Show me the airlines. That’s been the skeptic’s response to expressions of optimism that Long Island MacArthur Airport is ready to rebound. And for too long, such proof was lacking. The number of flights kept dropping, negotiations with new carriers kept coming up empty, and the Ronkonkoma terminal began feeling like a ghost town.
So the last two months have been refreshing. Two new airlines have landed at MacArthur. Elite Airways will start flying June 17 to Portland, Maine; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Melbourne, Florida, with eventual service on to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. National Airlines will offer six weekly round trips to Puerto Rico later this year. And Islip Town, which owns MacArthur, has cobbled together enough funding for a customs facility that would allow international flights. That will greatly expand travel horizons for Long Islanders, while presumably creating demand for more connecting flights for overseas visitors.
MacArthur might indeed be taking off. So we offer a travel advisory for Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, who has guided this revival: Make sure the planning stays one step ahead. A planned temporary customs facility eventually will be replaced by a permanent one. Build a new terminal on the airport’s north side, very close to the Ronkonkoma train station, and put customs there. The LIRR would be able to offer faster service to points west once the second rail project is finished. Easy and quick train-to-the-plane service would only benefit the airport.
MacArthur is poised to finally fulfill its potential as a truly regional asset, and the right mix of town, county and state leaders is in place to make that happen. But they must continue to think big and plan well for MacArthur to truly take flight. — The editorial board