PCR past banners
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #219  (Vol. 5, No. 23)  This edition is for the week of May 31--June 6, 2004.

Florida’s Commuter Airlines from the 1960s to the 1980s: Part Six
 by Will Moriaty
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
 by Mike Smith
The Horror Channel: Closer to Reality!....Filthy Update and showtimes
 by Andy Lalino
June--A Month For The Fanboy
 by Brandon Jones
Tumble Bush....Iraqi MP3 Crackdown....Negativland Hacked....Sushi Terrorist Threat....New Prison Funding For Pirates
 by Vinnie Blesi
Who's Bad?.....Newsworthy.....Movie/DVD News.....Meet The Beatles, Part 19
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR
Florida’s Commuter Airlines from the 1960s to the 1980s: Part Six -- Air Florida, Charter Airlines, PBA/Naples Airlines, Southeast Airlines

Air Florida – An Empire Lost
My first recollections of this intrastate commuter dates back to the summer of 1972 when I would see their Boeing 707 fan jets blasting out of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport headed for Miami.

By the fall of 1973, my mother had to fly on business to Miami and found herself once a month boarding the carrier's Lockheed L-188 Electras. I also have fond memories of seeing Air Florida's four-engine turboprops wing their way overhead on approach to Runway 35 at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport facility when I worked for WWBA radio which was then located at 62nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg.

By the fall of 1974, Air Florida added service to the other side of Tampa Bay, by conducting flights in and out of Tampa international Airport. By then service was also added to Tallahassee and Orlando.

In 1977, Air Florida resumed utilizing jet aircraft, flying the Boeing 727-100. The airline's colors were changed to orange and blue (Gators colors!) with bare metal bottoms on the fuselage. Greg Van Stavern and I flew in such an aircraft on a one-day round trip flight to Miami from Tampa.

In July 1977, service was expanded to Jacksonville and the Boeing 727's were replaced with Douglas DC-9-15 twinjets. In September 1978, Pensacola, Panama City, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale were added to the route system known as the "Air Florida K.I.S.S. (Keep It Sweet and Simple)". A set of ruby-red lips was painted onto many of the carrier's DC-9 fleet as a part of this marketing campaign.

Deregulation Changes Everything
As mentioned in previous chapters of this series, deregulation probably lead to the demise of Florida Airlines and Air Sunshine (Issue #215), but in the case of Air Florida, the opposite was true. This airline was probably the first "darling of deregulation" exploding in passenger and route growth. With the initiation of service on December 14, 1978 from Miami to Washington D.C., it became a certified airline and was no longer strictly an intrastate commuter.

In 1980, Air Florida became an international carrier with flights to the Caribbean and Central America. Regularly scheduled flights to Europe utilizing wide-bodied McDonnell-Douglas DC-10's were added, and by 1981 new Boeing 727-200 tri-jets were added to replace the DC-9's and augment its fleet of Boeing 737-100s and 200s. In addition, the livery changed from orange and blue to light blue, lime green and white.

Fall of A Giant
Air Florida was an airline with the promise of a great future until tragedy struck in January 1982. One of its flights crashed on takeoff from the Washington D.C. National (now Ronald R. Reagan) during a snowstorm due to a stall created by icing conditions on the wings of its Boeing 737. From that moment on until the airline ceased operations on July 3, 1984, the airline's public image was so badly tainted that passenger traffic and revenue dropped precipitously.

Air Florida was the little plane that could - - then fate dealt it a killing blow in the icy waters of the Potomac River on a cold and deadly day in January 1982.

The loss of Air Florida was a sad loss indeed and would become a part of the catastrophic loss of the major airline players during the 1980s and early 1990s at Miami International Airport. The character and identity of Miami's major transportation hub was changed irreversibly after these tragic turns of events.

For more information on Air Florida, link to airlines.afriqonline.com/airlines/714.htm and www.airtimes.com/cgat/usa/airflorida.htm

Air Florida Commuters
The following commuter airlines served as Air Florida Commuters in the early 1980s"

Air Miami (CASA C-212 and Cessna 402); Airways International (Convair 440); Atlantic Gulf (Convair 580 – see Issue #218); Finair Express (Piper Navajo), Florida Airlines/Southern International (Martin 404 – see Issue #215); Florida Airmotive (Trislander, Douglas DC-3), Gull Air (CASA C-212 – see Issue #216); Key Airlines (Convair 580), Mackey International Airlines (Piper Navajo – see Issue # 216); Marco Island Airways (Martin 404 – see Issue #218); Florida National Commuter (Nord 262 – see Issue #216); Ocean Reef Airways (DeHavilland Twin Otter); Pompano Airways (Cessna 402, Nord 262); Provo Flying Services (Beechcraft B-99); Skyway Commuter (Beechcraft B-99) and Slocum Air (Cessna 402).

Charter Airlines
Based in Gainesville, Florida, Charter airlines was a relatively short-lived commuter carrier running round-trip flights from Gainesville to Tallahassee to Tampa, and Ft. Lauderdale to Marsh Harbour. The type of aircraft used by this carrier is unknown to this author, and I only have one timetable (April 1, 1978) to verify its existence.

