Floyd Bennett Field, now defunct as an active airfield, was New York City's first municipal airport. Located in Brooklyn, it was created by connecting Barren Island to a number of smaller marsh islands by filling the channels between them with pumped sand from the water's bottom, and it is now physically part of Long Island. The airport was named after the famed aviator and Medal of Honor recipient Floyd Bennett (a Brooklyn resident at the time of his dramatic death), dedicated on June 26, 1930, and officially opening on May 23, 1931. The IATA airport code was NOP but now uses the FAA Location Identifier NY22 for a heliport operated by the New York City Police Department.
Many of the earliest surviving original structures were included in a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of their significance as among the largest collection and best representatives of commercial aviation architecture from the period, as well as the significant contributions to civil aviation made there. As such, it was included in 1972 as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service.
Prior to the opening of Floyd Bennett Field in 1930, a compacted dirt runway existed on the island and was generously referred to as "Barren Island Airport", but was used primarily by one pilot who took customers up for joy-rides.
The municipal airport site was chosen and designed by famed aviator Clarence D. Chamberlin. His preference was Barren Island, a marsh with 33 small islands in Jamaica Bay, off the southeastern shore of Brooklyn. The site was favorable due to the lack of obstructions nearby, and because it was easily identifiable from the air. After much debate over the merits of other sites within the city (including the purported favorite of New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia: Governors Island), the site was approved. Six million cubic yards of sand were pumped from Jamaica Bay to connect the islands and raise the site to above the high tide mark. The new airfield's modern, electrically illuminated, concrete runways (when most "airports" still had dirt runways and no night landings) and comfortable terminal facilities with numerous amenities made it the among the most advanced of its day, earniing a rating of A-1 (the highest) by the United States Department of Commerce at the time.
LaGuardia pushed for Floyd Bennett Field to replace Newark Airport in Newark, New Jersey as the city's de facto main air terminal, including designs and plans to shuttle passengers to and from Manhattan in flying boats. He was only able to persuade American Airlines to move its Newark operations to the new airport, and many passengers complained that travel from Bennett Field to Manhattan took longer than from Newark. In addition, particularly in the early days of commercial aviation, freight - not passengers - provided the bulk of profits. As airmail was a major fraction of air freight at the time, airports having contracts with the United States Postal Service attracted commercial airlines. As an industry norm airlines used the cargo area available on passenger aircraft to carry airmail, guaranteeing a profit on empty flights, and often providing more revenue than passenger ticket sales on under-booked flights - common during the development of commercial aviation. Public skepticism about the safety of this new form of transportation, and the Great Depression in particular, made air travel an expensive luxury. As LaGuardia was never able to convince the Postal Service to move its New York City operations from Newark to Floyd Bennett Field, neither did the airlines relocate. This hindered commercial air activities at the airfield. As a general aviation airfield, however, it attracted the record-breaking pilots of the Golden Age of Aviation because of its superior modern facilities and excellent location for flying, hosting dozens of "firsts" and time records as well as a number of air races in their hey-day, such as the Bendix Cup.
Floyd Bennett Field's most storied flight was probably that of Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan who in 1938, after repeatedly being denied permission by the authorities to attempt a non-stop flight to Ireland, "accidentally" crossed the Atlantic in a second-hand surplus aircraft on a flight registered to go to California. In the midst of the Great Depression a hero-starved nation hailed Corrigan for his "accident", even unto giving him a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan upon his return (authorities had his aircraft crated and sent him and his plane back on a ship).
On 16 July 1957, then-Major John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, set the Transcontinental air speed record, flying an F8U-1 Crusader from NAS Los Alamitos, California to NAS New York - Floyd Bennett Field, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.4 seconds. Project Bullet, as the mission was called, provided both the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed, and the first continuous transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States. Glenn was awarded his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for the mission.
After the closure of Naval Air Station Rockaway across the inlet, a hangar at Floyd Bennett Field was dedicated as a Naval Air Reserve Base within the larger civilian facility. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) occupied a hangar for the world's first police aviation unit (fixed-wing at the time, eventually to become a fleet exclusively of helicopters). In addition, about 10 acres of Floyd Bennett Field along Jamaica Bay was set aside by the city on long-term lease to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in 1936, for the creation of Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn (CGAS Brooklyn). During World War II, the civilian airfield was first leased and then sold to the United States Navy, which subsequently established Naval Air Station New York (NAS New York) to host several aviation units of the Atlantic Fleet, three submarine patrols squadrons, a scout observation service unit, and two Naval Air Transport Service squadrons (processing the majority of the aircraft destined for the Pacific Theater), while still retaining the Coast Guard Air Station as a tenant.
