2005-01-20 / Other News

Floyd Bennett Field Celebrates Aviation History

The end of the famous ’round the world flight by Howard Hughes at Floyd Bennett Field. That’s Hughes with his fellow pilots standing in  the doorway.           (Photo from “Brooklyn, The Way It Was” by Brian Merlis)
The end of the famous ’round the world flight by Howard Hughes at Floyd Bennett Field. That’s Hughes with his fellow pilots standing in the doorway. (Photo from “Brooklyn, The Way It Was” by Brian Merlis) By Dara Mormile

In celebration of what officials called the “golden age” of aviation, the National Park Service recently presented a tour of its historic facilities.

Park Ranger Linc Hallowell discuss-ed the development of aircraft and passenger aviation. Many significant events took place at Floyd Bennett Field, located at the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue, southwest of Canarsie.

Control tower building is the same as back in 1938, but now houses Ryan Visitor Center.
Control tower building is the same as back in 1938, but now houses Ryan Visitor Center. “It was very much a part of the early years of flight after World War I,” said Hallowell.

Among historic events spotlighted for the celebration were pilots Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post and entrepreneur/movie producer Howard Hughes, subject of the acclaimed, new film biography, “The Aviator,” who was a significant contributor to flight.

Hughes, who eventually became one of the world’s most wealthiest men, had two main goals: to be the world’s best pilot and to be a famous movie producer. He liked to incorporate aviation into his films and is famous for his around the world flight in July 1938 when he piloted an aircraft with a crew of four, finishing the New York to Paris flight in three days, nineteen hours and seventeen minutes, landing at Floyd Bennett Field on July 14.

Some buildings on “hangar row” are the same as seen in this 1938 photograph.Some buildings on “hangar row” are the same as seen in this 1938 photograph. The story of Floyd Bennett Field, from its early days as a bleak, unpopulated area to a municipal airport to a Naval Air Station, was a saga of continual progress and achievement un-matched in aviation history. On April 23, 1938, aviator Clarence D. Cham-berlin was commissioned to choose a site for a new airport. The site was Barren Island, a 387-acre marsh among 33 small islands located in Jamaica Bay on the southern tip of Brooklyn. He chose the site because it was easy to locate from the air and it had a lack of obstructions. Six million cubic yards of sand were pumped from Jamaica Bay to connect the islands and raise the site 16 feet above the high tide mark.

There was no debate as to what to name the field. Floyd Bennett, born in Warrensburg, NY, had lived in Brook-lyn and had been New York’s favorite aviator. He enlisted into the Navy for flight training in 1917. Winning his wings, Bennett first served as a test pilot and later as a Chief Machinists Mate aboard the U.S.S. Richmond, in charge of aircraft.

Bennett navigated the flight carrying Admiral Richard Byrd on the MacMillan Expedition to the Arctic on May 9, 1926. They made history as the first men to fly over the North Pole. Bennett subsequently died during a trip over the South Pole.

Floyd Bennett is a part of Gateway National Recreation Area and provides facilities for fishing, archery ranges, campgrounds and boating programs.

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