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I had the great pleasure of being asked out to Floyd Bennett Field this past week. Now, my interest in getting inside the hangar was just as much based on being a history freak as from reading the Joe Ledger series that has a super secret spy headquarters based at Floyd Bennett Field. If you like intrigue, gutsy heroes, and plots to destroy the world through zombies and vampires, then the Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry is definitely for you.

But the truth is, I love old things. I love the smell of the past, the stories hidden, and sense of history layered throughout every inch of anything old. How humbling the sense of life transient and yet, here… here I touch a bit of what came before and what might endure after. Floyd Bennett Field more than lived up to my expectations for these feelings, even if I never did find Joe Ledger’s super secret spy headquarters.

However, walking into Hangar B where volunteers have been creating an aviation museum through the Historical Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), I immediately felt that sense of wonder you get when you experience something that is bigger than you. Here in front of me an entire hangar filled not only with old planes but other bits of historical military vehicles and aviation paraphernalia. Poking around, taking photos, reading about what I was seeing and simply putting my hands upon these items was a day in history heaven.

Named for naval aviator and Brooklyn resident Floyd Bennett, the first person to fly over the North Pole, the old airport was a point of departure for other record-breaking flights of famous aviators including Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes.

Here’s a bit more historical information from the National Park Service:

A city panel selected Barren Island in Brooklyn as the location for New York’s first municipal airport and it was named Floyd Bennett Field. Floyd Bennett was the naval pilot for Commander Richard E. Byrd’s flight over the North Pole in 1926. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Floyd Bennett Field was dedicated on May 23, 1931. It was rated A-1-A, the highest classification of the Civil Aeronautics Board. It boasted concrete runways, fours hangers that could service the largest aircraft of the day, and an Administration Building that served as a terminal.

New York City found a more convenient location for a municipal airport that was closer to transportation. Municipal Airport #2, now known as LaGuardia Airport, opened in 1939. The city sold Floyd Bennett Field to the U.S. Navy. On June 2, 1941, Naval Air Station New York was dedicated at Floyd Bennett Field.

Floyd Bennett Field’s service didn’t end at the war’s end however. It was redesignated a Naval Air Reserve Training Station in 1946. With the Cold War and the Korea War intensifying the site was again redesignated. This time it became a Naval Air Station within the Naval Air Reserve System. Navy and Marine Aircraft Squadrons called the Field home and reserve units trained on weekends. With the U.S. scaling back the Vietnam War effort, Floyd Bennett Field was no longer needed. In 1971, the U.S. Navy deactivated the Field. Soon thereafter, the National Park Service made the location part of Gateway NRA.

If you’d like to see what types of activities are offered at Floyd Bennett Field today, take a look at the New York Harbor Parks website – urban camping, ecology walks, astronomy and gardening events and kayak trips.