Wings from Air Carriers of Africa

Written by Charlie Dolan

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.


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,


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65 Years of Jet Travel

65 Years of Jet Travel

By David Keller



May of 2017 marked the 65th anniversary of something we have long taken for granted, jet-powered air transportation. As much as air travel shrank the globe by cutting transit times from weeks (or months) to days, jets have further reduced those days to mere hours.

On May 2, 1952, the era of jet powered airline service began when a BOAC de Havilland Comet lifted off from London Airport enroute to Johannesburg via Rome, Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe and Livingstone. The May 1, 1952 timetable shows this initial service, which arrived in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, departing on the return Monday morning.

As the world’s first jet transport, the Comet was trailblazer, operating at speeds and altitudes not attainable by propeller-driven aircraft of the day. As additional aircraft were delivered, design flaws began to take a toll, and in less than 2 years, 5 aircraft had been lost in accidents. The most devastating flaw was metal fatigue, which after only a few thousand cycles made the aircraft susceptible to explosive decompression while in flight.

The Comet would never recover its reputation after being grounded in 1954, despite the creation of a much-improved version in the late 1950’s. Comets returned to airline service in 1958 in the form of the Comet 4, but by then, superior models from Boeing and Douglas Aircraft were on the horizon, and only 76 Comet 4s were delivered.

The next jet transport to enter service was the Soviet Union’s Tupolev 104. This type had a design similarity with the Comet, in that the engines were placed inside the wing, near the fuselage. US manufacturers eschewed this engine placement in favor of suspending them from the wings on pylons, which reduced the likelihood of structural failure in the event of a fire, and I would imagine made them more accessible for maintenance.

Several hundred TU-104’s were built, with the type remaining in service with Aeroflot for roughly 30 years.

While these and other early jet transports played a role in the technological advances of commercial aviation, it was largely the US-built types that led to the rapid expansion of jet service across the globe. This article will highlight the jet service inaugurals of US trunk carriers, which all occurred in just over 2 years, as those companies raced to join the Jet Age.

The aircraft widely considered to be the first successful jet transport was Boeing’s model 707. On October 28, 1958, Pan Am inaugurated 707 service, putting the type to work on the New York – Paris route. The timetable from this date has an image of the 707 wings and engines on the carrier’s traditional blue cover.

The gatefold has an ad promoting 707 service to Paris and Rome, with London starting a few weeks later. (In the timetable itself, it becomes evident that the continuing service from Paris to Rome was actually operated by a DC-6.) While most of the transatlantic services in this timetable were being operated by DC-7’s, the arrival of the Boeings meant the days of the Douglas piston types were numbered.

In December of 1958, National Airlines scored a coup by placing leased Pan Am 707s in service between New York and Miami, thus claiming the title of the first airline to offer domestic jet service in the United States. 707 flights were inaugurated on December 10, 1959, and the timetable dated December 14, 1959 shows 2 round trips being operated (one of which became effective on December 16th)

Flight timings meant that 2 different aircraft were required on any given day. But no 707’s were painted in National colors which likely means the aircraft were “wet-leased” and the actual ships on the Florida run varied from day to day.

In January, 1959, American Airlines inaugurated transcontinental 707 service. Further info and timetable scans were included in the previous Captain’s Log issue from earlier this year, so be sure to check out the article on American Airlines.

TWA was next with jets, also using them on transcontinental routes beginning in March of 1959. The timetable dated April 26, 1959 shows on the 707’s engines (which seemed to be popular subject matter for timetable covers), and advertises service between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco, as well as between Chicago and Los Angeles.



Interestingly, the back cover of this timetable advertises Los Angeles to New York flight times as 4 hours and 55 minutes, while American inaugurated this route boasting of a 4 ½ hour flight time only a few months earlier. It seemed odd that TWA would be willing to concede a significant speed differential to its rival, particularly given the atmosphere of one-upmanship that prevailed as additional airlines acquired their first jets. However, a check of American’s timetable for the same date shows that the advertised flight time from Los Angeles to New York was also 4 hours, 55 minutes. Part of this would have been attributed to the slowing of the Jetstream winds from winter to spring, but it also appears that the additional fuel burn required to maintain those very high cruise speeds was not worth the few minutes saved.

