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Eastern Air Lines plans return to the friendly skies

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Returning to the friendly skies later this year, the Eastern Air Lines Group has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, according to Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday.

Eastern plans on commencing its Part 121 certification with the Federal Aviation Administration shortly and has retained legal counsel and consultants for this purpose.

Along with United, Delta and American Airlines, Eastern Air Lines was among the "Big Four" that dominated the passenger airline business in the United States for nearly 50 years. It started flying in 1926 and operated until 1991, when it ceased operations during the first Gulf War.

Prior to its dissolution, Eastern Air Lines was headquartered at Miami International Airport.

"We are honored to have the opportunity to launch an airline bearing the iconic Eastern Air Lines name," stated Eastern President and CEO Edward Wegel in a prepared release. "We have recruited a world class board of directors and a highly experienced management team to guide and lead this effort."

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 forced Eastern into a low-fare environment in which its high costs put the company at a disadvantage. It began losing money as it faced competition from no-frills airlines, such as People Express, which offered lower fares. In an attempt to differentiate itself from its bargain based competitors, Eastern Air Lines began a marketing campaign stressing quality of service and its rank of highly experienced pilots and stewardesses.

Unable to complete within the industry, Eastern was sold in 1986 to Texas Air. Led by Frank Lorenzo, he was once named one of Time Magazine's 10 "Worst Bosses of the Century," and was a ruthless corporate raider and union buster.

In 1989, the iconic airline known as Eastern Air Lines was forced into bankruptcy and subsequently ceased operations in 1991.

"I remember Eastern Air Lines growing up in South Florida," Plantation resident Rico Petrocelli told Examiner. "I'm happy to see a friendly name return to the skies. Kinda nostalgic."

The new Eastern Air Lines Group, Inc. is not affiliated with the former Eastern Air Lines. In the 2000's, the group purchased the intellectual property, including trademarks, of Eastern Air Lines. Quick to point out the lack of relationship to the previous Eastern, Wegel announced plans to launch charter flights with the Airbus 319 out of Miami International in late 2014.

"I was based in New York from 1961 to 1962 and in Miami from 1963 to 1969," former stewardess Kim Harper told Examiner. "What a beautiful way to remember an icon, but to resurrect it?"

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Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

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