Small Fleets, Short Lives: Wings from Airlines in the Past
Written by Charlie Dolan
One of the things I miss most about the printed version of The Captain’s Log is the article deadline which always seemed to be hanging over my head. It was like the dreaded term paper, which was in my mind, but eventually had to be reduced to words on paper. Subtle (or not so subtle) reminders from Joop or Bill eventually got articles into the Log to be (hopefully) enjoyed by the members of the society. The new free form Log allows me to procrastinate much more than I used to.
I decided to write about air carriers which arose to fill a perceived niche, but for one reason or another went out of business quickly. These carriers also had small fleets, which might also have affected their short life spans.
One of the first, which came to my mind, was Matson Line. Shortly after World War Two ended, The Matson Steam Navigation Company decided to provide a luxury air carrier to augment their ship operations between the west coast of the United States and Hawaii. They planned to offer the best service in the air and managed to present a business plan which lured American Airlines ‘most senior pilot, E. L. Sloniger to surrender his seniority number to join their new carrier. When he left American, a younger pilot, Ernest K. Gann, followed. If “Old number one” thought that was a good move, how could he not go along. In fewer than twenty- four months, the air carrier folded, partly as a result of political pressure which might have been supported by Pan American’s Juan Trippe.
The largest rise and fall of air carriers came after the deregulation of the airways in the 1980s. Here are some of the carriers who tried to fill niches in the skies.
Air 1 (Air One) 1983 – 1984
Air South WV KB 1993 – 1997
All Star ASR 1984 -1985
American International 1982 – 1984
Eastwind WS SGR 1995 – 1999
Legend LC LGD 2000 – 2005
Orange Air ORN 2011 – 2014
Presidential Airways XV 1985 -1989
Pro Air XL PRH 1997 – 2000
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