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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty    Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #545  (Vol. 11, No. 36)  This edition is for the week of August 30--September 5, 2010.

"Machete"  by Mike Smith
She Flies!  by William Moriaty
Forgotten Films: Little Fugitive  by ED Tucker
Album of the Month, August- The Arcade Fire: The Suburbs  by Terence Nuzum
Sukiyaki Western Django  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

She Flies!

44 years after retirement from passenger service, a nonprofit historical aviation organization from Miami, Florida magnificently restores a once proud bird that was a common sight over Florida skies.

In August 2004, a Douglas DC-7B 4-engine piston aircraft that had been parked at the St. Paul, Minnesota airport since the late 1960's was ferried down to Opa Locka (OPF) airport north of Miami in order to be restored to the glory that it once enjoyed some four decades earlier. The restoration was to be performed by the Historical Flight Foundation, Inc. of Miami, Florida with the intent of providing passenger service as a means of providing an active example of what commercial aviation in the United States was like prior to the advent of jet service.

The aircraft subject to the restoration was registered to Eastern Air Lines as N836D, serial number 45345/928 and delivered to EAL in January 1958. By the mid-to-late sixties, the aircraft was retired by EAL, replaced by jet aircraft. It then ended up with a tour club located in St. Paul, Minnesota where the airliner was again retired from flight and left parked on the airport tarmac for a period of up to forty years or more.

The aircraft was ferried from the St. Paul airport to Opa Locka between the months of May and August of 2004. 65% of the aircraft's original aluminum skin, outer wing panels and engines were repaired or replaced. By December 2008 the aircraft sported a new paint scheme, that of being returned to its original 1950's livery in Eastern Air Lines regalia. In addition, its interior was fully restored to mint condition, including new seating for passengers and an overhaul of the aircraft's avionics.

On March 22, 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration granted the Historical Flight Foundation exemption allowing the Foundation to carry passengers for revenue purposes. N836D's first post restoration flight was performed on July 4, 2010 and can be viewed by clicking the "July 4th 2010 Take-off!" portion of the web site.

In late July of 2010 N836D left the State of Florida for the first time since its restoration and found itself flying a circuit that included the Oshkosh, Wisconsin airshow between July 26th and August 1st, the Thunder Over Michigan event at Detroit Willow Run airport between August 7th and August 8th, and Airliners International 2010 at Teterboro New Jersey airport between August 12th and 15th.

At the AI 2010 event, N836D ferried passengers over New York City providing them with breathtaking views of Manhattan, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Long Island. Astute pilots of conventional passenger jet aircraft must have done double-takes seeing the fully restored piston heavy flying over New York's Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Quite an accomplishment in a post 9/11 world! In addition, stewardesses who flew on Eastern's DC-7B's in the 50's and 60's were on hand for the event as seen in the "Fly In a Vintage Airliner" video portion of the HFF web site.

By August 15th the 7 was flown back to Opa from Teterboro, New Jersey. On Saturday August 28, 2010 a Living History Ride was slated for the Miami area, operating from the aircraft's home base at Opa Locka (OPF).

Many thanks go to Florida Folk-Heroes HFF President Roger Jarman as well as Carlos Gomez (the dashing Flight Engineer seen in both videos; both Roger Jarman and Carlos Gomez can be seen in PCR #491 and Mark Wolff for bringing back to life an aircraft that between forty-four to almost sixty years ago was an impressive sight seen flying over Miami, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach and Orlando. It compels me to think of an era when as young boys Davis Gandees father maintained Eastern's 7B's in Miami and Bob Scheible's father maintained Pan American's 7C's (or "Seven Seas") also in Miami. A truly magical era in the annals of La Floridiana.

A total of 105 DC-7B's were built for commercial use. Eastern's DC-7B fleet was active between 1953 and 1966.

