Long Island’s Commercial Aviation Heritage: Airports and Airlines

August 15th, 2021 by dayat Leave a reply »

Although Floyd Bennett Field and JFK International and La Guardia airports can be geographically classified as “Long Island” venues, there were some half-dozen Nassau and Suffolk County facilities that offered varying degrees of scheduled and charter, passenger-carrying airline service in traditional-land, amphibious flying boat, and rotary-wing helicopter forms.

Roosevelt Field:

Progressively forgotten with the advance of time and perhaps only associated with a shopping complex, the Roosevelt Field name was once a sprawling expanse of aeronautical activity that earned it the unofficial title of “world’s premier airport.”

Like forests that ultimately spring from flat fields, it itself rose from one that was called the “Hempstead Plains.”

“The central area of Nassau County, known as the Hempstead Plains, (was) the only natural prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains,” according to Joshua Stoff in “Historic Aircraft and Spacecraft in the Cradle of Aviation Museum” (Dover Publications, 2001, p. viii). “Treeless and flat, with only the tall grasses and scattered farmhouses, this area proved to be an ideal flying field, and was the scene of intense aviation activity for over 50 years.”

Often referred to as “the cradle of aviation,” it was the result of geographical, as well as topographic, aspects. Its proximity to Manhattan provided it with a dense population base, its east coast location invited country-crossing to the west, and its unobstructed, water-surrounding nature made it the natural origin for flights across Long Island Sound to Connecticut and New England, down the eastern seaboard to the mid-Atlantic states and Florida, and, finally, over the ocean for intercontinental connections between North America and Europe.

Unofficially called the Mineola Flying Field because of the Long Island Railroad’s access to it through its station of the same name, it sprouted its initial wings when Dr. Henry Walden, a member of the Aeronautic Society of New York, took off in the first American monoplane from it in 1909, the result of the unsuitability of the smaller Morris Park in the Bronx the group had formerly used.

Even this proved less than adequate.

“One mile to the east, the Hampstead Plains continued its treeless and unobstructed expanse, and this larger tract was indeed more suitable than the terrain of Mineola, which was narrow and hemmed in by roads in anticipation of building development,” Stoff points out (ibid, p. 5.)

By the spring of 1911, the year the expanse became the Hempstead Plains Airfield, sedentary roots took hold east of Clinton Road in Garden City with the Moissant Aviation School, itself relocating from the now inadequately sized Nassau Boulevard Flying Field that definitively closed on June 1 of the following year.

Considered the country’s first airport, it encompassed 1,000 acres and soon sprouted grandstands for air show spectators and some 25 wooden hangars.

But after the US’s entry into World War I, in 1917, experimental flying morphed into bonafide military missions after delivery of four Curtiss Jenny biplanes, the airport transforming itself into one of only two of the nation’s Army facilities. During the two-year period to 1919, it adopted the Hazelhurst Field name in honor of Second Lieutenant Leighton Hazelhurst, Jr., who had lost his life in an airplane accident in College Park, Maryland, on June 11, 1912.

With war sparked demand for ever larger facilities, a second expanse designated Aviation Filed #2 was opened south of the existing one in 1917, but was renamed Mitchel Field the following year in honor of John Purroy Mitchel, the New York City mayor who himself lost his life to aviation in Louisiana.

After the Curtiss Flying Service relocated to its Garden City headquarters and acquired Hazelhurst Field, it adopted yet a third name, Curtiss Field, with its 1920 purchase.

“In the next ten years, every aspect of civil and commercial flying was offered to the public-flight training, emerging air transport, (and) sightseeing tours,” according to Joshua Stoff in another book, “Roosevelt Field: World’s Premier Airport” (SunShine House, 1992, p. 30). “In ten years, it was estimated that 50,000 passengers had flown over 500,000 miles from the Curtiss Field Terminal.”

“During the 1920s, aviation began to touch all aspects of American life,” according to Joshua Stoff in yet a third book, “The Aerospace Heritage of Long Island” (Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1989, p. 29). “The public clearly saw the unprecedented potential of aviation for commercial transport: Airmail, aerial advertising, cartography, and sport. All of these trends manifested themselves on Long Island.”

It was during this time that one of the first indigenous carriers was established. Formed in 1923 by pre-Pan American Airways Juan Trippe, along with other former members of the Yale Flying Club and appropriately named Long Island Airways, it served as an aerial taxi serving, transporting wealthy New York socialites to country estates in war-surplus airplanes. It operated between 1923 and 1925.

Although the western portion of the Long Island expanse retained its Curtiss name to reflect owner Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor company, the eastern section, separated by a gully, was designated what eventually became the famous Roosevelt Field moniker after the death of Quentin Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt’s son, who had perished in a 1918 aircraft crash in France.

Although Floyd Bennett Field, which opened on May 26, 1931, became the nucleus of early commercial operations with its larger area, paved runways, and Brooklyn-proximity to Manhattan, Roosevelt Field boasted its own scheduled airline service.

“In 1932, Licon (for “Long Island-Connecticut”) Airways was established, Roosevelt Field’s first and only scheduled airline,” according to Stoff in “Roosevelt Field: World’s Premier Airpor”t (op. cit., pp 73-74). “They flew Stinson Trimotors between Long Island and Newark, Atlantic City, Providence, New Haven, and Bridgeport.”

The eight-month service, which commenced on November 10, 1933, ceased the following July.

As the country’s largest civilian airport, Roosevelt Field continued to expand. Thirty-two businesses sold everything from gas to full-size airplanes, which could be stored in the 13,000 square feet of hangar space. Paved road access was facilitated with complementary parking and rail travel was made possible by some 80 daily trains from Manhattan and Brooklyn to the Mineola Station.

At the beginning of the 1930s, up to 400 hourly takeoffs occurred from the facility, which was equipped with three asphalt runways.

The two-decade Golden Age of Aviation, running from 1919 to 1939, paralleled Roosevelt Field’s own era of expansion and accomplishment, providing the foundation for feats, advancements, and record-setting flights. But, like separate Mitchel filed to the south, it soon assumed a World War II-necessitated military role. Five Navy-leased hangars served as modification centers for aircraft being shipped to Europe and military pilot training took precedence over its civilian counterpart. Although 272 aircraft were based there at the end of 1940, the once-premier airfield began to decline and never regained its momentum.

Without the G. I. bill, the Roosevelt Aviation School, once considered the country’s greatest aviation educational institution, was forced to close by the end of the decade; and, with little activity, the Roosevelt Field Inn Hotel followed suit, forced into revenue-scare bankruptcy.

After the last 50 aircraft were flown to their new Long Island homes, the airport, which was often considered the cradle of aviation with its multitude of historic flights that included Lindbergh’s own 1927 solo transatlantic crossing in the “Spirit of St. Louis,” lost its last runway on May 31, 1951 when it was officially closed, leaving the silent sentinel that had begun as the Hempstead Plains and had nurtured aviation into significant maturity. From this expanse rose a shopping complex five years later, whose only commonality with the area’s former glory was its name: Roosevelt Field.

Roosevelt Field Heliport:

The last and only, although also fleeting, thread to the name that once signaled the vast aeronautical expanse was the Roosevelt Field heliport, located on the side of the shopping mall in an Industrial Park. Island Helicopter Corporation, providing commuter, business, and sightseeing flights, was its principle operator, using the last parcel of the Hempstead Plains not overtaken by businesses and stores.

It inaugurated regularly scheduled shuttle flights from Long Island to both the East 60th Street and Wall Street helipads in Manhattan on April 26, 1971 with 12-passenger Sikorsky S-62As.

Powered by a 1,250-shp General Electric T-58-GE-8 turboshaft engine derated to 730 shp, it was the first truly amphibious rotary-wing design able to operate from land with two main and a single tail wheel undercarriage, and water, ice, snow, tundra, and swamp with its hull-shaped fuselage. Its 53-foot rotor diameter and 2,206-square-foot disc area gave it an 8,300-pound gross weight, a 98-mph cruise speed, a 400-nautical mile range, and an 11,200-foot service ceiling.

Island Helicopter’s initial schedule, with two New York-bound departures at 0745 and 0845, and returns at 1715 and 1745, cost $10.00 each way and covered the 25 miles, often over the traffic-saturated Long Island Expressway, in a blink-of-the-eye 15 minutes, affording passengers extra morning sleep and significantly removing the hassles and stresses of road or rail commutes. The expense of the method, however, proved prohibitive to most, and the hoped-for 24 daily round trips, which would have been subjected to weather minima, never materialized.

Port Washington:

Other than the roads leading to this aquatic air field, there was never a single paved runway. Yet it became the origin and destination, albeit for only a brief time, for once-mighty, multiple-passenger, and significantly luxurious flying boats crossing the Atlantic to Bermuda and Europe.

Long wishing to inaugurate scheduled service from New York to complement its existing Martin M-130 Pacific routes form San Francisco (Alameda) to Hong Kong via Hawaii, Midway, Wake Island, Guam, and Manila, Pan American selected Port Washington as its interim operational base until tis more permanent facilities, taking from as the Marine Air Terminal at North Beach, were completed.

It commenced extensive preparations when Lindbergh, piloting a navigation equipment-installed Lockheed Sirius, made an exploratory expedition to Greenland, Iceland, the Scandinavian countries, the Faroe and Shetland islands, the Baltics, Leningrad, Moscow, Spain, Portugal, and the Azores that year, issuing a 1934 report that dispelled two of the perceived route restrictions. Although, first and foremost, northern latitude courses to Europe were not without difficulty, he concluded that they had been greatly exaggerated; and secondly, the severity of prevailing weather had also been overestimated.

Because of the lack of suitable civil seaplane bases in the US northeast and the Canadian maritime provinces, Pan American elected to establish its own.

“In 1933, therefore, Pan American acquired its own seaplane based at Port Washington, Long Island,” according to R. E. G. Davies in “Airlines of the United States since 1914″ (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998, p. 244). “And in the following year began negotiations with the city of Baltimore for the lease of a marine base to be constructed by that city.”

Acquiring the American Aeronautical Corporation’s hangar and seaplane ramp complex that December, it was described in the 1937 “PAA Airport Number B-335-4″ document as a 12-acre, irregularly-shaped complex adjacent to Port Washington with two hangars, two ramps, and the Plum Point floating walk, and was operated by Pan American Airways. Its landing and takeoff areas, it noted, were “unlimited in Long Island Sound.”

Its first scheduled service was decidedly shorter than that to Europe, entailing, instead, Bermuda as its destination, and was the result of British government granted reciprocal route rights, its own Imperial Airways also linking the US with the island. The initial, but opposing-direction survey flight, occurring on May 25, 1937, entailed the departure of a Pan American Sikorsky S-42B quad-engine flying boat under the command of Captain Harold S. Gray from Port Washington and that of the slower Imperial Airways’ Short C class aircraft from Bermuda. Three more such flights, along with an official service inaugural, followed in June by the two airlines, but the actual, regularly scheduled one took place on the 18th, each operating a single weekly roundtrip.

Two months later, on August 25, a second weekly frequency was introduced, also with the S-42B. Fares were $70.00 one-way and $120.00 return.

“The Bermuda operation provided an excellent flying laboratory for the study of Atlantic weather and flight problems, and in particular for gaining experience with inflight deicing conditions,” continues Davies (ibid, p. 256). “Deicing boots and deicing equipment for the propellers were fitted to the S-42, the largest aircraft of its day so-fitted.”

Aside from its need for an aquatic base from which to later launch transatlantic service, suitable equipment was also lacking, since its existing M-130 flying boats would not have been able to offer both sufficient range against prevailing headwinds and payload to turn the venture into a profitable reality. The solution lay in the requirements submitted for a flying boat design, which Boeing filled with its B314, prompting an initial order for six on July 2, 1936.

The result was a behemoth, a true, aerial ocean liner, both efficient and elegant, and in a class of its own. Powered by four 14-cylinder, two-row, 1,500-hp Wright Cyclone R-2600-A2;piston engines housed in 59-inch-diameter nacelles and driving three-bladed, 14.9-foot-diameter, fully feathering Hamilton Standard hydromantic propellers, it had a 106-foot overall length and sprouted massive, three-section, high-mounted wings which spanned 152 feet and were subdivided into a center, hull-integral section that extended beyond the inner engine nacelles and two outer, watertight sections. Fuel, whose total capacity was 4,200 gallons, was carried in the center section and lower fuselage-extending sponsons. They alternatively served as passenger entry platforms, leading to the cabin floor. So cavernous were the main wings, that they contained interior catwalks to permit in-flight inspection and maintenance of both their structure and that of the engines.

The aircraft had a 23,500-pound payload capability and an 82,500-pound gross weight.

Equally subdivided internally into two decks, it featured a soundproofed main one, consisting of five, ten-passenger compartments; a single, special, four-passenger section; a deluxe bridal suite; a dining room; a full-service galley; a men’s restroom; and a ladies’ powder room. Passenger capacity was 74 by day and 34 by night in convertible berths.

After establishing its Atlantic Division in the spring of 1937, Pan American conducted a number of North Atlantic survey flights, each extending further across the ocean with a Sikorsky S-42B registered NC 16736 and named “Clipper III” to reflect the tall-masted sailing ships which had once plied the seas. The first, on June 25, flew to Shediac, New Brunswick; the second, on June 27, to Botwood, Newfoundland; the third, on July 3, to Foynes, Ireland, and Southampton; and the fourth, on August 22, to the same destination.

A southern survey routing, six days earlier, took it to Bermuda, the Azores, Lisbon, Marseilles, and Southampton.

The first scheduled transatlantic flight from Port Washington took place four days later, on June 28. Piloted by Captain R. O. D. Sullivan and operated by the “Dixie Clipper,” it carried 22, who had boarded amid the blare of a brass band, 11 crew members, and 408 pounds of mail, moving up on its step hull and disengaging itself from Manhasset Bay shortly after its mooring lines were released at 1500. It arrived in Marseilles, France, the following day after a flawless ply of the southern route.

“Yankee Clipper” operated the first northern one on July 8 with 17 passengers. Fares were $375.00 one-way and $675.00 round trip.

According to Pan American’s June 24, 1939 timetable, the once-weekly, 3,411-mile northern crossing, operating as Fight 100, departed Port Washington at 0730, arriving in Shediac, New Brunswick, at 1230. An hour later, it took off for Botwood, Newfoundland, alighting at 1630, before redeparting at 1800 for the oceanic portion of the journey, touching down in Foynes, Ireland, at 0830 the following day and once again becoming airborne at 0930. It reached its Southampton destination at 1300. The return, Flight 101 left two days later, at 1400, and arrived in Port Washington, also at 1400, the day after that, reversing its intermediate landing sequence.

The longer, 4,251-mile southern route, operated under flight number 120, departed at 1200, transited Horta, the Azores (0700 the following day/0800 the same day) and Lisbon (1700 the same day/0700 the next morning), and arrived in Marseilles at 1500, or two days after it left Long Island. The return, as Flight 121, departed at 0800 and touched down in Port Washington at 0700, also two days later.

Republic Airport:

Never inceptionally intended for passenger-carrying commercial operations, Farmingdale’s Republic Airport ultimately fielded limited, sporadic scheduled and charter service in its hitherto century of existence.

“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,” according to Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas in “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… ”

Although the airport was progressively transformed from its original, 77,967-acre Fairchild Flying Field to the present Republic Airport and is considered the third-busiest New York State facility in terms of aircraft movements, it was, for the most part, the location of military and civil manufacturers, including the Fairchild Aviation Corporation, the American Airplane and Engine Corporation, Grumman, Seversky, Ranger, Republic, Fairchild-Hiller, Fairchild Republic, and EDO, to name only a few.

Nevertheless, its purpose was expanded to general aviation in 1986, marked by the landing of a Ramey Air Service, twin-engine Beechcraft from nearby Long Island MacArthur Airport on December 7. Air Spur, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) contracted air taxi/commuter carrier, inaugurated a Long Island link to the three JFK International, La Guardia, and Newark airports with a $12.00 one-way fare four years later in an attempt to transform the facility into a gateway into the national transportation system.

Despite the 1984 New York State Department of Transportation implemented, 60,000-pound gross weight restriction, Republic could still offer neighboring state service, using its business-lined Route 110 corridor as a potential passenger base.

One of the first scheduled attempts was made by Republic Airport based Cosmopolitan Airlines, an FAR Part 121 supplemental air carrier that inaugurated service with a single 44-passenger, former Finnair Convair CV-340 and two 52-passenger, ex-Swissair Convair CV-440 Metropolitans to Albany, Boston, and Atlantic City from its own Cosmopolitan Sky Center in 1978.

The later destination, served daily, was part of a $44.95 package that included the flight itself, ground transportation to the Claridge Hotel and Casino, a $20.00 food and beverage voucher, and a $5.00 coupon redeemable with the next flight. Same-day returns provided some nine hours in Atlantic City. Although it discontinued operations at the end of 1983, it had been in the process of expanding its public charter service to Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

Part of Republic’s scheduled carrier strategy was the building of the two-floor, 50,000-square-foot passenger terminal, which was completed that year.

Mimicking Cosmopolitan’s brief operation was that of Loong Island Airlines, another Farmingdale-based Part 204 Commuter Air Carrier. Acquiring Montauk Caribbean Airways, along with its 19-seat de Havilland of Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, it offered service to East Hampton, New York-La Guardia, Newark, and Boston, as well as high roller Atlantic City packages, but ceased operation in 1990 after declaring bankruptcy.

The Republic Passenger Terminal, as intended, became the operational base for some purely scheduled flights.

