Pan Am’s Flying Clippers

Written by Henry M. Holden
henry39holden@gmail.com
www.henrymholden.com

By the mid-1930s, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) used Martin M-130 and Sikorsky S-42 flying boats to cover their their Caribbean and South American routes.

When passenger demand increased for trans-Pacific and Atlantic travel toward the end of the 1930s, Pan Am went to Boeing for a long-range flying boat. In response, Boeing developed the Model 314, nicknamed the “Clipper” after the great ocean-going sailing ships.

Pan American wanted a flying boat with an extraordinary range that could supplement the airline’s trans-Pacific Martin M-130. On July 21, 1936, Pan American signed a contract for six Model 314s. The first deliveries occurred in March 1939. The Model 314 was the largest civil aircraft in service at the time.

NC18602 (No. 18) was the California Clipper. It was the last Pan Am 314 to be retired. By 1946, when it retired, had accumulated more than a million flight miles. (Photo Boeing Archives)

It was twice the size of the Sikorsky S-42, and outweighed the Martin M-130 China Clipper by 15 tons. The Boeing 314 weighed 40 tons and cost $550 000 per copy. Initially it had poor directional control due to the single vertical stabilizer. Boeing eventually settled on the triple-tail arrangement which became a feature of the design.

It had a central hull and adapted the experimental XB-15 bomber’s 149 ft. (45 metres) wing and engine nacelles on the flying boat’s large (for its day), whale-shaped body.

In the place of the traditional floating stabilizers at the wingtips, sponsons mounted on the sides of the hull were used. The sponsons were developed by Claude Dornier, and used on the Dornier Do X and Dornier Do 18. The sponsons also contained fuel tanks, which brought the capacity of the total fuel on board to almost 3,525 gallons (16 ,00 liters).

The new 14-cylinder double-row Wright 1,500 hp. Cyclones were the first to use 100-octane fuel. These engines on the 314A eliminated the lack of power that handicapped and ultimately canceled the XB-15 project.

Behind the upper-level flight deck were crew sleeping quarters and a giant baggage area. Between the two decks was a spiral staircase. The lower deck included a dining salon, cocktail lounge, and separate lavatory-dressing room facilities for men and women. The ultimate bow to the first class traveler was a bridal suite. One less publicized feature was the first flush toilets ever used on a transport aircraft.

On May 20, 1939, Pan American inaugurated the first transatlantic mail service. Almost a ton of mail was carried from Port Washington, N.Y., to Marseilles, France, via the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal, in 29 hours. The same aircraft opened the northern mail service to Southampton, UK on June 24, 1939.

The 314 had a 3,500-mile range and made the first passenger-scheduled trans-Atlantic flight on June 28, 1939. By the year’s end, Clippers were routinely crossing the Pacific. Passengers had a spacious lower deck that allowed seating for 74 daytime passengers on trips less than 1,000 miles over water, or 36 to 40 passengers in reclining seats for long overnight flights.

White-coated stewards served five and six-course meals on china with gleaming silver service. The standard of luxury on Pan American’s Boeing 314s has not been matched on heavier-than-air commercial transport since then. (Photo Boeing Archives)

Luxury Air Travel

Pan Am’s “Clippers” were built for the “First Class traveler,” a necessity given the long transoceanic flights. It had a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (303 km/h), but typically flights at the maximum gross weight were flown at 155 mph (249 km/h). In 1940, Pan Am’s San Francisco, to Honolulu, Hawaii, the route took 19 hours.

The 314s had galleys crewed by chefs from five-star hotels. White-coated stewards served five and six-course meals on china with gleaming silver service. The standard of luxury on Pan American’s Boeing 314s has not been matched on heavier-than-air commercial transport since then. This was travel for the super-rich, priced at $675 from New York to Southampton, UK (comparable to a round trip aboard Concorde in 2006). Most of the flights were trans-Pacific, with a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Hong Kong via the “stepping-stone” islands costing $760 (or $1,368 round-trip)

The 314 proved to be an excellent airplane. The XP–15 wing design increased the range t0 3,500-miles. It was a huge wing that not only gave the 314 the incredible range, but also the capability of making some in-flight repairs on the engines. Like the XP 15, there was a passageway inside each wing through which a crew member could crawl.

The lower deck included a dining salon, cocktail lounge, and separate lavatory-dressing room facilities for men and women. (Photo Boeing Archives)

World War II

On September 3, 1939, the golden age of the clipper ships came to a dead stop with the outbreak of World War II in Europe. The war curtailed Pan American’s opportunity to build on its success, and the northern trans-Atlantic route was abandoned on October 3, 1939.

At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the Pacific Clipper was en route to New Zealand. Rather than risk flying back to Honolulu, and being shot down by Japanese fighters, the captain decided to fly west to New York. Starting at Auckland, New Zealand, the Pacific Clipper reached New York after traveling over 31,500 miles (50,695km).

The Clipper fleet was pressed immediately into military service for the war effort. The flying boats were used for ferrying personnel and equipment to the European and Pacific Theaters. The aircraft were purchased by the War Department, and leased back to Pan Am for a dollar.

Few other aircraft of the day could meet the wartime distance and load requirements. President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on Dixie Clipper to meet with Winston Churchill at the Casablanca conference in 1943.

On the Marine Air Terminal interior wall is a mural representing the history of flight. The last mural depicts the Clipper ships and the crew plotting their flight. At that point, 1939, the Clipper represented the latest in aviation technology. (Photo Henry M. Holden)

The Clippers had long legs. American military cargo was carried via Brazil to Liberia, to supply the British forces at Cairo, and to the Russians, via Teheran. The 314 was then the only aircraft in the world that could make the 2,150-statute-mile (3,460 km) crossing over water, and was given the military designation C-98. Since the Pan Am pilots and crews had extensive expertise in using flying boats for extreme long-distance over-water flights, the company’s experienced pilots and navigators continued to serve as a civilian flight crew.

Success breeds more

With the success of the Boeing 314, Pan American ordered six more aircraft with increased engine power and passenger capacity, as the Boeing 314A, to be delivered in 1941.

Initially, the goal was to double the service on both the Atlantic and Pacific routes. However, the fall of France, in 1940, caused some doubt about whether the Atlantic service could continue. Passenger numbers were declining due to the war, and if Spain or Portugal joined the Axis, then the flights to Lisbon would end.

LaGuardia Airport, in New York City, was the clipper’s east coast operating base. A special building, the Marine Air Terminal, built in 1939, was for clipper passengers. The flying fish on the side of the building represented the Clipper ships. (Photo Henry M. Holden)

The 314A was a great improvement, it had increased fuel capacity of nearly,1 000 gallons (4,500 liters). The first 314A flew as a prototype on March 20, 1941, but with WW II raging, only half the order went to Pan Am. Three were bought by the British government and allotted to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) for use as transport aircraft, primarily intended for the UK – West Africa route. The sale made a small net profit for Pan Am – priced at cost plus five percent – and provided a vital communications link for Britain. Churchill later flew on Bristol Clipper and Berwick Clipper, which he praised strongly, adding to the Clippers’ fame during the war.

They faded quickly

Twelve Boeing 314 Clippers were produced by the Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 and 1941. Of the 12 three were lost to accidents, although only one of those resulted in fatalities: 24 passengers and crew aboard the Yankee Clipper died in a landing accident, in Lisbon, Portugal, on February 22, 1943. Among the fatalities was a prominent American author, and war correspondent, Benjamin Robertson. American singer and film actress Jane Froman was seriously injured. Two more Clippers were sunk in collisions with rescue ships after being forced to land due to engine trouble.

Three Pan American Airways S-42s over Miami Beach, Florida. When passenger demand increased for trans-Pacific and Atlantic travel toward the end of the 1930s, Pan Am went to Boeing for a long-range, four-engine flying boat. (Photo Florida State Archives)

The last Pan Am 314 to be retired, the California Clipper, in 1946, had accumulated more than a million flight miles. All Pan-Am’s 314 were removed from scheduled service in 1946, and five serviceable B-314s were purchased by the start-up airline New World Airways. These sat at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field until 1950 when all were sold for scrap. The last of the fleet, the Anzac Clipper, was resold and scrapped at Baltimore, Maryland in late 1951.

BOAC’s 314As were withdrawn from the Baltimore-to-Bermuda route in January 1948, replaced by Lockheed Constellations flying from New York and Baltimore to Bermuda.

