National Airlines (NA)

National Airlines (NA)
National Airlines
Founded 1934
Ceased operations 1980 (merged into Pan American)
Hubs Miami International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Fleet size 3 (1934) 60 (1980)
Headquarters Miami-Dade County, Florida
Key people George T. Baker (founder), succeeded by Louis "Bud" Maytag

National Airlines (IATA: NA, ICAO: NAL, Call sign: National) was an airline founded in 1934 and was headquartered on the grounds of Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States near Miami.[1]



Under the leadership of its president and founder, George T. Baker, it operated primarily within Florida, the Gulf Coast and the southeastern United States until 1944, when it gained authorization to operate the route between New York City and Miami, Florida. The airline was headquartered in St. Petersburg at Whitted Airport and Jacksonville before moving its home base to Miami.

Lucrative international service to Havana, Cuba, began in 1946, and was to continue until suspended in 1961.

The National Airlines route network expanded west to Houston, Texas and north to Boston, Massachusetts in 1956.

On December 10, 1958, National became the first airline to introduce domestic jet service in the United States,[2] with a flight between Miami's International Airport and Idlewild International Airport in New York City. The first jet flight used a leased Pan Am Boeing 707.[2]flown by National flight crews.

Routes from Florida to California via Houston, including the first non-stop transcontinental service from Miami, were added in 1961 in the CAB's Southern Tier service case.

In 1964 National became the United States' first all-turbine-powered trunk airline (Douglas DC-8s and Lockheed Electra prop-jets); in 1970 it became the third U.S. transatlantic passenger carrier with the inauguration of daily nonstop DC-8s between Miami and London's Heathrow Airport.

Boeing 727 N4611 was the second to be delivered on November, 11, 1964.

In 1970, the company opened a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport called the Sundrome, in reference to "Sun King logo" which was part of National Airlines modern new branding. The Sundrome is now vacant following JetBlue Airways's move to the new Terminal 5. It was designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. By the late 1970s, National operated a large fleet of Boeing 727 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft. National was known by advertising slogans such as "The Buccanneer Route (1940s)", "Airline of the Stars (1950s-60s)," and, famously, its "Fly Me" campaign of the 1970s, where aircraft were given female names and flight attendants were featured in broadcast and print media campaigns. Some aircraft were named for celebrities, including Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis, in whose 1960 film The Bellboy both National and Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel had featured roles.

Until losing the license in 1962, National also owned Miami television station and ABC affiliate, WPST (Channel 10). The station continues today as WPLG under the ownership of Post-Newsweek Stations.

In the autumn of 1978, management of Texas International Airlines, regional airline based in Houston under leadership of entrepreneur and corporate raider Frank Lorenzo, attempted a tender offer acquisition of National Airlines. With its headquarters in Miami and hubs there and in New Orleans, Houston, and Los Angeles, acquisition of National would have allowed tiny Texas International to expand substantially beyond its south-central U.S. area of service. National had strength in the north-south market along the east coast, and probably the strongest east-west routes along the southern tier..[3]

National Airlines DC-10, Houston (IAH), 1978

National management and unions, however, fought the TI acquisition stubbornly, and finally consummated a merger with Pan Am, who had emerged as a 'white knight' during the takeover battle. Texas International walked away from their foiled attempt with a multi-million dollar stock profit and was poised for Lorenzo's next ventures—a startup airline in the high-density East coast corridor (New York Air), and subsequent acquisition of Continental Airlines.[3]

National was in the end acquired by Pan Am in 1980 and its operations were merged into those of the larger carrier. Pan Am continued to utilize the former National Miami maintenance base and headquarters building until Pan Am itself ceased operations in December 1991.[3] Much later, National's "Sun King" logo was sold and "repackaged" much like Pan Am's to appear upon the branding of start up "low cost carrier" Southeast Airlines aircraft.

