Let’s Fly, Let’s
SCA’s Golden Age of Air Travel
Summer 2022 Tour Recap
By Tim O’Brien
By Tim O’Brien
By Tim O’Brien
Finally it happened! After two years of Covid-related cancellations, the SCA’s “NYC Golden Age of Air Travel” summer tour took place, June 17-19. For the 60-plus who attended, the overall feeling was that it was well worth the wait.
The home base for the weekend of touring was the splendiferous TWA Hotel, an iconic hotel property attached to Terminal 5 at the JFK Airport in Queens, NY. What a beautiful and unique adaptive reuse of an elegant structure. We could have spent an entire day just walking around the hotel getting a good idea of what the Jet Age was all about. I understand George Jetson’s world much better now. With more than 2,000 items on display, curated by the New York Historical Society, we were all able to experience the era through the artifacts, interactive displays and from personal narratives of former TWA employees and families.
Hotel check-in is located at the original flight check-in counter used by TWA, and all employees were wearing authentic TWA uniforms. The lobby was bedecked with vintage autos, luggage tugs with piles of suitcases, photos and posters. Other displays highlighted 37 vintage TWA uniforms from 1945 to 2001 designed by the likes of Oleg Cassini, Ralph Lauren, and Don Loper.
Later Friday evening, Kevin Patrick, SCA’s own intrepid travel maestro, took the microphone to present the history of the airport and the hotel and pointed out the irony that we all challenged logic by coming to the busy airport not to fly off to some exotic vacation spot, but to solely see the hotel!
Amelia Earhart dedicated the Newark Airport building built in 1935 in conjunction with the Civil Works Administration. Today it’s a National Historical Landmark. In 2000, the building was cut into thirds, moved across the airfield and rebuilt. On its roof still sits America’s original air traffic control tower, looking more like a fancy glass greenhouse than the heartbeat of a busy airport.
Following that tour, which was led by three well versed airport executives, our bus took us to downtown Newark, where we walked through the historic 1935 Penn Station and then onto the streets of Little Portugal in the Ironbound neighborhood where we all had different lunch experiences as we chose our own eatery to experience.
Then we headed off on a LONG journey (traffic was of the start and stop kind) back into Queens to the LaGuardia Airport Marine Air Terminal, a round Art Deco building that housed Pan American’s flying-boat Clipper planes and transoceanic fleet from 1939 to 1945.
Following breakfast on our own at the airport on Sunday morning, we boarded the bus and headed to the Rockaways, a barrier island east of Coney Island. Kevin Patrick provided us with a pop culture history of the area.
Floyd Bennett field, New York City’s first municipal airport opened in 1932 and was our next stop. Charles Lindbergh and Jimmy Doolittle led a fleet of 600 US Army Air Corp biplanes over the field on opening day. The administration building was built in an Art Deco Georgian Revival style with a glass-topped control tower overlooking the runways and four large hangars.
You tired yet? We still have an action packed afternoon, which differed totally from the first day and a half of activities. We left the world of flight and boarded a boat for a three hour cruise.
The bus dropped us off in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, where we climbed on board the Manhattan I yacht for an around Manhattan architectural tour. Our guide was an amazingly knowledgeable architect who pointed out the bridges and the landmarks as well as the unusual buildings and architecture during the cruise.
Back on the bus and off to the hotel where hugs, handshakes and kisses were taking place everywhere as were promises to stay in touch. Plans are already underway for next summer’s full conference meeting in Erie, Pa. See you there!