A National Park Service project reclaims aviation history.
- By David Shaftel
- Air & Space magazine, November 2010
NASM (Rudy Arnold Photo Collection,SI NEG. #0XRA-4766-PM)
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Taft is quick to point out that as a commercial airport, Floyd Bennett Field was not successful. Newark Airport in New Jersey was—and still is—more accessible from Manhattan, and as such got more commercial aviation business. “Floyd Bennett was an airfield in the middle of nowhere,” says Taft. “The nowhere just grew up around it.”
In 1941, the field was granted to the federal government for wartime use, and it remained an active naval air station until 1971, when it was brought into the Gateway fold. The restoration, however, will focus on the airfield’s municipal era. “We have a pretty compelling aviation history,” says Hallowell, “but if you think of aviation sites within the park service, you’re going to think of the Wright brothers, Kitty Hawk, and Dayton aviation. Unless you are an aviation history buff, Floyd Bennett is probably not going to be on the top of your list. So we’re really looking forward to being able to have this terminal building where somebody like me can say, ‘Hey, come on in. Let me tell you the story of the field.’ ”
After listening to a briefing from a park ranger in a lovingly restored terminal building, visitors can walk out to the tarmac and see things much as they were in the 1930s—the field surrounded by wetlands, no skyline in sight. The only things that could possibly disrupt the reverie are the low-flying jumbo jets on their approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport and a nagging anxiety about the traffic that awaits on the Belt Parkway, heading back to the city.
David Shaftel, a writer from New York City, is now stationed in Mumbai, India, as a correspondent for the New Delhi-based Tehelka group of publications.