News

George Washington Bridge Beacon Celebrates 75 Years

The eastern tower of the George Washington Bridge is seen from Fort Lee, NJ - Apr 17, 2010 - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

The eastern tower of the George Washington Bridge is seen from Fort Lee, NJ – Apr 17, 2010 – Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – The last remaining aviation beacon on the east coast is the one atop the George Washington Bridge’s eastern tower.

The 75th anniversary of its lighting the night sky was celebrated on Wednesday by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition and its president, Mike Stoddard (who is 88-years-old and a veteran of World War II, a pilot, and a journalist). They rented a party boat on the Hudson River to raise a glass and share some interesting history.

LISTEN: Mike Stoddard with WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot

“I remember watching the bridge being built… The Beacon was the big light in the sky. That beacon had a million candlepower. That dates back to the air mail, not airlines, which didn’t exist,” Stoddard told WCBS 880 anchor Wayne Cabot, “They started out with bonfires on mountain tops.”

“I guess the bonfires are a great idea until it rains,” inserted Cabot.

Stoddard added that “If it’s foggy, you can’t see them” and said that while it’s romantic, it is not very practical.

This type of beacon was actually replaced by a radio-based system in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, GPS is used for guidance.

The beacon atop the grand George Washington Bridge no longer serves any actual purpose, except to serve as a memorial to famed aviator Wiley Post and entertainer Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935.

If you work at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, please pretend you didn’t read this piece. We like the light!