The History of Long Island MacArthur Airport’s Florida Service

Introduction:

While Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport struggled for identity and purpose during the first three decades of its scheduled service existence, with turboprop commuter flights to northeast destinations and pure-jet, trunk-carrier BAC-111-200s, DC-9-30s, and 727-100s to Albany, Washington-National, and Chicago-O’Hare with the likes of Allegheny/USAir and American, what was needed was a market that would produce consistent demand, putting the regional air field on the map. That market, not filled until the early-1980s, was Florida and it has remained its lifeblood ever since.

First to provide the vital Long Island-Florida link was Northeastern International Airways.

1980’s:

Long aware of the need to connect Long Island’s only commercial airport with both sunshine state retired parents and its beaches with winter tourists, Stephen L. Quinto, born in the Bronx in 1935, but raised on Long Island itself, combined deregulation with bottom basement aircraft leases and took the bold step of injecting Islip with its first nonstop Florida air service, specifically to Ft. Lauderdale, enabling residents to avoid the drive to and congestion of the major New York airports, particularly JFK and La Guardia.

The inaugural equipment, taking from as a single 185-passenger, all-coach configured DC-8-50 previously operated by Evergreen International Airways, departed on February 11, 1982, bound for Ft. Lauderdale. What may have become a luxury decades later, the low, unrestricted fares assessed to fly in it included baggage check-in and in-flight beverages and snacks. While it operated four times per week and once to Orlando, a second aircraft of the same type facilitated increased frequencies and destinations.

Passenger numbers, which affected airport revenues through concession fees, hovered at the 150,000-mark since Northeastern’s almost 11-month debut and pointed to promise for both the carrier and the airport.

Aircraft numbers also translated into additional destinations. In this case, two 128-passneger, former Pan Am 727-100s eventually facilitated seven daily departures to Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, and St. Petersburg, and the tri-jets were soon joined by a trio of long-range DC-8-62s.

Officials from the Town of Islip, which owned and operated Long Island MacArthur, were, to put it mildly, pleased, since 6,597 air carrier movements and 546,996 passengers were recorded in 1983 due in significant part to Northeastern and Quinto’s vision.

The following year, its February 9, 1984 system timetable bore witness to its success, with three departures to Ft. Lauderdale at 0840, 1600, and 1945; one to Orlando at 0950; two to St. Petersburg at 1000 and 1945; and one to West Palm Beach at 1515.

But success could sometimes be equated with smart, and Quinto’s Northeastern became too enthusiastic in breaking from its traditional narrow body Florida niche by leasing four 314-passenger widebody Airbus A300B2s and routing them, often in competition with incumbent carriers, transcontinentally from Miami to Los Angeles with intermediate stops in New Orleans, among other routes. Larger capacity 727-200s had also been acquired.

Indeed, by the summer of 1984, it operated 16 DC-8s, 727s, and A300s to 17 US cities on 66 daily sectors, recording the highest load factors, of 71.5 percent, of any US airline, enabling it to grow into the 18th largest domestic carrier as measured by revenue passenger miles.

However, passenger numbers at inadequate fares yielded losses and the inability to meet payments, prompting aircraft returns, service discontinuations, and employee layoffs, and forcing its January 3, 1985 bankruptcy filing with $28 million in assets and $48 million in liabilities.

Returning to its roots with a single no-frills Islip-Ft. Lauderdale segment, it progressively re-expanded to Orlando, St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach. Fares as low as $49.00, however, could not sustain its financial lift, resulting in a four-month service suspension, during which Quinto made several last-ditch efforts to secure aircraft, including the lease of ten Braniff International 727-200s, those of United, and a single MD-82 from Alisarda. Some subservices were operated by All Star Airlines and Emerald Air with DC-9s.

Although it could not return to its former glory and permanently ceased operations in 1986, the 10,750 air carrier movements and 810,751 passengers recorded two years earlier, its last full-year of operations, indicated that the Long Island-Florida market was the airport’s missing link, toward which Northeastern had served as its catalyst, and its legacy would be reflected by every airline that subsequently filled it. And there were many that did.

First to fill the void was Eastern Airlines. Operating the largest aircraft from the MacArthur field, it routed a daily, 199-passenger 757-200 between Boston and Ft. Lauderdale in 1985, which touched down there on both its south- and northbound sectors. Fares were $99.00. While its operation was brief, the next decade awaited with several carriers lining up to serve the route.

1990’s:

Although its own reign would be equally brief, Braniff, the third rendition to carry the Thomas Braniff name, commenced its own Islip-Ft. Lauderdale and -Orlando service in July of 1991 with $69.00 introductory fares. They rose to $119.00 for Monday to Wednesday travel.

Its daily 727-100, operating as Flight 111, departed MacArthur at 0800 and landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 1045. A 30-minute turn-around saw it take off at 1115, now as Flight 112, and touch down again on Long Island soil at 1350. Suffering from the same inadequate cash flow malady as its two previous versions, however, it ceased service in June of the following year.

A temporary, although ultimately permanent, replacement appeared in the guise of Carnival Airlines on July 31.

Created as a single-class, low-fare deregulation carrier, it transported passengers from the northeast to the sunspots of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

Initially experimenting with the market during the winter of 1991 to 1992, it only operated for a two-week period, but did not attract sufficient traffic to support its 737-400s. Yet Braniff’s exit, which left it without competition, screamed of the need for a replacement, since it, along with Northeastern and Eastern, had established a low-fare market. Like all three, it began with a single daily Ft. Lauderdale rotation.

Established by Carnival Cruise Lines’ founder and CEO, Ted Arison, to funnel people to its principle Miami and Ft. Lauderdale cruise embarkation points, it purchased Pacific Interstate Airlines for this purpose, which itself had been created in 1984 to operate charter flights from its Las Vegas base to Los Angeles. Yet its brief history was directionless, with both frequent name and strategy changes.

A year after it planted its West Coast roots, it adopted the Pacific Inter Air designation and in 1987 rebranded itself Bahamas Express, at least shifting toward Carnival’s eventual eastern seaboard territory, with flights from several cities to Freeport. Although Carnival’s 1988 acquisition saw it adopt the title of “Fun Air,” this name never graced an airplane. Instead, its cruise ship passengers were initially transported on Majestic Air 727-100s.

Originally based in Dania Beach, Florida, it subsequently relocated to Ft. Lauderdale, amassing a narrow and widebody fleet of five 737-200s, eight 737-400s, six 727-200s, and six A300B4-200s, employing some 1,300 personnel, and serving Islip, Newark, and New York-JFK in the northeast; Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa, and West Palm Beach in Florida; Nassau in the Bahamas; Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands; and Aguadilla, Ponce, and San Juan in the Caribbean.

Its simplified frequent flyer program advised, “Earn a free ticket after only ten round trips on Carnival Air Lines.”

In 1992 it carried just over a million passengers, a 43.9-percent increase, and earned $88.5 million in revenues, a 67.8-percent increase.

Its winter 1993-1994 flight schedule, which became effective on December 16, included two daily MacArthur departures to Ft. Lauderdale-Flight KW 31 at 1245 and Flight KW 35 at 2035; one to Tampa, Flight KW 41 at 1110; and one to West Palm Beach, Flight KW 33 at 1835.

Yet its life would only span a decade. Mid-1990 fuel prices and Carnival Cruise Lines’ overambitious purchase of its Fantasy and Destiny classes of ships during the same period left little additional revenue to keep the carrier in the air, and it appeared an attractive takeover by the reincarnated Pan American Airways, which ultimately purchased it. The torch of Carnival Air Lines’ Long Island MacArthur Airport Florida service was subsequently passed to Pan Am when it fell under its umbrella.

The second carrier to sport its name, whose brand was acquired by an investment group, once again arose from the ashes to the sky in September of 1996, when a single Airbus A300, dubbed “Clipper Fair Wind,” inaugurated service on what was intended as a low-cost, US domestic and Caribbean route network.

Led by Martin Shugrue, Pan Am’s last Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Pan Am Corporation, its holding company, purchased Carnival the following September. Yet its rapid expansion, placing costs ahead of profits, only caused it, like so many other phoenix-rising airlines, to declare bankruptcy–in this case in February of 1998.

Although the interval was brief, 737-400s wearing the once-proud Pan American World Airways’ blue cheat line and vertical tail adorned globe did alight on Long Island.

Nevertheless, Carnival/Pan Am had considerably developed the Florida market with five daily departures to Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale.

Two other carriers had competed with it-AirTran in 1994 and USAir to Orlando in 1995.

As the Boeing 717’s launch customer, AirTran Airways itself traced its origins to predecessor ValuJet, which itself was founded by former Southern Airways and Eastern Airlines personnel to fill the void in Atlanta after the latter’s demise, inaugurating service on October 26, 1993 with two former Delta DC-9-30s between Atlanta and Tampa. Its MD-95 launch order would have made it the youngest airline to claim the title. It had posted a $67 million net profit on $367 million in revenues.

AirTran Airways, a low-fare carrier founded by AirTran Corporation shortly before this time, served 24 eastern and midwestern destinations with 11 737-200s from an Orlando hub.

Merging with ValuJet on November 17, 1997, it retained its name, but adopted ValuJet’s Atlanta hub, operating 227 daily departures to 45 cities with 31 DC-9-30s and the 11 737-200s by the following summer.

Next to enter the Florida fray was Delta Express, a low-fare, limited-service division of Delta Air Lines that was created to operate single-class, 119-passenger 737-200s on leisure routes. Because of its main carrier association, it attracted very high load factors.

Commencing service in 1998, it flew to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.

Another Florida service provider was Spirit Airlines, which appeared on the MacArthur ramp with its MD-80s and MD-87s in November of 1998.

Of significant size, stature, and longevity, however, was Southwest Airlines, which became instrumental in sparking Islip growth.

Selected, after a two-year search for a third northeast city to serve after Manchester, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island, MacArthur joined a list of six potential secondary airports, including Newburgh’s Stewart International, White Plains’ Westchester Country, Connecticut’s Harford and New Haven, Trenton Mercy County, and New Jersey’s Teterboro, the latter of which never fielded commercial operations. Because of the 1.6 million living within the vicinity of Islip, local business health, and its “underserved, overpriced air service,” which, according to then-Southwest Chief Executive Officer, Herb Kelleher, was “ripe for competition,” Long Island MacArthur most filled its requirements.

Lacking sufficient space for the intended operation, however, it was subsequently subjected to a $13 million renovation, which entailed a 62,000-square-foot terminal expansion and an extension of the existing short-term parking lot.

Service inauguration, initially employing two Southwest-dedicated gates, occurred on March 14, 1999 with 12 daily 737-700 departures, including eight to Baltimore, two to Chicago-Midway, one to Nashville, and one to Tampa, all of which provided through or connecting service to 29 other carrier-served destinations. Islip was the 53rd city in its 27th state. Florida, admittedly, was little more than a footnote at this stage, but that would change. And the other two Long Island-sunshine state linking airlines continued to expand during the last two months of the decade.

On November 20, 1999, for example, Spirit Airlines inaugurated nonstop Orlando service, marking its seventh daily one to five Florida cities, while Delta Express followed suit with its own inaugural to Tampa 11 days later on December 1, equally resulting in seven daily MacArthur departures when combined with its four existing ones to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.

Three airlines thus offered 15 daily flights to five Florida destinations: seven Delta Express 737-200s to Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa; one Southwest 737-700 to Tampa, and seven Spirit MD-80s to Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach.

2000’s:

The next decade was categorized by airline exit and entry and schedule and frequency adjustments, but Florida-bound passenger counts continued to climb.

In January of 2000, for instance, Spirit Airlines and Delta Express respectively carried 41,804 and 29,865 passengers, 91- and 44-percent increases over the year-earlier period.

By February, with Southwest’s addition of a second Tampa frequency and the inauguration of an Orlando route, daily Florida departures rose to 17.

By mid-year-specifically August 6-Southwest introduced seven additional flights from Islip, including a third daily one to Nashville and new service to Providence, Jacksonville, and Ft. Lauderdale, resulting in a daily quintet reach with its existing single rotation to Orlando and dual rotations to Tampa.

In the first six months of the year, it carried 447,000 passengers. The comparable Spirit and Delta Express totals, which only entailed Florida routes, were 240,286 and 210,000.

But the pull of a larger New York airport-in this case, La Guardia-changed MacArthur’s triplet of sunshine state serving airlines. Spirit, which already dispatched five daily aircraft to three destinations from the Manhattan-proximity field, entirely relocated there on September 4 in order to take advantage of 20 newly acquired slots, demonstrating deregulation’s underlying freedom of allowing carriers to freely enter and exit a market and exemplifying, at least in this case, that the secondary Long Island facility was used when capacity at a primary New York one was unavailable.

Slot availability became the third reason why a Florida carrier discontinued service there. Aggressive expansion beyond its inceptional, low-fare, competition-devoid niche with widebody aircraft, as had occurred with Northeastern, proved the first, while a merger with a debt-ridden airline, coupled with deviations from its northeast-Florida traffic flow, as had occurred with Carnival, was the second.

Because of Spirit’s autumn exodus, Long Island MacArthur recorded a 6.9-percent passenger decrease in the fourth quarter of 2000.

As 2001 dawned, the promise of Spirit replacement service to cater to unrelenting demand hung in the air and it was delivered on August 5. While a third Southwest departure to Chicago-Midway was introduced, a reduction, from three to two, in Nashville frequencies enabled it to link Long Island with West Palm Beach for the first time in September, resulting in six daily departures to the five Florida cities of Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale, and 23 overall.

Delta Express was the next carrier to exit stage-left. A second Delta Air Lines subsidiary, Song, intended to more effectively compete with low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest with larger, 199-seat 757-200s, was deemed inappropriate for the Long Island market and was created to replace smaller Delta Express with its 25-strong, 119-passenger 737-200 fleet. As those aircraft were retired, both destinations and frequencies decreased.

In 2001, for instance, it carried 290,000 passengers from Islip, down from its 539,500-peak, but this figure was reduced to a fourth the following year with 77,500. In July of 2003, the Delta division entirely disappeared.

Southwest once again stepped up to the plate. On September 4, 2002, it offered one additional flight to both Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.

Exercising incumbent clout, it had thus replaced Northeastern, Eastern, Braniff, Carnival, Pan Am, Spirit, and Delta Express to Ft. Lauderdale; Northeastern, Eastern, Braniff, Carnival, Pan Am, AirTran, Spirit, Delta Express, and USAir to Orlando; and Northeastern (St. Petersburg), Carnival, Pan Am, Spirit, and Delta Express to Tampa.

Its triumph, illustrating its strong financial position, was the result of its ability to gain market share released by weaker carriers during challenging economic times, fostering its own growth at the expense of another’s retrenchment.

Southwest’s Florida penetration continued. By March of 2002, it operated eight daily flights, including one to Jacksonville, two to Orlando, two to Tampa, one to West Palm Beach, and two to Ft. Lauderdale. Three and a half years later, with an October 5, 2005 Ft. Myers addition, its daily dispatch had almost doubled: five to Orlando, one to Ft. Myers, three to Tampa, three to West Palm Beach, and three to Ft. Lauderdale for a total of 15..

After another three-year interval, a once-familiar tenet reappeared on the MacArthur tarmac. Citing ease of access and lack of congestion, and incentivized by a 50-percent landing fee reduction during its first year of operation, Spirit Airlines, this time operating next-generation Airbus A319s, re-introduced two daily round trips to Ft. Lauderdale on May 1, 2008 with $7.00 introductory fares. Connections could be made to 23 Caribbean and Latin American destinations through its south Florida hub.

