Not Another 727!

Written by Shea Oakley

As a child growing up in the 1970’s, our family lived in Northern New Jersey and often vacationed in Sarasota, Florida. This meant we had exactly two airline options if we wanted to fly directly into Sarasota/Bradenton Airport (SRQ) and avoid the much longer drive from Tampa International (TPA) to the North. Those options were Eastern and National.

In both case the equipment we flew was almost invariably the same no matter which of the three major NY area airports from which we departed: the Boeing 727. Very occasionally Eastern had a DC-9-31 on the route but the 727, in either -100 or -200 configuration, was the mainstay. As a budding airline enthusiast this felt almost intolerable. “A 727? Again?” was a question my dad got used to hearing, and often.

My “any other airplane but a 727” envy was most palpable when we chose to fly out of Kennedy International Airport. In those days the way you drove to your departure Unit Terminal Building (UTB) was via a sort of interior perimeter road that took you by every one of them until you reached your particular airline. Now this wasn’t much of a problem for me when we flew Eastern. Approaching the airport on the Van Wyck Expressway (which by the way, was (and still is) an oxymoron traffic wise) the EAL terminal was the first one you encountered. What really hurt was when we were heading South on National. Getting to the old “Sundrome” building meant driving by, among others, the Pan Am “Worldport” and the TWA “Flight Center.” I can remember looking at the 747’s and 707’s of Pan Am and the 747’s and L-1011’s of TWA parked on their gates wistfully wishing that we were jetting off to London or Los Angeles on one of these giants instead of getting ready to ride a 727 again. (Editor’s note: for a similar experience, ride the shuttle bus when the JFK Airtrain isn’t running. While the airport has changed a lot, the views between T1 and T4 are quite similar.)

Times do change however and so do perceptions. What at 8 years old was a “boring” airplane ride on Boeing’s “Three-Holer” has become, at 51, a precious memory from a time when life was simple and good and my family was together. Today, perched on a shelf in the office in the museum at which I work, are two highly detailed 1:200 scale models of 727-200s in the colors of, yes, Eastern and National respectively. That’s right, the two airline/airplane combinations that felt like a curse when I was a young kid are now among my most favorite. As for the carriers themselves I’d have to say that Eastern and National are today on the top of my list, as far as affection. As an adult I have become an avid airline memorabilia collector and much of my collection revolves around these two airlines and their operations during the 1970’s.

Yes, perceptions do change under the influence of wonderful adult memories of childhood. What I wouldn’t give today to leave from one of those now demolished terminals I so well remember on an EAL or NAL 727, destination Sarasota, just one more time.

Originally posted on NYCaviation.com

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The Ongoing Mystique of the Boeing SST

Written by Shea Oakley

Last year I shelled out the most money I have ever paid for an airliner model in a lifetime of collecting. It is a five-foot-long 1/50th scale needle-nosed monster with working variable sweep wings, flaps and spoilers in Eastern Air Lines colors. On its tail is a 1960s-modern logo depicting an arrow-shaped form with what look like circular shockwaves arcing off behind it. The letters in the logo read simply “Boeing SST.” For several months she underwent a light restoration by an outside party that fixed a few egregious physical flaws it has acquired over the past 50+ years without destroying its originality (but sadly also some erased some small flap use instruction decals printed directly on those control surfaces)

Half a century is a long time in human terms, and I suspect many of my readers have no idea what a “Boeing SST” is. For the sake of brevity (because this is not, primarily, a historical article) let me just say that Concorde, the Anglo-French supersonic jet that even the youngest airline enthusiast at least knows existed, was supposed to have a much faster, much larger American competitor. She was known as the Boeing 2707 (for Mach 2.7 707) and would have been made from heat-resistant Titanium, been 300 feet long and carried up to 350 passengers at 1,800 MPH. Cruising altitude was to be about 70,000 feet. The airplane was originally going to have a “swing-wing” (think “B-1”) that would be swept back to allow this giant to assume the shape of a dart when at cruise speed and fold out to allow subsonic aircraft characteristics on take-off and landing.

The massive project was largely U.S. government-funded and airlines all over the world ponied up a million-dollar deposit for each of the over 120 aircraft they had optioned to buy. Unfortunately not even Boeing could make the variable sweep design work. It was simply too heavy with all the hardware involved to make those wings “waggle” and the company ended up with a slightly smaller fixed delta-wing configuration with a separate tail plane as its final design. Then concerns over sonic booms, airport noise, operating economics, along with a few socio-political issues of the time conspired to kill the whole project when the Senate voted against continued funding of the 2707 in 1971. A billion taxpayer dollars had been spent at that point and just about all they had to show for it was a wooden mock-up (and some big “ticket office” type models like mine).

So that was that. The beautiful Concorde flew passengers just over a quarter-century as a technological masterpiece and an economic disaster. Only 16 were built and the widespread “Supersonic Age” in air transport everyone expected back then never came to be. Some of us are still waiting for it.

This brings me back to my new ridiculously expensive model (which, by the way appears to have been Boeing factory-built) and my point. There is a cohort of airline enthusiasts who are about 50 and over who were starry-eyed little “avgeeks” when it looked like the Boeing SST was going to make it into full-scale production. We read about and saw dramatic drawings of the airplane and figured that when we were a bit older we were going to get to fly in her. To say the prospect of traveling aboard such a stupendously large and fast vehicle was an exciting idea for us to dream about is a major understatement. Since nothing close to it in scale has been considered since (The promising “Boom” SST currently under development will carry about 55 passengers) we are still enamored with the 2707, all these years later.

I’ve noticed that every time an original item of any kind related this airplane goes up for auction on eBay it tends to sell quickly and for a high price. There is a reason for this. The kids who were waiting for the airplane, and never forgot her, are now 50-60 years old. They have often reached the pinnacle of their professions, either in aviation or elsewhere, and they have disposable cash. Some of that money is being spent to enable continuing happy memories of a now distant childhood when it seemed like flying commercially in a gigantic Titanium dart at nearly three times the speed of sound was just around the corner.

That is the ongoing mystique, and legacy, of the Boeing SST.

Postscript: The year before acquiring the Eastern 2707, I was also able to find a United Boeing SST display model, this one built by California models makers PacMin, of the same scale, minus the working wings and control surfaces. I’ve included a photo of it as well for this article.

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40 years of airline deregulation – The (relative) calm before the storm (part 1)

Written by David Keller

The Airline Deregulation Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 24, 1978.  This piece of legislation had a wide-ranging impact, and the airline industry in the US would never be the same.

Some of the major changes were:

  • Airlines would find it much easier to add and drop routes. This would allow carriers to enter highly coveted markets, while at the same time, subjecting them to new competition on their own lucrative services.
  • Intrastate carriers would no longer be bound by state lines, as they could be certified to operate routes outside of their home states.
  • Supplemental airlines could offer regularly scheduled services as opposed to only charters.
  • Small carriers (primarily those seen as commuter airlines) would have the opportunity to operate larger aircraft, and potentially compete with the established carriers.
  • New airlines could be formed to provide additional competition, and potentially lower the cost of air travel, thus bolstering the industry in general.
  • Mergers would be approved at a much higher rate than in the past, which opened the door to carriers expanding through acquisition.

The most immediate impact of the legislation was that the established airlines were able to take advantage of their new freedom to add routes, largely by applying for “dormant” routes, as well as one other route they could add each year without needing to receive CAB approval.  Since these companies had fleets, employees and the required certifications, they would be the first to take advantage of the new opportunities.

But the approach taken by the airlines varied widely, from extremely conservative additions to wildly over-ambitious route expansions.  And many carriers had similar ideas for expansion, with Florida, Texas and Arizona being the most popular destinations for new service.

Western Airlines was probably the most conservative trunk carrier in the country.  They were the last of the trunks to introduce pure jet service in 1960, and also the last to offer widebody service, finally introducing the DC-10 in 1973.  It was one of the few not to order the Boeing 747.

So it should come as no surprise that the airline did not jump headlong into the uncharted waters of the deregulated environment.  While most carriers promoted the start of some new services by early 1979, Western took a more measured approach.  By the end of 1979, Milwaukee, Spokane and Washington D.C. had all been added from the airline’s traditional eastern terminus in Minneapolis/St. Paul.  This meant Western had become a transcontinental carrier, offering direct (2 stop) service between the East Coast and Seattle.

