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Keep air-control jobs on Long Island

A Southwest airliner taxis to the terminal at

A Southwest airliner taxis to the terminal at Long Island MacArthur Airport. (Feb. 24, 2011) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It would be a shame if an important technological advance for air travel were to become a job-loser for Long Island. But it could happen.

Part of the plan for launching the long-awaited, satellite-based NextGen air-traffic control system is merging two control centers now in Ronkonkoma and Westbury. Federal Aviation Administration officials haven’t decided where the new Integrated Control Facility will be built, but they said it will be within a 150-mile radius of New York City.

Members of the Long Island congressional delegation and local officials are scrambling to persuade FAA officials to build it on Long Island. Excuse the blatant parochialism, but they should.

That would mean keeping the 430 controller jobs currently on Long Island, and adding hundreds more of the six-figure positions to the local economy.

The delegation and other officials need to quickly identify an appropriate 60-acre site. The FAA has until June 14 to report its consolidation plans to Congress. That deadline could slip — they often do in government. But there’s no time for the sort of NIMBY or IMBY bickering that delays or derails so much development on Long Island.