Home PANYNJ Photos: Inside the TWA Flight Center

Photos: Inside the TWA Flight Center

by Benjamin Kabak

Former airline employees and urban historians were among those who descended upon the TWA Flight Center yesterday. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

With its vast network of underground tunnels and hidden infrastructure, New York seemingly possesses a city within a city. For every public plaza and popular park, there are a number of off-limits locations that capture our imagination. For years, the West Side Line held the top spot in that category, but since the High Line opened, attention has shifted to the TWA Flight Center, a sealed off relic of another era in aviation now owned by Jet Blue.

The Eero Saarinen-designed building, with its sweeping curves and glamorous reputation, reminds us of a time when flying was a luxury and not a headache. It has been immortalized in film and screen, and as Jet Blue and the Port Authority work to renovate the headhouse, it will one day soon be returned to use in a yet-to-be-determined function. This weekend, the space was open to the public as part of the Open House New York event.

I journeyed out to JFK Airport this weekend to catch a glimpse of the interior of this iconic building. There’s something about off-limits infrastructure that brings out urban explorers who want to know more about the history of their city. By and large, transportation infrastructure isn’t opened up during Open House NY due to liability and security concerns. (I know I’d pay and sign a release to see the station shell at South 4th Street.) This weekend, though, I had to chance to explore.

What follows is a slideshow of my photos from the event. In various states of renovation and disarray, the Saarinen headhouse is a sight to behold. For more on the past, present and future of this historic building, check out New Yorkology’s coverage of the event.

You may also like


ferryboi October 17, 2011 - 1:24 pm

Flew out of there in mid-’90s just before TWA went under. Was amazed at how much the place hadn’t changed since the early ’60s. Hope they do something nice with it.

SEAN October 17, 2011 - 2:43 pm

If I herd correctly, the old terminal 6 will be demolished & terminal 5 will be extended. Lets see how they can incorporate this part of the TWA flight center as they did when terminal 5 was rebuilt.

http://www.crankyflyer.net is an interesting site on aviation. You could compare it to this one.

petey October 17, 2011 - 3:50 pm

oooh i want a clock like that one

herenthere October 17, 2011 - 11:33 pm

The elevated viewing area looks like it inspired the ones in the new JetBlue terminal.

Kai B October 18, 2011 - 12:18 am

Nice! I went as well: http://www.flickr.com/photos/k.....911151216/

I hope they find a good use for the Saarinen building. The JetBlue “use it as a check-in area” plan seems to have stalled (two lonely disconnected check-in machines were hanging out there). I have trouble imaging how the hotel idea would work without ruining the vast interior. There is some “boring” space in the former check-in and baggage claim areas, but that doesn’t really seem hotel worthy.

It would be great for an aviation museum, but the location isn’t really great (except for bored, stranded, JFK travelers perhaps).

Miles Bader October 18, 2011 - 10:57 am

Was the view better when it was first built?

The interior is very cool, but the view outside those giant windows is downright depressing… (it’s an airport, people wanna see planes, not a bunch of access roads!)

Kai B October 18, 2011 - 7:02 pm

Out the back there use to be two concourses with planes docking to them. Now there’s a whole massive terminal. So yes the view was better, but ultimately this was a good compromise to preserve the building while still getting tarmac access.


Leave a Comment