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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty    Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #547  (Vol. 11, No. 38)  This edition is for the week of September 13--19, 2010.

"The Town"  by Mike Smith
Miami Memories: Part Two of Two  by William Moriaty
Loose in Las Vegas: 2010 – The Deuce  by ED Tucker
When MTV Played Music  by Chris Woods
Man, Woman, and the Wall  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... And Now, A Special Note From Mrs. Smith .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Miami Memories: Part Two of Two

A look back at Miami International Airport's "Golden Years" from the late 1940's to the mid 1960's made possible by the incredible photo collections of "Miami Mike" Hiscano.

As indicated in last week's PCR, the first domestic commercial jet flight took place on December 10, 1958 between New York and Miami utilizing a National Airlines Boeing 707 fan jet leased from Pan American. The Jet Age had arrived in Miami!

Most people today jaded by the now commonplace world of jet powered aviation can not understand the significance of the advent of that era. It was almost as radical and revolutionary as moving from the horse and buggy to the automobile. It offered power plants that were generally less complicated and more efficient to operate that reciprocating piston engines. Due to their increased power over pistons, jet aircraft could hold more passengers, fly longer distances and fly them faster resulting in significantly reduced travel time and economic savings to the carriers.

This advent of this era almost overnight rendered the great commercial piston aircraft archaic. Suddenly the piston fleets that Americans in particularly were so accustomed to for so many years looked clunky, junky and old fashioned, particularly when they began their typically smoky engine start ups. In addition, due to the complexity of the piston power plants, particularly the turbo compound engines such as the Curtiss-Wright R-3800, it was not uncommon to have engine failures during flights, most were benign, but a small proportion of these failures proved deadly nevertheless. In general, jet-powered engines proved to be more trustworthy due to less operational failure.

As a result of all of these factors, coupled with Miami's location making it the gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America as well as being America's winter vacation capital, commercial jet traffic into MIA exploded in the early 1960's. The heavy piston aircraft that served MIA over the previous two decades such as the Douglas DC-3, DC-4, DC-6 and DC-7, the Convair 240, 340 and 440, the Lockheed Constellation and the Curtiss C-46 Commando were soon relegated to milk runs, short hops, red-eyes and cargo service.

A hybrid of sorts was offered to the flying public beginning in the early 1950's where jet turbines were used to power propellers. These hybrid aircraft were called "turboprops". Miami's first turboprop came in the form of the four-engine British-built Vickers Viscount which first served that city through Capital Airlines and probably last offered regularly scheduled passenger service there as late as 1983 through Atlantic Gulf Airlines (see PCR #218. Next in line was the American-built four-engine Lockheed L-188 Electra which entered service with Eastern Air Lines on January 1, 1959. This type of aircraft would also serve Miami through carriers such as Northwest Orient, Braniff and a host of Latin American carriers. But even these turboprops found themselves looking old-fashioned once the pure jet arrived.

Both the piston and the turboprop found themselves being rapidly replaced with sleek and streamlined first-generation, American-built four-engine jets sporting names such as the Boeing 707 and 720 (served in Miami by Pan American, Braniff, Trans World, United, Northwest Orient, BOAC, BWIA, Eastern, Northeast, Avianca, Ecuatoriana, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air France and many others) the Douglas DC-8 (served in Miami by Pan American, National, Braniff, Delta, United, Northwest Orient, Eastern, TCA/Air Canada, Panagra, Faucett Peru, Aeronaves de Mexico and many others) and the Convair 880 (served in Miami by Delta and Northeast and TWA) and 990 (served in Miami by Northeast and in its later years generally operated there as a cargo aircraft). A handful of British jet aircraft served Miami in the likes of the DeHavilland Comet (BOAC, Aerolineas Argentinas and Mexicana) and the Vickers VC-10 (BOAC), but these aircraft were never a common sight at MIA.

As jet operators realized the monetary savings, profitability and enthusiastic public demand for passenger jet travel, by the mid-1960's jet aircraft capable of flying to medium-sized cities on domestic routes were built, most notably the American built tri-jet Boeing 727 (served in Miami by Pan American, National, Braniff, Trans World, United, Northwest Orient, Eastern, Northeast, Aerolineas Argentinas, Ecuatoriana, Faucett Peru, Air Canada and many others), the American built Douglas DC-9 twin-jet ( Served in Miami most notably by Eastern and Delta as well as Trans World, Air Canada and Northeast) and the British built BAC 1-11 twin jet (Served in Miami by Braniff, Bahamasair and a host of carriers from the Caribbean and Latin America).

The early 1960's were a time of exciting transition at Miami International Airport. The world of the piston airliner was becoming a dinosaur. A fast paced "go-go" jet age was emerging in Miami, furthering its prominence as one of America's most happening places.

