Northeast Yellowbirds were a common site in the New England skies in the late 1960s. The airline was headquartered in Boston with a base at Miami International and a significant presence in New York.
Northeast’s main routes at that time were between Boston, New York, Washington and Philadelphia to and from Florida. Their route system expanded quite a bit in the Yellowbird era to include a Miami – Los Angeles daily non-stop operated by a 727-100 as well as flights from the northeast to the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Northeast Airlines Route System
The Yellowbird livery was introduced in 1966 as the fleet continued to adopt jets. Northeast operated Boeing 727’s and Douglas DC-9s where jets made sense, and turboprop FH-227’s between small New England cities and Boston and New York LaGuardia Airport. Northeast was the first airline to operate the Boeing 727-200.
Below is 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. Hard to believe that towns like New Bedford, MA and Berlin, NH were once served by a large airline.
“This photo 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!”
Below are two DC-9s at Boston Logan Airport in 1967. This photo really showcases the yellowbird livery. Note the Expo 67 decal under the first window of the closest airplane. Amazingly, this airplane is registered with the FAA as airworthy, 57 years years after delivery to NEA as N8953U. The other one flew until it was retired in late 1998 for a total of 31 years in service.
I took the 2 photos below at Miami Airport. My Dad had training there and brought me along with him.
In addition to these aircraft types, the yellowbird livery was also used on Northeastʼs Convair 880s and its single CV-990, airplanes that were leased from TWA and American. The 880s were used on the Florida routes from 1962 through 1968 and the 990 in 1967 and 1968. They were replaced by 727s and DC-9s.
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.
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.
These photos illustrate the difference between the Convair 990 and 880. The 990 was longer, had different engines and had the iconic blisters on the wingtop trailing edge.
Northeast Airlines operated in the days of airline regulation. The civil aeronautics board (CAB ) decided which airlines could fly where and how much they could charge for it. Northeast was competing mainly with Eastern Airlines and National Airlines, both of which had larger route systems, fleets, and political clout.
Northeast was acquired by Delta in 1972. This provided Delta with NEA’s routes and with the 727, which would become a fleet mainstay.
Airliners are delivered to each airline tweaked to that airline’s specifications. Although Northeast’s planes were less than 7 years old, they were phased out of the Delta fleet as soon as practical and replaced with jets configured to Delta standards.
Below is a photo of some former Yellowbirds at Logan airport sporting the also-iconic Delta widget.
This video from the Starboard76 YouTube channel has everything from the DC-6 to the Yellowbird CV-880, CV-990, 727, and DC-9. It’s the best collection of Northeast Yellowbirds I have seen. The collection of parked Yellowbirds toward the end is at the former NEA Boston hangar ramp, today occupied by JetBlue and general aviation.
The CV-880 below is being pushed back from NEA’s Miami concourse.
Some other interesting sites for Northeast and Delta fans.
- The Delta Flight Museum has a Northeast Airlines section with dates and milestones.
- 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 Vlugtʼs amazing memorabilia website and collection. Perry appears in the famous Deltalina preflight video.
Author: Dave Goodwin.
Dave is a seasoned travel and aviation expert with a background in European tours and airline operations.