For part 1 of this story see: Eastern's Electras Pt1: Props Not Pure Jets
As the Electra's problems became apparent and they began filing back to Burbank, to go through the LEAP programme at Lockheed, towards the beginning of 1961 Eastern decided that the type needed a facelift. This would result in the biggest change to the Eastern livery since the 1940s. The new scheme appeared on the first post-LEAP Electras in February 1961, however it was the new Boeing 720s which were the first new aircraft to wear the scheme and accordingly staff referred to it as the "720 Scheme".
The new scheme was a major modification of the already modified several times DC-8 livery with the 'spear' reduced and the new Falcon in red on the tail. The titles kept the "FLY EASTERN AIR LINES" of the last DC-8 scheme variant but were reduced to simply "FLY EASTERN" in late 1963. Most of the fleet got into a variant of the 720 Scheme but it was a short-lived livery due to the boardroom civil war that Eastern was enduring between factions loyal to either the CEO Malcom MacIntyre or the former CEO Eddie Rickenbacker.
Following MacIntyre's, and also Rickenbacker's departure towards the end of 1963, Eastern was ripe for a proper change. As I've covered previously operation bootstrap led to the famous Hockeystick colours - see my blogpost here for more details:
With the Electra's now out of the news and very much yesterday's airliner they were free to get on with their business without any media furore. It of course helped that the 'new' Electra (several airlines called them Electra IIs but Eastern called them 'Super Electras') had shaken off its, ahem, teething troubles (y'know I didn't even notice that bad pun when I first wrote this). New Boeing 727s were replacing the DC-7s, whilst DC-9s began appearing in 1966. The Electras gradually began to replace the surviving Lockheed Super Constellation fleet, many of which were assigned to the wildly successful Eastern Air Shuttle routes.
Note: Below, N5525 was one of the fleet that wore small EASTERN titles on the tail. This was worn by only a few of the early New Mark schemed aircraft.
By 1964 the Shuttle routes accounted for an incredible 20% of Eastern's passengers and yet this large population of customers was using the oldest shabbiest equipment. To counter this Electras began replacing the Super Connies on shuttle flights in 1965, but it wasn't until February 1968 that the last Connie was retired. By this time many of the original Electra operators like National and Northwest were beginning to shed their much smaller Electra fleets, however Eastern could not afford to dump them all. It did nonetheless begin the type's disposal with the first aircraft to go being the last pair delivered. They were sold to the Swedish operator Falconair.
Indeed with its problems out of the way the Electra appears to have attained a decent resale value. Further sales saw six Electras sold to SAM Colombia, two to SAHSA and two to Lineas Aereas Paraguayas in South America at the end of the 1960s. Other sales were made, with the types retail value as a freighter obvious, so that by 1973 only 15 aircraft remained. One of these was sold to Copa Airlines in May 1974.
By the mid-70s the remaining Electras were only on shuttle flights, often as backups to 727s and DC-9s. The Electra was involved in one further bizarre incident when on Friday July 2, 1976 N5531 was damaged beyond repair by a bomb on the ground at Boston Logan. The device was planted in the rear undercarriage bay and the aircraft was destroyed in the resulting fire. It appears the bombing was related to a radical left wing group which suggested that for the USA's 200th anniversary that people go to work and kill their bosses, bomb airplanes etc. It seems however that nobody was ever apprehended for this unusual act. N5531 was at the time, along with many other Eastern aircraft, wearing the bicentennial logo applied to the forward fuselage.
Cearley Jr, G.W. Eastern Air Lines: An Illustrated History
Russell, D.L. Eastern Air Lines: A History, 1926-1991
Serling, R.J. From the Captain to the Colonel: An Informal History of Eastern Air Lines
13/7/2017 08:09:14 pm
Miles W. Rich
1/9/2020 07:10:35 pm
There were two in air Electra crashes due to whirlmode, Braniff at Buffalo, Texas on September 29, 1959. and Northwest over Tell City, Indiana on March 31, 1960. The third crash was on February 3, 1959, when an American Electra landing on runway 22 at LGA flew right into the East River. It had nothing to do with anything wrong with the aircraft. Also, the blue color on those 720 scheme Electra models is WAY OFF. The blue used was exactly the same as the dark blue used on the original Golden Falcon livery. The Electra was a great interim aircraft. Boeing did not announce the 727 until 1960, and by then, the Electra had been in the air for two years. The 727 did not enter service until February of 1964, five years after the Electra. Had the Electra not had its initial fatal flaw, I am sure more frames would have been sold. Lockheed claimed they lost money on the airplane but they didn't, that was an accounting trick. From the Electra, they developed the P-3 Orion with a minimal cost, shorter fuselage, and different nose, and they sold almost 900 of those. Paseengers loved the Electra when it was introduced. Compared to a Piston Airplane, it was a move up. Quiet, vibration free, cruising 100mph faster than a DC-6 or Constellation. My parents who were frequent flyers flew MDW to LGA and back on the aircraft in early 1959 and raved about it. My last Electra flight was an Air California trip SNA to SFO in late 1976, and I prefered it to the 737 and even on that route, it was maybe 5 to 10 minutes slower. Props just went out of fashion. Had that not happened, the airplane could have served shorter routes for many more years. As the article states, the cost of maintaining the props got out of control, probably because General Motors sold Allison to RR.
Leave a Reply.
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: