At the end of the 60s the age of the widebody was fast approaching and all the major US airlines went on a new equipment binge. The 747 was the first new widebody and everyone had to have some or suffer the consequences of being left behind.
In the end the attempts to digest the new 747s along, with the oil crisis, was almost terminal for several of the majors. Unable to fill such a large aircraft they were forced to operate piano lounges, multiple bars and other ideas to fill up empty room. Eastern Air Lines however made a better decision than most.
They were alone amongst the Trunk airlines of the US when it allowed its initial four plane order for 747s to lapse and instead decided on the smaller Tristar for its entire widebody operations.
This was prudent and sensible as EA didn't have suitable routes for 747s anyway. Nonetheless delays to the Tristar programme left Eastern in a weak position against American, National and Delta and so it leased three 747s from Pan Am to cover and operate the New York – Miami and New York – San Juan routes.
They operated from November 1970-May 1972, by which time the L1011s were on stream, and wore two schemes - a PA hybrid and an almost complete New Mark Hockeystick.
The three ships were N731PA, N735PA and N737PA. All three were returned to Pan Am. During her subsequent PA career N737PA was named Clipper Red Jacket and Clipper Ocean Herald . N735PA operated as ‘Clipper Spark of the Ocean’ until Pan Am’s demise. In 1992 she was converted to a freighter and became VR-HKB with Air Hong Kong. She joined Polar Air Cargo in 1993 but was stored from 1995.
Eastern itself returned to the 747 in the late 70s when they nearly bought a pair of Qantas aircraft for Hawaii and Gatwick services. One was painted but the deal fell through and they were never operated.
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: