|Sunrise behind the sunset of JFK Terminal 3.|
Last week I had my first view of the demolition of the old Pan Am Worldport at JFK. Big D closed up shop at Terminal 3 on May 23, 2013. International operations began the following day from newly expanded Terminal 4. Domestic operations will, for the most part, continue from Terminal 2. The final departure from Terminal 3 was Flight 268 to Tel Aviv. On board the Boeing 747-400 were 345 passengers, three pilots, and a giant flock of flight attendants. Just how many? I'm not quite sure. The 747 is way above my pay grade; so flight attendant staffing numbers are a little fuzzy. The law requires one flight attendant for every fifty passenger seats installed on the airplane. I don't know the configuration of Big D's 747s; but I do know that with the increased emphasis on customer service, there is little chance Flight 268 was dispatched with a "minimum staffing" flight attendant crew. Like I said earlier; the 747 is way above my pay grade. . .
The flying saucer shaped UTB (Unit Terminal Building---Pan Am was full of acronyms) opened for passenger service at what was then New York International - Idlewild Field on May 24, 1960. The building was designed so that aircraft could be "nosed in" beneath the roof, theoretically protecting passengers from the elements as they boarded and deplaned via elevated walkways (open gangplanks) that were connected to the terminal lobby. In the early 70s the UTB became the Pan Am Worldport when the terminal was expanded to accommodate Boeing 747s. New York City cab drivers quickly dubbed the triangular addition "the Horseshoe," due to the shape of the departure level roadway. The nickname stuck. For the next forty years layover flight crews were advised the hotel pick up location was "in the Horseshoe."
My first "working" visit to JFK was in 1983 with Thurston Aviation. I was a co-pilot on a Cessna Citation. Talk about being a fish out of water! I remember standing in the Port Authority fuel shack with my Chief Pilot, RC Furr, watching the conga line waiting to depart Runway 13 Right---747s; L-1011s; DC-10s; and the occasional 727; as far as the eye could see! RC turned to me and said: "This might take a while." To the fuel clerk, he said: "Go ahead and top it off."
My first visit to the Pan Am Worldport was in the summer of 1985. I was flying a King Air 200 for NCNB Corporation. The "Boss" was jet-setting in from London on the Concord! We were there to bring him home to Charlotte. We were early---by at least two hours; and hungry. The guys at the Port Authority FBO suggested we try the Pan Am employee cafeteria (affectionately called the Blue Fly by the Pan Am locals) at the south end of the Horseshoe. So while the Chairman of NCNB Corporation was winging his way across the Atlantic Ocean at Mach one-point-something; his pilots were dining with the employees of the World's Most Experienced Airline. Five years later I would dine at the Blue Fly on a regular basis.
|Pan American Boeing 707 by John T. McCoy|
Viewing the skeleton of the Flying Saucer reminded me of a painting by aviation artist John T. McCoy. In 1962 Pan Am commissioned McCoy to produce a series of paintings commemorating the Historic First Flights of Pan American Clippers. Charles Lindbergh consulted on the project. In the painting depicting Pan American's first scheduled jet passenger service from New York to Paris on October 26, 1958, the future Pan Am Worldport is visible on the left hand side of the image.
When Big D announced they were planning a massive expansion at JFK, I was curious as to what they had in mind for Terminal 3. Jet Blue saved the old TWA building when they renovated Terminal 5. Would Delta save the flying saucer? How much would that cost? When it was announced the Worldport would be leveled, preservation groups and former employees of Pan Am were up in arms. Calls went out: "Save the Pan Am Worldport!"
My feelings are mixed. The romantic in me thinks it would make a great museum; maybe part of the Delta Flight Museum. The practical side of me---the side that used the building for over eighteen years; sixteen wearing a Delta uniform, and two years and two months wearing a Pan Am uniform---thinks the building is a lost cause. It was never very user friendly; especially the annex. And the roof has leaked for fifty years! Ceiling tiles were constantly falling inside the building. Outside too! At one point Big D was spending $40 million a year on the facilities at JFK. $40 million! If $40 million isn't enough to fix a leaky roof; what is?
In 2005 the Pan Am Historical Foundation donated thirteen McCoy watercolor images to the San Francisco Airport Museum. The exhibit, Famous Firsts: The John T. McCoy Pan Am Watercolors, opened in October 2005.
The demo continues. . . November 19, 2013.
Mounds of dirt where the Flying Saucer used to stand. In the background the Annex slowly disappears. . . April 12, 1014.