Calling all Yellowbirds! 50th reunion of former employees + passengers of Boston-based Northeast Airlines

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A stewardess welcomes passengers on board a Northeast Airlines Boeing 727 sporting the “Yellowbird” paint scheme.

MANCHESTER, NH — It brought the first passenger air service to New England in the 1930s, played a crucial role in World War II, and in the 1960s transformed itself into the airline of the ‘Yellowbirds’ with pop art marketing promoting new service to Florida and the Caribbean.

It was Boston-based Northeast Airlines, which served New England (and later, the nation) from 1933 until the summer of 1972, when it became part of Delta Airlines.

Now, a half-century later, a ‘Return of the Yellowbirds’ gathering will take place in Manchester on Sunday, July 31. Organized by the Aviation Museum of NH, the event will bring together ex-employees, family members, passengers and fans of the airline, which is remembered for its catching “Yellowbird” jingle and eye-catching yellow and white livery.

“You still hear it today—people who worked for Northeast loved the airline. They thought of it as one big family,” said Jeff Rapsis, executive director of the Aviation Museum of N.H., whose father was a Northeast Airlines pilot in the 1950s and 1960s.


“This summer’s reunion is a chance for Northeast veterans, as well as family, friends and the airline’s many fans, to celebrate a special company, renew old friendships, and also carry the Yellowbird legacy into the future,” Rapsis said.

The event, which is open to all, takes place on Sunday, July 31 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Downtown Manchester, 700 Elm St., Manchester, N.H. The event includes a gourmet dinner served buffet style, a display of historic artifacts and Northeast Airlines uniforms, the premiere of a new video honoring Northeast Airlines, and more.


Tickets are $75 per person, with all proceeds to benefit the Aviation Museum’s youth education programs. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (603) 669-4877 or online at www.aviationmuseumofnh.org. The event is sponsored by Delta Airlines, with major support from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. For questions, please call the Aviation Museum at (603) 669-4820.

Special guests will include Lynda Valdez, a Delta Airlines flight attendant hired by Northeast Airlines in 1969 and who remains on active duty today, 53 years later. Also attending will be former Northeast pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and other personnel, many of whom worked for Delta for decades after the merger.

“We’re getting interest from a wide range of people with fond memories of Northeast Airlines,” Rapsis said. “Just today, I spoke with a woman whose first flight was in 1952 at age 12 on Northeast Airlines, out of the original 1937 passenger terminal at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport that now serves as our museum.”
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A print ad promoting Northeast Airlines during the 1966-72 “Yellowbird” era.

At the event, airline veterans will be encouraged to record short videos about their Northeast Airlines experience. The Aviation Museum of N.H. hopes to collect these as a resource for future research about the carrier, which served Manchester, N.H. and many other New England airfields throughout its four-decade existence.

The event will feature live music by ‘The Yellowbirds,’ a five-person combo assembled especially for the reunion.

On display will be more than 250 Northeast Airlines artifacts from the Aviation Museum of N.H., which actively collects Northeast material to preserve the carrier’s record of service to the Granite State and the region in the early days of air travel.

That record includes its share of drama. On display will be items related to the November 1954 crash of a DC-3 passenger plane near Berlin, N.H. on snowy Mt. Success, which made national headlines when the downed aircraft couldn’t be located for three days.

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In the 1960s, Northeast Airlines used pop art styling to promote itself.

Five people survived the accident, including the pilot, Capt. Peter Carey, whose son will attend the July 31 reunion. The aircraft fuselage remains on the mountain to this day, located just off the Appalachian Trail.

“Accidents such as the Mt. Success crash of 1954 are a crucial part of the Northeast Airlines story,” Rapsis said. “They show the challenges that had to be overcome as aviation boomed in the years following World War II. These experiences led directly to today’s incredibly safe air passenger system.”

The event will also see the inauguration of the new “Yellowbird Future Aviators Association,” a networking group for young people who intend to pursue careers in aviation and aerospace.

“With the launch of this new association, we hope to encourage the young people of today pursue aviation with the same passion and single-minded dedication to service that characterized Northeast Airlines throughout its colorful existence,” Rapsis said.

A highlight will be the unveiling of a two-seat aircraft built by students at the Manchester School of Technology, a career and technical high school in Manchester, N.H. The plane-building program is a partnership between the school, the Aviation Museum, and Tango Flight, a non-profit educational consultant.

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The logo used by Northeast Airlines from 1966 until 1972, when the Boston-based airline promoted “Yellowbird” service.

The Aviation Museum of N.H., located at 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, N.H., is a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. Based in the 1937 art deco passenger terminal at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, the Aviation Museum is dedicated to preserving the region’s rich aviation past, and also inspiring today’s young people to become the aerospace pioneers of tomorrow.

Named “Best Place to Take Kids” in southern New Hampshire in the 2022 HippoPress Readers Poll, the Aviation Museum of N.H. was recently awarded the prestigious ‘Non-Profit Impact Award’ by the Center for N.H. Non-Profits.

For more information about the Aviation Museum, visit www.aviationmuseumofnh.org or call (603) 669-4820. Follow the Aviation Museum on social media at www.facebook.com/nhahs.


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