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Career Spotlight: Airport Commissioner

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Career Spotlight Article
Tanner Asadorian with Mr. Robert Schaefer, Commissioner of Islip MacArthur Airport.

High school is a crucial time in our educational career; it serves as an opportunity to be given exposure to career fields and a glimpse into the “future” of our lives. For this reason, it is essential we exhaust all the resources made available to learn about what we may be interested in doing for what could be a majority of our life. This is the beginning of a column, which will act as one of those resources. Each edition will feature a spotlight on a certain career, from someone who is a leader in their field or industry. It will be one of the many ways you can learn about each of these careers.

For this edition, we will highlight a more obscure career in an important industry. The aviation industry is a multi-billion dollar field. Our interviewee is Mr. Robert Schaefer, the commissioner at Islip MacArthur Airport on Long Island. His job is of extraordinary importance. He is responsible for managing the upkeep of not just the passenger terminal, where you and I travel, but also for the people who own private planes. As Commissioner Schaefer stated, “It’s more than just finding new airlines.”

Mr. Schaefer has quite the resumè. Prior to his service at Islip, he worked for twenty-five years with the Port Authority, which manages the airports of the New York City area. He climbed the ladder with experience at every New York City airport to attain the role of “Staff Sergeant,”  an important position in the Port Authority. He was responsible for the arrival and departures of all “VIP” passengers, “which includes the President, anyone in general assembly, celebrities, [or] any dignitaries.” He was responsible for safety of the airspace at these times. “I handled their flights, from picking a runway, to getting to a gate, to getting transportation to their vehicles, to getting ice on their planes.” Mr. Schaefer continued on to be Deputy Commissioner at Islip from 2002-2006, and then became commissioner in 2012.The title of Commissioner is all-encompassing, it includes the upkeep of the field, from cutting the trees, to putting lines on the runways. The Commissioner must also work with the government to ensure all safety requirements are met to keep all the passengers safe when they enter the airport. Commissioner Schaefer enjoys his job and considers his favorite part to be “the challenge that Islip offers”. When compared to airports like LaGuardia and Kennedy, Islip can see growth. “…I know it’s stressful, but I have the challenge of when I leave here, I want to build a better airport, and more airlines and more flights, so it’s a good challenge”. Islip MacArthur Airport is served today by Southwest Airlines to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Baltimore/Washington D.C as well as U.S. Airways with flights to Philadelphia.

For those interested in aviation or the aerospace field, Commissioner Schaefer touted many Long Island aviation programs at schools such as Dowling College as well as those offered at SUNY Farmingdale. There are many other schools nationwide that offer courses for pilots, air traffic controllers, and airline management. Perseverance is key in this industry. “You may not get a job immediately with an airline, but many start as the people who push wheelchairs. They get to know the people at the airlines, and airlines commonly fill them [the wheelchair assistants] in with positions in the airline.”

Whether or not the airline industry seems to be your fortè, the career options for your future are endless, and don’t stop here. Look around, talk to friends and family with different passions and find out what they like about what they do. And check back with The Hills West Roundup on our website to see future editions with highlights on new careers and fields.

A direct interview was conducted with the Airport Commissioner (Leader) of MacArthur Airport in Islip, NY. Various questioned I asked were about what his job entails and how students who may have prospects for the industry can find a job.

Watch a video interview with Commissioner Schaefer below: