By Joe Werkmeister

A company that provides ground support for private planes recently won preliminary approval for tax breaks from Suffolk County for the construction a new hangar at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.

Representatives of Modern Aviation outlined the company’s $15.5 million project during a Dec. 14 presentation before Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency board members voted unanimously on preliminary approval for a $755,378 sales tax abatement.

The IDA will hold a public hearing in January before the board considers granting final approval.

The project calls for constructing a 35,200-square-foot hangar, demolishing a 5,000-square-foot hangar and removing fuel storage tanks and a pumping system. The decommissioned equipment would be replaced with new fuel storage tanks and a new pumping system, estimated to cost $1.1 million, according to the company’s IDA application.

It said the expansion would allow the company to offer more services, such as providing aircraft ground power and space to park, deicing services and catering.

Suffolk County officials said permit approval for the expansion is pending before its Department of Public Works. Modern Aviation officials said they first submitted a permit application to the airport’s manager.

Robert McAdams, Modern Aviation’s regional vice president and general manager, said at the IDA meeting that company officials “don’t expect any difficulty in obtaining the remaining approvals and permits.”

IDA member Brian Beedenbender questioned at meeting whether the expansion would change the volume of air traffic at the airport. Residents across the East End have complained for years about aircraft noise, particularly farther east where the East Hampton Town-owned airport has been a source of contention and litigation.

McAdams said a new, larger Gabreski hangar could help reduce airport traffic by providing space for planes to stay after arriving, rather than having to immediately take off again.

“General aviation aircraft that arrive at an airport do not have the support staff that a commercial airline would have,” McAdams said. “When a plane lands, you need that support staff. And we become that support staff.”