Southeast Airlines
Originally a Miami based charter service known as Cat Cay Airlines, Southeast Airlines offered Fairchild FH-227 "Commuter Jet" service from Miami to Marathon and Key West in the late 1960's and early 1970's. On May 8, 1979 it expanded its services from Miami to Aquadilla, Puerto Rico using a former Pan American Boeing 707-321. Later that year the airline ceased operations but was resurrected for a second time utilizing Boeing 727 freight services between Miami and Colombia. The carrier ceased operations by 1981.

PBA/Naples Airlines
To my way of thinking, of all of the great and colorful commuter airlines that graced the skies of the Sunshine State, none were as wonderful and fascinating as PBA/Naples Airlines.

As noted in Issue # 214, nothing in the sky attracted my attention more than the unmistakably understated and gentle sounds of the Douglas DC-3A's of this wonderful carrier slowly winging its way southward to a more subtropical and less hurried Florida.

Like several other commuters mentioned earlier in this series, PBA/Naples Airlines had a Northern and Southern Route System. Started on November 30, 1949, John C. Van Arsdale Sr. piloted a Cessna UC-78 Bobcat on morning round-trip flight from Providence to Boston under the name of Providence-Boston Airlines ("PBA").

Van Arsdale expanded his operations by starting up a Southern Route System in the southwest Florida city of Naples. Under the auspice of PBA, he leased a tiny commuter service called Naples Airlines to the sleepy coastal community that offered air service to Miami and Tampa. Naples and the state of Florida would become one of the fastest growing areas in the country and Van Arsdale's Southern Route system winter operations would expand to year around and eventual eclipse the Northern Route System that was comprised of Boston, Provincetown, Martha's Vineyard, New Bedford Hyannis, Nantucket, and New York.

For years Naples-Provincetown-Boston Airlines operated Piper Cherokee Six, Piper Aztec, Lockheed 10 Electra, and Douglas DC-3A service with four daily round trips from Naples to Miami and three daily round-trips from Naples to Tampa.

In September 1973, the Piper Cherokee Six and the Lockheed 10 Electra (the same type of aircraft flown by Amelia Earhart!) were phased out and replaced with Cessna 402-B's. By 1976, Martin 404 aircraft were added to the fleet, but service was still limited to the Naples, Miami and Tampa markets. In 1978 the first new market since its 1959 inception was added as service was started at the Port Charlotte-Punta Gorda Charlotte County Airport.

On December 31, 1979, John C. Van Arsdale Sr. stepped down as President and C.E.O. of the operation and his two sons, John Jr. and Peter H. Van Arsdale took over management of the company. They began an aggressive (some industry critics would say too aggressive) growth campaign adding routes to Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West and Marathon. The Brazilian built twin-engine turbo prop, the Embraer Banderante was also added to the fleet. In addition, the name of both Northern and Southern operations was then limited simply to "PBA".

By 1982 the carrier added Ocean Reef and Tallahassee to its Florida roster and began to utilize its largest aircraft to date, the Japanese built NAMC YS-11, purchased second-hand from region carrier Piedmont Airlines. Throughout all of the fleet updates and route expansion, PBA's venerable DC-3A's were still its stalwart workhorses.

In December 1983, PBA added Pensacola, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale to its Florida route system and its most significant expansion was realized in 1984 when it added New Orleans, Gainesville, Savannah, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Marco Island, Panama City, Freeport, Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour, Eleuthera and Rock Sound.

The Beginning of the End
Much like Air Florida not long before it, the PBA empire which showed so much future and promise, suffered a fatal accident in the fall of 1984 when the tail section of one of its Embraer Banderante's fell off of the aircraft not long after take off from the Jacksonville International Airport.

It was apparent by the 1980's, as our society became more litigious, that one fatal commercial airline accident alone could mean the demise of an entire carrier. By 1985 PBA significantly reduced its schedules and its fleet. It removed the entire Bahamian schedules and eliminated Charleston and Savannah. Ironically, even as its fortunes plummeted, one bright spot was the celebration of fifty years of flight of the Douglas DC-3, of which one of its oldest aircraft, N-136-PB ("Old 36") marked its half-century of service on this planet. That same aircraft is now beautifully restored in the colors of Eastern Airlines Great Silver Fleet.

Final Approach
By 1986 PBA was merged into the PeoplExpress/Continental Airlines conglomeration and Florida's red and white commuter birds would soon become a memory. PBA's former DC-3 fleet would persist even beyond the carrier's demise when they were used part of Eastern Airlines "Eastern Express" service ferrying passengers between Miami and the Florida Keys. This service was provided as late as 1989 and for several of these veteran Gooneys, was a return to the original carrier that they had served once delivered from the Douglas Aircraft production line some 4 and 5 decades earlier!

PBA/Naples Airlines was simply the best. There will probably never be another commuter carrier as colorful and historic as was this Florida phenomenon. A phenomenon that was the brainchild of a New England Yankee aviator named John C. Van Arsdale, Sr.

