Several More Carriers of Africa

Written by Charlie Dolan

I have several more air carriers from the African continent, which I had not featured before, as well as a recently acquired metal cap badge of Royal Air Maroc. In many cases, I have either the wing or hat badge of the airline rather than a full set of insignia.  In the case of South African Airlines, several different sets of insignia were issued over the course of many years and represent eras during and after the country’s membership in the British Commonwealth. Several of the SAA variants include the insignia worn by engineer staff. The dates which I have indicated are approximations, if anyone has more accurate information, please share with me.

GI GIB 1960 – 2002

Royal Air Maroc AT RAM 1957 – present

Royal Swazi National Airways ZC RSN 1978 – 1999

South African Airways SA SAA 1934 – present

Commonwealth era cap badge 

1961 – 1971 set

1971 – 1997 set

1997 – present insignia

Uganda Airlines QU UGA 1977 – 2001

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The Last Scheduled DC-3 Service on Planet Earth

Written by Henry M. Holden

To get a ride on the last scheduled DC-3 airline service on planet Earth, you must travel to Yellowknife Airport, located at 62 degrees, 26 minutes, 32 seconds North by 114 degrees, 23 minutes, 51 seconds West. That will put you just 318 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

The DC-3s are operated by locally-based Buffalo Airways which also operates other scheduled passenger, charter passenger, charter Cargo, fire-fighting and fuel services. Buffalo Airways’ main base is at Yellowknife Airport (CYZF) with two other bases at Hay River Airport (CYHY) and Red Deer Regional Airport (CYQF) in the Canadian Northwest Territories.

Yellowknife (the name comes from the hunting knives forged from the naturally occurring copper used by the local Dene people), is the only city and the capital of the Northwest Territories and has a population of approximately 19,000. The second largest town in the Northwest Territories is Hay River, With a population of approximately 3,600. The total population of the Northwest Territories is about 45,000 in an area that is double the size of the state of Texas.

The challenge in this land is getting around the Canadian north, which can often be a hit-and-miss affair, especially in winter, The emptiness of this vast, featureless land, coupled with unpredictable and often ferocious weather conditions that have swallowed pilots, passengers and their aircraft whole, never to be seen or heard from again, is always a worrisome factor. One pilot disappeared on a routine winter flight in 1964. His remains and those of his passengers were only discovered in 2003, almost 40 years later.

Traveling at 170 miles per hour, Buffalo Airways’ DC-3s can haul 7,000 pounds of freight or 28 passengers to destinations throughout the Canadian North. About one half of its passengers are repeat customers.

Buffalo Airways has been operating its legendary DC-3 aircraft with their trademark green livery since 1970. Most of Buffalo Airways’ warbird airliners date back to WWII and include 13 DC-3s, a couple of DC-4s, and Curtiss C-46s, two Lockheed Electras (the company’s only two turboprops,) and two Canadair CL—25 fire bombers.

Today it is the only airline in the world to fly, a seven day a week, scheduled DC-3 services between Yellowknife and the Hay River Airports. The flight takes approximately 45 minutes.

This DC-3 registered as C-GPNR was C/N 12222 Skytrain USAAF in 1942 and diverted to the World War II Lend Lease Plan and re-designated Dakota Mk III and carried registration KG602. The aircraft took part in the Normandy Invasion in the 575 Squadron RAF, based in Broadwell, UK. (Henry M. Holden)

According to Mickey McBryan, the current general manager and son of the legendary Buffalo Joe McBryan, the founder, and current president of Buffalo Airways, the name came from one of Joe’s first flying jobs, counting buffalo. Mickey says his father made the first flight to Hay River around 1970 and has since made the flight over 7,500 times. Buffalo Airways has been the subject of the popular Canadian reality television series, Ice Pilots NWT a 13-episode real life documentary series about an unorthodox airline in the Canadian North.

Yellowknife-based Buffalo Airways flies WWII-era propeller ‘planes — big old aircraft built by “Rosie the Riveter” that have remained virtually unchanged over the years. Rookie pilots defy bone-chilling temperatures to fly cargo and passengers through blizzards, breakdowns, and transatlantic journeys. It is an impossible job in a merciless place.

Yellowknife is one of the best places in the world from which to view the “Northern Lights” (Author’s collection)

Every pilot starts at the bottom — as a “rampie.” They work the ramp in minus 10 degrees Celsius, and if they have what it takes, they will eventually sit in the right seat of a DC-3, and sometime in the future they will move to the left seat.

The climate demands courage, character and mental toughness. The pilots of Buffalo Airways have those traits, if they don’t, they leave. Mc Bryan says they have about a 95 percent pilot turnover rate.

The real meat and potatoes of the Buffalo Airways business is the freight. Three DC-3s are reserved for passenger service, and the others for freight. Depending on the load, they may use a DC-3 or a DC-4.

The trip in a DC-3 in Canada’s North West Territory is one filled with moving rivers of ice called glacier’s that are hundreds of miles long. These glaciers present jagged ice which is impossible to land on without destroying the aircraft. (Henry M. Holden)

Grocery stores and other merchants depend on Buffalo Airways to get supplies to them all year long, and winter is the biggest challenge.

They have hauled everything from dogsleds and dogs to the Stanley Cup, ice hockey’s top prize. The challenge has been and always will be the weather. In winter, temperatures can go to -40 degree, Celsius and winds can gust to 40 mph, and there is a lot of snow

Each spring, the mile-long ice bridge over the Mackenzie River breaks up and flows out to the Beauford Sea, severing the only “road” leading from southern Canada to Yellowknife. For more than four weeks, and another month each autumn, the city of Yellowknife remains cut  off from the rest of the world. The only access to the city and its outlining settlements during those periods is by air and Buffalo Airways.

The pilots and passengers of Buffalo Airways may not think much about the fact that they are travelling in a virtual time machine .Its designers had no idea it would out last all of them, and it is still going 75 years later.

The area does not have permanent roads, and the only way people can be resupplied in winter is by Buffalo Airways. At some point during the winter, Yellowknife is literally cut off from civilization. The pilots of Buffalo Airways’ job is to bring food, fuel, medicines and freight from civilization to remote, isolated settlements around the Arctic Circle.

Reprinted with permission from World Airnews October 2010

 

Since publication of this piece in 2010, the ensuing years brought challenges to the company. On 30 November 2015, Transport Canada suspended Buffalo Airway’s Air Operator Certificate, citing the airline’s poor safety record. This prohibited Buffalo Airways from operating commercial air services, until it could prove that it can meet all safety regulations on a consistent basis. Service was maintained using chartered aircraft. On 12 January 2016, the license was reinstated. On 1 April 2019, on their website under Air Charters it said, “All scheduled passenger service has been temporarily postponed until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

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Departed Wings: Altair Airlines (AK)

Written by Jon Jamieson

                                  1966-1982                               Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Altair Airlines was established as a commuter carrier based at Philadelphia airport and started operations on November 4, 1966. Early service connected Philadelphia with Scranton, Harrisburg, and Allentown using the nine-passenger Beech Queenair aircraft. The name Altair, was curious and was derived from the bright star “Altairus” located in the constellation “Aquila” or Eagle for which the airlines logo was created.

One of the Beech 99s caught departing the ramp for another regional flight in 1971.

By 1970, Altair had expanded operations across to adjoining states, was serving twelve cities, and had acquired the Beech 99 turboprop. At times, facing competition from rival Allegheny Commuter in many of its markets, Altair was able to maintain profitability and service. With the watchful eye of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), a new 32-seat limit was placed on commuter aircraft in 1972. Altair, in an effort to increase loads, looked to the French designed Nord 262 turboprop, with a capacity of twenty-seven seats to meet the CAB recommendation.

The French built Nord 262 served Altair through the late 1970s and is seen taxiing at Washington National Airport in 1981.

The first Nord 262 was delivered in 1975 and was used with the Beech 99s to continue flying over 100,000 passengers yearly. On the heels of deregulation in 1978, many airlines realized an opportunity to enter new markets and Altair was no exception. The airline placed an order for ten of the 74-seat Fokker F-28 jets with plans of route extension to Florida and the Eastern Seaboard.

The Fokker F-28 allowed Altair to expand to further markets including Florida. Parked on the ramp at Tampa International Airport in 1982, is N504.

The first F-28 “Starjet” service started on October 15, 1980 and routes expanded as far south as Tampa and Sarasota, Florida. After only a year in service and on the heels of the PATCO strike in 1981, Altair started to suffer financially. An attempt was made to establish a hub-and-spoke system from Philadelphia and Altair purchased three Douglas DC-9s from Air Canada for the service. Although the airline had become “pure-jet” by mid-1981, continuing financial loses as well as fierce completion with both Piedmont and USAir at Philadelphia, forced the privately held Altair into a downward spiral. With over $34 million in losses, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on November 9, 1982 and suspended all operations.

Still painted in the airlines colors, the Douglas DC-9 only saw service for a few months and is parked awaiting disposition at Philadelphia International Airport in early 1983.

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seat: Interesting Images from the Past

Written by Lester Anderson

IDL to IDL

On August 18 1962 two wonderful things occurred. One was Peter Paul and Mary released their first hit If I had a hammer (although I had nothing to do with that).  The other was my flight from Idlewild to Idlewild. It was on TWA and was called a “Flightseeing Tour”.  The cost was $5.00 and it was 45 minute flight around the New York Metropolitan area on a Boeing 720B.  In my case it was N795TW.  I recall there were multiple flights, but I remember my friends and I had the first one in the morning.

