The History of Long Island MacArthur Airport

Introduction

Long Island MacArthur Airport, located on 1,310 acres in Suffolk County, is the region’s only commercial service facility which has, for most of its existence, struggled with identity and purpose.

Its second–and oval-shaped–50,000 square-foot passenger terminal, opened in 1966 and sporting two opposing, ramp-accessing gates, had exuded a small, hometown atmosphere-so much so, in fact, that scenes from the original Out-of-Towners movie had been filmed in it.

Its subsequent expansion, resulting in a one thousand percent increase in passenger terminal area and some two million annual passengers, had been sporadic and cyclic, characterized by new airline establishment which had always sparked a sequence of passenger attraction, new nonstop route implementation, and additional carriers, before declining conditions had initiated a reverse trend. During cycle peaks, check-in, gate, and ramp space had been at a premium, while during troughs, a pin drop could be heard on the terminal floor.

Its Catch-22 struggle had always entailed the circular argument of carriers reluctant to provide service to the airport because of a lack of passengers and passengers reluctant to use the airport because of a lack of service.

This, in essence, is the force which shaped its seven-decade history. And this, in essence, is Long Island MacArthur Airport’s story.

1. Origins

The 1938 Civil Aeronautics Act, under Section 303, authorized federal fund expenditure for landing areas provided the administrator could certify “that such landing areas were reasonably necessary for use in air commerce or in the interests of national defense.”

At the outbreak of World War II, Congress appropriated $40 million for the Development of Landing Areas for National Defense or “DLAND,” of which the Development Civil Landing Areas (DCLA) had been an extension. Because civil aviation had been initially perceived as an “appendage” of military aviation, it had been considered a “segment” of the national defense system, thus garnering direct federal government civil airport support. Local governments provided land and subsequently maintained and operated the airports. Construction of 200 such airfields began in 1941.

A Long Island regional airport, located in Islip, had been one of them. On September 16 of that year, the Town of Islip–the intended owner and operator of the initially named Islip Airport–sponsored the project under an official resolution designated Public Law 78-216, providing the land, while the federal government agreed to plan and build the actual airport. The one-year, $1.5 million construction project, initiated in 1942, resulted in an airfield with three 5,000-foot runways and three ancillary taxiways. Although it had fulfilled its original military purpose, it had always been intended for public utilization.

Despite increased instrument-based flight training after installation of instrument landing system (ILS) equipment in 1947, the regional facility failed to fulfill projected expectations of becoming New York’s major airport after the recent construction of Idlewild. Losing Lockheed as a major tenant in 1950, the since-renamed MacArthur Airport, in honor of General Douglas MacArthur, would embark on a long development path before that would occur.

2. Initial Service

A 5,000-square-foot passenger terminal and restaurant, funded by the federal government, had been constructed in 1949. Infrastructurally equipped, the airport, surrounded by local community growth, sought its first public air service by petitioning the Civil Aeronautics Board. Islip had attempted to attract scheduled airline service as far back as 1956, and this ultimately took the form of Gateway Airlines three years later when it had commenced operations, on an air taxi level, with a fleet of 11-passenger de Havilland Doves and 15-passenger de Havilland Herons to Boston, Newark, and Washington. Inadequate financing, however, had led to its premature termination only eight months later.

The airport, which only had 20 based aircraft at this time, annually fielded some 30,000 movements. Allegheny Airlines subsequently received full scheduled passenger service route authority from the CAB in 1960 and inaugurated four daily Convair- and Martinliner round-trips to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington in September, carrying more than 19,000 passengers in 1961, its first full year of operations.

Two years later, the FAA opened a New York Air Route Traffic Control Center and a seven-floor control tower, and in 1966, a $1.3 million, 50,000 square-foot oval terminal replaced the original rectangular facility.

Mohawk, granted the second CAB route authority that year, inaugurated Fairchild FH-227 service to Albany, and the two scheduled airlines carried some 110,000 passengers from the since renamed Islip MacArthur Airport by 1969. The 210 based aircraft recorded 240,000 yearly movements.

The runways and taxiways were progressively expanded, partly in response to Eastern and Pan Am’s designation of the airport as an “alternate” on their flight plans.

3. First Major Carrier Service

Long envisioned as a reliever airport to JFK and La Guardia, which would provide limited, but important nonstop service to key US cities and hubs, such as Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the major Florida destinations, the Long Island airport urgently needed additional, major-airline service, but this goal remained elusive.

The cycle, however, had been broken on April 26, 1971, when American Airlines had inaugurated 727-100 “Astrojet” service to Chicago-O’Hare, Islip’s first pure-jet and first “trunk” carrier operation, permitting same-day, round-trip business travel and eliminating the otherwise required La Guardia commute. Because of American’s major-carrier prestige, it had attracted both attention and passengers, indicating that Islip had attained “large airport” status, and the Chicago route, now the longest nonstop one from the air field, had provided a vital lifeline to a primary, Midwestern city and to American’s route system, offering numerous flight connections.

The route had been quickly followed in the summer with the inauguration of Allegheny DC-9-30 service to Providence and Washington, while Altair had launched Beech B99 and Nord N.262 turboprop flights to Bridgeport and Philadelphia two years later.

American, Allegheny (which had intermittently merged with Mohawk in 1972), and Altair provided the established Long Island air connection during the 1970s.

In order to reflect its regional location, the facility had, for the fourth time, been renamed, adopting the title of Long Island MacArthur Airport in 1978.

During most of the 1970s, it handled an average of 225,000 annual passengers. Allegheny, the premier operator, had offered nine daily pure-jet BAC-111 and DC-9-30 departures during 1978.

By March of 1982, USAir, the rebranded Allegheny Airlines, had been its only remaining pure-jet carrier with daily DC-9-30 service to Albany and BAC-111-200 service to Washington-National–perhaps emphasizing its ability to profitably operate from small-community airfields with its properly-sized twin-jet equipment.

The early 1980s were characterized by commuter-regional carrier dominance, with operations provided by Pilgrim, New Haven Airlines, Altair, Air North, Mall Airways, and Ransome. The latter, first flying as part of the Allegheny Commuter consortium, later operated independently under its own name in affiliation with Delta Air Lines, offering some 17 daily M-298 and DHC-7 departures to seven regional cities.

Aside from Ransome, it had often appeared as if the airport’s regional airline floodgates had been gappingly opened: Suburban/Allegheny Commuter, Southern Jersey/Allegheny Commuter, Empire, and Henson-The Piedmont Regional Airline had all descended on its runways. Precision, which had inaugurated multiple-daily Dornier Do-228-200 services to both Boston and Philadelphia, operated independently, as Precision-Eastern Express, and as Precision-Northwest Airlink, and had been the only airline to simultaneously offer scheduled service from neighboring Republic Airport in Farmingdale, primarily a general aviation field.

4. Northeastern International Airlines

Market studies had long indicated the need for nonstop Long Island-Florida service because of its concentration of tourist attractions and to facilitate visits between Long Island children and Florida-relocated retiree parents. Deregulation, the very force behind multiple-airline creation, divergent service and fare concepts, and the relative ease of new market entry, had spawned Northeastern International, which was founded to provide high-density, low-fare, limited-amenity service, and fulfilled the idealized nonstop, Long Island-Florida connection when it had inaugurated operations on February 11, 1982 with a former Evergreen International DC-8-50, initially offering four weekly round-trips to Fort Lauderdale and one to Orlando. After a second aircraft had been acquired, it had been able to record a 150,000-passenger total during its first year of service, with 32,075 having been boarded in December alone.

Although its corporate headquarters had been located in Fort Lauderdale, its operational base had been established at Long Island MacArthur and it ultimately served Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, and St. Petersburgh with the two DC-8s and two former Pan Am 727-100s with seven daily departures. Incorporating both the charter carrier strategy of operating high-density, single-class, low-fare service, and the major airline strategy of flying large-capacity aircraft, it actually served a very competitive route-that of New York-to-Florida-without incurring any competition at all by operating directly from Islip.

By 1984, with Northeastern having served as a catalyst to carrier and route inaugurations, eleven airlines had served the airport, inclusive of Allegheny Commuter, American, Eastern, Empire, Henson, NewAir, Northeastern, Pilgrim, Ransome, United, and USAir, relieving JFK and La Guardia of air traffic, directly serving the Long Island market, and fulfilling the airport’s originally envisioned role of becoming New York’s secondary commercial facility. Simultaneously providing nonstop service to Chicago-O’Hare from Islip, American and United both competed for the same passenger base.

By 1986, Long Island MacArthur had, for the first time in its 36-year scheduled history, handled one million passengers in a single year, a level since equaled or exceeded.

To cater to the explosive demand and ease its now-overstrained passenger facilities, the Town of Islip embarked on a progressive terminal facility improvement program which had initially encompassed the addition of two commuter aircraft gates, the enclosure of the former curbside front awning, and two glass-enclosed wings-the west for the now-covered baggage carousel and the east for the three relocated rental-car counters and the Austin Travel agency. The internal roadway had been realigned and additional parking spaces had been created.

A more ambitious terminal expansion program, occurring in 1990 and costing $3.2 million, resulted in two jetbridge-lined concourses which extended from the rear portion of the oval terminal, adding 22,700 square feet of space. Runway 6-24’s 1,000-foot extension, to 7,000 feet, had ultimately been completed three years later after a decade of primarily local resident resistance due to believed noise increases.

By the end of 1990, the transformation of Long Island MacArthur Airport from a small, hometown airfield served by a couple of operators to a major facility served by most of the major carriers had been complete.

Several conclusions could already be drawn from the airport’s hitherto 30-year scheduled history.

1. Allegheny-USAir, along with its regional subsidiaries Allegheny Commuter and USAir Express, had provided the initial spark which had led to the present growth explosion and had been the only consistent, anchor carrier during its three-decade, scheduled service history, between 1960 and 1990. During this time it had absorbed other Islip operators, inclusive of the original Mohawk and Piedmont, the latter of which had intermittently absorbed Empire and Henson, and had shed still others, such as Ransome Airlines, which, as an independent carrier, had almost established a regional, turboprop hub at MacArthur.

2. Three carriers had been tantamount to its three-decade evolution: (1). Allegheny-USAir, which had reserved the distinction of being Long Island MacArthur’s first, largest, and, for a period, only pure-jet operator; American, which had changed its image by associating it with large, trunk-carrier prestige; and Northeastern, whose bold, innovative service inauguration and low fares had been directly responsible for the latest, unceasing growth cycle.

3. Many airlines, unaware of the facility’s traffic potential, never permanently abandoned the air field, including American and Eastern, which had both suspended operations, but subsequently returned; Northeastern, which had returned after two bankruptcies; United, which had discontinued its own service, yet maintained a presence through two separate regional airline affiliations-Presidential-United Express and Atlantic Coast-United Express-thus continuing to link its Washington-Dulles hub; Continental, which had returned through its own commuter agreement; and Pilgrim, which, despite service discontinuation, had maintained an autonomous check-in counter where it had handled other carriers until it itself had reinstated service.

4. Of the approximately 30 airlines which had served Long Island MacArthur, many had indirectly retained a presence either through name-change, other-carrier absorption, or regional-airline two-letter code-share agreements.

5. The Northeastern-forged air link between Long Island and Florida had, despite its own final bankruptcy, never been lost, with other carriers always filling the void, including Eastern, Carnival, Braniff, Delta Express, and Spirit Airlines.

Because of its market fragility, however, the Long Island regional airport was far more vulnerable to economic cycles than the primary New York airports had been, recessed conditions often resulting in the exodus of carriers in search of more profitable routes. In 1994, for example, three airlines discontinued service and one ceased operating altogether.

A $13.2 million expansion program of the 32-year old, multiply-renovated oval terminal, funded by passenger facility charge (PFC)-generated revenue, had been initiated in the spring of 1998 and completed in August of the following year, resulting in a 62,000-square-foot area increase. The enlarged, reconfigured structure included the addition of two wings–the west with four baggage carousels, three rental car counters, and several airline baggage service offices, and the east with 48 (as opposed to the previous 20) passenger check-in positions. The original, oval-shaped structure now housed an enlarged newsstand and gift shop and the relocated central security checkpoint, but retained the departures level snack bar, the upper level Skyway CafĂ© and cocktail lounge, and the twin, jetbridge-provisioned concourses added during the 1990 expansion phase, while the aircraft parking ramp had been progressively increased until the last blade of grass had been transformed into concrete. A realigned entrance road, an extension of the existing short-term parking lot, 1,000 additional parking spaces, and a quasi-parking lot system subdivided into employee, resident, hourly, daily, and economy (long-term) sections had completed the renovation. Shuttle bus service between the parking lot and the terminal was provided for the first time.

5. Southwest Airlines

An effort to attract Southwest Airlines had begun in late-1996 when the rapidly-expanding, highly profitable, low-fare carrier had contemplated service to a third northeast city after Manchester and Providence, inclusive of Newburgh’s Stewart International and White Plains’ Westchester County in New York; Hartford and New Haven in Connecticut; and Teterboro and Trenton’s Mercer County in New Jersey. All had been smaller, secondary airports characteristic of its route system. It had even briefly explored service to Farmingdale’s Republic Airport on Long Island and Teterboro in New Jersey, both of which had been noncommercial, general aviation fields with business jet concentrations. Three had offered terminal improvements in exchange for the service. But Long Island MacArthur was ultimately selected because of the 1.6 million residents living within a 20-mile radius of the airport, local business health, and, according to Southwest Chief Executive Officer, Herb Kelleher, “underserved, overpriced air service” which was “ripe for competition.”

Following initial Southwest interest in 1997, then-Town of Islip Supervisor Peter McGowan and other officials flew to Dallas, where Herb Kelleher stated the need for the previously described terminal and parking facility expansions before operations could begin. The meeting had ended with nothing more than a symbolic handshake.

The nearly two-year effort to entice the airline had culminated in the December 1998 announcement of Southwest’s intended March 14, 1999 service launch with 12 daily 737 departures, including eight to Baltimore, two to Chicago-Midway, one to Nashville, and one to Tampa, all of which would provide through- or connecting-service to 29 other Southwest-served cities. Although the low-fare flights had been expected to attract some passengers who may otherwise have flown from JFK or La Guardia Airports, they had been primarily targeted at the Long Island market and, as a byproduct, had been expected to attract an increased airport traffic base, additional carriers, and generate an estimated $500,000 per year for the Town of Islip. Two Southwest-dedicated gates could accommodate up to 20 daily departures-or eight more than the inaugural flight schedule included-before additional facilities would have to be obtained. The Islip station, staffed by 44, represented its 53rd destination in 27 states.

Southwest had provided the fourth spark in Long Island MacArthur Airport’s airline- and passenger-attraction cycle, traced as follows:

1. The original air taxi Gateway Airlines service of 1959 and the initial scheduled Allegheny Airlines service of 1960.

2. The first trunk-carrier, pure-jet American Airlines flights of 1971.

3. The first low-fare, nonstop Northeastern International Florida service of 1982.

4. The first low-fare, high frequency, major-carrier Southwest service of 1999.

American, the last of the original, major carriers to vacate the airport, left it with three predominant types of airlines as the millennium had approached:

1. The turboprop commuter airline serving the nonhub destinations, such as Albany, Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, and Newburgh.

2. The regional jet operator feeding its major-carrier affiliate at one of its hubs, such as ASA feeding Delta in Atlanta, Comair connecting with Delta in Cincinnati, and Continental Express integrating its flight schedule with Continental in Cleveland.

3. The low-fare, high-density, no-frills carrier operating the leisure-oriented sectors to Florida. As of December 1, 1999, three airlines, inclusive of Delta Express, Southwest, and Spirit, had operated 15 daily departures to five Florida destinations.

Long Island MacArthur’s expansion and passenger facility improvements, Southwest’s service inauguration, and the attraction of other carriers had collectively resulted in a 113% increase in passenger boardings in 1999 compared to the year-earlier period. The figure, which had been only shy of the two million mark, had been the highest in the Long Island airport’s four-decade commercial history. Southwest had carried 34% of this total.

Eleven airlines had provided service during this time: ASA Atlantic Southeast, American, Business Express, Comair, CommutAir/US Airways Express, Continental Express, Delta Express, Piedmont/US Airways Express, Shuttle America, Spirit, and Southwest itself.

Less than two weeks after Southwest had secured a third gate and increased its daily departures to 22, it announced, in a unprecedented move, its intention to self-finance 90-percent of a $42 million expansion of the East Concourse in order to construct four additional, dedicated gates and overnight parking positions by the end of 2001, thus increasing the airport’s current 19-gate total to 23.

The concourse extension, intended to provide it with both increased employee and passenger room, would free up its existing three gates for other-carrier utilization while its new four-gate facility would permit a service increase to some 30 daily flights based upon future passenger demand, aircraft availability, and Town of Islip-approved departure increases.

The expansion would mark the seventh such development of the original terminal, as follows:

1. The original oval terminal construction.

2. The partially enclosed arrivals baggage belt installation.

3. The construction of two commuter gates.

4. The enclosure of the front awning, which entailed the relocation of the rental car companies and the Austin Travel agency, and the installation of an enlarged, fully enclosed baggage belt.

5. The construction of the jetbridge-equipped east and west concourses.

6. The construction of the West Arrivals Wing and the East Departures Wing, the gift shop expansion, and the central security checkpoint relocation.

7. The Southwest-financed, quad-gate addition, increasing the number of departure gates from 19 to 23.

Victim, like all airports, to post-September 11 traffic declines, Long Island MacArthur Airport lost eight daily departures operated by American Eagle, Delta Express, and US Airways Express, although the airport’s October 2001 passenger figures had only been six percent below those of the year-earlier period. No nonstop destinations had, however, been severed. With Delta Express’s daily 737-200 Florida flight frequency having been progressively reduced from an all-time high of seven to just one–to Fort Lauderdale–its operations could be divided into three categories:

1. Turboprop regional

2. Pure-jet regional

3. Southwest

Nevertheless, in the four years since Southwest had inaugurated service, the airport had handled 8,220,790 passengers, or an annual average of two million. Without Southwest, it would, at best, have handled only half that amount.

On April 30, 2003, for the second time in a five-year period, Long Island MacArthur Airport broke ground on new terminal facilities. Designed by the Baldassano Architectural Group, the Long Island architectural firm which had completed the $13.2 million airport expansion and modernization program in 1999, the new, 154,000-square-foot, four-gate addition was constructed on the north side of the existing east concourse which had housed Southwest’s operations. Citing increased space and potential growth as reasons for the new facility, Southwest claimed that the existing three gates, which had fielded a combined 24 daily departures, had reached their saturation point and that additional “breathing room” for both passengers and employees had been needed, particularly during flight delays. The net gain of an additional gate, which would be coupled with larger lounges, would eventually facilitate eight additional flights to new or existing US destinations, based upon market demand.

The project, initially pegged at $42 million, but later increased to $62 million, was financed by Southwest, which sought government reimbursement with the Town of Islip for up to $18 million for the non-airline specific construction aspects, such as airfield drainage, which was considered a common-use utility.

The 114,254-square-foot, Southwest-funded and -named Peter J. McGowan Concourse officially opened at the end of November 2004. Accessed by a new awning-protected entrance from the airport’s terminal-fronted curbside, the new wing, connected to the existing passenger check-in area, curved to the left past the flight arrival and departure television monitors to the new, large security checkpoint from where passengers ascended, via two escalators, to the upper level departures area.

Concurrent with the opening had been the announcement that Southwest would now proceed with Phase II of its expansion by building a second, $20 million addition which would connect the new concourse with the old, altogether replacing the east concourse which had served it since it had inaugurated service in 1999. The project incorporated four more gates, for a total of eight, enabling up to 80 daily departures to be offered.

6. New Leadership, Service Reductions, and Infrastructure Improvements

The end of the 2000-decade, characterized by new leadership, airline service reductions, and infrastructure investments, once again signaled a reversal in Long Island MacArthur Airport’s growth cycle.

Al Werner, Airport Commission for 53 years, retired on November 16, 2007, passing the torch to Teresa Rizzuto. Accepted after a three-month, nationwide search conducted by Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan, she brought considerable airline industry experience with her and was appointed to the position on February 5, 2008 after an Islip Town Board vote, now entrusted with heralding the regional facility into the next decade whose multi-faceted agenda necessarily included the following goals:

1. Devise a marketing plan to increase airport recognition, thereby attracting a larger passenger base.

2. Establish new, nonstop routes of existing carriers and attract new airlines able to compete with existing, lost-cost Southwest, to provide the required core service for this enlarged passenger base, yet avoid alienating local residents because of excessive noise.

