Long Island’s Own – MacArthur Airport

Formerly known as Islip, Long Island MacArthur Airport is Ronkonkoma’s main public airport serving over two million passengers annually. The airport covers 1,311 acres of land with two helipads and three runways. However, it doesn’t only serve Ronkonkoma but also Suffolk and Nassau counties as an alternative to the LaGuardia and JFK airports.

So, if you’re also looking for an alternative to the stated airports, MacArthur is where you want to be. While it may not get you everywhere, it will surely help you get to Florida. After all, it isn’t one of the best small airports in the country for nothing. Here’s everything and more you need to know about it.

Being from the Hudson Valley we only take this airport when there are no other options, not that it is a poor airport. The drive is quite a hike for us. I have nothing, but good things to say about MacArthur though. They do a great job and the TSA agents are really fun and approachable. Whomever is their manager over their should get a raise.

Interesting Facts About the Airport’s History

  • After the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1942, the airport was constructed on land owned by Islip town for military purposes during the war.
  • It took a year to build the airport based on rough estimates. It cost around $1.5 million.
  • Initially, the airfield only had three 5000-foot runways.
  • The airport was later renamed after General Douglas MacArthur.
  • The airport is currently operated and owned by the Town of Islip. Previously it was owned by the US Army Air Corps.
  •  Lockheed Aircraft Corporation built the first-ever hangar of the airport in 1944.
  • The only fatality to occur during a flight here was in 1955 when a United Airlines test flight crashed, killing around three crew members.
  • The first ever airline to operate scheduled passenger service was Allegheny Airlines in 1960.
  • The biggest breakthrough for the airport came about in 1986 when it handled over one million passengers in a year.
  • The longest runway at the airport is 7,006 feet.
  • Over a decade ago, the FAA designated the airport an Official Metro Airport which meant that it was now grouped with Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia in travel searches for New York airports.
  • The airport has provided both direct and indirect employment to over 6,000 people.
  • This airport’s annual economic impact on the region is about $600 million annually.
  • A scene from the movie “The Out-of-Towners” was also shot here.

The Evolution of Long Island MacArthur Airport

While it was first established in the mid-20th century, by the end of it, the airport had completely been transformed. Expansion and growth continued in the early 21st century. However, the downfall came in the form of financial difficulties in the year 2014.

Nonetheless, the journey of its expansion is indeed applause-worthy. First came the Southwest Airlines terminal built in the year 2004, which consisted of four gates, restaurants, and shops.

The second phase of development gave the airport four more gates, saving passengers from the hassle of passing through the ticketing area to reach the baggage claim. With a more convenient exit point, passengers can easily reach ground transportation and even the airport’s roadway exit.

The major expansion the airport underwent was all due to the efforts of the Islip town supervisor of the time, Peter J. McGowan. However, the first phase of expansion almost resulted in a scandal since it was executed without approval from the state and violated safety and fire codes.

The New Control Tower

In 2010, the airport welcomed a new control tower to replace the one built in the 1960s. A new fuel farm also assisted the supply of fuel in greater quantities. The expansion continued in different capacities, adding better amenities to the airport.

Some of them were the free courtesy cell phone parking and wireless internet services throughout the terminal. The last phase of expansion began in the year 2017. It was aimed at providing the airport with a US Customs Station to entice airlines to add Long Island MacArthur Airport to their destinations.

Since then, various marketing campaigns have also been launched to attract more passengers and airlines. The same year, the airport announced service to ten new cities using the Airbus A321.

Incidents at the Airport

Unfortunately, Long Island MacArthur Airport has also been in the grip of accidents. Some of them were:

  • Crashing of the United Airlines test flight in 1955 killed all crew members on board.
  • A US Army National Guard “Huey” helicopter crashed while attempting to land in fog. Two people died, and two were injured in the accident.
  • In 2011, a Piedmont Airlines Flight on behalf of American Airlines was diverted here as it was struck by lightning. Fortunately, the diversion was successful, and all 33 passengers were saved.
  • This year, a Hawker 1000 collided with a Pilatus PC12 on the ramp. However, no one endured an injury, and investigations are still underway.

Long Island MacArthur Airport In Popular Culture

The airport has been a frequent filming location for several directors. Apart from the 1970s film “The Out-of-Towners,” it has also made an appearance in the following:

  • “Ricki and the Flash” in 2014
  •  “Non-Stop” in 2012
  • “Every Day” (an independent movie) starring Brian Dennehy, Liey Schreiber, and Helen Hunt.
  • A 2010 comedy “Louie” where several scenes were filmed at the airport.
  •  The singer Sean Paul’s music video “She Doesn’t Mind” from 2011.

How to Reach Long Island MacArthur Airport

Take the Long Island Expressway from the west of NYC and take a turn at exit 57 southwards. Then, take a right at the second set of traffic lights and travel about 5 miles to Johnson Avenue. If you’re traveling from the Hamptons, take exit 50A and go northwards on Sunrise Highway, as it goes straight to Johnson Avenue. From here, follow the signs to get to the airport.

Wrapping Up!

All in all, Long Island MacArthur Airport is a medium-sized airport that has undergone various phases of development to become what it is today. With no lines, easy boarding, and quick access to gates, it has effortlessly made its spot in the country’s top ten small airports.

The McClain Family

We hope we helped. Please let us know of any place that you want to know about in NYS or if we did a poor job with any part of this. Our goal is to help as many people as possible.

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