For those of us at a window it was a great photo opportunity but also since there were 2 other people in the row, you did not hog the window since most people on the airplane were just interesting in looking outside.  We were not one of the very few first on the plane who got to sit in the first rows (First class), but we got some great seats just behind the wing.   This is picture I took then had enlarged to 8×10 and had it on my bedroom wall for a few years.  As you can see it was a shot of a cloverleaf highway interchange, but we have so many in our area it could have been NY or NJ or Connecticut. I had wondered why part of the photo seemed blurred until I realized that the blur was because I was shooting thru the exhaust of the jet engine.

Newark Airport Spotting

In the mid 1970s there were two bridges that went from Route 1 on the west to the Port of Elizabeth on the east.  The wonderful thing about this for us “spotters” was that only one bridge was finished.  For reasons I have never found, the northern most bridge ended once it went over the NJ Turnpike.  No access to the port.  But the great thing was you could get on the bridge from the east and park.  And why was this wonderful?  You were just under the final approach to runway 4 at Newark Airport.  I found this and took a of great pictures and by the time I went back to the bridge for another photo session, was closed off (maybe to finish construction).    It was not just me on the bridge.  At least a dozen cars and trucks where there.  Workmen having their lunch while watching the landings.  Others just standing outside their cars observing this magnificent view. And a few of us snapping pictures.   Two regrets I have—as I was driving down to the airport, I head on the news that the president had just landed at Newark, so I missed seeing and photographing Air Force One by about 20 minutes.  The other was my ignorance of film.  I normally shot high speed color (400 speed) negatives.  I now understand more about grain and clarity of photographs, and wish I had a finer grain film since I was shooting in daylight and could have easily shot with a slower film. But in those days my  largest view of the photos was a 8×10 print, and unless you looked with a magnifying glass, you did not really see that much grain.  Here are a few of the shots of that day.

A sad note–today, you cannot take pictures without getting in trouble – even from the parking lots at the NY airports.  And I am sure today someone taking a photo at a time the President’s plane was landing would cause a major alarm to ring somewhere in the security system.

Delta in First

In 1976 I was teaching and volunteered to attend a teacher’s convention in Miami.  Since my aunt and uncle lived in Winter Haven Florida, I went down early to visit them, and probably more interesting, visit Kennedy Space Center.   Since I had an allowance for flight cost, I decided that I wanted to take some pictures from the front of the wing of a four engine jet.  At that time Delta flew DC-8s and I was able to book a flight with a connection in ATL that gave me a First Class seat ATL-MCO.  (As a side note, MCO – Orlando -has that code because the airport was originally McCoy Air Force Base.  And in 1976 there were still a number of military planes there and not nearly as many civilian airplanes coming into a fairly small terminal.

I called Delta to make the reservation once I had researched what I wanted in flights and hoped for in fares.  (Back in those days you actually called the airline and spoke to a company reservations agent).  I don’t recall if there was seat selection, but I did say I wanted to try to make sure I got a window because  of the photos I wanted to take.  I remember being asked if I was a professional photographer and I honestly replied no (even though I did have a MA in Media).  I do wonder if I might have gotten a few extra benefits if I had said yes.

These photos are nothing specifically of significance, but they were enjoyable to take and look at over the years.  My wife has always said of my vacation photos, that at least 50% of the pictures were of the exterior of the planes we flew on, or the wings as we were flying.  And (while I would disagree) she would say that a wing was a wing and why did I need to take a photo of each one.  But I did.

Apollo 18 Saturn V

As you can see from the VAB photo, it was the bicentennial with that logo on the building as well as the flag.  The visit was very enjoyable for many reasons.  The company contracted to provide the bus tours of the Kennedy Space Center was TWA, and the busses were so marked, so I can validly claim I was on a TWA bus.  I have many photos of the early space efforts, but the most impressive thing was what was promoted as the only $110,000,000 (110 Million Dollar) museum exhibit.  A real Saturn V launch vehicle.  When the then planned and scheduled Apollo 18 and 19 flights were cancelled, they had the launch rockets built and delivered.  At Kennedy Space Center, they put it on display, on the ground, so you could get a really close up view of the magnificent machine.  And take detailed pictures that the average aviation/space enthusiast could only have dreamed of in those days of the past where we all viewed every launch with excitement.

You had to stand back to get the “tail–on” photo of the 5 first stage engines, since each engine had a diameter of 12.2 feet.  Looking at the photo I am surprised I was able to get back far enough.  The rest of the rocket was just as interesting.  Looking at the plumbing and control wiring on the second and third stages gave me an amazement of the engineer designing something that complex and designing it to survive the rigors of take off and operation in the vacuum of space.

The Saturn V was moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad by a mobile launch platform that transported the rocket and the launch tower.  It moved at 2 miles per hour, each tread weighed a ton, and the muffler (and there were 2) was the size of a Ford Pinto (a popular car at the time).   As I type this, I have just seen the IMAX film Apollo 11 and there is a scene where the Apollo 11 Saturn V is Seen (and heard)  being moved by this mobile launch platform.

