By Pasquale DiFulco, Manager, Aviation Marketing & Communications
John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of the world’s legendary aviation facilities. Its history is writ large across the decades as a renowned gateway to New York and the United States for visitors from throughout the country and around the globe.
Everyone, it seems, knows that the Beatles first set foot in America at JFK in 1964 or that the airport was the site of the infamous Lufthansa heist made famous by the movie “Goodfellas.”
But did you know these five things about Kennedy Airport?
- A Peruvian International Airways’ DC-4 arriving from Santiago, Chile, was the first regularly scheduled airliner to arrive at the airport, touching down on July 9, 1948.
- Despite its persistent use as a nickname and serving as the airport’s unofficial name during planning in the 1940s and well beyond, Idlewild was never the airport’s official name. And for all you stubborn truthers who insist it was officially called Idlewild (you know who you are!) show us a shred of evidence or just stop it and watch this: https://www.nyhistory.org/community/idlewild-airport
One more thing: Using the common yet technically incorrect moniker in front of Executive Director Austin Tobin, who led the Port Authority from 1942 to 1972, would earn the admonition, “It’s neither idle, nor wild!” The airport was dedicated on July 31, 1948, as New York International Airport, a name it held until December 24, 1963, when it was renamed after the slain U.S. president.
- Two cool moments from that opening day dedication, which took place during a presidential election year:
- It brought together the sitting Democratic president, Harry S. Truman, and his Republican challenger, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey. The New York Times on August 1, 1948, featured as its lead photo the two men shaking hands at NY International Airport as Mayor William O’Dwyer looked on.
- A fly-by of more than 900 planes was, at that time, the greatest exhibition of air power staged in one place in peacetime in the history of the country.
- AirTrain JFK opened on December 17, 2003. It wasn’t a random date. It also happened to be the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Through the end of 2014, more than 53.2 million paid riders have used the airport rail system, along with tens of millions more riders who’ve used it to connect between JFK’s passenger terminals, long-term parking, and the rental car areas.
- Through the end of 2014, more than 1.6 billion passengers have flown through the airport. That’s amazing, but what’s even more remarkable is that nearly a quarter-billion of them – 247,105,581 to be exact – have done so in just the five-year period covering 2010-14.