New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line

From Academic Kids

New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA) was an airline that operated seaplane service from New York City to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and intermediate points on the east coast of South America during the 1920s. It was forced to merge into its competitor, Pan American World Airways, in 1930.

NYRBA was founded by Colonel Ralph A. O'Neill, who had been a decorated ace fighter pilot in World War I and then been a main figure in the establishment of both civil and military aviation in Mexico. He was named the exclusive agent for Boeing and Pratt & Whitney in all of Latin America in 1927, and in his travels he conceived the idea for the airline.

O'Neill travelled to South American countries establishing stops for NYRBA, agreed designs for the company's seaplanes with leading manufacturers, and arranged financial backing for the new company. At every turn he met opposition from Juan Terry Trippe, who with his associates had taken control of Pan Am. Trippe, his wealthy Yale roommate Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, and their Aviation Corporation of the Americas chairman Richard Hoyt were close to the Assistant Postmaster General, Washington Irving Glover, the professional head of the U.S. Post Office as the position of Postmaster General was a political sinecure. Glover refused to grant air mail contracts to any company not controlled by Trippe's triumvirate.

O'Neill soldiered on, however, in the belief that an airline could actually support itself by carrying passengers, and managed to obtain backing from James H. Rand, head of Remington Rand, and others, and NYRBA took to the skies. Their proudest aircraft were the Consolidated Aircraft Commodore seaplanes.

Another coup by O'Neill was to secure the Ponta do Calabouco landfill, considered the most valuable real estate in Rio de Janeiro, for use as NYRBA's base in that city.

The onset of the Great Depression, however, and continued pressure from Glover and other Trippe connections including Charles Lindbergh, eventually induced NYRBA's backers to pull out after some management missteps that O'Neill, far from the New York headquarters, had to spend time fixing. Though the company's business was growing and it had far more assets, it was compelled to merge as the junior partner into Trippe's Pan Am under circumstances O'Neill described as "a shotgun wedding after a damnable rape".

While the aviation business thrived, with credit given to Pan Am that Pan Am had contrived to take even when it was still controlled by NYRBA, the Brazilian government reappropriated Ponta do Calabouco.


  • A Dream of Eagles (ISBN 0913374024 or ISBN 0395166101) by Ralph A. O'Neill with Joseph F. Hood, published by San Francisco Book Company/Houghton Mifflin Company in 1973,324 pp.

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