The noted pilot Eddie Schneider died in a training crash on the tarmac in 1940. NAS New York aircraft patrolled the Atlantic coastline and engaged Nazi U-Boats, sustaining casualties, though this information was kept from the public at the time. In addition, Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) served as air traffic controllers in the air station control tower, directing traffic at the busy Naval Air Station, while others served as parachute riggers, packing parachutes and liferafts for use by aviators. Still others performed aircraft maintenance as as aviation machinist mates, some of whom also served as “plane captains” for based aircraft.
Throughout the remainder of the postwar period and until the early 1970s, NAS New York - Floyd Bennett Field primarily functioned as a support base for units of the Naval Air Reserve and the Marine Air Reserve. CGAS Brooklyn continued to operate from NAS New York and the installation also served as a base for the Air National Guard during the Cold War.
In the interim, commercial aviation in New York City moved to a new airport in Queens, which took advantage of the then-new Queens-Midtown Tunnel to Manhattan. That airport was quickly renamed LaGuardia Airport in recognition of that mayor's efforts to bring commercially-viable aviation to New York City.
NAS New York was deactivated in 1971 and most of the land transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) for inclusion in Gateway National Recreation Area. The majority of the remainder, constituting the area occupied by Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, was officially transferred to the Coast Guard and no longer leased. CGAS Brooklyn was eventually decommissioned in 1998, following its merger with CGAS Cape May, New Jersey and relocation to Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey. The majority of former Coast Guard land then transferred to the National Park Service (a small portion remained in the possession of the USCG parent agency at the time -- the US Department of Transportation -- and a Doppler radar tower placed there for use by nearby Kennedy International Airport). The NYPD moved their aviation operation from a historic hangar to the former Coast Guard Air Station facilities shortly afterward.
The National Park Service maintains a collection of example aircraft of the type with historic connections to the airfield, and displays them in a 1950s era "nose hangar". In addition, the airport's original Administration Building is partially accessible to the public, including (under escort) the former control tower. The runways have long since been closed, yet are occasionally reopened for air shows.
As the area of natural grasslands in the region has declined from their historic range due to urban sprawl (see: Hempstead Plains), the Grasslands Restoration And Management Project (GRAMP) was created to maintain a majority of the expanse of open grassland in the middle of the historic former airfield. The purpose is to compensate in a small way for the impact to the native flora and fauna that depend on such habitat lost on Long Island. The program is a joint venture of the National Park Service as the land management agency, and the Audubon Society.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has divisions located on the historic former airfield. The department's aviation base, with its fleet of Bell Jet Ranger helicopters, is housed in space leased from the National Park Service that was once the United States Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, and is also now headquarters for the NYPD Emergency Services Unit. The Driver Training Unit is also located there, using a section of former runway to teach officers to operate many different vehicles used by the department.
In 2006, four of the eight original airport hangars were adapted for reuse and leased as a business concession for community-based sports and entertainment complex. However, the historical integrity of some of the hangars has been alleged to be compromised thereby, in contradiction to the protections supposedly imposed by their inclusion on the National Register and under their management by the NPS.
Runway 15-33: One of the original runways constructed in 1929, this 3,100 x concrete runway was lengthened to in 1936 It was then modified to become the 4,500 x taxiway T-10 in 1942. It runs parallel to the original hangars along Flatbush Avenue.
Runway 6-24 (Old): The second of the original two runways constructed in 1929, this 4,000 x concrete runway became taxiway T-1 and T-2 in 1942. It runs perpendicular to the original hangars along Flatbush Avenue, from the Administration Building/Control Tower to the more modern Hangar B.
Runway 6-24 (New): Constructed in 1942, this 5,000 x runway was lengthened to in 1952. It runs perpendicular to Flatbush Avenue on the North side of the field.
Runway 1-19: Constructed in 1936, this 3,500 x runway was lengthened to 5,000 x in 1942. It was again lengthened to at an unknown date and was the longest runway at the airport. It runs from the vicinity of the current main public entrance to the field at the South end of Flatbush Avenue, to the North corner of the field near the Mill Basin inlet.
Runway 12-30: Constructed in 1936, this 3,200 x runway was lengthened to 5,000 x in 1942. It was again lengthened to at an unknown date. It runs from the former Coast Guard Hangar to the Northwest corner of the field near Flatbush Avenue. For many years, the US Coast Guard used of this runway for helicopter operations. Now the NYPD Aviation Unit uses this same segment.
