Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. reported net income of $51.4 million (71 cents a share) yesterday for the first quarter of 1979, a 39.9 percent increase from profits of $36.7 million (51 cents) in the corresponding period last year.

Sales for the period totaled a record $2.01 billion, a 21 percent rise from sales of $1.66 billion in the January-March period last year.

However, Chairman Charles J. Pilliod Jr. said that while the firm is pleased with the growth in sales, the 2.6 percent rate of return on sales "is not considered adequate to maintain our goals for growth and job expansion."

National Steel Corp announced sharply improved first-quarter earnings compared with the same period in 1978 but said they were "most unsatisfactory."

The nation's third-ranked steelmaker said it earned $20.7 million ($1.08 a share) on net sales of $1.1 billion. Last year, the company earned $2.4 million (13 cents) on sales of $846.3 million.

Eastman Kodak Co., plagued by poor earnings ever since it introduced its new instant camera, finally had a good profit gain in the first quarter of this year.

Net income rose to $197.5 million ($1.22 a share) from $141 million (87 cents) a year ago. Sales climbed to $1.64 billion from $1.38 billion.

Chairman Walter Fallon said unit volume rather than price increase cause most of the sales gain, although prices were moderately higher.

More major oil companies reported large profit gains for the first quarter.

Standard Oil of California, the fourth-ranked petroleum company, reported a 43 percent gain to $347 million ($2.03 a share) from $243 million ($1.42) a year ago.

Chairman Harold J. Haynes said Chevron's domestic petroleum earnings fell to $106 million from $119 million mainly because of the need to buy oil in the spot market to meet customer commitments.

Revenues rose to $6.02 billion from $5.694 billion.

Continental Oil Co. of Stamford, Conn., ranked No. 9, said it earned $1.50 a share in the first quarter the biggest factor in the increase was the last year's first-quarter earnings were depressed by the coal strike. Conoco earned $26.7 million on its coal business in this year's first quarter against a loss of $52 million a year ago.

Conoco earned $161.8 million on sales of $2.8 billion against $36.5 million on sales of $2.1 billion a year earlier.

Standard Oil of Ohio reported skyrocketing first-quarter profits of $167.5 million, up 303 percent over $41.5 million in the same period a year ago.

Sohio Chairman Alton Whitehouse said at a news conference, however, that he believes a comparison between this year and last is not meaningful because the company's Alaskan North Slpe oil production was curtailed in early 1978 to repair a damaged Transalaska Pipeline pump station.

Getty Oil Co., based in Los Angeles, said its profits rose to $108.2 million ($1.31 a share) from $76.4 million (93 cents). Revenue totaled $1.09 billion, up from $917 million in the first three months of 1978. Getty is ranked 20th.