What if Pan Am had not purchased National Airlines in 1978?

Written By Joseph Wolf

Part I: The facts

Before the merger:

Pan American World Airways was America’s airline to the world for many years. Pan Am pioneered international air travel, first through Latin America in the late 1920s and early 1930s, then across the Pacific in 1935, and across the Atlantic in 1939. After World War II, Pan Am replaced the flying boats used on their initial trans oceanic flights with land planes, inaugurated around the world service, and steadily expanded the number of destinations they served, both in the US and abroad. The 1960’s were Pan Am’s apogee, as the lower operating costs and tremendous speed of Pan Am’s 707s and DC-8s enabled Pan Am to reduce the costs of international travel enough that it became possible for everyone, not just the very wealthy, to travel abroad.

However, Pan Am made a serious mistake in the late 1960s by ordering 25 Boeing 747s, based on the assumption that international travel would continue to grow at 15% per year indefinitely, and jet fuel prices would remain low. When the economy went into a recession just as the 747 was entering service, the costs of flying almost-empty 747s around the world caused Pan Am to hemorrhage money.

Another reason for Pan Am’s losses in the 1970s was that they had no routes within the continental US, and had to rely on feed from American, United, Eastern, and other domestic airlines. Pan Am had applied for routes within the continental US several times, but had consistently been rebuffed by the US Government.

For many years, Pan Am had wanted to buy National Airlines, which linked Pan Am’s main gateways of New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

National had been founded in 1934. National’s first route was from Tampa to Jacksonville, and National operated within Florida for the first years of its existence. During World War II, National’s aggressive president George Baker won a route up the East Coast to New York City and Washington DC, via important naval bases such as Savannah, Charleston, and Norfolk. After the war ended, National beat arch rival Eastern by offering the first flights between New York and Miami with modern DC-4s. In the 1950s, National’s routes were gradually extended westward to Houston, then in 1961, National became a transcontinental airline with a further extension to California.

National profited immensely from the “race to the moon” in the 1960s because they were the only airline with direct flights between Los Angeles (where much of the work on the Apollo space capsules took place), Houston (home of Johnson Space Center) and Cape Kennedy. National marketed itself, with great success, as a more glamorous alternative to stodgy rival Eastern Air Lines with slogans like “Airline of the Stars” and “Fly Me”, and emphasized their Florida home by painting their aircraft with orange and grapefruit colored stripes. In 1970, National was chosen over Pan Am and TWA for a Miami-London nonstop, becoming the US’s third transatlantic airline.

However, National’s fortunes declined in the 1970s. Like Pan Am (and many other airlines), National purchased too many wide bodied aircraft in anticipation of a traffic boom that never arrived. National’s president Bud Maytag, who had purchased a large stake in National from George Baker shortly before Baker’s death in 1963, took a hard line on controlling costs, which resulted in the airline being shut down by strikes nearly every year in the 1970s. After ailing Northeast Airlines, which had been awarded routes from Boston, New York City, and Washington to Florida in 1956 in competition with National and Eastern, was taken over by Delta Air Lines in 1972, Delta’s aggressive management and reputation for outstanding customer service caused Delta to take substantial market share from National. In the early 1970s, National and Northwest Airlines agreed to merge, but the merger was called off after quick approval from the US Government was not obtained.















National operated joint flights between New York City and South America with Pan Am and Pan American Grace Airways (Panagra) in the 1950s and 1960s, with National crews flying South America-bound aircraft from New York City to Miami, Pan Am crewing the aircraft from Miami to Panama City, and Panagra operating the rest of the way. In 1958, Pan Am and National agreed to forge even closer ties, when National agreed to give Pan Am the right to purchase enough stock to control National in exchange for Pan Am leasing 707s to National every winter. The transaction enabled National to become the first airline to fly jets within the United States. In the summer of 1960, the US Government disallowed the transaction. It was widely believed National’s management expected the transaction to be disallowed, and only agreed to it in order to be able to offer pure jet service more than a year before arch rival Eastern Air Lines could do so. Although this merger attempt was disallowed, Pan Am’s interest in acquiring National never went away.

The merger:

In 1969, financier Francisco (“Frank”) Lorenzo took over local service airline Texas International. Lorenzo and his aggressive management team suspended service to many of the smaller communities the airline served, and turned it into a regional airline serving Texas and neighboring states. Texas International also used low promotional fares to increase traffic and steal passengers from rival airlines.

In 1978, Texas International began purchasing stock in National, in hopes of taking the airline over. At the time, National’s stock price was just $17 per share, and the cost to buy all of the airline’s stock was less than the value of the airline’s fleet of relatively new 727-200s and DC-10s.

Once Texas International’s desire to merge with National became known, Pan Am realized that unless they acted quickly, they would lose the chance to merge with National. Pan Am proposed a merger with National, and offered $41 per share. Unlike Texas International, Pan Am’s interest in National was openly welcomed by National’s management.

A few weeks later, a third bidder for National emerged: Eastern Airlines. Although Eastern and National had been competitors for many years between the northeast and Florida, after deregulation National significantly reduced their flights in this area in order to focus on their more successful southern transcontinental routes from California and Nevada to Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Eastern wanted to merge with National to obtain the southern transcontinental routes, as well as National’s profitable routes from Florida to Europe. Eastern offered to purchase National for $50 / share.

After several months of negotiations, Texas International agreed to support Pan Am’s bid for National, and sell to Pan Am the 23% of National stock Texas International had acquired, in exchange for Pan Am raising their offer for National’s stock to Eastern’s higher bid price. Pan Am and National officially merged in January, 1980.

The aftermath:

The merger of Pan Am and National was disastrous for Pan Am. As part of the process of combining the two airlines’ workforces, Pan Am agreed to increase the wages of National’s unionized employees to the much higher salaries earned by Pan Am’s staff, which meant that flights that were profitable at National’s low cost levels became unprofitable at Pan Am’s higher costs. Unrest in the Middle East caused oil prices to rise substantially in the late 1970s, which increased the costs of the merged Pan Am / National further. A substantial rise in interest rates in the late 1970s and early 1980s made the merged airline’s financial situation even more dire; Pan Am was heavily indebted before the merger because of the expenses to purchase the airline’s 747s, and borrowed even more to pay for National and a fleet of L-1011-500s that was intended to replace Pan Am’s 707s.

Pan Am also made a crucial strategic error as part of the merger process. After a large addition to Pan Am’s terminal at JFK opened in 1973, Pan Am leased several gates in the original 1960 “round” portion of the terminal to Allegheny, as part of a joint marketing campaign where passengers traveling between the Northeast and Europe, the Caribbean, South America, and Japan were encouraged to take Allegheny to New York City, then Pan Am the rest of the way. In the summer of 1979, Allegheny and Allegheny Commuter operated 30 flights to 10 cities from Pan Am’s Worldport.

