Northeast Airlines was an American airline based in Boston, Massachusetts. It began as Boston-Maine Airways, which was founded as a Pan Am contract carrier on July 20, 1931, by the Boston and Maine Railroad and Maine Central Railroad offering service from Boston to Bangor via Portland. It flew only abortively until August 11, 1933, when it began contract service for National Airways, an agreement which lasted four years. The name Northeast Airlines was adopted on November 19, 1940.
During World War II, Northeast pioneered regular transatlantic service for the military under contract from the U.S. Army Air Force. After the war it applied for authorization to operate passenger service across the Atlantic but were stymied by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which awarded the routes to Pan American World Airways and TWA.
Northeast's Convair 240s and DC-3s did not fly south or west of New York La Guardia until 1956 when it added flights to Washington National. In 1957 it added three DC-6B "Sunliner" nonstops from La Guardia to Miami.
A series of crashes damaged the airline's image:
- 30 Nov 1954 — Berlin, New Hampshire — Douglas DC-3
- 01 Feb 1957 — Riker's Island, New York — Douglas DC-6A
- 15 Sep 1957 — New Bedford, Massachusetts — Douglas DC-3
- 15 Aug 1958 — Nantucket, Massachusetts — Convair CV-240-2
- 25 Oct 1968 — Lebanon, New Hampshire — Fairchild-Hiller FH-227C
Northeast ordered ten turboprop Vickers Viscounts in the late 1950s and operated them successfully for a few years until financial problems in the early 1960s forced the company to return them to the manufacturer. The jet age came to Northeast in 1959 when they leased a single Boeing 707 from TWA for the Florida route. In 1960 Northeast leased six Convair 880s that were operated between the northeast and Florida for several years.
In 1965 the airline was bought by Storer Broadcasting, who tried to rejuvenate Northeast with a new marketing campaign and new aircraft. Northeast ordered a fleet of Boeing 727s for their Florida routes, and DC-9 and FH-227 turboprops for shorter routes. These new aircraft were known as "Yellowbirds" due to their two-tone yellow and white livery. In 1966 Northeast was the launch customer for the Boeing 727-200, which it began flying in December 1967. Except for Florida its network was all north and east of Washington National until 1969 when it added three 727 nonstops Miami to Los Angeles, with Fort Lauderdale getting an LAX nonstop soon after. (Fuel stops were sometimes needed.)
Despite a modern fleet and successful Yellowbird marketing campaign, Northeast remained at a disadvantage against larger competitors such as Eastern Airlines and National Airlines. By the early 1970s Northeast's financial condition was such that it sought a merger or sale. On August 1, 1972 Northeast merged with Delta Air Lines. Northeast's contribution to Delta included access to the Boston market, which Delta did not serve under the then-regulated airline industry. Delta assimilated the Boeing 727 into its fleet, a type it did not operate prior to absorbing Northeast. Delta used this aircraft as the workhorse of their fleet during the 1970s and 1980s.
- IATA Code: NE