Most industry analysts believe that Pan Am paid too high a price for National, and was ill prepared to integrate National's domestic route network with Pan Am's own globe-girdling international network. The cultures of National and Pan Am also proved to be incompatible, making workforce integration difficult.

Revenue passenger traffic (scheduled flights only, domestic plus international, in millions of passenger-miles): 432 in 1951, 905 in 1955, 1041 in 1960, 2663 in 1965, 2643 in 1970 (126-day strike), 3865 in 1975.


In 1980, when Pan Am acquired National, there were 59 aircraft in National Airlines' fleet consisting of the following types:[4]

The history of the original National Airlines spanned nearly fifty years and during that time it operated a variety of different types of aircraft. Besides the aircraft types listed above, the airline's fleet consisted of the following:

Incidents and accidents

On October 5, 1945, a Lockheed Lodestar crashed into a lake in Lakeland, Florida with two fatalities.

On January 14, 1951, a DC-4 crashed on landing at Philadelphia Airport with 7 fatalities.

On February 11, 1952, a DC-6 crashed near Newark Airport, killing 29 out of 63 people on board.[5]

On February 14, 1953, a DC-6 crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off Mobile, AL. 46 people were killed. The aircraft was crossing an area of severe weather and possibly flew into a waterspout. This was the worst accident in the 46-year history of National Airlines.

On November 16, 1959, National Airlines Flight 967, en route from Tampa to New Orleans, disappeared over the Gulf of Mexico. The aircraft was a DC-7B flown on an interchange route with Delta Air Lines, in a Delta aircraft but with a National Airlines crew. A bomb was suspected, but never proven.

On January 6, 1960, a DC-6B National Airlines Flight 2511, en route from New York to Miami was destroyed by a bomb near Bolivia, North Carolina, killing all 34 on board. Suicide by a passenger holding large life insurance policies was the probable cause.

On May 1, 1961, Antulio Ramirez Ortiz hijacked a National Airlines flight from Miami International Airport to Cuba.

On November 3, 1973, National Airlines Flight 27, a DC-10 had an uncontained failure of Engine #3, as a result of flight crew experimentation, shrapnel penetrated other engines and fuselage, broke window, 1 seat-belted passenger was forced from the plane and killed.

In 1978 National Airlines Flight 193, a Boeing 727 Trijet, unintentionally landed in the waters of Escambia Bay near Pensacola, Florida after coming down short of the runway during a foggy approach. There were 3 fatalities among 52 passengers and 6 air crew members.

See also


  1. ^ "Walkout by 3,500 Cancels All Flights Of National Airlines." The New York Times. Sunday February 1, 1970. Page 58. Retrieved on September 24, 2009. "Pickets marched at National's headquarters at Miami International Airport"
  2. ^ a b "The Opening of the Commercial Jet Era". U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  3. ^ a b c Christian, J. Scott, former Continental employee and manager, Bring Songs to the Sky: Recollections of Continental Airlines, 1970-1986, Quadran Press, 1998.
  4. ^ "World Airline Directory". Flight International. July 26 1980. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  5. ^ [1]


  • Banning, Eugene; edited by R.E.G. Davies (2001). Airlines of Pan American since 1927. Paladwr Press. ISBN 1-888962-17-8
  • Conrad, Barnaby (1999). Pan Am: An Aviation Legend. Emeryville, California: Woodford Press. ISBN 0-942627-55-5.
  • Davies, R.E.G. (1972, revised August 1982). Airlines of the United States Since 1914, Putnam. ISBN 0-370-30942-1.
  • Davies, R.E.G., illustrated by Mike Machat (1987). Pan Am: An Airline And Its Aircraft. Orion. ISBN 0-517-56639-7
  • Gandt, Robert L. (1995). Skygods: The Fall of Pan Am. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-04615-0.
  • The Clipper Heritage - Pan American World Airways 1927-1991 (2005). Pan American Historical Foundation. Retrieved April 2008.
  • Pan American World Airways, Inc., Records (6-26-1996). Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami Archives. Retrieved April 2008.

External links

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