On Sunday, October 18, 2015, individuals of varying backgrounds hiked out to John F. Kennedy International Airport to celebrate a moment in aviation history. This moment being the last opening of the TWA Flight Center to the public and the history lying in Trans World Airlines. Many remembered the former terminal as 1960s passengers, while others reminisced in their former place of work. Others came to see the iconic terminal in action and full of people. And then there were some who just had been dying to get inside Eero Saarinen’s architectural aviation masterpiece for years. In the end, all were thankful to Open House New York (OHNY) who has been working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to open the terminal once a year, every year since 2011.
Unfortunately, the pleading to open the space must cease as the terminal begins its transformation into a hotel. Everyone participating in OHNY Weekend rejoicing in the idea that this New York City Landmark won’t be destroyed and will be preserved for years to come. In 2018, we are expecting it to be booming with conference rooms, hotel rooms, and restaurants as Jim Steven, Program Director of JFK Redevelopment, told us in an interview.
Jim and other PANYNJ officials along with MCR Development and JetBlue Airways are bracing for the challenges that come with a multi-million dollar project. Jim has already led the Port Authority in spending $20 million to get the terminal to its current functioning state. $65 million will be added onto that by MCR Development in relentless efforts to aid in the preservation of the terminal. Then, they will be spending $200 million to convert the vintage jet age terminal into a functioning hotel whilst keeping its current vibes of the 1960s. With this idea in place, many believe that the hotel will do very well.
While visiting the iconic building, we had the opportunity to speak with a former TWA flight engineer who flew both the Boeing 707 and 727. In short, it left quite the impression on him and others which initiated the event turnout.
Due to the large amount of people visiting, OHNY Volunteers and Port Authority officials were actually having difficulty getting people to leave the world-class terminal. With many knowing that this would be their last chance stepping foot in the terminal for a few years, they did not want to miss out on taking those last-minute HD shots or miss out on taking in the full experience.
The hotel is going to also make its mark in aviation history as it will be JFK’s very first hotel. The hotel is set to have over 505 guest rooms along with a 10,000 square foot public observation deck. One #AvGeek even told us, that although he lives minutes away, he plans on staying at the hotel simply for the closer proximity to aircraft.
Guests to the iconic structure have been taking the airplanes in since 1962 when Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece first opened for business. A former TWA employee reminding us that this terminal was unfortunately not really functional as what it was designed to be. With TWA’s popularity and the increasing fleet and aircraft size that the carrier used there were simply too many passengers. MCR Development seems to agree with this saying in a press release “unable to support the size of modern aircraft [and all they encompass] the terminal was closed in 2001 and remained in the dark for the past 14 years.” Despite this, Jack Foley, Vice President of North America at Aer Lingus, which operates out of the terminal connected to the flight center, said, “the Saarinen Building should remain an architectural example of the history of JFK and aviation but utilized as part of the future of JFK and aviation as well.” But the truth lies in the fact that this building alone cannot be a hotel equipped with a museum that offers an ode to aviation along with other amenities. This is why the Port Authority’s million dollar plan which New York Governor Cuomo supports is equipped with two six-story annex buildings. In July, the governor announced the plan, which is expected to create close to 4,000 new jobs.
In the end, Tyler Morse CEO of MCR Development declared that “The TWA Flight Center Hotel will celebrate and preserve Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece returning the landmark to its original glory and reopening it to the public.” For JFK passengers and #AvGeeks alike, 2018 could not come soon enough.
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