Teresa Rizzuto, who assumed now-retired Al Werner’s Commission for Aviation and Transportation at MacArthur positon, commented at the time, “Mid-sized airports are the fastest growing sector in commercial aviation. And in that group, we’ve had some of the fastest growth. New York City’s airports are maxed out.”

Offering competitive Ft. Lauderdale service with Southwest, Spirit’s two daily flights were projected to generate some $300,000 in annual airport revenues derived from parking fees, car rentals, and other concessions.

Marking Islip’s first regularly scheduled Airbus Industrie operation, the twin-engine A319 touched down on Runway 06 at 0954, taxiing through a dual fire truck created water arch to the gate before redeparting at 1030 as Flight 833 with a high load factor. The three-hour sector saw it touch down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida’s Venice with its Intracoastal Waterways, at 1330. The second frequency, Flight 837, departed at 1925 and arrived at 2225.

Both were part of Spirit’s more than 200 systemwide flights to 43 destinations. But the weak flicker of Long Island light they provided was doused fever than three months later when escalating fuel prices and declining economic conditions forced their discontinuation on July 31, leaving a fading promise of return, for a third time, when more advantageous circumstances merited them. They never did.

2010’s:

The fourth decade of Long Island MacArthur Airport’s Florida service brought equally unrealized promises, but ultimate hope.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, an ultra-low fare airline serving vacation markets from secondary airports, foresaw the need to connect Long Island with Florida’s west coast-in this case, with another secondary airport, Punta Gorda, which was an alternative to Ft. Myers. Islip was its 99th city that served one of 14 leisure destinations.

Designated Flight 999, the December 20, 2013 inaugural service, occurring on the threshold of the traditional winter period, was operated with a 166-passenger MD-80 and departed at 1920 local time. Fares for the twice weekly round trips were $69.00 one way or $99.00 return.

Although they were discontinued on May 14 of the following year with the intention of being reinstated during the winter 2014-2015 period, they never were.

Elite Airways was the next carrier to taxi up to a MacArthur gate with the intention of serving another secondary Florida city-in this case, Melbourne.

Founded in 2016 and certified as a Part 121 air carrier, it located its headquarters in Portland, Maine, but its maintenance, crew training, sales, and marketing departments took root in its intended destination. Offering, as reflected by its name, a quality travel experience, it operated an all-regional jet fleet, consisting of a single 50-passenger CRJ-100, five 50-passenger CRJ-200s, and five 70-passenger CRJ-700s, offering charter services and transporting college and professional sports teams, executives, and VIPs for the first half-dozen years of its existence before undertaking scheduled flights.

These, in the northeast-to-Florida corridor, included Portland and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as well as Melbourne, an identity echoed in its slogan of “Melbourne’s hometown airline.”

Like that of Allegiant Air, it was twice weekly-in this case, on Friday and Sunday-and seasonal, with $149.00 introductory fares, when its inaugural CRJ-700 departed Long Island soil on June 17, 2016.

Seasonal, as had already been demonstrated, could by synonymous with suspicious-of its return. Elite did and did not. The expected January 5 to February 16, 2017 suspension did precede a reappearance, but the second, between April and July of that year, did not.

Instead, it would be 16 months, or not until September 6, 2018, that it once again transported passengers, this time on two weekly, Thursday and Sunday, CRJ-200s to Melbourne, whose rotations entailed an 0800 departure and a 1045 arrival as Flight 7Q 21 and a northbound return at 1600 and alight at 1845 as Flight 7Q 24.

Although it offered Long Island originators one-stop service to Bimini, Bahamas, its low load factors prompted its permanent departure.

Hope came in the form of Denver-based Frontier Airlines in May of 2017 when it announced $39.00 introductory, unbundled fares on its intended Islip-Orlando sector. Part of its latest strategy of doubling its size over the next five years, Islip was one of 21 new destinations it added to the 61 it already served. Contrasted to New York’s La Guardia Airport, from which it already operated, Long Island MacArthur was devoid of road and passenger terminal congestion and had more than adequate airport facilities, inclusive of check-in counters, gates, and ramp space.

Its inaugural flight, operated by an Airbus A320 that landed at 0936 on August 16, 2017 and was greeted with a water curtain, became the outbound F9 1779, which was off the blocks at 1045. The return, F9 1778, was scheduled to land at 2155.

Frontier’s dual-phase Islip expansion entailed inaugural services to Ft. Myers, Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, and West Palm Beach two months later, on October 5, and Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis on April 9, 2018, all operated with 150-passenger A319s, 186-passenger A320s, and 230-passenger A321s.

Because of the ultra-low fare nature of its operations, which required high load factors not always achievable at MacArthur, it immediately planned season frequency adjustments, destination substitutions, and altogether eliminations, leaving airport officials and passengers alike to wonder if Frontier would become just another fly-by-night carrier. But this was not necessarily the case.

Toward the Next Decade:

After 22 months of service from Islip, Frontier Airlines carried its one millionth passenger from it in June of 2019, making it the fastest growing of the three current carriers (Southwest and American Eagle included) and the airport itself the fastest growing domestic hub as defined by the Department of Transportation.

In terms of Frontier, it transported 536,000 round trip passengers in 2018 or 33 percent of MacArthur’s 1.6 million total. In terms of the airport itself, its available airline seats, filled or otherwise, escalated from 1.70 million in 2017 to 2.17 million in 2018, itself a 27.6-percent increase, its three tenant airlines having provided more annual capacity than that of any year since 2010.

Although seating marginally increased after American Eagle substituted 50-passenger ERJ-145s for its previous 37-passenger DHC-8-100 turboprops and Southwest replaced some 737-700 departures with larger 737-800 ones, most of these encouraging figures resulted from Frontier’s high-density configured A320 family flights to Florida.

An additional 38 weekly round trips to Ft. Myers, Tampa, and West Palm Beach, scheduled for the winter 2019-2020 season, offered a hopeful indication that Frontier was there to stay.

In December of 2019, or one month before the turn of the next decade, 12 daily departures were offered to five sunshine state destinations by two airlines: one to Ft. Lauderdale, three to Orlando, one to Tampa, and two to West Palm Beach by Southwest; and one each to Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach by Frontier.

Like a deregulation-created storm of airline entry and exit, frequency and schedule changes, route additions and discontinuations, competition, and fare wars, Long Island MacArthur Airport has weathered four decades of uncertainty and instability. But because of unrelenting demand, nonstop Florida service was always offered by one airline or another, and, in most cases, by several at once.

Aviation History Themes: From the Documentary “To Fly” to Charles Lindbergh

THE SMITHSONIAN DOCUMENTARY “TO FLY:”

Perhaps the quest for speed and distance and the conquest of air had not initially been intended to change our self-perspective. But it ultimately achieved this.

When the first balloon had risen from the ground in 1783 in France, it not only signaled the dawn of aerial flight, it also provided the foundation of man’s first external perspective of himself-as if he had removed himself from the ground’s gravitational lock and looked back at himself for the first time. Conversely, this act was not without repercussion. The balloon’s gentle brush with the church steeple not only demonstrated the need for greater lateral control, it also became the first time an actual “intruder” from above had descended upon what consensus had hitherto considered firm, solid, inescapable “earth”-and, perhaps, the only populated one. Because this may have been the first real “small step for man,” it signaled aviation’s infantile beginning.

In its childhood as a machine of pleasure and speed, the 1920s barnstorming designs of piston engines, dual wings, fabric-covered airfoils, and wire bracing struts soon demonstrated their capabilities of conveyance and protection during their rapid World War I and II development by transcending distance, political boundary, country, and continent-and, ultimately, planet.

No other development in the history of human achievement had proceeded at such a rapid pace-in the process changing one’s conception of space and time. The first orbital, atmosphere- and gravity-escaping rocket launch, paralleling the first balloon flight, again provided entirely new, previously inexperienced vistas and perspectives-only now from a vastly increased height attained with exponential velocity. For all its development, the orbiting capsule was, in a paradoxical way, just as “fragile” in the atmosphereless void of space as the balloon had been. It was certainly just as developmentally infantile.

