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Just for the Health of It

The History of Republic Airport

1. Farmingdale’s Aviation Origins:

Located in Farmingdale, Long Island, Republic Airport is an historically significant airfield to the region and the world, having played both military and civilian roles. But long before it became an airfield, it gave rise to the manufacturers that built airplanes.

“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,” wrote Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas in their book, Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale (Arcadia Publishing, 2016, p. 9). “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… ”

The area’s first aviation roots, however, were planted as far back as 1917. The Lawrence Sperry Airplane Company, incorporated that year with $50,000 of capital and located on Rose and Richard streets in the village of Farmingdale, produced its first aircraft in the form of the Messenger.

Designed by Alfred Verville of the US Army’s Engineering Division at McCook Field, the minuscule, 17.9-foot-long, all-wood biplane was intended for “aerial motorcycle” missions, alighting in small clearings to drop off and pick-up messages from field commanders, thus earning its name. Farmingdale’s aviation roots were equally cultivated by Sydney Breese, whose Breese Aircraft Company, located on Eastern Parkway, designed the Penguin. Resembling the Bleriot XI, the mid-wing airplane, powered by a two-cylinder, 28-hp, roughly-running Lawrence engine, was a non-flying, preflight trainer intended to aid US Army pilot transition from primary to operational types. Deployed on the open prairies of Texas, it sported a wingspan too short to produce lift, but allowed fledgling aviators to gain the feel of pre-departure aerodynamic forces on their horizontal tails. Of the 301 produced, only five were ever used for this purpose; the remainder were placed in storage.

2. Fairchild Aviation Corporation:

If Lawrence Sperry and Sydney Breese laid Farmingdale’s aviation foundation, then Sherman M. Fairchild cemented it.

Initially interested in aerial photography equipment, he founded the Fairchild Aerial Camera Corporation in 1920, selling two such devices to the Army, and further developed the company into Fairchild Aerial Surveys to engage in map-making when he had received a contract for an additional 20.

Seeking to replace the myriad of airplane types he operated with a single, specifically- designed camera platform, Fairchild devised the required specifications for one, but could not locate a manufacturer able to build it at a reasonable cost. Forced to do so himself, he established his third aviation company, the Fairchild Aviation Corporation, and moved into the Sperry factory in South Farmingdale, vacated as a result of founder Sperry’s tragic death in December of 1923. cho thue kho lanh ha noi

The high-wing, strut-braced, single-engine utility aircraft, designated FC-1 and first flying in prototype form in 1926, featured an enclosed and heated cabin to protect the pilot and his camera equipment, but its original OX-5 engine proved inadequate. Retrofitted with a higher-capacity Wright J-4, it was redesignated FC-1A.

The FC-2 production version, supported by wheels, floats, or skis, featured increased cabin volume. Powered by a 200-hp Wright J-5, the aircraft, intended for commercial operations, sported a 31-foot overall length and 44-foot wingspan. Accommodating a single pilot and four passengers, or up to 820 pounds of cargo, it had a 3,400-pound gross weight and could attain maximum, 122-mph speeds and operate 700-mile segments.

Demand at the South Farmingdale factory soon eclipsed capacity. After aerially surveying the region, Fairchild himself chose a 77,967-acre alternate on the south side of Route 24 and Conklin Street in East Farmingdale, a site which offered prevailing, South Shore winds and multiple-mode ground access by means of a railroad line and the major, Route 110 corridor, which would facilitate both personnel and raw material transport to the new field. Repackaged into airplanes, the latter could then fly out.

“The 77,967-acre Fairchild Flying Field was developed in the late winter and early spring of 1928 and was originally owned and operated by the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Manufacturing Company,” according to the Long Island-Republic Airport Historical Society. “The first flights from (it) took place in (the) late spring of 1928 after the Fairchild Airplane and the Fairchild Engine factories were completed and aircraft were produced (there). Fairchild built Model 41, 41A, 42, 21, 100, and 150 airplanes… ”

Wings, like those of the Hempstead Plains to the west, once again rose from the farm fields of Long Island, built, propelled, and supported, respectively, by the Fairchild Airplane Factory, the Fairchild Engine Factory, and the Fairchild Flying Field, after Faircam Realty, Inc., purchased the land and its initial layout was established on November 3, 1927.

Although Fairchild produced multiple models at its new Long Island aviation center, its roots would quickly prove tenuous. Moving its headquarters to Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1931, after only three years, it vacated its facilities, which were almost immediately reoccupied by the American Corporation, or AVCO, whose Airplane and Engine divisions produced the Pilgrim 100 transport for American Airways. But the Depression, taking too large a bite out of the economy, severely diminished demand for it, since aircraft acquisitions were high on a company’s cost reduction list, and its presence proved shorter than Fairchild’s. By mid-1932, it had equally disappeared.

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