Another carrier to move with caution was Continental Airlines.  By the December 15, timetable, Continental was promoting service from Washington/Dulles to Houston (starting January 2, 1979).  Continental also joined the transcontinental ranks, with direct service from Dulles to Los Angeles (albeit with 4 stops).

By the end of 1979, Continental had added routes to New York City, as well as to Western Mexico.  Additionally, long-delayed service from Hawaii to the South Pacific had also been inaugurated.

Pan Am’s many attempts over the years to acquire a domestic airline to feed its globe-spanning international network had largely been thwarted by other carriers claiming that such a combination would provide an unsurmountable advantage over other airlines, many of which had little or no international routes.  Deregulation provided the opportunity for Pan Am to build its own domestic network, but given the fact that the carrier’s fleet was primarily built for long-haul intercontinental services (with the exception of the 727 fleet working the Internal German Services), acquisition was seen as the most viable path to that end, rather than individual route acquisitions.  In the meantime, the carrier’s timetable dated October 28, 1979, does show a few domestic segments added, namely connecting New York with Miami and San Francisco.

National Airlines was focused on expanding its footprint in the trans-Atlantic market, and only made a few tentative moves in the domestic arena.  The March 3, 1979 timetable shows that Seattle was added with a route to Houston, with service to Los Angeles forthcoming on April 1.  Also on that date, National started operating between Miami and San Juan with 3 daily round trips.

The fact that National attracted interest as a takeover target may have also resulted in a more conservative strategy, given the bidding war that ensued.  The airline’s services remained essentially unchanged for the remainder of the year, as illustrated by the (condensed) route map on their September 5, 1979 timetable.

TWA’s initial route additions were also relatively meek, as the January 9, 1979 timetable shows new service between St. Louis and Minneapolis/St. Paul, and from Palm Springs to Phoenix, continuing to Chicago.  (At this point, Chicago was still considered TWA’s primary domestic hub.  It would be a few years before TWA would decide that they couldn’t compete with the likes of American and United at O’Hare.)

However, by the end of 1979, TWA had added routes from a number of new cities to St. Louis, and had also greatly expanded its footprint in Florida.  As the December 15, 1979 issue illustrates, 3 new Florida destinations were added, and service to Florida was inaugurated from 7 cities in the northeastern US; Boston, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and Washington.  While TWA operated 37 weekly flights to Florida in the winter of 1978/79, by the following winter, that number had risen to 276!

Eastern Airlines enjoyed a number of new route awards prior to the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act, and the timetable dated September 6, 1978 shows the carrier focused on bolstering its strongest markets, Atlanta, Miami, New York and San Juan.  The December 13, 1978 issue, which was the first after Deregulation, shows a similar strategy, although with an increasing emphasis on secondary markets in Houston, Central Florida and St. Louis (which was becoming an east-west hub).

By the end of 1979, Eastern had tied Albuquerque, Phoenix and Tucson to its primary hub in Atlanta, and added Reno to St. Louis service.  However, the Los Angeles to Orlando service started the prior winter had disappeared from the schedule.

Delta Air Lines’ timetable dated December 15, 1978 shows a rather conservative strategy as it inaugurated only 5 new routes, all of which were tied to a station where the carrier already had a significant presence.  DC-8-50s, which were on the verge of being phased out of the fleet, provided some of the capacity required to operate the additional flights.

The timetable from the end of the following year, dated December 15, 1979, shows Delta still operating all of those routes, with the Atlanta services up to 4-5 daily flights.  The carrier had also added routes to the West from both Atlanta and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Northwest Orient Airlines added 3 new cities to its network with the timetable dated February 1, 1979, Orlando, St. Louis and Las Vegas.  St. Louis was connected to Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul, which were 2 of Northwest’s largest stations.  Orlando received service from Boston and Philadelphia (as did several other Florida cities).

But Las Vegas was something of a head-scratcher, with once daily service to San Francisco that continued to Minneapolis/St. Paul.  San Francisco was a minor station for Northwest with only 4 other daily flights, and the direct service to Minneapolis took more than twice as long as Western’s nonstop service.  As illustrated by the timetable dated December 18, 1979, service to Phoenix had also been inaugurated.

American Airlines took a more aggressive approach than most, and the timetable dated January 20, 1979 shows 9 new cities being added to its network.  Most of the new stations were tied into major hubs, either with nonstop or direct service.  Service was added connecting Dallas/Ft. Worth to Albuquerque, Miami, New Orleans, Reno and Tampa, while Chicago received service to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

A few new routes didn’t feed major hubs, as service was inaugurated to Las Vegas from Cleveland and Detroit, while the oddest of all was a trans-continental nonstop service from San Francisco to Miami.  Unsurprisingly, the San Francisco/Miami service was already discontinued by the end of year.

But the biggest eye-opener in the Deregulation route frenzy was Braniff International Airways, which inaugurated new service on 32 routes and opened 15 new stations with its December 15, 1978 timetable.  The centerfold of this issue boasts about the new service, and claims, “to begin service to so many cities at one time is unprecedented in the history of air transportation”.  (The map in the centerfold identifies Los Angeles as a new station, even though international service had been offered there for years.)

Braniff was right about its expansion being “unprecedented“.  These new route requests came with a “use it or lose it” condition, and as one of the smaller trunk carriers, Braniff’s fleet was stretched thin attempting to cover 64 additional segments.

Rather than pause and allow all of this growth to be properly assimilated into the system, Braniff continued to expand in 1979, both domestically (and more importantly) internationally.  The all-727 domestic fleet could not handle all of the new flights so DC-8s soon started operating domestic segments.  By summer, DC-8s were operating scheduled services to stations such as Denver, Memphis, Tampa and Orlando.  (The carrier would later be fined by the FAA for many hundreds of maintenance violations resulting from the demands placed on the fleet.)

Braniff ordered dozens of aircraft to support the new services, added through Concorde service from Dallas/Ft. Worth to both London and Paris (in cooperation with British Airways and Air France), created a trans-Atlantic hub in Boston (one of the cities added in December, 1978), and began operating trans-Pacific services as well.  The results were predictable, and the once profitable carrier quickly faced mounting losses and declining customer service.

Routes and employees were shed rapidly but the airline had already become a poster child for those who argued that some carriers wouldn’t know how to survive in a deregulated environment.  Although Braniff lasted until the spring of 1982, the foundation for its demise was laid within the first year of Deregulation.

Next: smaller airlines navigate the first year of Deregulation.

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Dance the Flight Away: Trans Caribbean Airways’ Golden Troubadour Service

Written by Russell Goutierez

The ads debuted in March 1959 and called Trans Caribbean Airways’ new Golden Troubadour flights “a unique experience in air travel.” That was arguably an ambitious claim given that O. Roy Chalk had founded TCA just 14 years before with $60,000 and two DC-4s, but the description was spot on.

                                               Marvin Goldman Collection

The $67.60 fare between New York City and TCA’s San Juan hub was a tidy sum in 1959; it rings up as nearly $600 in today’s dollars. Granted, this wasn’t five hours plus in some economy class sardine can with nothing more than a stale sandwich and a lame seat pocket magazine to pass the time. The airline promised passengers nothing less on these special DC-6 weekend trips than a “holiday on wings,” touting reserved seating, luxurious golden décor, “featherbed” comfort, and Caribbean hors d’oeuvres followed by a main course of Lobster Troubadour. And all of it would unfold in calm, smooth air thanks to “remarkable radar.”

That’s pretty impressive flair for a carrier trying to make a name in a new market, but TCA was aiming even higher. Creating a new definition of inflight entertainment, the airline invited customers to “…marvel as your flight cabin is transformed into a ‘heavenly’ night club. Song, melody, laughter are lavishly provided by internationally famous performers.” That’s special in and of itself, but they even removed forward cabin seats to create a dance floor! It’s fun to imagine what it must have been like to experience that kind of ambience on a long overwater flight.

Little information is available on how long TCA operated Golden Troubadour service, or whether it was considered a success. The airline eventually grew to operate 727s and DC-8s before American Airlines acquired it from Mr. Chalk in 1971.

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DC-3 Lands in Jersey Swamp

Written by Henry M. Holden

On January 7, 1938, an American Airlines DC-3, NC16015 c/n 1553, carrying five passengers, a crew of three, and 780 pounds of mail, dropped out of a pea soup fog and pouring rain shortly after 3 o’clock in the morning to a safe, mud cushioned landing in the Jersey meadows. Captain Usher Rousch made the landing after narrowly missing fences at the south end of Newark Airport. The plane settled down in a water-coursed gulley. The landing gear was smashed, one engine was damaged and Rousch suffered a gash over his right eye when his head struck the control panel. The passengers, mildly shaken, got out into the swamp with flight attendant Veronica Lally until the danger of an explosion was past. Then they re-entered the plane to await help. After a mile hike through the swamp the captain returned with rescue party of police, firemen, doctors and postal employees, who escorted the passengers back to the airport.

