Jax was an early commercial airlines hub

National Airlines (Wikipedia)

Before airlines like Jetblue, Spirit and Southwest hit the scene, there was National Airlines. While Atlanta had Delta, Houston Continental and Detroit Northwest Airlines, Jacksonville had National. National Airlines was the first airline to introduce domestic jet service in the United States, with a flight between Miami and New York in 1958.

National Airlines was established by George T. Baker in 1934 and originally headquartered at St. Petersburg’s Albert Whitted Airport. In 1939, the airline relocated its headquarters to Jacksonville’s Imeson Field. While based in Jacksonville, the airline’s network expanded to stretch from Miami to New Orleans on what was dubbed the Buccaneer Route.

Revenue passenger miles also increased from 1,340,050 in 1939 to 108,760,267 in 1946, as the company was awarded rights from Florida to New York City and other cities along the East Coast. After gaining approval in 1946 to fly non-stop between Miami and Havana, Cuba, National relocated its headquarters to Miami International Airport. Following the relocation, Jacksonville became a focus city, along with Tampa, New Orleans and New York City. One of only three U.S. airlines that operated scheduled passenger flights to Europe between 1970 and 1978, National’s days came to an end in 1980 when the airline merged with Pan Am.

Birthplace of the Blue Angels

The Blue Angels in diamond formation. (Wikipedia)

The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron is the world’s second oldest formal aerobatic team, after the French Patrouille de France. Formed to boost Navy morale and public interest in Naval Aviation, the group’s first public flight demonstration took place on June 15, 1946 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville. At the time, NAS Jacksonville was the demonstration team’s training base and headquarters. Prior to the public demonstration, a private show took place on June 7, 1946 at Craig Field, just east of Arlington. Now based at NAS Pensacola, since their establishment, the Blue Angels have flown for more than 505 million spectators.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com