3. Invest in infrastructure modernization and development, particularly on the airport’s general aviation west side.

4. Increase revenues for the Town of Islip, the airport’s owner and operator.

Long Island MacArthur’s very existence relied upon its ability to serve its customers’ needs, and both destination and airline reductions during the latter part of the decade, coupled with flickering, but quickly extinguished glimmers of new-carrier hope, only obviated its purpose.

Exploratory talks in 2007, with Southwest-modeled, Ireland based-Ryanair, for instance, would have resulted in both the airport’s first international and first transatlantic service, hitherto precluded by the absence of customs and immigration facilities, few connecting possibilities, and inadequate runway length on which heavy, fuel-laden widebody aircraft could take off for intercontinental sectors. But higher thrust engines facilitating shorter-field performance had remedied the latter problem, and pre-departure US clearance would have been performed in Ireland. Because Southwest and Ryanair maintained the same business models of operating single-type, 737 fleets from underserved, overpriced, secondary airports whose lower operating costs could be channeled into lower fares, domestic-international traffic feed between the two had been feasible. Despite existing Islip service provided by Delta and US Airways Express, Southwest still carried 92 percent of its passengers. However, the proposed strategy had yet to produce any concrete results.

Indeed, by the end of the year, the number of potential Southwest connecting flights only declined when decreased demand had necessitated the cancellation of six daily departures, including two to Baltimore, three to Chicago, and one to Las Vegas.

Potential service loss counterbalancing occurred on May 1 of the following year, however, when Spirit Airlines, after an eight-year interval, reinaugurated twice daily, round-trip, A-319 service to Ft. Lauderdale, with $7.00 introductory fares, facilitating 23 Caribbean and Latin American connections through its south Florida hub.

The A-319, the airport’s first, regularly scheduled airbus operation, touched down at 0954 on Runway 6 on its inaugural flight, taxiing through a dual fire truck-created water arch, before redeparting at 1030 as Flight 833 with a high load factor. The second flight departed in the evening.

The departures were two of Spirit’s more than 200 systemwide flights to 43 destinations, but the weak flicker of light they had provided had been almost as quickly doused when, three months later, on July 31, rising fuel prices and declining economic conditions had necessitated their discontinuation, leaving only a promise of return when improved conditions merited their reinstatement.

Further tipping the scales to the service loss side had been Delta Air Line’s decision to discontinue its only remaining, single daily regional jet service operated by its Comair counterpart to Atlanta, severing feed to the world’s largest airport in terms of enplanements and to Delta’s largest connecting hub, and ending the Long Island presence established as far back as 1984. Delta had cited the reason for the discontinuation, along with that in other markets, as an attempt to “optimize…financial performance.”

The second carrier loss, leaving only Southwest and US Airways Express, had resulted in a 10.2-percent passenger decline in 2008 compared to the year-earlier period.

Another attempted, but mostly unsuccessful airline service had occurred in June of 2009 with the appearance of PublicCharters.com, which had intended to link Islip with Groton, Connecticut, and Nantucket, Massachusetts, during the summer.

In order to remedy Long Island MacArthur Airport’s identity recognition deficiency, a study completed by a Phil Nolan-assembled task force strongly concluded that the search for and attraction of new airline service “should be a major focus of management,” a function up until now mostly ignored. The airport’s lack of recognition, coupled with JFK’s and La Guardia’s close proximity to Manhattan and their dizzying array of nonstop services, further urged the need for the study.

A $150,000 federal grant, aimed at answering the elusive question of why Long Islanders still chose to use New York airports when Islip itself offered a nonstop flight, attempted to determine local resident travel patterns and then attract carrier-providing service.

A partial remedy had been the implementation of a $300,000 market campaign, in conjunction with the Long Island Railroad and Southwest Airlines, to increase airport awareness by the eastern Nassau and Suffolk County population, featuring the slogan, “We make flying a breeze.”

Significant attention to airport infrastructure improvement and a related masterplan had also been given.

Long-awaited ramp repairs, for instance, had been made. One year after the $12.4 million apron covering gates five through eight had been laid in 2004, cracks, in which engine-digestible debris could potentially collect, appeared, and were traceable to an inadequate, six-inch-thick subbase which failed to rise above the ground level, and was therefore susceptible to frost. Water, seeping into the subbase, was subjected to freezing-thawing cycles which expanded the concrete, loosened its gravel, and propagated the cracks.

In order to replace the decaying, 105-foot control tower constructed in 1962, the FAA awarded J. Kokolakis Constructing, Inc., of Rocky Point, a $16.4 million contract to build a new, 157-foot, cylindrical tower next to it in January of 2008, a project completed in November of the following year, at which time internal equipment, costing another $8.8 million, was installed.

Instrumental in the airport’s modernization had been the redevelopment of its 45-acre west side, which currently houses charter companies, flying schools, and airport maintenance in mostly dilapidated hangars and buildings, but could potentially be replaced with new energy efficient and conservation compliant structures optimally used by educational institutions offering air traffic control curriculums.

During the latter portion of the decade, Long Island MacArthur Airport once again rode the descending side of the revenue curve, but remains a vital air link and economic engine to eastern Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Between 1996 and 2003, it had experienced an average annual economic impact growth rate of 6.85 percent and between 2001 and 2007 more than 900,000 square feet of commercial space was developed along Veterans Highway, its access roadway, as a result of it. According to Hofstra University’s Center for Suburban Studies, its 2003 economic impact was pegged at $202 million and was projected to increase by 68 percent, or to $340 million, by the end of the decade without any further expansion, indicating that, as a revenue generator, that its potential had hardly begun to be tapped. The service reductions, increases in Homeland Security costs, and eroding economy had all reversed that potential, but its infrastructure improvements, more than 500,000-square-foot passenger terminal, four runways, easy access, uncongested environment, two-mile proximity to the Long Island Railroad’s Ronkonkoma station, and four-mile proximity to the Long Island Expressway places it squarely on the threshold of growth in the next decade, when conditions improve. According to newly appointed Airport Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto, “We’re ready” for new carriers at that time.

The History of American Trans Air

Indianapolis-based American Trans Air, once an emerging carrier, continually searched for an identity.

Established in 1973 as an aircraft provider for the Ambassadair Travel Club, it inaugurated service with a single Boeing 720 dubbed “Miss Indy,” doubling its fleet five years later with a second, “Spirit of Indiana.” But its March 1981 issuance of common-carrier certification enabled it to operate in its own right.

Retaining its Indianapolis roots, it acquired ever larger aircraft, including eight 707s; its first widebody, a former Laker Airways DC-10-10 registered N183AT in 1983; and an ex-Northwest Orient DC-10-40, itself bearing registration N184AT. The quad-engine 707s were eventually replaced by more fuel efficient 727-100 tri-jets.

Annual passenger totals climbed: 96,426 in 1981, 269,086 in 1982, and 618,532 in 1983.

Relying upon Northwest for additional DC-10 acquisitions, but forced to substitute the comparable TriStar when it elected to retain its aircraft, American Trans Air purchased its first in 1985, ultimately operating 15 L-1011-1s, one -100, and four -500s.

It assumed a new operational profile when it inaugurated limited scheduled service on the JFK-Belfast-Riga (Latvia), Indianapolis-Fort Myers, Indianapolis-Las Vegas, and San Francisco-Kahului (Maui)-Honolulu routes, billing itself both as “American’s vacation airline” and “The nation’s largest charter airline.”

“We create the comfort. You create the excitement,” it advertised. “At American Trans Air, we know the only excitement you want on a vacation is the excitement you create. That’s why you can count on American Trans Air’s courteous, professional staff, top flight aircraft, consumer conscious prices, and all the little extras that have become characteristic of our growing company.”

Growing it was. Seeking to avoid scheduled airline competition, it had become the United States’ largest charter operator, attributing up to 90 percent of its revenue to both the civil and military divisions of this sector, with the remainder from scheduled operations, wet leasing, third party pilot training, and contract maintenance.

Operating a 23-strong fleet by 1992-including seven 727-100s, 12 L-1011-1s, and four 757-200s-it was profitable for 18 of its 19-year history, posting a $2 million loss the previous year for the first time because of the recession and the travel trepidation created by the Gulf War. It transported 2.4 million passengers that year.

It was that very Gulf War, however, which served as the cornerstone of its military operations, since its aircraft counted as part of the Civil Air Patrol fleet. Carrying 108,000 troops on 494 missions in support of Operation Desert Storm, it was also instrumental in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and provided 727-100 shuttle flights between Nellis Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Stretched -200s replaced the -100s in 1993.

American Trans Air once again adopted a new image when it devoted a significant portion of its aircraft resources to scheduled operations from a Chicago-Midway hub, in addition to continuing its military and government contract flights.

To facilitate its intended growth and modernize its fleet, it ordered 39 737-800s and 12 757-200s in 2000, taking delivery of the first of the former (N301TZ) in June of the following year and the first of the latter (N550TZ) two months later, introducing a livery change in the process to emphasize its new scheduled-airline, business-oriented route system, now branded “ATA Airlines.”

Equally seeking feed from small and secondary cities with more suitable turboprop regional equipment, it purchased existing Chicago Express for $1.9 million in 1999 and operated it as a separate “ATA Connection” subsidiary.

Its latest, elevated-image strategy, however, proved unprofitable, forcing it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection five years later, on October 26, 2004. The best method of keeping it alive, it decided, was to employ its assets for the benefit of a healthy carrier, which, in this case, was deregulation-synonymous Southwest Airlines.

Transferring six of its Midway Airport gates and 27 percent of its nonvoting stock to Southwest in exchange for a life-injecting cash infusion and continued operation under a code share agreement in December of 2004, ATA reduced its number of Indianapolis-served destinations to three and redeployed aircraft to Chicago, now assuming a business airline profile by flying to cities that Southwest did not, including New York-La Guardia, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Francisco. Midway-bypassing services also enabled it to link Southwest focus cities, such as Orlando, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, with other voids in its route system, Denver and Honolulu among them.

