National Airlines began in St.
Petersburg, Florida, in 1934 with the award of a 142-mile mail route between
St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach, via Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando. Service
over the route was inaugurated on October 15, 1934. The fleet consisted
of two second-hand Ryan aircraft. The airline had five employees, including
the president and founder, G. T. Baker.
On July 8, 1937, the company was charted under the laws of the
State of Florida as National Airlines, Inc. Routes were extended to Jacksonville
and to Miami in that year and from Jacksonville to New Orleans in 1938.
The company relocated it's general offices and principal base of operations
in Jacksonville in 1939. During World War II the carrier operated a portion
of its fleet for the Air Transport Command and operated Air Corps contract
schools for pilots, mechanics, radio operators and navigators.
In 1944 National became a major airline with the award of the
New York-Florida route. On February 14, 1946, National inaugurated with
DC-4's the first non-stop service between Miami and New York and the first
four-engine commercial flights between the two cities. National was certified
into Havana, Cuba, in 1946 and was awarded a new route from Miami and
Tampa to New Orleans in the same year. In mid-June 1946, National moved
it's General Office to Miami and four years later moved it's engine overhaul
base to Miami from Jacksonville. Havana service was suspended indefinitely
in 1961, after the United States and Cuba broke off diplomatic relations.
In 1947 National received permission to inaugurate the so-called
"Great Circle" route over water between Miami and New York, and reduced
the flying time from five to four hours. In 1950, National pioneered,
on the East Coast, low night coach and excursion fares to Florida, and
with a Florida summer vacation program that contributed to creating a
year-round operation for the state's tourist industry.
On January 1, 1952, National became free of subsidy and was placed
on a mail service rate that made it self-sufficient over it's entire system.
In 1956 the National system was extended to Houston and to Boston. National
leased Boeing 707 jets to become the first domestic operator of jets in
the United States and inaugurated jet service between New York and Miami
on December 10, 1958. On March 11,1961, National's system was expanded
with the award of the Southern Transcontinental Route. The route extended
the carrier from Houston to Los Angeles/ Long Beach and to San Diego,
and from Houston to San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose via Las Vegas.
L. B. Maytag, who resigned as president of Frontier Airlines in March
1962, purchased controlling interest in National on April 26, 1962. Mr.
Maytag was elected president and chief executive officer on that date.
Dudley Swim, of Carmel, California, was elected chairman on September
12, 1962. National, in 1964, became the first exclusively jet-powered
U. S. airline. In 1967 and 1968 the airline doubled it's jet fleet and
phased out all prop-jet aircraft. On April 21, 1968, the last of the prop-jet
electras was retired and National became all pure-jet with a fleet of
DC-8's and B-727's. Miami's first Boeing 747 service was inaugurated by
National on October 2, 1970, with daily nonstop flights between Miami
and New York. The second of the 352-passenger B-747's went into nonstop
operation between Miami and Los Angeles on October 25, 1970, the 747's
were sold in 1976. After exhaustive study of second-generation wide-cabin
jets, National selected McDonnell Douglas DC-10's as the finest, most
economical and adaptable to its route system. In 1969 the company
ordered nine DC-10's, and in 1971 ordered two intercontinental versions
of the DC-10. Four additional DC-10's were ordered in January 1973.
The first DC-10 service between New York, Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa
was introduced by National on December 15, 1971. Service expanded as additional
new jets joined the fleet. The "good neighbor" DC-10 demonstrated that
it has unusual customer appeal. This wide-cabin jet is comfortable, reliable,
quiet and smoke-free.
Ground was broken in 1968 for a $45 million expansion program
by the Dade County Port Authority for National Airlines at Miami International
Airport. The project was completed in 1974. A $17 million IBM electronic
computer reservation system, called Res-A Vision, was completed and put
into operation in 1970. The communications network enables National reservations
agents throughout the carrier's system to exchange information immediately
with two computers in the Miami headquarters. The system allows passengers
to make reservations with a minimum of delay and error. National became
the third U.S. transatlantic passenger carrier on June 16, 1970, with
the inauguration of daily nonstop round-trip service between Miami and
London. This transatlantic route proved appealing to passengers who wish
to avoid the congested gateways and inclement weather of northern airports.
Service with the intercontinental DC-10-30's was inaugurated on the route
in the fall of 1973.
Dudley Swim, Chairman of the board, died in Carmel, California,
on January 31, 1972. Mr. Maytag was elected chairman on February 11, 1972.
E. F. Dolansky, formerly executive vice president, was appointed president
and chief operating officer on December 7, 1976. Mr. Maytag retained
the title of chairman and chief executive officer. National's European
horizons were further expanded June 22, 1977, when the airline inaugurated
Miami-Paris nonstop service with DC-10-30 aircraft. At that time, National
provided the only U. S. flag airline service to Paris from the South.
In May 1978, the airline introduced nonstop flights between Florida and
Frankfurt and Amsterdam. New York- Amsterdam service was inaugurated in
December 1978. National also extended its route system in 1979 by adding
service between Miami and San Juan, and to Seattle from Houston and Los
Angeles. National's success was its downfall, as all of its aircraft and
equipment were paid for. A bidding war began over the takeover of National's
system. In 1980 Pan American World Airways acquired National Airlines
and operated its routes poorly. Deregulation was passed and suddenly Pan
American was debt ridden. This was the beginning of an eleven year downslide.