Today at Kennedy Space Center. the Saturn V is today in its own building suspended about 30 feet above the visitors.  It is magnificent to look at.  But I really appreciate the ability to look and photograph it close up back in 1976.  As a side note, when they put out the display, to see all the components the “rings” that closed the spaces between the stages were not there.  On my visit 2 years ago, I asked about it since they are not part of the current display and the guides said that no one know what happed to those pieces. There is another Saturn V at the Houston Space Center.  I have not had the honor of visiting that but I think it would be interesting to compare the two exhibits today.

Miami

And since all good things must come to an end, I did leave Winter Haven to go to the convention in Miami.  And to keep everything in the transportation loop universal, here is a photo of the Amtrak train that took me from Winter Haven to Miami.

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BOAC and How It All Began for Me

Written by Shea Oakley

 

On June 15th, 1968 my parents boarded a BOAC Super VC-10 for a trip from Kennedy International to Bermuda. I was with them, and four months old at the time. The aircraft registration was G-ASGJ, the same airplane that appears briefly in this old commercial (along with the bulkhead-mounted BOAC bassinet in which they kept me throughout the two-hour flight to “BDA”)

You might be wondering how I know the exact ship which was involved in jetting us to that charming British isle nearly 50 years ago. The answer comes in the form of a little tan package offered to my father on board the flight. Inside it was a small set of metal wings, a description of the Super VC-10 and, most important of all, a slim 4 X 6 inch hard cover booklet. It was Navy Blue with gold lettering on the cover which read “BOAC JUNIOR JET CLUB LOG BOOK.” My dad filled out our contact information on the inside of that cover under my name and handed it to the stewardess. She then conveyed it to the “flight deck” (the VC-10 was far too regal an aircraft to describe that area as a “cockpit”) where the captain filled in a horizontal line of 6 small boxes describing details of the flight. In the 7th box he signed his name.

My father had no way of knowing it at the time, but by taking that package on an early summer day in 1968 he was launching his son’s lifelong love affair with commercial aviation.

Once I was old enough to hand my little log book to the flight attendant myself I was often invited up to the cockpit of whatever airliner we happened to be flying to present it to the captain personally. You might imagine what that meant to young boy. I was hooked very early on (as attested by a Polaroid I still have showing me at 22 months old holding a friction-powered toy Eastern 727 model high above our pantry floor.)

I went through four of those BOAC, and later British Airways, log books through age 16 and then shifted to a generic passenger log book when I felt I was no longer a “junior” anything. I still maintain one in fact. This means I have logged virtually every commercial flight I’ve been on in the past half-century. These books are probably my most cherished physical possessions. I don’t mind admitting that I keep them in a fireproof box at home.

Today I am a trained aviation manager and the director of an aviation museum. I’m deeply involved in the airline/airliner enthusiast community as well. Commercial flight, and everything it encompasses, has become both a passion and a vocation for me. I literally thank God that my dad (who passed away in 2005) thought the Junior Jet Club might be something neat in which to involve his infant son.

In my life since that day, at least as far as aviation goes, it has made all the difference.

(First published on NYCaviation.com)

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seat: Pleasant Memories ~ Flight Segment 2

Written by Lester Anderson

Am I getting old?

I think of my years of travel often, and with great enjoyment.  It sobers me to realize that virtually every airplane I flew on during my business flying career has most probably been sent to the aircraft graveyard to be scrapped.  Many great memories now in the recycle stream.

By Richard Silagi

I sat next to who?

America West was a relatively new airline and when they started their frequent flyer program, so of course I joined.  Just after I got my card, I had a business trip that took me to Phoenix and back. On the way back I was on the red-eye.  Waiting in the gate area, they are calling for volunteers because they need the seats.  Then they call my name.  At the podium I was told I was being upgraded to First.   I thanked them but asked why me since I don’t fly America West that much. They said I as the only one in Economy in their frequent flyer program so they would reward me.  I boarded and was in the window seat in the last row of First.  There was someone next to me, and during the flight the cabin staff were offering him drinks and amenities.  Since I was an upgrade not a full fare First I thought little of it (plus at 11:00 I don’t want a lot).  As we started to land, a few more cabin crew came by and asked for (and got) autographs.  I have no idea who this gentleman was (my guess a singer that I did not know), but he certainly made an impression on the flight crew.  I remember I did not want him to think I was ignoring him, so I just wished him a great day, and he said thank you and that was it.

