Farmingdale New York’s Republic Airport and a Short History of Cosmopolitan Airlines

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Cosmopolitan Airlines Convair 440 Wiki Commons

Little-known and most likely long-forgotten is Cosmopolitan Airlines, a carrier which had briefly operated from Farmingdale, Long Island’s, Republic Airport. Republic was not originally intended for passenger-carrying commercial operations. The facility ultimately fielded sporadic scheduled and charter service in its century of existence.

“The Industrial Revolution and airplane manufacture came to Farmingdale during World War I when Lawrence Sperry and Sydney Breese established their pioneering factories in the community,” according to Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas in Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale.  “They were drawn by the presence of two branches of the Long Island Railroad…the nearby Route 24, which brought auto and truck traffic to and from the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge in Manhattan; the level outwash plain, which provided land for flying fields; and the proximity to skilled workers.”    

Although the airport was progressively transformed from its original “Fairchild Flying Field” into the present Republic Airport, and is considered the third-busiest New York State facility in terms of aircraft movements, it was for the most part the location of military and civil manufacturers. These included the Fairchild Aviation Corporation, the American Airplane and Engine Corporation, Grumman, Seversky, Ranger, Republic, Fairchild-Hiller, Fairchild Republic, and EDO, to name only a few.

In 1966, a year after its ownership was transferred from Fairchild Hiller to Farmingdale Corporation, the airport was officially designated a general aviation facility, fielding its first landing of a twin-engine Beechcraft, operated by Ramey Air Service from Islip, on December 7.  In order to transform it into a gateway by facilitating airline connections at the three major New York airports, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracted with Air Spur to provide this feeder service four years later, assessing $12 one-way fares.

Republic Airport’s central Long Island location also poised it to be the site of other limited service to key business and leisure destinations within neighboring states.

One of the first scheduled attempts was made by Republic-based Cosmopolitan Airlines, an FAR Part 121 supplemental air carrier that inaugurated service with a single 44-passenger, former Finnair Convair CV-340 and two 52-passenger, ex-Swissair Convair CV-440 Metropolitans. Both of these types were in four-abreast configuration, and flights began to Albany, Boston, and Atlantic City from its own Cosmopolitan Sky Center in 1978. 

An unusual ad advised potential passengers to “Fly to Atlantic City for only $19.95 net.  Here’s how it works: Pay $44.95 for a round-trip flight ticket to Atlantic City, including ground transportation to and from the Claridge Hotel and Casino.  Upon arrival at the Claridge, you’ll receive $20.00 in food and beverage credits good at any restaurant except the London Pavilion.  You will also receive a $5.00 flight credit good for your next fight to the Claridge on Cosmopolitan Airlines.”

The airline’s 1983 schedule for the 36-minute flight to Atlantic City’s no-longer existent Bader Field included the following:

Hand-written paper tickets, issued to each passenger and listing the routing as “FRG-ACY-FRG,” stated: “Flight coupon valid only on the Cosmopolitan flight listed on the unshaded portion hereof.”

Same-day returns potentially provided for nine hours in Atlantic City.  Although these flights were popular, they hardly generated a profit. Cosmopolitan Airlines was forced to discontinue its operations at the end of 1983. Just prior to the shut-down the carrier had been in the process of expanding public charter service to Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

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The History of Northeastern International Airways

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Its four-year reign was brief and tumultuous, with a high point representing what could have steadily been if ambitions had not exceeded expenses.  Yet, perhaps this carrier’s greatest legacy is that it sparked one of Long Island MacArthur Airport’s major development cycles, attracting passengers and, ultimately, other carriers, putting the fledging airfield, which had continually striven for identity and purpose, on the map.  The airline had the globe-suggesting name of Northeastern International Airways with the unlikely two-letter code of “QS,” although it never stretched further than the West Coast.  Its founder was Stephen L. Quinto and his intended goal was to place his footprint on Long Island MacArthur Airport.

One of the airfield’s long-term goals, as revealed by market studies, was the establishment of nonstop Long Island-Florida service to facilitate travel for those wishing to visit their sunshine state- retired parents, and to tap into the tourist trade seeking winter warmth.  Airline deregulation, along with Quinto, made both possible.

Northeastern International Airlines DC-8-62, N162CA, at Ft. Lauderdale FL, 1984 1223, Marvin G Goldman Photo

Leasing a former Evergreen International DC-8-50, registered N800EV, and operating it in a single-class, 185-passenger configuration, he inaugurated Long Island MacArthur (Islip)-Ft. Lauderdale service on February 11, 1982, charging low, unrestricted fares.  As an intercontinental aircraft, its relatively low fuel uplift, combined with a full passenger and baggage complement, enabled it to use 5,186-foot Runway 33-Left, from which it climbed out over Lake Ronkonkoma and departed Long Island over its South Shore. Complementary soft drinks and snack baskets of peanuts, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, and fresh fruit were served in the cabin.  Checked baggage was included in the fare.

The initial schedule entailed four weekly rotations to Ft. Lauderdale and one to Orlando, although a second aircraft, registered N801EV, made increased frequencies and destinations possible.

In Northeastern’s first year of operations, the airline carried more than 150,000 passengers and ended the period on a high note by transporting a monthly record of 32,075 in December, a figure attributed to weather-caused, Florida-bound flight cancellations at the major New York airports, and the subsequent bus transfer of stranded flyers to Islip.

Quinto attributed his carrier’s initial success to the trusted and proven concepts of service quality and low, unrestricted fares, along with filling a market gap that had been hungry for years.  For this reason, Northeastern adopted the slogan of “A lot of airline for a little money” and, because it served its hometown base of MacArthur, the company eliminated the commute to either JFK or La Guardia for eastern Nassau and Suffolk County residents, telling them “We’re one step closer to home.”

Northeastern 727-21, Photo by Keith Armes MarvinGoldman Collection

Although its corporate headquarters was in Ft. Lauderdale, Long Island remained its operational base.  After leasing two 128-passenger former Pan Am 727-100s, which were draped in pink and blue cloud liveries, it offered seven daily departures from Islip to Ft. Lauderdale itself, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, and St. Petersburg, which was a secondary airport to Tampa.  Nonstop flights were also offered from the Connecticut airfield.

Low-fare, deregulation-sparked momentum, once initiated, could not be arrested.  The following year, which entailed the acquisition of three longer-range DC-8-62s—including N752UA from United Air Leasing, OY-KTE from Thai Airways International, and N8973U from Arrow Air, saw service to 11 destinations and the annual transport of just under 600,000 passengers.

Northeastern A-300 from WikiCommons-Photo by Uli Elch

Yet, deviating from its thus far successful strategy and ignoring the tried-and-true “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, Northeastern elected to tackle the “big boys” at airports such as JFK and acquire widebody aircraft, ultimately operating transcontinental services.  The widebodies themselves came in the form of four Airbus A300B2s in 314-passenger single-class, eight-abreast configurations: D-AIAD from Lufthansa in January (1984), D-AIAE from Lufthansa in February, F-ODRD from Airbus Industrie in May, and F-ODRE from Airbus Financial Services, also in May.  It became the second US airline after Eastern to operate the European type.

The strategy may have elevated the low-cost carrier with Long Island roots to a big player, but its over-expansion was defeated by insufficient cash flow.  Although it had earned $64.7 million in revenues in its fiscal year ended on March 31, 1984, it recorded a $5.2 million loss.

Its non-financial statistics told another story.  By the summer, it operated 66 daily flights to 17 US destinations with a three-type, 16-strong fleet, including 727-200s from the likes of Mexicana de Aviación and VASP, and employed 1,600 personnel.

Its June 1984 system timetable encompassed Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Islip, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York-JFK, Oklahoma City, Orlando, St. Petersburg, San Diego, Tulsa, and West Palm Beach.

Yet gravity is not the only element to cause an airborne object to descend, even those with wings.  Finances equally provided—or, in this case, nullified—lift, sparking a rapid descent.  Another $4.4 million was lost during the third quarter that ended on September 30, 1984 and with it began the survival-mode strategy of eliminating aspects which could no longer be monetarily supported, including the layoff of 450 employees and the return—it was actually a repossession—of the A300 fleet.

Viewing his once rapidly rising carrier as a jigsaw puzzle, Quinto attempted to keep its picture whole without its forcibly removed pieces and replace them with what he could scrounge.  Like plugs pulled from Northeastern’s rapid rise, the lights outlining its structure blacked out.  Destinations were eliminated, reservation lines were severed, flights were cancelled, bills were not paid, and passengers were left stranded.  On January 3, 1985, the three-year, low-cost carrier fell to the same fate as Braniff, filing for Chapter 11 in a Miami Bankruptcy Court with $28 million in assets and $48 million in liabilities.

The last glimmer of hope came at the end of that same year with a $1 million loan and the lease of a single MD-82 from Alisarda, registered HB-IKL.  Yet Northeastern’s final light was doused in early 1986, drowned by liquidation, but such was not necessarily the case for the Long Island airport that had spawned it and to which its legacy was left.

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Departed Wings — Golden West Airlines (GW)

Written by Jon Jamieson

1969-1983  — Orange County, California

Wearing brand new Golden West colors, N63119 a de Havilland DHC-6-100 “Twin Otter” awaits passengers at Los Angeles International Airport in October 1969

Golden West Airlines was the result of the initial merger of three local California commuter carriers; Cable Commuter, Skymark Airlines and Aero Commuter in March 1969 and only month later with the purchase of Golden West commuter based in Van Nuys, California did the airlines take the name of the former carrier to become collectively Golden West Airlines in May 1969. With a fleet of de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters and a few Beech 99s, the new commuter was flying a route network across Southern and Central California and advertised itself as the “Largest commuter airline in the world.” Within a year however, financial difficulties arose with such a large operation, and Golden West consolidated its operations to Southern California and its popular Catalina Island service using Grumman Goose aircraft. An attempt was made to provide helicopter service with the purchase of Los Angeles Airways (LAA) but this venture became cost prohibitive and was halted in 1972.

After the merger, Golden West flew a handful of Beech 99s acquired from Aero Commuter before returning the aircraft in 1970. Parked on the ramp at San Francisco International Airport in September 1971 is N9995, a Beechcraft B-99.

Parked on the ramp at Ontario International Airport in June 1973, is N66180, a de Havilland DHC-6-200 perfect for commuter flights between the various Los Angeles regional airports

By the mid-1970s, Golden West had established its hub of operations from Los Angeles International Airport and had hourly “shuttle” flights from both Ontario and Santa Ana-Orange County into Los Angeles-LAX. A well published mid-air collision took place on January 9, 1975 when a DHC-6 Twin Otter collided with a private Cessna 152 over Whittier, California resulting in the deaths of all parties. Although a bleak moment in the carrier’s history, passenger bookings continued to grow and Golden West took delivery of its first Shorts SH-330 “wide-bodied” aircraft in 1977 with seats for thirty and a need for a flight attendant, the first for the airline.

The introduction of the Shorts-330 in 1977 allowed Golden West to increase capacity on trunk routes. Parked at Santa Ana-Orange County Airport in April 1978 is N330GW, a Shorts SD330-100.

By 1980, Golden West was serving ten cities across Southern California including San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Ana-Orange County, Palmdale, and Santa Barbara. With the dawn of a new decade, Golden West had its sights on continued growth and longer routes and placed an order for the new de Havilland DHC-7 aircraft which its first was delivered in March 1980. The new fifty-seat, four-engined turboprop would be used on popular routes into Los Angeles-LAX as well as placed on new services to Lake Tahoe airport in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A new “Dash 7,” N701GW a de Havilland parked at the airlines maintenance ramp at Los Angeles International Airport in November 1980.

Just after the delivery of the new de Havilland DHC-7 airplanes, Golden West unveiled a new corporate image showcasing the warm colors of a California sunset and soon repainted their aircraft in this eye-catching livery. Things continued to shine for the airline in 1981, as flights expanded to destinations in both Central and Northern California including services to San Francisco and Sacramento, cities that had been given up during the airlines consolidation in 1971.

Lake Tahoe provided to be a popular year-round destination when service was started in 1981. Rolling out after landing at Lake Tahoe Airport in February 1981, is N702GW, a de Havilland DHC-7-102.

Awaiting takeoff clearance at San Diego-Lindbergh Field in March 1981, is N702GW, a de Havilland DHC-7-102.

By 1982, Golden West had grown to serve eleven cities across California, with a fleet of sixteen aircraft and no less than one hundred daily flights. Code share agreements with almost all the airlines operating from Los Angeles, both domestic and international, allowed seamless connections and kept the airline popular amongst passengers.

Even the Shorts got the new corporate colors as is evident on N331GW, a Shorts SD330-200, parked on the ramp at Sacramento International Airport in March 1983.

In an effort to modernize its future fleet, Golden West placed an order for three of the new de Havilland DHC-8 turboprops as well as considering the new British Aerospace BAe-146 to start jet operations. It was only a year later that Golden West started to suffer financial woes caused by the purchase of the new de Havilland DHC-7s as well as management changes that compounded the already struggling finances. There was the possibility of a minority purchase by Pan American Airlines (Pan Am) for $3 million to help get the carrier out of its mounting debt, however  this deal fell through and the airline continued to struggle until Friday, April 22, 1983 when the carrier was forced to shut down and  layoff all employees. Although there were plans to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to allow for reorganization, this failed and the airline ceased operations, setting the sun on a carrier which had brought together the outlaying airports of Southern California and brought a ray of golden light to the millions of passengers making their convenient connections into LAX.

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Departed Wings – Presidential Airways (XV)

Written by Jon Jamieson

Washington-Dulles, D.C.

Hoping to establish a discount airline market from a Washington-Dulles base, former PEOPLExpress executive Harold J. “Hap” Paretti, founded Presidential Airways on March 20, 1985. The new airline was to be full-service with low fares providing jet service from Washington-Dulles to cities in the South and New England. With the challenge in securing at least $2 million in start-up capital and leasing several ex-Lufthansa Boeing 737-200, Presidential Airways took to the skies on October 10, 1985.

Presidential Airways first Boeing 737-200 N301XV “George Washington” seen deplaning passengers at Washington-Dulles International Airport in November 1985.

Initial service was centered on a Dulles “hub” with flights to Boston, Cincinnati, Hartford, Indianapolis, and Miami. Within a few months, United Airlines, itself having a large presence at Washington-Dulles announced a major East Coast expansion in direct competition with Presidential. The airline prevailed and continued to acquire additional Boeing 737s and expand its route structure whereby the summer of 1986, the airline was flying to eighteen destinations including Montréal, Canada.

By 1986, Presidential Airways was flying to seven cities in Florida, including Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where N323XV “John Tyler” a Boeing 737-214 taxis outbound for takeoff.

In June 1986, Presidential placed an order for five British Aerospace BAe 146 aircraft, with the intent of using the new plane on smaller, secondary cities not economical for the Boeing 737. The year 1986 also saw the introduction of “commuter” service, when Presidential purchased Colgan Airways to provide feeder services from Dulles under the banner “Presidential Express.” At its peak, during the fall of 1986, Presidential Airways was flying thirteen Boeing 737s and nine BAe 146s to nineteen cities with almost 300 weekly flights.

Still struggling with intense competition Presidential signed an agreement with Continental Airlines to become that carriers “Jet Express” feeder at Dulles in January 1987.

A British Aerospace BAe 146-200, N402XV “James Buchanan” taxis at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport in February 1987.

The Continental agreement lasted less than a year, with the airline again resuming operations under its own name, before making an agreement with United Airlines in 1988 to flying connecting service. Still under intense competition and suffering financially, Presidential Airways filed for bankruptcy on October 26, 1989, and operations eventually ceased on December 4, 1989.

A small fleet of British Aerospace BAe J-31 Jetstreams provided feeder services for the airline. This example, N104XV sits on the ramp at Washington-Dulles International Airport in April 1988.

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Departed Wings ~ Muse Air (MC)

Written by Jon Jamieson

1980-1985 || Dallas, Texas

In the few years after deregulation, many airlines were started to serve a niche market and take advantage of the new, un-regulated environment. One such airline was Muse Air, which took the name of its founder, former Southwest Airlines President, Lamar Muse. Hoping to capitalize on a new “class” of service, Muse Air was officially formed on October 27, 1980, and within a few months $34 million in start-up capital had been generated.

Muse Air started service with two leased McDonnell Douglas MD-80s while awaiting delivery of their own. Seen taxiing at Dallas-Love Field in July 1981, is N10029, a McDonnell Douglas MD-81.