The strategy resulted in a 20-percent revenue increase for Southwest, but did not necessarily suture ATA’s financial bleed.

To further reduce costs, it significantly pruned its fleet, selling 20 737-800s and eight 757-300s and only marginally plugging its capacity gap with the two-year lease, between November of 2005 and November of 2007, of three former United Airlines 737-300s. Even the lease rates, in the event, proved too high.

Coincident service reductions, not surprisingly, were extensive, as the lights dimmed on numerous destinations over a short interval: Boston, Newark, and Minneapolis in October of 2005, Indianapolis and Denver in November, and Orlando, Fort Myers, and San Francisco the following April, leaving little more than the skeleton of its once fully fleshed body. Indeed, 18 daily departures were dispatched form a single gate at Midway Airport and only 52 were offered system wide. A previous court approval had enabled it to sell its Ambassadair Travel Club division to Grueninger Cruises and Tours.

Although a $100 million financial package form the MatlinPatterson investment firm and pre-bankruptcy creditors enabled the now-privatized carrier to briefly emerge from bankruptcy and establish service to New York-La Guardia, Houston-Hobby, Ontario, Oakland, and Hilo (Hawaii), rising fuel prices, the rapid resignation of a shortly-serving CEO, the poorly executed replacement plan of its L-1011s with DC-10s, and the loss of a major military contract caused it to spiral back into bankruptcy, leaving Flight 4586 from Honolulu to Phoenix to mark its last landing at 0846 on August 2, 2008.

The History of Eastern Airlines

Once considered one of the “big four” US carriers, along with American, Delta, and United, it had been innovative and highly successful, having evolved into the world’s second-largest airline during its six-decade history.

Tracing its origins to Pitcairn Aviation, which had been formed on September 15, 1927, it had inaugurated airmail service the following year between Brunswick, New Jersey, and Atlanta with open-cockpit PA-5 Mailwings.

But North American Aviation, a holding company for several fledgling carriers and aircraft manufacturers, purchased the company a year after that, and, changing its name to Eastern Air Transport, inaugurated passenger service with Ford 4-AT Trimotors on the multi-sector hop from Newark to Washington via Camden, Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond on August 18, 1930. Acquisition of the Curtiss Condor enabled it to extend the route to Atlanta.

After absorbing Ludington Air Lines three years later, it was able to incorporate a New York-Philadelphia-Washington triplet to its system.

Eastern’s growth, like that of many other carriers, was jumpstarted by the Air Mail Act of 1934, which entailed the awarding of government contracts to private companies to transport the mail, while the US Postal Service selected them based upon the bid they submitted in competition with others. Although this prompted the formation of upstart companies to operate the airmail routes in the hopes of being chosen, it equally required the separation of the then-common aircraft manufacturer-and-carrier co-ownership.

Circumventing the restriction imposed upon it as a result of its Spoils Conference involvement with General Postmaster Walter Folger Brown, Eastern Air Transport changed its name in 1934 to the one by which it would be known throughout its history, Eastern Air Lines.

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I flying ace who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, purchased the carrier from the North American Aviation holding for $800.,000 and took over the helm, implementing an aircraft modernization program.

Building its soon-famous Great Silver Fleet, he quickly replaced the slow Curtiss Condor biplanes with all-metal Douglas DC-2s, one of which became the first to land at the new Washington National Airport in 1941. Leaving its imprint on an expanding East Coast network, Eastern plied the New York-Miami sector with wider-cabin, 21-pasenger DC-3s in 1937.

Like many US airlines, whose growth was interrupted by the necessity World War II imposed on it and the requisition of its aircraft for military purposes, Eastern commenced its own military support flights in 1942, connecting the three states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas, spreading its wings to Trinidad in the Caribbean, and ultimately forming its Miami-based Military Transport Division, for which it acquired Curtiss C-46 Commandos.

The seed to its pioneer, tri-city northeast shuttle was planted two years later when the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) awarded it the New York-Boston route over American.

The technological advancements of the 1950s, expressed as range, payload, speed, comfort, and safety increases, occurred so rapidly that, by the time an aircraft was produced, its replacement was already on the drawing board.

The quad-engine DC-4 soon supplemented its 39 twin-engine DC-3s, and its network now encompassed Detroit, St. Louis, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Lockheed L-649 Constellation, inaugurated into service in 1947, yielded to the higher-capacity L-1049 Super Constellation, which plied its signature New York-Miami route as of December 17, 1951. The Martin 4-0-4s replaced the DC-3s and by the middle of the decade, the first DC-7Bs sported Eastern’s livery.

Acquisition of Colonial Airlines gave it access to New York State, New England, Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico City.

The propjet took the form of the four-engine Lockheed L-188 Electra, which was inaugurated into service on January 12, 1959 between New York and Miami, and the pure-jet in the form of the four-engine Douglas DC-8 only a year later, soon supplemented by the smaller-capacity, but higher cruise speed Boeing 720.

Eastern was the first of the big four US carriers to operate the 727-100 tri-jet “Whisperliner”-specifically on the Philadelphia-Washington-Miami run-and the twin-jet DC-9-10.

The famous hourly New York-Boston-Washington air shuttle was launched on April 30, 1961 with the L-188 Electra, for which it advised, “No need to make a reservation. Just ‘show and go.’ All sections are with backup planes standing by to assure a seat for everybody waiting at scheduled departure time.”

One-way weekday fares were $69.00 to Boston and $42.00 to Washington, while the round-trip weekend prices were $55.00 for adults and $37.00 for children to both.

The shuttle was eventually operated by DC-9-30, 727-200, and A-300 aircraft.

Breaking its hitherto East Coast shackles at the end of the 1960s, it expanded to Seattle and Los Angeles on the West Coast, to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas with its acquisition of Mackey Airways, and to several Caribbean islands after purchasing Caribair.

Passing the torch to another famous aerospace personality, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker relinquished control to Colonel Frank Borman, who had orbited the earth in Gemini VII in 1966 and the moon in Apollo VIII two years later.

Eastern entered the widebody era with the Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar in 1972, became the first US carrier to operate the European Airbus Industrie A-300 in 1978 when it ordered 23, and was the launch customer for the Boeing 757-200.

After acquiring Braniff International’s Latin American routes in 1982 and establishing a hub in San Juan, it became the world’s second-largest carrier in terms of annual passengers after Aeroflot, establishing hubs in New York, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, and San Juan and toting its “We have to earn our wings everyday” slogan.

But, while it may have earned its wings, it did not necessarily earn the profits to support their lift. Debt from aircraft purchases needed for its expansion and labor disputes necessitated the $615 million purchase by Texas Air Holdings, which also owned Continental, in 1986, and Eastern became a carcass of fodder. Airplanes were sold. Employees were laid off. Assets were transferred to Continental. And its image rapidly deteriorated, especially when it virtually eliminated in-flight service to reduce costs.

Declaring bankruptcy in 1989 and ceasing operations two years later, on January 19, the one-time “wings of man” became the Icarus of deregulation after a six-decade flight.

The History of the Aircraft Wash Guys, Part Three

As we study this grass roots history of a franchise company in the making we see how opportunity in the market grows companies and how entrepreneurial thinkers take advantage of those opportunities to deliver goods and services, which match the desires of the market place. In this review of the history of the aircraft wash guys we see the company diversifying and finding other niches to serve, some of which were actually better than the original plan. This is very common and typical of entrepreneurial from the ground up companies, yet all to often government regulators and rules fail to see how real companies come to be. This study shows similarities to many of the humble beginnings. If you look at Walt Disney who started in a shed behind the studio or Apple’s jobs in the garage or even Bill Gates and his car counting machine you can see how things grow and build and entrepreneurs find and exploit niches. Now back to our story of the History of the Aircraft Wash Guys Part III:

Mr. Winslow decided after all the research that it was time to go for it; time to launch the franchise company on his own without any venture capital. He planned to build the business the way we had always done it, out of gross receipts. He kept building the business washing cars and aircraft and renamed it The Car Wash Guys. He built up car wash guys to 35 units serving 43 cities using independent contractors. In 1996 he decided to become an actual franchise company, forming Car Wash Guys International, Inc. He could now better control consistency, color schemes and service quality, driving on the comments of Ray Kroc in his book “Grinding it Out”.

Coming from aviation into automotive services he tended to run our business strictly by the book. In aviation things are more critical than in the automotive sector, but he believed that being overly concerned with the little details would actually be a good thing and advantage over the competition when dealing with cars. During the “.Com” craze he changed the name to WashGuy.com and added web sites for the different brand names. Of course Aircraft Wash Guys has always been the favorite of Mr. Winslow since this is where he started out some 27 years ago. After the successes and hardships of the learning all the other different market segments for Team Wash Guys, it was wonderful to offer Aircraft Wash Guys as a completely separate Franchise Module to those people involved in aviation who would like to own their own business.

Wash Guys wash cars, trucks, boats, concrete and many other things and as you are probably aware, aircraft washing requires different training, soaps, equipment and wastewater recovery for environmental reasons. The FAA will with hold monies for aircraft improvements if airports are not following strict environmental laws. It is for this reason Mr. Winslow has been so proactive in helping the team with environmental compliance and giving his expertise to government agencies who are developing BMPs for the Aviation Industry.

In 1997 Lance Winslow met and hired Arthur Dickey the originator of Tidy Plane to work in product development. Trying to better a product called Dry Wash, using kerosene as the active ingredient. Tidy car tried to market Tidy Plane, but that didn’t work to well without Arthur’s devotion. Arthur helped the company design labels and with the help of his chemist design better products which were safe for the aviation cleaning industry working actually out of Lance’s garage. Arthur was one of the original Tidy Car Franchisees, his dad once owned a small airline in Los Angeles, which flew jets and later had one of the top performing Mail Boxes Etc. franchises. Tidy Car made Arthur stop his Tidy Plan Concept, through a franchise agreement clause feeling it did not work with their brand name. A decade Later Tidy Car sold that brand name to Ziebart. Arthur’s brother operated the Tidy Car Franchise after that and did lots of aircraft washing for jet customers in Florida. Arthur was hired away from the founder’s of the Paxton Super Charger, and the Paxton Racing Team after he had developed their super wax brand to sell in Wal-Mart and Pep Boys, after Arthur left the brand never did reach it’s full potential. Arthur with all this knowledge made it easy for us to comply with all the MSDS requirements. Arthur after developing the companies product line moved on to explore other opportunities and continued his passion with the Dry Washing Concept and with a friend convinced Fed Ex to use it exclusively in many markets and he set up with some associates a network of operators using his new blend.