This is an incomplete sampling of some of the most significant events at Floyd Bennett Field (FBF) during the Golden Age of Aviation
6/26/30 - Airport Dedication. A crowd of 25,000 attended this aerial demonstration led by Charles Lindbergh and Jimmy Doolittle. A flotilla of 600 US Army Air Corps aircraft circled the field as part of the airport dedication. Admiral Byrd, Mayor Walker and his wife, and Mrs. Floyd Bennett were present at the dedication of the airport.
7/28-30/31 - FBF to Istanbul, Turkey Flight. Russell Norton Boardman (age 33) and John Louis Polando (29) flew a Bellanca CH Pacemaker high-wing monoplane named Cape Cod, powered by a Wright J-6 Whirlwind engine, to Istanbul in 49:20 hours establishing a distance record of . As the runway at FBF was just long, they needed to remove a fence and clear a parking lot to add another thousand feet to meet their required takeoff distance. The phone and electric utilities even took down poles along Flatbush Avenue.
7/28-29/31 - FBF to Moylegrove, Wales Flight. Just 18 minutes after Boardman and Polando departed, Hugh Herndon Jr. and Clyde Pangborn flew a Red Bellanca CH-400 Skyrocket, named Miss Veedol (registration NR-796W) and powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, to Moylegrove, Wales in 31:42 hours. They stopped in Japan on their flight around the world and finally landed at FBF on 10/17/31. The aircraft was later named "The American Nurse" and was lost in the Atlantic Ocean without a trace in 1932.
6/3/32 - Failed Transatlantic Attempt. Stanislaus F. Hausner attempts a transatlantic flight from FBF to Warsaw, Poland, in a Bellanca CH Pacemaker, named Rose Marie and powered by a Wright J-6 Whirlwind engine, and makes a forced landing at sea. He is rescued by a British tanker 8 days later.
7/5-6/32 - Failed Round-the-World Attempt. James Mattern and Bennett Griffin flew a Lockheed Vega, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, from FBF to Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, and then non-stop to Berlin, Germany in 18:41 hours. They continued as far as Borisov, Russia in this failed round-the-world flight attempt.
8/23 (25?) - 9/11/32 - Failed Transatlantic Attempt. Colonel George Hutchinson and his family flew a Sikorsky amphibian, powered by two Pratt & Whitney engines, from FBF, but made a forced landing off the coast off Greenland. They were rescued two days later by a British trawler. In addition to the Colonel, his wife Blanche, daughters Kathryn and Janet Lee, a crew of five manned the aircraft.
8/29/32 - Transcontinental Record. James G. Haizlip flew a Weddell-Williams powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine, from FBF to Los Angeles, California, in 10:19 hours, establishing a new transcontinental record.
8/29/32 - Failed Transcontinental Record. Roscoe Turner also flew a Weddell-Williams, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine, from FBF to Los Angeles, California, in 10:58:39 hours, but was beat by Haizlip.
9/13/32 - Failed Transatlantic Attempt William Ulbrich flew a Bellanca Skyrocket powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, from FBF with passengers Dr. Leon Pisculli and Edna Newcomber, but was lost at sea.
11/14/32 - Transcontinental Record. Roscoe Turner flew a Weddell-Williams, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine, from FBF to Burbank, California, in 12:33 hours, establishing a new East-West record.
6/2/33 - Transcontinental Record. Lieutenant Commander Frank Hawks flew a Northrop Gamma, powered by a Wright Whirlwind engine, from Los Angeles, California to FBF, in 13:26:15 hours, establishing a new West-East non-stop record.
6/11-12/33 - FBF to Haiti Flight. Captain J. Errol Boyd, Robert G. Lyon, and Harold P. Davis flew a Bellanca monoplane, powered by a Wright Whirlwind engine, from FBF to Saint Marc, Haiti in about 24 hours.
6/15/33 - Failed Round-the-World Attempt. James J. Mattern flew a Lockheed Vega, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, from FBF across the Atlantic, and makes a forced landing in Siberia. He later flew part of the way back to New York.
7/1/33 - Transcontinental Record. Colonel Roscoe Turner flew a Weddell-Williams, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine, from FBF to Los Angeles, California, in 11:30 hours, establishing a new East-West record.
7/1-8/12/33 - Balbo's Transatlantic Flight. Italian Air Force General Italo Balbo led a group of 25 Savoia-Marchetti S-55X seaplanes, powered by twin Isotta-Fraschini Asso engines, from Orbetello, Italy, to Amsterdam, Iceland, Labrador, and Chicago. After two airplanes crashed along the journey, the group of 23 planes stopped at FBF for 6 days on their way back to Rome, Italy. The flight marked the 10th anniversary of Mussolini's rise to power.
