MIAMI — Once a year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meets in New York City to discuss all topics from security to admission of new members, resolutions to the budget. While the UNGA meeting typically results in traffic nightmares in the city as a result of frozen zones and motorcades, for plane spotters it is the best week of the year: Nothing else comes close.
The United Nations General Assembly meeting is open to every member country of the United Nations, meaning nations and aircraft types that would normally never appear in the United States fly into the New York City area. Starting the weekend before the meeting, spotters flock to John F. Kennedy International Airport from sunrise to sunset, only leaving their pre-scouted spot if a runway change occurs. Spots can be anywhere on any side of the airport, as close to the action as you can get without overstepping any boundaries, though security is even tighter than normal at JFK during UN Week.
Once a diplomatic flight arrives at JFK, they typically must depart once again within 2 hours, as space for aircraft parking is extremely limited. Only nations that can afford to feed the proverbial parking meter can leave their aircraft at JFK. Since most choose not to, the majority of the aircraft will head up north to Stewart Airport in Newburgh, or south to Washington, D.C. Once the VIP is ready to depart, the aircraft must return to JFK and depart in like manner. This means that spotters normally have a minimum of four opportunities to catch any one aircraft; Two arrivals, and two departures. You may think that with all of this VIP movement, JFK grinds to a stop during UN Week. Thankfully, very few of the VIP movement slow down arrivals and departures. These special aircraft enter the takeoff line just like any other departure. The only aircraft that receive the “frozen zone” treatment are Air Force One and Air Force Two.
affic during UN Week. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, some very rare aircraft made their way to New York this year. You will be hard pressed to find one airport that handled a Tu-154M and a Boeing 707 in the same night! Below is a gallery of every UN Week visitor I was able to catch both this year and last, although several more arrived under the cover of darkness.