In late 1959 Malcolm MacIntyre became CEO and President of Eastern. By April 1960 it was an airline with 17,800 employees and a huge fleet of piston engine propliners, including 48 DC-7Bs, 38 L-1049s, 18 L-749s, 7 DC-6Bs, 20 CV-440s and 56 Martin 404s as well as 40 turboprop L-188 Electras and 4 DC-8 jets. MacIntyre would go on to have many battles with Eastern's dominant personality, Eddie Rickenbacker, but amongst his many challenges was what to do with such a diverse fleet. The L-1049s were a particular issue.
12 were L-1049s, 16 L-1049Cs and 10 the later L-1049Gs. The problem was that the Connies were too big for service on short haul routes typically run by the Martins and CV-440s yet not as attractive as the DC-7Bs, let alone the Electras and DC-8s, for longer services.
Eastern came up with a couple of novel ideas to utilise them. Firstly the L-1049Cs could be converted to freighters. 5 (N6220C, 25C, 26C, 27C and 28C) were so converted in 1960. These operated with 'Ship Eastern' titles and were joined in July 1963 by N6222C. She was sold in 1966, however one of the freighters (27C) continued after her withdrawal from revenue service, assigned to Miami maintenance to transport engines to field stations. She remained in service well into the 1970s as the last of Eastern's Connies.
The second idea was the Eastern 'Air Bus'. This operated from Cleveland, Pittsburgh and St Louis to Miami, starting in October 1960 using the fully depreciated Connies. The fare was set at $40 which was equal to Greyhound bus costs which took 24 hours!
Connies on non-standard Eastern ops wore a red Spear livery not worn by any other types in the fleet. Of course later Eastern found another use for the Super Connies with the famous Shuttle services but that's another story.
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: