Among the various lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy is that aviation is still a very big deal on Long Island.
Some 70 years ago, a local map would show more than a dozen airports. Today, a regional airport is more about amenities than aviation; but, every once in a while, we are reminded of what airpower can accomplish.
This became dramatically obvious this autumn as Republic Airport in Farmingdale became a crucial Long Island gateway for emergency supplies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s coordination with local officials.
Tons of supplies arrived in repeated shuttle flights of C-130s. From water to blankets, Republic Airport was the center of logistics support for FEMA, making use of Republic personnel who have long trained to meet exactly this kind of challenge.
For many responders from across the country, the airport was their point of entry as they arrived to help the battered but unbowed Long Islanders. Crews from Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia and elsewhere were either based there for assignments or reported there before going to emergency locations.
Another reminder of the importance of aviation: The multimillion-dollar contracts just let for the reconstruction of Sandy-damaged Ocean Parkway and related public infrastructure from Jones Beach to Fire Island.
In an unprecedented move, the state Department of Transportation is mandating winter construction that MUST be done by Memorial Day weekend. Why? The annual Bethpage Federal Credit Union Air Show at Jones Beach will host the Thunderbirds this year and nearly 400,000 people are expected to descend on the boardwalk.
ABLI economist Thomas Conoscenti reports that such an event translates into about $12 million in economic activity for the region, and it would be a terrible blow to Long Island if the air show was canceled because storm damage wasn’t repaired in time.
The classic Golden Days of Long Island aviation may be long gone, but the power of flight can still be found … if you know where to look.
Polimeni is chairman of the Aviation/Defense Industry Advocacy Committee of the Association for a Better Long Island.