National Airlines for many years operated out of a temporary terminal at JFK. In 1969, National opened a massive new terminal, called the “Sundrome”, which was much too big for National’s needs; in the spring of 1979, just 17 flights a day operated out of the Sundrome’s 12 gates. After the merger, the two airlines consolidated operations at Pan Am’s terminal, Pan Am ended its partnership with Allegheny (soon to be re named USAir) and sold the Sundrome to TWA, whose terminal at JFK was next to the Sundrome. USAir moved to TWA’s original terminal at JFK, and began encouraging Europe bound passengers to take USAir to New York City, then TWA, not Pan Am, the rest of the way. Effectively, Pan Am had chosen to relinquish to TWA high fare business travelers who worked for companies like Kodak, Eli Lilly, and US Steel based in cities on Allegheny / USAir’s routes, in exchange for low fare vacationers going to Florida on National’s old routes, while also giving TWA the opportunity to use the additional gates at the Sundrome to substantially expand TWA’s routes from New York City.

Another flaw in the Pan Am / National merger was that, although National served Pan Am’s main gateways of New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the destinations on National’s route system that were not served by Pan Am were mainly leisure oriented cities like Tampa, Las Vegas, and New Orleans that in the 1970s generated few international travelers. The merged airline did not serve cities like Atlanta, Chicago, St Louis, Minneapolis, or Cincinnati that have large numbers of people who need to travel overseas on business; the only city in the US Midwest on the merged airline’s route system was Detroit, which was served by Pan Am but not National before the merger. The main rationale for the merger was that National’s domestic routes were supposed to feed Pan Am’s international flights, but a simple glance at the two airlines’ route systems would have shown how little feed National could provide.

While Pan Am struggled to integrate National, other airlines, ranging in size from TWA to new entrants like Air Florida, aggressively attacked the merged airline’s routes between the northeast and Florida with low fares that further increased Pan Am’s losses. Texas International used its profits from selling National stock to Pan Am toward the purchase of Continental Airlines, and the combined Texas International + Continental attacked Pan Am + National’s routes from Houston to Florida and California. Within four years after the merger, Pan Am had suspended most former National routes, and sold National’s fleet of DC-10s to American. Fortune Magazine subsequently named the Pan Am / National merger to its list of the seven worst mergers of the 1970s. The heavy debt from acquiring National did not go away after National’s routes were suspended by Pan Am, and was one of the main factors that led to Pan Am’s shutdown in 1991.

Part II: What If Texas International had acquired National?

It’s pretty clear that, in Pan Am’s haste to beat out Texas International for National, Pan Am didn’t step back and objectively look at how little feed National could provide Pan Am; nor did Pan Am consider the costs of merging the two airlines’ work forces. What would have happened if Pan Am had considered these risks, and chosen to step back and let Texas International purchase National?

A merged Texas International / National would have been formidable. Texas International had a strong presence in Houston, with routes to 19 cities. National flew to 10 cities from Houston, just one of which, New Orleans, was also served by Texas International. Many of the cities served by Texas International were business oriented destinations like Baltimore and St Louis, while National was strongest to Florida, which would have given the combined airline a good mix of business and leisure routes. The merged airline would have had a modern fleet; Texas International flew DC-9-10s and -30s, and National flew mainly DC-10s and 727-200s.

National was one of the two lowest cost airlines in the 1970s (along with Northwest) thanks to Bud Maytag’s years of confrontation with the airline’s unions. A merger with equally low cost Texas International would not have increased the combined airline’s labor costs the way National’s merger with high cost Pan Am did, so the merged airline would have had a very low cost structure.

In the first year or two after the merger, Frank Lorenzo would probably have focused on integrating the airlines’ work forces and fleets, with National’s DC-10s taking over Houston-Mexico City from Texas International’s DC-9s, and National’s 727-200s taking over other major Texas International routes like Houston-Denver and Dallas-Las Vegas, while Texas International’s DC-9s could have been redeployed on some of National’s shorter routes like New Orleans – Mobile – Pensacola. Frank Lorenzo would have built Houston into a large hub, just as he did after purchasing Continental a few years later.

However, Frank Lorenzo would also almost certainly have done things outside Houston that would have had a major impact on the post-deregulation airline industry. At the onset of deregulation, Texas International was very aggressive at stimulating demand for air travel, and growing market share, by offering low fares. As mentioned earlier, after deregulation National reduced their presence on routes between the northeast and Florida. The merged airline would have aggressively lowered fares on these routes, to grow the northeast-Florida air travel market and take existing customers from Eastern and Delta, with National’s fleet of DC-10s.

After the two airlines were fully consolidated, it’s also likely that the merged airline would have looked to the very large market for air travel between Florida and Midwest cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis. People in the Midwest prefer Florida’s Gulf coast, and National had an underutilized terminal at Tampa capable of accommodating DC-10s that could easily have been used to offer low fare flights to Midwestern vacationers.

It’s also worth considering what the merged airline would have done with National’s Sundrome terminal at JFK. Even if the merged airline had aggressively rebuilt National’s presence in the New York City-Florida market, it would have only needed about 1/3 of the Sundrome’s gates. Perhaps they would have sold it to TWA, as Pan Am did, then subleased the few gates they needed from TWA, or even moved to United’s underutilized terminal. Another intriguing possibility, though, is that the merged airline might have used the Sundrome to build a low fare hub at JFK, just as jetBlue did at the Sundrome two decades later. Frank Lorenzo created a separate airline, New York Air, to offer low fare service from LaGuardia and Newark to cities in the Northeast and Midwest, and later Florida, but a shortage of slots and gates at LaGuardia limited New York Air’s growth. The empty gates at the Sundrome would have been an ideal resource for the merged airline and / or New York Air to offer low fare service from New York City to far more cities than New York Air was able to serve from LaGuardia.
















Given the creativity of Frank Lorenzo and his staff, it’s clear that if Texas International had taken over National, they would have made much better use of National than Pan Am did, and built it into a major airline with hubs in Houston, Miami, Tampa, and possibly JFK.

If Texas International had merged with National, the post-deregulation history of the US airline industry would have been different in several other ways, including:

  1. If Texas International had merged with National, they would probably not have attempted a hostile takeover of Continental in 1981, because National, not Continental, would have been the airline Texas International used to become a major carrier.
  2. National’s costs were much lower than Continental’s, so Frank Lorenzo would not have needed to use bankruptcy to break the merged airline’s unions and abrogate its labor contracts. One of the ugliest confrontations between airline management and unionized airline employees, the 1983 Continental Airlines pilot strike which led to the airline’s striking pilots being terminated by Lorenzo, would never have happened.
  3. Continental Airlines had agreed to merge with Western Airlines when Frank Lorenzo took over Continental. Without the interference from Texas International’s hostile takeover, a Continental + Western merger would have occurred. By the time of a Continental + Western merger, competition from the merged Texas International + National would have caused Continental to reduce their presence in Houston. However, both Continental and Western had very strong presences in Denver in 1981.
  4. Western was smaller than United, Continental, and Frontier at Denver. After their merger with Continental fell through, Western chose to shift their hub from Denver to Salt Lake City, where Western would be able to be the dominant airline. Had the Continental / Western merger gone through, the merged airline would have kept their hub in Denver, and Salt Lake City would not have become a hub unless another airline chose to build a hub there.
  5. As will be seen later in this article, a merged Texas International / National would have had a devastating impact on Eastern. When Eastern came up for sale, Texas International + National would not have purchased Eastern because of the overlap between Texas International + National and Eastern’s route systems. This, in turn, would have meant that the confrontations between Frank Lorenzo and Eastern’s unions would never have happened.
  6. Shortly before the merger negotiations, National signed a lease for half of Los Angeles’ planned Terminal 1, with PSA occupying the other half. The merged Pan Am / National remained in LAX’s international Terminal 2, with the gates intended for National in Terminal 1 ultimately being used by Air Cal, Muse Air, Southwest, and other low fare airlines. A merged Texas International / National would have moved to Terminal 1 when it opened in 1984, which in turn would have made it much more difficult for low fare airlines like Southwest to get gates in Los Angeles.

Part III: What about Eastern?

Railroad historian George Drury described the merger between New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad as being like “a late in life marriage to which each partner brings a house, a summer cottage, two cars, and several complete sets of china and glassware – plus car payments and mortgages on the houses”. A merger between Eastern and National would have been every bit as disastrous as the merger between the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad was. When Eastern bid for National, they were deeply in debt and had a large fleet of L-1011s that were too big for the airline’s routes. Eastern had also just made a multi billion dollar commitment for large fleets of A300s and 757-200s. A merger with National would have further increased Eastern’s crushing debt burden, and given Eastern a large fleet of DC-10s that they did not need. Eastern would also have been responsible for paying for National’s underutilized Sundrome, and National’s large overhaul base in Miami across the runway from Eastern’s maintenance complex. Eastern’s labor costs, like Pan Am’s, were among the highest in the airline industry, and increasing the salaries of National’s lower paid staff to Eastern’s higher compensation levels would have been a serious cash drain on a merged National + Eastern.

However, costly as a merger with National would have been for Eastern, the impact of a merged Texas International + National would have been nothing short of apocalyptic. As mentioned above, a merged Texas International + National would have aggressively cut fares and added flights not just on routes from Florida to the Northeast, but also on routes from Florida to the Midwest, and would also have added flights from the merged airline’s Houston hub to New York City and elsewhere in the northeast. Because Eastern was the dominant airline from the northeast and Midwest to Florida, and from the northeast to Houston, much of Texas International + National’s growth in these markets would have come at Eastern’s expense.

It’s clear that the Pan Am + National merger, followed by Pan Am’s abandonment of most of National’s routes, was the best case scenario for Eastern. Even with this best case scenario, Eastern’s heavy debt load and the impact of the recession that began in 1979 caused Eastern to be in serious financial trouble by the early 1980s. From 1980 to 1984, Eastern lost $380 Million ($1 Billion in today’s dollars), even more than Braniff lost in the three years before they shut down. Had Eastern been burdened with either the additional debt from a merger with National, or a loss of traffic from a merged Texas International + National, Eastern’s financial problems would have been much more desperate. Eastern narrowly averted default in 1983, and if their losses had been even 15% higher due to competition from a merged National + Texas International, or the debt from purchasing National, they could have been forced into bankruptcy.

PART IV: What would Pan Am have done had they not “gone National”?

Buying National Airlines was not the right solution to Pan Am’s need for domestic routes, but had Pan Am not bought National, they would have needed to address it somehow. One approach would have been for Pan Am to create a domestic US route system by purchasing 727-200s, establishing stations in interior US cities like Atlanta, St Louis, and Minneapolis, then flying the 727-200s from these cities to Pan Am’s coastal international gateways. This is the approach Pan Am took in the mid 1980s using National’s 727s after Pan Am abandoned most of National’s routes, but, as Pan Am discovered, it would have been very costly because Pan Am would have had to pay for gates, ticket counters, and employees to serve just a few flights a day at each interior city. Ultimately, the costs of establishing a domestic US feeder system would probably have been about as expensive as buying National was, and, when added to Pan Am’s heavy debt burden, would probably have sunk the airline just like the National merger did.

Another possibility would have been to merge with TWA. TWA and Pan Am had discussed merging several times in the past. After the most recent merger talks failed in 1974, the two airlines agreed instead to rationalize their international route systems. After the rationalization was completed, the only foreign cities where Pan Am and TWA competed against each other were London and Rome. The lack of overlap between the two airlines might have overcome the anti trust objections to past attempts to combine the airlines. Any remaining anti trust objections to a Pan Am + TWA merger could have been overcome by selling one of the two airlines’ London routes.

However, George Drury’s “late in life marriage” analogy would have applied just as much to a Pan Am + TWA merger as it did to an Eastern + National merger. A merged Pan Am + TWA would have created a global airline fed by a strong US domestic route system. The merged airline would also have inherited a very serious fleet problem, because both Pan Am and TWA had large numbers of obsolete 707s. Both airlines also had a vast network of reservations centers and ticket offices all over the world, headquarters buildings a few blocks from each other in Manhattan, and expensive separate terminals and hangars in cities like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The merged airline would have needed to move quickly to eliminate duplicate facilities and lay off unneeded management personnel, or the costs of the excess employees and real estate would have become a serious cash drain. Had a merged TWA + Pan Am not aggressively reduced overhead and modernized the combined airline’s fleet, all the merger would have accomplished would have been to take two troubled mid sized airlines, and combine them into one gravely ill large airline.

A third course for Pan Am, which the airline seriously considered after it became apparent that the National merger was a failure, would have been to shrink the airline down to only its most profitable routes: Latin America, Japan, and Germany. Doing this would have resulted in ¾ of the airline’s employees being furloughed, and much of its fleet being grounded, and it’s unlikely that this would have been a long term solution for Pan Am’s problems.

The best course for Pan Am if Texas International had merged with National, though, would have been for Pan Am’s management to recognize that it would be very difficult to obtain a profitable domestic feeder system through a merger or by building one from scratch – and accept that Pan Am’s international routes would be under attack as US domestic airlines expanded overseas post-deregulation and fed their new international routes with the passengers from their domestic routes that they’d previously been providing Pan Am.

Once Pan Am’s management recognized this, the next step would have been to preserve the jobs of Pan Am’s employees, and the money Pan Am’s lenders and shareholders invested in the airline, by selling Pan Am’s routes and aircraft to US domestic airlines that wanted to expand overseas. The asset sales would have come with the requirement that the airlines purchasing Pan Am’s routes also had to take Pan Am’s employees – which United and Delta agreed to when they purchased Pan Am’s Pacific and Atlantic routes after Pan Am began selling assets in a last ditch effort to avoid liquidation.

Had Pan Am broken itself up, United would have been the logical buyer for Pan Am’s Pacific routes. Northwest was awarded Pan Am’s routes to Scotland and Scandinavia in 1977, and they would probably have also been interested in the remainder of Pan Am’s European route system. The ideal buyer for Pan Am’s Latin American routes is less clear. Braniff, the other US airline that flew to Latin America, was on the verge of shutting down. Eastern, the airline that took over Braniff’s Latin American routes, would also have been on the brink of insolvency due to competition from Texas International + National. Although Delta would have been damaged by competition from Texas International + National, they could still have purchased Pan Am’s Latin American routes, as, ironically, could have Texas International + National itself.

If Pan Am had broken the airline up, its shareholders would have been left with the Inter Continental hotel chain and the Pan Am building in New York City, plus the cash other airlines paid for Pan Am’s routes and aircraft; the airline would, in effect, have turned itself into a very profitable real estate investment trust. Pan Am’s employees would have had jobs at other airlines, where they could have worked until retirement. It would have been a bittersweet end to the world’s most experienced airline…..but a much happier ending than the fate that befell Pan Am’s employees and shareholders when the airline shut down and liquidated in 1991.

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Illustrated Airmail Envelopes

Written by Joseph Wolf

It is no secret that I am enamored of all things related to commercial aviation. Back in May of 2013, I wrote about U.S envelopes preprinted to indicate airmail service. I ask your indulgence if I show some more, this time adding foreign ones. They speak for themselves and I will let them do that after a few brief comments.

The designs seem to fall into three basic categories: hand-drawn, those made by airline companies and those either generic or specific to a non-airline company.

Hand-drawn ones have a charm all their own. They are usually made for non-philatelic purposes, manifesting the sender’s imagination. They are direct descendants of the 19th century British pen and ink covers (whose artistry is usually quite a bit more evident). The 1939 cover was carried from Belgium on the first flight from France to the U.S. The use of an air etiquette to help define the shape of the drawing shows some design sense. First flight covers rarely have such flamboyance. (Figures 1a&b)

Cpl. Holmes, stationed at Hawaii, received a rather striking cover from New York. It even has a tied-on Christmas seal. (Figures 2a&b)

A charming pen drawing graced the upper left corner of a 1946 cover from Belgium; the sketch shows a Belgian factory and an American skyline. (Figure 3) Something seen from time to time is the usual red and blue airmail border being added by hand. That makes sense in this return card for which the sender wanted air service. (Figure 4)

Figures 5-8 show four generic envelope designs: U.S. 1931 (Figure 5), Denmark 1950 (Figure 6), Guatemala 1937 (Figure 7) and Mexico 1945 with extra pizzazz from the censor label (Figures 8a&b).

Envelopes produced for use by airlines tend to be a bit more eye-catching: Brazil Condor 1934 (Figure 9), Brazil Panair 1939 of which there are a number of varieties (Figure 10), Paraguay Panagra/Panair carried on first Pan American flight from Asuncion to Rio (Figure 11), Peru Lufthansa 1938 (Figure 12) and Indochina Air Orient 1930 (Figure 13).

Figure 14 is a rather interesting outlier. The Uruguay 1931 envelope specifies that there was an additional fee of 50¢ to Comisión Gral. De Aeronáutica (General Commission not specifying an airline) for air service. The image at the upper left is typical of the remarkable graphics seen in Uruguay at this time.

When I find another critical mass of these lovely envelopes, I will share them. AS always I’s love to hear from readers.

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Departed Wings – Presidential Airways (XV)

Written by Jon Jamieson

Washington-Dulles, D.C.

Hoping to establish a discount airline market from a Washington-Dulles base, former PEOPLExpress executive Harold J. “Hap” Paretti, founded Presidential Airways on March 20, 1985. The new airline was to be full-service with low fares providing jet service from Washington-Dulles to cities in the South and New England. With the challenge in securing at least $2 million in start-up capital and leasing several ex-Lufthansa Boeing 737-200, Presidential Airways took to the skies on October 10, 1985.

Presidential Airways first Boeing 737-200 N301XV “George Washington” seen deplaning passengers at Washington-Dulles International Airport in November 1985.

Initial service was centered on a Dulles “hub” with flights to Boston, Cincinnati, Hartford, Indianapolis, and Miami. Within a few months, United Airlines, itself having a large presence at Washington-Dulles announced a major East Coast expansion in direct competition with Presidential. The airline prevailed and continued to acquire additional Boeing 737s and expand its route structure whereby the summer of 1986, the airline was flying to eighteen destinations including Montréal, Canada.

By 1986, Presidential Airways was flying to seven cities in Florida, including Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where N323XV “John Tyler” a Boeing 737-214 taxis outbound for takeoff.

In June 1986, Presidential placed an order for five British Aerospace BAe 146 aircraft, with the intent of using the new plane on smaller, secondary cities not economical for the Boeing 737. The year 1986 also saw the introduction of “commuter” service, when Presidential purchased Colgan Airways to provide feeder services from Dulles under the banner “Presidential Express.” At its peak, during the fall of 1986, Presidential Airways was flying thirteen Boeing 737s and nine BAe 146s to nineteen cities with almost 300 weekly flights.

Still struggling with intense competition Presidential signed an agreement with Continental Airlines to become that carriers “Jet Express” feeder at Dulles in January 1987.

A British Aerospace BAe 146-200, N402XV “James Buchanan” taxis at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport in February 1987.

The Continental agreement lasted less than a year, with the airline again resuming operations under its own name, before making an agreement with United Airlines in 1988 to flying connecting service. Still under intense competition and suffering financially, Presidential Airways filed for bankruptcy on October 26, 1989, and operations eventually ceased on December 4, 1989.

A small fleet of British Aerospace BAe J-31 Jetstreams provided feeder services for the airline. This example, N104XV sits on the ramp at Washington-Dulles International Airport in April 1988.

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Some additional Canadian carriers

Written by Charlie Dolan


Some additional Canadian carriers

Air Inuit    3H  AIE     1978 – present

Air Ontario   GX  ONT    1983 – 2001 (to AC Jazz)

Air Transat   TS  TSC   1987 – present

Norontair   NOA   1971

Northwest Territorial Airways  1960s – 1997 (to First Air)

Canadian Airways  1930 – 1942

Central Northern A/W   1947 – 1956  (became Transair)

City Express   OU  OUL    1984 – 1991

Greyhound Air   1996 – 1997

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A few more Canadian carriers which have left the skies

Written by Charlie Dolan

A while back, before my Boeing 747 article, I spent some time talking about the two (now one) major airlines of Canada.

This time around I’d like to feature some of the carriers, and their insignia, which over the years either went bankrupt or merged with other airlines, thus losing their distinct identities. Most of these were large regional carriers, but some were large charter airlines with routes all around the globe and with large staffs.

The first I mention, Canadian Colonial Airways, operated between 1942-1956 before heading south to become Colonial Airlines, which ultimately was absorbed by Eastern Air Lines.

Eastern Provincial Airways (PV-EPA) 1949-1986 operated in the eastern part of Canada and had a presence in Montreal. They eventually merged into Canadian Pacific.

Maritime Central Airways 1941-1963.

Again, as the name implies, this carrier operated in Canada’s east and, before disappearing, formed the new carrier, Nordair.

Nordair  ND  NDR  1947-1987

Nordair operated into the north of Canada using Boeing 737s into gravel airstrips that required special gravel pans around the nose wheels and special pressure probes at the front of the engines to keep stones from damaging the turbine and stator blades. Several of the aircraft were combis, with cargo up front and passengers in the rear. During the winter, weekday flights went north of the arctic circle and on Saturday mornings the same planes operated charters from Montreal to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.  It showed how versatile the Boeing 737 was.

Nordair was obtained by CP Air

Quebecair QB  QBA 1947-1986

Quebecair operated scheduled service as well as charters utilizing Fokker F-27s, BAC 1-11s and Boeing 737s. Toward the end of its existence, it obtained DC-8s, hoping to expand it’s long haul operations, but CP Air made them an offer they could not refuse. In the early 1980s, Quebecair sold two of the BAC1-11s to Nigeria’s Okada Air and I was able to get some photos of one of them in Okada livery.

Transair   TZ   1956-1979

Transair was one of the first carriers to be absorbed, merging into Pacific Western Airlines.

Wardair Canada  WD  WDA   1952- 1989

I have a feeling that Max Ward was one of the few people to have made money in the airline business. He started with bush flying in single engined airplanes and wound up with a fleet of company owned DC-10s and Boeing 747s and an airline which maintained a reputation of providing great service worldwide. Wardair became part of Canadian

I hope you’ll enjoy the article and the images.

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The Vickers VC-10: Swift, Silent, Serene

Written by Emma Rasmussen

BOAC Vickers VC10 on finals into Heathrow – April 1974 – http://www.airliners.net/photo/BOAC/Vickers-VC10-Srs1101/1412500/L/  Richard Vandervord (from Airliners.net via WikiCommons)

The airline industry of quieter engines, carbon fiber, advanced computers, and glass cockpits is a far cry from the industry that followed the Second World War. Instead, the airline industry consisted of piston-driven airliners, chrome fuselages, iconic cheatlines, and a whole lot of smoke. Enjoying economic superiority and unscathed infrastructure, the United States dominated this bygone aviation industry with the innovations that directly resulted from the war. However, the United States was not alone in recalibrating its focus on civilian aviation with newfound technology. Despite being on the mend from a tumultuous war, Britain was investing heavily in its civilian aviation sector and had successfully developed the first ever jet airliner. The sleek design of the De Havilland DH106 Comet and its quieter, more comfortable passenger experience became an attractive distinction from the noisy propellor aircraft of the era. British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C) was keenly interested in introducing the aircraft to its fleet, and did so in 1954 with a voyage between London and Johannesburg.

Her Majesty’s pioneering aircraft, and the national prestige it attracted, was short-lived, much to the misfortune of De Havilland. Numerous hull-losses from structural failure and a flawed wing profile marred the image of Britain’s aviation industry, and the Comet subsequently lost public confidence. After design modifications to the aircraft, it quietly continued service for over a decade. Unfortunately, the British jetliner market never fully recovered as the world’s airlines opted for the American Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. Aviation’s so-called “jet age” came into its own shortly thereafter, with the Americans once again dominating. The British aviation industry, now largely privatized, continued to develop future jet airliners in hopes of finding their own success.

One such result of their venture was the Vickers VC-10, a handsome airliner that was the visual epitome of 1960s optimism. Unexpectedly birthed from the Vickers Valiant, a high-altitude bomber and member of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) “V Force,” the VC-10 began its life on paper as a potential tanker, military transport, and airliner. B.O.A.C heavily invested in the program, seeking an aircraft that could serve higher, hotter, and shorter airfields for their eastern routes. The development of the VC-10 was effectively an extension of the cancelled VC-7 project, which had been in progress during the 1950s. While the VC-10 was an entirely new aircraft, much of the technology used for the VC-7 was allocated towards the alternative project.

Vickers-Armstrongs Limited undertook the VC-10 in earnest upon learning of De Havilland’s proposal to update its ill-fated Comet. Additionally, Handley Page had offered to develop an airliner based on their RAF “V Force” contribution, the Victor. Amid mounting pressures, the Vickers VC-10 prevailed over the competing propositions, as it was the only firm willing to launch the airliner privately. In 1962 the VC-10 was rolled out of the Weybridge factory in Surrey, which then went on to endure two months of ground and taxi tests, and finally made the first flight.

The final design of the VC-10 featured a swept-wing with ample surface area, a T-shaped empennage, and four rear-mounted engines in a quad layout. The T-tail provided additional lift to aid the present design’s abilities, although it increased the aircraft’s risk for deep stalls. Vicker’s concept was unique, as only two other aircraft had a similar engine configuration. The Soviet Ilyushin IL-62 was slightly larger and more widely exported, but was plagued with safety implications. Lockheed had also developed an aircraft known as the JetStar business jet with this engine configuration. Though seemingly relegated to history and largely forgotten to the rest of the world, the VC-10 became a British icon and a favorite of the RAF.

Vicker’s choice of engine placement enabled a quieter cabin, and the powerful Rolls Royce Conways satisfied the higher, hotter, and shorter airfield requirements. B.O.A.C had previously lost faith in the British aviation industry due to the countless delays surrounding the Bristol Britannia and the bad press after several fatal Comet accidents. Naturally, they were reluctant to trust the VC-10. Amazingly, B.O.A.C was impressed with the design and placed an order for 35 aircraft with options for 20 additional aircraft. Airlines from developing nations such as East African Airways and Ghana Airways saw the benefit of having the VC-10 in their fleets, thus placing their orders shortly thereafter.

Entering service with B.O.A.C by the mid-1960s, the VC-10 attained higher load factors than its American competitors, the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8. As a result, the aircraft earned a positive reputation with B.O.A.C. Additionally, the engine performance and overall design significantly increased the aircraft’s range and speed. The passenger cabin was defined by a six abreast seating layout and divided by a single aisle. Depending on the variant, the aircraft could accommodate a 100-150 passenger payload. While most argue that the fastest subsonic airliner was likely the American Convair 880/990, the VC-10 is famous for holding the world record for fastest subsonic transatlantic crossing ever. In 1979, a British Airways VC-10 departed New York for Glasgow-Prestwick, arriving in 5 hours and 1 minute. Only the supersonic Concorde crossed the Atlantic faster. Shea Oakley, an expert aviation historian and Executive Director Emeritus of the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame, had his first ever flight on the VC-10. “The VC-10 sparked my lifelong passion for commercial flight” Shea expressed with a tinge of nostalgia.

The airliner’s success within the confines of Britain called for several variants, one of which being the Super VC-10. The aircraft became popular in B.O.A.C advertisements and was ostensibly not unlike the standard VC-10. However, the Super VC-10 had an updated wing, stretched fuselage, and an updated power plant. The Super VC-10 was in passenger service well into the 1980s, later undertaking RAF roles such as aerial refueling. B.O.A.C opened routes to South America utilizing the VC-10, though British Airways would become the successor to B.O.A.C and shut down these routes during the 1973 oil crisis. Unfortunately, the aircraft failed to break out of the apparent “British bubble,” not including a few orders from the African airlines. Nevertheless, it was a popular aircraft to fly for both the average passenger and crew member. Tony Yule, an airline veteran of 46 years and former VC-10 pilot for the RAF and B.O.A.C says as much. “It was a lovely, lovely aircraft to fly. So smooth, so quiet for the passengers. It was magic, it handled like a dream” said Tony. “If I hadn’t flown Concorde in the 80s and 90s, I would have said the most iconic aeroplane was the VC-10.”

During the 1970s, the RAF leased a single VC-10 to Rolls Royce as an engine test bed. Rolls Royce was seeking a platform to experiment with their latest engine, the RB.211. This engine was later used on more notable airliners, such as the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar and Boeing 757. There had been some consideration regarding the possibility of re-engining the VC-10. Instead of four Conway engines, the VC-10 would be updated with two RB.211 engines. The idea did not leave paper, and the aircraft was returned to the RAF. The airlines also considered hush-kitting the Conways as noise regulations evolved, but the costs were too high to justify the modifications.

By the 1980s, British Airways and the African airlines were phasing out their VC-10s in favor of other emerging airliners. The RAF purchased the retiring aircraft from the airlines, and retrofitted them to become aerial tankers or military transports. Like B.O.A.C, the RAF was attracted to the VC-10’s performance and had been operating them since the 1960s. The VC-10 would go on to serve in several missions. During the First Gulf War, several VC-10 tankers were stationed in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The VC-10 participated in enforcing no-fly zones while airstrikes were being carried out over Iraq in 1998. After the September 11th attacks in 2001, the VC-10 spent the remainder of its flying career in Afghanistan. In 2013, the RAF retired their VC-10 fleet in favor of modern aerial tankers and military transports.

Like many other British airliners from the early jet age, the VC-10 is often regarded as “underrated,” and unfortunately “left in the dust” by its American counterparts. In Britain, the VC-10 is considered a piece of aviation heritage, with several on display at local air museums. At Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, a VC-10 is maintained and in taxiable  condition. A second VC-10, the last ever to fly, is a static display. A vestige of an antiquated era, the VC-10 remains symbolic of mid-century optimism, innovation, and excellence. The VC-10 leaves behind a legacy of speedy flights, quietude and comfort, and a lustrous reflection of 1960s aeronautical design.

Notice: This article was originally published in Horizons, online student paper of Embry Riddle- Prescott

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SUPER CONSTELLATION << The Star of Switzerland >>

Written by Shea Oakley

By Markus A. Jegerlehner
ISBN 979-3-033-07429-3
167 Pages

This unusually large and beautifully assembled photo-book about the until recently Breitling-sponsored Super-Constellation, HB-RSC was obviously a labor of love for its author. Photographer, author and “Star of Switzerland” project contributor Jegerlehner’s text not only shows he knows the story of this Connie inside and out, but also clearly reflects his deep affection for, and devotion to, one of the very last flyable examples of the type.

His well-detailed history of this C-121-C/L-1049F, serial # 4175, takes us through the airplane’s years with the USAF and later the Mississippi Air Guard. It continues through its six years of use as a firebomber in the American West, and several short periods of ownership by people with big ambitions for the airplane, but insufficient cash. We then learn of it’s eventual “salvation,” initially by the U.S.-based Constellation Historical Society which then continued, and was brought to air-worthy fruition, by the Swiss-based Super Constellation Flyers Association, with financial backing from Breitling, the Swiss watch manufacturer. During its lifetime the airplane has been based everywhere from Mississippi to Germany (where it is is now undergoing a complete structural overhaul to put HB-RSC back into flying condition after losing its Swiss airworthiness certificate in 2017 due to some structural issues). During the previous several years the “Star of Switzerland” had been just that, one of the major stars of airshows all over Europe.

While the greatest strength of this book is found in its profuse selection of all-color photographs by the author (taken of the airplane from seemingly every angle, inside and out, on the ground and in the air) it is also a great source of information about Constellations in general, including a full type history as well as reproductions of cockpit checklists, and other technical details unique to this particular Connie.

In short, this is the kind of book which any fan of the Lockheed triple-tailed beauty from Burbank, and prop-liners in general, would be proud to display on the coffee table of their living room for fortunate aviation-minded houseguests to fully appreciate. The photos are not only well-taken but are also so numerous as to almost qualify Super Constellation <<Star of Switzerland>> as a full visual guide for aircraft modelers. Overall print and reproduction quality of this 9 ¼ X 13 ½ inch volume are excellent (to give you some idea of its size my home scanner couldn’t quite incorporate the entire cover for the above image!)As the book’s author and publisher, Jegerlehner obviously invested quite a bit of both his heart and his substance into making this book as impressive as it is.

So, if you are a devotee of both the Lockheed Constellation, and a valiant and successful effort to save one of the last of these legendary airplanes, this book is a must have.

Availability: Copies of this book can be ordered directly from the author’s website,fotojeger.ch, for US$68.00 each

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Seaboard & Western Airlines / Seaboard World Airlines Junior Wings

Written by Lane Kranz

Seaboard & Western Airlines was founded in 1946 to connect the eastern seaboard of the United States with Western Europe and the Middle East.  Over the years, Seaboard would establish itself as the preeminent carrier of cargo on the world’s richest trade routes; routes that would eventually give rise to 25 different airline competitors.  Among many “firsts”, Seaboard was the first airline to fly an all-cargo flight across the Atlantic, first airline to land and takeoff at Idlewild (now JFK), first airline to fly support for the Berlin Airlift, and the first airline to fly a Military Air Transport Service (MATS) charter.

In addition to all-cargo flights, Seaboard flew passengers throughout its history.  Most of Seaboard’s passenger flying was done for other airlines under wet-lease contracts and for the U.S. government.  Seaboard operated a number of different aircraft types, including the DC-4, Lockheed Constellation, Canadair CL-44D, DC-8, 707, and 747.

On April 4th, 1961 the company’s name changed to Seaboard World Airlines.  On October 1, 1980 Seaboard World Airlines was absorbed by The Flying Tiger Line, Inc.  And, on December 16, 1988 The Flying Tiger Line, Inc. was absorbed by the Federal Express Corporation.

Seaboard earned the respect of the entire aviation community for its remarkable safety record: 33 years flying all over the globe, often with minimal support, without a single fatal accident.  In U.S. aviation history only Hawaiian Airlines, which started before World War II, compiled a longer record of no injuries or fatalities.

Junior Wings issued by Seaboard:  Above,  metal Future Pilot and Jr. Stewardess (both pre-1960) and plastic Junior Wing (post-1961) when the company name changed to Seaboard World.

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Well, it’s about time!

Written by Charlie Dolan

It took me only 47 years from the time I first saw a Boeing 747 in real time until I had my first flight on “The queen of the skies”.

My first flight was on my tenth birthday in 1954, I first soloed in 1965 in a Piper J-3 Cub and I have been hanging around airports for at least forty-five years as both an Army officer and a civilian. I’ve ridden in allsorts of flying machines, single engine, twin engine, push – pull Cessnas, tri-motors, military helicopters and a wide variety of two, three and four engine airliners. The one aircraft which eluded me was the Boeing 747. It seemed that no matter where I traveled, the 747 was going in the same direction at the same time as I.

I first saw a 747 in 1972 when a Pan American charter flight passed through Niagara Falls (NY) International Airport (KIAG). That same year, while at Fort Dix, NJ for a two week Army reserve active duty period, two other officers and I went up to JFKIA and got to go on board a Pan Am 747 which was at the gate for an evening departure. My Customs ID and badge made that tour possible.

I had been ON many 747s during my thirty-six year career with the U.S. Customs Service, but never when their main engines were running and the aircraft was not firmly planted on the ground. I have searched the 747 in many configurations, in passenger service, cargo operations and VIP transport versions. I knew its interior, exterior and all the areas below decks. But, I had never been off the ground in one.

That depressing situation changed on December first of this year. My wife and I had booked a river cruise on the Danube to visit the German and Austrian Christmas markets. We have been on many deep water cruises, but this was our first river cruise. Once I saw that we had been booked on a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400. I had to jump into action. I wanted Karen to see why that plane fascinated me so much that I wrote to Lufthansa’s Orlando station manager to see if it could be arranged for us to board a tad early so I could show her around the aircraft.

At check-in we were greeted by the assistant station manager and we were  allowed us to board with the families with children. I was able to stow our hand luggage quickly and give Karen a quick tour of the upper deck. I asked about a peek into the cockpit, but the purser indicated that the crew was occupied with pre-flight duties. Just after we returned to the lower level, the purser called us back and said that the captain would allow us to visit the “front office”. We had an enjoyable conversation with the two experienced pilots and thanked them for their time. Karen was allowed to take a photo of them – “as long as it wasn’t going to be on facebook”.

The flight to Frankfurt was comfortable and the landing was as smooth as any I have ever experienced. It was a tribute to both the aircraft and the crew. It was one more item checked off my “bucket list.

Early DLH cap badge

Pre war G

DLH wing Nec Soli Cedit “He yields not even to the Sun”

Post war DLH insignia pilot, f/e, navigator and radio operator.

DLH Ost (East Germany post war)

Interflug (after DLH Ost lost case to DLH)


German Cargo System

DLH Boeing 747-400






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EL AL Aircraft on Postcards

Written by Marvin Goldman

EL AL Israel Airlines was founded in November 1948, six months after the birth of the State of Israel.  The name ‘EL AL’ is taken from the Bible’s book of Hosea and means ‘to the above’ or more poetically ‘to the skies’.

To help identify the dates of postcard issuance and their aircraft images, I have provided information on dates of the aircraft types and different liveries utilized by EL AL over the years.  EL AL also issued many advertising postcards, and these will be the subject of a separate article.

The airline started scheduled service in July 1949 with two Douglas DC-4 aircraft acquired used from American Airlines, and soon thereafter it added a handful of smaller World War II surplus Curtiss C-46 Commandos acquired from the Israel Air Force.  EL AL did not issue any postcards of these two aircraft types during the years they were in service — 1949-1955.  However, two airport cards show EL AL DC-4s among other aircraft, one in London (see the first image below) and one at Ciampino Airport in Rome, and I also have a 1949 postcard produced by the photographer of Lod Airport (now Ben-Gurion Airport) showing three early EL AL crew members with a portion of a DC-4 in the background (second image below).

Also, in 1979 EL AL issued an eight-postcard set showing art drawings of its aircraft by Israeli artist Danny Shalom.  The set included a military C-54 (labeled a ‘DC-4’ and registered 4X-ACA) utilized on a special flight in September 1948 to bring Chaim Weizmann from Geneva to Israel to be sworn in as Israel’s first President, which aircraft was the first to bear the ‘EL AL’ name.  Another postcard in the set shows an EL AL C-46 (third image below).

EL AL Douglas DC-4 (either 4X-ACC or 4X-ACD) at London Airport, behind the BOAC B377 Stratocruiser. Postmarked 26 July 1951. Pub’r: Bridge House S20543.

EL AL DC-4 (either 4X-ACC or 4X-ACD) with early crew members including its first steward, Herb Kweller, in center, and stewardess Miriam Gold on right. Published by photographer of Lod Airport (now Ben-Gurion Airport), Tel Aviv, 1949.

EL AL Curtiss C-46 Commando, 4X-ALC, with Yemenite Jews awaiting airlift to Israel. Art by Danny Shalom. Airline Issue, 1979. (Aircraft utilized on the airlift actually bore substitute titles, such as ‘Near East Air Transport’).

The earliest postcards issued by EL AL itself featured its Lockheed Constellation aircraft which served the airline from 1951 to 1961. Here is the first postcard issued by EL AL itself.

EL AL Lockheed L149 Constellation, in Test Flight as N90827 in Southern California, March 1951, later registered 4X-AKA. EL AL New York Office Issue, 1951.

EL AL issued two other Constellation postcards in the early 1950s.  Each is a graphic art card showing an aircraft with a map of Israel in the background.  Here is one of them.

Saw one postmarked 3 April 1957

In addition, an EL AL Constellation is shown on airport postcards at Zurich (at least four different cards), Rome and Johannesburg – Palmietfontein.

EL AL Lockheed 149 Constellation, 4X-AKA, at Zurich. Pub’r WBZ, Zurich, no. VF19.

In December 1957 EL AL introduced the new jet-prop Bristol Britannia, becoming the first airline outside England to do so. Simultaneously EL AL launched a broad advertising campaign, which included the following rare detachable group of six Britannia postcards.

EL AL Bristol Britannia. Airline New York Office Issue, 1957. This is a composite card, 10” x 28” (26 x 79 cm.), consisting of six detachable 4-1/4” x 7” (11 x 23 cm.) postcards (5 vertical; 1 horizontal), each described on the back as ‘a piece of the plane’.

EL AL Bristol Britannia, ‘Fly Britannia’. Airline Issue, probably by Paris Office, about 1958. Pub’r Carisse.

The Britannia’s reign was short-lived, with the last departing EL AL’s fleet in early 1967.  The pure jet era supplanted the front-line role of the Britannias soon after the Britannias entered service.  EL AL’s pure jet era began with its acquisition of Boeing 707s in 1961 and Boeing 720B’s in 1962. Since 1961, EL AL has acquired only Boeing aircraft.

EL AL Boeing 707-420, in original livery. Airline Issue, early 1960s. There are three versions of this postcard, each with a different imprint on the back, and a similar postcard with clouds only partially covering the bottom.

