Out With The Old — In With The Older

Airport Business online, reporting on an NPR All things Considered Program, brought out a trend that I had not really noticed. Regional flights are reversing past trends by returning to turbo-prop — rather than jet — aircraft. This is a fuel-saving move, and Regional Airline Association President Roger Cohen says we can expect this to continue.

Predicting what airlines will purchase and operate has always been a difficult and risky job. The first such wave I remember was the original switch from piston-powered airliners to jets in the 1950s and 1960s.

The president of Eastern Airlines was WWI ace Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. Under his direction, Eastern enjoyed the unbelievable honor of being the first U.S. airline to operate profitably without a govmint subsidy.

But, when other airlines bought new jets, Captain Eddie hung back, saying Eastern had plenty of good piston airplanes and no reason to buy new and expensive jets at that time.

Captain Eddie was wrong. The flying public liked the jets. I first began riding airlines late in that period, and the jets were faster, safer, and far more comfortable.

After Captain Eddie was gone, Eastern borrowed a huge amount of money to update to jets quickly. Many to this day say that Eastern never recovered and that’s why they eventually went bankrupt.

It’ll be interesting to watch this new reversal of the old trend.