Three defunct New York airports – Airways Magazine

DALLAS – New York City has three main airports located outside of Manhattan, namely JFK, Newark (EWR) and LaGuardia (LGA). Today, we take a look at three lesser-known airports that once served, or nearly served, the Big Apple.

The world’s first officially established airport opened in 1908 on the site of a former Morris Park racetrack in the Bronx, but it was demolished a few years later to fit into the expanding city. In its place, city officials chose a location in south Brooklyn that would become Floyd Bennett Field.

A government site committee selected the Bronx site as one of six potential airport locations; the other four became LaGuardia, Newark Liberty, JFK, and Teterboro airports. The Wright brothers and other aviation pioneers frequented the fifth, Governor’s Island, which had a runway until the 1960s, but that’s for another story.

Although plans for a major airport in the New York area had been discussed since 1925, little action was taken until 1927, when Charles Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight really got the ball rolling.

That year, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce realized it had to make New York City’s first municipal airport a reality.

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Field Floyd Bennet. Photo: Msedwick, public domain

Field Floyd Bennet


Floyd Bennett Field began in 1928 by pumping sand from the bottom of Jamaica Bay into the waterways separating Barren Island and a few other islands from the rest of Brooklyn. The airfield is located in the Marine Park neighborhood of southeast Brooklyn near Jamaica Bay. Prior to being used as a naval air station, the airport served as a hub for general and commercial aviation.

Floyd Bennett, a renowned aviator who led the first plane to fly over the North Pole and envisioned an airfield on Barren Island before he died in 1928, had the airport named after him.

It was inaugurated on June 26, 1930 and on May 23, 1931 it was officially made available for commercial flights. However, Bennett Field did not see much commercial traffic despite the excellent quality of its facilities and was mainly used for general aviation. Airmen flying to or from Bennett Field set dozens of aviation records during the interwar period.

The Old Flying Field, which operated from 1911 to 1916, is now a shopping center, while the East Field, which was once an industrial park but is now primarily a commercial area with townhouses and The Source shopping center on the site of the former runway.

During the “golden age of aviation” of the 1930s, Floyd Bennett Field served as the home base for many illustrious pilots. This was the result of a number of favorable circumstances, including climate, topography, current infrastructure and little commercial activity.

Bennett Field has served as the starting point or final destination for numerous world or transoceanic record flights, including 26 such trips and 10 transcontinental flights.

Floyd Bennett Field from above, 2013. Photo: Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Bennett Field is currently managed by the National Park Service and is part of the Jamaica Bay unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area (NPS). The New York City Police Department (NYPD) still uses part of the airfield as a helicopter base, and one runway is reserved for amateurs flying radio-controlled aircraft, despite the fact that it is no longer used as a active commercial, military or general aviation airfield.

The United States Coast Guard and United States Navy began occupying part of the airport in the 1930s. On June 2, 1941, Bennett Field joined Naval Air Station New York following the start of the Second World War.

During World War II, Floyd Bennett Field served as the focal point for naval operations. The airfield served as a Naval Air Reserve station after the war. Bennett Field was last used by the Navy in 1970. However, the Coast Guard continued to use it until 1998, and a reserve facility remained there until 1983.

Bennett Field was to be used for various purposes; however, it was not until 1972 that a decision was made to incorporate the airport into the Gateway National Recreation Area. In 1974, Floyd Bennett Field reopened as a park.

As one of the largest collections and best examples of commercial aviation architecture of the time, and because of the region’s significant contributions to general aviation and military aviation during the between the wars, many of the earliest surviving original structures are included in a historic district. listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nearly a thousand people gathered at Roosevelt Field to watch Charles Lindbergh take off on his historic flight. Underwood and Underwood. Image Number: SI-77-2701 Credit: National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Roosevelt Field


A former New York airport called Roosevelt Field lies 3.7 kilometers (2.3 miles) east-southeast of Mineola, Long Island, New York. During World War I, the United States Army Air Service used Hazelhurst Field, also known as Hempstead Plains Airfield, Hempstead Plains Field, or even Garden City Airfield, as an airfield. coaching.

