Eastern Air Lines, the carrier that once touted itself as “the wings of man,” made a historic arrival at Luis Muñoz Marín Airport Monday as part of an initiative by the Historic Flights Foundation to promote the aviation industry and generate awareness of its fundamental role in history.
At a little past noon, a DC-7B aircraft emblazoned with the same logo Eastern Air Lines used during the 1950s, landed in Carolina stirring up memories of a time when the carrier anchored Puerto Rico’s air travel industry.
“The arrival of this aircraft from 1958 is a historically significant event that recalls Eastern’s operation in our main facility and promotes aviation and aviation history on the island,” Port Authority Executive Director Alberto Escudero said. “It was Eastern that paved the way for the construction of Terminal B at the international airport, acquired Caribair in 1973 and expanded to flights to the Caribbean.”
Upon arrival, the vintage aircraft that departed from Miami was symbolically baptized on the tarmac, where it was met by State Secretary Kenneth McClintock, LMM airport Manager Arnaldo Deleo and Rubén Pérez, president of the Puerto Rico Chapter of the Eastern Air Lines Employees Association.
“This is a very emotional moment for us, the former Eastern employees, because this flight means that the Eastern spirit is alive and we’re still one big family,” Pérez said. “We’re grateful for everything we get from this great airline during the 47 years it served Puerto Rico.”
In keeping with the nostalgic feeling of the event, the aircraft’s crew, including several who worked for the defunct airline, were decked out in uniforms used in 1954, when Eastern began operating in Puerto Rico.
“Eastern Air Lines, like Pan American before them, and American after them, was the Puerto Rican market’s dominant airline and cornerstone of the ‘flying bus’ concept that has led to more than half of our citizens to enjoy in the states what they could not find in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,” said McClintock during the welcome ceremony.
Roger Jarmin, who pilots and owns the aircraft, said the restored vessel was part of Eastern Air Line’s original fleet of DC-7B’s.
“Of the 112 planes produced, this is the only one featuring a passenger configuration that outlived the airline,” Jarmin noted, stressing that more than 65 percent of the original aluminum housing of the vessel, external wing panels and engines, were repaired or replaced.
The paint scheme and the new interior were completed for the first official exhibition of the aircraft in December 2008. Following its visit to LMM, where it was parked for a few hours, the four-engine aircraft would take off to its next destination in the Caribbean, St. Martin.
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