EL AL Boeing 720B, in second 707/720 livery adopted by 1966. Airline issue.

EL AL Boeing 707-320B, 4X-ATT, at Paris-Orly, in third 707/720 livery adopted in 1971. Pub’r SWAT, no. 4.

In 1971 EL AL introduced the Boeing 747-200 ‘jumbo jet’ to its fleet, eventually operating eleven -200s with Israeli ‘4X’ registrations and one -100 series freighter . The 747 series (including the 747-400 model first acquired in 1994) served as the flagship of EL AL’s fleet from 1971 to early 2001 (when EL AL’s first 777s entered service), with the last 747-200 exiting the fleet in 1999 and the last 747-400 in November 2019.

EL AL Boeing 747-200B, 4X-AXA, its first 747. Airline issue, 3.8 x 9.2 in. (9.6 x 23.3 cm). 4X-AXA was delivered with three upper deck windows (usually associated with the original -100 series); however it was indeed a -200B series, and additional upper deck windows were added soon after delivery. This postcard also exists in standard size in English and French text versions, and a variation exists with the aircraft pointing upwards. With the 747-200, EL AL introduced a new classic livery for its fleet, designed by noted Israeli artist Dan Reisinger, which remained as EL AL’s standard livery for 28 years – until 1999.

EL AL Boeing 747-200B, 4X-AXB, at Tel Aviv – Ben-Gurion Airport. ‘Welcome to Israel’ card with McCrory group. Pub’r Palphot 25312SC, 1988. The aircraft bears EL AL’s 40th anniversary logo to the right of its titles.

During 1980-89 EL AL operated four different 737-200s on short-haul routes.

EL AL Boeing 737-200, 4X-ABN, June 1984. Pub’r Blue Air no. BA 04. A Czech airline enthusiast published many airline postcards under the name ‘Blue Air’, featuring EL AL aircraft. EL AL itself issued only one 737-200 postcard, showing a side aerial view.

In 1983 and 1987 respectively, EL AL introduced Boeing 767s and 757s to its fleet, featuring more modern cockpits and improved fuel efficiency.  EL AL operated six 767-200s at varying times between 1983 and 2013; ten 757-200s between 1987 and 2013, and seven 767-300ERs between 2004 and March 2019.

EL AL Boeing 767-200ER, 4X-EAA. Airline Issue, about 1983. The Hebrew writing on top says: ‘Boeing 767 – EL AL in a New Direction’.

EL AL 757-200, 4X-EBT, in livery of its affiliate Sun d’Or. Airline Issue, about 2005. The Hebrew text says ‘To fly on vacation super-assured’.

EL AL 767-300ER, 4X-EAP, landing at Tel Aviv – Ben-Gurion Airport, 1 June 2006. Pub’r Blue Air BA-42. EL AL did not issue any postcard showing a 767-300. Its New York Office issued a postcard in 2015 promoting Boston-Tel Aviv nonstop service with 767-300ERs; however, that postcard showed a 767-200ER.

In 1994 EL AL acquired the first of eight Boeing 747-400s for its fleet. With this aircraft type, EL AL changed the colors of its livery ‘EL AL’ titles from black and gold to light blue and dark blue.

El Al Boeing 747-400, 4X-ELA, in the type’s original livery. Available only as the last postcard in EL AL-issued ‘Israel’ and ‘Holy Land’ postcard booklets (the other cards in the booklets show Israeli scenes).

In 1999, on EL AL’s 50th anniversary and the acquisition of its fourth  747-400 (4X-ELD), EL AL introduced an all-new livery with dark blue and silver ‘ribbons’ and lettering on a white base.

EL AL 747-400, 4X-ELD, featuring the airline’s new dark blue and silver ribbons livery. Airline Issue no. 60-301420/99, 1999. A similar card, showing the aircraft over clouds, was issued in 2005 (no. 60-301420/05. EL AL’s New York Office issued another variation showing modified ‘EL AL’ titles introduced on its aircraft in 2006.

In early 2001, to modernize its long-haul route aircraft, EL AL started to acquire Boeing 777-200ERs, with the number rising to six.

EL AL 777-200ER, 4X-ECA. Airline Issue by New York Office, about 2010.

For short-haul routes, EL AL turned to Boeing 737 New Generation aircraft, starting in 1999. These included two 737-700 (in fleet 1999 – 2016), fifteen 737-800 (acquired between 1999 and 2018 and still current), and eight 737-900ER (acquired between 2013 and 2016 and still current).  I am not aware of any 737 New Generation postcards issued by EL AL.  Here are two publisher-issued cards.

EL AL Boeing 737-700, 4X-EKD, at Geneva, 2000. Pub’r Air Hobby #375.

EL AL 737-800, 4X-EKA, at Zurich, March 1999. Photo by Aviatrade, Pub’r Blue Air BA-11.

EL AL’s long-haul fleet renewal started in 2017 with the arrival of the first of 16 Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliners’ ordered.  By the end of 2019, 13 Boeing 787-9s and one 787-8 had joined its fleet.  Three more 787-8s are on order and expected to be received by March 2020.

EL AL Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner’. Computer art postcard. Issued 2018 by EL AL’s New York Office.

EL AL 787-9, 4X-EDF, landing at Paris-CDG, 2018. Photo by Daniel Dane. Pub’r World Collector’s Cards #WCC-1154. This is the first aircraft to be painted in an EL AL ‘retro’ livery; it is similar to the original 1961 livery of EL AL’s first three 707s.

On 3 November 2019 EL AL operated its last 747-400 flight — Rome to Tel Aviv with 4X-ELC.  EL AL marked the occasion with many souvenirs, including a five-card ‘747 Farewell’ postcard set.  Only 500 sets were printed, and all were distributed to the passengers who filled the aircraft and others close to the airline.  Here is one of the postcards from the set.

EL AL Boeing 747-400, 4X-ELD, heading for takeoff runway at Tel Aviv – Ben-Gurion Airport. Photo by Yochai Mossi. Part of a five-card ‘747 Farewell’ postcard set issued by EL AL on 2 November 2019.

I hope you enjoyed this article on the postcards of EL AL aircraft, and until next time, Happy Collecting!

Marvin G. Goldman

Notes:  Originals of all the postcards illustrated are in the author’s collection except for the fourth card shown (an EL AL Constellation on a test flight in Southern California) which is in the collection of Greg Smith.   My estimate of their availability: Rare postcards–the DC-4 crew, Constellation on test flight, Constellation at Zurich, and Britannia six-card composite; Uncommon–DC-4 at London, Constellation on map, Britannia and globe, 747-200 ‘Welcome to Israel’, Sun d’Or 757, 747-400 original livery in booklet, and 747-400 ‘Farewell’ card; the rest are fairly common.


  1. EL AL’s website, elal.com, and Facebook page ELALIsraelAirlinesUSA.
  2. Website israelairlinemuseum.org.

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