“You are so low and close you can see it and almost smell it,” said Glen Millen, who estimates that he has flown into and out of La Guardia 1,800 times since he began flying for American Airlines in 1986.
Call me crazy if you wish, but actually reading about it scares me:
La Guardia is one of the few airports in the country where pilots use land markers instead of instruments to guide their landings, along with Seattle (a shopping mall) and Washington (a river). Shea Stadium, which from the sky looks like a blue circle with a green center, is a primary runway guidepost. For one of the more common landing routes, pilots are instructed to follow the Long Island Expressway until they arrive at the eastern side of the stadium, at which point they bank the plane left around the outfield wall and head straight for Runway 31.
In 1964, the Mets’ first season at Shea, a pilot got an even closer look. He mistook the lights on top of the stadium for the runway and nearly hit it as the team took batting practice before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, according to sportswriters who covered the Mets that season and a player on the field that day.
Until the 1980s, when radios that were used in cockpits to pick up transmitters began to be phased out, some pilots would tune them to the local broadcasts of the Mets’ games during landing and take-off.
“You would dial in and you could hear your plane fly over,” said Sam Mayer, a pilot with American Airlines since 1990. “There were guys who would goose the throttles to make a louder noise so they could hear themselves on the radio.”