The Love Of Planes … Visiting Where It All Began

Earlier this week’s newly appointed co-editor Jason Rabinowitz (by the way, Mazel Tov Jason!) wrote about New York JFK International Airport’s T3, the former PanAm Worldport, facing the wrecking ball.  Reading his piece on the efforts to save JFK’s T3 reminded me of where it all began for me.


Every AvGeek, Plane Spotter, Travel Enthusiast has a starting point. As I have previously written, in Reader Mail : How Does One End Up An Airplane Geek?, for me it started by growing up at the end of one of JFK Airport’s runways. I spent my youth watching planes all day and night, looking out my bedroom window, sitting on the garage roof and day dreaming while looking skyward at school … but there is one place I can trace it all back to, and I was too young to even remember it.


For me, it can all get traced back to JFK Airport’s Terminal 2, at what is now Gate 21, in February 1976, when I was only a few months old. Every February my family flew from New York’s JFK to Ft. Lauderdale, to see my Grandma. The annual flight was always a Delta L-1011 and it always left from the same gate.


While Delta Air Lines now has a huge presence at JFK Airport, occupying three terminals, the airline used to be limited to a single terminal … one it didn’t own or control. The south side of JFK T2 was Delta Air Lines, facing PanAm’s Worldport; the north side was Northwest Orient, facing Eastern Airlines’ T1;  Western Airlines used limited Delta jetways at the end of the terminal, facing runway 13R/31L. Of course Delta Air Lines went on to merge with Western Airlines, buy out parts of PanAm’s routes and the Worldport, then merged with Northwest Airlines (after it dropped the name Northwest Orient) … but to get back to my point here …


… after reading Jason’s piece on Worldport this past Tuesday, I found myself at JFK’s Terminal 2 on Thursday afternoon and took some time to sit at Gate 21. Sitting in the seats at the empty gate, I found myself staring out at T3. Closing my eyes I just listened to the sounds around me.  I could envision the PanAm jets coming and going to points all around the world in front of me. I remember the smell of the little coffee shop that used to be in the southeast corner of the center structure in the middle of T2, with the Northwest Orient lounge up stairs, just behind Gate 21 and the Delta Crown Room just past that.  My brother used to pester my father for change to watch TV in the uncomfortable molded chairs with pay TVs as I’d eagerly await boarding the flight with my backpack filled with toy metal planes.


So much of JFK’s T2 has changed, but so much as remained the same.  I cannot envision looking out from those windows and not seeing Worldport in front of me. The terminal where the Beatles came to America, the terminal where the world’s first Boeing 747 commercial flight departed from … the terminal I spent my youth dreaming of flying from to points on the map spanning the globe.


There are many things in life people enjoy, love, are passionate about, but can’t quite put their finger on where it began.   For me, I can trace my love of airplanes, my love of flying, the start of my 37 years (and counting) of finding my butt in a Delta Air Lines seat, and yes even my desire to start taking photographs that lead to a career as a photographer, all in one spot.


Below is a photo of where it all began for me, shot yesterday afternoon at JFK Airport’s Terminal Two, Gate 21.


Happy Flying!




a large window with many windows


  1. This was such a pleasure to read, and brought back many similar memories. Thank you!

  2. I spent a great deal of my childhood driving to JFK to pick up “family” coming to the US for the first time as well as flying out to India, initially on Air India and later on Pan Am. The Worldport means a lot to me. I signed the petition. Being on the roof to watch the runways is where it started for me.

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