7/15-17/33 - Transatlantic Flight followed by a Fatal Crash. Captain Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas flew a Bellanca CH-300, named Lituanica and powered by a Wright J-6 Whirlwind engine, from FBF to Soldin, Germany, (now Mysliborz in Poland) were they were killed in a crash. They were attempting a flight to Kaunas, Lithuania. This was the 7th transatlantic flight and 2nd in a total distance covered without landing.
7/15-22/33 - Round-the-World Flight. Wiley Post flew a Lockheed Vega (registration N-105W) named Winnie Mae, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, around the world in 7 days, 18:49:30 hours. He was the first to fly around the world solo. During that flight, he covered in 4 days, 19:36 hours, establishing a new record. A crowd on 50,000 people gathered at FBF to see him arrive.
8/5-7/33 - FBF to Syria Flight Lt. Maurice Rossi and Paul Codos flew a Bleriot 110, powered by a Hispano Suiza engine, from FBF to Rayak, Syria in about 55 hours, and established a distance record of .
9/2/33 - Crash. Francisco de Pinedo was killed in a crash during takeoff from FBF.
9/25/33 - West-East Record Flight. Colonel Roscoe Turner flew a Weddell-Williams, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine, from Burbank, California, to FBF, in 10:04:55 hours, establishing a new West-East record.
2/28/34-4/25/34 - South American Flight. Laura H. Ingalls flew a Lockheed Air Express, powered by a Pratt & Whitney engine, from Glenn Curtiss Airport, North Beach, NY, on a tour of South America, including a solo flight across the Andes. She returned to FBF after the flight.
5/14-15/34 - FBF to Rome Flight. George R. Pond and Cesare Sabelli flew a Bellanca Pacemaker, named Leonardo da Vinci and powered by a Wright J-6 Whirlwind engine, in an attempted non-stop flight from FBF to Rome, but were forced to land at Lahinch, Ireland, after 32:00 hours due to a fuel system problem. Later they flew to Rome. This was the 8th transatlantic flight.
5/27-28/34 - Paris to FBF Flight. Lt. Maurice Rossi and Paul Codos flew a Bleriot 110, powered by a Hispano Suiza engine, from Paris, France to FBF in 38:27 hours, the second non-stop flight from Europe to America. In August 1933, both men had flown from FBF to Rayak, Syria.
9/1/34 - West-East Record Flight. Colonel Roscoe Turner flew a Weddell-Williams, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine, from Burbank, California, to FBF, in 10:02:57 hours, beat his old record (9/25/33) by about 2 minutes, and established a new West-East record.
1/15/35 - Passenger Transport Record Flight. Major James H. Dolittle flew an "American Airlines Airplane Development" Vultee, powered by a Wright Cyclone engine, non-stop from Los Angeles, California, to FBF in 11:59 hours, and established a transcontinental non-stop record for a passenger transport airplane.
2/20-21/35 - Passenger Transport Record Flight. Leland S. Andrews also flew an American Airlines Airplane Development Vultee, powered by a Wright Cyclone engine, non-stop from Los Angeles, California, to FBF in 11:34:16 hours (beat Dolittle by almost a half-hour) and established a new transcontinental non-stop record for a passenger transport airplane.
4/30/35 - Passenger Transport Record Flight. D.W. Tomlinson flew a TWA Douglas DC-1, powered by twin Wright Cyclone engines, non-stop from Burbank, California, to FBF in 11:05:45 hours (beat Andrews by almost a half-hour).
5/16-17/35 - Speed Records. D.W. Tomlinson and J.S. Bartles flew a TWA Douglas DC-1, powered by twin Wright Cyclone engines, and established 14 speed records at FBF, demonstrating the increasing efficiency of transport planes and engines with heavy loads.
5/18/35 - Speed Records. D.W. Tomlinson and J.S. Bartles flew a TWA Douglas DC-1, powered by twin Wright Cyclone engines, and established 8 more speed records at FBF, further demonstrating the increasing efficiency of transport planes and engines with heavy loads.
7/11/35 - Laura H. Ingalls flew a Lockheed Orion, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, from FBF to Burbank, California, establishing an East-West record for women.
9/12/35 - Laura H. Ingalls flew a Lockheed Orion, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, from Burbank, California, to FBF, establishing a West-East record for women (Return trip from her 7/11/35 flight).
9/21-22/35 - Attempted Flight to Lithuania. Felix Waitkus (Feliksas Vaitkus) (1907-1956) flew a Lockheed Vega, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, from FBF to Ballinrobe, Ireland, on a projected flight to Lithuania.
3/22/36 - The U.S. Postal Service rejected Floyd Bennett Field's application for the Air Terminal. This signals the failure of the field as a passenger airport as the airlines relied on the US Mail contracts for revenue and would not schedule flights to FBF.
9/2-3/36 - Attempted Round-trip Flight to London. Harry Richman and Richard T. Merrill flew an Airplane Development Vultee named Lady Peace, powered by a Wright Cyclone engine, from FBF to Llwyncelny, Wales, in 18:38 hours on an attempted round-trip flight to London, England.
9/4/36 - East-West Record Flight. Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes flew a Beechcraft, powered by a Wright Whirlwind engine, from FBF to Los Angeles, California, in 14:55:01, and established an East-West transcontinental speed record.
10/6-7/36 - Attempted Flight to Stockholm. Kurt Bjorkvall flew a Bellanca Pacemaker, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, in an attempted flight form FBF to Stockholm, Sweden. He was forced doen in the Atlantic off the Irish coast.
10/28-30/36 - Record Non-stop Flight to London. Captain James A. Mollison flew a Bellanca Flash, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, from FBF to Croyden Airport in London, England, not only making record time from Newfoundland, but was the first pilot to fly non-stop to London in 13:17 hours.
12/14/36 - New York to Miami Speed Record. Major Alexander de Seversky flew a Seversky Sev 3, powered by a Wright Cyclone engine, from FBF to Miami, Florida, establishing a new speed record of 5:46:30 hours.
5/9-10/37 - Flight to London. Richard T. Merrill flew a Lockheed Electra Model 10, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, from FBF to Croyden Airport in London, England, with a stop in Essex, in 20:59 hours.
5/13-14/37 - Flight from London. Richard T. Merrill and John Lambie flew a Lockheed Electra Model 10, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, back from London to FBF, via Massachusetts, with photos of the coronation of George VI in 24:22:25 hours.
7/10-14/38 - Round-the-World Flight Howard Hughes flew a Lockheed 14N Super Electra (registration NX-18973), powered by two Wright Cyclone engines, around the world in 3 days, 19:08:10 hours, testing new navigation equipment. A crowd of 25,000 people came to FBF to see him arrive.
7/17-18/38 - The Flight of "Wrong Way" Corrigan. Douglas Corrigan flew a Curtiss Robin, powered by a Wright Whirlwind, J-6 engine, non-stop from FBF to Dublin, Ireland, in 28:13 hours. After being denied permission to make the flight to Ireland, he filed a flight plan to California, and flew to Ireland. The 31-year old pilot departed at 5:15 a.m. and claimed to have trouble with his compass and never admitted otherwise. Corrigan died on 12/9/95 at the age of 88 years.
8/10-11/38 - Nazi FW-200 Lands at FBF. Alfred Henke, Rudolph von Moreau, Paul Dierberg, and Walter Kober, flew a prototype Focke-Wulf FW-200 (registration D-ACON), named Brandenberg and powered by four Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines, non-stop from Berlin, Germany, to FBF in a record time of 24:50:12 hours.
8/13-14/38 - Nazi FW-200 Departs from FBF. Alfred Henke, Rudolph von Moreau, Paul Dierberg, and Walter Kober, flew the same Focke-Wulf FW-200, powered by four Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines, non-stop from FBF back to Berlin, Germany, in a record time of 19:55:01 hours, cutting the previous record of Wiley Post by 5:50 hours.
12/3/38 - Women's West-East Transcontinental Record. Jacqueline Cochrane flew a Seversky, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, from Burbank, California, to FBF in 10:27:55 hours, setting the women's West-East transcontinental record.
5/24/39 - Mexico City to FBF Flight. Francisco Sarabia flew a Gee Bee Racer from Mexico City to FBF in 10:45 hours, beating the non-stop record flight time of 14:19 hours set by Amelia Earhart on 5/8/35. Sarabia was killed in a crash from Washington D.C. on 6/7/39.
10/15/39 - Laguardia Airport Dedicated. FBF's possibility of commercial success is doomed by the opening of this $45 million, airport, located at the site of the old North Beach Airport. Almost 300,000 people attended the ceremony for the field named after Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia.
SCHUMER, WEINER ANNOUNCE TASK FORCE TO IMPROVE FLOYD BENNETT FIELD; BLUE RIBBON PANEL WILL ENSURE PARK IS ENJOYED FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.
Apr 22, 2010; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by New York Senator Charles Schumer: In recognition of the 40th anniversary...