. Despite this problem, the city eventually chose Tatnuck as the new site, and construction began in 1944. The airport was ceremoniously opened on May 4, 1946, and started regular passenger service one week later on May 10, 1946. The Grafton airport remained in operation until 1951, when the owners, due to the dwindling traffic, decided to dismantle the airport. The land was redeveloped as a residential neighborhood.[4] Leicester Airport, a small private airfield also built during the first half-century of aviation, was active until the 1970s. It still sits, now mostly overgrown in the shadow of Worcester Regional.[5]

Millions of dollars were spent replacing the old terminal, which hosted a half-dozen airlines before its demolition. In the mid 1980s and early 1990s, major carriers, such as Piedmont, Northwest Airlines, Continental, and USAir all flew mainline jets into Worcester. In addition, smaller carriers, like New York Air and Presidential Airways also had jet service. The small terminal had two ground level jetways built to accommodate the growth. But one by one, those carriers left. A succession of second-tier air carriers have come and gone over the last decade.

Allegiant Air began service to Orlando/Sanford, FL (SFB) on December 22, 2005, using McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 type aircraft. The airline expanded to 4 flights per week in March 2006. Allegiant announced on August 22, 2006, that they would cut ties with the airport, citing high fuel costs and passenger loads in the 80% range as the reason for departure. The departure came as a huge surprise to the city as service was reported to be going great throughout Allegiant's entire tenure at the airport.[6]

On September 4, 2008, Direct Air announced they would begin service to Worcester beginning in November 2008, with flights from Orlando/Sanford, FL and Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, FL. The flights were initially operated by Virgin America using Airbus A320 aircraft, however Direct Air was forced to return the aircraft in June 2009 to suffice Virgin's rapidly expanding domestic routes. Following this Direct Air began carrying out flights on Boeing 737-400's owned by Xtra Airways. Due to this being a wet-lease agreement, there were times where the aircraft was unavailable and other aircraft had to be chartered for the flights. Such examples include an Airbus A320 from USA 3000 and a Boeing 757 from North American Airlines. In March 2009, Direct Air added additional flights to Myrtle Beach, SC. In July 2010, Direct Air expanded their Worcester service further to West Palm Beach, FL. The airline had further plans to launch flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Nassau, Bahamas but in March 2012 Direct Air suspended all operations and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on April 12, 2012.[7]

On April 3, 2013, it was announced that JetBlue Airways will offer daily flights to Orlando, Florida and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting November 7, 2013.[8] This came after over a year of negotiating with the airline that included a competition among local residents to help advertise the city. This became the first mainline service out of Worcester in over a decade. The airline currently uses the 100 seat Embraer 190 for their flights, although occasionally they are substituted for the 165 seat Airbus A320. With the airport's current terminal facility JetBlue can operate two aircraft at a time with the pair of jetways and ticket counters.

A revamp of the defunct airline Air Florida had planned to fly out of Worcester at the beginning of 2015 as a scheduled charter operation but the airline never got off the ground.

Worcester Regional Airport was used for shooting of the films Captain Phillips, Knight and Day, The Judge and The Sea of Trees.[9]

On November 17, 2015, Rectrix Aviation opened a brand new FBO building and hangar in Worcester. Rectrix also plans to launch flights between Worcester and Cape Cod possibly as soon as the summer of 2016 with their newly established commercial airline operation, Rectrix Shuttle.[10] On October 14, 2016, Rectrix announced intentions to begin commercial service between Worcester and Baltimore within the next year. The flight is expected to be once daily each way, continuing to Sarasota, Florida after a quick stop at BWI.[11]

On February 28, 2017, JetBlue announced it will expand its service at the airport, adding a daily non-stop flight to New York City. While JetBlue did not provide a start date, airline officials said the new flights would not begin until after the landing system is installed and operational allowing reliability for connecting passengers. This leaves a projected start date for the service in the early weeks of 2018.[12]

On June 26, 2017, Rectrix Aviation announced it will begin once daily, round-trip flights between Worcester and Hyannis on June 29, 2017. These flights will run from Thursday to Monday every week utilizing a Beechcraft King Air 300.[13]


The airport had been under an operating agreement with Massport, the Massachusetts Port Authority for several years. Under the agreement, the city and Massport paid the operating deficit together.

