It's an airport that serves the jet-set, but it doesn't allow jets.
Montauk Airport, which features a 3,200-foot landing strip, one small hangar and an office, is up for sale for an asking price of $18 million.
The airport is located on 37 acres at the far eastern tip of Long Island, about 120 miles from midtown Manhattan. Over the years, airport manager Helen Gil says she has seen celebrities from U2's Bono and Paul McCartney to locals like Billy Joel and Paul Simon coming and going.
Paul Brennan, Prudential Douglas Elliman's regional manager who is handling the Montauk sale, said the airport was opened in 1957 by businessman and longtime state lawmaker Perry Duryea, who later made an unsuccessful bid for governor. Duryea died in 2004 and the current group of owners has "come to the conclusion it's time to liquidate the asset," Brennan said.
It's little surprise the airport gets most of its use in the summer, as Montauk sits at the eastern tip of the network of villages and hamlets known as the Hamptons, where the haves and the have-mores vacation.
"I can't begin to tell you how many celebrities I've seen," said Gil, who has been the airport manager since 1994. "I once saw Bono and asked 'Did anyone ever tell you that you looked like Bono?' And he said, 'I AM Bono,'" she said of the Irish rocker.
In the 1960s, Mick Jagger and his then-wife, Bianca, visited Montauk and frequented the airport, Gil said. "I've met a lot of people, corporate people, senators and congressmen from time to time," she said, adding a litany of name-dropping: Sarah Ferguson, Nicole Kidman, Robert DeNiro, Jimmy Buffett, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed.
"It's been quite a nice job over the last 18 years," she said. Because of its size, it is too small for jets to land there, but Gil said propeller aircraft and helicopters are regular users. The nearby East Hampton Airport is a bit larger and can accommodate private jets.
There are 5,179 public-use airports in the United States; 4,247 are owned by public entities and 932 are owned by private entities, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Benet Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which advocates for keeping airports open, notes that the FAA categorizes Montauk as a general aviation reliever airport.
Although privately owned, FAA approval is required for its sale. Wilson contends that because Montauk received $177,824 in federal grant money in 2009, it is required to remain operational as an airport at least until 2019.
Brennan said the sale of the airport has generated a lot of interest since it went on the market in mid-July. "More inquiries than I have ever had in my 32-year career," he said.
Adds Gil: "If anything it's probably a tourist attraction. I think it's very important to the community. I hope it stays here for a long time."
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