The Boeing clippers served Pan Am and BOAC well during their short careers. The advent of the four-engine land planes, which traded luxury for speed and greater operating economy, doomed the flying boats. The passing of the flying boat, however, was inevitable even before war broke out. The same Boeing engineering capability responsible for the advanced technology found in the clippers made their extinction predictable. For even as the 314 was being developed, so too was another prewar airliner with technology even more cutting edge, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner.

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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

A first and business class aircraft cabin with coach fares. It went head to head with TWA and lost the fight.

Air South WV  KB 1993 – 1997

Operated seven aircraft primarily on the east coast of the USA

All Star ASR 1984 -1985

A small charter carrier operating three aircraft.

American International 1982 – 1984

Operated nine DC-9s

Eastwind WS SGR 1995 – 1999

Operated five aircraft on the US east coast.

  Legend LC  LGD 2000 – 2005 

An all business class airline, founded by a former head of the FAA. It operated six aircraft, but was locked in litigation with American Airlines from its inception until its demise.

Orange Air ORN 2011 – 2014

Orange operated two aircraft, but never had a truly viable operation. It did operate some sports charters.

Presidential Airways XV 1985 -1989

This carrier lasted about the longest and with a fleet of twenty three aircraft. I flew Presidential on a round trip between Montreal (CYUL) and Dulles (KIAD) in February 1985 and felt the service was good for a low cost carrier.

Pro Air XL  PRH 1997 – 2000

The carrier operated four Boeing 737 aircraft and was converting to MCD aircraft when maintenance issues led to a cessation of operations.

Ernest K. Gann

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Washington National Airport in Postcards

Written by Marvin G. Goldman

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (code ‘DCA’) is the closest airport to Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia), the U.S. capital. Although located only four miles (7 km.) from the heart of the capital district, the airport actually lies just across the Potomac River near the Crystal City urban neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia.

The first significant air field and terminal in the National Capital area was privately owned Hoover Field. Officially opened on 16 July 1926, it was located on the Virginia side of the Potomac River just north of the present DCA, on a site now occupied by the Pentagon. The first airline to operate there was Philadelphia Rapid Transit Air Service (‘PRT’) which started passenger and mail flights between Philadelphia and Hoover Field.

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Air Service (‘PRT’) Fokker F-VIIa-3m, ‘Kendrick’, at Hoover Field, Arlington County, Virginia, serving on the Washington-Philadelphia route, July-November 1926. Airline Issue.

Back of preceding Philadelphia Rapid Transit Air Service postcard.

The route from Hoover Field to Philadelphia proved uneconomical for the Philadelphia Rapid Transit airline. Also, the field itself was not well suited for airline operations. So PRT pulled out of Hoover Field after five months. Potomac Flying Service then started operating at Hoover Field, but with only mixed success.

Just one year later, In 1927, a competing private field called ‘Washington Airport’ opened adjacent to Hoover Field. However, faced with small sites that were often flooded, flight path obstacles, and financial difficulties, the two fields merged in September 1930 to form ‘Washington-Hoover Airport’. This did not sufficiently help the situation, as the combined site was still not worthy of serving as the principal airport for the Nation’s capital city.

Postcard issued in late 1928 or early 1929 showing ‘Washington Airport’ (later part of ‘Washington-Hoover Airport’) within the upper left circle on the far side of the Potomac River. The card advertises scenic flights over Washington operated by a Ryan Brougham aircraft and was probably issued by the owner-operator of those flights, Herbert Fahy who was a co-founder of ‘Washington Airport’. There are three versions of this card: two have a “Safety 1928’ ‘United States Air Transport’ insignia on the back (with the front of one version being less colorized), and the back of the third has a message promoting the scenic flights.      

Following the failure of Congress to agree on a new site for the development of a suitable airport for the national capital, in fall 1938 President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected a site for a totally new U.S. government-owned airport to be built just south of Washington-Hoover Airport on mudflats at Gravelly Point, by the Potomac River. Construction involved a tremendous amount of earth moving, reclaiming land from the marshes and river. The new airport, named ‘Washington National Airport’, opened for commercial flights on 16 June 1941. It was considered one of the finest of its day, with innovations in building design, plane handling, air and field traffic control, lighting, and facilities for public convenience. The first three airlines to operate there were American Airlines, Eastern Air Lines, and Pennsylvania Central Airlines (‘PCA’).

During the first few years of the new airport, a legal controversy existed as to whether the airport was in fact located in Virginia or was part of the federal District of Columbia. In 1945 Congress passed a law stating the airport site was indeed in Virginia, but that the airport was under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

Aerial view of new Washington National Airport showing its four runways, Curteich no. 1B-H2275; 1941, the year of its inauguration. The deactivated Washington-Hoover Airport field can be seen at the empty land just northwest of the new airport.

The terminal and administration building of Washington National Airport, early 1940s. Real photo postcard by Tenschert, no. 321. An American Airlines Douglas DC-3 is at left, and an Eastern Air Lines DC-3 at right.

 After Washington National Airport opened, a nice set of 18 different colorized ‘linen’ finish postcards about the airport was published, likely between 1942 and 1945, by Capitol Souvenir Company (‘Capsco’) of Washington D.C., along with a souvenir folder of non-postcard photos of those 18 views. So-called ‘linen’ postcards derived their name from the surface pattern of the card that resembled the crosshatched surface of linen fabric. They were popular mainly from 1930 to 1945, at which time postcards with a ‘chrome’ finish and more realistic photos became the dominant form of postcard.

Here are nine of those Capsco ‘linen’ postcards selected from the set.

The first hangar built at Washington National Airport. In front are Douglas DC-3s of the first three airlines serving the airport — American, Eastern and Pennsylvania Central.

American DC-3s in front of the row of more modern hangars built at Washington National Airport soon after its opening.

American Airlines DC-3 on the ramp with the administration/terminal building in the background.

Eastern Air Lines DC-3, with Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument seen across the Potomac River.

From the dining room and through the panoramic glass of the terminal waiting room, passengers could look out towards the aircraft activity and also see, as here, the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol building on the other side of the Potomac River.

Several ‘chrome’ finish postcards depict the original Washington National Airport (which had added in 1950 an extension to the main terminal at its south end).  Here is a selection of five postcards that show aircraft on the ramp with the administration/terminal building in the background.

Pennsylvania Central Airlines (‘PCA’) Douglas DC-3, NC49553, at Washington National Airport between 1945 and 1948, issued for Airliners International 2006 Washington. Pub’r j.j.postcards, Bassersdorf, Switzerland. This aircraft joined PCA’s fleet in March 1945, and PCA changed its name to Capital Airlines in April 1948.

Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Constellations at Washington National Airport. Dexter Press no. 51413, Pub’r Racon Wholesale, Washington D.C. Eastern was a large operator of Constellations, with 79 of different types serving during the period 1945 to 1968. On 30 April 1961 Eastern inaugurated its iconic ‘Air-Shuttle’ service between Washington National and New York-LaGuardia and Boston-Logan, with L1049 Constellation aircraft.

Capital Airlines Vickers Viscount turboprop at Washington Airport. Airline issue. In 1955 Capital became the first U.S. operator of the Viscount.

Eastern Air Lines Lockheed 188 Electra at Washington National Airport. Pub’r Capsco, Washington D.C., no. P61914. Eastern started adding Electra turboprops to its fleet in late 1958, and introduced them on its Air-Shuttle service in 1965. Also in 1958 the airport’s infrastructure expanded with the opening of its ‘North Terminal’.

Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727 and Lockheed Constellation at Washington National Airport. Pub’r: Capsco, no. P72871. Eastern was the launch airline for the 727 and placed it in service on the Philadelphia-Washington-Miami route on 1 February 1964.

Washington National Airport (‘DCA’) 5-View Card. Printed by John Hinde Curteich, Distr. L. B. Prince, Fairfax VA, D. Noble Photos, probably issued in the 1970s or 1980s. In 1970 facilities for TWA and Northwest airlines opened at Washington National. Examples of their aircraft appear in the lower left and center views respectively in this postcard. Delta, Pan Am, United, US Air and other airlines also started serving DCA.

  In 1987 U.S. federal control of Washington National Airport (along with Dulles, the more distant Washington airport that mainly serves longer-haul flights) was transferred to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, an independent interstate agency created by legislation of the State of Virginia and the District of Columbia, with the consent of Congress.

On 12 May 1997 a new modern and taller airport traffic control tower at Washington National was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration, and on 27 July 1997 the airport was transformed by the official opening of an entirely new modern north terminal (called Terminals B and C), featuring three levels, 35 aircraft gates and a beautiful ‘National Hall’ concourse with numerous shops and restaurants.

Aerial view of Washington National Airport and its new terminal, issued by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Alexandria VA. Oversize card, 12.4 x 17.7 cms.

Control Tower and Interior at Washington National Airport. Distr. L. B. Prince Co., Fairfax VA, no. K25434, E. David Luna Photo.

On 6 February 1998 the airport name was changed from ‘Washington National’ to ‘Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’, in honor of the 40th President of the U.S., who served from 1981 to 1989.  The airport code ‘DCA’ remained the same.

Front View of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, with Control Tower. Pub’r Shin Sung Souvenir Co., Washington D.C., no. 02642, E. David Luna Photo.

Four View Postcard of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Pub’r Shin Sung Souvenir Co., Washington D.C., no. 02638, E. David Luna Photo.

The original terminal at National Airport is now known as ‘Historic Terminal A’. Not only does it still exist, it has been restored during a period of over ten years, with renovation being completed in 2014. It is now used by three airlines, and it also has an area for historical displays.

Today Reagan Washington National Airport is served by eight airlines: American and jetBlue (in Terminals B and C), Alaska, Delta and United (Terminal B), and Air Canada, Frontier and Southwest (Historic Terminal A). The airport mainly operates as a ‘short-haul’ airport, with flights to destinations no further than 1,250 miles from Washington D.C. per a federally-instituted ‘Perimeter Rule’; however, exceptions to this rule have been granted by the federal government allowing flights to several major cities beyond the perimeter. Also, the largest aircraft types do not operate out of Reagan National because, due to its limited land area, the airport runways are relatively short, the longest being 6,869 ft. (2,094m).

Lastly, Reagan National is also subject to the ‘slot rule’ created by the Federal Aviation Administration at certain high-density airports to reduce congestion; this limits the number of landings and takeoffs per hour. In 2014 American Airlines, in order to obtain government approval for its merger with US Airways, was forced to sell 104 takeoff and landing slots at Reagan National. Almost all of those slots were acquired by Southwest and jetBlue Airlines.

Despite the limitations on number and distance of flights and size of aircraft, Reagan Washington National Airport today is one of the busiest in the U.S. In 2019 it served nearly 24 million passengers. As documented by postcards, the closest airport to the heart of the nation’s capital has come a long way from the sod airstrip at Hoover Field to the modern facility at Reagan National.

Notes:

All postcards shown are in the author’s collection. I estimate their rarity as follows: Rare: the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Air Service card; Uncommon: the scenic flights over Washington card, first two Washington National Airport cards, all cards in the 1940s ‘linen’ set, the card with two Eastern Constellations, the Capital Viscount card, and the oversize aerial view of the new terminal. The rest of the postcards are fairly common.

Be sure to attend Airliners International DCA 2018, where the convention and show will be held virtually next door to Reagan Washington National Airport. See you there !

References:

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Reagan National, website ‘flyreagan.com’. In the top search box, type ‘about the airport’ and in the list that appears click on the first item ‘About Reagan National Airport’.

Website: airfields-freeman.com, tab ‘Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Virginia: Arlington County’, by Paul Freeman (revised 18 Feb. 2018).

Website: http://famgus.se/Vykort/APC-WNA.html. This site shows all 18 of the early 1940’s Capsco ‘linen’ postcard set of Washington National Airport.

Szurvoy, Geza. ‘The American Airport’ (MBI Publishing Co., 2003).

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seat: Excursion Fares and Flights

Written By Lester Anderson

My first experience with airplanes and airports was when my grandmother flew from Minneapolis to Newark in July of 1961 on a Northwest DC-7C. My brother, father, and I met her at the airport, and I fell in love with airplanes and flying. In those days EWR had a great observation deck, and you could watch the flight activity at the airport (the main runways were right in front of you) and you were above and very close to the airplanes at the gates. Her return was on a United Viscount to Willow Run airport in Ypsilanti, a Detroit suburb, to visit my father’s uncle. The flight was scheduled about 11 PM but you could still get a good view the boarding and take off from the observation deck.

First Flight

My first set of flights was on May 5, 1962. With two friends (my frequent flying companions and high school friends, both named Jim) we flew from LGA to PHL on a Northeast DC-6B. It was a clear day and LaGuardia was under a major construction program (isn’t it always), but the flight down to Philadelphia was great. We flew at 5,000 feet (I know because I asked the Stewardess as they were called then). The plane was mostly empty so we could move around. My first seat was a window on the left near the engines. Later we moved to the “lounge”, actually 8 revenue seats in front of the engines where we could look back and see the propellers head-on. I remember looking down and seeing the cars and houses, and thinking they looked just like the miniature ones from my model train set.

We landed in Philadelphia (I don’t recall a lot about that airport, but it did have an observation deck where we could easily photograph both airplanes we flew on that day) and we waited a few hours to return, this time to EWR.  It was a shift in gears, because we were returning on a United Caravelle, a very different flight experience.  I remember the take-off was a very steep climb—either because my only other point of reference was a -6B, or because we were in a light, almost empty aircraft.  Due to clear air turbulence, it was a roller coaster ride, but I loved it.

Airplane-Cab-Airplane

Another early flight experience was exciting but interrupted. We booked a TWA L-749 Constellation from Newark to Harrisburg; with one stop in Allentown (we liked the idea of an en-route stop). The flight was early and there was a breakfast meal served, and I remember that it came with a small box of 4 cigarettes on the tray. When we landed at Allentown, the Trans World agent told us that because of a mechanical problem, the aircraft would over-fly Harrisburg. They would get us there, but in a cab. The cab ride (I think there were enough passengers for two cabs) took a couple of hours, but we got there in time for our next flight.

That return flight was a United Viscount. It was a wonderful airplane, quiet, fast to take off, very comfortable. Again a light load allowed us to move around the cabin. I remember looking at the engines which were constant speed, and there was a mark on the prop and the hub indicating the pitch of the propeller. We could watch the propeller pitch change so we could get the thrust for takeoff power and latter resume with a pitch to close to neutral for cruise.

Although not exactly the itinerary we planned, we enjoyed the day and the flights. And considering we were paying less than $10 a person for the flight, I am sure TWA lost money when they had to pay for the cab fare.

Weekends Unlimited

Back when the CAB regulated airlines and their fares, there were often excursion fares (most often on weekends) that were very inexpensive. In the days of my youth (when working part time for $1.25 an hour), that was essential to my ability to fly. One of the best excursion fares was Mohawk Airlines Weekends Unlimited. Fly all you want on a Saturday and Sunday for $25.00. And we did.

All three of us started out early from Newark then flew from Newark to Ithaca, then Rochester, then Elmira, then Detroit. All on Fairchild FH-227 prop jets. And some flights having one or more intermediate stops.

Plan was that we would have dinner at the airport in Detroit, then my two companions were going to stay the night in Detroit and I would fly back to Newark. We would all meet in Albany the next day to fly back to Newark on a BAC-111.

As could be expected there were flight delays. We were clocked-in almost 2 ½ hours late arriving at Detroit, which cut out any idea of a dinner at the airport. I found I was not at risk for missing my return to Newark flight since the inbound aircraft on which I was flying did the turnaround for the Newark flight. We got off the plane, I said “see you tomorrow” to my traveling companions and I re-boarded the aircraft to return to Newark.

The kind stewardess (whose name I should know but don’t) saw I was returning and she told me there was no food on the plane, but she had a sandwich (which she said was bread and butter) which she would gladly split with me. I thanked her profusely, but passed on it. I am sure I had a candy bar or two in my pocket, and could survive the 3 stop flight back to Newark.

When I arrived, my parents greeted me with a strange look in their eyes and asked where my friends were. I said, calmly, in a hotel in Detroit. This was the weekend of July 22-23, 1967. My parents told me that Detroit was in flames and that riots had broken out “all over town”.

Since I was not staying I did not know which hotel Jim and Jim were in so we could not call to see if they were OK. I could only wait for Sunday.

I don’t know if it was being tired from a very long Saturday or a little nervousness wondering about the fate of Jim and Jim, but I did not take the first set of flights booked for that morning a round trip to Binghamton. (This was in the days when missing a flight segment did not automatically cancel the balance of your itinerary. And I still have those two Mohawk flight coupons – see image)

Sunday, I flew directly to Albany where I did meet up with my traveling companions.  They had stayed in a hotel at the airport, and watched the riots on TV most of the night.  We were all happy to fly home to Newark on that BAC-111.

Over the years I have had my share of travel mishaps, many flight delays and rerouting, but because these happened early in my flying “passenger career” (as well as my being a teenager) they are memorable.

