Northeast Airlines Yellowbirds
Northeast Yellowbirds were a common site in the New England skies in the late 1960s. Here are some photos taken by my father, a Northeast Airlines pilot, by me, and from sources I have found online. If you worked at NE you might recognize a familiar name or two in the 90+ comments below.
Northeast Airlines was a Boston-based carrier that merged with Delta in 1972. My father (also Dave Goodwin) started out as a DC-6B flight engineer at Northeast in 1966 after flying Twin Otters at Executive Airlines and working as a freight dog and CFI before that. The DC-6s were replaced later that year by 727s, DC-9s, FH-227s wearing the yellowbird scheme.
Miami International 1969 (above and directly below) – Dad takes 11-year-old me along to simulator training in Miami. I remember there was a U-2 parked in the hangar there, no doubt used to keep an eye on our neighbor to the south. The jet on the right is a short 727-100 identifiable by the oval shape of the center engine intake.
This was the original Yellowbird paint job, which accumulated Jet-A soot around the engines making for dirty tail feathers. Below is a solo shot of the right hand airplane above. Technically it’s a 727-095, with 095 being Boeing’s designation for the Northeast flavor of 727. The concept of a fence surrounding an airport had not yet arrived in 1969.
Moving on to Boston Logan, below, we have another short 727 being prepped for departure. Note the baggage handler in the rear hold and the people on the observation area above the airplane. Northeast operated out of Terminal C, now home to JetBlue.
A nice looking paint job even today, this later Yellowbird version has bare engines and rudder to counter the soot problem noted above and a black radome.
Next we have a DC-9 taxing to runway 35 for takeoff at Manchester, NH (MHT) while my sister and I do what kids do; the copilot waived back. The photo below was taken by our father, who was checking on the family plane behind us.
Here’s the family plane, a 1943 Harvard, more commonly known as a T-6, still sporting Dutch Air Force insignia on the wings. The T-6 would undergo a few years of meticulous restoration before taking to the sky again. This airplane was acquired from a fellow Northeast pilot named Geert Frank, who brought a group of three of them to the US (via ship). Frank also brought a German Fieseler Storch to the U.S., which I recall seeing parked at Stead Aviation in Manchester at one point. The shot below was taken at Boire Field, Nashua, NH, early 70s.
In August of 1972 Northeast Airlines was merged into Delta and the iconic Yellowbird was no more. Below is a photo of some former Yellowbirds at Logan airport sporting the also-iconic Delta widget. Interestingly, Northeast Airlines and the Yellowbird branding are not owned by Delta. Volare Air Group in Indiana owns the name and seems to be planning a Northeast Yellowbird comeback (as of 2016).
And how the Northeast Airlines ramp at Boston Logan looked just a few years earlier (photo courtesy of Gary Schenauer).
Gary also filmed some Yellowbirds and contemporaries at Boston Logan in 1967 on his Super 8 camera.
This next video features a couple of Yellowbirds amidst a truly fantastic collection of 1960s airliners. A Northeast DC-9 taxis to a rolling take off at 0:28 and a 727 lifts off at 2:45.
FH-227s flew between small New England cities and Boston and New York, replacing DC-3s and DC-6s. Below are a pair of them at Montpelier, VT (MVP). Walt Houghton, former station manager there (and BTV and FLL) contributed the photo and described the scene.
It was taken by Norm MacIver, VT Development Dept. I had been flying him in the state airplane and as we returned to MPV these were both parked there. I told Norm ,”Take the picture!” Looks like a busy day at the airport, but in fact I think one of them was broken!
In addition to these aircraft types, the yellowbird livery was also used on Northeast’s Convair 880s and its one CV-990. Below, the 990 sits at Boston Logan. Northeast Airlines was one of the few to simultaneously operate both the CV-990 and the CV-880. This was the sole Convair 990, N5612, leased from American.
And the same 990 being pushed off the gate in Miami. Notice the Piper Apache twin engine private plane parked next to the 990, left of the cockpit. You won’t see that in our modern era.
The photo below showcases the differences between the CV-990 and a CV-880. The most obvious being the blisters on the wing of the 990 and the larger, differently shaped engine nacelles. The CV-990 was longer too as you can see by the addition windows under the “N” in Northeast.
Below are two DC-9s at Boston Logan Airport in 1967. This photo really showcases the yellowbird livery and if you are a pilot you’ll notice the absence of more than a few taxiway signs compared with today. Note the Expo 67 decal under the first window of the closest airplane. Steve Cassie elaborates on this airplane in the comments below and 48 years after delivery to NEA it is miraculously still flying as N8860 (in 2015.) After flying for Northeast and Delta, the plane on the left flew until it was retired in late 1998 for a total of 31 years in service.
The Northeast gates at Miami International in 1969, according to the airliners.net info that goes with the original photo (© Nadine Eichinger). Along with the Yellowbirds are tails of a National DC-8 and 727, a Braniff 707 a Northwest 727 on the left. National (via Pan Am) and Northeast are now Delta.
Northeast’s route system expanded quite a bit in the late 60s, covering the major northeast and sun markets as well as a Miami – Los Angeles daily non-stop operated by a 727-100. Stronger than usual prevailing winds would frequently necessitate a fuel stop on the westbound trip. In contrast, National Airlines, the other carrier on that route, flew a DC-8. You can see the entire 1969 timetable at 60sairlineantiques.net, along with many high quality, classic airliner photos form the 1960s.
Before the yellowbird era Northeast used a red livery. He is a CV-880 landing at Philadelphia in 1960. Northeast leased the 880s from TWA/Hughes Tool Company for use between the northeast and Florida. Courtesy SSAVE via Flickr.
The CV-880 rolling out after touchdown.
I’m always interested in adding NEA photos and stories here. If you have photos you would like to share and can add some basic info about them (as much who, what when, where as you have) please email to dave at planeviz .com.
Some other interesting sites for Northeast and Delta fans.
- The Delta Flight Museum has a Northeast Airlines section.
- A Northeast blog post written by another son of a Northeast pilot, Capt. Rand Peck and a page on his site with photos people have sent in and you probably will not find elsewhere. Check it out.
- Fly The Widget. Delta flight attendant Perry de Vlugt’s amazing memorabilia website and collection. Perry appears in the famous Deltalina preflight video.