National Airlines (1934–1980)

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This article is about one of the airlines that have shared this name. For other uses of the name, see National Airlines (disambiguation). For 'national airlines', see Flag carrier.
National Airlines
Founded 1934
Ceased operations 1980
(acquired by Pan Am)
Hubs Miami International Airport
Focus cities Jacksonville International Airport
New York International Airport
New Orleans Moisant Field
Tampa International Airport
Headquarters Miami-Dade County, Florida
Key people George T. Baker
(founder, CEO 1934-1962)
Louis "Bud" Maytag
(CEO 1962-1980)

National Airlines was a United States airline that operated from 1934 to 1980.[1] For most of its existence the company was headquartered at Miami International Airport, Florida.[2] At its height, National Airlines had a network of "Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast" flights, linking Florida and the Gulf Coast with cities along the East Coast and large cities on the West Coast.[3] From 1970 to 1978 National, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) and Trans World Airlines (TWA) were the only U.S. airlines that operated scheduled passenger flights to Europe.[4]


The original logo of National Airlines, used from the 1930s[5] to the early 1960s.[6]


National Airlines was founded by George T. Baker in 1934, originally being headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida and based at the city's Albert Whitted Airport.[7] On 15 October of that year, revenue flights were launched, initially transporting passengers and mail from St. Petersburg to a few destinations within Florida using a fleet of two Ryan ST monoplanes.[7][8] In 1935, the Stinson Trimotor was introduced with National Airlines,[9] which were soon replaced by the Lockheed Model 10 Electra.[5] In 1939, the company headquarters were moved to Jacksonville.[7] By the end of the decade, the National Airlines network spanned from Miami to New Orleans,[10] on what it called the Buccaneer Route.[4]


Revenue passenger miles for years ending 30 June:[11]

  • 1936: 249,799
  • 1938: 653,688
  • 1939: 1,340,050
  • 1940: 3,465,316
  • 1941: 7,264,322
  • 1946: 108,760,267

In 1940 the Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar became the backbone of National's fleet.[12] National was awarded rights from Florida to New York City and other cities along the East Coast in 1944, with flights starting in 1945.[13] In 1946 National got approval to fly to Havana, Cuba, which coincided with the introduction of the Douglas DC-4.[7] The DC-4 allowed non-stop flights between Miami and New York[14] that started on February 14, 1946. Later that year National relocated its headquarters to Miami International Airport; a maintenance base opened at Miami in 1950.[7][15]

The Douglas DC-6, National's first pressurized airliner, began flights on July 1, 1947[7] and reduced New York to Miami flight time from five to four hours.[7] Flights on the DC-6 were marketed as Star Service.[4] National ran the Piggy Bank Vacations campaign, promoting low-fare flights to Florida during the off-peak summer season.[16]


This decade saw the introduction of the Convair 340/440, the Douglas DC-7,[16] and the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.[17] On 10 December 1958 National became the first airline to operate domestic jet flights, using a Boeing 707 leased from Pan American World Airways between Miami and New York.[7] In 1959 the Lockheed L-188 Electra was introduced into the fleet as another new type for National and was the only turboprop aircraft type ever operated by the airline.[18] At the end of the decade Houston and Boston were the ends of the network with heavy emphasis on service between Florida and the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast.[17]


With the award of traffic rights on the southern transcontinental route on March 11, 1961 National Airlines gained access to California and began operating new Douglas DC-8 jetliners between Florida and Los Angeles and San Francisco with a number of flights making intermediate stops in Houston and/or New Orleans[7][19] (previously, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and National had together operated Douglas DC-6 and DC-7 propliner aircraft with interchange through-service between Miami and California).[16] In March 1962, National was operating only one round trip transcontinental nonstop service: National flight numbers 34 and 35 between Miami and Los Angeles which were both flown with DC-8 jets.[20] According to the front cover of its system timetable at the time, National billed itself as the "Airline of the Stars". Concerning international destinations in Central and South America, a cooperation involving interchange flights with Pan Am was set up.[6]

Also during the early 1960s, National inaugurated new service with the Lockheed Electra propjet to Las Vegas and San Diego.[19] Eastbound coast to coast routes flown with the Electra at this time included San Diego-Los Angeles-Houston-New Orleans-Miami and San Francisco-Las Vegas-Houston-New Orleans-Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville.[19] National was also operating other long, multistop routings with the Electra as this time such as Boston-New York City-Jacksonville-Orlando-Tampa-New Orleans-Houston-Las Vegas-San Francisco. National flight number 223 departed Boston at 7:30am and arrived in San Francisco at 8:42pm with this latter routing being flown on a daily basis.[19] Total travel time for this flight was 16 hours and 12 minutes.

In 1962 Louis Bergman "Bud" Maytag, Jr. (grandson of Maytag Corporation founder Frederick Louis Maytag I), who had previously led Frontier Airlines[21] bought a majority share in National Airlines and replaced George T. Baker as CEO.[7] In 1960, the airline modernized its fleet with new Douglas DC-8 jetliners which were then followed by ten new Boeing 727-100 trijets,[13] the first of which was delivered in 1964. After the retirement of the Electras in 1968, National became an all-jet airline with the DC-8 and 727.[7] The Douglas DC-8 fleet included the stretched Super DC-8-61 which was the largest aircraft type operated by the airline until the introduction of new wide body jetliners such as the Boeing 747 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10. In 1969, National was operating the Super DC-8 nonstop between Miami and New York JFK airport and also nonstop between Miami and Los Angeles with these flights having specific names such as "The Royal Biscayne", "The Royal Dolphin", "The Gotham" and the "The Manhattan" between Miami and New York, and "The Californian" and "The Caribbean" between Miami and Los Angeles.[22]

On July 26, 1969 the Atlanta-San Francisco nonstop route was awarded to National and service began on October 1, 1969. It was National's only route out of Atlanta.


Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles (scheduled flights only, domestic and international)[23][full citation needed]
Year Pax-Miles
1951 432
1955 905
1960 1041
1965 2663
1970 2643
1975 3865

A $17 million IBM electronic computer reservation system, called Res-A-Vision, was completed and put into operation in 1970.

On 16 June 1970 National Airlines reintroduced international flights, when their Miami-London route opened (flights to Cuba were suspended in 1961 due to the Cuban Revolution).[13] With the London route, they became the third U.S. transatlantic passenger carrier, after Pan Am and TWA.

In October, the Boeing 747-100 jumbo jet, at that time the largest commercial airliner, entered service with National on the Miami-New York nonstop route on October 1, 1970 and the Miami-Los Angeles transcontinental nonstop route on October 25, 1970.[7] National sold its 747s in May 1976. Also in 1970, National Airlines opened their own terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which was dubbed the Sundrome.[24]

Having placed an order for ten aircraft back in 1969,[13] the wide body McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 was put in service on the Miami-New York route on December 15, 1971.[7] A 1971 publicity campaign designed by F. William Free promoting National's flight attendants was criticized by the National Organization for Women as being sexist due to the slogan "I'm Cheryl. Fly me.", or similar.[25][26] In May 1973, the front cover of the airline's system timetable proudly proclaimed, "National has daily nonstop 747s from Miami to London".[27] By early 1976, the airline was operating scheduled wide body DC-10 service to Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New Orleans (MSY), Orlando (MCO), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Tampa (TPA), West Palm Beach (PBI) and all three airports in the New York City area: John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR).[28] With the advent of the intercontinental McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30, National Airlines then expanded their European network by adding Paris (inaugurated on 22 June 1977), as well as Frankfurt, Amsterdam (both in 1978)[7] and Zurich (in 1979).[8] National began the very first nonstop flights from New Orleans to Europe (to Amsterdam) on July 2, 1978. National then began nonstop New York Kennedy (JFK)-Amsterdam flights on December 13, 1978, taking the route over from Pan Am.

In the late 1970s, several airlines tried to take over National Airlines, who had become a major player in the southern transcontinental and Florida-East Coast airline markets.[29] In 1978, Texas International Airlines (which was led by Frank Lorenzo at that time) acquired 24.6 percent of the shares,[1] but did not succeed in the subsequent tender offer takeover bid. A similar attempt was made by Eastern Air Lines in 1979.[1] At the same time, the shares held by Texas International were sold to Pan American World Airways, who emerged as a white knight and succeeded in accumulating a controlling majority. On 7 January 1980, the acquisition was completed,[1] with Pan Am taking over the National Airlines fleet and route network.

Route network[edit]

National McDonnell Douglas DC-10 at Heathrow in 1974

National Airlines operated scheduled flights to the following U.S. cities:

Location State Airport(s) Began Ended Notes
Mobile Alabama Mobile Municipal Airport
Los Angeles California Los Angeles International Airport
San Diego California San Diego International Airport
San Francisco California San Francisco International Airport
San Jose California San Jose International Airport
Daytona Beach Florida Daytona Beach Airport
Fort Lauderdale Florida Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport
Fort Myers Florida Page Field
Jacksonville Florida Jacksonville Municipal Airport
focus city
Key West Florida Key West International Airport
ca. 1943[32]
ca. 1970[33]
Lakeland Florida Lakeland Municipal Airport (Drane Field)
Marathon Florida Florida Keys Marathon Airport
Marianna Florida Marianna Municipal Airport
Melbourne Florida Melbourne Airport
Miami Florida Miami Municipal Airport
Miami International Airport
main base
Orlando Florida Orlando Municipal Airport
Orlando International Airport
Palm Beach Florida Morrison Field
ca. 1944[32]
Panama City Florida Panama City-Bay County Airport
Pensacola Florida Pensacola Municipal Airport
Sarasota Florida Sarasota-Brandenton Airport
St. Petersburg Florida Albert Whitted Airport
St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport
Tallahassee Florida Tallahassee Municipal Airport
Tampa Florida Davis Islands Airport
Tampa International Airport
focus city
Atlanta Georgia William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport
Savannah Georgia Savannah Airport
Valdosta Georgia Valdosta Regional Airport
New Orleans Louisiana Shushan Airport
New Orleans International Airport
focus city
Baltimore Maryland Friendship Airport
1950 (Harbor Field 1948)[15]
Boston Massachusetts Logan International Airport
Gulfport Mississippi Gulfport-Biloxi Airport
Las Vegas Nevada McCarran International Airport
Newark New Jersey Newark Airport
New York City New York Idlewild/Kennedy Airport
focus city
New York City New York LaGuardia Airport
start 1944, end 1947
resume 1966[13][32]
Fayetteville North Carolina Fayetteville Municipal Airport
New Bern North Carolina Simmons-Nott Airport
Wilmington North Carolina Bluethenthal Field
Philadelphia Pennsylvania Philadelphia International Airport
Providence Rhode Island T. F. Green Airport
Charleston South Carolina Charleston Airport
Houston Texas William P. Hobby Airport
followed by Houston Intercontinental Airport
Newport News Virginia Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
Norfolk Virginia Norfolk Airport
Richmond Virginia Richmond International Airport
Seattle Washington Seattle–Tacoma International Airport
April 1, 1979[4]
Washington, D.C. Washington National Airport

National also operated scheduled flights to the following destinations in Europe and the Caribbean:

Location Country Airport Commenced Ceased
Havana Cuba José Martí International Airport
Paris France Orly Airport
June 22, 1977[7][33]
Amsterdam Netherlands Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
May 4, 1978[7][33]
San Juan Puerto Rico Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
April 1, 1979[7][35]
Zurich Switzerland Zurich Airport
July 22, 1979[8]
London United Kingdom London Heathrow Airport
June 16, 1970[7][33]
Frankfurt West Germany Frankfurt Airport
May 1, 1978[7][33]


A Boeing 727 in the livery of National Airlines landing at Miami International Airport (1980). The airline had already been taken over by Pan Am.

When National Airlines was acquired by Pan Am in 1980, the fleet consisted of forty-three (43) Boeing 727 aircraft (nineteen (19) of the original series 100 model and twenty-four (24) of the stretched series 200 variant), as well as sixteen (16) McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliners (eleven (11) of the series 10 model used in domestic service and five (5) of the intercontinental series 30 model used for service to Europe).[36]

Over the years, National owned the following aircraft types:[1]

Aircraft Introduced Retired
Boeing 727 (includes B727-100 and stretched B727-200)
Boeing 747-100
Convair CV-340/440[17]
Curtiss C-46 Commando
Douglas DC-2
Douglas DC-4
Douglas DC-6
Douglas DC-7
Douglas DC-8 (includes stretched Super DC-8-61)
Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar[13]
Lockheed L-188 Electra
Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation
Lockheed Model 10 Electra[5]
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 (includes DC-10-10 and DC-10-30)
Ryan ST[7]
Stinson Trimotor[9]

Sun King Club[edit]


  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Houston
  • Miami
  • Jacksonville
  • Los Angeles
  • New Orleans
  • New York (Kennedy)
  • New York (LaGuardia)
  • Newark
  • Orlando
  • San Francisco
  • Tampa
  • Washington (National)
  • West Palm Beach


  • Amsterdam
  • Frankfurt
  • London (Heathrow)
  • Paris (Orly)

Incidents and accidents[edit]