Lester Anderson

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The Soaring Sixties: Airline Marketing in Changing Times

Written by Shea Oakley

The tumultuous decade of the 1960’s is best remembered as a time of great change in the social fabric of the United States. Among the institutions radically altered by this troubled yet dynamic era was “Corporate America,” of which the airlines were no exception. As with other industries, air carriers emerged at the end of this period quite unlike their former selves a mere decade before. There is, perhaps, no better way to track these changes than by examining the corporate image-making and print advertising that embodied the marketing of the domestic airlines in “the Soaring Sixties.”

At the opening of the decade, the “Jet Age” was still dawning. As each airline introduced more of the swift, new, pure-jets, impressive color ads would invariably accompany them, extolling the airplane’s virtues. What is notable about the marketing of this time is that the airlines were not just trying to sell speed or smoothness of flight, but confidence in the minds of their customers. In today’s era of wide-bodies and regional jets, it is easy to forget that in 1960 the jetliner was a completely new and somewhat frightening machine for passengers accustomed to large propellers spinning outside their windows and pulling them through the air. However such fears rarely lasted beyond a person’s first flight in these new giants. In 1958 Pan American had become the first American airline to put a jetliner, the Boeing 707-121, into service. Glowing descriptions of these “Jet Clippers” soon inspired international travelers to flock from the company’s piston-equipped competitors. Contemporary Pan Am ads showed the aircraft soaring high above the clouds and oceans, purposefully angled in such a way as to accentuate the sharply swept-back wings and sleek jet-engine pods. This sort of graphic profile soon became the norm in several other airlines’ introductory jetliner advertisements.

Pan Am’s principal American competitor, Trans World Airlines (TWA) had to wait over a year before it could acquire its own jets. In the meantime TWA was able to lease a single 707 to start transcontinental service in earnest. In 1961, when TWA began receiving fan-jet powered 707-131B’s and 331B’s, it introduced a new class name for them: “StarStream.” The Boeings were soon complemented by slightly faster, but smaller Convair 880’s for medium-range services. Both aircraft wore their StarStream titles just aft of the characteristic TWA red arrow window stripe. The word “StarStream” seemed to connote all the cool elegance of the Jet Age. The slogan “Route of the Starstream Fleet” was created and soon found its way into much of TWA’s advertising in the early to mid-Sixties.

Throughout most of the decade American Airlines billed itself as “America’s Leading Airline.” A cornerstone of this claim were their famous “Astrojets,” Boeing 707-123B’s, 720B’s and Convair 990’s that boasted a new class of jet engine, the turbo-fan, introduced in 1961. These power plants were about 30% more powerful than the earlier, straight turbo-jets which they often replaced. Turbo-fans allowed for shorter take-off and landings as well as slightly faster cruising speeds. American was the first U.S. carrier to re-engine its entire fleet with these fans and with them came the Astrojet moniker. Many other airlines promoted new names for similarly-equipped aircraft as they came on-line, but none of them garnered the same public recognition as the Astrojet. For much of the Sixties almost every American Airlines ad mentioned the Astrojet somewhere in its copy along with the slogan “America’s leading Airline.”

Eastern Air Lines was somewhat of a latecomer in regards to jets. Eastern’s Douglas DC-8-21’s were delivered well after most other carriers had introduced their own jetliners and its Boeing 720’s came even later. However, once EAL had the airplanes they were lavishly promoted, especially in the case of the DC-8. Eastern introduced the both the DC-8’s and 720’s as “Golden Falcon Jets.” The “DC-8B Golden Falcon Service” was among the most luxurious of the era and was marked by an in-flight lounge and interior designed by Harley Earl of Cadillac fame. Multi-color spreads described its pleasures in major national magazines like Life and Look. Eastern’s most memorable early-Sixties slogan was introduced somewhat later: “The Nation’s Most Progressive Airline.”

Tiny but aggressive National was the first domestic carrier to begin pure jet service, in December 1958, with leased Pan Am 707’s. By 1960 “The Airline of the Stars” had its own DC-8’s. The aircraft was promoted as “The Brightest Star on the Airline of the Stars.” This slogan was dropped in late 1962 and replaced first with “National goes where the nation grows” and a few years later by “Coast to Coast to Coast.”

Dallas-based Braniff International Airways purchased a special variant of the 707, the –227, with higher performance turbo-jet engines. Named “El Dorado Super Jet’s,” these were among the world’s fastest airliners throughout the decade. Their chief competitors on Texas routes were Delta’s Convair 880’s and, later, American’s Convair 990’s. None of these three aircraft were particularly profitable to operate, however, due to their high specific fuel consumption. A more important aspect of Braniff’s advertising during the early 1960’s was its stress on new jet service for South American routes as well as on-time performance. Additionally the airline took delivery of BAC One-Eleven’s for short to medium range services. They were known as “Fastback Jets,” referring to the swift football players. The One-Eleven’s were much more efficient on these types of segments than larger airplanes like the Boeing 720 and the Convair’s.

No discussion of how airlines introduced their jets would be complete without mention of United Air Lines. UAL took the already established “Mainliner” aircraft designation and added “DC-8 Jet” to make “DC-8 Jet Mainliner.” The red, white and blue Douglas’s were advertised with much talk of their “vibrationless flight,” always a sore point with the old prop-liners.

The smaller local-service carriers took special pride in their jet equipment when they received them a few years after the majors. A good example was Mohawk Airline’s “Upstart!” ads featuring the new BAC One-Eleven climbing skyward. Ozark Airlines talked often of “Jet-Power” in marketing its Douglas DC-9-14’s during the mid-sixties under the slogan “Go-Getters Go Ozark”. The regionals of the time might have been late in receiving pure-jets, but they made the most of what they had once they got it.

As the initial fascination associated with jets began to wear off, the airlines started to look for other ways to get their share of the era’s soaring traffic. Starting in the middle of the decade advertising began to promote new concepts in service including novel seating configurations and in-flight entertainment systems that were coming on line with the “trunk” carriers. While the colors and artwork were similar to that of the early-sixties, the emphasis began to change.

Normally conservative United led the way with two different service experiments in as many years. The first came in 1963 when the airline introduced single-class 5-abreast “Red Carpet Service” on transcontinental routes in DC-8s built for 6-abreast seating in coach and 4-abreast in first class. This egalitarian approach was a flop, however, and was soon replaced in 1965 by a 3-class layout consisting of 4, 5 and 6 across seating. This service, also called “Red Carpet,” failed as well. Both services had been hawked by glossy red, white and blue ads in national magazines, but these did not seem to help them catch on.

A much more successful enterprise was in-flight entertainment or, more simply stated, movies. TWA led the industry in 1961 making first-run films part of its new “Royal Ambassador” coast-to-coast service. United introduced “Jetarama Theater” in 1964. Around the same time American launched its own unique system called “Astrovision” which put movies on television screens dispersed throughout the cabin. Later American renamed an updated system “Astrocolor” which continued to be used into the Seventies.

As the U.S. carriers entered the middle of the decade there seemed to be a need for a new visual image. With the ongoing phase-out of the last propeller-driven equipment, the airlines began to think about adopting a new look and feel more suited to the awe-inspiring “jumbo-jets” and supersonic transports (SST’s) which were projected to begin entering service around the end of the decade. Airline historian R.E.G Davies put it this way in his Airlines of the United States Since 1914:

“In the 1960’s most of the major companies went through the (new image) process once again, with special emphasis on extravagant paint schemes to identify their new jet fleets, as a way of obliterating memories of the prosaic piston-engine past.”

While the liveries of aircraft were the most obvious indicator of this image makeover, they were not the only things to change. Advertising became much bolder, and in some cases almost esoteric. The colors were brighter, the prose more purple, and the message perhaps more enticing than ever before or since. A large part of this new approach to public image was related to what was going on in America at that point in our history. The late-sixties were, after all, an almost unreal time of outrageous philosophies, fashions, music and lifestyles. The “high”-flying airlines simply began to reflect the times, along with many other consumer-oriented American businesses.

As mentioned, the first sign of change the airlines underwent concerned aircraft exterior color schemes. Most domestic carriers introduced streamlined and/or brightly hued new looks. If a company was seen as having a stodgy or outmoded image, such highly visible schemes could transform it into a perceived trendsetter almost overnight. Along with the revised look there was often a new class-name for jetliners. The traveler of the late-sixties could ride in Funjets, Arrowjets, Whisperjets, Pamperjets, Fiestajets, and Vistajets. Perhaps never before had flying seemed like so much fun.

