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The Story of Eastern (with 15 SIM pictures)

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Eastern is one of those classic U.S. Airlines that has a long and fascinating history on par with the likes of UA, Pan Am, TWA, Delta and NW, although probably not receiving as much attention. We know that Airline business, everywhere, is always, to say the least, tough, and, there are many factors that have shaped the evolution and survival of Airlines: mergers & acquisitions, state of economy, management practices, fuel prices, rise (and fall) of (competing) no-frill upstarts etc. Eastern (part of the original big four with UA, AA, TWA) was one of the earliest (major) airlines to be founded in the U.S. (roots dating back to 1926 in Pitcairn Aviation and Eastern Air Transport (see 1st shot) - in the U.S. Airmail system). Of course, the (original) names and (genetic) roots of all these Airlines make their exact dates of origin an interesting study in Aviation. Eastern, in its (prosperous) early years, was headed by the vision and innovation of the famous WW II fighter ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who had bought Eastern from General Motors, with a certified check for $3.5 million. The airline that had once dominated the passenger airline transport for decades in the 50s/60s/70s, folded its wings on January 19, 1991 (one of its (many) slogans been "We Have To Earn Our Wings Every Day"). Its final (surviving) years were unfortunately marked by turbulence and turmoil. Less than a year later, Pan Am would cease to exist, followed by TWA ten years later...thereby eliminating three of the most iconic names in U.S. Airline history.

Eastern was a true pioneer of air travel. It was one of the two primary motivators (with UA) of the B727 (the iconic classic trijet), and was the first to fly it. It was also the first U.S. carrier to fly A300 (world's first wide-body twinjet), was the launch customer for B757 (another trailblazer plane). The L-188A turboprop had entered service in 1959 with Eastern. When Douglas had officially launched the Super Sixty series in 1965, Eastern was the second airline (after United) to purchase the DC-8-61, buying eight (its first jetliner). Eastern was also the driving customer for the (longest DC-8 type) 63PF and had purchased six. The L-1011 Tristar (regarded as one of the most beautiful wide-body trijets ever built) was delivered first to Eastern in 1972. The first stretched version of (extremely popular) DC-9, the Series 30, flew on August 1, 1966, entering service with Eastern Air Lines in 1967. The Series DC-9-50, the largest version of the DC-9, entered revenue airline service in August 1975 with Eastern Airlines. Eastern was one of the primary users of the Lockheed Constellation, often touted to be the symbol of Golden Age of Air Travel. Eastern had become the official airline of the Walt Disney World ("If You Had Wings..."), and thereby a household/family catch-word. And, so on, for Eastern's numerous (and significant) aviation milestones...

In 2011, there was an attempt to resurrect Eastern in its original form. The (new) Eastern Air Lines was an airline based in Miami, Florida. The ownership group, Eastern Air Lines Group, purchased the intellectual property, including trademarks, of the original Eastern Air Lines in 2009, and announced in early 2014 that it had filed an application with the U.S. DOT for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which would be followed by certification with the FAA. On May 28, 2015, this Eastern launched charter flights with a Boeing 737-800 (see shot) aircraft from Miami International Airport to José Martí International Airport in Havana and back. Scheduled service was planned to follow 12 to 18 months later. However, the necessary FAA certification was never given, and it finally ceased to exist after its last flight in 2017. Eastern surrendered its certificate to the FAA. The Eastern name would be transferred to Dynamic International Airways (now called Eastern Airlines, LLC), an airline co-owned by (Phoenix based) Swift Air ownership, thereby carrying with it any remnant existential memories of the (classic) Eastern.

The original airline's legacy may have now vanished, but its name still conjures up great (aviation) memories of the bygone era. Eastern had a massive Atlanta hub, largest on its system, (unfortunately in direct competition with Delta), where the two carriers competed heavily to neither's benefit. A dark asphalt striped parking lot is all that's left there now on the former site of the old concourse A which housed the Eastern Airlines gates. In New York, the Eastern Airlines Terminal (on the site of current Terminal 1), was built and opened in 1959, even before the JFK became JFK! Following Eastern's liquidation, this iconic terminal was demolished in 1995.

In our SIM, the Eastern Airline liveries (with those famous blue/white stripes along the length and up the tail, so-called "hockey stick" logo), are not that difficult to find, no matter what aircraft, indicating continued interest in our virtual world with this airline.

Please find below images of 15 Eastern aircraft, from our SIM  (a mixture of PW/FW). Each of these pictures is captured immediately after lift-off at KSEA. The aircraft below, in the reverse order (hope, I've got it right), are as follows. (L-1011 Tristar, B757-200, Martin-404, B727-100, DC8-63, B747-200, DC-3, A300, DC9-30, B737-800, L-1049G Connie, DC-10, DC-4, L-188A Electra, Ford TriMotor)

Thanks for viewing and hope you enjoy this collection of (flashback) images from the past.

[Note on the 1st image (EAA Ford TriMotor): Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Airlines) used the Ford TriMotors between 1930 and 1932 on the routes between New York-Miami. The plane cruised about 120mph, the flights were noisy, rough but the passengers (14 max) got to their destination a little faster then the train! At Eastern, the Ford TriMotor was followed by the Lockheed Electra and Lodestar, then the Douglas DC-3. The Fords had a very short life-span in civil aviation but are remembered as one of the very first all-metal airliners.]

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Love the progression. Glad you included the Martin.

John

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Great history lesson as well as the great screenies! Thanks. :cool:

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John, I love these beautiful shots !!   Well done......

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Eastern and Piedmont were the main airlines around these parts, love the pics

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Superb story and excellent pics to support it!! Funny thing (at least for me), I have flown most of the US airlines at least once (and UA the most), but never Eastern

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Folks: Appreciated the kind comments....!

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