Captain Rousch, due in at 2:39 am. from Chicago, by way of Detroit and Buffalo, arrived on time, following the radio beam that ends at the airport. The fog was so dense; he could not see the field. Ground crews could hear the plane circling overhead. Miss Lally, a native of Janesville, Wis., and a graduate nurse of Mercy Hospital there, warned the passengers of possible trouble and fastened their safety belts. Then she served tea, crackers, and cheese, and Rousch jockeyed for a landing in the fog.

The passengers were Jack Ryan of Evanston, Ill., a motor boat salesman; A. Rush Watkins, Chicago dog-food manufacturer; W. E. Ogilvie, public relations man for stockyard interests, and Michael Lunder, of Boston, and Herbert Shapiro, of Dover, N. H., business men returning from a shoe manufacturers’ convention in Chicago.

After circling about twenty-five minutes, Rousch discovered a hole in the fog, got a glimpse of the ground and quickly shot down. As the wheels of the ship were about to touch the ground, however, the pilot saw that he had come down at the end of the field, with no space for taxing. Rousch pulled back on the yoke and the huge plane skimmed over the wire fences on either side of the State Highway, Route 25, and another fence around a parking lot. Contact with the fences would have meant almost certain disaster.

Soon Captain Rousch was ready for another try and eased the airplane as best he could into the marshes, about a mile south of the field, in the direction of Elizabeth. He immediately set out on foot for the airport, while his co-pilot, Stan Gerding, contacted radio communication with Theodore. A. Schmidt, night manager of the airline at the field, and notified him that everyone was safe. It took the pilot an hour to reach the field. The fifty men who manned rescue apparatus then headed for the plane, with Rousch leading. By 7 am. everyone was back at the airport. When the passengers had coffee and other stimulants, they praised highly the conduct of Captain Rousch and his copilot, and particularly Miss Lally. Airline officials said the plane would have to be dismantled and towed out of the marsh.

Note: The aircraft, built in October 1936, went into service with American Airlines on October 15, 1936, as Flagship Kentucky. It was successfully removed from the swamp and rebuilt. Registered N492, with Trans Alaskan Airlines, it then went to Bonanza Airlines as N492 in 1945. Bonanza Airlines merged with West Coast & Pacific, forming Air West on April 18, 1968. It was later registered as JA5100 to the Japanese

2

Civilian Aviation Bureau and Flight Inspection Bureau and scrapped in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan.

For the complete story of the Douglas DC-3 see: “The Legacy of the DC-3”

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Departed Wings – Frontier Horizon (FW)

Written by Jon Jamieson

1984-1985          Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado based Frontier Airlines faced some daunting challenges during the early 1980s as the result of airline deregulation. Prior to deregulation in 1978, Frontier had approximately 40% of the traffic share from Denver Stapleton Airport, however just five years later in 1983, the airline saw its Denver market share drop to just 7%.

Fearing continued competition from low-cost carriers, especially new Denver entrant, Southwest Airlines, Frontier formulated a plan to compete and maintain its Denver strong-hold. A new airline, Frontier Horizon, was devised as an innovative solution to improve revenue, cater to business class customers, and provide throughput from major markets into the Frontier system at Denver. The new airline would be a wholly owned subsidiary of Frontier Holdings, Inc. and operate as a non-union entity using a fleet of seven Boeing 727s purchased from American Airlines. With approximately $30 million in start-up costs funded, Frontier Horizon took to the air on January 9, 1984, with service from Denver Stapleton International Airport to Chicago-O’Hare, Washington-National and San Francisco.

Service to New York-La Guardia Airport was added in March 1984. Seen being pushed back from the gate in May 1984, is N1930.

Almost immediately Frontier Horizon ran into trouble. Protests were held by the unionized workforce picketing the infusion of money into the “new” airline, while legacy Frontier suffered employee concessions and operating reductions. Another issue was the operating name chosen by the new airline.