  • On October 5, 1945 Flight 16, a Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar (registered NC18199) crashed into a lake near Lakeland, Florida at 01:05 local time. The scheduled passenger flight had originated in Tampa, when the pilots encountered technical problems during approach of Lakeland Airport, which led to a failed go-around attempt. Of the 15 people on board, two passengers died.[39]
  • On January 14, 1951, 6 of the 28 passengers on board Flight 83 died when the aircraft, a Douglas DC-4 (registered N74685) overshot the runway and crashed into a ditch at Philadelphia International Airport. The pilots of the flight from New York City had tried to land the aircraft too far down the runway, instead of aborting the approach.[40] Frankie Housley, the only stewardess, also lost her life. She has been regarded as a hero, as she had returned to the burning wreckage to lead passengers into safety.[41]
  • On February 11, 1952, a National Airlines Douglas DC-6 (registered N90891) crashed shortly after take-off from Newark Airport due to a failing propeller, which caused the pilots to lose control of the aircraft. Of the 59 passengers that had been on this Flight 101 to Miami, 26 died, as well as three of the four crew members. Furthermore, there were four ground casualties.[42]
  • With 46 fatalities (5 crew and 41 passengers, among them Billy DeBeck's widow), the disaster of Flight 470 on February 14, 1953 marks the worst accident in the history of National Airlines. The aircraft, a DC-6 registered N90893, crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 20 mi (32 km) off Mobile Point en route a flight from Tampa to New Orleans, after having encountered severe turbulences.
  • On November 16, 1959 at 00:55 local time, another National Airlines aircraft, a Douglas DC-7 (registered N4891C) crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, the cause of which could not be determined. The 36 passengers and 6 crew that had been on Flight 967 from Tampa to New Orleans died in the accident 35.6 mi (57.3 km) off the coast of Pilottown, Louisiana.[43]
  • On January 6, 1960, a bomb exploded on board the DC-6 registered N8225H en route Flight 2511 from New York to Miami. In the subsequent crash of the aircraft near Bolivia, North Carolina, all 29 passengers and five crew died.[44]
  • On November 3, 1973, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 (registered N60NA) suffered an uncontained engine failure during Flight 27 from Houston to Las Vegas. Pieces of the turbine penetrated the fuselage, creating a hole in the passenger cabin. One passenger was blown outside and died.[45]
The wreckage of Flight 193 (1978).
  • On May 8, 1978 at 21:20 local time, Flight 193 went down into Escambia Bay near Pensacola, in 12 ft (3.7 m) deep water. Of the 52 passengers on board the Boeing 727 registered N4744, three lost their lives. The pilots had attempted to land the aircraft at Pensacola Bay Airport.[46]


  • On September 13, 1945, a National Airlines Lockheed Lodestar (registered NC33349) overshot the runway at Peter O. Knight Airport near Tampa in rainy weather and came to a rest in the water of the Tampa Bay. There were eleven passengers and three crew members on board the scheduled flight from Miami.[47]
  • On October 11, 1945, another Lodestar (NC15555) was involved in a hull-loss accident. The pilots of Flight 23 from Jacksonville to Miami with 14 passengers on board experienced an engine fire and attempted an emergency landing at Melbourne Airport. The approach was missed, though, and the pilots did not manage to pull the aircraft up again, so that it hit the ground.[48]
  • On October 2, 1950, a cargo-configured Curtiss C-46 Commando (registered N1661M) was substantially damaged in a belly-up landing at Washington National Airport.[49]
  • On January 10, 1955 at 09:38, Flight 1 with ten passengers and three crew veered off the runway during a take-off attempt at Sr. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. The copilot had lost control of the Lockheed Lodestar (registered N33369) that had been bound for Sarasota.[50]
  • On November 15, 1961 at 17:10, National Airlines Flight 429 (a DC-6 registered N8228H) collided with Northeast Airlines Flight 120 (a Vickers Viscount) on the ground at Logan International Airport. The pilots of the National aircraft with 25 passengers on board had commenced with the take-off run without having been cleared to do so, hitting the landing Northeast plane.[51]


Between 1961 and 1980, 22 (attempted) hijackings on board National Airlines occurred, which involved the aircraft being demanded to be flown to Cuba. In 1969 alone, there were nine such occurrences.[52] The reasons of these events can be attributed to the tense Cuba–United States relations at that time, and the strong focus of National Airlines on the southeastern United States. See List of Cuba – United States aircraft hijackings for more information.

