Category talk:Northeastern International Airways

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Because NIA was not a 'public' company, little of its factual life has been taken into account, or recollected.... I would hope to make up somewhat for such a shortcoming here, because any number of its accomplishments were noteworthy and deserving of mention. Also no one is probably better placed than me [Stephen L. Quinto ["SQ"] the founder & ceo of that 'little' airline 'that could'] to know the facts..... My original edits to the main page were rejected .....as I was not considered 'valid source material' for more information than the skeletal piece that currently serves posterity. However, in this discussion area, one ought to find an acceptable forum for amplification and/or argument! I hope a few people are prepared to take up the challenge.

Right from its inception, as an idea ....until it became a certificated air carrier, NIA's accomplishments were outsize its diminutive scale [and reality]: what other Airline in the world was started with funding of, and a budget for ....just over $200,000???

1. By acquiring the Pennsylvania company [Northeastern International Airways Inc: "NIA"] in 1981 from its owner, Robert Rutkowski of Scranton Pa - who was in the travel business - the difficulties of time and process for certification was overcome in the single event of purchase - the cost to SQ: $50k. NIA already had obtained from the then CAB two charter certificates: one Domestic Passenger & Freight Charter & World-widel Pax and Freight Charter.

2. Now the owner of a 'certificated' company, SQ turned his attention to finding a path out of the obscure cargo operation he had run since 1977 at MIA called AirFreighter Leasing Corp. In that company he had owned two DC-4s and one DC-7C aircraft .....from time to time he also leased in and operated a B-707 aircraft. [The DC-7Cs were also an acronym for "Seven Seas" as British Overseas Airways called those aircraft in its fleet; in fact AirFreighter's "7" started life as a member of that British airline's fleet.] But by this time, in 1981, it was the only aircraft remaining in AirFreighter's fleet.

    In Summer and early autumn of 1981, the only possibility that appeared viable was to operate cargo charters to the Dominican Republic - where AirFreighter had considerable experience. To do so, however, both the 'aircraft' and the 'airline' SQ owned ....would have to be certificated [by FAA].  The budget for bringing the aircraft up to 'spec' was determined by a quote for $50,000 from a MIA-based FBO. The rest of the certification process went well beyond the current resources of NIA. It was a consideration that the unfunded balance of the at least $500,000 SQ saw needed could be obtained by loans ....but the prospects for that was not imminent..... and resources were dwindling. 

3. Coincidentally with the above considerations, two Eastern A/L guys were looking to start an airline from MIA to Islip ["ISP"] .....but they had no certification basis yet and SQ knew he could provide that.... So he contacted them with an offer of help. In fact, he did so a couple of times, with each of them rejected by the Eastern guys. But reflecting on the prospects at ISP - SQ knew well the demographics of Long Island, as that was where he'd grown up - it had already occurred to him that FLL-ISP would be a much surer bet than MIA [for many reasons].

4. However, contemporaneously, the prospect of a sale for the DC-7C arose. Charles Paterson, of Sea Green Airways [based in Antigua] approached SQ to inquire if it was for sale. Over the course of a couple of weeks, the discussion turned into a negotiation, resulting in the sale of the aircraft for $200,000. Now it was time to test the waters at ISP and SQ arranged to go and meet with the Airport Manager, Al Werner, in ISP. The outcome of that meeting was an offer to NIA of several incentives that would prove invaluable should a start-up be initiated there.

Furthermore, several other propitious developments also occurred. First, Airlift Int'l - a freight airline operating DC-8 a/c, went into Liquidation; so did Braniff .....both of which could provide capable and experienced personnel. And so did Laker A/W [at auction which would provide equipment for an entire reservations system at pennies on the dollar. Moreover, Bobby Brush - who'd been SQ's DC-8 Captain in AirFreighter operations and also a prior owner/operator of similar aircraft L-1049, CV-880 etc - was both available and interested in helping. So was Larry Smith, ex-VP Legal for Airlift.

Thus the basis for a serious effort was falling into place willy-nilly. However, only a very limited budget - who could possibly contemplate starting an airline with $200,000? - was available. What's more, the entire domestic economy was heading into recession, inflation running away and interest rates going through the roof. Surely this was no time to start an business adventure.....

But before this got too far, SQ thought he'd better have a chat with the chief of the local FAA office that had had jurisdiction over such as AirFreighter's operations at MIA. SQ explained his coming to Bill Abrams, the unit manager, as no one but he [inside FAA] knew him [and his history] better ....and could thus advise him if it was folly to proceed. Bill listened attentively to SQ's plans ....and in a summary directive said "Go for it!" and "Good luck". That was it: the die was cast..... NIA was to be a reality.

5. Over the last couple of months of autumn, the people who would be needed in every category of personnel came to the table. Everyone of them, from Aircrew [both Pilots, Engineers & Inflight] Operations, Maintenance & Engineering, Ops-Flt-Staff Training, Reservations - Sales - Accounting AND Executive etc] was ready willing and able to contribute their time and expertise 'gratis' to make NIA the reality they all expected it to become. They were each clear they would take no remuneration .....until NIA was flying revenue operations.

On 7th December 1981, offices on the 17th Street Causeway were leased - and 2nd-hand shop equipped in days ....while the work of Certification was begun by the first 55 people that comprised the prospective carrier. Even the telephone installation was a rush job....

Negotiations were begun about a week or so later with Evergreen Int'l for the lease of one DC-8-52 aircraft, with option for a second..... the aircraft [presently in storage in the desert at Marana Airport, Az] would be repainted in NIA livery and if not completely refurbished, deeply cleaned ed and restored to their useful 167-seat potential.... The deal wasn't even completed until a check was sent to Evergreen during the third week of December .....and crew training [at United's DC-8 school/simulator at Denver] was scheduled for January.

Now it was also time to make this effort public, but there was one more piece that needed to be in place. FLL airport had not yet been consulted, and SQ, realizing he must have a gate AND operating authority there ....approached Airport Director Wegner. He was shunted to Airport Lawyer Niedenthal and an appointment set for the following day. The meeting was not much shorter of a disaster - Niedenthal insisting that it would take at least six months to get through all the formalities prerequisite to authority; and SQ [thinking he hadn't the funds to last more than a few weeks] finally insisting that come February 9th, no matter what NIA was going to arrive at FLL with a planeload of passengers. To which Niedenthal advised him the airport would have the Police deal with such an occasion. And to which SQ said: "I don't care if you bring out the whole fucking army, we're coming in February!

Well, after tempering his frustration and reflecting on available options, SQ went to the next meeting of the Broward County Commission [the authority controlling FLL/HWD Airport] and arose to make a plea.... Describing the positive infrastructural boost it would be for the Long Island residents who make up a large portion of Broward's population, and the potential growth for the important tourism sector, and the opportunity for more employment in Broward, etc .....his arguments engendered the commission's help to realize the urgency of getting its approval to operate there..... And that was that!

6. During the 100%-efficiency of the NIA team at both ISP and FLL and wherever else they had to be, one more nail had to be banged in place: there was a regulation that stated a Charter Carrier could apply for and be given authority to carry out scheduled operations over an 'official route' that had no other service - NIA applied for it and got it! Now it had only to obtain its FAA Certification as a 'Scheduled Airline' instead of a charter airline [hardly an impediment, considering the competence of the Team at NIA].

7. Less than nine weeks since its effort officially began, and on the eve of its first revenue flight from ISP, on Feb 10th, 1982, it flew a 'proving' flight to ISP, with FAA examiners on board ......successfully! And thus, was able to carry all the passengers booked on it for travel to FLL the next day [the 11th] - all 165 of them. So began the twice-weekly flights to/from ISP, each of them near full. Such that each fortnight or month an additional rotation was added. Never had a Certificated Airline ever achieved operational status in the US [and probably in the whole of the developed world] from scratch ....in such a short period!

8. Revenue for the balance of February was, ironically, just over $200,000. In March, it grew to $450,000. in April, with the addition of the 2nd DC-8 it had optioned, it expanded to $1,000,000. NIA was flying.....

= = =[edit]

In order not to make this too much of a story, let me keep only to the significant achievemnts NIA racked up.

9. By the end of the Year NIA had recorded revenues of $19,000,000. In December, it took the first couple of four B-727-100s [128-pax] and early in the new year the rest; then the first two of B-727-200s as well. Its route network expanded N/S and East/West. Revenue in 1983 grew to $65,000,000.

10. It added further to its fleet and Route Network .....and by early 1984, had retired the two original DC-8-52s and replaced them with three DC-8-62s [204 pax], added four A-300B2 aircraft [313 pax] and three more B-727s..... By Summer, with Revenues growing toward $200,000,000 annual, it had also become the fastest-growing-towards profitability of every new entrant in US history. Compared to the biggest of the high flyers to date, PeoplExpress - which lost 10% on its first $175m of revenue - NIA lost 7.5% on the same revenue base. [Note: PE was funded with $25m in equity and $25m in govt-guaranteed loans ....whereas NIA still had only its $200k plus an additional $15k it derived from a 2nd mortgage on the founder's house].

11. Going on towards carrying two [2] million passengers in 1984 ....over an average trip length in excess of 1000 miles .....across the US East and West as well as North and South, it ran the highest load factor for at least six months of 1984 [at 71.5%] in the US and entire world airline industry. Statistics like ....having 10% of FLL's passenger traffic ......6% of Orlando's ......3% of JFK's .....comes easily to mind as the sort of achievements NIA regularly accrued.....

It is no wonder that those who analyze the industry and/or comment on it have avoided to confront the above facts ....they obviously pander to the needs and desires of the vested interests that prevail in industry today .....clearly they are at best mediocre in their perceptions and in their capabilities .....and at worst hiding the truth ....that the US airline industry, like every other major industry, is at best also mediocre in its performance. Same should also be said fro our 'democracy' .....it should be called what it is: a mediocracy.

Thank you for your time......