The space mission clearly demonstrated that air-space conquest had striven toward increasing speed and distance. But that mission, like the balloon’s, had only been the first baby-step toward the next stage of development and discovery. Who can predict what that will reveal?

Although the Smithsonian film, To Fly, traces the evolution of human transportation, its successive speed- and altitude-yielding technological advancements have permitted ever-greater distances to be negotiated. With these distances have come ever-changing self-perspectives. As the line “we live only in the narrowest of margins… snowflakes condensed momentarily in the snowstorms and firestorms of matter in space” inherently expresses, this further-reaching travel has demonstrated just how insignificant our position in time and space really is… and perhaps, on a comparative scale, just how fragile we really are. The greater the distance, it seems, the more modified the perspective. Although human-and particularly air and space-transportation has resulted in numerous benefits, it has also yielded a secondary evolution: of human perspective. Einstein’s theory of relativity entails a time/speed ratio. Could there not similarly be a distance/perspective ratio?

THE DEVELOPMENT OF AIR TRANSPORTATION:

The development of air transportation entailed a triple-phase evolution: that of lighter-than-air craft, heavier-than-air designs, and, ultimately, spaceflight.

Faced with hitherto unknown flight realms, the earliest pioneers first had to attain lift with their kites and balloons before subsequent designers could control it. As usually occurs when faced with the unknown, people met it with skepticism, fear, and superstition-explaining consensus thought about Da Vinci’s aerial creations as “works of the devil.” Undaunted, the early pioneers continued to conquer and tame the elements with increased stability, rigidity, speed, and strength. Skepticism slowly rolled into acceptance with demonstrable and further-reaching proof of design integrity with such crossings as those of the English Channel by Bleriot and the Atlantic by Lindbergh. The fact that both were water- as well as distance-coverages represented a simultaneous dual-element conquest: air and sea.

With resultant speed, distance, and reliability advancements, aerial flight increasingly facilitated war, trade, business, communications, and common passenger transport and therefore became increasingly integral to our lives. The emotional responses of fear and skepticism had thus come full cycle-to those of full-scale trust and dependence.

THE NORTH AMERICAN B-25 MITCHELL:

Designed in 1938 to fulfill an Air Corps requirement for a medium-range bomber, the B-25, then designated the NA-40, first flew in January of the following year with two 1,100-hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp engines, but it was subsequently destroyed.

Still impressed with the overall design, the Air Corps ordered a modified version, with tail gun installation, designated NA-62. It initiated test flying on August 19, 1940.

Perhaps its most famously symbolic mission had been the launching of 16 B-25s from the aircraft carrier Hornet on April 18, 1942 to commence the first aerial attack against Japan. Although all aircraft were lost, the mission nevertheless fulfilled its purpose.

Several successive versions were manufactured, including the 75-millimeter cannon derivative designated the B-25G and the 14.50 caliber gun-equipped B-25H-the latter of which qualified as WWII’s most extensively armed aircraft.

The B-25 Mitchell inspected at Farmingdale’s Republic Airport in September of 1995, tail number N3161G in olive green markings, revealed itself as a mid-wing monoplane with dual, 1,700-hp Wright Cyclone, three-bladed engines whose installation points provided the division between the wing root-to-engine wing dihedral and the engine-to-wing tip anhedral. The wing itself, devoid of leading edge devices, featured trailing edge dual-section plain flaps, again divided by the powerplants. Characteristics of the design were the dual vertical stabilizers mounted on either side of the horizontal tail. Forward and aft glazed gunner stations were provided, although both were devoid of seating or armament on this particular aircraft. Visibility was provided by a two-pane wrap-around windshield and two rectangular side windows on either side of the cockpit, which itself was above the forward gunner’s station. The aircraft sat on a single-wheeled, aft-retracting tricycle undercarriage.

Of the almost 11,000 B-25s produced-the most numerically popular of which had been the cannon-removed, 12 machine gun-equipped B-25J-the last had not been retired from service until January of 1959, two decades after its NA-40 prototype had first taken to the sky.

THE GREAT AIR RACE OF 1924:

Concurrent with every life cycle, there is a necessary period of disconnection from the safe, playful proximity of the womb in order to commence the maturing, autonomy-fostering sequence so that one may eventually be able to provide a bonafide function and purpose in the world. One thus becomes a “link” in the survival chain. The barnstormers and stunt pilots, generating interest through their acrobatics and speed, had hitherto demonstrated their aerial designs as playful apparatuses devoid of specific benefit or function. But, like their adolescent human counterparts, airplanes necessarily had to prove their reliability and worth by demonstrating their abilities to traverse distance and geographical boundary. Mitchell, believing that aircraft were the keys to future power, strength, and great utility, endorsed the global circumnavigation of four dual-crewed, Liberty engine-powered biplanes to fulfill such a purpose.

Perhaps to accomplish such a feat, man first had to sublimate his own survival to that of the greater survival of mankind-to risk, to dare, to prove, and to ultimately triumph. This, in part, mirrored the child-to-manhood phase. And risked they did: they contended mechanical failure, accident, diversion, snowstorm, sandstorm, squall line, fatigue, temperature polarity, and death. But mankind would ultimately reap the benefits from the seeds they sowed.

That the first aerial Pacific crossing had culminated in the attainment of their desired trajectory by but a single mile deviation certainly indicated that this aircraft “child” would lead a very fruitful, productive life.

Machines sometimes take on the personalities of those who design (and navigate) them. The fact that the airplane, in its quest to mature and prove its worth, emulated the human’s developmental cycle, almost imbued it with religious overtones: the airplane was designed “in his image”-and was therefore created to serve him.

The successful coverage of the earth’s 26,000 miles in 176 days provided the eternal foundation of aviation and, indirectly, of man himself. For what else could have been reflected in the aerial machine other than the human who had breathed life into it so that it could facilitate him, becoming, like the matured adult, the newest link in the survival chain?

And of the post-adult and -human cycle: is it not symbolic that the 1924 air race entailed a complete earthly circumference? Perhaps like life itself, the race made a complete circle to return to its place of origin. Do all things not begin anew… ?

THE MOVIE “THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS:”

Poised on the threshold of any bold endeavor, one invariably faces the moment when his abilities, skills, and beliefs become directly pitted against the event. Despite all prior preparation and conviction, doubts invariably filter through, shackling confidence and reason, and they must be counteracted with a retracing of the steps which led to the present decision. During the apprehensive, restless night prior to his solo transatlantic crossing, Lindbergh experienced just such a phenomenon.

Rehearsing his past to rebuild temporarily lost confidence, he reasoned his way through the events which had prepared him for his undertaking. Having braved a blinding, stinging snowstorm enroute to Chicago during his mail-carrying days in an open-cockpit biplane and suffering engine loss, he had parachuted to an icy field as the aircraft patterned into a spin and crashed. Ultimately covering the remaining distance by train, he determined that a transatlantic crossing would dispel such a reputation of unreliability and demonstrate commercial aviation’s full potential. With its technological infancy now having been outgrown, it had entered its adolescent, maturity-seeking phase-if the world could only be made aware of this fact.

Although Lindbergh’s investors saw his solo pilotage in a single-propeller design devoid of navigator and sextant as dangerous and dependent upon 40 hours of vigilance and control, his ultimate intent was to sublimate the inherent weight reduction to increased range.

Ryan Airlines, Inc., of San Diego, produced the specified design with a 4,000-mile range during a 63-day period utilizing round-the-clock manufacturing schedules in order to beat Europe-emanating competition. The fact that the aircraft was a streamlined, high-wing monoplane indicated that Lindbergh’s ideals were already being realized. The actual flight would certainly seal the fate of this fact.

Following its almost symbolic rollout into the fog-shrouded dawn prior to departure on May 20, 1927, the silver Ryan monoplane was plunged into the darkness, doubt, and obscurity of consensus belief concerning the attempt, yet the tiny orange glow piercing the sky on the horizon somehow reflected promise and hope-a target for which to aim. From the present standpoint, however, France was just as infinitesimal in size.

The precarious, mud- and water-impeding take off, which barely cleared the tree line at the perimeter of Long Island’s Roosevelt Field, led to a course paved with lack of visibility, black of night, icing conditions, insecurity, sleep deprivation, self-doubt, and much soul-searching.

But Lindbergh ultimately triumphed-with God and perhaps his former student priest pilot’s prayer carrying him the last hundred yards to the ground. Charles Lindbergh, through his 3,610-mile struggle, in the process parented commercial aviation into maturity.

THE BOEING B-17 FLYING FORTRESS:

A sense of awe is invariably evoked in a person when he stands face-to-face with an historically significant aircraft, such as I did on a crystal blue, summer-temperature day in mid-October at Farmingdale’s Republic Airport. The olive-green B-17, resting on its conventional undercarriage and bearing the registration 124485 and the name Memphis Bell on either side of its nose, dwarfed the line of light Beech, Cessna, and Piper recreational aircraft. In many ways, the B-17 dwarfed all other designs during WWII, regardless of their size.

Designed to meet the Army Air Corps requirement for a multi-engine anti-shipping bomber, Boeing broke from the standard twin-engine design by doubling the number of powerplants to significantly increase payload, range, and service ceiling. The resultant Model 299, powered by four 750-hp Pratt and Whitney Hornet, three-bladed pistons, first flew on July 28, 1935-and was crewed by eight and could carry a payload of eight 600-lb bombs.

So inherently flexible had the basic low-wing, dorsal-finned aircraft been, however, that it was progressively adapted for varying roles with turbocharged Wright Cyclone engines for higher-altitude performance, increased area rudder and flaps for greater effectiveness on the B-17B, and self-sealing tanks, flush guns, and a ventral bathtub on the B-17C-20 of which had been operated by the RAF. The B-17D weathered most of the flak in the Pacific theatre. The succeeding B-17E incorporated a larger fin for high-altitude bombing accuracy, a powered dorsal, increased armor protection, and ventral and tail turrets.

So instrumental had the design been to the war, in fact, that Boeing, Lockheed, and Douglas all simultaneously churned out copies in staggering numbers. The 3,405 B-17Fs produced featured the newly introduced long Plexiglas nose, paddle-wing propellers, and underwing rack provision. The ultimate and most numerically popular version, the B-17G introduced in 1942, featured a chin turret and flush staggered waist guns and accounted for an additional 8,680-unit production.

Through 12,731 aircraft, battle over Europe and in the Pacific, and indispensability in mission after mission victory, aircraft 124485 proudly stood before me in triumphantly gleaming morning sun to tell me her story.

US AIRLINE INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT:

According to Robert Crandall, chairman and CEO of American Airlines, “deregulation is anti-labor and transfers wealth from the employees’ pockets to the passengers’.” The dwindling spiral of deregulative force-driven airfares has resulted in higher-density seating, eroding service, increased daily aircraft utilization, and reduced profitability. Although these lower fares have produced explosive US passenger traffic growth-which, of late, has become an increasingly global trend-their inherent reduction leaves fewer monetary resources for aircraft purchases, training, salaries, and employee benefits, and has indirectly resulted in part-time, benefit-devoid, ground-service company employment.

Emphasizing this harsh reality were the common themes expressed by the two guest speakers: present conditions and acute competition have necessitated the ultimate-tuning of the preparation and application process, inclusive of applicable education, resume composition, and self-presentation during subsequent interview formalities. Based upon my own airline industry experience, networking and proper contacts have additionally never been more vital in securing adequately yielding positions.

Airline deregulation is current, still-evolving history. I have lived it! Deregulative forces–and not choice–have been the culprit and responsibility for my hitherto five-carrier, 15-year aerospace career. My personal prognosis regarding ground positions with US airlines is regrettably not optimistic: passengers will never forego the accessibility of air travel attained by means of low fares and airlines have thus far only been able-and some very unsuccessfully-to counteract this spiral with rampant service, salary, and benefit reductions. Equally regrettable is the fact that foreign flag carriers have increasingly emulated, rather than rejected, this pattern. Deregulation, whether in the originating US form or the maturing global guise has wrenched the foundation upon which airlines have traditionally rested: protectionism and adequately-sustaining fares.

LINDBERGH: THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH:

Human behavior is like language. A very clear message could well be in the process of being delivered vis-à-vis a person’s actions, but unless one has the ability to translate the statement, it becomes lost communication. The fact that a person’s stigmatized image of achievement and victory further clouds the message’s reception renders the task a double translation. These statements certainly apply to Charles Lindbergh… but only if focus is placed on the man behind the myth.

In order to understand the forces at work, one must first reduce some psychological concepts to simplified terms. I could not give you $5.00, for instance, unless I had $5.00-and unless someone had given it to me. Similarly, Lindbergh could not give love and emotions unless he had been given these feelings, particularly during childhood. People who attempt to navigate life with a hole of this size and significance in their souls characteristically exhibit personality traits of physical- and emotional-disconnection, reclusivity, antisocial tendencies, rigidity, “self-periphery living,” prejudice, and the perceived inability to err. Many powerful, well-known historical figures have sadly portrayed these traits.

That Lindbergh’s father had once left him in a lake in order for him to learn how to swim may have fostered an independence and self-reliance, but it also could have been the early origins of his mistrust. His mother, in shaking his hand each evening before he went to bed, certainly supported this perception of coldness, lack of love, and unconcern. Love is the nourishment of the self; without it, the self fails to develop and one retreats, withdraws, and numbs out-so much as that one can actually disconnect from physical and emotional pain in extreme cases. Lindbergh’s father, in proof, once braved an operation without anesthetic. And what little parental foundation Lindbergh himself had had crumbled at age five when his parents ultimately separated. Thus negotiating life with an undeveloped, unnourished self, he contended with self-estrangement and peripheral living. Unconnected to his inner “core,” he may never have known his true “self.”

Although he loved to fly, the act most likely provided an escape by severing all conscious connection with his painful past. Airborne, he was first able to attain “new heights,” superiority, triumph, and control. It could well have been the only “inner control” he had ever been able to feel. Flight provided a sense of validation: his acts of danger and daredevilism may have been a form of self-test and, when successful, or proof of self-worth, albeit fleeting: nevertheless, it was positive reinforcement and worth certainly never received during childhood. This degree of danger forced him to live “on the edge”-a condition which seemed to mirror his internal state. Self-estranged, childhood-emanating insecurity causes a person to live on the edge most of his life.

That he viewed himself as infallible with cement-like convictions is superficial proof of nothing and conversely indicates a mighty defense against deep-rooted, overwhelming insecurity-a feeling he most likely had never been able to tap into. This chronic need for “cover-up” and compensation usually results in absoluteness, singular-perspective thinking. In its extreme, it is unhealthy.

Although Lindbergh had been greatly lauded with awards, telegrams, gifts, packages, titles, and employment offers after his transatlantic crossing, could the crowds not have been unconsciously celebrating his disjointed toxic foundation which had driven him to the event? The world may have viewed him differently after the flight, but the man behind the triumph remained unchanged: he continued to be just as private, reclusive, and disconnected. A person cannot connect with others until he first connects with his own “self.”

His son’s kidnapping and death may have only strengthened his misbeliefs concerning the primary figures associated with his past and most likely served as a reflection of the world’s cruelty, causing him to tighten his grip on his numbed, unfeeling defenses. Only able to examine the tragedy analytically, he expressed no feeling, grief, or emotion. In its almost historical reenactment, the event, now directed at this son, most likely reinforced his childhood misconceptions and caused him to react the only way he was able to-to escape-an act he may have internally rehearsed every day of his life. Disconnection from the self is escape.

