10 Things you didn’t know about JFK Airport

JFK Airport Interesting Facts

If you have ever got stuck in a boarding line or at the customs in John F. Kennedy International Airport, you know how tiring and annoying it can get. But, for future references, and to keep you occupied and make the process of getting in and out of the airport a more tolerable one, here are a few facts that you may not know about the place. But first:

A bit about JFK Airport – It was built in the year 1942 on Idlewild golf course in Queens, so that exponentially increased traffic of LaGuardia Airport, built only in 1939, can be made a little manageable. In the beginning, the airport was planned to cover 1000 acres, but by the time it was done, it had an area of 4930 acres, connected with more than 30 miles of roadway. The commercial flights started in July, 1948.

Top 10 JFK Airport Facts

1. Air Force One also uses JFK runway

A part of JFK Airport is used strictly for military, and the runway here is where the famous Air Force One lands and takes off from! Besides military hangars, there are personnel set up to greet the arrivals. This part of JFK Airport saw Air Force One land with President Barack Obama in 2013.


2. Kept 9/11 remains from Ground Zero

Did you know that Hangar 17 at the airport was used to keep remains from 9/11 before they were handed to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial? Back in the day, Hanger 17 used to be the abode for Pan American and Tower Air.


3. Backup landing spot for Space Shuttle!

The Bay Runway at JFK Airport also functions as space shuttle landing spot. And I bet you didn’t know about it. This second longest runway in the US is used by NASA as a backup space shuttle landing spot. NASA’s main landing spot or runway for space shuttle is just 428 feet longer than the Bay Runway. However, there are plans for moving the Space Shuttle Enterprise at JFK Airport to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum.


4. Too many name changes for an airport

The airport has had 4 different names, before it was named JFK Airport in honor of late President. The airport was originally named Idlewild Airport, as it was built on Idlewild golf course in Queens in 1942. Then in 1943, it was changed to Major General Alexander E. Anderson Airport. He was a resident in Queens who had commanded the Federalized National Guard. Again, the City Council changed it to New York International Airport, Anderson Field, but the name didn’t stick and people called it Idlewild anyway.

And, finally after the assassination of the then president John F. Kennedy, the airport was renamed in his honor on 24th December, 1963, like many other structures renamed after the incident.


5. Fountain of Liberty of the past

The airport used to boast a beautiful large fountain within an area called ‘International Park’, which was located in front of the International Arrivals Building of the past. For the ambitious and glamorous era, it fits in perfectly. And, there laid this fancy fountain named ‘Fountain of Liberty’. It was 220 feet in diameter and had an observation deck.

It’s said that the fountain shot water up to 60 feet high with its 916 nozzles. It would also light up with five different colors, with the help of 308 lamps put inside the fountain. This must have created a magnificent spectacle for the visitors, we can only guess.


6. Many demolished iconic terminals

Like the Fountain of Liberty, most of its previous iconic terminals have been knocked down for newer and better terminals and airport facilities. The Worldport Terminal (former Pan-AM Terminal) an icon of Jet-set era was demolished in favor of airplane parking lot, as it was in poor condition although operational.

A few other structures that no longer exist are a modernist terminal built by I.M. Pei, the first International Arrivals Building & the control tower, the original United Airlines building and an amazing mid-century American Airlines terminal.


7. TWA Flight Center, soon to be a hotel

Interestingly, The TWA Flight Center which has been spared from the same fate, as many of its fellow JFK Airport’s structures, is standing strong and will be turned into a hotel. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with other 14 agencies, was successful in saving the building from demolition in 2003. As to why the structure holds such importance is because it is one of the last works of architect Eero Saarinen.

The agencies involved in restoring and turning it into a hotel aptly named it The TWA Flight Center Hotel. In doing so, the main structure will not be messed with but new structures/wings will be added to make rooms.


8. Historic JFK Airport heist

One more interesting fact associated with JFK Airport is that its cargo building 261 saw the largest robbery of cash on American soil. It was reported that the thieves took $ 5 million cash and $ 875,000 worth jewelry (which put together amounts to $ 21 million today) in December, 1978. Later, it was found that they belonged to Lucchese crime family, and the mastermind behind the robbery, Jimmy Burke aka ‘The Gent’, was put behind bars, after being convicted of one of many murders of the participants involved in the robbery to hide the crime. He was put behind bars for life.


9. The abandoned Heartbreak hotel

Ramada Plaza, where the relatives of victims who died in plane crashes in 1990s & 2000s used to stay, is now an abandoned building. Back then, it was dubbed as the Heartbreak Hotel for obvious reasons. It’s the only hotel on the grounds of JFK Airport (for now). You can get a glimpse of the deserted building from a ride on the AirTrain. The hotel was shut down in the year 2009 to cut expenses, renovate the area and to build a new hotel on a different area within the airport premise. But, the plans hit a halt in 2014 due to labor problems.


10. A separate terminal for your pet

There soon will be a pet terminal on the grounds of JFK Airport near the terminal for people. The project is estimated to cost $48 million and will be named ‘The Ark at JFK’. To be exact, the terminal will be in Cargo Building 78 which hasn’t been put to use for almost a decade.

Well, now you know few interesting facts about the infamous airport. So, when you need to travel to and from JFK, you can make it a bit easy on yourself, if you get stuck here.

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