Initially-named Atlantic Express, for example, operated four daily nonstops to Albany, which continued to Syracuse, and five to Boston, two of which continued to Presque Isle, Maine, with 19-passenger Fairchild Swearingen Metro SA-227-IIIs, according to its April 18, 1983 timetable. Basing itself at Republic Airport, it operated a commuter airliner manufactured by Fairchild, which both established the airport and built airplanes there. The carrier was later renamed Mid-Atlantic Express.

PBA Provincetown Boston Airiness, advertised as “America’s oldest regional airline,” was another Republic carrier. It inaugurated shuttle flights to Newark International Airport, initially with Cessna C-402 piston commuter aircraft and later with larger, 18-passenger Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante turboprops, offering connecting service with to other PBA and PEOPLExpress flights at the original North Terminal, with the convenience of joint ticketing, through-fares, and final destination baggage check. Its June 20, 1986 Northern System timetable listed five daily departures at 0700, 0950, 1200, 1445, and 1755. After Continental acquired PEOPLExpress, the feeder agreement was maintained.

Operating its own 19-passejnger turboprop-in this case, the Dornier Do-228-200-Precision Airlines, the only carrier to offer simultaneous service from Long Island MacArthur Airport, connected Long Island with Albany and Boston as of May 1993, branded as Northeast Airlink, using its two-letter “NW” code, and draping its aircraft in its major carrier’s red livery.

Long Island MacArthur Airport:

Long Island MacArthur Airport, a secondary facility after JFK International and La Guardia, was always the island’s principle, scheduled-airline provider.

Tracing its origins to Section 303 of the 1938 Civil Aeronautics Act, which authorized the use of federal funds for the establishment of landing areas useable both for air commerce and, in the event of conflict or threat, war, then-named Islip Airport, one of 200 airfields resulting from the $40 million, Congress-approved Development of Landing Areas for National Defense (DLAND) allocation, took root after a one-year, $1.5 million construction project initiated in 1942. Public utilization, however, had always been its intended purpose.

After completion, seven years later, of a passenger terminal and restaurant, itself funded by the federal government, the first of two carriers established for subsequently redesignated Long Island MacArthur Airport service, began operations.

The result of an attempt to attract such scheduled service as early as 1956, it spread its wings three years later as Gateway Airlines on the air taxi level, with a fleet of 11-passenger de Havilland Doves and 15-passenger de Havilland Herons, connecting Long Island with Boston, Newark, and Washington. Inadequate financing, however, led to its premature demise eight months later.

Airport facility enhancements, in the form of a seven-floor control tower; a new, oval, 50,000-square-foot terminal where a scene from the original Out-of-Towners was filmed; and a New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, sparked scheduled service and slow passenger growth.

US national and major airlines, always serving as the airport’s anchors, included Mohawk, Allegheny (later USAir), and American, and offered flights to important business destinations like Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Chicago with BAC-111s, DC-9s, and 727s, injecting the facility with jet-associated prestige.

The second Long Island established carrier was Northeastern International, created to provide the coveted Florida connection, which it initially succeeded in doing when it inaugurated four weekly round trips to Ft. Lauderdale and one to Orlando on February 11, 1982 with two former Evergreen DC-8-50s. A catalyst to both passenger growth and other-airline attraction, it eventually also served Miami and St. Petersburg with 727-100s, 727-200s, and DC-8-62s.

Despite its 1985 bankruptcy and a limping, lukewarm return to Long Island skies with sporadically leased DC-9 and MD-80 equipment that led to its final exit the following year, it demonstrated the need for the all-important Florida link, leaving a multitude of other carriers, such as AirTran, Allegiant, Braniff III, Carnival, Delta Express, Eastern, Elite, Frontier, Pan Am, Southwest, Spirit, and USAir, to fill it.

Aside from some of these major airlines, the airport was also served by numerous turboprop regionals, many of which operated two-letter, US major code share service. They included Pilgrim, New Haven Airways (later NewAir), National Air, Air Vermont, Empire, Ransome, Precision, Business Express, Allegheny Commuter, Henson, Atlantic Coast, Shuttle America, PenAir, and American Eagle. Their equipment ran the size spectrum from the 15-passenger Beech C99 to the 50-passenger de Havilland of Canada DHC-7 “Dash 7.”

Regional jets played an important role in Long Island MacArthur’s development by providing comparable jet speed and comfort on routes too thin to support larger aircraft, yet too far to be efficiently covered with turboprops, and allowed once-independent carriers to provide major airline hub fee in their image with marketing agreements and identical aircraft liveries.