Chicago-O’Hare was one of the first airports to be served by Frontier Horizon. Seen pulling away from the gate in June 1984, is N1955.

Seattle based Horizon Airlines found heartache with the “Horizon” title and suggested it was too similar in nature to their name and filed a complaint. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) agreed to the similarities, sided with Horizon Air and directed Frontier Holdings to rename the airline.

Seven Boeing 727-100s were used to start service from Denver to four major market cities including N1902, seen taxing at San Francisco International Airport.

Using a public competition, a new name of Frontier Discovery was selected, yet the new name would not be applied. Although the airline started additional flights to New York-La Guardia, it was soon realized that operating two “separate” airlines caused an already difficult situation to be worse financially for Frontier.

Seen landing at Denver Stapleton Airport in March 1985 after the sale to Skybus is N1973, wearing only Frontier titles.

In January 1985, the assets of Frontier Horizon were sold to a new operating company called Skybus Airlines.

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Airlines of Asia – Past and Present

Written by Charlie Dolan

Air Ceylon         AE                           1947 – 1979          Went bankrupt

Air India   (Tata)                               1932 -1949            Became Air India

Air India            AI     AIC                1949 – present

Air Koryo          JB     KOR               1950 – present    North Korea’s flag carrier. Was the only Airline awarded one star in 2014 by Skytrax

Air Siam             VG                           1970 – 1976

All Nippon Airways   NH    ANA    1952 – present

Ariana Afghan Airlines   FG   AFG  1955 – present (with breaks during hostilities)

Asiana Airlines    OZ    AAR            1988 – present

C A A C Civil Aviation Administration of China  CA  CCA  1949 – 1988    Split into six smaller operators

Dragonair Hong Kong Dragon Airlines     KA    HDA          1985 – present

Merpati Nusantara Airlines        MZ    MNA          1962 – 2014

 

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Airport Junior Wings

Written by Lane Kranz

There is an emerging market in the world of junior wings—Airport Junior Wings!  While airlines rarely introduce new junior wings today, many airports around the country are adding junior wings to support their airport help desks and to give to young people on tours.

Many airports have issued junior wings going back over 50 years.  Often the name of the airport is a clear indicator of when a wing was issued.  For example, in New Orleans the MSY code was derived from Moisant Stock Yards.  It was named after daredevil aviator John Moisant who died in 1910 in an airplane crash on agricultural land where the airport is now located.  The airport was known as Moisant Field until 1959 when the name was changed to Moisant Int’l. Airport.  Just a few years later, in 1961, the name was changed to New Orleans Int’l.  And in 2001, to honor the 100th anniversary of Louis Armstrong’s birth, the name became Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

The trend of new airport junior wings is clearly positive, and we are seeing newly issued airport junior wings every quarter.  In fact, there are now nearly 150 known junior wings issued by airports.  Great news for wing collectors!

Below are some examples of airport junior wings:

  • SBA – Santa Barbara Airport, newly issued
  • DEN – Denver Int’l. Airport, issued in the 90s
  • SAN – San Diego County Airports, issued in 2010s
  • SGF – Springfield, MO, issued in the 80s
  • PHX – Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, issued in the late 70s
  • IND – Indianapolis Airport Authority, issued in the 70s or 80s
  • MSY – New Orleans Int’l Airport, issued in the 70s or 80s
  • TPA – Tampa Int’l. Airport, newly issued
  • PRB – Paso Robles Airport, CA, issued in the 80s (above)

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Rooftop Dakota

Written by Henry M. Holden

It was not a good evening to fly. December 19, 1946, was a cold, snowy evening at Northolt Airport, London, when Railway Air Service’s G‑AGZA, c/n 12455, DC‑3 service to Glasgow Airport on behalf of Scottish Airways, taxied into position for take-off. It had a total of four crew and one passenger on board.

The snow storm had closed the airport to incoming traffic, and outbound traffic was subject to long delays. The plane had been waiting for more than an hour for clearance. The aircraft had been de-iced since it was a cold, snowy evening which had delayed the departure. While the Dakota was waiting the temperature dropped and snow began falling which froze on the wings. When G‑AGZA received clearance, the pilot ran the engines up to 45.5 inches of manifold pressure and 2,500 RPM.

