Floyd Bennett Field, on Barren Island, Jamaica Bay, was the first municipal airport in New York City. Constructed between 1928 and 1931 by the City Department of Docks, the airport was designed to divert the increasing volume of air traffic to New York City away from Newark Airport where the vast majority of New York bound flights terminated. By 1933, Floyd Bennett Field was the second busiest airport in the country, with 51,828 landings and takeoffs, but only a minor percentage of this actively consisted of the mail, freight and commercial passengers which generated revenue. The field was named in honor of naval aviator Floyd Bennett, pilot of the first flight over the North Pole in 1926. Bennett later died in 1928 from pneumonia that developed following extensive injuries from an earlier crash. Following the opening of Idlewild Airport in 1939, Floyd Bennett Field was closed to commercial use and conveyed to the U.S. Navy in 1941. Although the Navy enlarged the field, the original complex of steel frame and brick hangars and support buildings has not been substantially altered, and thus Floyd Bennett Field retains the architectural design and historic integrity of an early municipal airport.
Floyd Bennett Field is also important for its association with significant early aviators. Because of its unusually long runways and fair weather conditions, Floyd Bennett Field became noted as a prime airport for the experimental fliers who sought to establish speed and distance records. In 1933 Wiley Post broke his previous record for an around-the-world flight landing at Floyd Bennett Field seven days, 18 hours and 49 minutes after he took off from there on July 15. In 1938, Howard Hughes with a crew of four made an around-the-world flight starting and finishing at Floyd Bennett Field. This flight, which covered 14,791 miles in three days, 19 hours, eight minutes and 10 seconds, was made to collect navigational data. Shortly after Hughes's flight, Douglas Corrigan embarked from Floyd Bennett Field supposedly on a flight to California. Corrigan flew instead to Ireland, thus fulfilling his wish to make a Trans-Atlantic flight. For this apparent lack of orientation, Corrigan lost his experimental license and earned the nickname "Wrong-Way." Interest in these records reflected public enthusiasm about aviation and contributed to improving technical aspects and piloting skills.
Floyd Bennett Field Historic District is part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the National Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn, New York, across the Marine Parkway Bridge from Jacob Riis Park and the U.S. Coast Guard Station and U.S. Military Reservation Fort Tilden. The Floyd Bennett Field administration building is now the Ryan Visitor Center, open daily 8:30am to 5:00pm. The public is welcome to observe the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project--the restoration of 12 aircraft in Hangar B--on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Call 718-338-3799 or visit the park's website for further information. More information and photos of Floyd Bennett Field can also be found at this website.
Floyd Bennett Field is the subject of an online lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Park Service program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
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