Unable to feel, Lindbergh could not “feel” for others: he was unable to make a distinction between Nazi concentration camp killings and those randomly occasioned by war. Could his endorsement of death not have been an agreeing expression of what he so desperately needed to act out during childhood against those who had failed to foster his needed caring and love and who, resultantly, instilled the initial mistrust in him? Infants who fail to establish a connection with a primary care-giver during the precious first few moments of life are unable to connect with their own “selves” and trust others to meet their needs.

The Regional Jet Airlines of Long Island MacArthur Airport

Introduction:

The story of the 50-seat regional jet, produced by Canadair and Embraer-and preceded, to a lesser degree, by the Fokker F.28 Fellowship and the British Aerospace BAe-146-was, in many ways, Long Island MacArthur Airport’s story, since the type finally facilitated major carrier aligned hub feed service. Representing larger airline reach to smaller and secondary airfields, it offered the same speed, block times, and comfort as the traditionally larger mainline jets, plugging the gap between them and the 19- to 50-passenger turboprop aircraft that were too small and too slow for many of these sectors.

The need, in great part, was created by the airline deregulation bred rise of the hub-and-spoke route system in the US. Funneling and feeding passengers to the higher-capacity aircraft of the majors, such as American, Continental, Delta, and United, from longer, but thin segments operated by regional airlines that bore the majors’ two-letter code and livery, the originally independent commuter carriers rapidly expanded themselves, primarily because of this new type of jet. It was the right aircraft at the right time and led to what has been called the “regional jet revolution.”

Not only were the regional jets the most cost-efficient way for airlines to link hundreds, if not thousands, of communities to airport hubs and global airline networks,” according to Bombardier Aerospace (which subsequently acquired Canadair), “these innovative aircraft enhanced the passenger travel experience and provided regional airlines with increased traffic, revenues, and greater market share. To further increase traffic growth, the idea of using the Canadair Regional Jet to fly between ‘spoke’ cities was promoted. Every new spoke city increased the number of connecting passengers flying to a regional airline’s mainline partner’s hub. These additional routes provided passengers in small communities with more flight options.”

This certainly occurred at Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport.

“There are literally hundreds of markets out there that could not support regular jet service, but 30-, 50-, and 70-seaters can now bring jet comfort and economic service,” commented Doug Blissit, once Delta Air Lines’ vice president of network analysis. “The regional jets are a phenomenal economic transformation of the industry. The vast majority of deployments have been to extend the reach of the hubs with more economical aircraft.”

Over and above the type’s cooperative nature, it also had a competitive side. It could be considered a tool that attacked major airlines’ hub-and-spoke fortresses, enabling smaller carriers that began as traditional turboprop commuters to penetrate the cracks in the majors’ armor, forging new point-to-point routes that did not need hub feed for adequate load factors.

Early Regional Jet Operations:

Perhaps the earliest regional jet in the western world, which eliminates the Russian tri-engine, 27-passenger Yakovlev Yak-40 from the discussion, was the Fokker F.28 Fellowship.

The popularity of its high-wing, twin-turboprop, 40-passenger F.27 Friendship, like a compass needle pointing in the direction of a pure-jet complement that would offer higher speeds and hence decreased block times, led to the development of the F.28 itself.

Announced in April of 1962, it was intended for short-field operations, but offer higher seating for 65 in a fuselage wide enough for five-abreast arrangements. Appearing similar to the mainline jets, such as the British Aircraft Corporation BAC-111 and the McDonnell-Douglas DC-9, it featured a low-mounted, compoundly swept wing on its leading edge, two aft-mounted Rolls Royce RB.183 Spey Junior turbofans, a dorsal fin, and a t-tail, yet retained simplicity by eliminating any leading edge devices. Unique to its design was a hydraulically actuated petal airbrake that formed the aft end of the fuselage. Extendable to varying degrees, it facilitated steep, but slow and controlled descent profiles.

Aside from financial backing provided by the Dutch government, the program’s risk sharing came from Short Brothers of Belfast, Northern Ireland; HFB and VFW of Germany; and AiResearch, Dowty Rotol, and Goodyear.

Three prototypes respectively first flew on May 9, August 3, ad October 20 of 1967 and the first production version, the F.28-1000, was delivered to launch customer LTU of Germany on February 24 two years later. As had occurred with the F.27, sales could be counted in single digits, since the F.28 was usually the largest type in a small airline’s fleet.

A stretched version, the F.28-4000, featured a 97.2-foot overall length and an almost 12-foot greater wingspan of 82.3 feet. Powered by two 9,850 thrust-pound Rolls Royce Spey 555-15H turbofans, it had a 73,000-pound maximum takeoff weight, a 530-mph cruising speed at 21,000 feet, and maximum payload-to-fuel ratio ranges of 1,162 to 2,560 miles. Although it accommodated 79 five-abreast, single-class passengers, six more, for an 85-total, could be carried at a 29-inch seat pitch with the installation of an additional overwing exit on each side.

The type factored into Piedmont’s Islip operation.

Piedmont itself inaugurated its scheduled aerial link as far back as February 20, 1948 with flight 41. Departing Wilmington, North Carolina, at 0700, its DC-3 made the multiple-hop journey to Pinehurst, Charlotte, Ashville, the Tri-Cities, Lexington, and Cincinnati. Two other aircraft of the type and 250 employees constituted its metal and human backbone.

With progressive expansions, particularly with route extensions to Atlanta, it initially fed the flights of Delta and Eastern, significantly growing until it became a US major in its own right. Perhaps symbolic of its prestige was both its literal and large-airline image arrival in New York in 1966.

Profits mounted: $1 million in 1965 and almost double that two years later. Erecting its first hub in Charlotte, North Carolina, it radiated its reach to major cities, such as Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Miami, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Denver, exceeding, in the number of passengers carried, Eastern Airlines’ traditional Charlotte stronghold.

Operating 727-100s, 727-200s, and 737-200s-the latter its short- to medium-range workhorse-it advertised in its October 31, 1982 system timetable, “We make it easy to get around to over 80 cities.”

Hubs were subsequently established in Baltimore and Dayton and widebody 767-200ERs eventually reached the West Coast and Europe.

By 1987, Piedmont operated a 177-strong fleet to some 235 destinations, carrying 23 million passengers, and thus became ripe for USAir’s $1.6 billion acquisition.

Capacity, particularly of the 65-passenger F.28-1000, ensured frequency at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

Of the five daily departures it dispatched to its Baltimore hub, the morning and evening ones were conducted with 128-passenger 737-300s; the mid-morning and mid-afternoon ones were flown with Henson, The Piedmont Regional Airline’s 37-passenger DHC-8-100s; and the noon sector was conducted with the F.28-1000, enabling it to “right-size” its equipment according to time of day, capacity, and demand.

When Piedmont acquired New York State-based and -concentrated Empire Airlines in 1986, along with its Syracuse hub and 85-passenger F.28-4000s, it deployed the type from Islip to feed its significantly developed Charlotte hub.

Another early regional jet was the British Aerospace BAe-146.

The ultimate design response to a need for a feeder or regional aircraft, it progressed through numerous iterations, including those of the high-wing, twin-turboprop DH.123 proposed by de Havilland and a low-wing one with aft-mounted engines until it arrived at the HS.146 of Hawker Siddeley with Avco Lycoming ALF-502 high bypass ratio turbofans. Because they did not generate the required thrust for the envisioned aircraft, only the use of four, pylon-mounted to the high wing’s underside, could ensure the needed performance and range.

Although the type’s official, 1973 launch appeared promising, the subsequent world recession, rising oil prices, and escalating development costs, rendered it ill-timed, resulting in its termination in October of 1974. Low-key development nevertheless continued.

After de Havilland and Hawker Siddeley were combined into the nationalized British Aerospace, and it conducted its own design and market review, it was government granted full-scale program development on July 10, 1978.

Final assembly took place at Hatfield.

Sporting, like the F.28 Fellowship, a t-tail and an aft petal, fuselage-forming airbrake for steep approaches, it deviated by having a high wing, also without leading edge devices, and the four turbofans. While its cabin was wide enough for six-abreast seating, most carriers chose five.

First flight of the BAe-146-100 from Hatfield occurred on September 3, 1981. Two successively higher-capacity, stretched versions, the BAe-146-200 and -300, followed.

The former, which first took to the air on August 1, 1982, featured a 93.10-foot length and an 86-foot span with a 15-degree sweepback and tabbed, trailing edge Fowler flaps. Up to 112 single-class passengers could be accommodated at a six-abreast, 29-inch pitch. Its maximum gross weight was 93,000 pounds and range, with a full payload, was 1,130 nautical miles.

The BAe-146 was inaugurated into service with Air Wisconsin on June 27, 1983.

Presidential Airways, founded by Harold J. Pareti in 1985 and headquartered in Washington, was the only operator of the type into Islip, maintaining a fleet of eight BAe-146-200s, in addition to its 737-200s. Connecting Long Island with its Dulles International hub, it later operated as a Continental Express and United Express code share carrier, respectively feeding each of its major’s flights in Washington.

Later Regional Jet Operations:

The first next-generation regional jet took form as the Canadair (later Bombardier) CRJ.

Aside from developing all-new designs, aircraft manufacturers of potential, low-capacity pure-jets had two options: scale down an existing mainline aircraft, such as the DC-9-10, which would have incorporated too much structural weight for its market, or scale up an aircraft. Those that fell into the latter category were business jets, although their narrow fuselages rendered them less than ideal for such a commercial application. Because of the wide cabin of its own CL-600 Challenger, which first flew in 1978, Canadair was able to choose the latter option.

Initially envisioned as incorporating a simple stretch with capacity for 24 four-abreast passengers and designated CL-600E, it was first publicized in 1980, but cancelled its plans to proceed with the version the following year. In 1987, or a year after Canadair was acquired by Bombardier, the small regional jet concept was reconsidered, leading to its launch in 1989.

A more ambitious version than originally considered, it introduced a 19.5-foot stretch, attained by means of forward and aft fuselage plugs, additional overwing emergency exits, a reinforced wing with increased fuel capacity, and two aft-mounted General Electric CF34 turbofans, in which guise it first took to the sky as a prototype on May 10, 1991. After a three-airplane flight test program, it received its FAA certification on October 29 of the following year, entering service with launch customer Lufthansa CityLine, which used it to provide both point-to-point and hub-feed service to Western European destinations from Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich.

Exuding what one pilot called a “sexy look,” the initial CRJ-100 version featured a pointed nose, an 87.10-foot length, a 69.7-foot, winglet-attached span with a 520.4-square-foot area and trailing edge-only flaps, two 9,220 thrust-pound CF34-3A1 thrust reverser provisioned turbofans, and a t-tail. Fifty four-abreast passengers could be accommodated in slimline seats in a cabin with enclosed overhead storage compartments, a galley, and a lavatory.

Payload was 13,500 pounds, gross weight 53,000 pounds, and range 1,650 nautical miles.

The succeeding CRJ-200, powered by CF34-3B1s, offered greater range, lower fuel consumption, and increased cruise speeds and altitudes.

Sales of both types totaled 1,054.

Headquartered at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, Comair was Long Island MacArthur’s first modern regional jet operator.

Commencing service as an airline in 1977, it initially touched down in Akron/Canton, Cleveland, and Evansville with eight-passenger, piston powered Piper Navajos, succeeding them with 18-passenger turboprop Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirantes.

Accepted as a Delta Connection carrier and operating in its livery after its establishment of a Cincinnati hub in 1984, it significantly expanded, soon acquiring Fairchild Swearingen Metro, Shorts 330, Embraer, EMB-120 Brasilia, and Saab 340 equipment. Orlando became its second hub.

As the US launch customer for the Canadair Regional Jet, it operated 163 of the type, including 63 CRJ-100ERs, 37 CRJ-100LRs, 37 CRJ-200ERs, and 27 CRJ-700LRs, by 2005.

Delta had acquired 20 percent of Comair’s stock in 1996 and the remainder of it three years later.

The type was instrumental in its service inauguration to Islip, providing three daily morning, afternoon, and evening round trips to Cincinnati so that passengers could connect to its own and partner-Delta’s flights. That link opened the rest of the country and parts of Canada to Long Island.

Another Canadair Regional Jet operator from MacArthur, which was also a Delta Connection carrier, was ASA Atlantic Southeast Airlines.

Inaugurating independent scheduled service from Atlanta to Columbus, Georgia, with de Havilland of Canada DHC-6 Twin Other aircraft on June 27, 1979, it progressed through another turboprop, the EMB-110, before acquiring pure-jet BAe-146-200 and CRJ-200 types, which fed Delta’s Atlanta hub after it had concluded its own two-letter marketing agreement with it. As had occurred with Comair, ASA was appendaged by increasing stock purchases until Delta wholly owned it.

Cincinnati, reached in 2002, was its 100th destination and in 2003 it took delivery of its 100th regional jet. By 2011, it operated 112 CRJ-200ERs, 46 CRJ-700ERs, and 10 CRJ-900ERs.

Islip was connected to its own and Delta’s extensive Atlanta hub with three daily ASA-operated CRJ-200 round trips as of August 1, 1999. Comair later also served the route.

Another Canadair Regional Jet operator to Islip was Air Wisconsin, which was branded US Airways Express and reinstated the link lost due to Washington Reagan National slot restrictions, when its inbound aircraft, arriving at 1250 on March 25, 2012, was granted with a water curtain on MacArthur’s ramp.

Re-departing at 1328, it became the first of two daily CRJ-200 round trips. Although it was highly endorsed by law makers, it was short-lived.

The Canadair Regional Jet’s counterpart-if not competitor-was the Embraer ERJ-145.

Harnessing its power from never-before-available engines that enabled it to operate in primarily untapped markets, it sought to outweigh the higher fuel consumption of them as opposed to that of the traditional turboprop’s by increasing the daily utilization its shorter block times afforded, coupled with their greater passenger acceptance.

Unlike Canadair’s CL-600 Challenger business jet, it used the EMB-120 Brasilia as its inspirational foundation, introducing two fuselage plugs and a redesigned wing, with an extended leading edge chord, a slight sweepback, and winglets, but replacing its turboprop engines with pure-jet ones encased in pods. The t-tail was retained. It was initially designated the EMB-145 Amazon.

The Allison GMA-3007 turbofan, producing 7,100 pounds of thrust, with potential for up to 10,000, was selected in early-1990.

Iterations entailing reduced lengths, increased spans, greater fuel capacities, higher weights, and improved performance, led to the definitive ERJ-145 that first flew on August 1, 1995. Accommodating 50 single-class, three-abreast passengers with a partial step-down aisle at the very front of the cabin, it had a 12,755-pound payload and a 48,501-pound gross weight. It was first delivered to launch customer ExpressJet Airlines, operating as Continental Express, the following year, providing the capacity, speed, and range to match the demand on longer, thin routes to both feed its own flights and those of Continental.

“With its hub at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Continental Airlines is the largest airline in northeast Ohio, with more than 250 daily departures to nearly 80 cities,” according to United Airlines’ March 29, 2004 Corporate News. “With one of the youngest fleets of airplanes in the United States, Continental and Continental Express offer convenient, high-frequency service from Cleveland Hopkins to major business centers, including Boston, New York (Newark Liberty, La Guardia, Kennedy, White Plains, and Islip), Washington (Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington, and Dulles), Chicago (O’Hare and Midway), Houston, and Atlanta.

Like other regional airlines, ExpressJet itself was the amalgamated result of several turboprop commuter carriers-among them Bar Harbor Airlines of Bangor, Maine; PBA Provincetown-Boston Airlines of Hyannis, Massachusetts; Rocky Mountain Airways of Denver, Colorado; and Brit Airways of Terre Haute, Indiana, all of which flew on the latter’s operating certificate.