Braniff was one of the first airlines to introduce a radically revised paint job, one that was arguably the most radical of all. In 1965 noted designer Alexander Girard created innovative aircraft exteriors and interiors. The fuselages of the entire fleet were repainted in several solid pastel hues with names like “Periwinkle blue” and “Ochre” while the wings, tail and engines were finished in solid white. Cabins received similar color treatments and the stewardesses who graced them wore flamboyant uniforms by Emilio Pucci. Braniff’s new slogan “The End of the Plain Plane” aptly described the changes that were about to take place throughout much of the industry.

Once almost sedate Eastern Air Lines now employed the avant garde New York design firm of Lippincott and Margulies to redesign its corporate image. The result was the “New Mark” scheme, one of the more attractive liveries of the period. Eastern aircraft received two-tone stripes in “Ionosphere” and “Caribbean” blue that swept up the tail to form a sort of “hockey stick.” The engine nacelles on new Boeing 727’s and Douglas DC-9’s were also painted in these colors with the top of the fuselage a bright white. The Eastern falcon logo was revamped with a simple, streamlined design. The above-mentioned rear-engined equipment was given the class-name, “Whisperjet” to promote their relatively low interior noise level. Towards the end of 1969 the airline introduced one of the most memorable U.S. ad campaigns of all time, “The Wings of Man,” conceived by agency Young and Rubicam. This would be EAL’s slogan for nearly 10 years. The ads focused on the more ethereal aspect of flight as evidenced in this ad copy from December of 1969:

“Come.
We will be your wings. We will set you free.
Free beyond the heights of man. Free
To chase the sun.
Hug a cloud.
And, though you were born on earth.
To live on earth. You will be
At home, here in the sky.
The comfort and ease you own on
Earth, you will have up here.
And, Eastern will make it so.
It shall be a most natural
Thing. For you. To fly.
Eastern. The Wings of Man.”

Before the perennially struggling Northeast Airlines was merged into Delta in 1972, it adopted one of the more striking new themes of the late-sixties. Its “Yellowbirds” jet fleet was painted in a vibrant yellow and white. A typical advertisement from 1967 encouraged passengers to “Catch a Yellowbird and Let Luxury Happen to You,” referring to such NEA on board amenities as steak broiled to order and real woolen blankets. Unfortunately Northeast had a dismal earnings record for most of its history which the best visual image in the world would not change.

In late 1967 National Airlines introduced a look that, along with shrewd marketing tactics, kept it competitive in the Northeast-Florida market for a long time. NAL’s aircraft were repainted in orange and yellow, topped off by a stylized sun-god logo called the “Sun King.” Stewardesses received solid orange, lemon and lime-colored uniforms and National’s transformation into “Florida’s Own Airline” was complete. National was able to build this “Instant Florida” image largely just by changing the way it visually presented itself to the flying public. In many ways it was a textbook case of what was happening with domestic carriers during the closing years of the Sixties.

In the West, Continental Airlines introduced Red, Orange, and Gold “competition stripes” and a new logo by Saul Bass. Its “Proud Bird with the Golden Tail” advertisements were among the best-recognized of the era. Employee pride was the main selling point since the company was generally recognized as having higher than average service. Continental was one of the most profitable carriers of the period, largely because of aggressive leadership under its long-time President Robert F. Six.

While Trans World Airlines did not introduce a new look in the late-sixties, it did introduce a great, if short-lived, slogan, “Up, Up, and Away.” This was taken from the title of a popular tune by the group, “The Fifth Dimension.” The slogan was a Wells, Rich and Green suggestion (the ad agency that created “The End of the Plain Plane” campaign for Braniff.) It was during this time that TWA began its “Foreign Accent” flights featuring flight attendants dressed in outfits representing various European countries. TWA was always known as one of the more glamorous airlines in the industry, and this well-deserved reputation continued throughout the decade.

One of the last carriers to affect a change was American Airlines. Its bare metal with Orange lightning-bolt scheme finally gave way in late 1968 to broad, patriotic red, white and blue stripes and a stylized “AA” service mark. The designer was Henry Dreyfuss. Cabin crews were dressed in new “Americana” knit uniforms and the old slogan “America’s Leading Airline” became “Fly the American Way.”

A few companies refused to join the trend and kept their fleets’ liveries as well as their ads more conventional throughout the decade. Pan Am, for instance, retained its 1957 era blue globe logo and “World’s Most Experienced Airline” slogan from 1960 to 1969 when “Pan American” titles were shortened to “Pan Am” on aircraft fuselages, and the ad tagline was finally changed to “Pan Am Makes the Going Great.” Southern-based Delta Air Lines’ ads were usually of the homespun, conservative variety and the famous “Widget” insignia first introduced in the late 1950’s continued for the duration. Both before and at the beginning of “The Friendly Skies” era, United Air Lines image was positively conventional, though the carrier rarely failed to make a profit. The companies’ overwhelming size helped, with over 350 jets in its fleet. But, overall, these cautious approaches were the exception to the rule.

So the watchwords for this dynamic decade were change, innovation, service and image. The airlines mirrored the nation in some of these respects. Yet, once the decade was over, both seemed to settle down into uncomfortable middle age. The Sixties were the last years that America seemed young, and so it was with the airlines of America. Deregulation, oil-crises, fare-wars and terrorism were all, as yet; unknown and the sky literally seemed to be the limit. The vibrancy of the time was palpable and shone through the airline’s marketing.

It was an era never to be repeated.

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seat: Memories of Idlewild and Kennedy Airport visits

Written by Lester Anderson

Photographs by Mel Lawrence via the Shea Oakley Collection.

When I was in high school I had the airplane/airport bug. Fortunately, two friends also had it, so I was not alone in my quest to see airplanes during the early 1960s.

Idlewild airport was the destination of many weekend trips to the airport. We started the trip (from NJ) on the bus into the Port Authority bus terminal. We then took the 15 cent subway ride, the Independent line (IND) E 8th Avenue subway, from 42nd street to the Kew Gardens stop in Queens. Although local in Manhattan, it was known as the 8th Avenue Express once it got into Brooklyn and Queens.

At Kew Gardens we went up to street level and took the Q10 bus (subway token or 15 cents coin) which about 25 minutes later dropped us at our destination, Idlewild Airport.

Idlewild was heaven for airplane fans. You could easily walk between the terminals. The Port Authority had buses (Mercedes buses-the only Mercedes busses I had ever seen) between terminals for a 25 cent fare. Almost all of the time we walked and “smelled the occasional whiff of kerosene” from airside when the wind was in the right direction.

Photographs by Mel Lawrence via the Shea Oakley Collection.

The Pan Am Worldport was a major attraction. It had the first “air door” I had ever seen or walked thru. It had a great view of the airplanes that were parked at the terminal for boarding. As high school students we often used our “juvenile status” to ask for things—and I remember during one Pan Am Terminal visit a gate agent allowed us to go aboard a 707 before the passengers went on, so we could see what it was like inside. We did have to put blue cloth protectors on our shoes so we would not get the rug of the plane dirty.

The IAB (International Arrivals Building) was a necessary stop since it had the best and biggest observation deck (for 10 cents). You could look at the airplanes below, and got to see things you would not see at Newark or LaGuardia like VC-10’s and Bristol Britannia’s as well as familiar airliners (DC-7Cs DC-6Bs and Constellations) from foreign exotic carriers. We also saw a lot of international 707’s and DC-8’s but our fascination was mostly with airplanes with propellers at that time. You also looked up and saw the building-wide sign “NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT”. You also had a great view of airplanes taking off and I remember a number of jets with heavy black smoke that I later found out might have been water injection take-offs.

Photographs by Mel Lawrence via the Shea Oakley Collection.

They were building terminals right and left at that time, but I fondly remember the field in front of the IAB with the infrastructure power plant with pipes and valves (probably for HVAC – my father’s occupation) that instead of being hidden in a nondescript brick building, were there in a building with glass window walls, and all of the pipes and valves painted in exciting different colors. In the same oval grassy field there were also three religious chapels. As teens who had just taken their first flights, we probably could not understand anyone’s fear of flying, but looking back, they were probably a great comfort to travelers who, in the back of their mind, began their worries with “If God had meant man to fly ….”

Probably the most moving visit to Idlewild was Christmas Eve in 1963. John Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963 which was an event that profoundly affected everyone I knew. Moving faster than government and agencies normally do, the decision was made to rename New York International Airport to John F Kennedy International airport.

The dedication ceremony was on Christmas Eve in 1963. I don’t know if my parents would have allowed me to take the day off from school, but since school was on vacation, I took the bus and subway and bus to the airport to see the dedication. It was in the International Arrivals building and I was on an upper level, but could see the entire ceremony. Ted Kennedy spoke briefly (as probably others who I don’t remember), then they drew the curtain and you saw the letters JFK. They said they did not have enough time to get the entire building-wide sign done for that day, but these were the letters everyone wanted to see.

Photographs by Mel Lawrence via the Shea Oakley Collection.

A few years later when I was student teaching, I saw a newly published American History book, and reading it, I saw printed in the book pictures from that ceremony that I attended. I must admit I felt I was too young to be a witness to an event published in a history book.

The other memory of Idlewild I can remember and express was that while the National Airlines terminal was being built, National used a temporary terminal. And that terminal had a food vendor that my friends and I thought had the best hamburgers at IDL.

About the Author – Lester Anderson

I am not a typical author for an airplane/airline publication. I have never piloted a plane (once, actually, for about 5 minutes in France—but that is a story for another day). I have never worked for an airline. I have never worked at an airport.

However since the early 1960’s I was a frequent visitor to airports, mostly in the NY area but if my family ever visited relatives or friends in a far city, I would beg them to visit that airport.

Some pleasure travel but mostly business travel allowed me the honor to achieve Million Mile status on United Airlines (by flying on United as well as its two predecessor carriers, Continental and Eastern).

Now retired, I fly much less, but as the shirt my daughter gave me last Christmas proudly says, every time I hear an airplane overhead, I stop and look at it. And with today’s iPhone technology, I can identify it as to carrier, origin and destination, which I do and often bore those around me telling them that wealth of knowledge.

I am a volunteer at the Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey. One of my greatest joys is giving tours of the last Martin 202 passenger plane, and have children (and often their parents younger than me) sitting in the plane, and my explaining how different things were at the time the 202 was flying with passengers.

Photographs by Mel Lawrence via the Shea Oakley Collection.

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Wings from Air Carriers of Africa

Written by Charlie Dolan
wingcobda@yahoo.com

It has been quite a while since I put together a column for the Log, so instead of going back through all of my files to see which carriers I have featured, I will go in alphabetical order to cover areas and carriers which I might have feature long ago or not at all.

I don’t know how much detail the readers want about the insignia, but with color reproduction, the descriptions will be much shorter. Let me know if you desire information about materials used and whether you want to know how the items are attached to the uniform. Also let me know if you are interested in manufacturer’s hallmarks.

I hope to have frequent input and would like to tailor it to your wishes.

Anyway, here we go.

First set is from Air Afrique which operated between 1961 – 2002.

Next up is the wing insignia of Air Algerie, formed in 1947 and still operating today.

Air Zimbabwe, which was once Air Rhodesia, has the pilot and engineer wings with the hat badge above.

DETA was the airline formed by Portugese interests in Mozambique. The early metal wings were used during the period 1936 – 1980 when the carrier LAM Mozambique Airline.

The cloth wing is that used by LAM

East African Airways operated between 1946 -1977 The metal wing is the earlier version. The cloth and bullion thread are of a later issue. I believe that the brevet with the star symbol is that worn by navigators.


Ghana Airways operated between the years 1958 – 2015. Ghana’s radio call sign was “Black Star”.

Kuwait Airways began operations in 19 54 and is still flying today.

Misrair began operations in 1932 and is operating today as Egypt Air. The original name is a combination of the word “MISR” (EGYPT) and Air.

Royal Air Maroc. Began operations in 1957 and is still operating today. Like the crews of Air France, the wing insignia is worn on the right breast of the uniform jacket.

Sudanair Sudan Airways began service in 1946 and still flies today. Their hat badge looks much like a police badge.

United Arab Airlines (U.A.A.) was formed by several carriers of the region during the period 1957-1971 when political and economic concerns favored cooperation between the various governments of northern Africa.

I hope you will find this article helpful and please do not hesitate to offer comments on how to improve the column.

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From Props To Jets

Written by Shea Oakley

The post-war period in commercial aviation saw the advent of the fully developed piston-powered airliner. This included short to medium range twin-engine transports like the Convair 240/340/440 and the Martin 202 and 404, all designed to fill the pre-war DC-3’s large shoes. Handling the longer haul services were the Douglas Commercial series of four-engined airliners; the DC-4, 6 and 7, Lockheed’s classically beautiful triple tail Constellation and Boeing’s Luxurious B-377 Stratocruiser. These longer-ranged pressurized aircraft made the first U.S. transcontinental, and eventually transatlantic, nonstop flights possible. Among the many innovations these planes introduced onto the civil scene were tricycle landing gears, airborne radar and coach class seating. They were also considerably faster than any transports developed prior to World War Two.

By the middle of the Fifties piston-engine design had reached its technical zenith. Late model DC-7’s and L-1049 Constellations equipped with turbo-compound power-recovery systems were capable of maximum speeds in the 350 to 375 mile per hour range but this was effectively the practical limit for aircraft equipped with reciprocating engines. The power levels required from these increasingly complex motors to attain such speeds led to sometimes-spotty reliability. In-flight engine failures became an increasingly common problem. Moreover an inherent problem with any “propliner” of this era was the noise and vibration associated with 18 to 28 pistons firing in sequence. To achieve the next level in speed and comfort a whole new kind of power was necessary. The answer would come in the form of the turbine.

The second stage of the pure jet age was heralded by fanjets including the American Airlines Convair 990 “Astrojets”, in scheduled service starting in 1962.

While the first jet planes were introduced during the late thirties and early forties in Britain, Germany and America they were initially all small single-engined military machines. It was not until May 1952 that the first pure jet airliner entered service with the British flag carrier, B.O.A.C. This was the DeHavilland Comet 1, a beautiful but ill-fated design that developed fuselage metal fatigue problems after only a year in service. This flaw led to two catastrophic in-flight airframe failures and the grounding of the aircraft, but not before giving the public an early taste of the pleasures of jet flight.

Supreme on the North Atlantic route, but only for a year. BOAC introduced the Bristol Britannia propjet on the LHR-IDL route in 1957. Pure jets made it obsolete in 1958.

Four years later in 1956 the state carrier of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot, introduced the twinjet Tupelev 104 medium range transport on the Moscow-Irkutsk route. It’s 477 mile per hour cruising speed cut eight hours from the previous schedule. Service to cities in Western Europe followed sometime later. A not so thinly disguised commercial version of a Russian bomber (made obvious by the “bombardier glass” surrounding the nose), the TU-104 was the second jetliner to fly in regularly scheduled service and a major propaganda tool for the U.S.S.R. at the time.

After a long and expensive re-design DeHavilland and B.O.A.C. inaugurated the world’s first transatlantic jet service on October 4, 1958 with the Comet 4. Only a few weeks later, on October 26, Pan American World Airways followed with the first of the American jetliners, the Boeing 707-121, on the New York Idlewild-Paris Le Bourget route. In 1959 and 1960 the longer ranged 707-320 “Intercontinental” and the first of the Douglas DC-8s began nonstop service between the United States and Europe From this point forward the fate of the piston-engined propeller plane was effectively sealed.

A transitional aircraft in the early days of jet power the turboprop Lockheed Electra remained in service with launch customer Eastern until 1977.

The new jets required radical changes in all aspects of airline and airport operations as well as ATC procedures and sometimes there was a lag in the learning curve. For instance some captains who were still “thinking prop” while “flying jet” were involved in several early crashes. At first, pilots tried to make approaches and landings like props, often from circling traffic pattern maneuvers. The problem with this was that pure-jets do not spool up as quickly as a piston engines do and this led to accidents in which rate of sink could not be corrected in time. Also, the higher speeds called for a greater ability to “stay ahead of the plane”. Better standardization of training and procedures, coupled with a new emphasis on stabilized straight-in approaches, became the new norm.

Lockheed’s zenith in piston transports was reached in the form of the 1649A Starliner. Lufthansa is currently restoring one to flying condition.

Air Traffic Control went from mostly non-radar to mostly radar, because the jets were faster in nearly all flight regimes and pilots therefore had less time to see-and-avoid other aircraft. On the ground virtually all purely civilian airports had to extend their runways. Most of the early four-engine jetliners used on domestic services required 7000 feet and intercontinental flights required at least 10,000. On hot and humid days that grew to 10,000-12,000 feet. Screaming water-injected turbo-jets made airport noise a major issue, and some airport communities enacted tough restrictions. The courts later overturned some of these rules, but others were upheld. Meanwhile, at the terminal ramp, evolutionary change from “power-in, stair unload, power-out” to “power-in, jet-bridge unload, pushback-out” occurred. In the area of baggage loading the larger jets brought in a change from bulk-baggage to containerization.

Pacesetter of the American Jet Age, the Pan Am Boeing 707-121 in delivery colors.

Cabin service was also greatly altered now that stewardesses had to deal with halved flight times. This was especially true on the shorter hops that even the early jets sometimes flew. Block to block times of 15 minutes on flights of 150-200 miles meant that they had to hustle just to get a drink service in. Both cockpit and cabin-crews had to contend with the increases symptoms of “jet-lag” that resulted from flying across multiple time zones at 600 miles per hour.

Concurrent with the advent of the pure-jet engine was the so-called “prop-jet” or turboprop power plant. This hybrid of the turbine and the propeller was viewed at the time as the perfect engine for short to medium ranged aircraft; the reason being that the early four-engined pure jets could not operate efficiently at the lower speeds and altitudes routes of such distance entailed. The first commercial airframe to receive this form of power was the ground-breaking Vickers Viscount of Great Britain which entered service in 1950 with British European Airways (B.E.A.) In the United States Lockheed followed almost a decade later, in early 1959, introducing the L-188 Electra with first services by co-launch-customers Eastern and American. During this period an attempt was also made by the British to produce a successful long-range turboprop in the form of the Bristol Britannia, which began transatlantic nonstop service with B.O.A.C. and El Al Israel Airlines in December of 1957. Unfortunately for Bristol and both carriers the Britannia was the fastest airliner to Europe for less than a year before the new Comet 4 and Boeing 707 jets made it obsolete virtually overnight.

Within a year of the October 1958 inauguration of jet service Pan Am added the stretched 707-321 to their fleet.

From the late 1950’s onwards the world’s airlines began retiring their fleets of propliners. They might have remained in service longer on the shorter, less glamorous routes but for the introduction of yet another progression in engine technology, the turbofan. Introduced by American Airlines on their 707 “Astrojets” in 1961 this quieter and more powerful development of the pure jet made it possible for the U.S. airframe manufactures to design and build shorter haul aircraft like the Boeing 727 and 737 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9, some advanced versions of which remain in service today.

The ultimate Douglas propliner, the DC-7C, in Swissair colors at New York International Airport at Idlewild.

By the middle of the prosperous 1960’s all of the big American domestic carriers had embarked on huge jet re-equipment programs with the stated goal being the retirement of all propeller-driven aircraft of any type. The early advent of the turbofans resulted in even relatively new turboprops becoming obsolete in the public’s perception. By the early 1970’s not a single western airline was left with piston-engined passenger equipment in their inventory and only one company, Eastern, retained any turboprops. Then, in late October of 1977, EAL retired the last of its once mighty fleet of Electra’s from New York/Boston/Washington Air-Shuttle back-up duties bringing to a close the use of propeller airplanes on mainline routes by all U.S. trunks and the vast majority of major foreign carriers. The transition from props to jets was complete.

All Photos by Mel Lawrence, Shea Oakley Collection

 

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First Generation Pure Jet Commercial Aircraft on Postcards

Written by Marvin G. Goldman

This article covers the earliest pure jet (turbojet) aircraft operated by airlines — the de Havilland Comet, Tupolev Tu-104, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle, and Convair 880 — all as portrayed on postcards.

The de Havilland Comet 1 was the world’s first pure jet aircraft to enter scheduled airline service. It first flew on 27 July 1949 and made its first scheduled airline flight with British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C.), on the London to Johannesburg route, on 2 May 1952. The aircraft represented a revolution in airline travel, in terms of speed, comfort and lower maintenance costs.

British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C.) de Havilland 106 Comet 1. Airline Issue, 1953.

Back of preceding postcard. B.O.A.C. issued this card on 3 June 1953, with postage stamps commemorating the coronation the day before of Queen Elizabeth II of England. The postmark says ‘Long Live the Queen’. Indeed the Queen is still living, well over 60 years later.

Jubilation at the introduction of the Comet jetliner, however, soon turned to tragic disappointment, as a series of disastrous fatal crashes of the Comet 1 from October 1952 through April 1954 led to the permanent grounding of the type. Extensive salvage and testing determined that metal fatigue leading to structural failure was the main cause of most of the accidents.

Major changes to the Comet design were made, leading to the ‘Comet 4’, which featured rounded (rather than square) windows and numerous improvements. The Comet 4 entered commercial jet service when B.O.A.C. operated the first trans-Atlantic jet flight, London to New York, on 4 October 1958. The Comet 4 type was also exported to several other airlines outside the U.K., of which Aerolineas Argentinas was the first purchaser.

Aerolineas Argentinas de Havilland Comet 4. Airline Issue, 1959. Two versions of this card exist, one with the back imprint in Spanish and one in English. With the Comet 4, Aerolineas Argentinas set three world records — first jet airliner service in South America (16 April 1959, Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile); first jet service across the south Atlantic to Europe (19 May 1959); and first jet connection between North and South America (7 June 1959, Buenos Aires-New York.)

Amidst the development of the successful first generation jetliners covered in this article, there is one pioneer type worth mentioning even though only one flying example was produced.  Starting in 1945 Avro Canada, with some initial collaboration by Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA), worked on developing a medium-range regional pure jet.  This resulted in the Avro C102 Jetliner, which first flew in 1949 just a few days after the first flight of the Comet 1.  In April 1950 the sole Avro prototype flew the world’s first jet airmail, from Toronto to New York, in 58 minutes, and the crew received a ticker tape parade in Manhattan.  Nevertheless, by then TCA had withdrawn from the project, and other sales prospects did not materialize.

Avro Canada C102 Jetliner, postcard issued by the manufacturer and carried on the world’s first airmail jet service, from Toronto to New York, April 1950.

Back of the preceding card.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the 1950s the Soviet Union started development of its own first pure jet commercial aircraft.  This resulted in the Tupolev Tu-104 two-engine medium-range turbojet.  The Tu-104, operated by Aeroflot, was the second jetliner (after the Comet 1) to enter scheduled passenger service, from Moscow to Irkutsk in Siberia, on 15 September 1956.  Moreover, as noted aviation historian Ron Davies has pointed out, the Tu-104 provided the first ‘sustained’ commercial jet airliner service, because the Comet was grounded starting in 1954 due to accidents and only resumed passenger service in October 1958 in the form of the new Comet 4.

Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104A, Airline Issue, probably late 1950s. Artist card designed to show the speed and drama of this pioneering jet aircraft.

CSA Czechoslovak Airlines Tupolev Tu-104A, OK-LDA, probably late 1950s. Pub’r Orbis. Paul Roza collection. Note the unusual two-story stairway at the front door. CSA was the only export customer for the Tu-104 and utilized them on routes from Prague to Brussels, Paris and Moscow.

After the British Comet aircraft demonstrated in 1952 that the age of commercial pure jet aircraft was closer than originally imagined, U.S. aircraft manufacturers started work in earnest on their own passenger pure jet aircraft.  Boeing started developing the 707 based on the prototype Boeing 367-80 that originally was designed as a tanker for large U.S. Air Force bombers and had first flown on 15 July 1954.  The resultant 707-100 series made its first flight on 20 December 1957, and the production effort was so intense that the first example was delivered to Pan American less than eight months later — on 15 August 1958.  Airline historian Ron Davies states, “The Boeing 707 clearly ranks as one of the half dozen most significant airliners of all time.”

Pan American Boeing 707-100 taking off from New York Idlewild (now JFK) International Airport on the evening of 26 October 1958, on the world’s first 707 commercial flight, trans-Atlantic New York to Paris. Airline issue as part of a historical series of artist paintings on postcards by John T. McCloy. On the left side of this postcard you can see the Pan Am Worldport terminal under construction. Pan Am was the second airline to start trans-Atlantic jet service, just 22 days after B.O.A.C. did so with the Comet 4.

Other airlines raced to join the new jet age revolution.  TWA’s controlling shareowner, Howard Hughes, ordered 707s in February 1956.  New York aviation photographer and publisher George Enell even issued the following postcard in 1957 with an artist’s concept of what a TWA 707 might look like.

Artist’s concept of what a Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 707 might look like. Postmarked 27 May 1957. Pub’r Enell, no. 5D.

For domestic U.S. pure jet passenger service, the major U.S. airlines tried to outdo one another in being the first to provide it — either with Boeing 707s or with Douglas DC-8s which were being developed simultaneously. This included American, Delta, Eastern, National and TWA. While American and TWA were in line for 707s, Delta, Eastern and National awaited DC-8s which unfortunately were delayed in production.

National, upstaging the other airlines and gaining valuable publicity, leased a 707 from Pan American, and on 10 December 1958 it provided the first domestic U.S. commercial jet service, New York – Miami.

