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Frank Lorenzo

Frank Lorenzo gained control of Eastern Airlines in 1986. Disputes between labor and management would permanently ground the airline by 1991.

Eastern Airlines' history traces back to 1927, when its predecessor, Pitcairn Aviation, first began. Three years later, the company changed its name to Eastern Air Transport. As its name would imply, Eastern dominated service along the Atlantic coast during its formative years, flying Ford Trimotors and Curtiss Condors between New York and Atlanta. Eastern expanded service to Miami in 1932, offering one-day service between New York and Florida. Soon, Eastern extended its routes as far north as Toronto, and as far south as Bermuda.

Eastern's future as a major national airline was largely determined by its ability to secure a lucrative government contract to deliver airmail. When the Post Office consolidated the nation's airmail routes in the late 1920s, Eastern, in effect, would have a monopoly along the Atlantic seaboard. In 1934, however, lawmakers would determine that the Post Office had overstepped its authority in dividing these routes among the major carriers. As a result, Congress banned several airlines from carrying the mail, including Eastern. To get around the new law, airlines simply changed their names. Eastern Air Transport became Eastern Airlines.

As air travel greatly increased in the late 1950s and '60s, Eastern introduced a revolutionary new service - the Air Shuttle. At a time when travel by air was still considered a special occasion, Eastern started air service similar to bus travel. The shuttle operated hourly flights between New York, Washington D. C., and Boston. No reservations were required and no meals offered. Eastern guaranteed availability by assuring passengers that another plane would be added if all regularly scheduled flights sold-out.

From its inception in 1961, Eastern's shuttle service proved to be extremely successful. Starting with propeller-driven Lockheed Constellations and Electras, Eastern began to add jets to its shuttle service in 1967. It wasn't until 1978 that Eastern would offer all jet shuttle service. Its fleet was expanded to included the Boeing 727, Airbus A300 and Lockheed L-1011.

After deregulation of the airline industry in 1978, Eastern fell victim to the takeovers and labor strife that characterized the era. Eastern began losing money as it faced competition from no-frills airlines, such as People's Express, which offered drastically reduced fares. In an attempt to differentiate itself from its bargain competitors, Eastern began a marketing campaign stressing its quality of service and its rank of highly experienced pilots. The public, however, just wanted cheap fares. Unable to keep up, Eastern was sold to Frank Lorenzo in 1986 and became part of the largest aviation company in the world.

The aviation empire wouldn't last long. Lorenzo sold Eastern's shuttle service to real estate magnate Donald Trump in 1989. As he had done a few years earlier with Continental Airlines, Lorenzo filed Eastern for bankruptcy. With much of the airline's resources depleted by controversial management decisions, Eastern finally shut down all flight operations in 1991.

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