Sturgeon Aviation Cessna poses proudly in front of a Pan American Boeing 707 jet at Miami International Airport in the early 1960's. No other aircraft defined the beginning of America's jet-age, its global superiority and its technological advancement better than the Pan American Boeing 707. The Pan American Boeing 707 was featured in countless early 1960's movies and is one of the aircraft most commonly seen deplaning the Beatles at their many worldwide venues in the early to mid 1960's. Sturgeon Aviation appears to have operated commuter or charter flights from Marathon in the Florida Keys to Miami.

The tail of a Pan American Boeing 707 jet seen in front of the 20th Street terminal, ground control tower and hotel at Miami International Airport in the early 1960's. One of the most series of news reels of the Pan American Boeing 707 fan-jet was that of ship N704PA, Clipper Defiance, that carried The Beatles from London to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport on February 7, 1964 for their American debut. After deplaning they are seen in their first American press conference at a Pan American guest lounge at New York's JFK. On Tuesday February 13, 1964, the Fab Four are seen in this video by WQAM deplaning at Miami International Airport on a National Airlines DC-8 fan jet from New York. 7,000 screaming fans were at the airport to greet them (see Don Boyd's web page about this). On February 16, 1964 the Beatles were recorded live at Miami Beach's Deauville Hotel for their second appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

A National Airlines Boeing 727 tri-jet is seen taxiing in front of the 20th Street terminal, ground control tower and hotel at Miami International Airport in the early to mid 1960's. My half brother, Preston Patton Pender II piloted National Airlines Boeing 727-200's from 1969 until his death in 1973. He was based in Miami, and along with his family, first lived in Perrine, then in the newly Coral Springs area. In 1964 National became the first American carrier to offer an all jet-powered fleet of aircraft, initially limited to the Douglas DC-8 fan jet and Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprop. By the late 1960's, the airline updated its corporate logo and fleet livery with the yellow and orange "Sun King". In 1970 the carrier became the third U.S. carrier to offer non-stop daily round trips from Miami to London, first using Douglas DC-8 Super 61's, then Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

Stewardesses for National Airlines are seen walking the Miami International Airport tarmac in the early-to-mid-1960's with the tails of a Boeing 727 (left) and Douglas DC-8 (right) shown in the background. Although both Pan American and Eastern also had a base of operations at MIA, the airline that most American's perceived as being Florida's own was National as it began in St. Petersburg in 1934 and was limited mainly to Florida and the Gulf Coast until 1944. This You Tube link features a mid 1960's ad about National Airlines "Miami Go-Go Fares". The adorable blond "stew" winking in the ad was actress Andrea Dromm who played baby sitter Alison Palmer in the 1966 comedy "The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming." She also played Yeoman Smith in the 1966 original Star Trek episode "Where No Man has Gone Before", and played Jill Parson's in the 1967 movie "Come Spy With Me". Some credit her with co-hosting with John Bartholomew Tucker with the 1967-68 season ABC TV day time game show, "Treasure Isle" that was filmed at Palm Beach Shores, Florida

A look inside the expansive 20th Street terminal at MIA adjacent to the Eastern Airlines ticket counter (featured in the 1964 Schlockarama feature movie "Honeymoon of Horror"). There are some great shots of Eastern Airlines action circa 1965 at Miami International Airport in this You Tube video featuring the fleet's newly painted "Hockey Stick" logo on its Douglas DC-8's, Boeing 720's, Boeing 727's and Lockheed L-188 Electras.

One of my favorite Miami International Airport images of a sorts from "Miami Mike" Hiscano is this composite of match book covers from some of the motels adjacent to MIA that could be found along LeJeune Road and N.W. 36th Street from the piston era all the way up to the late 1990's, including The Airliner Motel (been there),The Miami Skyways Motel, the Airliner Motel, Miami Airport Inn, the Miami International Airport Hotel, Airport Roof Restaurant (been there, too) and even one for the Terminal Newsstand.

Time has taken its toll on the magic that was once Miami International Airport from the late 1940's to the mid-1960's. Airline deregulation, bankruptcies, mergers, global and domestic terrorism, corporate raiders, labor strife, rising fuel and operational costs, diminishing of customer service and the public's jaded acceptance of the everyday flight experience of this new millennium have all contributed to the degradation and basic collapse of the airline industry, particularly in Miami, since that time. But as long as there are photographs such as those from "Miami Mike" Hiscano's collection, and those left alive who remember it well, Miami international Airport in its Golden Years will always be fondly remembered.

For more information on Miami International Airport, click to PCR #299, #300, and #301.

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.