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This book would not have been made possible without my infinite curiousity to learn more. My perserverance has ledto a wonderful discovery to share with the rest of the world. It’s about time that we all learn about a hidden gem in themidst of a great city. Thank you to my professors, my friends, my family, and most importantly, GOD. By Elisabetta DiStefano
FBF | 3 “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” —Amelia Earhart2 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 9 1931–41 floyd bennett field (FBF) 1972–NOW Gateway NPS aquisition “Golden aGe of aviation” FUTURE 1928–31 aviators AT FBF FBF COmmunity Garden Barren Island Record Breaking flights Kissena Bike raceS 2012–beyond Aviator Sports & Recreation other activities 1941–45 Ryan center (Administration building) World war II / U.S. Navy FBF Forefront of aviation tecnology 1946–72 U.S. Coast guard COLD war / Post ww II world’s first police “Cradle of aviation” aViation unit8 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 1 3 Barren Island P rior 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 industrial leaders, had been planning to create a major shipping harbor out of Jamaica Bay. By 1927 the city’s Department of Docks had spent well over $100,000,000 of city, state, and Airport”, but was used primarily by one pilot who took federal money on the project. The city owned Barren Island, customersup for joy-rides. The municipal airport site and could achieve two objectives by dredging the main was chosen and designed by famed aviator Clarence D. Jamaica Bay channel while using the extracted sand to raise Chamberlin. His preference was Barren Island, a 387-acre the level of the island to a height suitable for the airport. (1.57 km2) marsh with 33 small islands in Jamaica Bay, off Also, many New York governmental leaders tought that it the southeastern shore of Brooklyn. The site was favorable due made sense to locate the airport near this new industrial to the lack of obstructions nearby, and because it was easily and commercial devolopment. identifiable from the air. Second, Clarence D. Chamberlain, the American After much debate over the merits of other sites within aviator who become famous for the Atlantic immediately the city (including Governors Island, the purported favorite after Lindbergh, was hired by the city as a consultant on of New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia), the site was aviation. He preferred the Barren Island site over others approved. Six million cubic yards of sand were pumped from because of its location. There was nothing that would Jamaica Bay to connect the islands and raise the site to 16 interfere with the landing or departing at the field for the feet (4.9 m) above the high tide mark. The new airfield’s airplanes. Since the location of the island was located on modern, electrically illuminated, concrete runways (when Jamaica Bay, the field would easily accomodate seaplanes, most “airports” still had dirt runways and no night landings) which were becoming very popular and were considered and comfortable terminal facilities with numerous amenities to be the most common aircraft to serve the Atlantic made it among the most advanced of its day, earning a rating coastal area. Finally, the third reason, which is also the of A-1 (the highest) by the United States Department of most important, is that Barren Island was already owned Commerce at the time. There were 3 key reasons why Barren by the City of New York, so acquiring it was simple. All Island site was selected by the Hoover Committee. First, since other proposed sites that were recommended by the the late 19th Century the city and federal governments, in Hoover Committee would have to be purchased from response to the urgings of many New York commercial and the United States Government or private individuals. 1929 thru 19311 2 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 1 5 Floyd Bennett B orn at Warrensburg, New York, on October 25, 1890, he left school at the age of 17 and became an auto mechanic and part owner of a service garage. In Mechanic. He and Byrd then began planning for an air crossing of the Atlantic in their second plane, the America. But Bennett suffered serious injuries when the America 1917, he enlisted in the United States Navy and signed up crashed, opening the way for Charles Lindbergh to make for aviation training, but although he became a capable the first trans-Atlantic flight. pilot he was retained for service as an aviation mechanic. Bennett was appointed second-in-command of His chance for fame came in 1925 when he was assigned to Byrd’s 1928-30 expedition to the South Pole, most of duty with Lieutenant Commander Richard E. Byrd’s naval the details he had planned. Before the expedition set aviation group attached to D. B. MacMillan’s expedition out, he and Bernt Balchen (see biography under U.S. Air to Greenland in that year. Both his character and ability Force) set out to salvage the Bremen, the first aircraft caught the attention of his commander, and he soon to cross the Atlantic westwards, which had gone down became Byrd’s close friend and personal pilot. Together off the coast of Labrador. On the way Bennett fell ill they planned a flight over the North Pole, and on a second and died at Quebec, Canada, on April 25, 1928. He was expedition in the next year they carried out the plan, flying mourned throughout the United States as a national hero. a 3-engine Fokker monoplane, the Josephine Ford, from He had also been awarded a special medal of the National Spitsbergen to the Pole and back on May 9. Both men were Geographic Society, with its seal on the reverse side, awarded the Medal of Honor for their feat, one of the rare presented by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926. He was peacetime awards of the Medal. Byrd was promoted to buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. Commander and Bennett , by Act of Congress, to Warrant 1931 thru 19411 4 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 1 7 “Golden Age” Floyd Bennett Field is one of world aviation history’s most notable sites. Throughout the 1930’s at Floyd Bennett Field, many of aviation’s earliest and best -known pioneers, either began, or ended their historic flights on the runways of Floyd Bennett Field. During what has been called aviation’s “Golden Age,” pilots such as Wiley Post, Jacqueline Cochran, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart, and Howard Hughes made significant contributions to aviation through their vision and courage. Each of these record flights served to further the advancement of human flight, and had profound effects on the history of aviation, and of the United States. 1931 thru 19411 6 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 1 9 Work began on New York City’s first municipal airport on October 29, 1929. This proved to be ominous because this was also the same day that the stock market crashed, bringing on the Great Depression, which lasted through the 1930’s. This was to affect New York’s new airport throughout the years to come. Barren Island was expanded and connected to Brooklyn by landfill, and Flatbush Avenue was extended to provide access to the new airport. Floyd Bennett Field was built to be the most modern airport in the world. In an age when most runways were grass or dirt, Floyd Bennett Field had paved concrete. Its four hangars could house and service the largest airplanes of the day. Facilities were built for seaplanes and flying boats. The Administration Building also served as the terminal, and provided for the comfort of pilots and passengers. The entire airport was meant as an impressive gateway from the air to enter into the nation’s largest city.1 8 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 2 1 Classification “A – 1 – A” Floyd Bennett Field was dedicated as New York City’s first municipal airport on May 23, 1931, and received the Civil Aeronautics Board’s highest airport rating of A - 1 - A. Almost immediately, Floyd Bennett Field became an extremely popular site with aviators, especially those seeking to set speed and distance records. Twenty – six around the world or transatlantic flights originated or terminated at the field between 1931 and 1939. In addition there were ten notable cross- country flights began or ended at the field during this time. 1932: Roscoe Turners Bendix 1937 - Biplane at Floyd 1934 Stinson for Sale by Edwin winning Wedell-Williams Bennett Field. Wormald in 1939. The Bendix Trophy and Annette Gipson All-Women Air First, its location (on the Atlantic sea board of the United Races both started at Floyd Bennett Field in 1933. States) set it up as a perfect jump-off site for transatlantic, These were two of the most prestigious air races during cross country, and around the world flights. Also, the field the 1930’s, and put Floyd Bennett Field at the center of had superb facilities, including one of the finest sets of aviation’s “Golden Age.” There are several reasons why runways in the world. The runways were perfect for long New York’s new municipal airport became a favorite of distance or speed flights that required a heavy fuel load. pioneering aviators. Floyd Bennett Field was ideally suited for the record – breaking flights of the 1930’s, and pilots were quick to extol its advantages and make use of them2 0 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 2 3Floyd Bennett Field, for In October 1939,all the popularity it had Municipal Airport Numberenjoyed with the pioneering 2 was opened at Northaviators of the 1930’s, Beach in Queens. Laterproved to be a financial renamed LaGuardiaburden to New York City. Airport, this new facilityThis was due to three major had the advantage offactors. First, throughout its being much closer to thelife as a municipal airport, business and populationthe only way to reach center in Manhattan, andFloyd Bennett Field was was reachable by newby driving along Flatbush highways and bridges.Avenue. There were no Lastly, for most peoplehighways nearby, and mass air travel was far beyondtransit bus service had to their means. In the 1930’s,travel the same crowded nearly 25 percent ofroute as automobiles and workers were unemployed,trucks. This meant that it and the average salary forwas inconvenient for most those with jobs was lesspotential passengers to than $1,400 per year.use Floyd Bennett Field. Therefore, very few peopleAlso, despite its facilities, could afford the expensewhich were unrivalled by of flying. These factors,any airport in the world, plus the obvious warFloyd Bennett Field was clouds gathering aroundunable to lure the lucrative the world, led New Yorkairmail contract away from City to sell Floyd BennettNewark Airport, in New Field to the U. S. Navy inJersey. Newark held the 1941. The navy, which hadprimary contract for the been a permanent tenantNew York metropolitan since the field opened,area. Although Floyd was looking to expand itsBennett Field was within aviation capabilities inthe boundary of New York New York. The final civilianCity, it was designated a flight departed on Maysecondary airmail field, 26, 1941, and Naval Airand was only used when Station - New York wasNewark Airport was not dedicated on June 2.accessible. This meant thatFloyd Bennett Field wasdestined to lose money.2 2 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 2 5 Capt. J. Errol Boyd Jimmy Mattern Hugh Herndon Col. Roscoe Turner John Polando Wiley PostHeroes of the Air and the Search for a Site In May of 1927, an unknown airmail pilot named of its steady winds and lack of fog. It had been decided thatCharles Lindbergh flew non – stop from Roosevelt Field, New York City’s first municipal airport would be namedLong Island to Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France. His solo in honor of Floyd Bennett. Bennett, a naval aviator andflight captured the imagination of the world. Billed as the Brooklyn resident, had been the pilot for CommanderNew York – Paris flight, the fact that it began outside of Richard E. Byrd’s flight over the North Pole in 1926. Boththe city in Nassau County embarrassed New York City’s Bennett and Byrd were awarded the Congressional Medalgovernment. A panel was established, headed by noted of Honor for their feat. While preparing for a flight over D.W. Tomlinson Felix Waitkus Laura Ingalls Jacqueline Cochran Jimmy Dolittlev Howard Hughesaviator Clarence Chamberlain to find a site to build a the South Pole in 1928, Bennett crashed on a test flight,state–of–the–art airport within the city limits. The panel breaking several ribs and punturing a lung. Though notsettled on a site on Barren Island, off of the southern shore fully recovered from his injuries, he joined in the rescueof Brooklyn in Jamaica Bay. The site of a small community, efforts to find two downed transatlantic flyers in Quebec,a horse rendering plant, and a flying field operated by Paul Canada. The weakened Bennett contracted pneumonia inRizzo called “Barren Island Airport.” it provided good flying the cold climate, and died at age 38, despite the efforts ofconditions, and room to expand. The shores of Jamaica Bay Charles Lindbergh to fly a serum to the stricken aviator.had been popular with flyers because 24, May 1939 [Francesco Sarabia flies from Mexico City, 2,350 miles in record time to beat that set by Amelia Earhart of 14:19:00 on May 8th, 1935 (10:40:00, Gee Bee Racer).] 21–22 September 1935 [Flew from FBF to Ballinrobe, Ireland, on a projected flight to Lithuania2 4 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
FBF | 2 7 Air warfare of World War II was a major component of World War II in all theatres, and (with anti-air and General Motors, testing them, and then commissioning some 46,000 aircraft. Imagine the Air Ferry Squadron One (VRF-1)¹ pilots soaring off to deliver Wildcats, Hellcats, and Avengers to Navy defense) consumed a large fraction of the industrial output of the major powers. Germany and Japan and Marine aviation units on their way to fight in the depended on air forces that were closely integrated major battles of the Pacific during World War II. with land and naval forces; they downplayed the Floyd Bennett Field’s heritage in both civil advantage of fleets of strategic bombers, and were aviation and military aviation is long and rich. late in appreciating the need to defend against However, its greatest impact on United States Allied strategic bombing. By contrast Britain and history took place during World War II when the the United States took an approach that greatly “Janes who made the planes” and the men who emphasized strategic bombing, and to a lesser tested and delivered the aircraft made Naval Air degree, tactical control of the battlefield by air, Station New York (Floyd Bennett Field) the busiest F BF_ and adequate air defenses. They both built a strategic force of a large long-range bombers that could carry the air war to the enemy’s homeland. naval air station in the nation. By reducing the processing time for aircraft from 10 days (1941) to three days (1943) they insured that the huge Simultaneously they built tactical air forces that number of aircraft flowing off the assembly lines could win air superiority over the battlefields, reached U.S. and Allied forces. thereby giving vital assistance to ground troops. Located in Brooklyn, NY, today Floyd Bennett They both built a powerful naval-air component Field is preserved by the National Park Service based on aircraft carriers, as did Japan; these played as part of Gateway National Recreation Area. the central role in the war at sea. Walking along Although it lacks the bustle of the past, it is not Floyd Bennett Field’s historic hanger row today you silent. In Hangar B, volunteers contribute thousands can almost hear the roar of the mighty engines that of hours annually restoring vintage aircraft that powered aircraft on their way to patrol the vital sea once flew from the field. Visitors tour the airfield lanes of the Atlantic during the German U-Boat learning its proud story: its defense of the nation offensive of 1942. Look into Hanger B and imagine during World War II as it guarded ships leaving New the ground crews receiving newly built planes York Harbor, as well as its role in one of the greatest from companies like Grumman, Vought-Sikorsky, industrial feats of all time, giving wings to the armed forces of the United States. 1946 thru 19722 6 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future
2 8 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future FBF | 2 9 N aval Air Station (NAS) New York was home to the largest naval aviation squadron ever assembled, Air Ferry Squadron One (VRF-1). On Approximately 100,000 new aircraft were commissioned into active service and delivered by all naval air ferry squadrons during the war. Major transcontinental and December 1, 1943, it also became headquarters of the coastal air ferry routes were laid out allowing for frequent Naval Air Ferry Command which controlled all naval air stops at designated airports. Ferry service units or auxiliary ferry operations throughout the United States. Three naval ferry service units were located at these stopover airports air stations were the operating bases of the Naval Air Ferry to keep planes serviced and in flying trim. For ferrying Command--NAS New York, home of VRF-1 and VRF-4, purposes the United States was divided into an eastern zone NAS Columbus (Ohio), where VRF-2 was based and and a western zone with the Mississippi River the boundary. NAS Terminal Island (Los Angeles, CA), home of VRF-3. Sonar man Paul D. Ananos of Flushing operates sonar detection gear on board helicopter. He obtains signals from an Lt. Cmdr. E. Richard Klages of Stony Brook and Cmdr. John W. Mahoney of Valley Stream check their flight plans underwater buoy. before taking off from the Norfolk Air Station. Mahoney commands reserve unit.
FBF | 3 1 W ith a lease executed in January of 1936, the Coast Guard was on it’s way to opening an Air Station on Floyd Bennett Field. Dedication ceremonies were set for April 23, 1938. There were parades and public officials. Special guests were taken from the U. S. Barge Office at the Battery aboard the Coast Guard tugs Comanche and Manhattan to the sea plane landing at the field. The ceremony was conducted by Rear Admiral R.R. Waesche, Commandant, U. S. Coast Guard, who came from Washington aboard a large Coast Guard cutter. er means failed to reach the firefighters.A rescue hoist was developed as were several pickup harnesses. This equipment received its first real test at the Navy’s air-sea rescue demonstration held off Manasquan, N. J. on October 2, 1944, when 4 men were picked up from a rubber raft and 0 miles south of Goose Bay Labrador. The Coast Guard and Army Air Forces teamed up to rescue the crew. Two men were badly burnt in the PBY when it caught fire after crashing in the wilderness. Several days passed before a USAAF C-54 spotted their distress signal. Two RCAF rescue ski planes, dispatched to the scene, landed safely. One managed to take off with several survivors. A blizzard prevented any further attempts during the next two days. When the weather cleared, the first plane returned and landed, but the snow was too soft for either plane to take offwith a load, so they were flown out without passengers. The 9 men left behind would be stranded for weeks until the lakes thawed sufficiently for float planes to land. Fortunately, a Sikorsky HNS Helicopter was available at Air Station Brooklyn. It was disassembled, loaded on a C-54 and flown to Goose Bay. When it was reassembled, Lt. August Kleisch, USCG, flew the helicopter to a base camp that had been set up at Lake Herr about 146 miles south of Goose Bay, which could be supplied by ski planes. Kleisch had to make 9 trips into the crash site, each trip averaging an hour and a half, bringing out one man at a time. This rescue mission really showed the versatility of the helicopter.3 0 | Floyd Bennett Field : Past, Present, & Future