The History of Northeastern International Airways

Its four-year reign was brief and tumultuous, with a high representing what could have steadily been if ambitions had not exceeded expenses. But perhaps its greatest legacy is that it sparked one of Long Island MacArthur Airport’s development cycles, attracting passengers and, ultimately, other carriers, putting the fledging airfield, which had continually striven for identity and purpose, on the map. The airline had the globe-suggesting name of Northeastern International Airways with the unlikely two-letter code of “QS,” although it never stretched further than the West Coast. And its founder was Stephen L. Quinto.

Born on July 8, 1935 in the Bronx, but raised on Long Island, he could certainly identify with the roots of his eventual enterprise, and his exposure to aviation came before his teenage years, at the age of 12, when his older brother started his own air service. Like father, like son, the saying goes, yet in this case it was closer to “like brother, like brother.”

His brother’s reign, at least characterized by his life, was also brief, since he subsequently succumbed to a military aircraft accident. Despite the tragedy, the event could have been the seed that grew into Quinto’s own aviation undertaking in a turn-pain-into-purpose philosophy.

“I think that probably had a great deal to do with looking at what this business is all about,” he later remarked.

Yet two decades passed before that seed could take root, during which time his pursuits ended in unsuccessful completion.

As honorable as it was, his appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point was a nonevent, because he was too young to legally accept it-by all of seven days! His other educational endeavors, including those at the University of Michigan, New York University, the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, and Pratt University, were also impressive and at least enabled him to leave a footprint on their campuses, but he walked away without a degree from any of them.

Seeking to escape it all, he moved to France for a decade, but it was on this side of the Atlantic, specifically in England in 1968, that his aviation seed finally sprouted wings with the Sagittair Company he established. It would be the first of three. The last, as already hinted, rose from his home soil of Long Island, emphasized by its inclusion in the name of the very airport that would become its operational base, Long Island MacArthur. Until his airline’s fleet-initially consisting of a single airplane-appeared on its tarmac, no one had heard of it. Then, again, the airport itself was hardly world-renown.

Constructed in 1942 as a result of Congress’s Development of Landing Areas for National Defense (DLAND), it was originally intended as a military facility sparked by the outbreak of World War II and could be used for civil purposes during times of peace. Because it was initially considered an appendage to military aviation, its commercial counterpart was viewed as a segment of the national defense system.

That commercial purpose was realized, albeit in limited form, before the end of the decade when a 5,000-square-foot passenger terminal was constructed and air taxi operator Gateway Airlines commenced scheduled service to Boston, Newark, and Washington with 11-passenger de Havilland Doves and 15-passenger Herons in 1956.

As the long-envisioned reliever airport to JFK and La Guardia, it inched toward this goal ten years later when a more ambitious, 50,000-square-foot oval terminal was built to handle the mostly morning business rush to Albany, Boston, and Washington with USAir BAC-111-200s and DC-9-30s and to Chicago with American Airlines’ 727-100 Astrojets.

Another long-term goal, as revealed by market studies, was the establishment of nonstop Long Island-Florida service to facilitate travel of those wishing to visit their sunshine state retired parents and tap into the tourist trade seeking winter warmth. Airline deregulation and Quinto made both possible.

Leasing a former Evergreen International DC-8-50, registered N800EV, and operating it in a single-class, 185-passenger configuration, he inaugurated Long Island MacArthur (Islip)-Ft. Lauderdale service on February 11, 1982, charging low, unrestricted fares. As an intercontinental aircraft, its relatively low fuel uplift, combined with a full passenger and baggage complement, enabled it to use 5,186-foot Runway 33-Left, from which it climbed out over Lake Ronkonkoma and departed Long Island over its South Shore, while complementary soft drinks and snack baskets of peanuts, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, and fresh fruit were served in the cabin. Checked baggage was included in the fare.

The initial schedule entailed four weekly rotations to Ft. Lauderdale and a single one to Orlando, although a second aircraft, registered N801EV, made increased frequencies and destinations possible.

In its first year of operations, it carried more than 150,000 passengers and ended the period on a high note by transporting a monthly record of 32,075 in December, a figure attributed to weather-caused, Florida-bound flight cancellations at the major New York airports and the subsequent bus transfer of stranded flyers to Islip.

The Long Island airport’s own statistics were also promising, with 3,071 annual air carrier movements and 250,406 passengers in 1982, since it could now boast three pure-jet operators after American and USAir.

Quinto attributed his carrier’s initial success to the trusted and proven concepts of service quality and low, unrestricted fares, along with filling a market gap that had been hungry for years. For this reason, Northeastern adopted the slogan of “:A lot of airline for a little money” and, because it served the hometown airport of MacArthur, eliminating the commute to either JFK or La Guardia for eastern Nassau and Suffolk County residents, it also toted, “We’re one step closer to home.”

Although its corporate headquarters was located in Ft. Lauderdale, Long Island remained its operational base. After leasing two 128-passenger former Pan Am 727-100s, which were draped in pink and blue cloud liveries, it offered seven daily departures from Islip to Ft. Lauderdale itself, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, and St. Petersburg, which was a secondary airport to Tampa. Nonstop flights were also offered from the Connecticut airfield.

Low-fare, deregulation-sparked momentum, once initiated, could not be arrested. The following year, which entailed the acquisition of three longer-range DC-8-62s-including N752UA from United Air Leasing, OY-KTE from Thai Airways International, and N8973U from Arrow Air-saw service to 11 destinations and the annual transport of just under 600,000 passengers.

Long Island MacArthur Airport, with which it was inextricably tied, also reaped financial reward, recording 6,597 air carrier movements and a 546,996-passenger throughput in 1983.

Yet, deviating from its thus far successful strategy and ignoring the tried-and-true “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, Northeastern elected to tackle the big boys at airports such as JFK and acquire widebody aircraft, ultimately operating transcontinentally. The widebodies themselves came in the form of four Airbus A300B2s in 314-passenger single-class, eight-abreast configurations: D-AIAD from Lufthansa in January (1984), D-AIAE from Lufthansa in February, F-ODRD from Airbus Industrie in May, and F-ODRE from Airbus Financial Services, also in May. It became the second US airline after Eastern to operate the European type.

The strategy may have elevated the low-cost carrier with Long Island roots to a big player, but its overexpansion was defeated by insufficient cash flow. Although it had earned $64.7 million in revenues in its fiscal year ended on March 31, 1984, it recorded a $5.2 million loss.

Its nonfinancial statistics told another story. By the summer, it operated 66 daily flights to 17 US destinations with a three-type, 16-strong fleet, including 727-200s from the likes of Mexicana de Aviacion and VASP, and employed 1,600 personnel. During the first half of the year, it recorded the highest load factor, of 71.5 percent, of any US airline, and in May became the 18th largest as measured by revenue passenger miles.

Its June 1984 system timetable encompassed Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Islip, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York-JFK, Oklahoma City, Orlando, St. Petersburg, San Diego, Tulsa, and West Palm Beach.

Although Long Island MacArthur was still its flight base, New Orleans had become its principle hub, with service to 15 cities. The large-capacity A300s were deployed on the east coast from JFK to Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando and on the one-stop southern transcontinental one from Miami to Los Angles via New Orleans itself.

Yet gravity was not the only element to cause an airborne object to descend, even those with wings. Finances equally provided-or, in this case, nullified-lift, sparking a rapid descent. Another $4.4 million was lost during the third quarter that ended on September 30, 1984 and with it began the survival-mode strategy of eliminating aspects which could no longer be monetarily supported, including the layoff of 450 employees and the return-it was actually a repossession-of the A300 fleet.

Viewing his once rapidly rising carrier as a jigsaw puzzle, Quinto attempted to keep its picture whole without its forcibly removed pieces and replace them with what he could scrounge. Ten former Braniff 727-200s, which were vitally needed to quench the thirst of the winter sun-seeking market during the 1984-1985 season, were promising replacements. However, a Dallas judge ruled that this sublease of airplanes and crew would have violated the terms of Braniff’s own bankruptcy reorganization agreement.

Like plugs pulled from Northeastern’s rapid rise, the lights outlining its structure blacked out. Destinations were eliminated, reservation lines were severed, flights were cancelled, bills were not paid, and passengers were left stranded. And on January 3, 1985, the three-year, low-cost carrier fell to the same fate as Braniff, filing for Chapter 11 in a Miami Bankruptcy Court with $28 million in assets and $48 million in liabilities. It owed some $15 million to more than a thousand unsecured creditors and could no longer meet its employee payroll.

“I don’t know who to blame,” Quinto told reporters at the time. “All I can tell you is that we have an awful lot of paper, but no cash.”

Northeastern never rose to its former, but brief glory again, although Quinto gave heart and soul trying. Likened to a “junkyard dog,” he made continual effort to piece scraps together and keep his enterprise airborne, which he did sporadically, despite the bankruptcy filing.

A single no-frills flight, from Islip to Ft. Lauderdale at a $69.00 fare, strung an aerial thread down the east coast, but with gradual regrowth, the four major Florida cities of Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach were linked to Chicago as well as Islip and Philadelphia, albeit for a $20.00 higher fare, until the plug was once again pulled in March, when it missed an aircraft lease payment.

Four months ensued before it was in the sky again, on June 21, serving the familiar Florida routes with 727-200s leased from United, although some sectors were sporadically operated by All Star Airlines and Emerald Air DC-9s on its behalf.

But its market had been intermittently lost. Confidence was lost. Airplanes were lost. And its fares, as low as $49.00 to compete with the more established, familiar-name carriers, could hardly sustain it.

The last glimmer of hope came at the end of the year with a $1 million loan and the lease of a single MD-82 from Alisarda, registered HB-IKL. Yet its final light was doused in early 1986, drowned by liquidation, but not necessarily on the Long Island airport that had spawned it and to which its legacy had been left.

What’s Your Treasure?

With all the chaos, turmoil, and just “bad news” that we are saturated with every day, and seemingly every minute of every day, it’s no wonder that people look for an escape… even if that escape is only the “fantasy” of discovering a long-lost hoard of gold, silver, and jewels. Wouldn’t it be nice to unearth a chest so valuable that you could leave all the chaos and turmoil behind and just live in peace, not worrying about what is happening across the country or around the world? Sure it would. I think we all would “take the money and run.” If only it were that easy. A lot of people, though, find that the “hunt” of discovering a treasure provides just such as escape, and is not at all out of reach… depending of course on what your treasure is.

If “treasure” to you means one of Captain Kidd’s buried chests of pirate booty, then you may have a long hard search ahead of you (although such a worthy endeavor would certainly provide an escape into the world of treasure hunting). If, however, your “treasure” is time spent in the outdoors along a river, at a beach, a park, the mountains, or underwater, and your discovery consists of discarded relics, dropped coins, or evidence of history you’ve seen or held for the first time, then your search is likely to be fruitful and satisfying.

I cannot tell you what your “treasure” is. Only you can do that. I can, however, tell you what my “treasure” is. My treasure is discovery. My treasure is putting pieces of a historical puzzle together. My treasure is being where history happened and reliving the events attached to the ground. My treasure is not just identifying where something happened, but why it happened. I see history, not just as a collection of names, dates, places, and events, but as a connected series of causes and effects. There is probably no better example of this cause and effect relationship to history than the Battle of Gettysburg.

Being at that battlefield… where countless lives were forever changed or extinguished… walking the grounds in the footsteps of those soldiers brings the ground to life. I can feel the motivations that moved troops this way instead of that. Feel the desperation to capture ground, out maneuver your pursuers, and survive. Like no other place I’ve been, The Gettysburg Battlefield saturates you. This is what motivates me no matter where I go, and no matter what I’m searching for. When I evaluate the ground, find evidence of the event and “relive” the actions, I’ve found my treasure. And if I locate a trinket of the event, I get a true emotional boost from my efforts. I’m here to tell you, that you will get a sense of elation from finding a ox shoe from the mid-to-late 1800’s along an old pioneer wagon trail. It provides a connection… a sense of belonging… of roots. Sure, finding a box of money would be fantastic. But, just because I didn’t find that box… this time… doesn’t take away the feelings of accomplishment and connection that the old ox shoe provides. And the thing is anyone… everyone… no matter where you live… can participate in this “treasure hunt.”

In our over-regulated world, there is a substantial and vocal segment of the population bent on depriving you of the opportunity to discover, to search for your treasure. They have passed laws, regulated activities, prevented access, and labeled treasure hunters and treasure hunting with derogatory labels. In some places, just being there is “breaking a law.” Picking up discarded objects is a crime. Participating in work to recover gold, silver, and in some cases rocks and minerals is cause to “call in the law.” Two really simple things you can do are: 1) Obey whatever laws currently regulate an area, and 2) lend your support (voice, written, whatever) to prevent, modify, or repeal these outrageous regulations, and bring back reason and a sense of sanity.

Everywhere, from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, pioneers, travelers, and adventurers of every kind sought new ground and a new life. Armies moved from here to there. Towns were built that were abandoned and crumbled to dust. But, the history is there. The evidence is there. Find the evidence; live the history; find your treasure. And if you happen to search for and find that box of money… don’t forget to share!

Booking A Ski Lodge? Do These Five Things First

When winter comes along, it’s a little hard not to get a little discouraged by the cold. Then again, if you’re going to be spending part of your winter basking in the awesomeness of a ski lodge, winter may just be the best season of the year.

After all, there aren’t a lot of people who can say they’ve spent time in a ski lodge, and just the name itself elicits a certain amount of allure and luxury. And while this housing alternative certainly has a lot to offer to guests, there has been a greater push to have ski lodges and resort towns be more accessible to the regular guy just looking to ‘wow’ his family during the dreary months of winter.

If this is actually your first time heading out to a ski lodge, you may not be fully aware of what to do and what needs to be in place when you book your trip. This may seem like something stressful, but rest assured, it’s not necessarily too far off from the usual trip planning.

Here are five things you need to get taken care of when you’re about to book a ski lodge:

Set Dates & Schedule – Before you book any trip, you definitely want to know when you’ll be taking the trip and what type of schedule you’ll maintain during your trip. While this is important for all trips, ski getaways are massively popular, which means if you’re not really on the ball, you may not have a booking available.

Get Input from Your Family – Being able to form a trip schedule means knowing what activities you want to be a part of while your away. Get your family together and see what types of things everyone wants to do. You may find that you’re on the same page. Even better, ski lodges have great websites showing their amenities, a tour of their facilities, and a breakdown of things to do during your stay.

Plan Your Packing – This is mostly a note for parents who want to make sure their kids are packing what’s needed. However, if you’re a person that tends to be bad at packing, you might get some practice in, especially if you’re packing a little differently for your lodge.

Rent or Buy Gear? – If you’ll be doing skiing or snowboarding, for example, you might want to find out if it’s better for you to rent your gear or buy it. If you buy it before you leave, remember that you’ll have to figure out how to travel with it.

Decide How You Will Get Around – You only have so much time for your vacation period, so make the most of it. If you’re still trying to decide on a lodge, take into consideration how long it takes to travel there, whether you’ll rent a car there, and how far away from things your lodge stands. If too much time is used to travel & move around, it may not be the lodge for you.

Don’t be too taken back by the idea of booking a ski lodge for the first time. With these helpful hints, you’re sure to feel a bit more at ease. And even if you are a regular trip planner, these tips may actually be helpful in getting your mindset ready when booking season comes along. The most important thing to take away is to not fret too much every little thing. Look forward to having a great time and, most importantly, trying to figure out when you can start planning your next trip.