In 2000 Mr. Winslow gave a notice to all Car Wash Guys stating it was forbidden for them to wash planes due to potential negative PR in newspapers if they polluted, plus the insurance requirements and equipment was not right in case of damage and the UFOC for Car Wash Guys did not cover these issues and those independent contractor contracts were10 years old. This was a major dilemma. So the team got together to make a set of training videos, upgrade equipment so that the team could keep the aviation customers and comply with the laws. Several of the franchisees with Car Wash Guys complied and kept washing Aircraft. It was determined that the market in aviation was not being satisfied so we have expanded into a full-blown franchise system. It was noticed that FBOs, Flying Schools and especially the fractional jet market was really taking off. This allowed the Car Wash Guys to sign Aircraft Wash Guys agreements or in some cases where they bought specialized equipment made verbal agreements for them to continue.

Then as we started get going the FTC hurt many of our franchisees by attacking Car Wash Guys and then the other terrorists of 9-11 just about put the death blow in General Aviation, but aviation people are tough as they come and today the market sector is rebounding. Lance often wondered who was worse the government terrorist regulator lawyers or the actual Osama Bin Laden and company?

Mr. Winslow has always been passionate about flying and aviation. His Father was a decorated naval Aviator flying in the Puerto Rico Squadron F-8s during Cuban Missile Crisis, 250 combat missions in an A-4, later CO of a Naval Squadron (A-7 Corsair II), later Captain in the Navy, later and Airline Pilot (737, 727, DC-10, 747, 777, 757), then after retirement, currently fly’s a Gulfstream Corporate Aircraft. Mr. Winslow’s dad wishes he could be flying F-18s in the Sand Box right now. Mr. Winslow’s Grandfather was head of FAA in Fresno International Airport and flew in a B-24, while his step grandfather flew a B-17 Flying Fortress) and his other grandfather built the first laser ring gyro now used as a guidance system throughout the aviation, marine and space industries. It is in my blood. Lance Winslow’s brother is a Pilot in Command for a C-130 in the US Marines stationed out of Miramar.

Today the Aircraft Wash Guys team has washed for Millionaire Aviation, Executive Jet, etc. And companies like Raytheon, Cessna and others. They have washed jets in Little Rock Arkansas, Scottsdale AZ Airpark, Colorado Springs CO, Bozeman MT, Columbus OH, Van Nuys CA, Palm Springs CA and many other airports across the country. The goals today include having 35 Aircraft Wash Guys in 2007 and 50 by 2009 and 100 by 2011. Ambitious, Big time, and can they do it? Well they think its possible, time will tell. They do have some competition in the Industry like any business, not much, but they plan on doing whatever it takes to be and stay leading edge.

If you study any service franchise in the United States or in the aviation sector any great company you will see they all came from the most humble beginnings, made mistakes along the way; had to battle with government regulators and competitors and press on to succeed. Of all the great names in aviation hanging up in the wall in museums across the country such as the Wichita Aviation Musuem, Wright Patterson Aviation Museum or even the Smithsonian you see the diehards that make this industry and this country great. Recently Burt Rutan made such a comment to Congress during his testimony on the birth of the private space industry. America is great but we must get out there and take a few risks if we want to stay on top.

The History of Mattituck Airport

Located in the Town of Southold on Long Island’s North Fork, Mattituck Air Base (21N) is the area’s only privately owned, public-use airfield, occupying 18 acres and offering a single 2,200- by 60-foot asphalt runway-in this case, 1/19. Approaches to the first of the two magnetic headings are conducted over the Great Peconic Bay.

Established in 1946 after Parker Wickham returned from his World War II duty of maintaining Army Air Corps airplanes at his Mojave Desert base, he was given 16 acres of his father’s farm for an airfield after his return home, because, according to his father’s assessment, “There’s no money in potatoes, anyhow.” Before the asphalt, the “runway” was nothing more than a strip of moved grass.

Aside from its use by private pilots who were able to land and base their aircraft near their North Fork homes, its principle, revenue-generating element was its engine repair and overhaul facility, which was sold in 1984, repurchased by family members four years later, and sold again in 1999 to Teledyne-Continental, which renamed it Teledyne-Mattituck Services on November 9 of that year.

As one of the northeast’s longest established piston engine overhaul repair shops, it operated as a subsidiary of Teledyne Technologies, Inc., leasing the building from the Wickham family. It was subsequently purchased by China-based AVIC International, at which time it was renamed Mattituck Services, employing 70 at a time during its peak, or some 350 per annum, and was responsible for at least a dozen engines per week, or more than 500 per year.

Continental Motors listed its activities as “engine overhauls built to factory service tolerances; factory engine sales and installation specialists; major powerplant and airframe maintenance; propeller maintenance and repair; your in-stock source for parts; 50-hour, 100-hour, and annual inspections; inspection repair programs; and fuel system calibration and adjustments.”

For the 12 months ended on September 27, 2007, the single-strip Mattituck Airport averaged 33 movements per day, or 12,200 per year, and counted 32 single-engine based aircraft.

After Parker Wickham passed in 2011, he ceded ownership to his son, Jay, and his wife, Cyndi, who maintained and operated the airfield for five years. But a decline in general aviation due to its ever-rising costs, leaving only a handful of airplanes still based there, and the closing of the repair shop in the summer of 2012, left him little choice but to sell the airport four years later, an intention he announced on June 3, 2016. Because of costly repairs, its fuel tanks had already been given to Albertson Marine, Inc., of Southold.

The Continental Motors’ shop itself, closed after four years of declining general aviation business and its inability to remain profitable with two separate facilities, was integrated with its Fairhope, Alabama, plant.

“Very bluntly, I think both of us and Lycoming have done a good job of pointing out the value of factory options and that has made a contribution across the board to the decline there,” according to Rhett Ross, Continental Motors’ CEO. “It was not an easy decision, but that facility has been marginal for at least the half decade.”

All 20 remaining employees were laid off.

While the Town of Southold deemed the purchase cost-prohibitive and its revenue potential minimal, “saviors” came in the form of Paul Pawlowski and Steve Marsh, partners in the Hudson City Savings Bank project on Main Road in Mattituck. Advising existing pilots to remove their aircraft by September 30 of 2016, they intended to excavate the runway and demolish all buildings, with the exception of the carriage house, the car barn, and the newest hangars, but otherwise keep the airfield as it had been.

The History of Brookhaven Calabro Airport

A recent visit to Brookhaven Calabro Airport, hidden behind a forest of trees and private homes and accessed by local Dawn Drive,, on a raw, late-March day whose steel wool sky was so low that it almost scratched you, revealed what was, but not necessarily what could be.

The ramp near Mid-Island Air Service was littered with mostly single-engine airplane types, punctuated by an occasional twin, and the almost unexpected sputter of an isolated propeller from a Cirrus SR-20 on this marginally visual flight rules (VFR) day cracked the silence like a hammer hitting a sheet of glass.

The blond brick structure at the field’s north end, the once-proud classroom and training monolith of Dowling College’s Aviation Education Center, stood frozen in time, promise of the past that failed to deliver the airport’s future.

The lone, low-level, cement block terminal, staffed by a single monitorer of the facility’s common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), housed the equally shuttered luncheonette, nucleus, to a degree, of any general aviation airport, since it gave local and cross country pilots a destination and a purpose, and bore witness to numerous student pilot-instructor duos discussing airplane handling techniques over the years atop paper New York sectional charts doubling as tablecloths.

A glimpse into the rectangular room, which displayed a “Maintenance Shop” sign, revealed its former raison d’ĂȘtre, sporting circular stools, a lunch counter, a cold cut slicer, and a rusting coffee maker. A recent inquiry indicated interest and its resurrection as an eatery. Perhaps it also indicated its repurposed future.

The non-towered, dual-runway, 795-acre, public use general aviation airport, one mile north of the business district of Shirley in eastern Long Island, Suffolk County, was owned by the Town of Brookhaven.

Originally designated Mastic Flight Strip, it was constructed at the end of World War II, in 1944, on 325 acres to provide logistical support for the US Army Air Corps, after which its title was transferred to New York State and ultimately Brookhaven Town’s Division of General Aviation in 1961, current owner. Given its present “Calabro” moniker, it was named after Dr. Frank Calabro, who was instrumental in its development, but who, along with his wife, Ruth, met their untimely demises in an aircraft accident three decades later.

Construction and expansion yielded a rising crop of hangars, shops, fixed base operators (FBOs), the present terminal, and a second concrete runway to supplement the first in 1963.

Those, including 4,200-foot Runway 6-24 and 4,255-foot Runway 15-33, are both paved and lighted, but the latter features an instrument landing system (ILS), equipped and maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

$1.5 million of the collective $5 million in federal Department of Transportation (DOT) grants, most of which were earmarked for nearby Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, facilitated the recent beacon and taxiway lighting system replacements.

“We need to maintain runways, lights, structures, and navigational aids,” according to Marten W. Haley, Brookhaven Town’s Commissioner of General Services, which includes the airport itself. “Everything has a finite lifetime.”

The airport’s several fixed base operators and other tenants include Brookfield Aviation, Mid-Island Air Service, Northeast Air Park, Ed’s Aircraft Refinishing, the Long Island Soaring Association, Island Aerial Air (for banner towing), NAASCO Northeast Corporation (which performs airplane and helicopter repair and overhaul), and Sky Dive South Shore.

Dowling College’s School of Aviation, once the airport’s cornerstone, but closed when the Oakdale-based university itself declared bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2016, had offered bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Systems Technology and Aviation Management, and had participated in the FAA Air Traffic Control Collegiate Training Initiative. A fleet of private pilot aircraft and Fiasca flight simulators had enabled its students to earn private, instrument, multi-engine, instructor (CFI), and commercial ratings.

Although the field has principally entailed general aviation flight activity, there have been a handful of other events throughout its history.