With my travel volume I got my share of normal upgrades to First where the famous almost always fly.  And at the airport, celebrities are often given access to the Airline clubs.  I saw Phyllis Diller in the Eastern Ionosphere club in Newark, and Cher in the United club in Newark. I am sure there were celebrities on the flights that I did not know who they were, but two I remember were Dr. Joyce Brothers who sat in the seat in front of me on one flight (and was both beautiful and very petite) and on another flight James Doohan sat diagonally across.  My personal rule was never to bother anyone famous I saw, but after I landed in LA, Mr. Doohan was met by someone from “the studio” and had him wait for the car. I broke my rule and just thanked him for giving me and his fans such enjoyment as he played Scotty in Star Trek. He smiled and said Thank You.

Meals

Today any meal on an airplane is something special (or at least unusual).  Back in the day, both First and Economy got meals. On transcontinental United flights that involved a hot breakfast about 40 minutes after takeoff, and a box lunch an hour before landing. The service carts were well designed with a heated plate that went under the hot meal dish on each tray.  I found that no matter how they served eggs, they never survived well.  A better bet was the pancakes rolled around apple pie filling. Unfortunately eggs were on 80% of the flights, pancakes or something else was 20%.

My favorite snack of all times was on Eastern.  They had a Disposable clear plastic tray and Saran wrapped an apple; a packet of cheddar cheese, packets of crackers, and a knife (plastic) and napkin.  The apple was always crisp, and the amount of food was perfect for a mid-afternoon snack. And at the end of the meal, they did collect (and recycle) the plastic trays.

When the airlines tried to save a little on flights like Newark to Florida they would give a box of cereal, a container of 2 milk and a banana to each passenger.  That was better than a lot of the meals I am sure cost the airlines much more money.

National Air and Space Museum Archives

The Flying Nosh

In the lucrative NYC-DCA market (where the one-hour flight could often cost $300) New York Air had a “flying Nosh” service where they promoted the service by giving you a fabric bag with a bagel, a packet of cream cheese, and a small container of jelly.  The bags were great because you could keep them.  My children used them as lunch bags for a while.  The other thing about NY Air was they had MD-80s in their fleet.  Entering the MD-80 through the main cabin door you could easily see and read (because the line moved slowly) the metal plate which gave the serial number of the aircraft, and the manufacture date.  I recall most of those on which I flew were in the 1983 vintage.

And they did compete with the Eastern Air-Shuttle of guaranteed seat fame. So they booked multiple plane loads on the same flight.  And when you were at the gate area, they would call your flight and say if you have the grey boarding pass go to this gate, if you have the red boarding pass, go to this gate.  This system worked very smoothly (at least every time I experienced it).

By InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA – Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport

In the 1990’s Denver had a massive building program to replace Stapleton Airport with DIA, Denver International Airport.  If you travelled on United or Continental, you were often changing planes in Denver as it was a major hub.  Stapleton was showing its age and there was (especially in the business traveling public) an excitement of a new and more passenger friendly terminal in a major hub. Like any program there was a lot of publicity and promised made and fact sheets about the new terminal left in the airline clubs and the gate areas. We saw artist conceptions and early photographs of the “circus tent” roof structures of the main terminal.  Originally scheduled to open in the fall of 1993, there was delay after delay.  We frequent travelers joked that DIA stood for “Done in August” but August came and went and we were still at Stapleton.  When it finally opened in February 1995, it was grand.  Because I controlled my own flights when traveling, my first trip after it opened, I scheduled a 3 ½ hour layover between flights and I went through the entire Airport. And I will say it was worth the wait.

A PDF of the souvenir opening booklet is available at www.flydenver.com.  If your search for it is not successful, google inside dia souvenir guide and it will link you to download the PDF.

How to Manage your Business Flights

My first job after teaching was ideal for someone with a love for commercial aviation.  My cubicle was right outside of the corporate travel office (and of course I made friends with the staff to the point where they showed me some of the workings of the Sabre reservation system), and I showed them (because we subscribed to the Lockheed database online services), the OAG online database.  Both systems would give you flight data and seat availability for each fare class (I remember Sabre would tell you up to 7 seats available, and I recall OAG only told you if 4 were available.  And of course you could search for the best fares.  Corporate travel was run by a travel agency, and Phil (my key contact) told me that I could see virtually anything he could see on his Sabre terminal on my desktop computer and the OAG database.  And he concluded that travel agents were dinosaurs.

The key to getting any corporate travel department to like you was making their job easy.  Go in with a set of flights have space on them and a fare basis that was close to the least expensive ones.  Once you established you knew what you were talking about and you were able to prove it, I never had a problem with getting flights I wanted. This gave me the ability to fly the airplanes I liked and the airlines I liked – or when feeling adventurous, flying new ones I had not experienced before. And I was successful in doing that in every company for which I worked thereafter.

I only wish I had done as well in booking of hotels.

Boeing

I have one claim to fame (very minor to everyone else).  While I was still teaching I worked part time for a computer programming company.  I programmed and consulted on the earliest microcomputers (Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore Pet).  This was about 3 years before IBM released the first PC.

Boeing Computer Services (a computer division of Boeing Airplane Company) wanted to learn about these new microcomputers and what they could do (they typically worked with large mainframe computers). I got the assignment and gave a half day lecture/discussion of these new small computers.  For weeks thereafter (and even to this day when I think of it) I float on air thinking that I had information that was of interest to the Boeing Company and they paid my employer to have me share it with them.

Interesting Airplane Information

I am not a pilot, nor am I an airplane mechanic.  I never went to formal school to learn about airplanes.  I read as many books and magazines about the airplanes I could find.

But a lot of my best information comes from a source most people do not use.

For example, did you know that:

The Lockheed Constellation had its emergency life rafts stored in the wings, so in case of a water landing they would pop out.  This was both fast and removed requirement of pushing rafts out doors or windows.

The 727 has pitot tube sensors to gauge the airspeed of the aircraft on the tail assembly.  This information is used to control how much force is needed by the pilots on the cockpit flight controls for the tail surfaces.

Facts like these as well as a wealth of information about how airplanes work (and sometimes don’t) area found in the US Government published Aircraft Accident Reports.  In the 30’s it was the Department of Commerce. In the 40’s thru the 60’s it was the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board), and now the NTSB.  The government reports are not grim stories of crashes (as some books are), but are scientific, methodical studies of what happened and why and how to prevent it from ever happening again. And they were a great educational resource on how airplanes were designed, assembled, and maintained.

By Jon Proctor

San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives [Public domain]

I started being interested when a United DC8 and TWA Constellation crashed over New York in 1960 (I was 13).  I had lived on Staten Island not far from where the TWA crashed, and my great aunt lived in Brooklyn not far from where the United crashed. My parents (probably rightly) would not allow me to go and try to see the sites, but there were a lot of newspaper pictures. I was interested in how they could figure out what happened from this mess of wreckage.

In those days you needed to write to the CAB and ask them to mail you a copy.  And they did find and mail me about 275 of them over the years I was in high school and college.  Now historic and current reports are available as PDFs online for download (most Wikipedia entries about a crash link to the AAR in the footnotes).

The science of accident investigation has truly advanced in the 90 years of reports that I have read (my earliest was a 1936 crash of a Transcontinental and Western DC-2).  They have gone from typed, mimeographed pages to PDFs that are almost books, many with color photos or illustrations where needed.

And if anyone were to ever be concerned about flying being safe, todays’ reports confirm that many things must go wrong all at once for an accident to happen.

Lester Anderson

I hope you enjoyed my flights down memory lane as much as I did.  I am sort of out of things to say, but if Shea has any ideas on future articles to which I can make a positive contribution, you may hear from me again.

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Convair 880 Ship One

Written by Ken Miller

I first learned about the Convair 880 when I was in elementary school and read a library book titled The World’s Worst Aircraft written by James Gilbert.  There are two other books with the same title written by Bill Yenne and Jim Winchester.   The Gilbert book has a chapter dedicated just about the Convair Jetliners.  Mechanically and design wise the planes were very good but financially they were an utter failure for General Dynamics.

General Dynamics had purchased the Convair Corporation in March of 1953. The Convair division began development of a medium-range commercial jet in April 1956 to compete with both the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC8.   Initially the design was called the Skylark, then Convair 600 and finally the 880.

The numbers referred to the plane’s top speed of 600 miles per hour and 880 feet per second.  The plane’s first flight was on January 27, 1959.  The FAA mandated additional instrumentation for the plane for which Convair added the hump along the top of the fuselage.  Convair 880 sales were not successful and production ended just three years later.

The Convair 880 offered five abreast-seating in contrast to the six abreast seating of the 707 and DC8.  Boeing also outcompeted Convair by offering the 720 medium range version of the 707.  The Convair 880’s General Electric CJ-805-3 turbojets had a higher fuel consumption rate than that of the Boeing 707 Pratt and Whitney JT3Cs. TWA and Delta both placed initial orders for the first forty Convair 880 aircraft.

Convair promised the first forty delivery slots to both airlines which likely further discouraged other airlines from ordering the type.  Final assembly of the aircraft was at the Convair plant in San Diego California.  General Dynamics lost approximately $185 million dollars over the short lifetime of the Convair 880 and 990 programs.  At that time the losses were the greatest incurred by any corporation.  Only sixty five Convair 880’s were produced.

During the time of Convair 880 production Boeing built and sold three hundred sixteen 720 and 707 airliners.  Howard Hughes was the majority stockholder of TWA at the time and he played a major role in the Convair 880 program.   Hughes wanted TWA to have a faster jet than any other airline.  TWA initially ordered sixty two of the 880’s and purchased thirty of them.   The purchase agreement was not beneficial for TWA in that Hughes purchased the aircraft through his Tool Company and leased them back to the airline for an inflated price.  Minority shareholders of TWA sued and Hughes ended up losing control of TWA because outside creditors did not want Hughes controlling both development and operation of the aircraft. TWA operated Convair 880s from 1961 to 1974.