The airline selected the new McDonnell Douglas MD-80 as its aircraft of choice with leather seating for 159-passengers and Stage III noise compliance. Wearing a stylized signature script along the fuselage of its new MD-80s, Muse Air officially launched service on July 15, 1981, from a Dallas-Love Field base to Houston-Hobby Airport. Unique and controversial at the time, Muse Air was the first U.S. airline to institute a “No-Smoking” policy on all of its flights.

Prior to delivery, one of Muse Air’s new MD-82s was used by McDonnell Douglas on a world-wide sales tour. Taxiing for takeoff at Long Beach Airport in November 1982, is N934MC “Friendship 82.”

Over the next year, Muse Air expanded operations beyond Texas, starting service to both Los Angeles and Tulsa. During 1983, Muse Air acquired the smaller Douglas DC-9-50 for intra-Texas services to San Antonio, Lubbock, and Austin. The airline struggled with main competitor Southwest Airlines for routes, gate space, and fares resulting in mounting losses that Lamer Muse stepped down in 1984, replaced by his son Michael.

Proudly displaying its “signature” logo, N933MC, a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, departs San Jose Airport in December 1984.

Although new cities were added such as the high-tech City of San Jose, the airline continued to struggle with finances brought on by fare wars with both Southwest and Continental Airlines. By early 1985, with continued management changes and finances in the “red,” the airline sought offers for possible purchase. During this time, the airline continued to expand adding passenger service to points in Florida and Oklahoma.

Awaiting takeoff clearance on Runway 25 at Las Vegas-McCarren Airport in February 1986, is N670MC, a Douglas DC-9-51.

In March 1985, Southwest Airlines offered $60 million for the purchase of Muse Air, much to the dismay of both Continental Airlines and America West Airlines. With approval from both the Justice Department and Department of Transportation (DOT), Muse Air became a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest Airline under the new name Transtar Airlines on June 27, 1985.

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Departed Wings: Altair Airlines (AK)

Written by Jon Jamieson

                                  1966-1982                               Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Altair Airlines was established as a commuter carrier based at Philadelphia airport and started operations on November 4, 1966. Early service connected Philadelphia with Scranton, Harrisburg, and Allentown using the nine-passenger Beech Queenair aircraft. The name Altair, was curious and was derived from the bright star “Altairus” located in the constellation “Aquila” or Eagle for which the airlines logo was created.

One of the Beech 99s caught departing the ramp for another regional flight in 1971.

By 1970, Altair had expanded operations across to adjoining states, was serving twelve cities, and had acquired the Beech 99 turboprop. At times, facing competition from rival Allegheny Commuter in many of its markets, Altair was able to maintain profitability and service. With the watchful eye of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), a new 32-seat limit was placed on commuter aircraft in 1972. Altair, in an effort to increase loads, looked to the French designed Nord 262 turboprop, with a capacity of twenty-seven seats to meet the CAB recommendation.

The French built Nord 262 served Altair through the late 1970s and is seen taxiing at Washington National Airport in 1981.

The first Nord 262 was delivered in 1975 and was used with the Beech 99s to continue flying over 100,000 passengers yearly. On the heels of deregulation in 1978, many airlines realized an opportunity to enter new markets and Altair was no exception. The airline placed an order for ten of the 74-seat Fokker F-28 jets with plans of route extension to Florida and the Eastern Seaboard.

The Fokker F-28 allowed Altair to expand to further markets including Florida. Parked on the ramp at Tampa International Airport in 1982, is N504.

The first F-28 “Starjet” service started on October 15, 1980 and routes expanded as far south as Tampa and Sarasota, Florida. After only a year in service and on the heels of the PATCO strike in 1981, Altair started to suffer financially. An attempt was made to establish a hub-and-spoke system from Philadelphia and Altair purchased three Douglas DC-9s from Air Canada for the service. Although the airline had become “pure-jet” by mid-1981, continuing financial loses as well as fierce completion with both Piedmont and USAir at Philadelphia, forced the privately held Altair into a downward spiral. With over $34 million in losses, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on November 9, 1982 and suspended all operations.

Still painted in the airlines colors, the Douglas DC-9 only saw service for a few months and is parked awaiting disposition at Philadelphia International Airport in early 1983.

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