Continental Airlines’ April 26, 1959 timetable shows their initial 707 schedules, slated to begin on June 8th. A single round trip was operated between Los Angeles and Chicago, with 2 additional round trips being added on June 22nd. As with the previous airlines, Continental’s 707s were -120 models sporting non-fan engines. Not requiring transcontinental range, Continental would later opt for a fleet of medium range 720B fanjets that served until the mid-1970’s.


On this same date, April 26, 1959, the Sud Aviation Caravelle also entered service, with SAS being the first airline to operate the twinjet. The Caravelle was used primarily in Europe, although United Air Lines did order 20 aircraft, putting them into service in July, 1961. As the timetable dated February 1, 1963 shows, United used the Caravelle largely on the former Capital Airlines routes, from the East Coast as far west as Minneapolis/St. Paul, and along the eastern seaboard, as far south as Miami.

Almost a year after the 707’s entry into service, its primary competitor, the Douglas DC-8 began scheduled flights. As advertised on Delta Air Lines’ September 1, 1959 timetable, the carrier started DC-8 service on the 18th of that month. Two round trips between Idlewild Airport in New York and Atlanta were initially operated, with the aircraft overnighting on the East Coast. In mid-October, an aircraft originating in Miami began nonstop service to both Chicago and Atlanta.

In a virtually simultaneous entry into service, United Air Lines also put the DC-8 to work on September 18th, operating between San Francisco and New York. Owing to the fact that United’s first jet service departed from the West Coast, Delta’s initial departure was several hours ahead of United’s. Both airlines were operating series -10’s, most of which were upgraded to -20’s or fanjet-powered -50’s shortly thereafter.

Already having been upstaged by National Airlines on the New York – Miami route the previous winter, Northeast Airlines leased a Boeing 707-320 series aircraft from TWA for the 1959 Winter season. The December 1, 1959 timetable shows a single roundtrip beginning December 17th, which was operated 6 times weekly, with no service on Tuesday.

In late 1959, Braniff International Airways placed its “Different and Superior Boeing 707-227”s into service. The 707-220 model combined the fuselage of the -120 with the larger wings and more powerful engines offered on the -320 series. Braniff was the only customer, ordering 5 examples.

The first, N7071, crashed during flight testing prior to delivery, although that registration appeared on the carrier’s artwork for several years afterwards. The remaining 4 aircraft were delivered and served over a decade with Braniff before being traded to BWIA for 727s in the early 1970’s. Braniff had something of a penchant for oddball models of the 707, as they also acquired 4 short-bodied 707-138Bs from Qantas in the late 1960s.

Eastern Airlines’ January 24, 1960 timetable shows the carrier’s initial jet service on what was obviously one of the most hotly contested markets in the nation, New York to Miami. Being a bit late to the party, 4 roundtrips were being offered, with 2 more being added in February. Eastern’s DC-8’s were delivered as -20s, initially referred to by the airline as DC-8Bs, sticking with the nomenclature used for Douglas’ piston transports.

Another airline to start service with DC-8-20 series aircraft in 1960 was National Airlines. The carrier’s April 24, 1960 timetable shows the discontinuance of 707 services as of April 25th, with the DC-8’s assuming the pure jet duties. Flight segments between New York and Florida were scheduled for 10-20 minutes less with the Eights than with the Boeings.


The third player in the competition amongst US companies to build jet airliners was General Dynamics. The company had purchased Convair in the 1950’s, and attempted to win a significant portion of the market by offering aircraft that were faster than the Boeing or Douglas types.

Delta Air Lines placed the Convair 880 into operation in May, 1960. As the timetable dated April 24, 1960 advertises, initial services were from New York to Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans. (The flight to Houston was scheduled to require 28 less minutes than the DC-8 previously used on the route.)

Additionally, Delta put the 880 into service with all “Deluxe First Class” seating, and utilized a special paint scheme that appeared on no other aircraft type. In less than 2 years, the Convairs were converted to a 2 class seating configuration, and they would eventually be repainted in the “widget” colors that were being applied to the entire fleet.

General Dynamic’s gamble with the Convair 880 (including further development into the model 990) did not pay off. The company had difficulty meeting performance guarantees, and the lower seating capacity and high fuel burn required for high cruise speeds resulted in just over 100 aircraft being built.

Western Airlines entry into the Jet Age came in the form of 2 707-120s which had originally been ordered by Cubana. These aircraft were leased to Western and entered service in the Summer of 1960. The June 1, 1960 timetable shows these aircraft operating 3 round trips between Los Angeles and Seattle, some via San Francisco or Portland.

As was the case with Continental Airlines, Western did not need the 707’s range, instead purchasing the smaller 720B. The 707s remained in the fleet for about 2 years, returning to Boeing as the 720Bs were delivered.

Bring up the rear of the pack was Northwest Orient Airlines, which started operating DC-8Cs (DC-8-30s) “to the Orient”. The July 1, 1960 timetable shows DC-8 service beginning on July 8th, primarily on flights between the US and Asia, thus requiring the longest range version of the aircraft available at the time.

Despite having been a loyal Douglas customer for many years, Northwest soured on the Eight, selling the entire fleet just a few years later as 707-320Bs from Boeing took over the TransPacific services. Northwest would not return to the DC- line until the DC-10 joined their fleet about 10 years later.

In 1961, TWA initiated Convair 880 service, on its way to becoming the type’s largest operator. The February 1, 1961 timetable shows 880s serving medium range routes to 8 cities. With the imposition of fuel quotas in 1974 that resulted from the Arab Oil Embargo of the previous year, there could no longer be any justification for retaining the fuel-guzzling jets, and TWA retired the fleet by the summer of 1974.

Although not the first jet in the fleet of any US trunk carrier, the Boeing 720 was notable for the number of those airlines it flew for. Boeing was able to create a slightly smaller, lighter version of the 707, albeit with a high degree of commonality between the two. (In fact, several airlines did not distinguish between 707s and 720s when specifying equipment in their timetables.) Every trunk airline that purchased 707s also operated 720s at some point (either purchased or leased), and given Douglas’ lack of an equivalent aircraft, 720s were also operated by United and Eastern, each having substantial DC-8 fleets.

The July 1, 1961 Northwest Orient Airlines timetable shows the 720B entering the fleet with service from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago, Milwaukee and New York. This paved the way for the 707s to take over the Asian services from the DC-8s, and it is my understanding that 720s were used to Asia on an interim basis until there were enough 707s available to operate the full schedule.

Despite being very popular in the early 60s, most of the trunks were quick to dispose of the 720Bs, phasing them out in the late 60s or early 70s, while keeping their 707s or DC-8s. Western Airlines was the primary exception, maintaining 720 service until the late 1970’s.

It is worthy to note that all of the 720 operators ordered large numbers of Boeing aircraft that was more suitable for medium range flights, the 727. In fact Eastern and United were 2 of the first customers.

65 years on, and some things remain largely the same. Fuselages are still long, roughly cylindrical compartments with passengers above, luggage and cargo below, a cockpit at the front and a tail at the rear. Most types still have jet engines suspended below the wings on pylons. Despite a trend from the 1960s to the 90s for rear- and/or tail-mounted engines, most of those are out of production and the vast majority of jets being built today have wing-mounted engines.

And yet, things are very different as well. Jet aircraft are much quieter, and no longer leave black exhaust trails to mark their passing. While 4 engines were pretty much a requirement in the early days (particularly for overwater flights), they are a liability in today’s environment. Boeing and Airbus struggle to find buyers for their 747 and A380 models, while pushing twin engine aircraft out the door at record rates.

In the never-ending desire to make aircraft lighter, manufacturers are making increasing use of carbon-fiber composites rather than traditional metals. In essence, some aircraft, such as the 787 and A350 are largely made of plastic.

And the long, narrow jet engines of the past have been superseded by gaping high-bypass turbofan engines. (The engine nacelles on the 777 are approximately the same diameter as the fuselage of a 737.) And those engines power aircraft on nonstop flights lasting up to 18 hours, a feat that would have required multiple stops for their predecessors.

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Airline Issue Models of Early Jet Airliners

Written by Jim Striplin

Even before jets were in service, the airlines already had advertising companies in full swing promoting “jet travel” as the wave of the future. Airplane model makers in the U.S., and especially in Europe, saw a surge of orders. Models of jet airliners were needed by the airlines for display in ticket offices, travel agencies, and on airline counters at airports. These models stirred up excitement and anticipation in the air traveling public. Upon seeing models of the soon to be put into service jets, passengers started dreaming of what it would be like to fly in one of these sleek, fast, and luxurious airplanes.

In England the new de Havilland Comet was all the rage. The Comet was about to go into service in 1952, and model makers in England such as Westway and Peter V. Nelson were already turning out aluminum models of the Comet prototype in BOAC markings. In anticipation of forth coming Comet service, BOAC had a small plastic “giveaway” model made for flight attendants to hand out on early flights.

BOAC giveaway model of early Comet. This original model is made of molded hard plastic and has a wingspan of 8 inches. On the bottom of the stand it reads “MADE IN ENGLAND”. These little models were prized by kids (and adults) in England and all over the BOAC system. (author’s collection)

Aluminum model of a Comet 1 by Westway London in 1/72nd scale with BOAC “Speedbird” type stand. Note the square windows on the early comet. (courtesy Aeroscale)

A large original 1/48th scale model of a Comet 4 by Westway in London. Model has landing gear, and is made of plastic/fiberglass. (author’s collection)

In the U.S.S.R. models of the new TU-104 were being made for Aeroflot by Soviet model makers. The TU-104 was the second jet airliner to be put into service. Models of the early TU-104s were made mainly by the Tupelov factory in house, but government commissioned models were also put on display. Early models were made of wood and primitive plastics. Later on injection molded models became available. The metal models of early Soviet airliners were not made of aluminum. They were made of a very heavy Zinc based alloy.

Aeroflot issued TU-104 souvenir model from the former Soviet Union. (author’s photo collection)

In the USA, in anticipation of the inauguration of jet service with the new Boeing 707, model maker Pacific Miniatures of Alhambra California produced large 1/50th scale models of the first series of Boeing jets. These models were big and impressive, and, they were pretty accurate considering that the actual airplanes had not yet been put into regular service. Early 707 models were based on drawings, artist conceptions, and speculation.

Pacific Miniatures original 1/50th scale model of a Pan American 707. Model is made of molded fiberglass and plastic. The heavy stand and stylish upright would become a PAC-MIN hallmark for many years. (author’s collection)

In Europe, Lufthansa Airlines in Germany bought early 707 models from companies like Raise Up of Holland, and Schaarschmidt in Berlin to promote upcoming jet service. Raise Up Models of Rotterdam Holland was a prolific model maker that produced thousands of models throughout the 40s, 50s. and 60s. Raise Up models however, did not take care to assure accuracy , especially in the nose, tail, and engine areas of their models. Many of their models appear almost “clown like”.

Lufthansa 707 original model by Raise Up. Note the inaccurate nose and engine pylons. The round stand with single pylon upright was something that Lufthansa specified and was used for years. (author’s collection)

The Douglas DC-8 entered into service in 1959. With much anticipation, model makers in the US and abroad went into action coming out early with DC-8 replicas. Obviously, the Douglas factory itself was quick to come out with models in numerous scales. Aluminum models in both 1/72nd and 1/50th were turned out, along with huge cutaway models mounted on floor stands. Raise up in Holland was quick to get on the DC-8 train, making 1/50th scale models to sell to airlines and travel agencies.

Delta Air Lines President C.E.Woolman holding an early DC-8 model. Model is a “ conception model” by the Douglas Factory for sales purposes. (author’s photo collection)

Douglas Factory United Air Lines DC-8. Model is original, unrestored. (author’s collection)

The Caravelle went into service in 1959 with Air France and SAS. This new airliner was unique in having its’ jet engines mounted at the rear of the fuselage under the tail. It was a beautiful design, and numerous model makers produced Caravelle models. Raise Up Holland of course, and others like Fermo of Denmark and even Fond Nucci of Italy did Caravelles, just to name a few.

Raise Up Caravelle model in aluminum. This 1/50th scale model bears serial #1! Model is original, unrestored. (author’s collection)

In 1960 the Convair 880 was put into service. The 880 was a fast airplane that was slightly smaller than the early 707s and DC-8s. Models of the new Convair 880 were made by a variety of companies for the airlines that operated them. Convair itself made the most accurate models of the airliner in house. The factory models were made in 1/50th scale of modern molded plastics. Convair had a very distinctive triangular stand.

Convair factory model of the 880. (author’s photo collection)

Fermo of Denmark made a huge model of the 880 in aluminum, that could be displayed as a solid or cutaway model with a full interior. On the smaller side, a company called Riffe models in Kansas City MO made 880 models for TWA that were displayed on ashtrays or on a regular stand.

Large 880 model by Fermo of Denmark in NE Airlines colors. 1/24th scale.(author’s photo collection)

In conclusion, models played a big part in the ushering in of the “Jet Age” by the worlds airlines. Early airline issue models of the first generation jets will continue to be prized by collectors.

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2017 – 65 Years of Commercial Jet Service

Written by Lane Kranz

Commemorating 65 years of commercial airline service is exciting. We have come a long way. The de Havilland Comet, the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8 set the stage for the next generation of the airline industry—the jet age. Looking back at the first passenger flight for these impressive aircraft reveals some interesting details.

On May 2, 1952 British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was first to market. On this day, BOAC’s maiden flight started a new era in commercial aviation which would usher in a new, faster way of connecting our world. Interesting to note, however, was the passenger capacity of the Comet. It held between 36 and 44 passengers. By today’s standards, that’s the size of a small regional jet. Also interesting to note was the first route– London to Johannesburg. However, due to range limitations of the Comet, the actual route was London-Rome-Beirut, Khartoum (Sudan)-Entebbe (Uganda)- Livingstone (Zambia) – Johannesburg. Travel time was approximately 24 hours. By today’s standards, the same route is operated nonstop by 3 airlines and takes approximately 11 hours.

These junior wings were issued by BOAC and are representative of the type of wings given to children on early BOAC flights.

Next up, it’s America’s turn. On October 26, 1958, Pan American World Airways inaugurated Boeing 707 service between New York and Paris. Although several years behind the de Havilland Comet, the Boeing 707 was much more refined and technically advanced. Interesting to note was the marketing and celebrations prior to entry. Just 10 days before the inaugural flight, Pan Am had a lavish ceremony at Washington National Airport. Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Juan Trippe christened the “first American built jet airliner” as Jet Clipper America.

This rare formal invitation and picture of the event shows the pride and professionalism of Pan Am as well as the excitement of our nation.

These junior wings were representative of the type given to children aboard Pan Am’s early jet flights.

Junior Clipper Pilot and Stewardess.

Junior Clipper Pilot and Stewardess (note all blue background)

Nearly one year later, Douglas celebrated the entry of service with the Douglas DC-8. Although last to service, the DC-8 would far outlive the Comet and the 707 in commercial airline service. In fact, in 2017 you can still see an occasional cargo version of the DC-8 still flying. The DC-8 entered service on September 18, 1959 with both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Delta was first by a few hours on the Atlanta – New York route.

These wings are representative of the type of junior wings given to children aboard Delta and United’s early DC-8 flights.

Although Delta introduced the widget in 1959, the DC-8 first flight likely carried the older “Flying D” style wings.

 The more updated widget logo later appeared on Jr. Captain and Jr. Stewardess wings.

United’s Future Pilot and Jr. Stewardess wings.

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Safety on Board

Written by Brian Barron

The launch of modern commercial jets in the late 1950’s are early 1960’s revolutionized air travel. Likewise, the jet age also brought a significant change in Safety Card design and use.

Prior to the jet age, the vast majority of safety cards were geared towards water evacuation and use of life vests. However, these cards were usually limited for aircraft used in trans-oceanic operations. As a result, for aircraft used primarily overland, safety information was usually just a few small paragraphs in a “Welcome Aboard” type booklet or part of a route map.

In this article, we illustrate examples of safety cards issued for the first jets operated by major airlines of the time. The majority of cards featured were issued between 1959 and 1963.

This Northwest Orient EMERGENCY WATER LANDINGS from 1960 features their newly delivered DC-8 as well as DC-6 and DC-7.   The DC-8 was short lived with NW and were replaced by Fan-Jet 707’s by 1963 for trans-pacific operations.  This card was an extension of the”Ditching cards” used in the 1950’s.  In fact, NW used this design from the early 1950’s DC-4 operation and continued to the 707 and 720 fan-jets.

Pan American’s first safety card for the 707 was this large plastic bound card showing basic emergency exit procedures. Interestingly, it is lacking aircraft floorplans. The assumption is this was done to cover both 707 and DC-8 services. The card makes no specific reference to a B-707 or a DC-8.

TWA’s first card for the 707 featured a basic layout with a detailed floorplan.  It is interesting to see how much of the plane was dedicated to First Class in the early glamour days of Jet travel.

TWA’s first Convair 880 followed the same layout as the 707. Many of the early jets did not show how to open the exits.  On the Convair Jets, we can guess this may had something to do with the types notoriously heavy swing out doors.

Northeast Airlines first owned jet was also a Convair 880 .   The format followed close to TWA’s early cards of the era.  As TWA did  most of the heavy maintenance on the NE 880’s it makes sense that they would borrow TWA’s look.

American’s first 707 card had a similar look to TWA, but with a slightly different layout.  The 707 was the only aircraft type featured in this design.   I would think similar cards may exist for the 720 and Convair 990, however I have not seen any.

The next cards for all American jets came out in the mid-60’s  “Astrojet”.  This card was used on all Jet types in the fleet, 707, 720 and Convair 990.   The card indicates there is a ‘minimum of six exits’.  The 720 and 990 would have had 6 exits, while the 707 would have 8.

In my opinion, United had the nicest cards of the U.S. carriers for their early jets.   This DC-8 card featured a nice tail drawing on the cover.  An interesting feature of early jets is that the evacuation slides were often ceiling mounted and required extra handling to bring them into use.  From the mid 60’s onward, it was most common for evacuation slide to be housed in the door for automatic deployment.

The first Caravelle card also followed the same layout.  Unfortunately, these nice “Tail cover” cards would be short-lived.  By 1962, United would adopt its single card style which would be the norm for the fleet until 1977.  The second 720 card also followed this design.

However, United’s first 720 card doesn’t even look like a safety card on the surface.  Instead, it only subtlety brings your attention to  “things you should know.”

Apart from some basic life vest and oxygen use cards, Delta Air Lines did not have any true safety cards prior to the mid 1960’s.   The first known card to feature the Jets was this multi-fold card featuring all planes in the fleet.  There was also a large single card featuring  Delta fleet.  In the illustration above, I have included the panel for the Convair 880.  This card was probably quite confusing for the typical traveler.  In 1967, the FAA adopted a regulation requiring each individual aircraft type to have its own safety card.

National was another airline that used a fleet card  for early  jets. This example features the DC-8, 727 and Electra.  Prior to this there was a basic two-sided card from 1963 that showed only the exit location without any instructions.  One side was the DC-8, the other side featured the Electra.

Going North across the border, Trans Canada also had a fleet card booklet.  This card features several variants of the DC-8 and Vanguard.  Surprisingly, the Viscount was not included in this series of cards.  Take note of the Trans Canada mascot, Mr. Beaver, on this card.

Across the pond to England, BOAC issued many cards featuring the early jets.  Early BOAC jet cards were all fleet cards, but did feature aircraft floorplans. To my knowledge, there are no cards featuring the ill-fated Comet 1.  The above example shows the 707, Comet 4 and the big props of the time.

Iberia in Spain issued this simple card to welcome the DC-8 to the fleet.  Prior to this, Iberia often included their safety information with their Route Map pamphlets.

[Image from collection of Carl Reese]

The above example shows both of Lufthansa’s early Boeing jetliners.   The detailed floorplans and photographs of exits were a nice feature of early LH jet age cards.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines prominently featured this DC-8 graphic on the cover of its early jet age safety cards.   The card also featured prop aircraft and the Caravelle.

Safety cards of First Generation Russian passenger jets are quite rare.   Aeroflot, in fact did not issue safety cards with any regularity until the late 1970’s. The above example is a TU-104 card issued by CSA from Czechoslovakia.

In Africa, South African Airways issued this comical cover design for its early 707 cards. This is the second version.  The card was issued in English and Afrikaans with opposite side printing for each language as shown by the exit plan.

Also, from Africa is this unique card from Sudan Airways featuring it’s Comet 4. As Air India had the Little Maharaj as its mascot, Sudan Airways had Little Hassan.   This design was also used on a Viscount card.

