Eastern Air Lines

Eastern Air Lines
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1926 (1926) (as Pitcairn Aviation)
Ceased operations 1991 (1991)
Operating bases Miami International Airport
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer program OnePass
Fleet size 304
Destinations 140
Company slogan
Parent company Eastern Air Lines, Inc. (Texas Air Corporation now United Continental Holdings )
Headquarters New York City
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Key people Eddie Rickenbacker (First CEO)
Floyd Hall
Frank Borman
Frank Lorenzo
Martin Shugrue

Eastern Air Lines was a major American airline from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County, Florida.[2]

Eastern was one of the "Big Four" domestic airlines created by the Spoils Conferences of 1930, and was headed by World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker in its early years. It had a near monopoly in air travel between New York and Florida from the 1930s until the 1950s and dominated this market for decades afterward.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the deregulation, labor disputes and high debt loads strained the company under the leadership of former astronaut Frank Borman. Frank Lorenzo acquired Eastern in 1985 and moved many of its assets to his other airlines, including Continental Airlines and Texas Air. After continued labor disputes and a crippling strike in 1989, Eastern ran out of money and was liquidated in 1991.[3]

American Airlines obtained many of Eastern's routes from Miami to Latin America and the Caribbean, while Delta Air Lines, Eastern's main competitor at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, acquired many of Eastern's Lockheed L-1011 aircraft.[4] USAir acquired 11 of Eastern's 25 Boeing 757-225 aircraft.

Eastern pioneered hourly air shuttle service between New York City, Washington, DC and Boston in 1961 as the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle. It took over the South American route network of Braniff International upon its shutdown in 1982[5] and also served London and Madrid in the 1980s.



Eastern Air Lines was a composite of assorted air travel corporations, including Florida Airways and Pitcairn Aviation. In the late 1920s, Pitcairn Aviation won a contract to fly mail between New York City and Atlanta, Georgia on Mailwing single-engine aircraft. In 1929, Clement Keys, the owner of North American Aviation, purchased Pitcairn. In 1930, Keys changed the company's name to Eastern Air Transport. After being purchased by General Motors and experiencing a change in leadership after the Airmail Act of 1934, the airline became known as Eastern Air Lines.[6]

Growth under Rickenbacker

In 1938 World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker bought Eastern from General Motors. The complex deal was concluded when Rickenbacker presented Alfred P. Sloan with a certified check for $3.5 million.[7] In March 1939 Eastern had 15 weekday departures from Newark (six to Washington, five to Miami and one each to Richmond, Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio), two from Chicago to Miami, one from Tampa to Atlanta and one from Tallahassee to Memphis. Those flights and their returns were Eastern's whole scheduled operation; it fit on one page in the Airways Guide. Then as later, Eastern was the fourth largest airline in the country by passenger-miles (103 million in 1939).

Rickenbacker pushed Eastern into a period of growth and innovation; for a time Eastern was the most profitable airline in the post-war era, never needing state subsidy. In the late 1950s Eastern's position was eroded by subsidies to rival airlines and the arrival of the jet age. On October 1, 1959, Rickenbacker's position as CEO was taken over by Malcolm A. MacIntyre, a brilliant lawyer but a man inexperienced in airline operations.'[8] Rickenbacker's ouster was largely due to his reluctance to acquire expensive jets as he underestimated their appeal to the public. A new management team headed by Floyd D. Hall took over on 16 December 1963, and Rickenbacker left his position as Director and Chairman of the Board on December 31, 1963, aged 73.[8]

In 1956 Eastern bought Colonial Airlines, giving the airline its first routes to Canada.[9]

The Jet Age

In November 1959, Eastern Air Lines opened its Chester L. Churchill-designed Terminal 1 at New York City's Idlewild International Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport). In 1960, Eastern's first jets, Douglas DC-8-21s, started to take over the longer flights, like the non-stops from Chicago and New York to Miami. The DC-8s were joined in 1962 by the Boeing 720 and in 1964 by the Boeing 727-100, which Eastern (along with American Airlines and United Airlines) had helped Boeing to develop. On February 1, 1964, Eastern was the first airline to fly the 727. Shortly after that, "Captain Eddie" Rickenbacker retired and a new image was adopted, which included the now famous hockey stick design, officially Caribbean Blue over Ionosphere Blue. Eastern was also the first US carrier to fly the Airbus A300[10] and the launch customer for the Boeing 757.[11]

On April 30, 1961, Eastern inaugurated Eastern Air Lines Shuttle. Initially 95-seat Lockheed Constellation 1049s and 1049Cs left New York-LaGuardia every two hours, 8 am to 10 pm, to Washington National and to Boston.[12] Flights soon became hourly, 7 am to 10 pm out of each city. Shuttle emphasized convenience and simplicityrevolutionary in an era when air travel was considered a luxury.

Internationalization began as Eastern opened routes to markets such as Santo Domingo and Nassau, Bahamas. Services from San Juan, Puerto Rico's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport were expanded. In 1967, Eastern purchased Mackey Airlines, a small air carrier primarily operating in Florida and the Bahamas as part of this expansion.

Eastern bought the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar and Airbus A300 widebody jets; the former would become known in the Caribbean as El Grandote (the huge one). Although Eastern had purchased four 747s, the delivery slots were sold to Trans World Airlines (TWA) when Eastern decided to purchase the L-1011.

Due to massive delays in the L-1011 program, mainly due to problems with the Rolls-Royce RB211 engines, Eastern leased two Boeing 747-100s from Pan Am between 1970 and 1972 and operated the aircraft between Chicago and San Juan as well as from New York to Miami and San Juan.

The RB211 programme might easily have foundered in 1971 if it had not been for the steadfast support of Eastern Airlines, one of the major launch customers for the Lockheed TriStars. The President of Eastern was one Sam Higginbottom, who never wavered and thereby acquired some criticism.

Just before Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Eastern became its "official airline". It remained the official airline of Walt Disney World and sponsored a ride at the Magic Kingdom park (If You Had Wings in Tomorrowland where Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is currently located) until its contracting route network forced Disney to switch to Delta shortly before Eastern's 1989 bankruptcy filing.

The famous "Wings of Man" campaign in the late 1960s was created by advertising agency Young & Rubicam, and restored Eastern's tarnished image until the late 1970s, when former astronaut Frank Borman became president and it was replaced by a new campaign, "We Have To Earn Our Wings Every Day". The new campaign, which featured Borman as a spokesperson, was used until the mid-to-late 1980s.

Under bankruptcy, Eastern launched a "100 Days" campaign, in which it promised to "become a little bit better every day".


In 1975, Eastern was headquartered at 10 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.[15] After Frank Borman became president of Eastern Air Lines in 1975, he moved Eastern's headquarters from Rockefeller Center to Miami-Dade County, Florida.[16]

Eastern's massive Atlanta hub was in direct competition with Delta Air Lines, where the two carriers competed heavily to neither's benefit. Delta's less-unionized work force and slowly expanding international route network helped lead it through the turbulent period following deregulation in 1978.

In 1980, a Caribbean hub was started at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (known at the time as "Isla Verde International Airport") near San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1982, Eastern acquired Braniff's South American route network. By 1985, Eastern was the largest IATA airline in terms of passengers and operated in 26 countries on three continents.

During this era, Eastern's fleet was split between their "silver-colored hockey stick" livery (the lack of paint reduced weight by 100 pounds) and their "white-colored hockey stick" livery (on its Airbus-manufactured planes, the metallurgy of which required paint to cover the aircraft's composite skin panels).

In 1983 Eastern became the launch customer of Boeing's 757, which was ordered in 1978. Borman felt that its low cost of operation would make it an invaluable asset to the airline in the years to come. However, higher oil prices failed to materialize and the debt created by this purchase coupled with the Airbus A300 purchases in 1977 contributed to the February 1986 sale to Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air. At that time, Eastern was paying over $700,000 in interest each day before they sold a ticket, fueled, or boarded a single aircraft.

Starting about 1985, Eastern offered "Moonlight Specials", with passenger seats on overnight flights scheduled for cargo from thirty freight companies. The flights, which operated between midnight and 7 am, served 18 cities in the United States connecting mainly to Houston (IAH). Eric Schmitt of The New York Times said that the services were "a hybrid of late-night, red-eye flights and the barebones People Express approach to service." The holds of the aircraft were reserved for cargo such as express mail, machine tool parts, and textiles. Because of this, the airline allowed each passenger to take up to two carry-on bags. The airline charged $10 for each checked bag, which was shipped standby. The airline charged between 50 cents and $3 for beverages and snacks. Bunny Duck, an Eastern flight attendant quoted in The New York Times, said that the passengers on the special flights were "a cross section of families, college kids, illegal aliens and weirdos from L.A.".[17]

Eastern began losing money as it faced competition from no-frills airlines, such as People Express, which offered lower fares. In an attempt to differentiate itself from its bargain competitors, Eastern began a marketing campaign stressing its quality of service and its rank of highly experienced pilots.

Sale to Texas Air

Unable to keep up, Borman agreed to the sale of the airline in 1986 to Texas Air, led by Frank Lorenzo He had already purchased Continental Airlines and lost a bidding war for TWA to Carl Icahn.

In February 1987, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a $9.5 million fine against Eastern Air Lines for safety violations,[18] which was the largest fine assessed against an airline until American Airlines was fined $24.2 million in 2010.[19]

In 1988, Phil Bakes, the president of Eastern Air Lines, announced plans to lay off 4,000 employees and eliminate and reduce service to airports in the Western United States; he said that the airline was going "back to our roots" in the East. At the time, Eastern was the largest corporate employer in the Miami area and remained so after the cuts. John Nordheimer wrote in a The New York Times article that the prominence of Eastern in the Miami area decreased as the city became a finance and trade center and as the area had a population increase-based economic growth, instead of a purely tourism-based growth.[20]

During Lorenzo's tenure, Eastern was crippled by severe labor unrest. Asked to accept deep cuts in pay and benefits, on March 4, 1989, Frank Lorenzo locked out Eastern's mechanics and ramp service employees, represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). Concerned that if Lorenzo was successful in breaking the IAM he would do the same to the pilots' and flight attendants' unions, the pilots represented by Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and flight attendants represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) called a sympathy strike. Those actions effectively shut down the airline's domestic operations. Non-contract employees, including airport gate and ticket counter agents and reservation sales agents, could not honor the strike. Due to the lockout and sympathy strike, cancelled flights resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.

In 1989, Lorenzo sold Eastern Air Lines Shuttle to real estate magnate Donald Trump (who named it the Trump Shuttle) while selling other parts of Eastern to his Texas Air holding company and its subsidiary, Continental Airlines, at terms disadvantageous to Eastern. In 1989 George Berry, the Georgia Industry and Trade Commissioner, asked Eastern to consider moving its headquarters from the Miami area to the Atlanta area.[21]

As a result of the strike, weakened airline structure, high fuel prices, inability to compete after deregulation and other financial problems, Eastern filed for bankruptcy protection on March 9, 1989.[22] This allowed Lorenzo to continue operating the airline with non-union employees. However, in 1991, the courts removed Eastern from Texas Air's control, citing neglect and mismanagement. The court appointed Martin Shugrue was appointed as Eastern's trustee to oversee its operations. Eastern tried to remain in business in an attempt to correct its cash flow, but to no avail.[23]

The airline stopped flying at midnight Saturday, January 19, 1991. On the previous evening company agents, unaware of the decision, continued to take reservations and told callers that the airline was not closing. Following the announcement, 5,000 of the 18,000 employees immediately lost their jobs. Of the remaining employees, reservation agents were told to report to work at their regular times, while other employees were told not to report to work unless asked to do so.[24] The Eastern shutdown eliminated many airline industry jobs in the Miami and New York City areas.[25]

Revenue Passenger-Miles (Millions)[26] (Scheduled Service Only)
1951 16308--94
1955 35831181129
1960 47642722(merged Mackey)(merged EA)
1965 79567441
1970 14671107(merged EA)
1975 18169(merged)
1981 26501
1985 33086
1989 11592



Eastern Air Lines flew many different types of aircraft throughout its history. Number of individual aircraft operated in parentheses.

Eastern Air Lines Historical Fleet
Aircraft Fleet Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A300B4 34 1977 Unknown First U.S. airline operator of this type.
Boeing 720 15 1961 1970
Boeing 727-100 75 1964 Unknown Launch customer.
Boeing 727-200/Adv 99 1968 Unknown
Boeing 747-100 3 1971 1973 Leased from Pan American World Airways before the L-1011 arrived.
Boeing 747-200 Unknown None None For planned services to Europe, bought from Qantas.
One aircraft painted but never delivered, 1978.
Boeing 757-200 25 1983 Unknown Eastern as co-launch customer along with British Airways.
Convair 340 2 Unknown Unknown
Convair 440 Metropolitan 20 1957 1970
Curtiss Commando 15 Unknown Unknown
Curtiss Condor Unknown 1930 1934
Douglas DC-2 14 Unknown Unknown
Douglas DC-3 76 1936 1953
Douglas DC-4 38 1946 1960
Douglas DC-7B 54 1953 1966
Douglas DC-8-21 16 1960 1973
Douglas DC-8-50 5 1964 1971
Douglas DC-8-61 17 1969 1973
Douglas DC-8-63 6 1969 1974
Douglas DC-9-14 15 1965 1980
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 82 1967 Unknown
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 26 1978 Unknown
Fokker F.VII Unknown Unknown Unknown
Ford Tri-Motor Unknown 1930 1932
Lockheed Model 10 Electra 5 1935 1936
Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation 76 1951 1968
Lockheed L-188 Electra 40 1959 1977 First and only turboprop aircraft flown by Eastern Air Lines in mainline operation.
Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar 40 1972 Unknown Launch customer along with Trans World Airlines.
Lockheed JetStar 2 1970 1973 For corporate use.
Martin 4-0-4 60 1951 1962 Eastern Air Lines was the largest operator of the type in operation.
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 3 1985 1990 Formerly operated by Alitalia leased to operate long range service to Europe and South America.
Pitcairn Mailwing Unknown Unknown Unknown First aircraft to begin operations as Eastern Air Transport Inc.

Eastern Express, Eastern Metro Express, Eastern Partner and Caribair

Several regional and commuter airlines provided passenger feed for Eastern via code sharing agreements with their aircraft liveries reflecting the Eastern mainline paint scheme. There were a number of brandings including: Eastern Express, Eastern Atlantis Express, and Eastern Metro Express. LIAT, a Caribbean-based airline, also operated Eastern Partner service.

Eastern Express air carriers and their aircraft included:[27][28]

Eastern Atlantis Express was operated by Atlantis Airlines with BAe Jetstream 31 aircraft.[29]

Eastern Metro Express was operated by Metro Airlines and was based at Eastern's Atlanta (ATL) hub operating British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31 and de Havilland Canada DHC-8-100 Dash 8 turboprops.[30]

Eastern Partner was operated by a Caribbean-based airline, Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), with turboprop service between Eastern's San Juan hub and Antigua, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.[31]

Eastern also worked closely with another Caribbean-based airline, Caribair (Puerto Rico). The June 13, 1967 Eastern system timeable lists connecting flights operated by Caribair Convair 640 turboprops with service between Eastern's San Juan hub and St. Croix and St. Thomas.[32] By 1970, San Juan-based Caribair had become an all-jet airline operating McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 aircraft serving fourteen Caribbean islands as well as Miami with the air carrier subsequently being acquired by Eastern in 1973.[33]

Notable accidents

Eastern weathered crashes over the years of varying damage to the company and passenger injuries and deaths. Some of the crashes contributed to the future safety of American air transportation, such as Eastern's first accident caused by the construction of temporary utility poles at the end of a runway.

Fatal accidents

  • On 10 August 1937, Eastern Air Lines Trip 7, a Douglas DC-2 (NC13739), crashed on takeoff at Daytona Beach Municipal Airport after it struck a utility pylon during a nighttime take off, killing four of nine on board.[34]
  • On 26 February 1941, Eastern Air Lines Flight 21, a Douglas DST, crashed near Atlanta in fog due to a misread altimeter, almost killing Eddie Rickenbacker, who was traveling on airline business. His recovery in the hospital received broad press coverage; during his initial recovery several news reports claimed that he had died. Congressman William D. Byron was among the dead. 8 died out of the 16 on board.
  • On 12 July 1945, Eastern Airlines Flight 45, a DC-3-201C (NC25647) flying from Washington, DC to Columbia, collided in mid-air with USAAF A-26C Invader 44-35553 near Florence, South Carolina. The A-26's vertical tail fin struck the left wing of the DC-3, displacing the engine which cut into fuselage while the A-26's tail was sheared off; pieces of the fin and rudder also struck the DC-3. The A-26 lost control and crashed; two crew parachuted but only one survived. The DC-3 belly landed in a cornfield although one passenger, a two-year-old boy, died.[35]
  • On 7 September 1945, Eastern Air Lines Flight 42, a Douglas DC-3-201G (NC33631), crashed near Florence, South Carolina following an unexplained fire in the rear of the aircraft. Control was lost after the right elevator also caught fire and the aircraft crashed in a swampy, wooded area, killing all 22 on board.[36]
  • On 30 December 1945, Eastern Air Lines Flight 14, a Douglas DC-3-201 (NC18123), overran the runway while landing at LaGuardia Airport after approaching too high and too fast, killing one of 14 of board.[37]
  • On 18 January 1946, Eastern Airlines Flight 105, a Douglas DC-3-201E (NC19970), crashed at Cheshire, Connecticut after a loss of control caused by wing separation, killing all 17 on board. A fire, caused by a fuel leak, started in the left engine and spread to the wing, causing it to collapse and fail.[38]
  • On 12 January 1947, Eastern Airlines Flight 665, a Douglas C-49 (NC88872), crashed at Galax, Virginia after the pilot deviated from the flight route, killing 18 of 19 on board.[39]
  • On 30 May 1947, Eastern Air Lines Flight 605, a Douglas DC-4 en route from Newark to Miami, crashed near Bainbridge, Maryland, killing all 53 aboard. At the time, Flight 605 was the deadliest crash in United States aviation history. "Loss of control" was cited as the reason for the crash.
  • On 13 January 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 572, a Douglas DC-3-201F (NC28384), crashed at Oxon Hill, Maryland after striking trees while on approach to Washington National Airport, killing five of nine on board; the aircraft was flying too low.[40]
  • On 7 February 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 611, a Lockheed L-649 Constellation (NC112A), suffered a propeller blade separation over the Atlantic Ocean 156 mi off Brunswick, Georgia. Three hours after takeoff, the number three propeller failed and a portion of a blade penetrated the fuselage, cutting control cables, electrical wires and engine controls and killing a crew member before exiting the fuselage on the opposite side. After this the front portion of the number three engine broke free and fell off. A rapid descent was initiated. At 12,000 feet the descent was stopped. Due to instrument failure the aircraft descended visually to 1,000 feet. On landing the number four engine was shut down and the brakes applied hard which blew out a tire. Fires started in the landing gear and number four engine but were quickly extinguished. Despite the damage, the aircraft was repaired and returned to service.[41]
  • On 1 November 1949, Eastern Air Lines Flight 537, a Douglas DC-4 (N88727) en route from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. via intermediate points, collided in mid-air with a Lockheed P-38 Lightning (NX26927) being test-flown for acceptance by the Government of Bolivia by Erick Rios Bridoux of the Bolivian Air Force. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at an altitude of 300 feet about half a mile southwest of the threshold of Runway 3 at Washington National Airport, killing all 55 aboard the DC-4 and seriously injuring the pilot of the P-38. At the time it was the deadliest airliner incident in United States history.
  • On 19 October 1953, an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N119A) from Idlewild International Airport to San Juan, Puerto Rico, crashed shortly after takeoff, killing two of 27 on board.[42]
  • On December 21, 1955, Eastern Air Lines Flight 642, a Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N112A), crashed on approach to Jacksonville's Imeson Airport arriving from Miami, with further scheduled stops at Washington, DC, New York and Boston. Twelve passengers and a crew of five were killed.[43]
  • On 4 October 1960, Eastern Air Lines Flight 375 (a Lockheed L-188 Electra) departing Boston's Logan International Airport for Philadelphia crashed on takeoff after striking a flock of birds. Sixty-two of the 72 passengers and crew were killed.
  • On 30 November 1962, Eastern Air Lines Flight 512 (a Douglas DC-7) crashed during a go around after failing to land due to fog at Idlewild Airport (now JFK) in New York City. Of the 51 passengers and crew on board, 25 were killed.
  • On 25 February 1964, Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 (a Douglas DC-8) flying from New Orleans International Airport to Washington-National Airport crashed into Lake Pontchartrain en route due to "degradation of aircraft stability characteristics in turbulence, because of abnormal longitudinal trim component positions." All 51 passengers and seven crew aboard were killed.
  • On 8 February 1965, Eastern Air Lines Flight 663, a Douglas DC-7 departing from New York City to Richmond, Virginia, crashed at Jones Beach State Park after takeoff from JFK when it was forced to evade inbound Pan Am Flight 212. All 84 on board died. The evasive action was blamed for causing the plane to lose control.
  • On 4 December 1965, Eastern Air Lines Flight 853, a Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation collided with TWA Flight 42, a Boeing 707, over Carmel, New York. The Constellation crashed on Hunt Mountain in North Salem, New York, killing four of 53 on board while the 707 landed safely with no casualties.
  • On 29 December 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 (a brand new Lockheed L-1011) was preparing to land in Miami, when the flight crew became distracted by a non-functioning gear light. The flight crashed in the Everglades, killing 101 of 176 on board. This was the first major crash of a widebody jet aircraft.
  • On 11 September 1974, Eastern Air Lines Flight 212, a DC-9-31 carrying 78 passengers and four crew operating a scheduled flight from Charleston, South Carolina, to Chicago, Illinois, with an intermediate stop in Charlotte, North Carolina, crashed while conducting an instrument approach in dense ground fog at Douglas Municipal Airport (now called Charlotte/Douglas International Airport). The aircraft crashed just short of the runway, killing 72 passengers and crew. Thirteen people survived the initial impact, but three subsequently died from their injuries. One of the initial survivors died of injuries 29 days after the accident. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and resulting post-crash fire. Also killed on this flight were James, Peter, and Paul Colbert, the father and older brothers (respectively) of comedian Stephen Colbert.[44]
  • On 24 June 1975, Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, a Boeing 727, crashed into the runway approach lights, as it penetrated a thunderstorm near the ILS localizer course line to that runway, at JFK in New York City, killing 113 people. The official cause of the accident was a sudden high rate of descent, caused by severe downdrafts from the thunderstorm, and the continued use of that runway by both flight crews and ATC, after they became aware of the location of the hazardous weather. The aircraft hit a motorcyclist on impact, and ABA basketball star Wendell Ladner was one of the passengers killed in the crash. Most of the deceased were killed by fire after impact rather than the crash itself. The two flight attendants in the rear of the plane survived the fire because they were doused with the liquid contents of the rear lavatories, which kept them alive. The aircraft that landed on the same runway just prior was an Eastern L-1011 that managed to fight through the wind shear by both pilots putting their feet on the instrument panel and pulling back on the control column with all of their strength. After landing, they radioed the tower to close that runway, but it was too late for EAL Flight 66.
  • On 1 January 1985, Eastern Air Lines Flight 980 (a Boeing 727) struck Mount Illimani on a flight from Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asunción, Paraguay, to El Alto International Airport in La Paz, Bolivia. All 25 passengers and 4 crew were killed on impact.

Non-fatal accidents

  • On 19 December 1936, an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-2-112 (NC13732) struck trees and crashed near Milford, Connecticut due to pilot error and radio problems; all 11 on board survived. The aircraft was leased from North American Aviation.[45]
  • On 18 October 1938, Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-2-112 (NC13735) had engine failure while taking off from Montgomery, Alabama. The engine caught fire and fell from the plane soon after. The plane struck a tree upon landing in a field just a few miles from the airport. All 13 on board, including the crew of 3, survived with only the Captain, John David Hissong, sustaining minor burns.
  • On 3 April 1941, an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-3-201B (NC21727) crashed into water off Vero Beach, Florida during a storm; although all 16 on board were injured, none were killed. The aircraft was written off.[46]
  • On 19 November 1943, Eastern Air Lines Trip 12, a Douglas DC-3-201E (NC19968), made an emergency landing at New Orleans en route from Houston after the pilot allowed the aircraft to descend too low during the second attempt to land. The number one propeller to hit the water, causing portions of the engine and cowling to break off. All 15 on board survived. The aircraft was repaired and returned to service.[47]
  • On 11 October 1946, Eastern Air Lines Flight 546, a Douglas C-54B (NC88729), struck a ridge near Alexandria, Virginia while on approach to Washington National Airport; all 26 on board survived. During the approach, the aircraft had descended too low.[48]
  • On 19 December 1946, Eastern Air Lines Flight 605, a Douglas C-54B (NC88813) collided in mid-air with Universal Air Lines Flight 7, a Douglas C-47 (NC54374), near Aberdeen, Maryland. The C-47 departed Newark for Raleigh, while the C-54 departed Newark 15 minutes later for a non-stop flight to Miami. Near Aberdeen the C-54 flew past the C-47. The C-54 co-pilot saw the lights of an aircraft close and to the left of the C-54, which turned out to be the C-47. The C-54 pilot rolled into a right bank and forcefully pulled up the nose, causing the rear of the C-54 to strike the forward top portion of the C-47. The C-47 landed safely at Philips Army Air Field while the C-54 diverted to Washington. There were no casualties on either aircraft and both aircraft were repaired and returned to service.[49][50]
  • On 21 January 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 604, a Lockheed L-649 Constellation (NC111A), crashed into a snow bank while landing at Logan International Airport following a loss of control due to a snow-covered runway; all 25 on board survived.[51]
  • On 19 July 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 601, a Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N119A), suffered severe buffeting after an access door opened in flight. A flapless wheels-up landing was made at Curles Neck Farm, Virginia. The aircraft was later repaired and returned to service.[52]
  • On 27 November 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 167, a Douglas DC-3-201C (N25646) collided in mid-air with Civil Air Patrol Piper L-4J 45-5151 near Ocala, Florida. The Piper was climbing after a left turn when it struck the DC-3. The DC-3's number one propeller made several cuts in the Piper's left wing, causing a loss of control and the Piper crashed, killing the pilot. The DC-3 circled the airport for a few minutes before landing safely with no casualties.[53]
  • On 6 September 1953, an Eastern Air Lines L-1049 Super Constellation (N6214C) crashed on landing at McChord Air Force Base due to a hydraulic failure caused by engine problems; all 32 on board survived.[54]
  • On 17 February 1956, an Eastern Air Lines Martin 4-0-4 (N445A) crashed near Owensboro, Kentucky due to pilot error; all 23 on board survived. The aircraft stalled and crashed following an improperly executed final approach.[55]
  • On 10 March 1957, an Eastern Air Lines Martin 4-0-4 (N453A) crashed on landing at Standiford Field due to pilot error; all 34 on board survived. A portion of the left wing separated inboard of the number one engine due to excessive sink rate caused by the pilot's landing approach technique.[56]
  • On 28 June 1957, an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-7B (N808D) had just returned from a training flight and was taxiing to the maintenance hangar at Miami International Airport when it collided with a parked Eastern Air Lines L-1049 Super Constellation (N6212C) near the hangar. Fuel leaked and both aircraft caught fire and burned out.[57][58]
  • On 18 October 1966, an Eastern Air Lines L-1049C Super Constellation (N6219C) caught fire during refueling at Miami after a fuel line ruptured. The wing was substantially damaged and the aircraft was written off. The aircraft was broken up in June 1967.[59]
  • On 18 May 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 346, a Douglas DC-9-31 (N8961E) landed hard at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, collapsing the landing gear and breaking off the tail; all ten on board survived.[60]
  • On 2 July 1976, an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-188 Electra (N5531) was blown up on the ground by a bomb at Logan International Airport.[61]
  • On 5 May 1983, Eastern Air Lines Flight 855 (a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar) all three engines shut down in flight. The pilot restarted one of the engines before returning to Miami International Airport. All 172 on board survived.