Link to for more information on this former great Florida commuter at http://www.dennissutton.com/html/provincetown_boston.html and http://members.aol.com/deltaflt1987/NAPLESAIRLINESindex.html

A Closing Summary on Opportunities Wasted and Realized During Florida's Golden Age of Commuter Airlines
As mentioned previously in this series, there were several golden opportunities that I seriously blew during Florida's Golden Age of commuter airlines.

I never boarded that Air Sunshine DC-3 to fly to Margaritaville (Key West), and I never boarded that Naples Airlines DC-3 to Naples. For that matter as late as 1988 I never boarded that United Airlines McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-71 that flew a short hop from Tampa to Orlando!

In all candor, however, I have been bountifully blessed with more than less Golden opportunities in the intrastate flight arena in Florida as noted below:

July 1970: National Airlines DC-8-51from Tampa to Miami (with my mother to see my step-brother in Miami)
July 1970: National Airlines DC-8-51from Miami to Melbourne to Tampa (return flight with my mother)
February 1972: Delta Airlines Boeing 747-100 from Tampa to Miami (to see my step-brother in Miami)
February 1972: National Airlines DC-8-51 from Miami to Melbourne to Tampa.
Summer 1975-Winter 1976: National Airlines round-trips using Boeing 727-200 from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach and Orlando to Tampa.
Fall 1975: Delta Airlines DC-9-30 from Jacksonville to Orlando (where we parked next to the Playboy DC-9 jet and the ONA DC-8 bi-centennial DC-8 jet) to Tampa.
Fall 1975: Eastern Airlines Boeing 727 from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach to Tampa.
January 1977: Air Florida Boeing 727-100 round trip from Tampa to Miami (with Greg Van Stavern)
July 1986: Piedmont Boeing 727-200 from Tampa to Miami (with Karen Cashon)
July 1986: TranStar McDonnell-Douglas DC-9-50 from Miami to Tampa (with Karen Cashon)
July 1991: U.S. Air Boeing 737-300 from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale (with Karen Cashon)
July 1991: U.S. Air Boeing 737-300 from Miami to Tampa
December 1994: U.S. Air Boeing 737-300 from Tampa to Tallahassee
December 1994: U.S. Air Fokker F-100 from Tallahassee to Tampa
July 1996: U.S. Air DeHavilland DHC-8 from Tampa to Tallahassee
July 1996: U.S. Air DeHavilland DHC-8 from Tallahassee to Tampa
November 2001: Continental Connection Beechcraft-Raytheon 99 round-trip from Tampa to Miami
October 2003: Air Tran Canadair Commuter Jet round-trip from Tampa to Miami

Other notable intrastate flights would include Pan Am's "Air Bridge" featuring hourly round trip flights between Miami and Tampa and Miami and Orlando in the early 1980's; Piedmont Airlines with its "Piedmont Shuttle" in the mid to late 1980's (serving Tallahassee, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Orlando, Naples, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Key West).

By the mid to late 1990's, with the exception of carriers such as Gulfstream International, Sea Coast Airlines and Cape Air, the independently operated Florida commuter airline had pretty much disappeared off of the radar screen.

Like so much of the story of what America's corporate culture has promulgated in the last two decades, most intrastate flights in Florida have been dumbed down to generically named major airlines using their generic name on commuters using generic and forgettable aircraft.

In this country's misplaced quest to hide in the guise of the safety of name recognition and the familiar, it has lost its regional identities, character, individualism and soul. Along with Florida's once proud independent television stations, radio stations and banking industry, probably no industry underscores this sad state of affairs better than Florida's commuter airlines.

They are gone but will never be forgotten.

Author’s Timetables

Air Florida
1. July 1, 1974 (St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, Tallahassee)
2. July 1, 1977 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Jacksonville)
3. September 1, 1978 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Panama City, Gainesville, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale)
After deregulation in 1978, Air Florida became a national then international carrier. Nevertheless, I have timetables from this airline from September 15, 1981and January 15, 1984.

Charter Airlines
1. April 1, 1978 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Gainesville, Ft. Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Marsh Harbour)

PBA/Naples Airlines
(Naples-Provincetown-Boston Airlines)
1. December 14, 1971 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples)
2. January 15, 1972 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples)
3. September 1, 1973 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples)
4. December 10, 1974 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples)
5. November 15, 1976 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples)
6. October 29, 1978 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte)
7. November 15, 1981 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon)
8. December 15, 1982 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon, Tallahassee, Ocean Reef)
9. December 15, 1983 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon, Tallahassee, Ocean Reef, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale)
10. November 1, 1984 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon, Tallahassee, Ocean Reef, Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, Gainesville, Savannah, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Marco Island, Freeport, Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour, Eleuthera, Rock Sound, Charleston)
11. December 12, 1984 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon, Tallahassee, Ocean Reef, Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, Gainesville, Savannah, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Marco Island, Freeport, Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour, Eleuthera, Rock Sound, Charleston, Melbourne, Ft. Pierce)
12. December 1, 1985 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon, Tallahassee, Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, Gainesville, Daytona Beach, Melbourne)
13. May 1, 1986 (Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples, Sarasota-Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Key West, Marathon, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach Ft. Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Melbourne)

Southeast Airlines
Circa 1970 (Miami, Marathon, Key West)

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.