"From The Captain to The Colonel"

Several years ago, Robert Serling, author, and older brother of Rod Serling, of "Twilight Zone" fame, wrote a very fine book with this title about the history of Eastern Air Lines, and since it is an apt description of what has happened in the years since Eastern ceased to be, I have decided to use it as the header of this "About Us " area of the website.

EASTERN AIR LINES began as EASTERN AIR TRANSPORT in early 1930, having evolved from Pitcairn Aviation, and North American Aviation, and rose from carrying the mail, to carrying more passengers than any other airline in the free world.  (Aeroflot, the Russian airline, did not provide passenger statistics, and may have carried more than Eastern).

Important figures in the history of Eastern Air Lines were Presidents Eddie Rickenbacker (the "Captain") to Frank Borman (the "Colonel"), hence the title of the book.

In February of 1986, a day that will live in infamy, one of the greatest airlines in the world was acquired in a leveraged buyout by Frank Lorenzo, who proceeded to strip the airline of it's assets.  In March of 1989, seeking pay raises, a strike by the machinist union was called.  Although they disagreed with the  position and tactics of the machinist's union chairman, in an effort to remove Lorenzo, and not for better wages, the Pilots and Flight Attendants honored the strike.

Lorenzo immediately declared bankruptcy , and started hiring new employees  to replace the striking workers.

Eastern was it's people, and with the departure of the core of it's heart, Eastern spiraled down quickly, and met it's demise on January 18, 1991.

Lorenzo was removed from control of Eastern on April 13, 1990 by a federal judge for, among other things, "for cause, including incompetence."

What is hard to believe is that he was allowed to remain in control as long as he was.  He had acquired Texas International Airlines, broken the unions, gained control of Continental Airlines, and bankrupted them prior to the Eastern Acquisition.

During the strike, in an interview on ABC Television, Barbara Walters called Lorenzo "The Most Hated Man In America".

Congress later passed a law that prohibited Lorenzo from ever being involved in the airline business again.  He remains the only individual ever to be so censured.

It was my privilege to be employed as a pilot for Eastern Air Lines from 1966, until the strike in 1989, rising from a Flight Engineer to the rank of "Captain", while flying over most of the Western Hemisphere.

For the last several years I have been a licensed  auctioneer, or a "Colonel" as it were.

      "FROM THE CAPTAIN TO THE COLONEL"   

By the way, in case you wondered, a Contrail is the vapor trail a jet airplane leaves as it makes it's way across the sky.

Thanks for reading.

 


Contrail Auctions, 2006. All trademarks property of their owners.