Islip Task Force to Explore Airport's Potential

A new task force will examine the operation and management of Long Island MacArthur Airport and help it prepare for the future, new Islip Town Supervisor Philip Nolan said yesterday.

The nine-member committee includes aviation and security professionals and is expected to make recommendations, potentially including the recruitment of one or more new airlines, to Islip's Town Board.

Nolan said his idea for the task force grew out of last year's news media coverage of safety hazards at the town-owned airport, which serves 2.4 million passengers a year, according to airport commissioner and task force member Alfred Werner.

"You look at an airport and you see problems that are unearthed and you want to deal with them," Nolan said. "That's what we're going to do now. "

Committee members largely declined to delve into specifics yesterday, noting they had not yet met as a group.

But committee chairman Martin Holley, executive director of the National Aviation Technology Center and former dean of Dowling College's aviation school, said the group certainly would examine safety issues in addition to looking at how MacArthur could operate more efficiently and economically.

"We're looking forward," said Holley, adding that a rapidly changing industry makes periodic reviews of transportation hubs necessary. "We have to be in a position to implement changes in shorter and shorter time frames," he said.

Several other panel members said they'd like to bring more airlines - JetBlue, Air Canada and AirTran Airways. Southwest Airlines flights currently dominate MacArthur's schedule.

"We don't want to be a one-airline airport. It's not healthy," said Werner, who said he has been in continuing talks with JetBlue and AirTran.

Nolan and Werner said the airport continues to deal with safety hazards chronicled by Newsday - which sparked local, state and federal investigations.

In particular, Nolan said Southwest would replace the $12.4-million concrete apron outside its terminal. Cracks appeared in the apron, where planes pull up to the terminal, soon after it was installed.

Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said the airline was working on a timetable for repairs.

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