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Floyd Bennett Field was New York City's first municipal airport. From its runways flew Howard Hughes, Wiley Post, "Wrong Way" Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart.

 

 

The "New" Floyd Bennett Field

by Virginia Holmes Powell

 

ginnymae.jpg (29192 bytes)
Teddy Fox and Roland Holmes, early 1930s. The Ginny Mae, Dad's Aristocrat plane--his second--kept at Floyd Bennett Field. This hanger is still used today.

My Dad and Mom both had pilots' licenses and flew this plane every day. Mom said I went with them.  I have some memories of this plane (honest) or of the two-holder biplane they had first. Mom held me in her lap in the back cockpit and held me over the side to look below. No wonder I'm so afraid of heights.

The dedication of Floyd Bennett Field must have been fantastic. My parents and family members were present. My Dad flew the Aristocrat, shown in the photo above, daily from this field. He was an avid pilot, and took many Gerritsen Beach friends up to fly around the area--their first flight.

 

20 Mile Parade of Planes to Mark Airport Opening

Army to Bring Hundreds of Machines Here for Dedication of Field.
_____________

1931

Dedication services for the Floyd Bennett Field, the city's new airport at Flatbush Avenue and Jamaica Bay, will be held on Saturday afternoon, May 2, according to Peter J. Brady, chairman of the Mayor's Committee on Aviation, today.

The War Department will cooperate with the Mayor's Committee in presenting a programme of aerial divertisements certain to provide many thrills.

Floyd Bennett Field, long a project of Mayor Walker, has been given a rating of A-1 by the Department of Commerce.

At the completion of a demonstration in lower Manhattan in which hundreds of army planes will participate, the division will fly down the bay to Rockaway and Coney Island, joining into one solid formation about twenty miles long, where it will pass in review.

Prior to the review, three special demonstration squadrons of nine bombers, nine attack planes, and nine pursuit planes will stage demonstrations over the airport, showing the fighting purposes of these three members of the aerial combat family. Pursuit planes will deliver attacks upon bombardment and attack, while the latter will give a ground-strafing demonstration. Following this, pursuit planes will stage an exhibition of "dog fighting" and other combat acrobatics.

The War Department is planning a mock night air raid on the city on Friday evening, May 22, which will be witnessed for many miles in the metropolitan area.

Parachute flares, each of which throws a brilliant light of more than a million candlepower, will lend a touch of vivid realism to the night raid as a phase of the annual army air exercises to be staged along the Atlantic coast.

Commanded by Major Herbert A. Dargue, the thirty-six bombers--which under actual war conditions could carry a bomber load of about 100,000 lbs.--will take off from Roosevelt Field about 10 p.m. and rumble through the darkness about New York's harbor toward their objectives--Central Park and Manhattan's theatre district.

These bombers will fly in twelve units of three planes each, one unit following the other, thus forming a column almost a mile long. The formation will fly at an altitude of 2,000 feet, which will give people on the ground ample opportunity to glimpse the silhouettes of the giant flying fortresses on right wing tips.

Mayor Dedicates New Field as Air Amada Goes By

Weather Delays Arrival of Fleet of Planes.
Widow of Floyd Bennett Present.

___________________

Thursday, May 28, 1931

"May it ever be a boon to aviation and may it serve as a beacon indicating that there were some grateful hearts for that great American, Floyd Bennett."

With these words Mayor James J. Walker formally dedicated Floyd Bennett Airport last Saturday before a visible audience of about 60,000 persons and a radio audience of millions throughout the United States.

With a shifting wind that varied continuously from northeast to southeast, and a sky that threatened showers, the army air maneuvers were delayed at Floyd Bennett Field for three hours. But the dedication, speeches and flag ceremony were conducted as planned.

Peter J. Brady, introducing the speakers before the battery of microphones in the grandstands, started the program in his official capacity of chairman of the mayor's committee.

The mayor recounted, in humorous tone, his own limited aeronautical experience. "I was up once," he said, "on Friday the thirteenth. It was a perfect flight and I wish to maintain that splendid record . . . which is why I haven't been up since."

Presentation of a bouquet to Mrs. Floyd Bennett, wife of the martyred flyer, concluded the exercises in the grand stand. Mrs. Bennett expressed herself simply by saying, "This is the happiest day of my life."

Not until 5:30 did the first squadrons of army pursuit planes and bombers take to the air in maneuvers although numbers of them had arrived earlier. In the interim after the grand stand exercises, radio announcers continually described the field, the visitors, and the coming and goings of planes to the vast crowd through the many amplifiers all over the field.

Admiral Phelps, commander of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, spoke in praises of the late Floyd Bennett and eulogized those who had chosen the famous flyer's name for the airport.

"We regard his character as in inspiration in the navy," said Admiral Phelps of Floyd Bennett. "One of the most important things about this airport is its name."

Mayor Walker, wittily comparing the wilderness of what is now Floyd Bennett Field with the airport, characterized Barren Island as the area was once named as the "stench of America"--with which laughter resounded from the farthest hanger. In an eloquent tribute to the hero of the air whose name was immortalized today, the Mayor declared: "There is no one who is not mindful of the courage, knowledge, scientific ability that characterized Floyd Bennett. There is no one who will not recall how we waited with apprehension for news of the three musketeers (one of whom was Floyd Bennett) on their record trip. There is no one who will not remember the mishap on Greeley Island and how Floyd Bennett flew to bring relief. He was a martyr to civilization."

John Mac Kenzie, appointed Dock Commissioner only last week, followed Mr. Brady and spoke as the man in charge of the airport, Briefly he emphasized the features of Floyd Bennett Field; the seaplane base and hangars, the eight airplane hangars with lightweight aluminum doors, the 400 acre landing space and the concrete runways, the administration building which was built in 78 days, and the vast amount of land reclaimed from the archipelago that was once part of Jamaica Bay.

Colonel Clarence Young, assistant secretary of commerce in charge of aviation, Admiral W. W. Phelps and Mayor Walker were the next three speakers in turn.

Colonel Young, as representative of the Federal government assured the vast assemblage that nowheres in the United States was there an airport to be found comparable to Floyd Bennett Field in respect to size, facilities and nearness to means of transportation.

Shortly after 5 o'clock when few of the 672 planes of the army air fleet had arrived, a "flight" of bombing planes, each gallantly emblazoned with a picture of "Jigg"--the comic character--took to the air. Immediately after came two flights of pursuit planes.

Circling the field dozens of times, the three flights dove, turned upside down, formed into "V's" and straight lines, made figure eights, and passed each other at wing lengths--all at better than 125 miles an hour. In the midst of the maneuvers, two planes in the "Mule" pursuit flight broke from the ranks and began a "dog fight." Diving, looping the loop, and running into dangerous "stalls" on purpose, the planes flew towards each other  time and again. Sometimes they almost seemed to merge into one. And down on the ground, with motors idling, were ominous evidences of the risk being taken--several field ambulances, a fire engine, and numerous motorcycles and patrol wagons.

At 6:15 the sky to the northwest began to be speckled with dozens of pencil marks; dozens--and then hundreds. By 7:30 the 672 planes of the army armada were in the air over Floyd Bennett Field, making a spectacle that roared and dove, banked, and zoomed. And there must have been no less than two million persons watching them, from Sheepshead Bay to the penthouses of Manhattan.

 

Last changed: June 28, 2002