Air India’s first 707 Card was labeled Service and showed a group of travelers enjoy a gourmet meal service while lounging in a life raft.   Something tells me this image would not be politically correct in today’s world.

QANTAS, like Air India and SAA, also used a comical cover for it’s first 707-100 aircraft.  Using the Knight as a mascot,  I assume the suit of armor is to be symbolic of the sturdiness  of the modern jet ??

In Asia, Japan Air Lines had issued several Water landing/Life Vest cards for its prop operations.  However, the earliest DC-8 card we can find is this card from the late 60’s featuring three variants (-30/50, -61, -62).   There is also a CV-880 card in this format.  

Finally, we venture to South America.  VARIG Brasil issued this thick plastic card which was used on board the Boeing 707 along with the DC-8 and Convair 990.  Note the over wing exit marked with an * indicating this exit was not on all aircraft.  (Convair jets only had one set of overwing exits)

LAN Chile issued this nice booklet.  While the image shows only the front and back cover, the interior pages had nicely drawn illustrations.

I hope you enjoyed the above selections.  I welcome any comments and additions to the theme of this article.

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Airline Wings

American Airlines

Written by Charlie Dolan

My connection with American Airlines began on November 9, 1954 when I took my first ride in an airplane between New York City (KLGA) and Washington, D.C. (KDCA) It was my tenth birthday (shared with my twin brother) and our father took us to the nation’s capitol to soak up some history. I forget which aircraft took us south and then north, but one was a Convair and the other a Douglas DC-6. The result was immediate and the aviation bug had bitten.

I began working on my private pilot license while in college and enjoyed “commuting” between home on Long Island and Buffalo, NY with American Airlines doing the lion’s share of my transportation. The routes were operated by various aircraft between 1963-1967 with rides taken on DC-6s, Lockheed Electras, Boeing 727s and the “Pocket Rocket” BAC 1-11 known to AA as the BAC400.

While I was stationed at Montreal’s Dorval Airport (CYUL) I began to collect the insignia of airline “front-end” crewmembers after the demise of Braniff International Airlines. Shortly after I began asking crews how I could go about obtaining wings and cap badges, I was contacted by Captain Dick Koran of AA. In no time at all, a long lasting friendship developed.

Dick was a wealth of information and we spent many evening together, swapping brass and lies, whenever he had a Montreal RON.

Now to the topic of American Airlines insignia. Recently, AA switched to a new set of wings and cap badges to replace the silver insignia which had been in use for just over fifty years.

I have not had an opportunity to closely examine the new pilot wing and cap badge, but my natural resistance to change left me less than enthusiastic. They seem small in comparison to the last issue, but I may get used to them.

I believe that American’s first wings were the generic U S Air Mail wings worn by many carriers which transported the mail. There was also a “MATE” wing worn by co-pilots.


The first American Air cap had A”AMERICAN AIRWAYS” embroidered on the headband just below the A A and eagle gold badge. This was later changed to “AMERICAN AIRLINES”

During this period American issued its first AA wing which had a flat disc under the A A and eagle.

In 1934, AA issued wing insignia which designated pilot qualifications (pilot, captain, supervisory captain / check pilot) until 1946 the eagle was facing to the left as you looked at the wing.

In 1946, the eagle was reversed and began facing right as you looked at the wing.

As American began operating larger, more complex, aircraft a flight engineer was added to the crew.

During the war years, American Airlines pilots assisted the military by operating ferry flights and non-combat missions in support of the war effort. There is a photo of Ernest K. Gann, wearing an Army air Force leather flying suit with the American Airlines cap. It was shortly after this photo was taken that Capt. Gann left AA to join the short lived Matson Line.

The hat was changed in 1949 and removed the “AMERICAN AIRLINES” from the headband and added a gold bullion wreath to surround the now gold bullion thread eagle.  These insignia lasted into the jet-age, when the gold gave way to the silver insignia.