Carriers in this category included Presidential Airways, operating as Continental Express and United Express, to Washington-Dulles with British Aerospace BAe-146-200s; Comair, as the Delta Connection, to Cincinnati with Canadair CRJ-100s and -200s; ExpressJet, as Continental Express, to Cleveland with Embraer ERJ-145s; and ASA Atlantic Southeast Airlines, also as the Delta Connection, to Atlanta with CRJ-100s, -200s, and -700s.

All of this activity saw annual airport passenger throughput, facilitated with ever enlarged terminal and parking facilities, increase from 118,000 to almost 2.3 million during the three-decade period between 1970 and 2000.

East Hampton Airport:

Located on Long Island’s South Shore, East Hampton Airport, serving the famous and wealthy region of the same name, offered scheduled airline service with a mixture of rotary- and fixed-wing types, albeit mostly on a seasonal basis.

Like the Hempstead Plains, whose flat, unobstructed expanses invited early aerial activity, it began as a barnstorming field, whose biplanes hopped to countless other, similar parcels. But with increasing flight operations, the need for a more structured facility led to the construction of three runways in 1936: 04/22, 10/28, and 16/34.

Reporting on the project the following year, the East Hampton Star considered it “one of the finest things ever undertaken,” stating that “Its importance in the future growth of East Hampton cannot be underestimated.”

Its initial facilities were hardly world-class-a 12- by 24-foot wooden building that had been used by nearby Camp Upton to train World War I Army soldiers and was subsequently towed to its present location. Attached to it was the airport’s first passenger waiting room-a former chicken coop.

Like Long Island MacArthur Airport further west in Islip, it was allocated emergency landing site status, toward which Civil Aeronautics Authority funding was applied, resulting in its 1942 expansion.

Two decades later, a three-story, wood-shingled control tower sprouted from the field and some three decades after that, a modern, rotunda-shaped terminal opened-specifically in 1994.

Owned and operated by the Town of East Hampton and occupying 610 acres today, it has two asphalt runways-4,255-foot-long, 100-foot-wide Runway 10-28, which offers an FAA-approved, straight-in instrument approach, and 2,223-foot-long, 75-foot-wide 16-34, which serves as the crosswind strip and is primarily used by single-engine general aviation types.

Reflecting its seasonality is the summer-only operation of its control tower, leaving the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) as a verbal reporting and communication channel the rest of the year.

Hangars and fixed base operators, providing ramp service, catering, fueling, flight training, and airplane chartering, round out its facilities.

“The airport serves a mix of private pilots, charter flights, commercial businesses (including Enterprise and Hertz car rental companies), and seasonal visitors,” according to its website. “There are approximately 30,000 annual operations, with the majority of that traffic occurring between the months of May and September.”

The nature of its air carrier service, in terms of destinations, engine type, and operational realm, is unique.

East Hampton Airways, which connected the East End airport with New York-La Guardia, Teterboro in New Jersey, and White Plain’s Westchester Country Airport in 1982, advertised, “Now at your service at the airport. Daily scheduled flights to and from New York, air taxi anywhere, rental, instruction. New, low, special long-haul charter rates.”

Montauk Caribbean Airways offered similar service, the half-dozen destinations in its route system encompassing Block Island, Boston, East Hampton itself, Fishers Island, Montauk, and New York-La Guardia, according to its August 22, 1979 timetable. “Down east, down south, one of America’s oldest scheduled commuter services,” it had advertised.

The two-year later appearance of Trump Air, operating rotary-wing helicopter service to New York helipads, resulted in a price-war between the three East Hampton carriers and ultimately led to their demise.

Another early operator, Farmingdale-Republic based Long Island Airlines, which acquired Montauk Caribbean in 1985 and had operated a fleet of twin-engine Grumman Widgeon amphibians, advertised, “Now you can fly to New York in twin-engine Grumman Widgeons. All-metal construction, twin Ranger engines, quiet, spacious, well-ventilated cabin make it the ultimate in present day medium size aircraft. You fly in the Widgeon with the same complete confidence and peace of mind that you ride in your deluxe motor car. You lounge in relaxation as distance shrinks swiftly under your wing tips. You can chat or read or work as easily as in your home or office. The Widgeon’s rugged Grumman construction is your assurance of dependable air transportation. Flown by thoroughly trained pilots, with many hours of flight time both on land and water, the time-pressed businessman will find this service the answer to his transportation problem.”


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