The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

The Death of Eastern Airlines

Eastern Airlines had risen to prominence in the East and South. After deregulation, and under Frank Borman, it expanded west but then had to scale back in the face of mounting economic losses.

Frank Lorenzo, who had instituted controversial labor reforms to salvage Continental Airlines, acquired Eastern in 1986. Faced with huge losses, he tried to force concessions from Eastern's mechanics. This move provoked a bitter strike, which forced Eastern into extinction in January 1991.


The PATCO Strike

In August 1981, 13,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) called an illegal strike, demanding higher wages, shorter hours, and better retirement benefits. By paralyzing the air transportation system during a peak travel time, PATCO hoped the federal government would give in to their demands, as it had during previous "sick-outs."

To PATCO's surprise, President Ronald Reagan fired the controllers, who, as federal workers, were not allowed to strike. The FAA replaced them with supervisors, military controllers, and controllers who did not strike. Airlines flew reduced schedules until enough controllers were on the job.

Eastern Airlines Sign
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Eastern Airlines Sign Board

This sign board was removed from Eastern's last gate at Washington's National Airport.
Gift of Eastern Airlines