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Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sat Aug 10, 2002 1:19 pm

I have never posted on this particular forum before and I am bored so I am going to take a trip down memory lane. I have really good memories of this trip as it was officially the last time I flew with "The Great Silver Fleet." My day began in Cumberland, MD at 6am on a corporate SAAB 340 operated by Goodyear Tires. My dad had a trip to Miami with the company and my mom and I were to meet him there so we could all visit my grandparents in Florida. Eastern offered a very affordable rate, so we bought round trip tickets from PIT to MIA. Anyway, we flew on the corporate SAAB from Cumberland to PIT and then transferred from the BizJet area in Pittsburgh over to the old passenger terminal. Even though I had flown Eastern several times, I remember not wanting to fly them that particular day because of their past labor disputes and maintenance problems. I was even more upset when I saw how much USAir had spent decorating their areas for the holidays and then seeing how worn Eastern's looked in comparison. Even more disturbing was seeing the proud faces of the USAir employees walking around in crisp navy uniforms. Then I would glance at the Eastern people. They were decked out in an old fashioned "get up", complete with a "sailor style" hat for women. Judging from the looks of it, I got the impression that Eastern could not afford new uniforms, so they had to pull old ones from the 60's out of the attic. This strange comparison of Eastern with USAir continued up to the time we arrived at the Eastern gate. There sat the plane that was to carry us on our first leg of the trip. A tired-looking DC-9 with the familiar two-tone blue stripes covering a "once silver" fuselage would be our wings to ATL. I say "once silver" because the aluminum was now turning a greasy black color, back toward the engines. Adding insult to injury, the USAir fleet sitting around us was bright and shiny in fresh red, blue, and white paint. "If only we could ride USAir", I thought. My daydream was interuppted when they announced, "boarding all rows to Atlanta". They called all rows at once because there were only about 12 of us riding to Atlanta on the DC-9. I recall actually hoping no one would see me board this airplane.

Standing in the jetway and facing the open aircraft door, I noticed the inside siding of the aircraft door was dark brown. I instantly remembered how every Eastern plane I had ridden on had that dark brown color inside the door. It sticks in my mind today because I have not seen anything like that since. This little detail reminded me of earlier rides on Eastern I had taken as a child to places like Disney World and the Florida beaches. The DC=9 interior was still the brown and orange vertical pinstripe motif of the 80's. The seats toward the front had tan in them, and as you walked toward the back the tan faded into burnt orange. The flight attendants averaged about 60 years of age. They did not crack a smile and looking back I can see why. They probably had lots of seniority and knew it would all be coming to an end soon. I was only 14 at the time.....not really old enough to feel their pain. Taxi and take-off was normal. From PIT to ATL we were served scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash browns. After a smooth landing in ATL, we deplaned. I remember the Captain standing in the doorway thanking us personally. Once inside the terminal, we took the "Eastern Shortcut" to our connecting gate to MIA. I was starting to feel better about flying Eastern. The Eastern facilities in ATL were being renovated with new ticket counters and purple carpet. I could tell that in a few short months, they would look far better than the USAir operation in PIT. Plus, the Eastern uniforms were starting to grow on me. They made me feel nostalgic, like I was flying back in the days of Clipper Ships and Connies. I even noticed that when several Eastern employees were together, they REALLY stood out. My excitement level peaked when I saw that a bright shiny L-1011 awaited us for our trip to MIA. I wrote down the tail number....N308EA. The gate area did not seem too busy so I figured I would have the whole bird to myself. However, once inside, the craft quickly filled up to the point where there was not one empty seat. Capt. Russel gave us a fond "Welcome Aboard" and told us the "New" Eastern was going to turn around into "something great." Then he told us that there were 20 other aircraft out ahead of us on the taxiway so we could expect a short delay. As we backed away from the gate, the FA's gave a live demonstration of the safety equipment, rather than using the video screens. Again most of them were around 60 years of age, but one was about 25. To this day I remember how pretty she was. Blond, thin, and that old-fashioned hat made her look like a 60's movie star. It was like flying in the "Golden Age" of air travel; back in the days when Eastern was one of the "Big Four". After takeoff, Capt. Russel told us our route would take us "over the western side of Florida, down past Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fort Myers, etc. etc." Everyone laughed at the "etc. etc." part. For such a short hop we were were served a full lunch consisting of a large chocolate chip cookie, turkey served on a kaiser roll, chicken salad on a bed of lettuce, and chocolate candy that said "Happy Thanksgiving Day" on the wrapper. I wonder if I would get that sort of food today on the ATL-MIA route? As we approached MIA, Capt. Russel turned the controls over to his FO and again thanked us for traveling with Eastern. After a smooth touchdown we pulled into the gate. My L-1011 trip was over. It's funny, but disembarking I realized my mood had changed from the morning. I was so glad I got to fly Eastern instead of USAir. To this day I am ashamed I wanted to give up on Eastern and jump on one of USAir's shiny new planes.

Keep this in mind the next time you think you are about to experience something horrible. It may turn out to be the most memorable experience ever. I am living proof, as I can still remember this trip in detail after so many years. Never again will I judge a book by its cover. Next year I will write about my return trip to PIT on Eastern.
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sat Aug 10, 2002 10:45 pm

Thanks for posting this,it's great to see an Eastern post.I never managed to fly them,but always loved their c/s.

By the time I started going to the US for spotting trips EA had gone under.I do remember several years ago LAS had 4 former EA 752's in storage,it was great to see them in the Las Vegas sun,but sad as the airline was no more.


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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sun Aug 11, 2002 1:14 am

Excellent report, how did you get home?
DC-10's Forever
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sun Aug 11, 2002 6:35 am

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Yur description of the ATL terminal reminds me of the then Eastern Terminal at SJU (Terminal B), I remembered when they opened the terminal (a few months before the airline went under) all the nice purple carpeting (which is still there today), the brand new ticket counters and all the happy employees with hopes that their airline would make it . How I wish I would have the opportunity to at least fly them once they were a great airline.
Fly the Flag!!!!
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sun Aug 11, 2002 1:20 pm

First of all it is good to see someone from Cumberland on here. I am from Keyser. One of my best flights was on Eastern in there last year. I got to fly in first class on a flight from DCA to Atlanta. Add to that the cockpit door was broken so I could watch the pilots the whole way, and there was not a cloud in the sky at all.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sun Aug 11, 2002 2:47 pm

The planes may have been worn (except the 757s) but the uniforms were brand new at that time. It was a new retro style that looked very nice when worn with the hat and scarves. I still have mine. EA may be gone but no other airline flying can match their style.
PRINAIR - Puerto Rico International Airlines
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Sun Aug 11, 2002 8:31 pm

I'm still fond of Eastern because it was the first American carrier I flew , in 1988, actually the leg was ATL-MIA ! It was then an "unknown" airline for me , I've never heard of it before.
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Mon Aug 12, 2002 1:06 am

Great report! I've never heard about the service on Eastern & now I have an idea. I never thought you'd get a meal on a flight like PIT-ATL- I know CMH-ATL is an hour, but with 12 people on the plane, I guess they could get it to everybody.

That's pretty cool that you got a full lunch on the ATL-MIA leg. I've gone MIA-ATL on Delta (Dec. 1997) & we didn't get anything to eat on that flight.