There were several other criminal acts involving National Airlines aircraft:

  • On March 8, 1971, a hijacker on board Flight 745, a Boeing 727 with 46 occupants en route from Mobile to New Orleans, demanded the aircraft be flown to Canada instead.[53]
  • On July 12, 1972, Michael Stanley Green and Ethiopian national Lulseged Tesfa hijacked National Airlines Flight 496 (a Boeing 727) while en route to New York from Philadelphia.[54]
  • On March 30, 1974, following a hostage taking in Sarasota, the perpetrator tried to hijack a parked National Airlines 727 at Sarasota-Brandenton Airport, but was prevented from doing so by a flight engineer.[55] A similar hijacking attempt happened on 3 January 1975 at Pensacola Airport.[56]


  1. ^ a b c d e Information about National Airlines at the Aero Transport Data Bank
  2. ^ "Walkout by 3,500 Cancels All Flights Of National Airlines." The New York Times. Sunday February 1, 1970. Page 58. Retrieved on September 24, 2009. "Pickets marched at National's headquarters at Miami International Airport"
  3. ^ a b c d National Airlines 1964 timetable, at
  4. ^ a b c d Image collection of National Airlines timetables, at
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 1937 National Airlines timetable, at
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 1962 National Airlines timetable, at
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai National Airlines history, at, the Organization of Former Stewardesses and Flight Attendants with the Original National Airlines.
  8. ^ a b c d Photos of National Airlines timetables and route maps, at
  9. ^ a b NAL: The 1930s, at, the Organization of Former Stewardesses and Flight Attendants with the Original National Airlines.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g National Airlines 1938 timetable, at
  11. ^ American Aviation 1 Sept 1946 p19
  12. ^ a b NAL: The 1940s, at, the Organization of Former Stewardesses and Flight Attendants with the Original National Airlines.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Airline to the playgrounds of the world. The Boeing Magazine, January 1964 [1][2][3]
  14. ^ a b c d National Airlines 1947 timetable, at
  15. ^ a b c d e National Airlines 1952 timetable, at
  16. ^ a b c National Airlines 1954 timetable, at
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h National Airlines 1958 timetable, at
  18. ^ a b Image of National Airlines 1959 advert, at
  19. ^ a b c d, March 2, 1962 National Airlines system timetable
  20. ^, Mar. 2, 1962 National Airlines system timetable
  21. ^ "Lewis Maytag Jr., Heir And National Airlines Chief". 
  22. ^, July 15, 1969 National Airlines system timetable, Miami-New York and Miami-Los Angeles flight schedules
  23. ^ Handbook of Airline Statistics (biannual CAB publication)
  24. ^ Information about the Sundrome by its architects, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
  25. ^ NOW criticism of the National Airlines "Fly Me" campaign
  26. ^ Stuart Lavietes (2003-01-08). "F. William Free, 74, Ad Man Behind 'Fly Me'". The New York Times. 
  27. ^, May 1, 1973 National Airlines system timetable front cover
  28. ^ Feb. 1, 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG), National Airlines flight schedules for EWR, IAH, JFK, LAS, LAX, LGA, MIA, MSY, MCO, PBI, SAN, SFO and TPA.
  29. ^ Christian, J. Scott, former Continental employee and manager, Bring Songs to the Sky: Recollections of Continental Airlines, 1970-1986, Quadran Press, 1998.
  30. ^ a b c National Airlines 1967 timetable, at
  31. ^ National Airlines 1941 timetable, at
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i National Airlines 1945 timetable, at
  33. ^ a b c d e National Airlines 1978 routemap, at
  34. ^ National Airlines 1969 timetable, at
  35. ^ National Airlines 1979 timetable and routemap, at
  36. ^ a b "World Airline Directory". Flight International. July 26, 1980. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  37. ^ Roach, John; Eastwood, Tony (1992). Jet Airliner Production List. West Drayton, England: The Aviation Hobby Shop. ISBN 0-907178-43-X. 
  38. ^ a b c d e f National Airlines fleet list at
  39. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 16 at the Aviation Safety Network>
  40. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 83 at the Aviation Safety Network
  41. ^ "Take Your Time". Time. Jan 22, 1951. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  42. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 101 at the Aviation Safety Network
  43. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 967 at the Aviation Safety Network
  44. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 2511 at the Aviation Safety Network
  45. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 27 at the Aviation Safety Network
  46. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 193 at the Aviation Safety Network
  47. ^ September 1945 National Airlines accident at the Aviation Safety Network
  48. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 23 at the Aviation Safety Network
  49. ^ 1950 landing accident at the Aviation Safety Network
  50. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 1 at the Aviation Safety Network
  51. ^ Accident report of National Airlines Flight 429 at the Aviation Safety Network
  52. ^ List of accidents and incidents involving National Airlines, at the Aviation Safety Network
  53. ^ Report of the hijacking of National Airlines Flight 745 at the Aviation Safety Network
  54. ^ 40 years later: The day a 727 landed at Lake Jackson, at
  55. ^ Report of the 1974 National Airlines hijacking at the Aviation Safety Network
  56. ^ Report of the 1975 National Airlines hijacking at the Aviation Safety Network


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  • The Clipper Heritage - Pan American World Airways 1927-1991 (2005). Pan American Historical Foundation. Retrieved April 2008.
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