Northeast Airlines' History of Service
The First Experiment
The entire airline was operated under contract by Pan American Airways. Beginning August 1, 1931, Pan Am Fokker F-10A planes flew between Boston and Bangor, Maine. From Bangor, Pan Am flew Sikorsky S-41B flying boats to Halifax, Nova Scotia, due to the lack of suitable landing fields.
Just two months later, on September 30, the airline ceased operations. One of the Sikorsky planes had crashed in Massachusetts Bay on August 27, closing this experimental chapter of Northeast's history.
The carrier's early flights were operated under contract by National Airways, whose founders included Paul Collins, one of the country's first airmail pilots; Samuel J. Solomon, a pioneer airport operator; Eugene Vidal, a West Point graduate; and Amelia Earhart, the famed aviatrix.
National Airways made a similar operating agreement on October 27, 1933, with Central Vermont Airways, which had been founded by the Central Vermont Railroad (owned by the Canadian National Railway). National Airways coordinated the two railroad-sponsored airlines as one, with the two railroad names hyphenated, and issued joint timetables and fares. Central Vermont's route extended from Boston to New Hampshire and Vermont, and on March 20, 1934, to Montreal, Canada.
In 1937, Boston and Maine purchased National Airways' assets, including its airmail contract, and in November 1940, the airline was renamed Northeast Airlines.
During World War II, the airline's experiences with frigid weather flying also proved invaluable. Northeast pilots were the first to explore the Arctic airways as they made Air Transport Command flights to Labrador, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland.
Employees cheered when Northeast was certified to serve New York from Boston in 1945. An "Every Hour on the Hour" shuttle service between the two cities started in 1946.
Service to Florida started in the mid 1950s, after Northeast was awarded a temporary certificate to operate to Miami/Ft. Lauderdale from Boston, via Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida.
Among the highs…Northeast was one of the first U.S. carriers to offer Boeing 707 jet service, initially between New York and Miami in 1959. Northeast was also the first airline in the world to operate the Boeing 727-200, on December 14, 1967. In 1966 the carrier acquired a new image as Northeast planes became known as "Yellowbirds" because of their new yellow-and-white painted exteriors. "Yellowbird" would become a household word in the areas served by Northeast.
In spite of initial setbacks, Northeast experienced significant route expansion. Late in 1962, the Civil Aeronautics Board decided to terminate Northeast's temporary certificate to fly to Miami. After years of legal appeals and an unprecedented display of local support from the New England community, Northeast was finally granted a permanent certificate for Florida service in 1967. Service quickly expanded to the Bahamas in 1968, to Bermuda in 1969, and coast-to-coast with a new Miami-Los Angeles route on October 1, 1969.
Persistence financial difficulties and changes in ownership were also part of the 1960s. On May 8, 1962, the Hughes Tool Company, led by famous billionaire Howard Hughes, acquired controlling interest in Northeast Airlines from the Atlas Corporation, which had owned the company since 1938. After the CAB denied renewal of Northeast's Florida route, Hughes announced that he would no longer cover further operating losses. His 55% of the stock was temporarily acquired by trustee L.J. Hector in 1964, then by the Storer Broadcasting Company in 1965.
Merger with Delta