Delta’s Historic WorldPort, Terminal 3

What’s one of the most historic airport buildings in the world? There are many, including the former Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia, now the home of the Delta Shuttle.

Delta also has another historic terminal on Long Island with a “way-cool” factor. It is Delta’s Terminal 3, the former Pan American Worldport, at John F. Kennedy International Airport. WorldPort was the trademarked name for the terminal during Pan Am’s ownership. Delta should be commended for keeping these two icons of American history in such great working shape (Editor’s Note: Occasional fix ups through the years have played havoc with the over-capacity Worldport, and it has gotten a bit run down.)

Delta actually operates Terminal 2 (built in 1962 for Braniff, Northeast and Northwest) and 3; there is a connector in between. Above, a Prelinger Archive 1958 film from the Library of Congress; BrandlandUSA found it and thought it would be a great primer for anyone about to go to Delta’s JFK terminal to go overseas.

The terminal was built by Pan Am when the jet age began. It is famous for its four-acre “flying saucer” roof suspended far from the outside columns of the terminal by 32 sets of prestressed steel posts and cables. It was built to allow the parking of aircraft under the overhang; passengers would enter planes from the rear in open Jetways. It was greatly expanded in 1972 when the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet arrived. Recently, Delta has improved the experience there.

The American Institute of Architects Guide to New York City called the terminal a “genuine architectural attempt to answer the problem of all-weather connections to the planes” but derided the overall concept as “compromised by an overabundance of distracting detail.”

It was designed by Ives, Turano & Gardner Associated Architects and Walter Prokosch of Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton. The zodiac figures across the building’s facade were made by sculptor Milton Hebald, though have been removed by the Port Authority. In 1971 the terminal was expanded to accommodate the large Boeing 747.

Delta Air Lines purchased the WorldPort, which is now known simply as “Terminal 3,” and operates all of its long-haul flights out of JFK to Europe, Asia, Africa and South America from the building.

In March of 2006, Delta announced that it would spend $10 million to renovate Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, including its public spaces, BusinessElite lounge and Crown Room Clubs. It even added a Todd English’s Bonfire Steakhouse to Terminal 2.

In the July 2007 issue of Delta’s Sky magazine, Delta Senior Vice President Joanne Smith remarked on the “distinctive” saucer roof in an article on new flooring, lighting and signage at this “historic airport.” Click on the image at right for a direct link to Delta’s website, with descriptions of services offered at Terminal 3.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

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  1. Living in Las Vegas, you see the 1950’s and 1960’s had some great wonderful designs long before the tilt up, ugly big box.

    I live in simple, wonderful cinderbox house that is 50 years old this year and compared to the sad, depressing homes that were built since 1990, where you look at some one else’s box 13 feet away my house is is a work of art. Worldport is a work of art, and should be saved as art.

    Mayor Goodman help create a small arts district downtown, very small stuff compared to the Worldport, and the old TWA terminal being saved, nevertheless these are wonderful things for future generations to appreciate. The 1950’s & 1960’s was an amazing time for the United States, to me, we peaked during this period, and have had trouble because we did not pay attention to lessons we should have learned. Buildings like Worldport shows the best in what we were hoping would happen, and it did, but our lack of understanding how important education and history are sad and means we have to relearn lessons of the 1960’s.

    Buildings are positive proof to the world we were trying to be the best, and everyone from the port authority, Delta, and everyone that has allowed this tear down just says quality of life isn’t an issue, history doesn’t matter and future generations are just not work it. Can’t be saved, give me a break.

    Just like the old Moulin Rouge that was talked about saving ever since I got here 13 years ago, no one cared. It wasn’t much to look at but it spoke millions of words why it existed. The Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas, to me, pointed out behavior of why there is a past we should be ashamed of, but at the same time, proud of America and Las Vegas because after being so wrong on an issue of human rights it was finally corrected.

    Worldport, to me on a much grander scale was nothing but wonderful optimism, a can do spirit that is sadly lacking in government, business, schools, almost every walk of life. It was something you could see, feel, something built, not just a cloud in the sky.

    Sadly when buildings like the Worldport are gone, or so messed up the beauty has all but almost impossible to see all that tells us is we care less and less about any quality of life.

    Looking at old houses, no matter how the building has been underfunded in the maintenance area as long as it hasn’t been completely destroyed by too many trips to a home improvement store, there is always hope to bring that wonderful optimism back to life.

    I was never lucky enough to get see JFK, so maybe Worldport was so messed up it did have too much “home improvement” done to it. Everything I have read says different, so the only consideration, money, nothing to do with quality of life, which we all know what happens when money is the only issue, in our cities, education systems, keeping jobs in America and choosing leaders in governemnt.

    If we elect people who’s only real god is money, we get funny money and pay a terrible price for it, American started to pay for it just several months after Bill Clinton was no longer our president. Years ago I would have thought I was making too big of deal losing Worldport, not any more.

  2. I love ABC’s Pan Am! The ladies are smart and gorgeous. I think there’s enough there to continue it for a second season.

  3. Apparently, it is going to be demolished this summer. Better visit Delta’s rat trap before they send it to the dustbin.

  4. A note From the blog All Ways NY:

    David Plavin, consultant and former president, Airports Council International-North America, will discuss the challenges and creative potential for New York’s aviation system with leading airport experts including Richard Smyth, V.P., Jet Blue, who is in charge of the new JFK Jet Blue terminal that incorporates the landmark Eero Saarinen building; Charles Van Cook, P.E., V.P., PB World, who plans airports all over the world; William DeCota, Dir. of Aviation, Port Authority; and Jeff Zupan, Senior Fellow for Transportation, Regional Plan Association. Co-sponsored by the NY Building Congress, and the RPA.

    New York Infrastructure: Are New York’s Airports Obsolete?
    30 July 2008, 6:30 P.M.
    Museum of the City of New York
    1220 5th Avenue at 103rd Street
    New York, NY 10029
    (212) 534-1672, ext. 3395

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