Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to meet national safety standards by demolishing two hangars at , one of which houses the , have been scraped due to community resistance and the work of local lawmakers.
“The FAA does not have the legal authority to compel the [airport] to demolish the structure," said Catherine Lang, acting associate administrator for airports at the FAA, in a letter. "You have helped reinforce and highlight the point that many interested parties oppose demolition."
The FAA was going to demolish the hangers in order to expand the runway and meet other safety criteria dictated by Congress's Runway Safety Program, statutes mandated for all airports providing commercial services. According to Lang, the at Republic Airport prevents the airport from complying with three minimum safety standards involving runway space.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and Rep. Steve Israel, D- Huntington, responded by drafting language for a FAA reauthorization bill that would state that the FAA has the authority to use federal funds to relocate the museum, instead of demolishing it. They also contacted New York State’s Historic Preservation Office to designate the hangar eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places.
According to the offices of the local legislators, the FAA originally said it did not have the authority to utilize funding from the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to move the museum, but was permitted under statute to demolish the structure.
Lang's recent letter said federal funds could in fact be used, under the AIP, to relocate the hanger and that no new legislative provisions are necessary to establish AIP eligibility.
“This a monumental win for not only Long Island, but for veterans across the country and the proud aviation history of our armed services,” Schumer said.
The airport is currently under review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, after which the FAA will work with the New York State Department of Transportation to determine how to meet both the safety standards and preserve the museum.
Lang said there is an alternative that could satisfy the safety standards without impacting the museum's current location involving the installation of Engineered Materials Arresting System beds and a minor runway alteration, but more analysis is required before that solution is enacted.
At Monday's announcement about the plan change, Schumer and Israel were joined by Josephine Raichele of West Babylon, who worked at the hangar when it was manufacturing the P-47 Thunderbolt, the primary fighter aircraft during World War II.
“The work of Long Islanders helped win us World War II and the Cold War, and the American Airpower Museum enshrines that history," Israel said. "We’re not just preserving a building, we’re preserving history."