Time to go! He released the brakes and the airplane lumbered down the runway, but the old warhorse did not want to make the trip. As the plane gathered speed air rushed over its wings, but the tail did not rise. Both pilots looked at each other, and at the instruments. Then, the tail began its slow, lethargic rise. The pilots relaxed. For a moment, they thought there was a problem.

The old Gooney Bird was having trouble getting off the ground. There was too much ice on her wings. She should not be flying but the pilot didn’t listen to her subtle signals. Eighty‑four knots and the pilot pulled back gently on the yoke. The Gooney Bird struggled to get off the ground, its Pratt & Whitney engines clawing at the air. She could remember this happening before, but in a war, when she was RAF Dakota KG240. Although struggling, she would fly again, even though the laws of aerodynamics said it was impossible.

Her wheels left the icy runway and she could feel them tucking away inside her. That helped a little, but not enough. Her propellers were biting at the air, hardly giving her 50 feet of altitude. She was just barely flying.

Suddenly there were houses in front of her and more ice on her wings. Her nose came up a little, but it was too late. The ice on the wings disturbed the air flow, which resulted in the aircraft not gaining any lift. It was however too late to abort take-off so the crew was forced to try to get the aircraft to climb. She hit the roof of the first house with a sickening, scraping noise, but her forward motion continued. She tore the roofs from three more houses before coming to rest. Metal and wood groaned under her weight. Then, there was silence.

People came rushing out of their homes. In the distance a baby was crying. The Gooney Bird had nested on top of the last house. Its wing tips were missing but the nose and tail remained undamaged. There were no injuries on the ground, only a frightened baby in its crib, looking up through tear‑filled eyes, at the belly of the plane. The four crew members and one passenger walked away from the plane, but instead of in Scotland, their destination, just minutes away from their point of departure.

It was quickly determined that the cause of the crash was the snow which had frozen to the aircraft’s wings while G-AGZA was waiting to take-off, resulting in the aircraft not gaining any lift and making an emergency landing on the roof of 46 Angus Drive. The house was subsequently nicknamed “Dakota Rest.”

The pilot was also assigned a cause factor for failing to abort take-off after noticing it had been snowing and his aircraft being covered in snow. The crash landing on the houses earned the Captain the nickname “Rooftop Johnson.”

The Dakota involved made its first flight in 1944 as Douglas C-47A 42-92633 military transport of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and had Douglas serial number 12455. It was transferred to the Royal Air Force (RAF) as KG420. KG420 was registered to Railway Air Services as a Dakota III in March 1946, with the British registration G-AGZA, powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp engines.

Copyright Henry M. Holden, 1997, 2013, 2019

For the complete story on the Douglas DC-3 see “Legacy of the DC-3″

 

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Airline Postcard Sells for Probable Record Price

Written by Marvin G. Goldman

On 23 March 2019, an Air Guinee Douglas DC-4 postcard sold on eBay for 805 British pounds, equal to approximately U.S. $1,050.  This is the highest sales price I have ever heard of for a single airline postcard.  I checked with two other leading airline postcard collectors — Bill Baird and Doug Bastin.  Bill said, “that is the highest price I’ve ever seen [for] an airline postcard so far”.  Doug observed, “As regards whether it is the highest price, probably yes for a card with no postal history content.

This raised my curiosity to find out what was so special about Air Guinee and this postcard in particular, and that led to my writing this brief article.

From 1895 to 1960 a federation of eight French colonial territories, including ‘French Guinea’, existed in what was then known as ‘French West Africa’.  Upon those territories gaining their separate independence in 1960, they considered forming, and several did establish, an airline consortium called ‘Air Afrique’.  However, the governments of Guinee (the former French Guinea) and Mali decided not to participate, and they formed their respective own national airlines.  Air Guinee was founded in 1960 by the Guinee government and existed until 2002.

Initially Air Guinee operated with aircraft and assistance obtained from the Soviet Union.  However, in mid-1963 Air Guinee purchased two Douglas DC-4s from Alaska Airlines, and that leads us to the airline postcard at hand.

