PCR past banners
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #214  (Vol. 5, No. 18)  This edition is for the week of April 26--May 2, 2004.

Florida’s Commuter Airlines from the 1960’s to the 1980’s: Part One
 by Will Moriaty
"The Punisher"
 by Mike Smith
"The Punisher"  by Nolan B. Canova
Tambay Film Festival, Neck Aches, Horror Movies, Etc.
 by Andy Lalino
Cable Channels Fighting For An Identity (and Viewers)....Couch Potato Quick Takes
 by Vinnie Blesi
Politics: The World of Two Extremes....Put It In Your Planner....Save The Ship....Who Needs Indy?
 by Brandon Jones
Coming Soon....A Nice Cape....A Salute....What About "The Night Chicago Died"?....Cool Venues....Meet The Beatles, Part 14
 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 One

In addition to what was described in last week’s column, another one of my favorite memories of the many Sunday night dinners that I had with Greg Van Stavern at the Mexican Burro in South Tampa in the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s took place after our meal.

As we walked back to our vehicles in the Burro’s parking lot, a Florida commuter airline called Naples/PBA flew old Douglas DC-3’s that were often seen slowly winging their way southward in the nighttime sky to the cities of Sarasota-Bradenton, Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte, Ft. Myers and Naples as Greg and I went our separate ways to go home for the evening, bracing ourselves for the new workweek.

I knew even back then that this old piston classic was at a very late stage of its passenger-carrying career and was a very rare and valuable bird worth looking at every second it was visible in the sky before it would finally fly into the proverbial sunset.

The DC-3 was aviation’s answer to hearing a train off in the lonely distance. Its engines had a gentle and harmonic sound that was unmistakable. This incredible aircraft probably heralded the safe operation of passenger aviation more than any other aircraft in history. And even though it was a 40 to 50-year-old machine in the 1970s and 1980s, it was still providing safe service and reliable revenue in the Sunshine State. To have beheld the flight worthy operations of that wondrous aircraft that late in its history probably would not have been possible without the existence of the intrastate commuter airline industry in Florida at that time.

What Is A Commuter Airline?
From the late 1940s and expanding into the late 1970s, before deregulation of the airlines in 1978 in the United States, were divided into three categories based upon route system and equipment.

Major Domestic Trunk Carriers
Provided interstate, trans-continental and trans-regional service, typically with large, first-hand aircraft. Examples today would include United, American and Delta. Examples from yesteryear would have included Eastern, Braniff, National and Trans World (although each of those airlines did add international routes to their rosters).

Regional Feeders
Provided service from smaller towns and cities to the major cities where the trunk lines served. The regional character of these carriers showed in names such as Southern, Piedmont, Allegheny, Ozark, Lake Central, North Central and Bonanza. Aircraft used by the feeders was typically smaller in size than that of the trunk carriers and was often second-hand equipment first utilized by the trunk carriers.

Commuter Airlines
Provided service either to yet smaller towns than the feeders or between inner city airports of major cities that had runways too small to accommodate larger and even medium sized aircraft. Detroit City Airport, Chicago’s Meig’s Field and Cleveland’s Lakefront Burke Airport were sterling examples of commuter airline hotbeds in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Where Did Florida Fit into This Picture?
South of Orlando, which for several years was the southernmost city served by Southern Airways, no feeder served the Sunshine State (although Southern and many mentioned above did expand into Central and South Florida for a temporary period after deregulation in 1978). Due to its geographical location, Florida was so far south that its airline service was almost solely limited to the major trunk carriers such as Eastern and Delta, which served the east and mid west; and United, Trans World and Northwest Orient, which served the mid west, far west and northwest. International service to the Sunshine state was primarily through Miami International Airport, which as today had heavy passenger traffic to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Mexico (although Canadian carriers did and still do serve several major Florida cities).

Enter The Commuter Airline In Florida
To transport Floridians by air within their own state, commuter airlines often filled the regional feeder void. Florida’s commuter airlines of yesteryear were very colorful operations whose very names and liveries evoked images of the very special warm temperate and sub tropical locales that they served.

Notable paint schemes that underscored this included Marco Island Airways, which incorporated the azure blue and turquoise tropical waters of its namesake’s beaches. Air Sunshine dolled up the fuselages of its aircraft with vibrant yellow, orange and red cheat lines on a white body. Like every other thing contaminated by America’s large corporations, the majority of today’s commuter airlines in Florida, with the exception of a few that provide service to the Florida Keys, typically sport the name of their affiliated trunk carriers on their fuselages and no longer reflect any regional heritage or identity (i.e. Gulfstream International of Miami sports Continental Airlines markings).

This series isn’t going to concern itself with today’s more generic commuters plying their tireless tasks in the Sunshine State. No, we’re going to delve into those colorful commuters of Florida’s recent past. So get your PCR ticket ready for next week as we take off on a flight reserved in your name as we look in depth at Florida Airlines and Air Sunshine.

"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.