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.
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.