Written by Shea Oakley
Eastern Air Lines was the launch customer and first operator of the Lockheed L-188 Electra prop-jet. They also were the U.S. domestic trunk carrier that flew them for the longest period, from 1959-77. The latter part of that time corresponded with my childhood.
Growing up in Northern New Jersey in the 1970’s often meant a trip to JFK airport in order for my family to catch a flight to our favored vacation spot of Sarasota, Florida. Newark Airport was under-served at the time and riding the most convenient non-stops often required the long ride to Queens. This invariably meant passing LaGuardia Airport on the Grand Central Expressway. As a very young airliner enthusiast the best part of that drive was seeing one or more EAL Electra’s parked on a ramp on the Southeast side of LGA. At the time they were still being used as back-up aircraft for Eastern’s famed “Air-Shuttle” service to Boston and Washington. I can still remember the distinctive silhouette of those airplanes, especially combined with the airline’s two-tone “Caribbean” and “Ionosphere” blue stripes sweeping up the vertical stabilizer.
One night in July of 1977 I almost had a chance to fly one of those back-up Electra’s. My dad and I were on the way home from a whale-watching trip to Nova Scotia. At Logan it looked like the DC-9-30 we were going to ride to LaGuardia was not going to be able to accommodate the load of passengers at the gate and the possibility of rolling over an Electra parked on a nearby hardstand was discussed. Gazing at the old airplane out the terminal window My nine year-old heart wanted to be on that L-188 so badly I could taste it! Alas we were all accommodated on the ‘Nine in the end and Eastern retired their last Electra only a little less than 4 months later, on October 31st, 1977.
So near and yet so far!
Note: Article first published on NYCaviation.com.
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