December 29, 1987|By KNT News Service

PENSACOLA — December 27, 1987... The fuselage of an Eastern Airlines DC-9 cracked open like a watermelon after a landing in which the plane's tail section dragged 7,000 feet down the runway.None of the 105 people aboard were seriously hurt during the landing Sunday night, but three suffered minor injuries while being evacuated.

List of hijackings

As Eastern Air Lines flew to Cuba, the airline suffered numerous hijackings in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

  • On 24 July 1961, Eastern Air Lines Flight 202, a Lockheed L-188 Electra, was hijacked to Cuba. A fighter plane from Homestead AFB followed the airliner until it reached Cuban airspace.[62]
  • On 20 September 1968, Eastern Air Lines Flight 950, a Boeing 720, was hijacked to Cuba.[63]
  • On 3 February 1969, Eastern Airlines Flight 7 was hijacked to Cuba. The presence of Candid Camera host Alan Funt on the flight led many of the passengers to conclude that the hijacking was actually a prank.[64]
  • On 17 March 1970, Eastern Air Lines Shuttle Flight 1320, carrying passengers from Newark to Boston was hijacked around 7:30 P.M. by John J. Divivo who was armed with a .38 caliber revolver. Captain Robert Wilbur Jr., 35, a former Air Force pilot who was promoted to captain just six months prior, was shot in the arm by the suicidal hijacker. With a .38 slug in his arm and bleeding profusely, he landed his aircraft safely while talking to the tower, telling them his copilot was shot (but not himself) and needed an ambulance. His copilot, First Officer James Hartley, 31, was shot without warning by Divivo and collapsed. Divivo then turned the gun on the captain, causing his arm injury. Despite being fatally wounded Hartley recovered sufficiently to rip the gun from Divivo's hand, and shoot the would-be hijacker three times before lapsing into unconsciousness, and eventually death. Although wounded and slumped between the seats, Divivo arose and began clawing at Captain Wilbur, attempting to force a crash. Wilbur hit Divivo over the head with the gun he had retrieved from the center console. The pilot was able to land the plane safely at Logan International Airport, and the hijacker was arrested immediately.

New Eastern Air Lines

In 2011, a group purchased the intellectual property, including trademarks, of Eastern Air Lines and formed the Eastern Air Lines Group. The group announced in early 2014 that it had filed an application with the United States Department of Transportation for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which will be followed by certification with the Federal Aviation Administration. The new airline began service through charter and wet-lease flights out of Miami International in late 2014 with Boeing 737-800 jetliners painted in the Eastern Air Lines "hockey stick" livery. The IATA and ICAO codes of the classic Eastern Air Lines, as well as its callsign, are now used by the new iteration of Eastern Air Lines.[65][66]

See also


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  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. Rickenbacker: An Autobiography. New York: Prentice Hall, 1967.
  • Robinson, Jack E. Freefall: The Needless Destruction Of Eastern Air Lines. New York: HarperBusiness, 1992. ISBN 0-88730-556-3
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