While most business aviation travelers think of Teterboro or Westchester County Airport when flying to New York City, a third airport in the area makes a strong case to put its name into the conversation. Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, N.Y., is less than an hour from Manhattan and its proximity a mile from the Long Island Expressway makes for convenient access to the Hamptons summer enclave at the eastern end of the island.
“We call it New York’s best kept secret,” said David Rimmer, president of the recently rebranded Hawthorne Global FBO, which occupies approximately 15 acres at the airport, making it the largest private aviation services provider on Long Island. “The airport is outside the Class B airspace so any kind of takeoff or landing delays are basically unheard of,” noted Rimmer. “The airspace is much less complex than if you go farther west, and obviously it’s much more cost-effective to spend the same amount of time in a car as it is in an airplane.”
Established as a light aircraft maintenance provider at the airport 27 years ago, the company soon added jet maintenance and an aircraft charter and management division (still known as ExcelAire). In 2006, when Garrett Aviation decided to leave its aircraft maintenance facility on the other side of the airport, the company saw an opportunity to turn it into an FBO. After winning the request-for-proposal process, the company negotiated a 40-year lease with its landlord, the town of Islip, to establish a third service provider at MacArthur along with Sheltair and New York Jet. Today the company claims approximately 50 percent of the general aviation traffic at the airport, helped in part by its 19 based aircraft, ranging from a Cessna Caravan on floats to a Gulfstream V, most of which are managed under the company’s own Part 135 certificate.
The facility, which employs 145 people ranging from pilots to customer service representatives to its NATA Safety 1st trained line staff, is open regularly from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. but after-hours call-out service is available at no additional charge. The 2,500-sq-ft terminal has an executive lounge with a fireplace and features three multimedia-equipped conference rooms and a large university-style lecture hall that the FBO uses to conduct staff training and makes available to aviation groups and local law enforcement.
However, unless they have a reason to enter, most passengers bypass the terminal, according to Rimmer. “One of the great things about MacArthur Airport is you can drive up to the aircraft, so as beautiful as the facility is, most passengers are going from their car right up the door of the airplane,” he said. As an added benefit, the FBO offers free detailing of customer vehicles while they are sitting idle. Onsite rental cars are also available, as well as on-demand airside U.S. Customs clearance.
For the crews, amenities include a pilot’s lounge/snooze room, a flight-planning room and Wi-Fi Internet access through the building. The FBO is currently adding a gym with shower facilities. Though the FBO has available crew cars, for those who prefer not to drive, it also has on-demand shuttle service to take crewmembers wherever they wish to go locally.
A Shell aviation fuels supplier, the FBO operates a trio of fuel trucks (5,000-gallon and 3,000-gallon jet-A tankers and a 750-gallon avgas truck) that use an indoor above-ground tank farm located behind the World War II vintage 60,000-foot main hangar. When the company took over the facility, it was left with an unused building that now accommodates the 40,000-gallon jet-A and 10,000-gallon 100LL avgas tanks. One benefit is fuelers can pull into a sheltered truck port next to the building for hassle-free loading in inclement weather. With 120,000 sq ft of ramp parking, the facility can handle aircraft ranging from piston singles all the way to airliners.
Harkening back to its roots at the airport, the FBO operates a Part 145 repair station that can handle anything up to and including engine replacement and even 72-month inspections on Gulfstreams. The location also has an avionics shop and an onsite interiors shop run by a tenant. “What we want people to know is that if you come in with any kind of need we can fulfill it,” Rimmer told AIN.
The FBO has plans to expand and it recently acquired a 40-year lease on the neighboring property. The large abandoned building that stood on the site was demolished over the summer, paving the way for groundbreaking on a 32,000-sq-ft hangar intended to shelter BBJ-size aircraft. It is scheduled to be completed by next summer. The company also still has the lease on its original parcel of land on the other side of the airport and has plans to develop another hangar there as well.
ExcelAire was purchased in January by Hawthorne Global Aviation Services as the initial location in what it hopes will become an FBO chain. Since then the company also acquired the former AeroPremier location at New Orleans Lakefront Airport. “We’re the cornerstone,” said Rimmer, who retained his role as president of the FBO and its maintenance and charter/management divisions after the purchase. “We’re the first investment they’ve made; now we’ve added New Orleans and we expect to be part of a pretty big family within the next year or more.”