The success of the 737 has been immense but at the time of its development it had a mountain to climb. It would be United Airlines, more than any other, that Boeing has to thank for getting the type past its rough early years to where it is today and the ‘Fat Little Ugly Fella’ i.e. FLUF certainly put in the hard yards over the years for United.
At the end of the 60s the age of the widebody was fast approaching and all the major US airlines were on a new equipment binge. The 747 was the first new widebody and everyone felt they had to have some or suffer the consequences of being left behind. In fact all the trunk airlines operated Jumbos (except for Northeast and Western) although, considering only Pan Am, Northwest and TWA had international routes, they mostly lacked sensible ways to utilise them. Eastern, unusually, went down a more considered path than everyone else but still ended up with 747s for a time.
Hawaiian Airlines was faced with the same range of challenges in the deregulated 1980s as other legacy carriers - increased competition, deflated prices and the loss of its protected status. It responded with an unprecedented expansion, hoping to open up Honolulu as a transit hub on the one hand and a major charter player on the other. The strategy was far from a success but the airline just about survived.
Eastern struggled through the deregulation era, even prior to the Lorenzo led Texas Air takeover, however one of the few bright spots for EAL was the acquisition of the new Boeing 757-200, which proved itself a fine acquisition to the fleet right up until the airline’s final closure. Even so, despite the need for the type the introduction of the 757s coincided with the period that marked the beginning of the end of the 'Great Silver Fleet'.
By the time the design of the new Boeing 757 was finalized in 1979 it was clear it would be a big improvement over the 727-200 Advanced and yet some commentators were under the impression that with both the 757 and 767 Boeing was effectively competing against itself as much as against the Airbus A310. Initially sales seemed to give this a grain of truth but eventually the 757 would find its time had come.
By the 1970s it had been years since the US majors had bought any foreign aircraft and the new Airbus consortium was struggling to sell its A300 to anybody, let alone the Americans. Eastern, cash-strapped and inefficient, needed a new aircraft and it was Frank Borman's airline that would give Airbus the opportunity that perhaps more than any allowed it to be taken seriously on the world stage.
Air Florida was, thanks to its President Ed Acker, one of the darlings of the first years of deregulation and exploded out of Florida with low fares and cheeky service in late 1978. Acker’s expansionist dreams would never be satisfied with just the USA and as well as trying to buy a selection of much larger airlines Air Florida also positioned itself for the long-haul. This is the story of their push across the Atlantic.
During its first 20 years of operation Ozark had fulfilled exactly the promise that the local service airlines had been created for. It had started and proved a wide range of feeder services and grown demand to the point that it could sustain not just prop-jets but pure jets as well. Even better it had done so profitably and begun to wean itself off of subsidy and pick-up longer routes that the trunk airlines no longer wanted. All in all it found itself in good position to grow into the 1970s and face the challenges of deregulation to come.
Ozark was St Louis's hometown airline and as with many of the local service airlines was a true pioneer of service for the regional customer. A well run and well equipped airline that proudly wore its three swallows for forty years. Its story started in 1943 when four local businessmen (two bus line operators and two attorneys) from the Ozark region of mid-west America came together to try and acquire one of the new licenses being offered by the CAB for feeder airline services.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: