Recalling the first generation of jet aircraft




The year of 1958 was very exciting for air travel, as the world awaited the jet age. There had already been a false start in 1952 when the British Comet I jetliner proved to have fatal aerodynamic flaws and was withdrawn from service. Finally, on October 4, 1958 the redesigned Comet IV flew for B.O.A.C. from London to New York, establishing the first commercial transatlantic service by jet aircraft.

Not to be outdone, on October 28, 1958, Pan American introduced the Boeing 707 from New York to Paris. As the public heard about the speed, comfort and prestige of jet travel the major airlines placed massive orders for the first generation of jets.

Florida eagerly anticipated the new era, planning for another boom in tourism. The first domestic jet service in the U.S.A. occurred on December 10, 1958 when National Airlines chartered two of Pan Am's Boeing 707's to fly the New York to Miami route for the winter season.

Miami built the biggest airport terminal in the world, opening on February 1, 1959. Similarly, airport terminals in Florida were built or redesigned for the jets. Fort Lauderdale also opened in 1959. In Orlando, an agreement with the military allowed jetliners to land at McCoy Air Force base as of October, 1961. Tampa's West Shore terminal opened in 1952, but a new runway and other improvments for the jets were made by 1963. Jets used the older facilities at West Palm Beach and Jacksonville until new terminals opened in 1966 and 1968, respectively.

Eastern Air Lines dominated Florida jet travel, Pan Am was America's international airline that everyone knew and National was Florida's own airline. Also present were Northeast, Delta, Northwest, TWA, Capital/United, Braniff and Trans-Canada, joined by the Latin American national carriers and Cunard Eagle from London. By 1963, this first generation of jetliners was serving Florida with over 200 daily flights on 16 airlines at the six airports.

In the following pages, you can recall the history of early jet service to Florida by airline and view the timetable of jet flights to and from Florida as of January 1963.