  • July 1, 2004 – June 30, 2005 – Massport pays 100% of operating deficit not including debt service
  • July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2006 – Massport pays 85% of operating deficit not including debt service
  • July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2007 – Massport pays 68% of operating deficit not including debt service[14]

By law, Worcester had to transfer ownership of the airport to Massport sometime in 2009 or 2010.[15] As of July 1, 2010, Massport is the owner and operator of the airport.


In the calendar year of 2015, JetBlue carried an estimated 119,000 passengers between the two destinations, which averages to about 85% capacity per flight.[16]

For 12-month period ending September 30, 2015, the airport had 40,207 aircraft operations, an average of 110 per day: 92% general aviation, 4% scheduled commercial, 3% military and 2% air taxi. There are 74 aircraft based at this airport: 93% single engine and 7% multi-engine.[1]

At its peak in 1989, Worcester Airport served about 354,000 passengers. In 2009, the airport served fewer than 50,000 passengers,[17] though 107,000 passengers used the airport in 2011.[18]

On June 10, 2016 JetBlue and the City of Worcester celebrated the 300,000th passenger since beginning service in 2013, an average of about 84%.[19]

Facilities and Infrastructure[edit]

Worcester Airport terminal curbfront

Worcester Regional Airport covers an area of 1,000 acres (4 km²) which contains two runways: 11/29 measuring 7,001 x 150 ft (2,134 x 46 m) and 15/33 measuring 5,000 x 100 ft (1,524 x 30 m).[1] Runways 11 and 29 are instrumented with ILS equipment.[20] EMAS pads are located at the starting thresholds of runways 11 and 29.[21]

The airport passenger terminal has four jetway gates (two of which are operational) and two ramp level gates for regional carriers. The terminal also houses two baggage carousels and a TSA installed passenger and baggage screening system.[22]

WBZ-TV operates a doppler weather radar station at the airport.

Rectrix Aviation is the fixed-base operator at the airport.

Category III Landing System[edit]

On April 28, 2016, Massport approved funding for the installation of a Category IIIb instrument landing system at ORH. The geographic location of the airport, on top of the tallest hill in the city reaching approximately 1,000 feet above sea level, leaves Worcester on average with 40 more days of fog a year than nearby Boston.[23] The installation of the Category IIIb landing system will allow aircraft to land and depart in virtually all weather conditions. There are no Category IIIc airports in the United States; it is simply not allowed for safety reasons. The installation of the landing system also will include a jug-handle taxiway at the approach end of Runway 11. Construction has begun and the ILS is expected to be operational sometime in late 2017. Once it is completed, new service with JetBlue Airways will begin to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Public safety[edit]

Public safety at the airport is provided by a unique Massport department known as Worcester Airport Safety and Security, a combined Aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) and security force. The Safety and Security Officers are Massachusetts certified Special State Police Officers with Massachusetts Firefighter II certification and ARFF certification. Emergency Medical Technician certification is also required. Troopers from Troop F of the Massachusetts State Police are also on hand when jetBlue flights are operating.[24]

Massport's Director of Aviation Edward Freni along with has recommended that the Airport Safety and Security force be reorganized into a full-time ARFF unit under the control of the Logan International Airport based, Massport Fire and Rescue, similar to Hanscom Field, which has been controlled by Massport Fire following a fatal aircraft crash in 2014.[24]

International Association of Fire Fighters Local S-2 which represents the firefighters of Massport Fire and Rescue has shown the same concerns with their president Arthur Miner saying, “They are not full-time professional ARFF firefighters and lack the extensive training specific to ARFF that is required of all firefighters assigned to Logan.” However, Miner says that the dual-role safety and security officers meet the Federal Aviation Administration's minimum requirements. The Safety and Security Officers at Worcester are represented by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 25.[24]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

A JetBlue Embraer 190 landing in Worcester.