The Air Guinee DC-4 postcard was listed on eBay on 16 March 2019 by eBay seller ‘kevins_models’ of Stockport, Cheshire, U.K., at a starting price of £1 (about $1.30) plus £6 shipping.  The seller stated:  “THIS IS ONE OF APPROX 200 CARDS I AM LISTING THIS WEEKEND.   THEY CAME FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION OF A COLLECTOR IN LONDON.  CARDS ARE MOSTLY FROM THE 1950s TO 1980s.  AIRLINE ISSUED CARDS SOME REALLY RARE ISSUE CARDS.”

Here is the front and back of the card as listed by the seller:

Air Guinee Douglas DC-4 Postcard, Airline Issue, probably 1963, sold on eBay for £805 (approximately $1,050), 23 March 2019. 

Back of preceding card. 

The aircraft on the postcard was described by the seller as a DC-6, but it appears to be an artist’s rendition of a DC-4.  Moreover, according to several sources, including a detailed Air Guinee fleet list on the website ‘aerobernie.bplaced.net’ (tab ‘Africa’, subtab ‘Guinee’), Air Guinee never utilized DC-6s.  That website does list the two DC-4s acquired by Air Guinee from Alaska Airlines in 1963, registered 3X-KRS and 3X-YUN, which were in Air Guinee’s fleet for three to four years.  The DC-4 on the postcard bears registration 3X-YKN, but that registration does not appear on any actual Air Guinee aircraft.  It is possible the postcard was produced before the aircraft was registered in Guinee and the number ultimately given to the aircraft was 3X-YUN rather than the ‘3X-YKN’ supplied to the artist of the postcard.

In any event the eBay auction attracted 16 bids from 10 different bidders, and the £1 starting price soared to the ultimate £805 (about $1,050).

It was Bill Baird who actually brought this postcard to my attention.  He added that he actually has one of these cards in his own collection!  He says he never thought much about it and doesn’t even remember how he acquired it.  Here are scans of the front and back of Bill’s postcard.

Air Guinee Douglas DC-4 Postcard, Airline Issue, probably 1963, William Baird collection.

Air Guinee Douglas DC-4 Postcard, Back, Airline Issue, probably 1963, William Baird collection.

Doug Bastin, who like me had never seen this postcard before, initially wondered whether the Air Guinee DC-4 postcard might possibly be a fake.  He thought it strange that the postcard said ‘Printed in the U.S.A.’ whereas the airline in its early years was closely tied to Soviet assistance.  But then he saw on the postcard listing that seller was selling numerous older airline postcards that he acquired from a London collector and that they all seemed to be legitimate.  Moreover, I note that the U.S.A. reference isn’t so strange because Guinee’s initial relationship with the Soviets concluded in 1962-63, and Air Guinee acquired its two main DC-4s in 1963 from Alaska Airlines.  Also, the back of the same card in Bill Baird’s collection, shown above, has a handwritten greeting written in French by a person living in Conakry, the capital of Guinee.

Seller’s March 2019 eBay listings included a different Air Guinee DC-4 postcard claimed to be from the same London collection and also never seen before by me, Doug Bastin or Bill Baird.  This card shows the aircraft on the ground with the crew in front, and it sold on the same day for $550 — also an exceptionally high price, above or close to any previous high price for an airline postcard.  This other Air Guinee postcard attracted 14 bids from 11 different bidders, not all of whom were the same as those that bid on the top-selling card.  The same person, however, identified by eBay only as ‘c***_’, was the top bidder on both cards.

Here is the seller’s image of this other Air Guinee DC-4 card:

So what drove up the prices on these two Air Guinee DC-4 postcards?  First, the cards appear to be very rare. They are airline issues from an African national airline that produced very few cards and no longer exists.  The DC-4 is an old prop aircraft popular with collectors.  The aircraft type served with the airline only 2-3 years.  And, perhaps most importantly, there were many collectors bidding on the cards, including more than one in each case who was willing to pay an extremely high amount for the prize.  As to the record-setting card, two different collectors bid over $1,000 (and a third collector bid nearly $300).  The second card, showing the DC-4 on the ground with crew, had two different collectors bid $550 each (the earlier bid won; and a third collector bid over $200).

If you have any comments or more information about these two Air Guinee postcards or how they came to be sold for these top prices, I would be glad to hear from you.  I may reached through the ‘Contact Us’ tab at the bottom of the World Airline Historical Society, Inc. website home page at wahsonline.com.

Who knows?  Maybe you will find one of these postcards at Airliners International 2019 Atlanta !

Marvin G. Goldman

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