Travel by Plane
Unfortunately, Laconia’s airport is now considered too small to sustain commercial airline service, although at one time, numerous flights a day left Laconia for Boston and other regional airports. Please check out the historical section below for more information.
If you are flying into New England, consider making your destination the Manchester–Boston Regional Airport, rather than Boston’s Logan International. You’ll find a modern, comfortable airport, featuring several major commercial airlines. Manchester is an hour closer to Weirs Beach than Boston.
HISTORY OF THE LACONIA AIRPORT
In 1934, the original Laconia Airport was built in the vicinity of what is now the O’Shea Industrial park. The current airport was built in Gilford in 1941, with funding from the WPA (Works Progress Administration), the City of Laconia, and Belknap County. The City and County paid for the purchase of 439 acres of land, while the WPA paid for the construction of the airport. The airport served as an emergency landing field and military training center during WWII. Two runways were built.
The North-South runway, numbered Runway 17-35, was 150′ wide by 3500′ long. In 1976, Runway 17-35 was closed permanently. The reason for the closure was that the approaches could not be maintained, and the runway could not be extended to meet modern standards.
The East-West runway, numbered 8-26, was also originally 150′ wide by 3500′ long. With 1000′ length-wise extensions in 1963, and then again in 1965, the East-West runway became the primary, and then the only, runway at the airport. The current dimensions of the East-West runway are 100′ wide by 5890′ long. The number 8 is still marked large on the tarmac at the Eastern end of the runway, near Lily Pond; while the number 26 still marks the Western approach.
Regular passenger air service began at the Laconia Airport on June 2, 1950. Northeast Airlines (see above photos) was the original carrier. The airline had been started by the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1931 as B&M Airways. In November, 1940, the airline’s name was changed to Northeast Airlines. Northeast offered regular air service to and from Laconia until 1969, when Winnipesaukee Airlines took over. In August, 1972, Northeast Airlines was sold to Delta Airlines, and the Northeast name was soon discontinued. Click here to enlarge the 1950’s color photo of a Northeast Airlines jet and crew.
The most popular destination from Laconia was Boston. In the 1970’s, Winnipesaukee Airlines operated the passenger air route from Laconia to Boston. The webmaster remembers taking the Laconia to Boston flight. The flight took only 40 minutes, cost only $20 (in 1972), and arrived at the Delta terminal, which is now known as Terminal C at the Boston Logan International Airport. There were several flights a day in both directions.
In 1980, Precision Airlines purchased Winnipesaukee Aviation and took over the passenger routes at the airport. This lasted until 1983. Air carrier service at Laconia then went on a four-year hiatus. Passenger flights were revived in 1987, but they became sporadic and variable from 1987-1993. Valley Airlines revived some routes from 1987-1989; Skymaster from 1990-1992; and Atlantic North from March, 1993 until August, 1993, when the last commercial passenger flew out of Laconia.
Today, the airport, known by its call letters KLCI, is a General Aviation airport, which includes all types of civilian flying, except for scheduled passenger service.
HISTORY OF SEAPLANE RIDES
SEAPLANE RIDES were a staple Weirs Beach attraction from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. One could fly right up to the Weirs Beach boardwalk!
The Weirs Seaplane Base, established in 1923 by pioneer aviator Robert Fogg, was the first seaplane base in New Hampshire. Although the Weirs Beach seaplane base no longer exists, there are still four seaplane bases on Lake Winnipesaukee, in Alton Bay, Meredith, Tuftonboro, and Wolfeboro. In 2010, seaplane rides are once again being offered locally, by the Lakes Region Seaplane Services, while open cockpit, biplane rides over the Lake can be arranged with Lakes Biplane. Click here to see the early 1920’s, original Weirs Beach seaplane ride, or here to see many great pictures of the Weirs Seaplane Base! For more information on the history of aviation in New Hampshire, check out the website of the New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society.
In the bottom left corner of the circa 1950 aerial photo (below – click here to SuperSize), one can see exactly where the seaplanes departed from Weirs Beach. In the late 1950’s the public boat docks were extended southward and expanded, (also a foot bridge was added), causing the seaplane base to relocate to the shores of Paugus Bay, where rides continued to be offered from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.