Eastern Airlines flew into the sunset in 1991, but it helped make Atlanta the transportation and commercial capital of the South.
The airline began life as Pitcairn Aviation in 1927, carrying airmail for the government along an eastern route that connected New York to Florida via Atlanta. The company became Eastern Air Transport in 1930, adding passenger service along a route that connected 16 east coast cities.
World War I fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker bought the airline in 1938 and served as president for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, Eastern claimed its place among the “big four” airlines, joining United, TWA and American. They dominated the industry for nearly 50 years.
By the 1950s, Atlanta’s Municipal Airport was Eastern’s busiest hub, thanks to its central location on the route map. Eastern and its chief rival Delta pumped millions of dollars and thousands of jobs into Atlanta’s economy. They helped propel the post-World War II city into its unchallenged place as the capital of the modern South.
Eastern Air Lines established the first air passenger service between New York and Atlanta on December 10, 1930, Today in Georgia History.