“The Wings of Man” as Eastern Airlines
branded itself, took off thirty years ago this past January 17 and has
not been heard of much since.
It was great while it lasted, from 1926
until 1991, some 60 plus years, but a series of management challenges
and overwhelming labor problems spelled doom for the original company
When Eastern was “Captain Eddie’s
airline” operating under the guidance and control of Capt. Eddie
Rickenbacker, the World War One fighter Ace, it grew by leaps and bounds
to the top of the heap in U.S. domestic services.
Since the demise of the original EAL, Eastern
in some form or another has fielded some attempts to get airborne again
without much luck.
most recent Eastern reincarnation to relaunch the carrier emerging from
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy was undertaken by Steve Harfst (right) in 2019 as
President and CEO of Eastern Airlines LLC.
In 2006 Harfst helped build Delhi-based
startup IndiGo into India’s largest and most successful airlines.
Harfst has also served as COO of Allegiant Air.
The new Eastern has a snazzy paint job and
branding and a flashy website
that promises service start-ups all year long during 2021 to more than
a dozen destinations.
In a world where timing is everything and
COVID-19 has turned aviation upside down, the wonder is how could these
folks behind this latest Eastern Airlines start-up attempt not feel snake
In an interview last April in the University
of Washington Foster School Blog, Harfst had this to say, “This
is an extraordinary time for everyone. It certainly has turned our industry
upside down. Nimble companies with solid balance sheets and good teams
can react quickly in dynamic markets and take advantage of opportunities
much more quickly than larger, more bureaucratic companies. I think we’re
going to do well coming out of this period because of our ability to move
quickly and react and adapt.”
On February 19 Eastern Airlines filed plans
for the operation of freighter services using two leased-Boeing 777-200
freighter aircraft. Eastern Airlines plans to use the aircraft on Aircraft,
Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) charters.
Since the carrier is a U.S. DOD CRAF approved
air carrier it can provide services to the U.S. Department of Defense,
supplying its Civil Reserve Air Fleet division with international charter
In the tradition of the original Eastern
Airlines, Harfst has plans to “grow into a formidable airline. But
you have to start somewhere.”
Eastern Cargo during the early 1980s under
the late Jerry Schorr, (right) a pipe smoking thinker about things, noted
available space in the bellies of thousands of monthly narrow and widebodies.
So he came up wit a novel idea and developed
a cardboard box container called “The Costcutter”.
Costcutter was a great idea, a very affordable
way to air freight anything.
Tariff was $25.00 bucks and you could fill
up the box and ship anywhere space available in the EAL system.
Interestingly in its final days back in
'91, Eastern Air Cargo was still humping and running consignments out
of New York and elsewhere led by Marty Ladimer.
Marty headed up Eastern’s cargo fortunes
into quite a lively and money-making business until final shutdown of
the rest of the carrier in 1991.
Here from his home in the southern climes
“During my 30 years with Eastern Airlines
I was based at New York’s JFK International Airport.
“Those were exciting and fantastic
times that cannot ever be diminished or forgotten.
“I had started when Eastern and the
industry looked at air cargo as an important part of their revenue that
had not been developed.
“The years that followed were full
of growth, advancement, travel, training, new projects, promotion, and
“I went from school to the U.S. Army
with a thirteen-month tour of duty in Korea.
“But less than one month after discharge,
I was working at Eastern Airlines.
“For me it was unbelievable and I
loved every minute, except for the last year, 1991, when we went out of
“After Eastern I found myself and
many others from the airline industry out of work.
“Pan American closed its doors shortly
after Eastern, making a job search in a major recession very difficult.
“Fortunately, as it goes in the air
cargo family, over the years I established many contacts and was recommended
to several other airlines and start-up airlines,” Marty recalled.