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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Mon Aug 12, 2002 8:10 am

Eastern is definitely my favorite of the defunct US airlines. I'd been flying EA since I was 6 months, primarily on trips between ORD and SJU. My most memorable and last Eastern trip was in the winter of 1986, however it wasn't a very good experience. My flight was on an A300 ORD-MIA-SJU. The ORD-MIA leg was great, with a nice breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs and sausage. We arrived at MIA and parked at the gate and stayed inside the plane awaiting the turnaround to SJU. Moments later the captain came on the PA and advised us that there was a problem with the brakes and there would be a delay. About 30 minutes later he told us they had no choice but to change aircraft as the one we were on would have to be taken out of service. So we walk into the terminal and wait for what seems forever (I was 8 at the time so patience wasn't one of my virtues at that young age). We then board the aircraft to find that there was no air conditioning. Mind you we were all dressed for winter in Chicago, so we were sweating our butts off in that plane while it sat there in 80 degree Miami weather. My mom asked one of the FA's for something to drink and the attended rudely told her that the aircraft had not been catered yet and they had nothing to serve. Probably one of those bitter senior FA's Eastern seemed to have so much of. Eventually the aircraft was readied and we were off to SJU, albeit a couple of hours late. Dinner was served on MIA-SJU leg but I can't remember what that was.

On the way back to Chicago, we got to the airport to find that 2 of our 4 reservations were missing. Eventually the problem was fixed but it caused us to miss our flight and have to wait a while for the next flight. This was great for me as I just sat there watching dozens of Eastern and American planes thunder down Runway 8. This is when I fell in love with aviation. I'd never payed much attention to planes, but after this day I couldn't get enough of them. We eventually boarded another A300 and were off to ORD, this time non-stop. I dont remember much about this flight other than being sat in the middle seats between the aisles and watching some dumb comedy movie.

In 1989 we flew American from MCO to SJU and at this time there was a work stoppage at EA (which is why we flew AA that time), so there were two 727's parked at their gates. I remember looking at them and feeling sorry for Eastern as it was such a great airline. I could have never imagined that two years later they'd go under.

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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 19

Tue Aug 13, 2002 1:09 pm

I've flown on Eastern more times than i can count. Good thing you went on Eastern instead of UScare. I've been on Eastern aircraft from their DC-8-21, 61s, 727, L1011s, A300s , Dc-9-30s, -50s, 747s and Electras.
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Fri Aug 16, 2002 2:29 am

I enjoyed reading your report. The juxtaposition of Eastern and USAirways is interesting now, given what a shambles the latter has become. Remember when Eastern called itself "The Wings of Man"? And I also rerember, near the end, when that thief Martin Shagrue was put in charge of the dying Eastern. They ran T.V. commercials with a "100 Days" them (as if they thought thay could save the company in that time). It was a countdown to a sad demise.
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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Tue Aug 20, 2002 4:06 am

This is a wonderful trip report. Thanks for describing the interiors. Wonderful

::CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP:: I cannot wait to read the return trip... Especially one year  Big grin.

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RE: Last Trip On Eastern Airlines: November 31, 1990

Thu Aug 22, 2002 9:53 pm

Great report! My last Eastern trip was when they were on strike and they were still operating the Shuttle. They were advertising that for one day Shuttle fares would be the same as they were when the Shuttle first started in 1961, which I think was $15. So I decided to go. It was on 3/12/89. Since so many employees were on strike, they had to use whatever aircraft the remaining employees were able to fly. I saw an L-1011 being used on the LGA to BOS route. I flew DCA-LGA-DCA. Going I had a Boeing 757, N524EA. It seemed strange to be flying a 757 on the Shuttle. Flight attendants were supervisory personnel without uniforms. but with ID badges on their shirts. The captain came on and told us all about the aircraft we were flying on and about our route. The return was on a B727-225, N8841E. After that I never flew Eastern again, but my first few Trump Shuttle flights still had full Eastern interiors, including the Eastern logo in red and black on the forward and rear bulkheads.

My last mainline Eastern flight was on 1/15/89 on B727-25 N8143N from Key West to Miami. As short as the full flight was, everybody was served a beverage.

Thanks, Jason, for your memories of a great airline. They had to earn their wings every day!

Bob Bradley
Richmond, VA
Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B

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