It was renamed in 1919 to recognize President Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, who died in aerial combat in World War I.

Many important flights of early aviation, including Charles Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight in 1927, took off from Roosevelt Field. Other early aviators like Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post also used it.

Once the property was in civilian hands after the war, the owners divided the remaining land into two separate areas before selling off pieces along the southern boundary of the field. Half of the western section along Clinton Road was taken up by Curtiss Field, a 300-acre airfield built on the original site of Hazelhurst Field.

The remaining area was occupied by Roosevelt Field, which included an east-west compacted clay runway approximately 5,000 feet long on the cliff, seven hangars, a substantial parking ramp near Curtiss Field, and other structures.

Aline Hofheimer (1909–1963) painted a 126-foot mural depicting aviation history at Roosevelt Field, Long Island (c. 1935). Photo: Smithsonian Institute. Public domain

On September 21, 1926, René Fonck attempted to launch the Sikorsky S-35 in pursuit of the Orteig prize, but the aircraft was considerably overweight and strained the auxiliary landing gear placed to help carry the burden, breaking a wheel in the process. Two of the crew died when the aircraft, unable to achieve lifting speed, cartwheeled off the end of the cliff and burst into flames.

The runway at Roosevelt Field would be late used by Charles Lindbergh to take off aboard the Spirit of St. Louis on his trip to Paris the following May.

During World War II, the Navy and Army both used Roosevelt Field, which resumed operation as a commercial airport after the war until 1950, when it was purchased by property developers. On May 31, 1951, the field was closed.

Photo: Thomas X. Casey, public domain

The Bronx airport that never was


In August 1927, local businessmen gathered for the ceremonial opening of a new airstrip in the Bronx Wetlands. Shortly after, a single-engine biplane came in for its first landing, but instead of being greeted with joy, the crash included an automobile parked on the makeshift runway.

Although no one was injured, the failure of the attempt to create an airport in the Bronx was a bad omen. Many New York residents and visitors would be arriving in the eastern Bronx today rather than LaGuardia Airport in northern Queens if all had gone according to plan.

On October 1, 1928, one of New Jersey’s locations in the Newark area, which is now known as Newark Liberty International Airport, opened. However, the entry of a private company into the competition was to hamper the plans of a New York counterpart.

In 1929, a number of aviation companies merged to become the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, which at the time was the largest aviation company in the United States.

With over $35 million in cash, Curtiss-Wright decided to diversify its business beyond aircraft production by building an extensive network of airports across the country. The East Bronx Swamps in New York was a perfect fit and good value.

Image Courtesy: New York Times Archive

As soon as possible, Curtiss-Wright began acquiring land in the Bronx with the intention of building what a local newspaper called “the world’s largest airport on the shore of Eastchester Creek”.

A title of June 5, 1929 of The New York Times read, “$3,000,000 PLANNED AIRPORT IN THE BRONX; Curtiss Corporation announces the purchase of a site adjacent to Pelham Bay Park. WORK TO START SOON The 250-acre triangular terrain is described as ideal for sea and land aircraft.

As you might have guessed, residents of the nearby village of Pelham Manor didn’t like the idea of ​​having an airport in their backyard. Despite the village’s location in Westchester County, local authorities attempted to change zoning regulations to stop construction of the airport.

The airport seemed inescapable until the stock market crash of October 1929. With its property taxes on a single location over half a million dollars outstanding in 1936, Curtiss-Wright quickly liquidated its airport subsidiary.

By then, unhappy with the commute time from Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field to Manhattan, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had shifted his gaze to northern Queens. In 1934, he refused to land at Newark Airport in New Jersey because his ticket read “New York.” He called for a new, modern airport closer to Manhattan’s business center. This airport, which today bears his name, opened in 1939.


Featured Image: A concrete runway at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo: Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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