Pan Am Worldport – The historic airport terminal 3 in Queens

An airport terminal built by Pan American World Airways in 1960 at John F. Kennedy International Airport. It operated from May 1960 to May 2013. The unique terminal, was designed by Ives, Turano & Gardner Associated Architects and Walther Prokosch of Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton and is particularly famous for its “flying saucer” roof.

The site of Worldport Terminal 3, today an airport apron

The terminal was designed to allow for aircraft to be parked under the partial overhang. The overhang sheltered passengers as they boarded the aircraft by stairs or by uncovered bridges. Pan Am terminal featured the Panorama Room, a dining room with a view of the entire concourse, and the Clipper Hall museum of Pan Am history. In 1971, the terminal was expanded to accommodate the large Boeing 747 and renamed the “Pan Am Worldport”.

Operation of the Worldport changed hands when Pan Am declared bankruptcy in 1991. Delta Air Lines acquired many of Pan Am’s assets, including the lease on the Worldport, which became known simply as Terminal 3. On May 23, 2013, the final departure from Terminal 3, was the Delta Air Lines Flight 268, to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. The terminal ceased operations on the next day, 53 years to the day from when it opened.

Pan Am Worldport was the world’s largest airline terminal and held the title for several years / Image source

Preservation groups campaigned to save the building and have it nominated by the New York State Historic Preservation Office as a historic place. The preservation campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and demolition of the flying saucer section was completed on November 22, 2013. Demolition work on the remainder of the terminal completed in summer 2014. The National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the Worldport as one of ten historic sites lost in 2013.

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