The first domestic U.S. jet service with an aircraft owned by the airline was provided by American Airlines on 25 January 1959. It was transcontinental, New York-Los Angeles, and it was dramatic.

American Airlines Boeing 707 ‘Flying Hi’. Pub’r Colourpicture, Boston MA, no. P31749.

TWA quickly followed, introducing the Boeing 707 on the New York-San Francisco transcontinental route on 20 March 1959.  It also was the second airline, after Pan Am, to utilize the 707 on trans-Atlantic service, starting 21 November 1959.

TWA Boeing 707-100 takeoff. Pub’r H. S. Crocker Co., San Francisco. You can feel the roar of the engines and see the trail of dark smoke on takeoff, caused by water injection to provide sufficient thrust, that characterized the earliest 707s.

A third early entrant on U.S. domestic 707 service was Continental Airlines.  With 707s it initiated Chicago-Los Angeles nonstop service on 8 June 1959.  My own first airline flight was on a Continental 707, Los Angeles-Denver-Chicago, 17 December 1959.  Here is the postcard obtained from the seat pocket on that flight.

Continental Airlines Boeing 707-100 ‘Golden Jet’, with Mt. Rainier, Washington, in the background, on Boeing pre-delivery flight. Airline Issue, 1959.

The first non-U.S. airline to operate the 707 was Australia’s QANTAS, on 29 July 1959, on the Sydney-Nadi-Honolulu-San Francisco route.  This was also the first pure jet service across the Pacific Ocean.

QANTAS Boeing 707-138. Airline Issue, 1959. The earliest 707s of QANTAS were a shorter-bodied type specifically built for it. The first one of that type, originally VH-EBA, was restored to airworthiness in 2006 and is now based at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum in Longreach, Australia.

During the first three months of 1960, three European airlines — SABENA, Air France and Lufthansa — introduced Boeing 707s on their trans-Atlantic routes, and Air India became the first Asian airline to operate 707s.  Here are postcard examples of these airlines.

SABENA Boeing 707-400. Airline Issue, postmarked 1 December 1959, the first day of issue of a Belgian postage stamp honoring a SABENA 707. SABENA was the first European airline to introduce 707 trans-Atlantic service, on 23 January 1960.

Air France Boeing 707-400. Airline Issue no. S25980. Ex Deke Billings collection. Air France introduced 707 trans-Atlantic service on 2 February 1960.

Lufthansa Boeing 707-400 Flight Deck. Airline Issue. Lufthansa introduced trans-Atlantic 707 service on 17 March 1960.

Lufthansa Boeing 707-400 Interior and Meal Service. Airline Issue.

Air India 707-400 VT-DMN ‘Kanchenjunga’ at Paris-Orly. Editions P.I., Paris, no. 158. The publisher also reprinted this postcard as no. 200. Air India became the first Asian airline to operate pure jet aircraft. On 14 May 1960 it inaugurated 707 intercontinental service, Bombay-New York with intermediate stops in Beirut and London.

At the same time that Boeing was developing the 707, Douglas Aircraft was working on its first jetliner, which became known as the ‘DC-8’.  Unfortunately for Douglas, the 707 entered airline service first, garnering orders from many airlines that wanted to be among the first to offer pure jet service.  Several airlines, however, preferred to stick with Douglas aircraft and awaited their first deliveries of DC-8s, which occurred in 1959 and 1960.  These included six airlines — Delta, United, Eastern, National, Trans-Canada (TCA) and KLM — who were among the first seven operators of DC-8s (the seventh being Pan Am that also utilized 707s).  Here are DC-8 postcards of those six airlines.

Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-8-11, N802. Airline Issue, nos. T-312 and 0DK-174. Delta operated the world’s first scheduled DC-8 jet service, New York-Atlanta, on 18 September 1959.

Just two hours and 10 minutes after Delta’s initial DC-8 flight, also on 18 September 1959, United Airlines launched its own first DC-8 service, transcontinental San Francisco-New York.  The following postcard highlights the excitement of flying by ‘JET!’

United Airlines Douglas DC-8-11. Pub’r Colourpicture, Boston MA, no. P31751; Dist’r Mitock & Sons, Sherman Oaks CA.

Eastern, National, Trans-Canada and KLM followed successively in 1960 with their initial DC-8 service.

Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-8-21. Mike Machat artist, 1978. Pub’r Aviation World, Bethel CT nos. AACS-1 and 63188-D. Eastern commenced DC-8 service on 20 January 1960 on its main route New York-Miami.

National Airlines DC-8 at Miami. Eric Speyer artist. Issued by Miami International Airport as part of a series of postcards commemorating the history of the airport. Oversize card (5 x 7”; 12.6 x 17.7 cm.)

Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) Douglas DC-8 at Seawell, Barbados. Pub’r Dexter Press, West Nyack NY no. 63766-B; photo by H. Frisch. Ex Tadd Kotick collection. TCA started DC-8 service on 1 April 1960 on route Montreal-Toronto-Vancouver.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Douglas DC-8-63. Airline Issue. KLM launched DC-8 service on 16 April 1960 on the Amsterdam-New York route. This postcard shows the later and larger DC-8-63 model, which was first flown by KLM.

While the British aviation industry and Boeing and Douglas in the U.S. initially focused on four-engine medium to long-range pure jet aircraft, the French aviation industry started in the early 1950s to develop a short to medium-range regional two-engine pure jet aircraft.  This resulted in the new rear twin-engine design of what became the Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle.

Air France Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle. Airline Issue, 26-27 September 1959, with postmark commemorating 40 years of commercial aviation in France. Air France was the first Caravelle operator. It started an experimental Caravelle freight service as early as 21 June 1956, and initiated scheduled passenger Caravelle service on 6 May 1959, Paris-Rome-Istanbul.

The Caravelle proved to be very popular, and soon several airlines outside France were purchasing the aircraft for their shorter routes.

Scandinavian Airlines System – SAS Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle boarding passengers. Airline Issue. SAS was the second airline to place the Caravelle in revenue service, on 15 May 1959 — just nine days after Air France. It was also the second largest operator of the type after Air France.

The popularity of the Caravelle was such that United Air Lines surprised the U.S. aviation industry by ordering 20 Caravelle jets in 1960 and placing them in service starting in 1961.

United Air Lines Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle, N1014U, at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Pub’r Curteich no. 7DK-1671, 1967, Dist’r George E. Klein News, Cleveland. Ex Deke Billings collection. United’s first Caravelle flight was on 14 July 1961, New York-Chicago.

In addition to Boeing and Douglas, one more U.S. aircraft manufacturer pursued development of a pure jet in the 1950s — Convair.  This resulted in the Convair 880, an aircraft famed for its speed.

Delta Air Lines Convair 880 taking off from Atlanta. Issued by the Delta Air Lines Heritage Museum, 2002. Delta was the first operator of the Convair 880, placing it on the Houston-New York route on 15 May 1960.

VIASA Convair 880, YV-C-VIA. Airline Issue. Vicente Sanchez artist. VIASA was the first Latin American operator of the Convair 880, introducing it in scheduled service on 8 August 1961. I had the pleasure of flying on a VIASA Convair 880 on 10 September 1967, Aruba to New York JFK.

I hope you enjoyed this postcard look at the first generation of pure jet aircraft, spanning the 1950s through 1961. If you have any comments on any of my articles, you can contact me through the World Airline Historical Society.

Notes: All postcards shown are from the author’s collection, except as noted. I estimate that all of these are uncommon, except this article’s postcards showing Continental, Delta (both), Eastern, KLM, Pan Am and QANTAS aircraft, which are fairly common.

References:

Proctor, Jon; Machat, Mike; and Kodera, Craig. From Props to Jets: Commercial Aviation’s Transition to the Jet Age 1952-1962 (Specialty Press, 2010).

Breffort, Dominique. Boeing 707 (Historie et Collections, Paris, 2008).

Davies, R.E.G. Individual books on the de Havilland Comet, Aeroflot, Delta, Eastern, Pan American and TWA (Paladwr Press, various dates).

Davies, R.E.G., Airlines of the Jet Age (Smithsonian, 2011).

Kennedy, Charles. ‘The Douglas DC-8’, Parts I and II, Airways Magazine (Jan.-Feb. 2016).

Proctor, Jon. Convair 880 & 990. Great Airliners Series Vol. One (World Transport Press 1996).

Waddington, Terry. Douglas DC-8. Great Airliners Series Vol. Two (World Transport Press 1996).

Wegg, John. Caravelle: The Complete Story (Airways International 2005).

 

Until next time, Happy Collecting,

Marvin

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