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The Airport: Terminal Nights and Runway Days at John F. Kennedy International Hardcover – June, 1994

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1 edition (June 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688092470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688092474
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,555,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Before going on a cross-country flight, I decided to find a good book about airports, and was pleasantly surprised to discover this book, an in-depth description of JFK, it's tens of thousands of employees, and the general principles of the airline industry this airport illustrates.

James Kaplan idolizes the brilliant essayist John McPhee, and at times, this book approaches the work of the master--especially the second chapter about "the Birdman of Kennedy" (whose job is to protect human life and metal wing against the astonishingly potent threat of seagulls).

The following passage illustrates Kaplan's reportage and writing at it's best:

Down a hallway, toward passport control. "Human ingenuity is endless," Fingerman is saying. "People hide sausages in bandoliers around their body. I've seen a man trying to bring an entire fig tree on his person. The roots were in his shoes, the branches were in his sleeves. One lady tried to hide her pet bird between her breasts. Another was wearing a big hat, with a whole hatband full of little finches"... Now his restless eyes pick out two men having their passports processed nearby. One is Italian, the other Venezuelan; they look as if they have on at least three sports jackets apiece. They have huge fake-Vuitton suitcases, and Fingerman leans on one of the bags as he says, in his carrying voice, "How are you gentlemen doing today?"

I leave a little while later. Fingerman, who has forgotten all about me, is contentedly removing dozens of pieces of fruit and wrapped sausages from the men's bags as they gesture and shrug.

And how delightfully ironic that this customs inspector's name is Fingerman!

My only gripe is that the publisher should have spent more time editing this otherwise worthy volume--and Kaplan (like me several years ago) suffers from a dreaded syndrome I've dubbed "commatosis", the tendency to overuse commas. Otherwise, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants a good peek at how airports work--and how they sometimes fail so spectacularly. Two aerilons up! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Kaplan, a novelist ( Pearl's Progress ) and journalist, writes engaging vignettes depicting New York's famed (and often maddening) JFK airport. He introduces Sammy Chevalier, who oversees Kennedy's crucial bird patrol, keeping engines safe, and 80-year-old Dr. Louis Abelson, founder of the airport medical facility, who can park anywhere at Kennedy with impunity. Kaplan observes a full-scale disaster drill, listens in on airport security precautions and accompanies a Department of Agriculture inspector checking for contraband. Kaplan writes with style and wit, but his book seems even more a mosaic than JFK itself. Photos not seen by PW. Reader's Digest Condensed Books selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

JAMES KAPLAN has been writing about people and ideas in business and popular culture, as well as noted fiction (Best American Short Stories), for over three decades. His essays and reviews, as well as more than a hundred major profiles of figures ranging from Madonna to Helen Gurley Brown, Calvin Klein to John Updike, Miles Davis to Meryl Streep, and Arthur Miller to Larry David, have appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and New York. His first novel, Pearl's Progress, was published by Knopf in 1989. His nonfiction portrait of John F. Kennedy International Airport, The Airport (1994) -- called "a splendid book" by Gay Talese -- remains a classic of aviation literature and New York storytelling. His second novel, Two Guys From Verona -- published in 1998 by Atlantic Monthly Press, and chosen by The New York Times as one of its Notable Books of the Year -- is being developed as a movie by Jeremy Garelick, screenwriter of The Break-Up and The Hangover. In 2002 Kaplan co-authored the autobiography of John McEnroe, You Cannot Be Serious, which was an international bestseller (and number one on the New York Times list). His 2005 book Dean and Me: A Love Story, co-written with Jerry Lewis and published by Doubleday, was a New York Times bestseller as well. In November 2010, Doubleday published Frank: The Voice, the first volume of Kaplan's definitive biography of Frank Sinatra. The book was also a New York Times bestseller, and was chosen by Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani as one of her Top Ten Books of 2010. James Kaplan lives in Westchester, New York, with his wife and three sons. You can visit his website at

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By alan d. rappaport on June 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Extremely well written with terrific detail. This book takes you inside the workings of the airport. It gives you a view of JFK and particular events that are relevant to the airport that you would not have without the benefit of this book. The real testament to this book for me is that since I've read it, every time something happens that has to do with JFK (TWA 800 etc.), I wish that Mr. Kaplan would incorporate it in a sequel so that I could understand it through his perspective. Kaplan's chapter on his experience of flying in the cockpit of the Concorde is worth finding this book even though it now appears to be out of print.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Graham Campbell on September 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book by James Kaplan provides an in depth look at John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport in NYC. But in doing this it is looking at a small town with it's different people and functions. Everything from the medical staff, to the guy who changes all the lightbulbs in the ground are given a face in this incredible book. It's a fast read, and it will answer all your questions. It's not just for people who like airports or for New Yorkers. It is for everyone who should marvel at how special a place JFK really is. It leaves you hoping that Kaplan will adopt the same methods with other institutions around the country.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
I never thought I'd be fascinated by baggage handlers or traffic cops at an airport. But this book changed all that. It is a wonderful adventure from the most exciting moments in the cockpit to the control tower to the ticket counter to the kitchen and beyond. It takes you to 30,000 feet all the way down to the guts of the airport operations. From the beginning account of an actual plane crash to everything else, I could not put this book down. If you're the least bit interested in commercial airliners or airports, this is a must read.
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By J.J. on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book, lacks a lot of old historic pictures.

Would be nice to see some old JFK (Idlewild) pictures of how the airport looked in the old days.
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