Nestled in the center of the island, Islip MacArthur Airport has long-served local commuters and travelers alike, who prefer this less hectic alternative to its two big brothers to the East. It’s come a long way from its humble beginnings, growing exponentially over the years, but it still retains its small town charm.
Now officially known as Long Island MacArthur Airport, the airstrip located on the south side of Ronkonkoma was originally built in 1942, four months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Back then, it was simply Islip Airport.
Four years after WWII wrapped up, the city built the first passenger terminal. Allegheny Airlines was the first major airline to operate out of MacArthur, offering local commuters passenger service to Washington D.C., Boston and Philedelphia. More airlines followed, including Mohawk Airlines in 1967, and American Airlines, who in 1971, began offering non-stop flights to Chicago O’Hare, making it possible to fly out of MacArthur and travel just about anywhere in the civilized world.
In the 70s, and before the big expansion that would occur in the decade that followed, MacArthur was still considered quaint, with far less congestion than its big brothers. Parking was relatively easy, and without the stringent security measures that would eventually become the norm across the country, one could pull in, find a quick parking spot and be through the terminal and on the plane in a matter of minutes.
Of course, you didn’t need to actually fly to enjoy the airport. Many local families made a regular habit of heading out to the airport on weekends, parking alongside the perimeter, and simply watching the planes come and go for hours on end. Long Island has always enjoyed a rich aviation history, thanks in part to Grumman Aerospace, which employed thousands of local residents throughout the region. Islip MacArthur was a perfect place for them to bring the family and share their love of airplanes with youngsters who sat enthralled by everything from small Cessnas and Pipers to 727 airliners.
Surprisingly, there has only been only one fatal crash at Islip MacArthur Airport over the years, which occurred way back in 1955, when a Douglas DC-6 headed to La Guardia crashed shortly after takeoff. Thankfully, there were no passengers except for the three crew members who all tragically perished in the crash. still, the safety record for the airport is stellar, as is its record for on-time flights.
The airport looks much different now, of course, changed dramatically in the 80s to coincide with the expansion of the LIRR station in Ronkonkoma. If you would like to get a glimpse of the airport back in the day, it was one of the filming locations for the 1970 comedy film starring Jack Lemmon called The Out of Towners.
Were you one of the kids that spent a few weekends watching planes take off and land at Islip MacArthur Airport? Did you happen to work there back in the 70s. We’d love to hear all of your memories of this special place in our comments section below.