A Condensed History of Eastern Air Lines:
Eastern Air Lines was one of the major trunk carriers in the United States. It operated from 1926 to 1991 and had one of the largest route networks and fleets in the country. In 1938, World War One flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker purchased the airline from General Motors and was instrumental in its most vigorous growth and development. Eastern was the first to fly the tri-jet Boeing 727, introduced the Airbus A-300 to the United States, and was the launch customer for the Boeing 757. Its livery changed over the years beginning with "The Great Silver Fleet", the "Golden Falcon", and in the early to mid sixties, the "Hockey Stick" design which basically used Caribbean Blue over Bahama Blue as a cheat line from the fuselage up to the tail.

In the late 1960's the New York advertising firm of Young and Rubicam began Eastern's "Wings of Man" campaign. In 1971 Eastern was made the official airline of Walt Disney World which had an Eastern Air Lines themed ride called "If You Had Wings" at Tomorrowland.

In 1975 astronaut Frank Borman became Eastern's President and moved the air line's headquarters from New York to Miami. In 1986 Borman sold the air line to Texas Air which was led by corporate raider Frank Lorenzo. With de-regulation in 1978, coupled with labor strife and an aging and enormous fleet, Lorenzo's heavy handed and toxic management style pushed Eastern over the edge resulting in its shut down on January 19, 1991, sadly ending a 65 year history of this legendary carrier.

Eastern had its share of crashes, including one in Atlanta, Georgia in 1941 that almost killed its CEO Eddie Rickenbacker. Two of its crashes featured DC-7B's, both in New York, one due to pilot error in an evasive air traffic maneuver and the other due to a crash during a foggy go-around. One crash that occurred when an Eastern DC-9-31 twin jet was attempting an instrument approach to Charlotte Douglas airport on September 11, 1974 killing 71 including James, Peter and Paul Colbert, brothers and father respectively of comedian Stephen Colbert. The flight was from Charleston, South Carolina to Chicago, Illinois with a stop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Many people will recollect the "Wings of Man" campaign, but my favorite ad is one from 1965 that featured a smoky Douglas DC-8 with a female singer, who sounds very much like bossa nova torch singer Astrud Gilberto (or might even be Astrud Gilberto, who is one of my favorite singers of all time) encouraging us to "Fly Eastern, number one to the sun!".

Many thanks again go to the Historical Flight Foundation, Inc. for keeping the legacy of this once grand carrier alive. For more information about the Historical Flight Foundation, Inc., N836D, membership or flights, e-mail the Foundation at roger@historicalflightfoundation.com, or at info@hffshop.com.

The fully restored Eastern Air Lines DC-7B N836D seen taxiing at the Oshkosh air show earlier this summer. Photo courtesy of the Historical Flight Foundation, Inc.N836D shown in mid-flight. Photo courtesy of the Historical Flight Foundation, Inc.
Our grand lady shown flying away after takeoff. Photo courtesy of the Historical Flight Foundation, Inc.Paying homage to both Miami and Eastern Air Lines "Golden Falcon" fleet of aircraft which plied the skies in the 50's through the early to mid-sixties is this logo. Courtesy of "Miami Mike" Hiscano.
Wanting to modernize the appearance of the fleet, Eastern Air Lines adopted what was known as the "Hockey Stick" theme of using Caribbean Blue over Bahama Blue as a cheat line along the fuselage. This photo taken at Miami International Airport on September 15, 1964 shows a Lockheed L-188 Electra that was used to test the new theme. Not long afterward the theme was adopted but ran the entire length up the tail as well. Notice the Miami Jai Alai fronton in the background. Photo Courtesy of "Miami Mike" Hiscano.No aircraft in the Eastern fleet better conveyed the "Hockey Stick" livery better than the stretched Douglas DC-8, in this case a DC-8-63. Miami native Davis Gandees, whose father work as a mechanic at MIA for Eatern, recalls that the stretch 8's were so long that when he sat in the rear, when the airliner turned at taxi intersections the back area he sat in turned above the adjacent grass. A handful of stretched DC-8's still operate 44 years after their introduction with Air Transport International (ATI) and ASTAR. Photo Courtesy of "Miami Mike" Hiscano.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "La Floridiana" is ©2010 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 ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.