It inaugurated ERJ-145 regional jet service on September 4, 1998 and ultimately became the type’s largest operator of all three versions, including the smaller, 37-passenger ERJ-135 and 44-passenger ERJ-140.

Its three daily morning, afternoon, and evening Islip-Cleveland frequencies, bearing “CO” flight numbers, linked Long Island with the rest of the country.

Another MacArthur Embraer regional jet carrier was American Eagle.

Like Continental Express, the American Eagle concept, which was unveiled in late-1984, resulted from American Airlines’ inability to economically serve secondary and tertiary markets with its mainline jets. It grew rapidly, feeding its hubs and progressing from turboprop to pure-jet equipment. The first officially designated American Eagle flight, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Dallas, took place on November 1 when one of its Metroflight’s 14 Convair 580s, powered by two 3,750-shp Allison 501-D13H turboprops, touched down at American’s southwest hub. The aircraft, converted from piston propelled CV-240s, -340s, and -440s, were eventually replaced with Saab 340s.

Second to join the fold, also that year, was Poughkeepsie, New York, based Command Airways, which operated Beech 99s, DHC-6 Twin Otters, Shorts 330s, Shorts 360s, and ATR-42s.

Simmons, the third, deployed Japanese NAMC YS-11s, Shorts 360s, ATR-42s, and ATR-72s from Chicago-O’Hare, and Wings West, the fourth, dispatched C99s, Fairchild Swearingen Metros, Jetstream 31s, and Saab 340s to West Coast destinations.

Lastly, Puerto Rico based Executive Airlines jumped into the pool on September 15, 1986, operating CASA C-212-200 Aviocars, Shorts 360s, and ATR-72s.

From Islip, it operated a midday ERJ-145 to Chicago-O’Hare, supplementing American’s morning and evening MD-80s, and replaced its four daily, 34-passenger Saab 340s (which had once flown in Business Express colors before AMR, Inc., acquired it and folded it into the American Eagle brand) with an equal number of 37-passenger ERJ-135 frequencies.

Yet another Long Island MacArthur American Eagle ERJ-145 operator was Piedmont, which traces its origins to Henson Airlines.

Founded in 1961 by Richard A. Henson, an aviation pioneer and Fairchild Aircraft test pilot, it planted sedentary roots as a fixed base operator in Hagerstown, Maryland, designated “Henson Aviation,” yet initiated scheduled service of its own from there to Washington in 1962 under the “Hagerstown Commuter” name.

Consummating a code share agreement with Allegheny Airlines five years later and replacing that carrier’s own service in Salisbury, Maryland, it expanded to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, boarding its one millionth passenger in 1977 and acquiring its first quad-engine, 54-passenger de Havilland of Canada DHC-7 two years after that.

Purchased by Piedmont Airlines in 1983, it was rebranded “Henson, The Piedmont Regional Airline.”

The following year it took delivery of the first 37-passenger DHC-8-100 and by the end of 1987, it served 38 destinations in ten states, as well as in the Bahamas.

After the 1989 merger with USAir, Henson operated as a USAir Express and later US Airways Express carrier, but was renamed “Piedmont Airlines” four years later to retain its original identity. American Airlines, which purchased US Airways in 2013 and rebranded it American Eagle, maintained the philosophy.

Today, Piedmont/American Eagle operates three daily ERJ-145 frequencies, departing Islip at 0710, 1035, and 1858 to Philadelphia, one of USAir/US Airways’ former hubs. Return flights arrive on Long Island soil at 1007, 1833, and 2221.

Both ASA Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Comair operated the larger CRJ-700 into Islip.

The result of Bombardier’s first attempt to offer a higher capacity version in order to more effectively compete with the Fokker F.70 and the Avro International RJ70, both 70-seaters, it officially launched the program in January of 1997. Based upon the original CRJ-200, it introduced a slightly wider fuselage with a 106.8-foot overall length; a larger wing, with a 76.3-foot span and 760-square-foot area; leading edge slats to increase low-speed lift and reduce takeoff runs; 13,790 thrust-pound CF34-8C5B1 turbofans; a lower floor for increased cabin headroom; raised passenger windows; a single-class capacity of 78; and 18,055- and 75,000-pound maximum payloads and gross weight weights.

First flying on May 27, 1999, it entered service with Brit Air two years later, retaining the same type rating as that of its smaller capacity predecessors.

Its extended range CRJ-700ER had a 1,504-nautical mile capability and a 448-knot/515-mph/Mach 0.78 cruise speed.

Regional Jet Snapshots in Time:

Because of demand, the need to adjust capacity, scheduling, and, in some cases, replace one aircraft type with another, any attempt to discuss Long Island MacArthur Airport’s regional jet operations can only be done as snapshots in time.

During the latter portion of 1988, for instance, which can be considered its early regional jet period, Presidential Airways operated its BAe-146-200s to Washington-Dulles, while Piedmont “right-sized” its aircraft to maintain frequency, sandwiching the 65-passenger noon F.28-1000 between morning and evening 737-300s and mid-morning and mid-afternoon Henson DHC-8-100s.

1998, which can be considered the dawn of the next-generation regional jet era, saw Long Island connected to Delta’s Atlanta and Cincinnati hubs and Continental’s Cleveland one with 50-seat CRJ-100s, CRJ-200s, and ERJ-145s, respectively operated by Comair, ASA, and ExpressJet.

The number of daily departures included three Comair/Delta Connection CRJ-100s to Cincinnati, two American Eagle ERJ-145s to Chicago, two and later three ExpressJet/Continental Express ERJ-145s to Cleveland, and three ASA/Delta Connection CRJ-200s to Atlanta.

During its first month of regional jet operations, the latter airline carried 6,980 passengers, making it the airport’s third-largest tenant in terms of boardings.

By December of 1999, eight of the 37 daily pure-jet flights, or 19 percent, were conducted with the new breed of Canadair and Embraer regional jets. By March of 2000, the monthly regional jet passenger total was 16,210-that is, 6,107 carried by ASA, 6,831 by Comair, and 3,212 carried by ExpressJet.

In August of 2002, American Eagle replaced its four Saab 340 flights to Boston with ERJ-135s, providing American Airlines hub feed, and by the fall ASA and Comair upgraded two or their three Atlanta and Cincinnati frequencies to larger capacity CRJ-700s.

Last Regional Jet Service Inauguration:

The latest carrier to enter the Long Island market with the regional jet was Elite Airways.

Founded, as reflected by its name, to offer a quality travel experience in 2016, it entered the arena as a US Part 121 air carrier, transporting sports teams and executives on both scheduled and charter services on northeast-to-Florida routes with one CRJ-100, five CRJ-200s, and five CRJ-700s.

Limited, twice-weekly CRJ-700 services, from Islip to Portland, Maine; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Melbourne, Florida, were inaugurated on June 17, 2016. But lower than expected load factors prompted it to twice pause, between January 15 and February 16, 2017 and April and July of that year, to reconsider its strategy.

While the second suspension turned into an unanticipated 16-month one, it finally reappeared on the scene on September 6, 2018, this time routing a Thursday and Sunday CRJ-200 to Melbourne. Designated Flight 7Q 21, it departed at 0800 and arrived in the sunshine state at 1045. After a 45-minute turnaround, it redeparted at 1130 for Bimini, Bahamas, becoming Islip’s first one-stop link to it.

“The route is designed so that passengers from Islip can book a flight to Melbourne only or stay on board with connecting service to Bimini,” according to Rebecca Emery, an Elite Airways public relations executive. “It is the closest Bahamian island to the US with miles of seclude beaches, four-star hotels, and the Resorts World Bimini Casino and Marina.”

The return flight, 7Q 23, departed Bimini at 1330, but required US Customs and Border Patrol preclearance. Landing in Melbourne an hour later, it next operated as 7Q 24, taking off at 1600 and touching down at MacArthur at 2045.