Will LI MacArthur Become an International Airport?

Officials are pushing for Long Island MacArthur Airport to become an international airport.
Officials are pushing for Long Island MacArthur Airport to become an international airport.

Plans to convert Long Island MacArthur Airport (LIMA) into an international airport are about to takeoff.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) and Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan discussed the initial push for the airport transformation Monday at a press conference outside the airport in Ronkonkoma.

“I love this airport because it is convenient, it is safe, and no matter when you come here, you’re always No. 1 for takeoff,” said Israel. “I also love this airport because it is a critical engine for our economy.”

The airport generates $184 million in economic activity per year and also has created 1,600 jobs, in addition to the 200 new business permits and four hotels in the area. The transformation would further stimulate the economy by increasing local tourism, Israel said.

Southwest Airlines and U.S. Airways Express currently provide domestic flights in and out of LIMA.

Israel sent letters to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking the agencies to explore the proposal.

“The support of the FAA is critical to any new operations, and of course, in order to bring international air service to MacArthur Airport—even from pre-cleared countries—requires a dedicated customs presence,” said Nolan.

The Town of Islip launched a joint campaign with two prominent business organizations—the Long Island Association and the Association for a Better Long Island—to make the airport transformation a top priority.

“Long Island MacArthur Airport has reinvented itself into a 21st century state-of-the-art transportation hub,” said Desmond Ryan, executive director of Association for a Better Long Island. “The business community has a responsibility to be vocal, to be effective and to be a champion of Long Island ‘air power.’”

LIMA already has the room to begin accepting international flights. The runway for 757 planes is the exact length as the same runway at LaGuardia International Airport in Queens.

In 2010, more than 48 million tourists visited New York City, and of these, 20 percent came from international destinations. Nolan believes converting LIMA will relieve some of the congestion at JFK and LaGuardia.

While no major commercial airlines have committed yet to this proposal, the first steps involve the approval of the FAA and CBP. Israel hopes a meeting between all the concerned parties can be arranged sometime in the coming weeks.

Though price figures have also not been discussed, Nolan said that if everything goes perfectly, LIMA may see its first international flights takeoff within a two-year time frame.

The quest resumes Wednesday when LIMA Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto will meet with airlines to discuss the initial steps in making this proposal a reality.