A historical footnote: It was a quarter-century ago this month -- March 13, 1987, to be exact -- that Fairchild-Republic Co. in Farmingdale closed its doors, 63 years after inventor Sherman Fairchild opened the company for business.
Many older "propeller heads," as they call themselves, remember Fairchild-Republic. Probably its most famous airplane was the World War II-era P-47 Thunderbolt, also known as the "Jug." The P-47 was one of the main U.S. Army Air Force fighters of the war.
Fairchild-Republic also built the Air Force's A-10 Warthog, which was used in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Its last airplane, an Air Force trainer known as the T-46A, never went into full-scale production. The company closed when the Pentagon decided against buying the trainer plane for budgetary reasons.
More than 2,500 people were working at Fairchild-Republic when it closed, and its demise was the beginning of the end for Long Island's once mighty military aviation industry. The much larger Grumman Corp. would be acquired in 1994 by Los Angeles-based Northrop Corp. The industry that in the mid-1980s employed over 80,000 people on Long Island now employs about 30,000.
"There were big cutbacks in military spending" by the end of the 1980s, said Joshua Stoff, curator of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. "Everybody was affected."