The history of the Brookhaven Calabro airport

A recent visit to Brookhaven Calabro Airport, hidden behind a forest of trees and private houses and accessed by the local Dawn Drive, on a harsh day in late March whose steel wool sky was so low it almost scratched you , revealed what it was, but not necessarily what it could be.

The ramp near Mid-Island Air Service was filled with mostly single-engine types of aircraft, punctuated by an occasional twin, and the almost unexpected crackling of an isolated propeller from a Cirrus SR-20 on this day of marginally visual flight rules. (VFR) cracked. silence like a hammer hitting a sheet of glass.

The blond brick structure at the north end of the field, classroom and training monolith once proud of the Dowling College Aviation Education Center, was frozen in time, a promise of the past that failed to deliver the future. From the airport.

The only low-level cement block terminal, served by a single monitor of the common frequency of traffic announcements of the facility (CTAF), housed the lunch, nucleus, also closed, of any general aviation airport, since it provided local services and Cross-country pilots are a destiny and a purpose, and witnessed numerous duos of student pilots and instructors discussing airplane handling techniques over the years on New York paper sectional charts being they doubled as tablecloths.

A glance around the rectangular room, which featured a “Maintenance Shop” sign, revealed its old raison d’être, complete with circular sports stools, a lunch counter, a deli slicer and a rusty coffee pot. Recent research indicated interest and its resurrection as a restaurant. Perhaps it also indicated its reused future.

The 795-acre, dual-runway, towerless, public-use general aviation airport, located one mile north of the Shirley business district in eastern Long Island, Suffolk County, was owned by the city of Brookhaven.

Originally designated as the Mastic Flight Strip, it was built at the end of WWII, in 1944, on 325 acres to provide logistical support to the US Army Air Corps, after which its title was transferred to the state of New York and finally to the Brookhaven Town Division. General Aviation in 1961, current owner. Given its current nickname “Calabro”, it was named in honor of Dr. Frank Calabro, who was instrumental in its development, but who, along with his wife, Ruth, met his untimely death in a plane crash three decades later.

Construction and expansion produced a growing crop of hangars, stores, fixed-base operators (FBO), the current terminal, and a second concrete runway to complement the first in 1963.

Those, including the 4,200-foot runway 6-24 and 4,255-foot runway 15-33, are paved and illuminated, but the latter has an instrument landing system (ILS), equipped and maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration. (FAA).

$ 1.5 million of the collective $ 5 million in federal grants from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the majority of which went to the nearby Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, facilitated recent replacements of the beacon and taxiway lighting system .

“We need to maintain runways, lights, structures and navigational aids,” according to Marten W. Haley, Commissioner of General Services for Brookhaven Town, which includes the airport itself. “Everything has a finite life.”

The airport’s various fixed-base operators and other tenants include Brookfield Aviation, Mid-Island Air Service, Northeast Air Park, Ed’s Aircraft Refinishing, Long Island Soaring Association, Island Aerial Air (for banner towing), NAASCO Northeast Corporation (conducting aircraft and helicopter repair and overhaul) and Sky Dive South Shore.

Dowling College’s School of Aviation, once the airport’s cornerstone but closed when the Oakdale-based university itself filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2016, had offered bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Systems Technology and Aviation Management, and had participated in the FAA’s Collegiate Air Traffic Control. Training initiative. A fleet of Fiasca private pilots and flight simulators had enabled its students to earn private, instrument, multi-engine, instructor (CFI) and commercial qualifications.

Although the field has primarily involved general aviation flight activity, there have been a handful of other events throughout its history.

As the new base for the former 44-passenger Swissair Convair CV-440 Metropolitans operated by Cosmopolitan Airlines from Farmingdale’s Republic Airport and their so-called Cosmopolitan Sky Center after being transferred here, for example, they, along with a handful of other types They offered trips to Bader Field in Atlantic City.

The Grand Old Airshow, held in 2006 and 2007, was created to transport viewers back to WWII, biplanes and earlier eras and showcase Long Island aviation.

Having attracted visitors through brochures and his website, he had urged them to “join us this year as we go back in time to celebrate the Golden Age of Long Island Aviation,” a time when “the biplanes graced the skies decades ago. ” He continued his speech by offering the experience of “bygone days of aviation, such as the dogfights of World War I, open cockpit biplanes, fighters of World War II and, of course, the famous Geico Skytypers, soar through the blue skies of Long Island. “

The shows themselves had featured vintage vehicles and static aircraft displays, the latter including TBM Avengers, Fokker Dr-1, Nieuports, and Messerschmitt Me-109, while the aerobatics had included comedy maneuvers performed on Piper J-3 Cubs. by “chosen at random”. audience member Carl Spackle; Delsey Dives and balloon pops on loan from Old Rhinebeck Airfield led by Great Lakes Speedsters, Fleet 16B and PT-17 Stearmans; speed races between motorcycles bound for the track and low-pass PT-17 in the air; aerobatics by SF-260; and Sukhoi 29s skywriting.

A Sikorsky UH-34D Sea Horse Marine helicopter, used for combat rescue in Vietnam, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and by NASA during the Project Mercury astronaut recovery program, had demonstrated search and rescue procedures .

Both Long Island aviation and formation flight had also been well represented. The shows had featured Byrd, N3N, Fleet Model 16B and N2S Stearman jets from the Bayport Aerodrome Society; P-40 Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs from Warbirds over Long Island; F4U Corsairs from the American Airpower Museum; and the North American SNJ-2s from Geico Skytypers, based at Republic Airport.

Rides on old planes and vehicles were available. Spectators brought their own lawn chairs and lined them up next to the active runway amid period dress and speeches by Tuskegee Airmen. Concession trucks sold everything from hot dogs to ice cream to souvenirs, and numerous aviation-related schools and associations set up booths.

Held over two consecutive drops, the Grand Old Airshow was a one-day open-air glimpse into the sky where the multi-faceted history of Long Island aviation was written and recreated.

In 2008 a flightless tribute was also offered to Vinny Nasta. A Riverhead High School art teacher hailing from Wading River, lost his life at age 47 when the Nieuport 24 replica flying at Old Rhinebeck Airfield was launched into the woods after his mock dogfight with another replica of a Fokker. Dr. 1 Triplane, on August 17 of that year.

Dr. Tom Daley, former dean of aviation at Dowling College, director of the Old Rhinebeck Airfield Airshow and creator of the Brookhaven Grand Old Airshow, was forced to disrupt what had become an increasingly popular fall event.

“There was some local opposition to the program,” he said, “and everyone had their hand out. I was asked to give an x ​​number of dollars for security, an x ​​number for emergency medical presence. I couldn’t do it anymore. There was no way. that I could run an airshow and meet expenses with expectations like that. “

Today, the 217 aircraft based at Brookhaven Calabro Airport, 92 percent of which are single-engine, five percent of which are multi-engine, and three percent of which are gliders, provide the most part of their activity. During the 12-month period ending March 25, 2005, there were 135,100 annual aircraft movements, or an average of 370 per day, and 99 percent of them belonged to the general aviation category, allowing aircraft Pilot students obtain licenses and practice on weekdays. touch-and-go’s on an airfield without towers.

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