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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #217  (Vol. 5, No. 21)  This edition is for the week of May 17--23, 2004.

Florida’s Commuter Airlines from the 1960s to the 1980s: Part Four
 by Will Moriaty
"Shrek 2"
 by Mike Smith
Flo-HORROR-da....Tony Randall and Alan King
 by Andy Lalino
Dumbsfeld’s New Camera....Single Sex Marriage....The Liberal Media....Scream 13, The Election Horror
 by Vinnie Blesi
More On Moore....Passing On....Meet The Beatles, Part 17
 by Mike Smith
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Florida’s Commuter Airlines from the 1960s to the 1980s: Part Four -- North American Airlines, Shawnee Airlines, Sun Airlines and Vero-Monmouth Airlines

The Mouse That Roared
October 1971 was one of the most significant times in Florida history. During that a month a theme park, the likes of which had never been seen before in the Sunshine State opened its gates to the public.

That theme park was of course Walt Disney World and its opening would forever alter the character and history of Orange and Osceola Counties as well as the Sunshine State itself.

The effect of Walt Disney World on commercial air travel in Florida would prove to be significant as well. Suddenly carriers from around the country rushed to provide service to the Magic Kingdom. One of these carriers, Eastern Air Lines, was even ballyhooed as the official airline of Walt Disney World.

There was only one problem facing this market at that time - - Orlando really didn't have much of an airport to speak of.

Due to the advent of commercial jet traffic in the 1960's, Orlando found itself having to relocate carriers providing jet service from its downtown Herndon Airport (now called Orlando Executive Airport) to the nearby McCoy Air Force Base in the Conway-Pinecastle area. McCoy had a runway long enough handle such jet equipment, and was noted for already being a Strategic Air Command base for Boeing B-52 bombers.

From the time the Magic Kingdom opened until a new passenger terminal was completed around 1980, a Quonset hut on the north side of this former military installation served as the base of operation for airlines serving the Orlando area. This area of the airport now serves as a base of operations for the United Parcel Service.

Once the new terminal was opened, the commercial portion of the field changed names from Orlando McCoy Jetport to Orlando International Airport. Based largely on Tampa International Airport's terminal with airsides design concept, the new terminal was a world-class function employing public arts as well as colorful neon aesthetic treatments. In 1984 the airport's military flight operations ceased as McCoy was decommissioned as an Air Force Base.

Regardless of whether you deplaned at the old Quonset hut or at the new terminal, if you wanted to get to the Walt Disney World park you still needed a form of transportation to get there - - and strangely enough there was at one time an airline that could fly you directly there from the McCoy Jetport in the early 1970's. That airline was a Florida commuter called Shawnee Airlines.

Shawnee Airlines
Shawnee Airlines was a commuter of the early 1970's with a very extensive route system. Based out of Orlando, Shawnee served Daytona Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Freeport, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Miami, Nassau, Pensacola, Sarasota-Bradenton, Tallahassee, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Walt Disney World and West Palm Beach.

In addition to providing service to the cities mentioned above it also flew seven 15 minute long flights both ways between Orlando's McCoy Jetport and the Walt Disney World STOLport (Short Take Off and Landing Aircraft) on a daily basis utilizing DeHavilland Twin Otters. Remaining routes were served with Beechcraft B-99 and Douglas DC-3 service.

By the mid 1970's Shawnee Airlines disappeared from the Florida commuter radarscope but carved a niche in Florida aviation history by being the only regularly scheduled airline to truly serve the Magic Kingdom!

Sun Airlines
Sun Airlines was a small commuter whose claim to fame was that of being one of the few carriers to provide Lakeland Linder and St. Petersburg Albert Whitted airports with regularly scheduled flights decades after airlines such as National pulled out of those fields.

The carrier also served Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Bradenton. Based in Tampa, I could find no evidence of the carrier's existence after 1974.

Vero-Monmouth Airlines
Another unique commuter was Vero-Monmouth Airlines. Based out of the Vero Beach Municipal Airport on Florida's east coast, Vero-Monmouth provided two daily round trip flights from Vero Beach to Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami and Melbourne. Strangely, it also provided a round trip flight once a week to Orlando's Herndon Airport, making it one of the last passenger carriers to serve that field. By the summer of 1974, however, it switched its solitary Orlando flight to the McCoy Jetport.

Vero-Monmouth operated DeHavilland Heron, Piper Aztec and Douglas DC-3 equipment on its very limited route system. I will never forget in a 1974 trip to Tampa International Airport seeing a Vero-Monmouth Heron pilot at the ticket counter, processing tickets, then loading bags, and then loading passengers, then revving up the engines to wing his passengers eastward to the Treasure Coast!

After 1974 I could find no evidence of the continued existence of this operator which also seemed to 'borrow" Naples Airline's cover art for its 1974 schedules.

North American Airlines
North American Airlines was based in Miami and provided Cessna 404 ("C-4 Commuter Liner) and CASA C-212 ("Jet-Prop") service to Ft. Myers, Marathon, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach and Melbourne. I could find no existence of the carrier before 1981 or after 1982.

Author’s Timetables

North American Airlines
1. December 1, 1981 (Marathon, Naples, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers, West Palm Beach, Miami)
2. January 15, 1982 (Marathon, Naples, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers, West Palm Beach, Miami)

Shawnee Airlines
1. November 1, 1971 (Freeport, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Nassau, Orlando, Panama City, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Walt Disney World)
2. September 1, 1972 (Ft. Myers, Freeport, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Nassau, Orlando, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Walt Disney World, Sarasota-Bradenton)

Sun Airlines
1. January 1, 1972 (Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Lakeland, Tampa-St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, Miami)
2. June 1, 1974 (Tallahassee, Lakeland, Tampa-St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Albert Whitted Airport, Sarasota-Bradenton)

Vero-Monmouth Airlines
1. October 1, 1973 (Vero Beach, Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami, Melbourne)
2. Winter 1974 (Vero Beach, Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami, Melbourne)
3. Summer 1974 (Vero Beach, Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami, Melbourne)

Fasten your seat belts because next week we'll review the Florida commuters Marco Island Airways, Dolphin Airways, Atlantic-Gulf Airlines and Florida Express Airlines in Part Five of our series in next week’s PCR!

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.