024 – JFK, 1970-1981. Runway 13L – Part 1

When I first picked up a camera in 1969, I was living on Long Island. La Guardia and JFK International were my two “home airports.” Of the two, JFK was much more interesting to me, since the traffic was much more varied and exotic. With a little exploration, I started to learn my away around the airport, and eventually found several prime locations for photography. I quickly determined that the hill adjacent to the touchdown zone for Runway 13L was a terrific spot,,, assuming, of course, that runway was in use.


Although I didn’t start shooting slide film in earnest until the mid-70s, I did occasionally burn through a roll of Agfachrome in my early days. Here is one of my first slides, and also one of my most memorable:

CF-THC, Viscount 757, Air Canada. This was photographed from my favorite spot in the world for many years, the approach end of Runway 13L.


When I began taking photos, I was limited to a fixed focal length 135mm telephoto lens, which gave me very little flexibility in cropping. I also didn’t know beans about little things like getting the registration in the frame. So,

an Aeronaves de Mexico DC-8-50 was an Aeronaves de Mexico DC-8-50.


Before the days of the Boeing 747, the “Stretch 8” presented an interesting problem for the branding experts…how do you paint a canvas in the shape of a pencil? Iberia offered one idea…paint the name of the airline twice. Once in front, and once in back.

EC-BSE, DC‑8‑63, Iberia


Air India was one of only a handful of airlines to take factory delivery of the B707-400, powered by Rolls-Royce Conway engines.

VT-DJK, B.707‑437, Air-India


The other Conway-powered jet airliner to grace JFK Airport was the Vickers VC-10, which many said could fly rings around rival 707. It was certainly one of the most graceful airliners ever built. It certainly looked sharp in BOAC colors.

G-ASGJ, VC‑10‑1151, BOAC


When I entered the Air Force in 1973, I was still shooting print film, for the most part. I also thought that I was about the only “avgeek” in the world. My time spent in England and Miami taught me otherwise and changed my life forever. After my stint in the active Air Force, I moved to the Washington DC area. However, since my family still lived on Long Island, I still found plenty of opportunities to visit New York and pop on out to JFK on a regular basis. The world had changed, of course. The Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s had, for the most part, been replaced by Boeing 747s, Douglas DC-10s, and, to a lesser extent, Lockheed L-1011s among the top-tier intercontinental airlines. But my favorite spot by Runway 13L still called my name, and remained one of my favorite places on earth.

You could always count on some surprises at JFK.

68-10958, US Air Force, C-9A


The DC-8-61 gave Air Jamaica an intercontinental reach, as showed up in New York as well as Europe.

6Y-JGG, DC‑8‑61, Air Jamaica


BWIA amassed a hodge-podge collection of used Boeing 707s, including seven -300 series.

9Y-TEK, B.707‑351C, BWIA West Indies Airways


Aero Uruguay was one of dozens of cargo airlines which attempted to establish a going concern using used Boeing 707s.

CX-BJV, B.707‑331C, Aero Uruguay


Iberia Airlines of Spain was an early operator of the Boeing 747, but also added long-range McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s for some of its thinner intercontinental routes.

EC-CEZ, DC‑10‑30, Iberia


Aer Lingus continued to use its narrow-body Boeing 707s for competitive reasons long after most of the Transatlantic carriers had gone all-wide body.

EI-ANV, B.707‑348C, Aer Lingus


British Airways continued to operate its VC-10s until the end of the 1970s.

G-ASGC, VC‑10‑1151, British Airways


As Northwest Airlines phased out its fleet of Boeing 707s, those planes were spread throughout the four corners of the earth. Two ended up with Laker Airways, but during low season, those planes were leased to Caribbean Airways.

G-BFBS, B.707‑351B(SCD), Caribbean Airways


Meanwhile, Sir Freddie Laker was making history by establishing his low-cost Skytrain service in the highly competitive (and highly regulated) Transatlantic market.

G-GSKY, DC‑10‑10, Laker Airways


Balair operated supplemental service to Switzerland, using an ex-Swissaiar DC-8-62CF and an ex-Eastern Airlines DC-8-63PF.

HB-IDH, DC‑8‑62CF, Balair


Ecuatoriana probably had the most colorful fleet of Boeing 707s in the 1970s. The carrier operated a total of five 707s, all of which came from Pan American World Airlines.

HC-BFC, 707‑321B, Ecuatoriana


Aerolineas Argentinas operated a reasonable number of Boeing 707s well into the 1980s.

LV-JGR, B.707‑387C, Aerolineas Argentinas was destroyed in a landing accident at Buenos Aires in January 1986.


TWA operated a fleet of over 40 Boeing 707-131Bs. They were easily distinguishable from the larger intercontinental -331s by the last of the telltale UHF antenna on the vertical stabilizer.

N6723, B.707‑131B, Trans World Airlines


In the1970s, TWA Boeing 707-331s were as common as, say, an American Airlines Airbus is today. Boooooring. Oh how I wish I’d known then what I know now!

N28728, B.707‑331B, Trans World Airlines


TWA was one of the early Boeing 747 operators, and the vast majority of the carrier’s 747s were -100s.

N53110, B.747‑131, Trans World Airlines


When TWA introduced its “new” color scheme, the airline name was applied in outline form on the fuselage. That all changed when the carrier was awarded the honor of carrying the Pope in 1979, somebody figured out that the livery would not show up well on television cameras. At that point, the outline was quickly filled in as solid red.

N93118, B.747‑131, Trans World Airlines


Braniff International Airways had already made its mark with its “Flying Colors” fleet of airplanes, when it went a step further. One DC-8 and One Boeing 727 were painted up in a color scheme designed by well-known contemporary artist Alexander Calder.



N408BN, B.727‑291, Braniff


For years, Flying Tigers Airlines was one of the premiere cargo and charter airlines in the country. The carrier’s DC-8s were common sights across the country.

N862FT, DC‑8‑61CF, Flying Tigers



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