Convair initially used ship one N801TW for test flights. The plane entered service with TWA in 1964 and flew until 1973 when it was stored at Kansas City.  In 1978 the plane was sold to American Jet Industries and ferried to Harlington Texas.  It was then ferried to Mojave California in 1980. In 1990 the cockpit was refurbished and painted in Delta colors by Delta Technical Operations employees.  A portion of the fuselage was shipped to Minneapolis MN for a film about the Sioux City DC-10 crash. The remainder of the aircraft was scrapped.  The cockpit was put on display at the Heritage Row Museum at Underground Atlanta.  Heritage Row closed in 1997 and the cockpit remained on display at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Center. It was moved to the Delta Museum in 2015.

My Convair house colors 880 is the second 880 model that I have built.   This kit is by Microscale.   Per Jim Striplin and Jim Lund the molds were originally by Allyn and later Topping. Microscale released their kit in 1975.   The kit is very simple having approximately six parts in addition to a two part stand.  The kit included decals for Delta, Civil Air Transport, and TWA.   Jim Lund gave me his well-worn kit in Civil Air Transport markings.  I stripped the decals off, sanded down a considerable amount of paint, re-scribed the control surfaces and primed the model.

Around the same time Vintage Flyer decals released new decal sets which included the Convair house colors so I decided to give them a try.   I painted the model gloss white and the nose gloss black.   I painted the engine intakes Tamiya gloss aluminum.   Since the kit was a “hand me down” I didn’t have a stand so I made one from a wooden trophy base and acrylic rod.  I bent the acrylic rod to shape in almost boiling hot water.   The original model may have had exhaust noise suppressors which I faked using styrene rod painted dark metallic. I also had a plaque made at a trophy shop for the base which adds a nice touch.  My only complaint about the kit as well as the Hawk/Glencoe release is that the horizontal stabilizers are missing the counter balances.   One could add them but I chose to leave my model as is.

I’d known about the Microscale kits but was never willing or interested in paying collectors prices for one.  Having a donated kit the unique Convair house colors decals available sealed the deal for me to build one.   The markings, kit, stand, and plaque all turned out to make a very nice model of Convair 880 ship one.

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Flight Attendants and more

Written by Al Meder

The crew are unquestionably a critical component for a safe and pleasurable flight.

This starts up front with the cockpit crew.  A few airlines have issued playing cards with a cockpit view.  Japan Air System (JAS) is shown below.

Swedish carrier, Novair, and more recently, China Airlines, have issued a cockpit view with the crew.   Before 9/11 it was possible to sit in the cockpit jump seat as a passenger if you had the right connections. In late 1999 I was invited up to sit in the jump seat on a British Airways flight flying in to London from Chicago.  What a view, and at the time – the London skyline was dominated by the huge Millennium Dome Ferris Wheel built for the Millennium celebrations.

However, it’s the flight attendants that are front and center with the passengers.   Many airlines have highlighted flight attendants on their playing cards.

Braniff Airways, the long defunct US carrier, issued a wonderful pair of playing cards in the late 1940’s showing a flight attendant with a silver tray and silver tea-service.  One deck is brown and the other one blue. These were the first decks featuring flight attendants that I’m aware of.

Flight attendants continue to this day to be a popular topic of playing cards issued by airlines.  The examples below are just a few:

Top Row: Sterling Airways (Denmark), Singapore Airlines, 2 x Air Asia (Malaysia), Aer Lingus (Ireland) Bottom Row: Singapore Airlines, Thai International; 2 x ANA (Japan), Aer Lingus (Ireland)

One of the China Airlines annual set of 12 designs featuring flight attendants was issued in 2008.  This is a sought-after series of playing cards.  Single decks can be found from time to time on eBay and elsewhere.

Singapore Airlines has featured close-up shots of “Singapore Girls” and shots of flight attendants in various scenic and not so scenic locations.

Many other airlines have featured flight attendants include this older design from Cathay Pacific Airways showing the crew standing alongside a Lockheed 1011.

Interior views of the passenger compartment are hard to find on playing cards. Brazilian carrier, Varig, issued this design of the interior view of its DC-10.

In 2003 Singapore Airlines started to promote their Krisworld entertainment service.  What better way than introduce playing cards to help with the promotion?  Ironically, electronic entertainment has become so dominant and this has reduced the demand for playing cards. But airlines should understand that electronic entertainment is “for the moment” and playing cards can provide advertising repeatedly over many years each time the cards are played with.

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Promoting Travel Destinations

Written by Al Meder

Promotion of new destinations has always been popular topic for playing cards issued by the airlines for obvious reasons.

Perhaps the most iconic are the late 1920’s Imperial Airways designs showing an Imperial Airways biplane over the Egyptian Pyramids on the multistep flight from London to Basra, Iraq.

