JFK Airport is the busiest international airport in the country. When it first opened
in 1948, it was called New York International Airport, but was commonly
known as Idlewild Airport because it was built on land that used to belong
to the Idlewild Golf Course. It was renamed John F. Kennedy International
Airport after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Read on to learn
more about the history of JFK Airport.
When Idlewild, or JFK Airport, was initially conceived, architect Wallace
Harrison’s vision was for each terminal to belong to a different
airline, and for each one to look strikingly different from the others.
Construction began in 1943, and the initial budget was $60 million. The
very memorable architectural features included stained glass windows,
zodiac sculptures, and a space-age PanAmerican terminal that was known
The Port Authority of New York had originally intended the airport to
be a single 55-gate terminal, but the major airlines that were in operation
believed it would be too small for future traffic, as it had seen
La Guardia Airport’s problem with overcrowding. In 1955, it was decided that the airport would
have 7 terminals. Originally, the airport was designed to accommodate
aircraft that weighed up to 300,000 pounds. In the 1960s, it had to be
modified to allow Boeing 747s.
The Airport Today
JFK Airport now covers 5,300 acres, with 6 operating airline terminals
and 125 aircraft gates. The total length of its runways is 9 miles. In
1949, the airport moved 81,115 planes and 222,620 passengers. In 2013,
the airport moved 406,181 planes and 50,423,765 passengers.
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