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Brookhaven Town plans fee hike for pilots at Calabro Airport

Brookhaven Town's plan to raise revenue by hiking fees at Calabro Airport has drawn the ire of some pilots who say the extra charges could prompt them to stay away from the public airport altogether.

The town currently charges pilots $5 to land at the Shirley airport. The town board Tuesday scheduled a March 23 public hearing on a proposal to triple the landing fee.

The heftier fee would bring the town "more in alignment with surrounding airports offering similar or same amenities," town records state. Calabro, which some officials have said loses $500,000 per year, handles more than 135,000 takeoffs and landings annually, according to the town's Web site.

Town officials say the new fees would bring Calabro more in line with other regional airports such as Westhampton Beach's Gabreski, which charges variable fees. For example, a commercial twin engine plane of less than 12,500 pounds pays $25 to $33.25 depending on the time of day.

But Jeff McArthur, president of GACE Flying Club in Ronkonkoma, said the higher fees could be a disincentive to use the airport at all, especially in a bad economy.

"Now you start adding these fees on and I think it could cause a financial deterrent to anyone who's looking to go in and get their private pilot license," McArthur said.

Calabro's landing fees last went up, from $2 to $5, in 2006.

Town officials project that the higher fees would raise about $18,000 extra per year. Several types of aircraft, including aircraft based at Calabro, would remain exempt from paying any landing fees, town records state.

The town has been seeking ways to balance Calabro's budget for a few years. Supervisor Mark Lesko's fiscal 2010 budget included scaled down hours at the airport, which is located off of William Floyd Parkway.

Calabro, constructed during World War II to provide logistical help to the U.S. Army Air Corps, is a general aviation airport that serves small planes and Dowling College's School of Aviation.

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