Some of these cards were issued in a neat little leather holder with a snap closure.  The Imperial Airways and logo were hot-stamped in gold on the surface of the leather.

It is the years after World War 2 that destination cards became more popular, the result of passenger aviation changing from focusing on transporting businesspeople and movie stars, to the larger aircraft when promotion of taking families on vacation became an important goal.  No doubt, the introduction of the wide-body aircraft and the Boeing 747 in particular bought prices down and started the upward surge of passenger traffic on the airlines.

In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, Singapore Airlines contracted with local artist Seah Kim Joo to paint a series of destinations Singapore Airlines flew to in the 1970’s. The designs to the left are just part of the series – take a guess what destinations they represent. The Seah Kim Joo playing cards are popular with collectors as there are multiple variations in the colors and designs with later printings.

Scandinavian airline, Conair, has issued a series of playing cards showing vacation destinations. Most of these cards have design variations as well, so a serious collector needs to hunt to find them.

St Louis-based Ozark Airlines had a wonderful set of playing cards featuring cities and states they served.    What is of further interest is that Ozark had two versions of each destination, usually a color change of the graphics. Ozark Airlines, based in St Louis was purchased by TWA in 1986 but their playing cards can still be found rather easily on Ebay and at airline collector shows.

The cards below were issued relatively recently by Southwest Airlines.  There were two different decks published.  This is just a few of the many destinations they showed, all framed by the aircraft window.

Most airlines have promoted destinations one at a time on their playing cards. But what do you do if you want to promote a multitude of destination at one time.  Ethiopian Airlines decided to put an attractive flight attendant on the card standing against a listing of many destinations served at the time by Ethiopian.

Far Eastern Air Transport, an airline based in Taiwan has issued a series of exotic destination playing cards – Phuket, Bali, and Palau.

Singapore Airlines

When Singapore Airlines started flights to the U.S.A. the airline issued two decks of cards to celebrate the occasion.

Subsequently, Singapore Airlines issued playing cards to highlight some of the many destinations it flew to.  The cards at the right feature Las Vegas, Chicago and Moscow.

To highlight multiple destinations, Singapore Airlines issued two decks with destination baggage labels.

China Airlines, the most prolific issuer of playing cards by any airline, have issued a number of decks promoting service to new destinations. This 2018 issue highlights their London destination.

China Airlines has issued several hundred different designs of playing cards covering a wide range of topics.  This grouping consists of structures in various cities served by China Airlines.  From the left.  Osaka, Japan, Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand, and buildings in two major Taiwanese cities – Kaohsiung, and Taipei.

Malaysia Singapore Airlines (MSA).

When Singapore and Malaysia combined their National airlines for around a year in 1966, the airline – MSA for short, issued four different decks of cards where their destination focus was displaying like spokes in a wheel.  All four of these cards are hard to find.  In that short period of time MSA issued several more decks of playing cards, all of which are difficult to find today.

Now, as separate airlines again, both Malaysian and Singapore airlines cover the world.

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Back to Africa

Written by Charlie Dolan

When the Captain’s Log went digital, I sent in my first column with images of carriers from Africa. Since then I have added a piece or two to my collection and have managed to get clearer images of insignia, which had been in my files, but were not up to publication level. So here are some other airlines which  are operating or have operated from headquarters in Africa.

I recently was given the cap badge of Air Congo filling a gap in my collection, which had existed for ages.

The Oman Aviation insignia were obtained in the early 1980s as I started my collection. As I began to gather data for this article I was unable to pull up much information on the airline. I went back to one of my first reference books, The Airline Hand Book of 1983-84 and found that Oman Aviation operated domestic scheduled and charter service supporting  petroleum development. Their fleet included five Fokker    F-27s, one DeHavilland Twin Otter, five Shorts Skyvans, a Beech King Air and a Cessna 206. It was one of those small air carriers which had impressive insignia.

Saudia has used at least three variations of crew insignia over the years in which I have been collecting. When I was working at BWI Airport a Boeing 707, registered HZ-ACK, arrived to pick up a member of the royal family. I had R.E.J. Davies book about Saudia with me and had the page devoted to the 707 signed by all FOUR captains. It seems that when a royal is aboard the crew is augmented.

So, I hope you will find these new images interesting and informative. I will arrange them in alphabetical order.

                               Air Congo  1961-1971  became Air Zaire

                            Air Mauritius         MK  MAU     1972-present

           Air Namibia            SW  NMB     1946-present

Egypt Air     MS  MSR       1932 (as Misrair) – present

              Ethiopian Airlines    ET  ETH        1945-present

Middle East Airlines       ME  MEA      1946-present

           Nigeria Airways    WT  NGA      1958-2003

     Oman Aviation      WY     1983-?

       Saudia          SV  SVA         1945-present

                 Somali Airlines     HH  SOM       1964-1991

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