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American Airlines Junior Wings

Written by Lane Kranz

Over the past 80 years, American Airlines has issued nearly two dozen different junior wings. Over the years, the junior wings tell a story. From the proud early years American issued metal wings, followed by plastic wings in the post-deregulation years, followed by no junior wings in the post 9/11 and bankruptcy years, followed by a cookie-cutter junior wing currently in circulation. There have also been some extremely rare and hard-to-find wings issued perhaps by mistake or perhaps in a short-lived trial run. Either way, all of these wings are important to junior wing collectors.

The oldest AA junior wing and one of the rarest wings in the world.

The newest and current issue AA junior wing.

An American junior wing in the shape of a wing (what a great idea!).

The pin-back version of the all-silver, large font AA wing.

The common AA junior wing, followed by a rare ‘mistake wing’ with the red letter on the right, followed by the all-silver version of this wing.

The sticky-back versions of the large font AA wings.

The metal junior stewardess wings in silver and gold.

The metal junior pilot in silver and gold.

The metal AA wing in silver and gold. Interesting to note that these wings were the last of the wings that were issued in both silver and gold. All subsequent wings were silver.

The cloth patch with sticky back version.

The rare Miss Stewardess AA wings in both silver and bronze.

A novelty item and perhaps airline issued AA hat pin.

A novelty item and perhaps cereal box issue, 3 AA plastic pins in blue, green, and brown that includes a fuselage perhaps of a Boeing 707.

A few “new finds” to pass along. Allegiant, Aegean Airlines (Greece), and Alaska Airlines have issued new junior wings. Note the blue and green colors in Alaska’s new wing. Many thanks to Dave Cherkis and Bryan Mellon.

Keep on Collecting!


Written by Lane Kranz

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Trans World Airlines A Book of Memories

This review column focuses on both current and older books on commercial aviation topics.
Written by Shea Oakley.

Trans World Airlines A Book of Memories: TWA Employees and Friends Tell the Story of an Iconic Company

By Jon Proctor and Jeff Kriendler
Bluewater Press
ISBN 13:978-1-60452-122-1
265 Pages

Recent years have seen a number of books of this type published. They belong to what might be considered to be a new genre that I call, “employee –driven airline histories.”  In addition to the volume being reviewed here, there have been two other books produced in the same basic format on Eastern and Pan Am by separate publishers. The co-author of this one, Jeff Kriendler, was also co-author for the Pan Am history. The TWA book is the latest of the three having been published earlier this year.

What sets these books apart from other printed chronicles of major airlines is the fact that each chapter is a separate story about some aspect of the company told by either a former employee or a “friend”, often a passenger, of the subject airline. Two other distinctive aspects of the genre are the choice of only defunct carriers as subject matter and the presence of a large number of color images sourced from one or two well-known longtime airliner photographers (this book’s co-author Jon Proctor and/or George Hamlin being the photographers in question in at least two of the three books mentioned).

After 75 years of continuous operation, TWA was the target of a successful 2001 takeover attempt by American. It was a logical early subject for an employee-driven airline history as it was one of the original “Big Four” U.S. trunk carriers. Also, for many years, it was the only domestic company that had an extensive international route system. Beyond those claims to fame additionally Trans World was an airline known to have a certain glamour and spirit that set it a bit apart from other pioneering carriers.  This was often rightly or wrongly attributed to TWA’s longtime owner, a man who was at least as iconic as the airline he ruled for many years-the eccentric and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

The book’s 61 chapters cover a myriad of stories told by Trans World insiders. Just a sampling of subjects include encounters with Hughes, flying famous passengers (including the Pope), operated aircraft types, hijackings, accidents, humorous stories from both flight and ground crews, and a number of pieces about upper management from the perspective of TWA executives through the years. Also included is plenty of material pertaining to the one larger carrier that was acquired by TWA, St. Louis-based Ozark, and even coverage of its hotel subsidiary of many years, Hilton.

If you have an interest in this historic and storied airline, it is fair to say that this book should become part of your library. About my only two caveats would be that I would have preferred it to be printed on glossier stock for better photo reproduction (though this is, admittedly, an expensive proposition for independent publishers) and copy-editing for grammar errors might have been tighter. Happily, a planned further print run will give the authors the opportunity to fully perfect what is otherwise a book well worth owning.

Availability: Copies of this book can be ordered for $29.95 each from Jeff Kriendler, 5600 Collins Avenue, Suite 14P Miami Beach, FL 33140. Shipping and handling are included.

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