Not Another 727!

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Written by Shea Oakley

As a child growing up in the 1970’s, our family lived in Northern New Jersey and often vacationed in Sarasota, Florida. This meant we had exactly two airline options if we wanted to fly directly into Sarasota/Bradenton Airport (SRQ) and avoid the much longer drive from Tampa International (TPA) to the North. Those options were Eastern and National.

In both case the equipment we flew was almost invariably the same no matter which of the three major NY area airports from which we departed: the Boeing 727. Very occasionally Eastern had a DC-9-31 on the route but the 727, in either -100 or -200 configuration, was the mainstay. As a budding airline enthusiast this felt almost intolerable. “A 727? Again?” was a question my dad got used to hearing, and often.

My “any other airplane but a 727” envy was most palpable when we chose to fly out of Kennedy International Airport. In those days the way you drove to your departure Unit Terminal Building (UTB) was via a sort of interior perimeter road that took you by every one of them until you reached your particular airline. Now this wasn’t much of a problem for me when we flew Eastern. Approaching the airport on the Van Wyck Expressway (which by the way, was (and still is) an oxymoron traffic wise) the EAL terminal was the first one you encountered. What really hurt was when we were heading South on National. Getting to the old “Sundrome” building meant driving by, among others, the Pan Am “Worldport” and the TWA “Flight Center.” I can remember looking at the 747’s and 707’s of Pan Am and the 747’s and L-1011’s of TWA parked on their gates wistfully wishing that we were jetting off to London or Los Angeles on one of these giants instead of getting ready to ride a 727 again. (Editor’s note: for a similar experience, ride the shuttle bus when the JFK Airtrain isn’t running. While the airport has changed a lot, the views between T1 and T4 are quite similar.)

Times do change however and so do perceptions. What at 8 years old was a “boring” airplane ride on Boeing’s “Three-Holer” has become, at 51, a precious memory from a time when life was simple and good and my family was together. Today, perched on a shelf in the office in the museum at which I work, are two highly detailed 1:200 scale models of 727-200s in the colors of, yes, Eastern and National respectively. That’s right, the two airline/airplane combinations that felt like a curse when I was a young kid are now among my most favorite. As for the carriers themselves I’d have to say that Eastern and National are today on the top of my list, as far as affection. As an adult I have become an avid airline memorabilia collector and much of my collection revolves around these two airlines and their operations during the 1970’s.

Yes, perceptions do change under the influence of wonderful adult memories of childhood. What I wouldn’t give today to leave from one of those now demolished terminals I so well remember on an EAL or NAL 727, destination Sarasota, just one more time.

Originally posted on NYCaviation.com

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