Airlines Destinations
JetBlue Airways Fort Lauderdale, Orlando
Rectrix Shuttle Seasonal: Hyannis[25]

Historical service[edit]


Ground transportation[edit]

Three rental car agencies are located in the terminal building at Worcester Regional Airport. Avis, Hertz, and Thrifty all have concession stands across from the baggage claim.

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA)'s route #2 bus connects Union Station, a regional MBTA Commuter Rail, Amtrak, and bus transportation hub in the Downtown Worcester district, with the airport. Union Station is the western terminus of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Framingham/Worcester Line, with eastbound service to Back Bay and South Station in Boston. Additionally, service via Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited Boston section to/from Albany, New York, with connections to Chicago (formerly also the Regional's Inland Route) stops at this location, as does intercity (Peter Pan Bus Lines), (Greyhound Bus Lines), and other local WRTA bus services at Union Station.

The airport presently lacks a direct connection to an Interstate Highway. However, a number of Interstate routes such as: I-290, I-90, I-190, I-395, I-495, and routes: MA-9, MA-122, and MA-146 provide access through smaller access roads.[27] Travel time to reach the airport is approximately 5–10 minutes after exiting Interstate I-290, Worcester's primary access via interstate highway from the north and the south also with direct access to the Massachusetts Turnpike.


  1. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for ORH (Form 5010 PDF). Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  2. ^ Massport (June 22, 2010). "Massport, Worcester Airport Deal Completed". Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MASSDOT). Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  3. ^ Southwick, Albert B. (1994). Once-Told Tales of Worcester County. Worcester: Databooks. 
  4. ^ Freeman, Paul (March 13, 2010). "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Grafton, MA". Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Western Massachusetts. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  5. ^ Freeman, Paul (March 13, 2010). "Abandoned Airfields: Leicester, MA". Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Western Massachusetts. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Allegiant Air will leave Worcester". Worcester Telegram and Gazette. August 23, 2006. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Massport media advisory sparks speculation of JetBlue service for Worcester". Boston Globe. April 3, 2013. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Direct Air puts Bahamas, San Juan flights on hold". Worcester Telegram. April 3, 2012. Retrieved November 25, 2015. [dead link]
  9. ^ Sheehan, Nancy. "Airport taking off with movie industry." Telegram & Gazette, Mar 23 2012.
  10. ^ http://capecodtimes.com/article/20151216/NEWS/151219601
  11. ^ http://www.telegram.com/news/20161014/rectrix-aviation-to-offer-worcester-to-baltimore-flight
  12. ^ Vaccaro, Adam (2017-02-28). "JetBlue to Offer New York-Worcester Route". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  13. ^ "New air service from Worcester to Cape Cod". The Barnstable Patriot. 2017-06-26. Retrieved 2017-07-19. 
  14. ^ "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report" (PDF). Massport. June 30, 2005. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, Section 148". Massachusetts General Court. June 25, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  16. ^ https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/02/26/jetblue-worcester-service-takes-off-first-two-years/LytDMEJ2YUb2UfW1vErhoO/story.html
  17. ^ Chase, Katie Johnston (June 1, 2010). "Ailing airport seeking its niche". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Briefing: Worcester Regional Airport Economic Impact". Worcester Business Journal Online. January 9, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  19. ^ http://www.telegram.com/news/20160610/plane-pull-for-autism-community-celebrates-worcester-regional-airport-milestone
  20. ^ "KORH: Worcester Regional Airport". FAA Information. Airnav.com. September 23, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  21. ^ FAA Airport Diagram.
  22. ^ "Worcester Regional Airport". City of Worcester Economic, Neighborhood & Workplace Development. 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  23. ^ http://worcestermag.com/2015/07/30/worcester-regional-airport-wants-to-be-in-whole-new-category/35383
  24. ^ a b c Russell, Gerard F. (November 28, 2015). "Safety at a price: Firefighting readiness scoped at Worcester Airport". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Massachusetts. Retrieved September 19, 2017. 
  25. ^ http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2017/06/worcester_to_cape_cod_air_shut.html
  26. ^ "Worcester regional Airport carrier history 1946–2012" (PDF). Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved January 11, 2014. 
  27. ^ "To and From Worcester Regional Airport". MassPort. 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 

External links[edit]