National was always one of the smaller trunks operating mainly from bases at Miami and New Orleans up the East Coast and increasingly along the Southern coast East-West. Traditionally they had been a super thrifty airline but the takeover of the company by Bud Maytag made them into a more professional outfit.
Operating the route initially proved something of an issue for National as it didn’t have any aircraft that were well suited to the service. It operated mainly older DC-8s and a pair of stretch DC-8-61s, none of which were very well suited to the long route. It had a pair of Boeing 747s on order but the first would not arrive until September 1970 leaving a significant gap. Regardless the 747s were purchased as much for the main trunk routes between Miami and New York as for international services. Pride and ‘keeping up with the Jones’ was also a likely factor in their purchase.
The reallocation of the 747s to overwater flights was possibly as National was taking DC-10-10s in increasing numbers, however the period when the 747 reigned supreme was short. National took its first pair of DC-10-30s in June 1973 and the type was far better suited to the airline’s requirements than the much larger 747s. The first pair replaced the leased DC-8s which were returned to Airlift in July 1973 and April 1974.
A further pair of series 30s arrived in June 1975 and signaled the winding down of the 747’s usage. The second aircraft, N77773 (by then renamed from Elizabeth to Linda) went first. She joined Northwest as N621US on May 1, 1976. The first frame, N77772 (Patricia and later Jacquelyn) joined Northwest only 23 days later as N620US. Both aircraft served with Northwest into the second half of the 1990s.
National would take its international route network forward with an additional route to Paris in 1977 and then Frankfurt and Amsterdam in 1978. Ultimately however Pan Am would get its Miami-London service when it acquired National Airlines in a deal that would prove to be a poisoned chalice in 1980.
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: