U.S. Markets closed

Investors seek to put Eastern Air Lines back in the skies

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - A group of investors, betting the long-shuttered Eastern Air Lines' logo and other trademarks will jumpstart a new airline of the same name, this week filed applications with the U.S. Department of Transportation, hoping to get off the ground in about a year.

The patent on Eastern Air Lines' name and logo was one of the last assets remaining in the now-defunct carrier's estate, said president and Chief Executive Edward Wegel.

The new Eastern will operate as a charter "for other airlines that have scheduling issues or aircraft issues and need additional craft or for tour operators who want to increase their lift into the Caribbean into the United States," Wegel said.

Operations will run out of a building in Miami International Airport that served as Eastern's headquarters until 1991.

The original Eastern was one of the country's "Big Four" airlines - along with American, Delta and United - that dominated U.S. air travel for more than 50 years.

The airline was formed in 1930 by the consolidation of several smaller, regional airlines and in the decades that followed became the first to make regular shuttle flights between Boston and Washington D.C. and to use jet aircraft.

In the 1980s, weighed down by debt and conflict between management and labor unions, Eastern was sold to Texas Air, which also owned Continental, and began shedding employees and planes to stay afloat.

Eastern filed for bankruptcy in 1989 and ceased flying in 1991.

"It's certainly exciting to see that this local icon is making a comeback," said Emilio T. González, director of Miami International Airport and surrounding airports, in a statement.

Along with Wegel, the revived Eastern's board includes Admiral William Owens, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President Bill Clinton, and Joseph DaGrosa Jr., whose company, 1848 Capital Partners, manages 248 Burger King restaurants.

Eastern plans a common stock offering in the next few months to raise up to $14 million to cover startup costs, it said in filings with the Department of Transportation.

It will take delivery of a leased Airbus A320 in late August in order to finish certification and hopes to add two more to the fleet within a year.

"More fuel-efficient planes are coming and demand for travel continues to increase," Wegel said. "It's a good time for companies like us that want to support the airline business by providing additional lift and capacity."