As the new base for the former, 44-passenger Swissair Convair CV-440 Metropolitans operated by Cosmopolitan Airlines from Farmingdale’s Republic Airport and its self-named Cosmopolitan Sky Center after they had been transferred here, for example, they, along with a smattering of other types, offered junkets to Atlantic City’s Bader Field.

The Grand Old Airshow, held in 2006 and 2007, was created to transport spectators to earlier, biplane and World War II eras and showcase Long Island aviation.

Having enticed visitors through flyers and its website, it had urged them to “join us this year as we go back in time to celebrate Long Island’s Golden Age of Aviation,” a time when “biplanes graced the skies decades ago.” It continued its pitch by offering the experience of “bygone days of aviation, as World War I dogfights, open-cockpit biplanes, World War II fighters, and, of course, the famous Geico Skytypers, soar through Long Island’s blue skies.”

The shows themselves had featured antique vehicles and static aircraft displays, the latter encompassing TBM Avengers, Fokker Dr-1s, Nieuports, and Messerschmitt Me-109s, while aerial stunts had included comedy maneuvers performed in Piper J-3 Cubs by “randomly chosen” audience member Carl Spackle; Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome-borrowed Delsey Dives and balloon bursts targeted by Great Lakes Speedsters, Fleet 16Bs, and PT-17 Stearmans; speed races between runway-bound motorcycles and airborne, low-passing PT-17s; aerobatics by SF-260s; and skywriting by Sukhoi 29s.

A Sikorsky UH-34D Sea Horse Marine helicopter, used for combat rescue in Vietnam, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and by NASA during the Project Mercury astronaut recovery program, had demonstrated search-and-rescue procedures.

Both Long Island aviation and formation flying had also been well represented. Shows had featured Byrd, N3N, Fleet Model 16B, and N2S Stearman aircraft from the Bayport Aerodrome Society; P-40 Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs from Warbirds over Long Island; F4U Corsairs from the American Airpower Museum; and North American SNJ-2s from the Republic Airport-based Geico Skytypers.

Vintage vehicle and aircraft rides were available. Spectators brought their own lawn chairs and lined them up next to the active runway amid period dress and speeches given by Tuskegee Airmen. Concession trucks sold everything from hot dogs to ice cream and souvenirs and numerous aviation-related schools and associations established booths.

The Grand Old Airshow, held during two consecutive falls, was a single-day, single-visit, outdoor glimpse toward the sky where Long Island’s multi-faceted aviation history was written and where it was recreated.

A 2008 a non-flying tribute to Vinny Nasta was also offered. A Riverhead High School art teacher who hailed from Wading River, he lost his life at 47 years of age when the reproduction Nieuport 24 he was flying at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome nose-dove into the woods after its mock dogfight with another replica, of a Fokker Dr.1 Triplane, on August 17 of that year.

Dr. Tom Daley, a former Dowling College Dean of Aviation, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Air Show Director, and creator of the Brookhaven Grand Old Airshow, was forced to discontinue what had become an increasingly popular autumn event.

“There was some local opposition to the show,” he said, “and everyone had their hand out. I was required to give x-number of dollars for security, x-number for emergency medical presence. I couldn’t do it anymore. There was no way I could run an air show and meet expenses with expectations like that.”

Today, Brookhaven Calabro Airport’s 217 based aircraft, 92 percent of which are single-engine types, five percent of which are multi-engine, and three percent of which are gliders, provide most of its activity. For the 12-month period ending on March 25, 2005, there had been 135,100 annual airplane movements, or an average of 370 per day, and 99 percent of them belonged to the general aviation category, enabling student pilots to pursue licenses and practice weekday touch-and-go’s at a non-towered airfield.

Hinging on this segment of aviation is its future.

The History of Republic Airport

1. Farmingdale’s Aviation Origins:

Located in Farmingdale, Long Island, Republic Airport is an historically significant airfield to the region and the world, having played both military and civilian roles. But long before it became an airfield, it gave rise to the manufacturers that built airplanes.

“The Industrial Revolution and airplane manufacture came to Farmingdale during World War I when Lawrence Sperry and Sydney Breese established their pioneering factories in the community,” wrote Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas in their book, Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale (Arcadia Publishing, 2016, p. 9). “They were drawn by the presence of two branches of the Long Island Railroad… the nearby Route 24, which brought auto and truck traffic to and from the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge in Manhattan; the level outwash plain, which provided land for flying fields; and the proximity to skilled workers… “

The area’s first aviation roots, however, were planted as far back as 1917. The Lawrence Sperry Airplane Company, incorporated that year with $50,000 of capital and located on Rose and Richard streets in the village of Farmingdale, produced its first aircraft in the form of the Messenger.

Designed by Alfred Verville of the US Army’s Engineering Division at McCook Field, the minuscule, 17.9-foot-long, all-wood biplane was intended for “aerial motorcycle” missions, alighting in small clearings to drop off and pick-up messages from field commanders, thus earning its name. Farmingdale’s aviation roots were equally cultivated by Sydney Breese, whose Breese Aircraft Company, located on Eastern Parkway, designed the Penguin. Resembling the Bleriot XI, the mid-wing airplane, powered by a two-cylinder, 28-hp, roughly-running Lawrence engine, was a non-flying, preflight trainer intended to aid US Army pilot transition from primary to operational types. Deployed on the open prairies of Texas, it sported a wingspan too short to produce lift, but allowed fledgling aviators to gain the feel of pre-departure aerodynamic forces on their horizontal tails. Of the 301 produced, only five were ever used for this purpose; the remainder were placed in storage.

2. Fairchild Aviation Corporation:

If Lawrence Sperry and Sydney Breese laid Farmingdale’s aviation foundation, then Sherman M. Fairchild cemented it.

Initially interested in aerial photography equipment, he founded the Fairchild Aerial Camera Corporation in 1920, selling two such devices to the Army, and further developed the company into Fairchild Aerial Surveys to engage in map-making when he had received a contract for an additional 20.

Seeking to replace the myriad of airplane types he operated with a single, specifically- designed camera platform, Fairchild devised the required specifications for one, but could not locate a manufacturer able to build it at a reasonable cost. Forced to do so himself, he established his third aviation company, the Fairchild Aviation Corporation, and moved into the Sperry factory in South Farmingdale, vacated as a result of founder Sperry’s tragic death in December of 1923.

The high-wing, strut-braced, single-engine utility aircraft, designated FC-1 and first flying in prototype form in 1926, featured an enclosed and heated cabin to protect the pilot and his camera equipment, but its original OX-5 engine proved inadequate. Retrofitted with a higher-capacity Wright J-4, it was redesignated FC-1A.

The FC-2 production version, supported by wheels, floats, or skis, featured increased cabin volume. Powered by a 200-hp Wright J-5, the aircraft, intended for commercial operations, sported a 31-foot overall length and 44-foot wingspan. Accommodating a single pilot and four passengers, or up to 820 pounds of cargo, it had a 3,400-pound gross weight and could attain maximum, 122-mph speeds and operate 700-mile segments.

Demand at the South Farmingdale factory soon eclipsed capacity. After aerially surveying the region, Fairchild himself chose a 77,967-acre alternate on the south side of Route 24 and Conklin Street in East Farmingdale, a site which offered prevailing, South Shore winds and multiple-mode ground access by means of a railroad line and the major, Route 110 corridor, which would facilitate both personnel and raw material transport to the new field. Repackaged into airplanes, the latter could then fly out.

“The 77,967-acre Fairchild Flying Field was developed in the late winter and early spring of 1928 and was originally owned and operated by the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Manufacturing Company,” according to the Long Island-Republic Airport Historical Society. “The first flights from (it) took place in (the) late spring of 1928 after the Fairchild Airplane and the Fairchild Engine factories were completed and aircraft were produced (there). Fairchild built Model 41, 41A, 42, 21, 100, and 150 airplanes… “

Wings, like those of the Hempstead Plains to the west, once again rose from the farm fields of Long Island, built, propelled, and supported, respectively, by the Fairchild Airplane Factory, the Fairchild Engine Factory, and the Fairchild Flying Field, after Faircam Realty, Inc., purchased the land and its initial layout was established on November 3, 1927.

Although Fairchild produced multiple models at its new Long Island aviation center, its roots would quickly prove tenuous. Moving its headquarters to Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1931, after only three years, it vacated its facilities, which were almost immediately reoccupied by the American Corporation, or AVCO, whose Airplane and Engine divisions produced the Pilgrim 100 transport for American Airways. But the Depression, taking too large a bite out of the economy, severely diminished demand for it, since aircraft acquisitions were high on a company’s cost reduction list, and its presence proved shorter than Fairchild’s. By mid-1932, it had equally disappeared.

3. Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation:

Initially located in Valley Stream, where it designed floats, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation moved further east, to the Fairchild Flying Field, and took up residence in the former Fulton Truck Factory, where it hatched its first production fighter, the FF-1. Powered by a single, 750-hp Wright engine, the biplane, with a retractable undercarriage, was also offered in scout configuration, as the SF-1.

The most significant aircraft to emerge from the East Farmingdale production line, however, was the Duck. Tracing its origins to the Loening Aeronautical Engineering Corporation’s XO2L-1, it had been submitted to the US Navy in 1931, but, since Loening himself lacked the required facilities to build it, he turned to Leroy Grumman, his former colleague, who re-submitted it in modified form. Accepted on April 25, 1933, the biplane, called XJF-1, was powered by a 700-hp Twin Wasp engine, which drove a three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. Its bracing, consisting of one set of struts outboard of the fuselage and a second one, of wires, between the two wings, was minimal for its day. Water operations were supported by a centerline, under-fuselage float, into which the undercarriage retracted.

In all, 632 JF and J2F Ducks were produced, pressed into global, multiple-role service.

Although Grumman’s Farmingdale presence exceeded that of all others, it nevertheless ended after a half-decade, in 1937, when it relocated to larger headquarters in Bethpage, Long Island.

4. Seversky Aircraft Corporation:

Seversky Aircraft Corporation next took center stage in Farmingdale when it relocated there from College Point in Queens, occupying the former American Corporation factory.

A decorated World War I ace, Alexander P. de Seversky, like Igor Sikorsky, immigrated to the US from Russia, and in 1923, developed the first gyroscopically-stabilized bombsight at the Sperry Gyroscope Company, before establishing his own Seversky Aero Corporation, which focused on aircraft instruments and parts.

Injected with fresh capital, it initially occupied the EDO Corporation’s floatplane factory.

His first major design, the SEV-3, was both aerodynamically sleek and progressive, reflecting Seversky’s aviation-intuitive nature. Powered by a single, 420-hp, nose-mounted, Wright J-6 Whirlwind engine, the all-metal, low-wing aircraft, accommodating a pilot and two passengers in sliding, tandem canopied cockpits, was either supported by a wheeled undercarriage or floats, and in 1933 established a world speed record for piston amphibians. Two years later, on September 15, it sustained a 230-mph airspeed.

The foundation of many subsequent versions, which externally exhibited only minor variations over the basic design, it evolved into the next major iteration, the BT-8. As the first all-metal, enclosed cockpit design operated by the US Army Air Corps, it featured a 24.4-foot length and 36-foot wingspan. Powered by the 400-hp Pratt and Whitney R-985-11, the 4,050-pound airplane, accommodating two, had a 175-mph maximum speed. Thirty were built. It led to the definitive version.

Originally occupying Hangar 2 on New Highway and today used by the American Airpower Museum, Seversky Aircraft Corporation took over the Grumman factory in 1937 when it had relocated to Bethpage, thus maintaining two facilities. But, echoing the short history of the East Farmingdale airfield’s tenants, it came to an abrupt end: although Seversky, like many other aviation-minded “geniuses,” possessed the necessary design skills to create progressive airplanes, he lacked the necessary managerial flip-side of the equation needed to devise a proper, and profitable, business plan to market them, resulting in a $550,000 loss by April of 1939. While conducting a European sales tour six months later, on October 13, he was ousted by his own board of directors, who voted for his removal from the very company he had founded.

Reorganized, it was rebranded “Republic Aviation Corporation.”

5. Republic Aviation Corporation:

Fairchild Flying Field’s fortune was about to change. Fueled by World War II, the fledgling Republic Aviation Corporation would explode in size and its roots would become so deeply implanted in Farmingdale soil that it would be decades before they could be unearthed.

Instrumental in that war was the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

Succeeding the Seversky P-35, it was the result of Army Air Corps requirements, which included a 400-mph airspeed, a 25,000-foot service ceiling, at least six.50-caliber machine guns, armor plating protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, and a minimum fuel capacity of 315 gallons.

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, which dwarfed all other aircraft, was the world’s largest, heaviest, single-engine, single-seat strategic World War II fighter, offering unequaled dive speeds.

War-fed growth of the officially-renamed “Republic Airport” resulted in the expansion of the company’s existing factory on the south side of Conklin Street, as well as the construction of three additional buildings, the installation of a control tower, and the lengthening of its existing runways, all in an effort to support P-47 production, which totaled 9,087 units in Farmingdale alone and required a work force of 24,000 to accomplish by 1944. Employees filtered in by the thousands every day. A round-the-clock production line spat a completed aircraft out of the factory every hour, and these were then ferried by the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs. Republic Aviation, one of the country’s primary defense arteries, pumped man-and-machine into the agricultural plains of Farmingdale and transformed them into an arsenal of democracy within an 18-month period.

“By 1945, Republic was contributing more than 30 percent of the Army Air Force fighters to the war effort against the Luftwaffe in the skies of Europe,” wrote Leroy E. Douglas in his “Conklin Street Cut-Off” article published in the September 1984 issue of Long Island Forum (p. 182). “Thus, Republic, Ranger, and its 23,000 plus workers-more than half of whom were women-did their part to win the war.”

When World War II’s doors closed, so, too, did those of the Thunderbolt factory, and Republic was forced to diversify its product range in terms of purpose and powerplant, converting military Douglas C-54 Skymasters into commercial DC-4 airliners, producing 1,059 civilian Seabee amphibian aircraft, and attempting to design a passenger transport of its own.

The resultant aircraft, the Republic XF-12 Rainbow–along with the competing, and identically-powered, Hughes XF-11–both received a contract for two.

Emulating the graceful lines of the Lockheed Constellation, the Rainbow, featuring a 93.9-foot overall length and incorporating design experience amassed during Republic’s fighter aircraft development, exuded an appearance quintessentially captured by Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine when it reported, “The sharp nose and cylindrical cigar shape of the XF-12 fulfills a designer’s dream of a no-compromise design with aerodynamic considerations.”

Peace proved the aircraft’s enemy. The close of World War II obviated its (and the comparable Hughes XF-11’s) need. Nevertheless, because of its long-range, high-speed and -altitude, day and night, limited-visibility photo-reconnaissance capability, it was ideal as a territory-mapping platform. Indeed, on September 1, 1948, the second of only two aircraft built photographed its transcontinental flight path from the Air Force Flight Test Center in Muroc, California, to Mitchell Field in Garden City, Long Island, during Operation Birds Eye.

Returning to its military roots, Republic entered the pure-jet era with a P-47 Thunderbolt successor.

Featuring a 37.5-foot length, the design, conceived shortly before the end of the war in 1944, retained the straight wings associated with propeller airplanes. These spanned 36.5 feet.

First flying on February 28, 1946, the 19,689-pound fighter-bomber, designated F-84 Thunderjet and able to climb at 4,210-fpm, established a national speed record of 611 mph, as powered by the 3,750-thrust-pound J35-GE-7. Its range was 1,282 miles and its service ceiling was 40,750 feet. Its production totaled 4,455 units.

Development of its successor began in 1949. Because of an Air Force funding shortage, Republic reduced development costs by retaining commonality, to the tune of 60 percent, with the F-84, but introduced swept wings. The aircraft, powered by a 4,200 thrust-pound Allison XJ35-A-25 engine and initially designated YF-96A, first flew on June 3 of the following year, three months before it was renamed F-84F Thunderstreak.

Korean War-sparked fund increases enabled Republic to complete a second prototype, which first flew on February 14, 1951 with a YJ65-W-1 engine, and it was followed by the first production example, which took to the skies on November 22, 1952. The type was deployed by NATO countries during the Cold War.

F-84F Thunderstreak production totaled 2,713 airplanes.

Nevertheless, Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas summarized Republic-based aircraft manufacturing by stating in their book, Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale (pp. 7-8). “While aviation started in Farmingdale with cloth-covered triplanes and biplanes and prop engines, after World War II Republic helped moved the United States into the jet age with the F-84 and F-84F, which assisted US forces in Korea and NATO nations in the 1950s.”

6. Fairchild Republic Corporation

Although Fairchild departed the very airport it had created in 1931, that absence was short-lived. Reappearing three years later, it took up residence in its former engine factory as the newly formed Ranger Aircraft and Engine Corporation and remained there until 1948. But, for a second time, history was to come full cycle.

Acquiring Hiller Helicopters nine years later, it became Fairchild Hiller, and in July of 1965, it purchased the majority of Republic stock, resulting in the Republic Aviation Division of Fairchild Hiller. Fairchild had thus returned to the soil in which it had planted its first seeds. In 1971, it continued its buying spree, purchasing Swearingen and producing and marketing the 19-passenger, twin-turboprop Fairchild-Swearingen Metro commuter airliner. The following year, the company adopted the official title of “Fairchild Republic.”

Its principle design, conceptualized before the Republic acquisition, was given birth by the Air Force requirement for a close air support aircraft incorporating simplicity, ease of maintenance, and short-field performance, in order to operate from small forward air bases close to the battle line.

Designated A-10 Thunderbolt II and enjoying a production run of 733, it was instrumental in the Gulf War and during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

7. Post-War Manufacturing:

Although Republic Airport and its aviation companies had been associated with mostly-military aircraft design and manufacture, several diverse commercial and space components also emerged from its doors.

Integral to the Boeing 747, for instance, were the leading edge slats, trailing edge flaps, spoilers, and ailerons built by the Republic Aviation division of Fairchild Hiller, while it was also contracted to provide a similar role in its proposed, but canceled, supersonic 2707 airliner.

Equally integral to the Space Shuttle were the Fairchild Republic components manufactured in Farmingdale.

After awarded a $13 million contract by Rockwell International of Los Angeles on March 29, 1973, Fairchild Hiller designed and developed six aluminum vertical tail stabilizers, which sported 45-degree leading edges and measured 27 feet high by 22 feet long, in Hangar 17, along with their associated rudders and speedbrakes. The first, installed on test vehicle Enterprise, facilitated its atmospheric launch from a piggy-backed 747 platform over Edwards Air Force Base on February 18, 1977, while the others were mounted on Space Shuttles Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor.

Expanding the commuter airliner involvement initiated with the Swearingen Metro, Fairchild Republic signed an agreement with Saab-Scania of Sweden on January 25, 1980 to launch the SF-340, in what became the first fully collaborative venture between a US and European aviation manufacturer. Fairchild Republic was contracted to design and build its wings, engine nacelles, and vertical and horizontal tail surfaces, with final assembly occurring in Sweden.

Fairchild Swearingen was assigned North American marketing responsibility, while a jointly owned Swedish company, Saab-Fairchild HB, established an office in Paris to fulfill this function elsewhere.

Powered by twin turboprop engines, the aircraft accommodated 34 passengers in a four-abreast configuration with a central aisle.

After completing some 100 wing sets, however, Fairchild terminated its contract work on the regional airliner, withdrawing from all civil projects, and the aircraft was redesignated the Saab 340.

8. Changing Roles:

Passed the ownership torch on March 31, 1969, Republic Airport was thereinafter operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which continued to transform it into a public-use entity by acquiring 94 adjacent acres from the US government and purchasing an additional 115 privately owned ones to the south and southwest.

“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority took title to Republic Airport as a first step in converting it into a general aviation (field),” according to the Long Island-Republic Airport Historical Society.

Initiating a modernization program, it made several improvements. High-intensity lights were installed on 5,516-foot Runway 1-19 and 6,827-foot Runway 14-32, for example, the latter of which was also equipped with an instrument landing system (ILS). The Fulton Truck Factory, the airport’s original structure dating from 1916, was razed, while Flightways transformed a ten-acre site on the north side of Route 109 into a complex of new hangars, administration buildings, fuel storage tanks, and aircraft tie-downs. A dual-level Administration, Terminal, and Maintenance building opened in 1983, not far from, and shortly before, the operational phase-in of a 100-foot, $2.2 million FAA control tower.

In order to promote economic development of the surrounding region, New York State legislature transferred ownership, for a third time, to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) on April 1, 1983, which was advised by a nine-member Republic Airport Commission. It hardly curtailed the modernization momentum.

Indeed, eight years later, a $3.5 million, 25,600-square-foot Grumman Corporate Hangar, replacing the aircraft storage facility previously maintained at its now-closed Bethpage airfield and housing a Beechcraft King Air, a Gulfstream I, and two British Aerospace BAe-125-800s, opened.

In April of 1993, ground was broken for a $3.3 million, 20,000-square-foot SUNY Farmingdale Aerospace Education Center on the east side of Route 110.

Million Air, a subsidiary of Executive Air Support, constructed an 11,700-square-foot Executive Air Terminal and corporate hangar on the airport’s south end, and, by 2001, Air East commenced operations in its own, new, radiant-heated, 10,000-square-foot hangar, which also featured a 2,500-square-foot shop and 4,500-square-foot office and flight school. Yet another hangar-and-office complex, located in the Lambert area, opened its doors in June of 2005 when Talon Air, a charter company, began operations from it.

In order to provide increased clearance needed by the latest-generation of business jets, such as the Gulfstream V and the Bombardier Global Express, taxiway B (bravo) was relocated.

Indeed, more than $18 million in capital improvements were made since 2000 alone.

These enhancements, provisioning the airport for its new, general aviation role, had perhaps been a premonition of things to come.

In 1982, Fairchild Republic won a contract to build two new-generation Air Force T-46A training jets; but, the milestone, initially envisioned as a monetary lifeline, only provided the reverse effect: although the prototype was first rolled out three years later, it lacked some 1,200 parts, and although the second made a successful, 24-minute maiden flight in July of 1986, the contract for the program, fraught with controversy, was canceled, resulting in the layoffs of 500 employees.

Like so many companies dependent upon military contracts for survival, Fairchild Republic, without choice, ceased to exist the following year, leaving its sprouting factories and a legacy, which had begun six decades earlier. Ironically, the two names which had been the most instrumental in the airport’s beginning and growth-Fairchild and Republic-were the same two which had been involved in its demise. The doors of the Farmingdale airfield’s primarily-military aircraft manufacturing and testing chapter thus closed, and those to its general aviation one opened.

“With the company experiencing major financial problems in 1986-1987 and with the loss of support for the T-46A program in Congress, Fairchild terminated both the SF-340 and T-46A production after building only four aircraft,” according to Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas in Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale (p. 99). “Thus, by the fall of 1987, seventy years of airplane manufacturing in Farmingdale ended with employment and economic loss to the community and the New York metropolitan area.”

9. Airline Service:

In 1966, a year after ownership of Republic Airport was transferred from Fairchild Hiller to Farmingdale Corporation, it was officially designated a general aviation (civil) facility, fielding its first landing, of a twin-engine Beechcraft operated by Ramey Air Service from Islip, on December 7. In order to transform it into a gateway by facilitating airline connections at the three major New York airports, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracted with Air Spur to provide this feeder service four years later, assessing $12 one-way fares.

Although Republic was never envisioned as a major commercial airport, its central Long island location, proximity to the Route 110 corridor, and considerable infrastructure poised it for limited, scheduled and charter service to key business and leisure destinations within neighboring states. Yet its inherent operational limitation was succinctly stated in the 2000 Republic Airport Master Plan Update.

“At Republic Airport,” it explained (Chapter 3, p. 8), “the New York State Department of Transportation implemented an aircraft weight limitation of 60,000 pounds in 1984. This weight limitation restricts the operation of aircraft over 60,000 pounds actual gross weight without the written consent of the airport operator.”

“Forecasts indicate that there will be an increase in the number of jet aircraft based at Republic Airport,” the Master Plan Update stated, “as well as an increase in jet operations,” as ultimately proven by annual pure-jet operation statistics: 2,792 in fiscal year 1986, 4,056 in 1990, 4,976 in 1995, and 6,916 in 1998. And, of its average annual number of based aircraft-about 500-this segment was also the fastest growing: 10 jet aircraft in 1985, 15 in 1995, and 20 in 1998. That number has since more than doubled.

One of the first scheduled airline attempts was made in 1978 when Cosmopolitan Airlines, operating an ex-Finnair Convair CV-340 and two ex-Swissair CV-440 Metropolitans in single-class, four-abreast, configurations, offered all-inclusive, single-day, scheduled charter packages to Atlantic City from its Cosmopolitan Sky Center. Its flyer had advised: “Fly to Atlantic City for only $19.95 net. Here’s how it works: Pay $44.95 for a round-trip flight ticket to Atlantic City, including ground transportation to and from the Claridge Hotel and Casino. Upon arrival at the Claridge, you’ll receive $20.00 in food and beverage credits good at any restaurant except the London Pavilion. You will also receive a $5.00 flight credit good for your next fight to the Claridge on Cosmopolitan Airlines.”

The carrier also briefly attempted to offer two daily scheduled round-trips to Boston on its 52-passenger CV-440s in 1980.

Facilitating this scheduled service growth was the construction of a passenger terminal.

“The terminal building, completed in 1983, has approximately 50,000 square feet of useable floor space and houses airport service vehicles, maintenance, fire protection, public terminal space, and rental areas on the first floor, plus administration offices on the second floor. Approximately 70 employees work in the building,” according to the 2000 Republic Airport Master Plan Update (Chapter 1, p. 17).

Attempting to establish a link between Farmingdale and the major New York metropolitan airport of Newark International in order to feed its departures, PBA Provincetown Boston Airline commenced shuttle service with Cessna C-402 commuter aircraft, connecting Long Island by means of a 30-minute aerial hop with up to five daily round-trips and coordinating schedules with PEOPLExpress Airlines. It advertised avoidance of the excessive drive-times, parking costs, and longer check-in requirements otherwise associated with larger-airport usage, and offered the convenience of through-fares, ticketing, and baggage check to any PEOPLExpress final destination.

According to its June 20, 1986 Northern System timetable, it offered Farmingdale departures at 0700, 0950, 1200, 1445, and 1755.

Demand soon necessitated replacement of the C-402 with a larger, 19-seat Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante.

All of these brief, unsuccessful scheduled attempts, nullifying local residents’ ill-founded concern that Republic would ultimately develop into a major commercial airport and inflict its noise on close-proximity ears, failed to attract the needed traffic to render them self-supporting, emphasizing several airport-specific factors.

1). Republic was consistently associated with general, and not scheduled, operations during the latter part of its history.

2). Long Island MacArthur had already established itself as the island’s principle commercial facility, and carriers, as demonstrated by Precision/Northwest Airlink, gained no revenue advantage by diluting the same market, yet incurring increased airport and operational costs to do so.

“Republic Airport has had service by various commuter airlines and each has ceased service… ,” according to the 2000 Republic Airport Master Plan Update. “The commuter service market area is limited, geographically, taking into account the larger airports, such as La Guardia, Kennedy, and MacArthur and the service they offer.”

“Since 1969, Republic Airport has accommodated the region’s need for an airport devoted to private and business aircraft, as well as charter and commuter operations,” it also stated (Chapter 1, p. 1). “Because Republic is situated in the midst of residential, commercial, and industrial development, its role is inconsistent with that of a scheduled air carrier airport for commercial jet transport.”

With the number of annual passengers having consistently increased-from 13,748 in 1985 and 30,564 in 1990 to 33,854 in 1995-its future commuter role could not be entirely ruled out.

“While past efforts by commuter airlines have not been successful, the potential for future service exists and is to be considered in the planning for the airport,” it concluded (Chapter 2, p. 10).

10. The Future:

Unlike Roosevelt and Glenn Curtiss fields, which succumbed to modern-era pressures and swapped their runways for shopping malls, 526-acre Republic only surrendered a small portion of itself to the Airport Plaza Shopping Center. Instrumental in early-aviation development and in the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq wars, it transformed itself into a general aviation facility, peaking with 546-based aircraft and becoming the third-largest New York airport in terms of movements after JFK International and La Guardia.

Billing itself as “the corporate airbridge for Long Island’s 21st-century economy,” this westernmost Long Island general aviation facility accounts for 1,370 jobs and $139.6 million of economic activity, supporting 60 on-airport businesses. The 110,974 movements recorded in 2008 encompassed 52 by non-rigid airships, 7,120 by rotary wing, 76,236 by single-engine pistons, 6,310 by twin-engine pistons, 5,028 by turboprops, and 16,228 by pure-jets. The latter, its second-highest total, emphasizes its increasing role as the “Teterboro of Long Island,” perhaps pointing the way to its future. Indeed, companies considering the area for their corporate locations cite the airport as a major asset, since it provides close-proximity aerial access for personnel and materials.

Toward that end, the State of New York approved funding in April of 2009 for a Vision Planning process to collect data from residents, employees, businesses, and users, and then plot its future course. Specifically, the program had a three-fold purpose-namely, to define the airport’s role, to determine how it will fill that role, and, finally, to ascertain how it will work with the community to attain the desired operational and economic goals.

“As part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), Republic Airport is designated as a reliever airport with commercial service,” according to the 2000 Republic Airport Master Plan Update (Chapter 1, p. 1). “Under ownership by the New York State Department of Transportation, there are specific state development and policy procedures which are followed.”

Although it may never eclipse its current general aviation role, its importance was not to be underestimated.

“”Republic Airport is an important regional asset,” it stated (Chapter 1, p. 1). “It provides significant transportation and economic benefits to both Suffolk and Nassau counties. The policy of the New York State Department of Transportation and the Republic Airport Commission shall be that Republic Airport continue to better serve Long Island.”

Whatever the future holds for it, it has a nine-decade foundation upon which to base it, as acknowledged by the plaque hung in the passenger terminal by the Long Island-Republic Airport Historical Society, “honor(ing) the tens of thousands of men and women who labored here in East Farmingdale, contributing significantly to aviation technology and aircraft production.” Those men and woman turned the wheels of the 11 aviation companies based there.

Sources

Long Island Republic Airport Historical Society website.

Neubeck, Ken, and Douglas, Leroy E. Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2016.

2000 Republic Airport Master Plan Update, New York State Department of Transportation.