Celebrating 80 Years of Service to Boston and State of Maine
By: Marie F., Delta Archivist, Atlanta
Take a trip with us back to 1933, when Boston-Maine Airways, a Boston & Maine Railroad subsidiary managed by National Airways, started up in Boston. The Boston airport at the time was an open cinder field—no runways were marked—surrounded by Boston Harbor. The new airline’s fleet consisted of two secondhand Stinson SM-6000B (Model T) tri-motors, purchased from Eastern Air Transport, each able to carry up to eight passengers.
On August 11, Boston-Maine took off from Boston, with all seats full, headed to Portland and then Bangor, Maine. Famous pilot Amelia Earhart, a partner in the new airline, was a passenger on that first flight.
In spite of challenges, the new airline became a regular sight in the skies between Boston and Bangor. Amelia Earhart’s fame attracted publicity and passengers. Coordinated schedules with Central Vermont Airways soon extended service to New Hampshire and Vermont as you can see in this November 1, 1933 timetable.
Dedicated employees managed to keep the Stinsons flying year-round through severe New England winter weather. The small maintenance hangar in Boston had no heat that first winter—the coldest recorded in 25 years. After difficulties in plowing runways at the airport fields and then dealing with ice as snow melted and refroze, a solution was found by taking truck chains, welding additional links to them and then fitting them over the tires of the Stinsons, allowing the planes to find traction in the snow & ice.
In 1937, Boston-Maine purchased National Airways’ assets, including its air mail contract, and in November 1940, the Boston-based airline was renamed Northeast Airlines. Northeast started innovative “every hour on the hour” shuttle service between Boston and New York in 1946, with 60-passenger Douglas DC-4 planes. In 1949 Northeast opened a new $1 million maintenance hangar at the Boston airport, dedicated to Amelia Earhart. Jet service started in 1961, and by 1968, Northeast’s Yellowbird jets were flying from Boston to the Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport); and Bermuda in 1969.
Northeast Airlines merged with us in 1972, extending Delta service from Boston along the U.S. East Coast to Canada, Bermuda and the Bahamas, with frequent non-stop service to Florida. Today, we are proud to serve Boston since 1933, and look forward to helping Massport celebrate 90 years of commercial operations at Boston next year!