American Airlines Postcards

American Airlines on Postcards

Written by Marvin G. Goldman

In March 1929 a group of airline investors formed a holding company called The Aviation Corporation (‘AVCO’) which proceeded to acquire and combine over 80 small airlines launched between 1926 and early 1929. In January 1930, AVCO’s airline subsidiaries were reorganized and incorporated into ‘American Airways’, and in April 1934 American Airways became transformed into American Airlines, Inc.

Postcards of individual airline predecessors of ‘American Airways’ range from uncommon to rare to nonexistent. One of these predecessors, which did issue a few postcards, was Colonial Air Transport. Founded in 1926, Colonial began passenger service between New York and Boston in April 1927. Ford Trimotors entered its fleet in early 1929, and that year Colonial became one of the component airlines of AVCO which in turn became American Airways in 1930.

01-Sz-Colonial-Air-Transport-Ford-5-AT-B-'Nacomos',-A--I,-Marvin-G-Goldman-Coll'n

Colonial Air Transport Ford 5-AT-B Trimotor. Airline Issue (A/I), probably in 1929. The card’s back states: “The Flagplane ‘Nacomos’ of the Colonial Air Transport and her sister ships, the ‘Nemissa’ and ‘Nonantum’ fly regularly along the skyway between New York and Boston. These giant tri-motored cabin cruisers carry 12 passengers, 2 pilots and a cabin steward. Two trips are made daily, with an average flying time of but 1 hour and 45 minutes.”

‘American Airways’ (1930-34) issued only a few different postcards. All are hard to find, and here is one of them:

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American Airways Ford 5-AT-B Trimotor. A/I between 1930 and 1934. Printed by Lumitone Photo Print, New York. The back says ‘On Board AMERICAN AIRWAYS’

In 1933 American Airways introduced the Curtiss T-32 Condor aircraft, and following the April 1934 transformation into ‘American Airlines’, the latter started utilizing the Condors for the first sleeper service in the U.S. The Condor was also the last biplane built in the U.S. for commercial airline service.

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American Airlines Curtiss AT-32A Condor, NC12390. A/I, probably 1934. The postcard back says: “These huge sleeper planes have a top speed of 190 miles per hour, are equipped with 12 full length berths and fly nightly on regular schedule between New York and Chicago and from Los Angeles to Dallas – Ft. Worth on the Southern Transcontinental, the Fairweather route, between California and New York.”

Also in 1934, American Airlines introduced the Vultee V-1 aircraft. American used the Vultee on routes from the Great Lakes to Texas. According to noted airline historian Ron Davies, the Vultee V-1s were the fastest commercial airliners of their day, but they also symbolized the end of the single-engine era.

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American Airlines Vultee V-1, NC13767. A/I, probably in 1934. The postcard back claims that American Airlines is ‘Largest in the United States’ and that ‘American’s fleet of fast Vultees is making air travel history’. 

In December 1934 American introduced to its fleet the more modern Douglas DC-2 (which had first flown on scheduled service with TWA the previous May).

05-Sz-American-Airlines-DC-2-at-McKellar-Tri-City-Airport-(now-Tri-Cities-Reglonal-Airport)-TN,-Marvin-G-Goldman-Coll'n

American Airlines Douglas DC-2 at McKellar Tri-City Airport (now Tri-Cities Regional Airport), Tennessee. Airport card no. C-20, printed by Fort Wayne Printing Co., Fort Wayne, Indiana. I love the country folk viewing the ‘modern’ aircraft in this postcard. I acquired two copies of this rare card at a local postcard show about 25 years ago, kept one, and traded the other to Allan Van Wickler. I presume that trader eventually went to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum along with the rest of Van’s postcard collection that he donated to them.

At the initiative of legendary American Airlines president C. R. Smith, Douglas Aircraft developed the famous classic DC-3 aircraft as a successor to the DC-2. American placed the first order for the DC-3, with half of them being the Douglas Sleeper Transport (‘DST’) variant, and American was the first to operate the DC-3 in commercial passenger service — on 25 June 1936. With the DC-3 American started calling its airliners ‘Flagships’.

06-Sz-American-DST-NC14988,-Night,-A-160-A,-Marvin-G-Goldman-Coll'n

American Airlines Douglas DC-3, Douglas Sleeper Transport (‘DST’) variant, NC14988. A/I, no. A-160-A. The postcard back says:“Passengers boarding the world-famous ‘American Mercury’…giant Flagship Skysleeper overnight from New York to California. American Airlines, Inc. is the original sleeper plane line.”

07-Sz-American-DST-Interior-Sleeper-Beds,-A-245-F,-AI,-PM-1939-0314,-MGGoldman-Coll'n

American Airlines Douglas DC-3, DST, Interior Sleeping Berths. A/I, no. A-245-F.

Written messages on postcard backs are often informative and can enhance the value of particular cards. Here is the back of the preceding DC-3 sleeper transport card, written in March 1939 during a New York to Los Angeles transcontinental stop in Dallas, Texas, which even back then was a primary American Airlines hub.

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Postcard Back of American Airlines DC-3 DST Sleeper Berth card no. A-245-F.   American called this transcontinental flight its ‘favorable Southern All-Year Route’, flying overnight from New York, coast-to-coast service with ‘only 3 stops’ and no change of planes, arriving in Los Angeles in the early morning. 

During the 1930s American (as well as Eastern and United) issued map postcards publicizing their routes. The following one issued by American and distributed on board encouraged passengers to mark their route in pencil and mail it to relatives and friends.

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American Airlines Route Map Postcard, A/I, no. A-245-C, issued about 1939. There are at least two variants of this card showing slight route changes.

The postcard back says: “This flight–marked out in pencil on the map–is a fine example of the real way to travel. With freedom from tipping, complimentary meals, and no ‘extras,’ it’s not hard to figure a saving of money as well as time.”

Around 1945 American issued several color postcards of its DC-3s, most of which are quite common. American DC-3s were also featured on many airport postcards, and here is one from a series of Washington National Airport cards:

American Airlines Douglas DC-3 at Washington National Airport. Pub’r Air Terminal Services, Washington National Airport; Printer Capsco, Card ‘C’. ‘Linen’ finish.  

Starting in 1946, following the end of World War II, American introduced to its fleet four-engine Douglas DC-4s followed successively by DC-6s (1947) and DC-7s (1953). It also placed in service two-engine Convairs, being the first airline to order the model 240. Many postcards feature these propeller types. Here are a few.

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American Airlines Douglas DC-6 over Manhattan.   Real photo postcard by Enell, no. 4. American was the first operator of the pressurized DC-6.

American Airlines Douglas DC-7, N334AA ‘Flagship Vermont’, at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo by Bill Eccles. Pub’r H. S. Crocker Co., Los Angeles, no. LA-1095. This aircraft was with American from 1956 to 1962. The nose of this DC-7 is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC.

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American Airlines Convair 240, N94255, in fleet 1948-1953, at El Paso International Airport, Texas. Pub’r Petley Studios, El Paso, no. 653.

American became the first airline to order the turboprop Lockheed Electra, and the type entered service with American in January 1959, just a few days after Eastern.

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American Airlines Lockheed L-188 Electra, L6125A, at Little Rock Municipal Airport, Arkansas. Pub’r Siebert News, Little Rock, Colourpicture no. P61020 L-7. Ex Deke Billings collection.

American entered the jet age with the Boeing 707. On 25 January 1959 American became the first airline to start domestic pure jet service in the U.S. with its own aircraft, its first 707 route being the prestigious nonstop transcontinental route between New York and Los Angeles. My own first flight with American was in May 1965 on one of their Boeing 707s, when I moved from Los Angeles to New York. This was the first of over 230 flights I’ve had on American. It was a great feeling to fly on American’s 707s, and this postcard tells it all.

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

American also ordered Convair jets to its own specifications, which became the Convair CV-990, seeking an even faster transcontinental jet than the 707. However, this type’s entry into service was delayed until March 1962, and it proved less economical than the 707.

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American Airlines Convair CV-990A. A/I no. T-151-12B, probably 1962. The postcard back calls the 990A ‘the most advanced jet airliner in commercial operation’.

The four-engine jets were soon followed by the classic workhouse short-haul tri-jet, the Boeing 727, operated by American starting in April 1962.

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American Airlines Boeing 727. A/I no. T-152, probably 1962.

In March 1966 American added to its fleet two-engine pure jet British Aircraft Corporation BAC 1-11-400s. Here is the front and back of an unusual postcard-sized card issued by American, apparently by its Chicago office, which has a local Chicago to St. Louis timetable on its back.

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American Airlines BAC 1-11-400. A/I, 1966, apparently by American’s Chicago office. Ex Deke Billings collection. The timetable on its back shows flights between Chicago and St. Louis being operated by four different aircraft types of four different manufacturers! — Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Electra, Boeing 727, and the highlighted BAC-1-11-400s. Take your pick! 

Back of foregoing American Airlines BAC 1-11-400 card.

In March 1970 American placed into commercial service the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the first wide-body two-aisle aircraft.

American Airlines Boeing 747-100. A/I no. T152, 1970. 12.7×25.4 cms. (Naturally, for a jumbo aircraft American had to issue a jumbo postcard).   The livery shown was introduced in 1967 and continued as American’s main color scheme until 2013. Waiting at JFK Airport to board an American Airlines 707, flight 1 to Los Angeles, on 27 February 1970, I noticed a large crowd gathering at a nearby gate and gawking at the most humongous plane I had ever seen. American had parked their first brand new 747-100 so their local cabin and ground crews could practice their new work duties. That was my first actual view of a 747. Two weeks later, on my return flight ‘AA 2’ from LAX to JFK, I flew in a new American 747. 

Meanwhile, Douglas Aircraft developed the wide-body tri-jet Douglas DC-10, and American became the first operator of the type, a DC-10-10, on 5 August 1971.

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American Airlines Douglas DC-10-10, Cutaway View. A/I, 1971. 15.2×22.8 cms. Ex Allan Van Wickler collection.

Except for operating later series of the 747 and DC-10, and the MD-11, all of American’s subsequent aircraft types have been two-engine aircraft.

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American Airlines MD-80 series aircraft at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Pub’r The Texas Postcard Co., Plano TX, no. D-150 711. For short hauls, the MD-80 series aircraft became a classic workhorse for American, and they were heavily utilized at American’s DFW Airport hub. At the southern end of DFW, in Fort Worth, Texas, American maintains its world headquarters, flight training academy, and the American Airlines C. R. Smith Museum.

American Airlines Boeing 757. A/I. This card and the next are two of the relatively few postcards issued by American since 1990 that show aircraft.

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American Airlines 8-Airliner View Card. A/I. Part of a series of postcards issued between 1991 and 2001, at the same time as the preceding card.

I do not have a postcard issued by American that shows its new aircraft livery introduced in 2013. However, for those postcard collectors who also collect airline-issue postcard-sized advertising cards, particularly those featuring aircraft, here is a beautiful American airline-issue card featuring their Boeing 777 in the new livery. The back of the card advertises American’s ‘Travel Center’ in New York City.

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American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER in New Livery. On 17 January 2013 American unveiled its new livery on its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which went into service later that month. Advertising card issued by American’s New York City Manhattan office in 2015.

Over the years American Airlines has acquired several other airlines. Here is a selection of postcards issued by airlines that became absorbed into the American Airlines system.

In 1945 American acquired American Export Airlines and renamed it American Overseas Airlines (‘AOA’). AOA was utilized for trans-Atlantic routes to Europe, particularly London, Copenhagen and Hamburg. American Airlines eventually sold AOA to Pan Am in 1950.

American Export Airlines Vought-Sikorsky VS-44 ‘Excalibur’, NX41880. Part of the LaGuardia Airport series of 21 cards issued in 1944 or 1945. Pub’r Harry H. Baumann, New York NY, no. E-6202. ‘Linen’ finish. A companion card with a different VS-44 view is also part of the set as no. E-6203.

Noted airline postcard collector Doug Bastin of Chester, England, sent to me scans of several rare American Overseas Airlines postcards from his collection for possible use in this article. Here are three of them.

American Overseas Airlines Lockheed Constellation at London Heathrow at the original temporary hutted terminal, viewed from the first public viewing facility. (Now, how’s that for a great plane spotter’s view?). Pub’r E A Wilson. Doug Bastin collection.

American Overseas Airlines Douglas DC-4 at Copenhagen. Pub’r F. Munthe no. 5572. Doug Bastin collection.   According to Doug, there is a companion card, no. 5573, showing AOA DC-4 N90906, Flagship Copenhagen’ with AOA titles, being refueled at Copenhagen, and it’s possible the titles were removed from this no. 5572 postcard image following the sale of AOA to Pan Am.

American Overseas Airlines Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser, N90941 Flagship Great Britain, at Zurich. Swissair Photo no. 5199. Doug Bastin collection. According to Doug, the image clearly shows the Curtiss propellers unique to the AOA and United Airlines fleets. A companion card, no. 5200, shows a different view of this aircraft in Zurich, apparently taken at the same time. Bruce Charkow’s original of that companion card appears in the postcard column of The Captain’s Log ‘Majestic Propliners’ issue, Spring 2013.

Other significant airlines acquired by American Airlines from the 1970s to the present include Trans Caribbean Airways, Air California, Reno Air, TWA and US Airways. Here is a postcard selection.

Trans Caribbean Airways Douglas DC-8. A/I. Trans Caribbean operated mainly from New York, and also from Washington DC, to Caribbean destinations. Trans Caribbean merged into American Airlines in 1971.

Air California Boeing 737-200, N463GB, in fleet 1968-72. A/I no. 160578, postmarked 14 January 1970. Ex Deke Billings collection. Air California was founded in 1967, initially to operate flights within California out of Orange County airport. It changed its name to AirCal in 1981, and was acquired by American Airlines in 1987.

Reno Air McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series. A/I. Reno Air operated from 1992 until 1999 when it was acquired by American Airlines. 

Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 767-200 in the airline’s last color scheme before being acquired by American Airlines. A/I. Printer, Platz Press. TWA was one of the most noted airlines in aviation history. It operated from 1925 until 2001 when it was merged into American. TWA was featured in issue 26-1 of The Captain’s Log (2001).

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US Airways Airbus A330-300. A/I. US Airways traces its history back to 1937. Predecessor airlines include Allegheny (name changed from All American Airways), Lake Central, Mohawk, Pacific Southwest (PSA), Piedmont and American West. In 1979 the airline adopted the name ‘US Air’ and then changed it in early 1997 to ‘US Airways’. The lengthy merger process of US Airways into American Airlines was completed in 2015. The Captain’s Log issue of 26-2 (2001) featured US Airways.

‘American Eagle’ is a brand name started by American Airlines in 1984 as a means of partnering with small regional airlines, with coordination of regional flights to feed into American’s network. Aircraft would be painted in an American Eagle livery, but be operated by one of several regional airlines. During 1987-89 American Airlines acquired most of its partner feeder airlines. However, starting in 2012 American Airlines started contracting out its ‘American Eagle’ brand to increasing numbers of independently owned regional airlines. Here is just one sample postcard of the many airlines that have flown under the ‘American Eagle’ brand.

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American Eagle Embraer 120 Brasilia, N124AM of Air Midwest at Wichita, Kansas, August 1986. BUCHairCARD 8736. Air Midwest operated from 1985 to 1988 when its assets were acquired by AMR, American Airlines’ holding company.  

Notes: Except as noted, all postcards shown are standard or continental size and from the author’s collection. I estimate their rarity as follows: Rare: the Colonial and American Airways cards, the American Airlines Curtiss Condor, Vultee, DC-2 and BAC 1-11-400 cards, and the American Overseas Airlines Constellation and B-377 Stratocruiser cards; Uncommon: the American Airlines two DC-3 DST cards and the DC-6, DC-7, Convair 240, Electra, 747-100 and DC-10-10 cards, and the American Export Airlines VS-44 and American Overseas Airlines DC-4 card; the rest are fairly common.

Airliners International 2016 New Orleans — Postcard Contest.  Many thanks to all who submitted the beautiful entries in the AI 2016 postcard contest.  Congratulations to the prize winners: 1st place, William Demarest, ‘Unusual Boeing 727-100 Postcards’; 2d place, John Bretch, ‘Convair 880/990’, and 3d place, William Baird, ‘Fokker F27’.  Thanks also to the three postcard contest judges, Armen Avakian, Rick Neyland, and Peter Winck.

The AI 2017 show in Denver will also have a Postcard Contest.  You are invited to submit an entry–it’s fun and also promotes our airline postcard collecting passion.  The contest rules are posted on the AI 2017 website.

References:

Davies, R.E.G. Airlines of the United States since 1914, Smithsonian Press (1972), and Airlines of the Jet Age, Smithsonian (2011).

Bedwell, Don. Silverbird: The American Airlines Story. Airways International (1999).

American Airlines website, aa.com, links at ‘About us’, ‘History of American Airlines’ (2016).

Wikipedia online articles on American Airlines and its predecessors and affiliates.
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World 40 Rarest Junior Wings

This article is a part of The Captain’s Log, Issue 40-4, Spring 2016
Written by Lane Kranz

To celebrate the Captain’s Log 40th Anniversary we have put together a list of the World’s 40 Rarest Junior Wings. I have collaborated with the world’s greatest junior wing collectors to assemble this list. Many thanks to Dave Cherkis, Bill Gawchik, Jose Gonzales, Cameron Fleming, and Bryan Mellon for sharing wings from their outstanding collections as well as their expertise. Together, the six of us voted on the Top 10 and we present this list to celebrate 40 Years of collecting. Also, a very honorable mention to long time collector, mentor, and friend Stan Baumwald for being the “godfather” of junior wings and his contributions, as well.

Collecting junior wings is certainly a ‘niche’ hobby. WAHS member Bryan Mellon shared his story on how he got started collecting junior wings. In 1980, Bryan was five years old and his family moved to Japan. He flew four different airlines between Richmond and Tokyo. At the end of the trip, he had four different junior wings (Eastern, Delta, Western, and Northwest) and he was hooked on collecting. Today, Bryan is a pilot for Alaska Airlines and he still has those original four wings from his trip.

My experience started in the early 1980s as a young teenager. I started collecting timetables, post cards, junior wings, and just about anything airline related. In 1985 I attended my first Airliner’s International convention in San Jose, California. I was in heaven. These were my kind of people! I was hooked. Over the next few years I began to realize that I needed to narrow my focus to junior wings and timetables. One story comes to mind from my early days as a junior wing collector. I was a college student in 1989 and I didn’t have much money. I ran into Stan Baumwald at an airliner show and he was selling a Texas International junior wing for $40. He told me it was really rare and hard to find, but $40 was just too much for my college student budget. I passed on that one. I spent the next 20 years regretting my decision as that wing is extremely rare and hard to find. I eventually found another one, but it cost me a lot more than forty bucks! I guess they call that perspective. Today, I’m a pilot for Delta Air Lines and collecting junior wings is still one of my greatest passions.

I realize this list is quite subjective and everyone will have their own opinion. However, the purpose of this list is to showcase the best of the best from the world’s greatest junior wing collectors. Here are the 40 Rarest

Junior Wings in the World:

Keep Collecting,

Lane


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Timetables: Looking Back, Looking Forward

This article appeared in The Captain’s Log, Issue 40-4, Spring 2016
Written by David Keller

Editor’s Note: Some images/figures are spread throughout the article. Images referenced in the article that do not appear within the article body are included in a slideshow gallery at the bottom.

1975. The average American family didn’t have mobile phones, computers or internet service, and TV options consisted of the handful of local stations nearby. Except for a few visionaries, we wouldn’t have been able to imagine the digitally connected world of today.

Most commercial jetliners were manufactured in the US, with DC-9s, 737s and 727s (especially 727s!) just about everywhere. You could walk up to a ticket counter in nearly any airport or ticket office and come away with a printed timetable for your efforts. And the first issue of Captain’s Log was distributed by the World Airline Hobby Club (WAHC).

All fares and route authority in the US had to be approved by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). Fares generally fell into a few basic categories (Coach, First Class, etc.) and (with some limited exceptions) did not differ between carriers. It also wasn’t possible to fly nonstop between certain cities, such as between Denver and Atlanta (which even then were two of the nation’s busiest airports).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

The 11 trunk and 8 local airlines typically operated with load factors that hovered around 50%. And it was possible to book a multi-stop flight in many markets.

The cover of the illustrated Delta timetable dated October 26, 1975, shows the airline’s special bicentennial logo. [Fig. 1] Later issues (i.e., March 1, 1976) depicted the widget with stars and stripes overlaid on it, which was the design that was applied to the logo near the forward door on Delta’s fleet. [Fig. 2] The itinerary section finds the workhorse DC-9s operating a number of multi-stop flights with as many as 9 segments.

Figure 3

Figure 3

American Airlines’ October 26, 1975 timetable shows another feature that disappeared shortly thereafter; fares for each route. While some routes only display the traditional Coach, Night Coach, First Class, and Deluxe Night Coach fares, others show various Excursion fares, which were an early step that would lead to the proliferation of fares in existence today. [Fig. 3]

Figure 4

Figure 4

For those not in a hurry, Frontier Airlines’ June 1, 1976 timetable offered a leisurely five stop itinerary between Dallas and Memphis, which required just over 4 ½ hours. This timetable also shows Frontier’s pending route applications, including the coveted Denver/Atlanta service. [Fig. 4]

Figure 5

Figure 5

While the trunk carriers operated all-jet fleets, each of the local carriers had a fleet of propeller aircraft to serve smaller communities. While in most cases that meant turboprops, Southern Airways bucked the trend by keeping a fleet of piston-powered Martin 404s in service. The March 1, 1975 timetable shows service from Atlanta, with the Martins identified by 800-series flight numbers. [Fig. 5]

By the mid-1970’s, the local carriers were eager to dispose of their remaining propeller aircraft, and in order to do so, often collaborated with commuter airlines to take over routes that were not suitable for larger pure-jet equipment. (In other cases, commuter airlines jumped in on their own to fill perceived voids in service.)

Figure 6

Figure 6

The result was a large number of commuter airlines being formed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Many failed in short order, the most drastic example being Sunair in Florida which reportedly only operated a single flight. The timetable dated January 15, 1981, shows that service was planned for 15 Florida cities. [Fig. 6]

Figure 7

Figure 7

Other commuter airlines achieved much greater success. Horizon Airlines began service from Seattle to Yakima on September 1, 1981. The airline was able to capitalize on opportunities that arose when competitors abandoned markets (or went out of business), and was later able to establish a relationship with Alaska Airlines which is still in effect to this day. [Fig. 7]

In late 1978, the US airline industry was turned on its head with the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act. This allowed airlines far more freedom to set their own fares and enter new markets. Initially, carriers were allowed to apply for “dormant” route authority, (i.e., authority being held by other airlines but not being operated). In addition they were allowed free entry into a single market of their choosing.

Figure 8

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 9

Recipients of new route authority had a relatively short time frame in which to start service, or risk losing that authority. This meant that many new routes were opened in late 1978 and early 1979, and were often promoted on the timetables.

Ozark and North Central both issued timetables dated December 15, 1978, which trumpeted new service to highly sought after markets, most notably, Florida. On this date, Ozark began serving 4 Florida cities, while North Central added 5. [Fig. 8] [Fig. 9]

Some airlines were cautious, only adding a small number of routes and new destinations. Continental’s timetable dated January 15, 1979 shows Washington D.C. as the only destination added by the carrier. [Fig. 10] National Airlines added San Juan and Seattle, with both being promoted in the March 2, 1979 timetable. [Fig. 11]

Figure 12

Figure 12

On the other hand, there was Braniff International Airways which threw caution to the wind. They camped out at the CAB to be first in line when applications were being accepted for dormant routes. Their December 15, 1978 timetable shows 30 new routes being operated, and 15 cities added to the network. It was a go-for-broke strategy, and succeeded in bankrupting the airline less than 3 ½ years later. [Fig. 12]

Figure 13

Figure 13

Another facet of Deregulation was the certification of new carriers for scheduled service. The first to take advantage of this were the supplemental airlines, which already had fleets and staff available. World, Capitol and Trans International were all operating scheduled services by the summer of 1979.

World Airways wasted no time transitioning to scheduled service. The timetable dated April 12, 1979 shows daily flights shows 2 roundtrips being operated between Newark and Los Angeles, with continuing service to Baltimore and Oakland. [Fig. 13]

Figure 14

Figure 14

The first brand-new startup was Midway Airlines. The timetable dated October 31, 1979 shows new service from Chicago’s then under-utilized Midway Airport to Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. Prior to that point, service to Midway Airport consisted of a handful of lightly-loaded flights. Within a few years, Midway Airlines had built the airport into a busy hub, attracting millions of passengers and numerous airlines. [Fig. 14]

The floodgates were opened, and many new airlines were proposed in the next few years. Some never made it off paper, and others never got into the air. And of those that did, most only lasted a few years, some, only months.

So many new airlines were being created, that the traditional 2 letter airline codes were being used up. At first, duplicate codes were assigned to scheduled airlines which had previously been assigned to airlines not offering scheduled services. Then, in 1981, airline codes began to appear which had numeric digits to increase the number of possible codes and alleviate the problem.

Figure 15

Figure 15

Best Airlines began service in 1982, and the timetable dated September 13, 1982 shows 2 aircraft operating to 10 destinations. Best may have been the most mobile airline ever, as it seemed that they dropped destinations and added new ones with almost every new timetable. Operations ceased in late 1985. [Fig. 15]

Figure 16

Figure 16

New Orleans-based Pride Air enjoyed a much shorter run. The inaugural timetable dated August 1, 1985 features service to 15 destinations, as the carrier attempted to establish a hub on the Gulf Coast. Only one additional timetable was issued (on October 1) before operations were halted in mid-November. [Fig. 16]

By the mid-1980’s, the tide turned, and the number of airlines operating in the US began dropping. One reason was that most of the new entrants failed rather quickly, as previously mentioned. Another was that the mainline carriers were establishing code-sharing arrangements with the commuter airlines, to provide a common brand, such as American Eagle or Northwest Airlink. The advantage to the qualifying airlines cannot be overstated, and those without such agreements found it difficult to complete. Some merged, and most eventually ceased operations, either voluntarily or otherwise.

In the second half of the 1980’s a number of major carriers were absorbed through mergers, Air Cal, Ozark, Piedmont, PSA, Republic and Western among them. From a timetable standpoint, some of those carriers disappeared without any mention by the surviving airline.

Figure 17

Figure 17

USAir’s timetable dated April 9, 1988 promotes its acquisition of PSA. Perhaps not the best combination from both equipment and route structure viewpoints, most of PSA’s routes would be dropped within a few years as Southwest expanded its presence on the West Coast, and USAir dealt with the acquisition of Piedmont. [Fig. 17]

Figure 18

Figure 18

A somewhat scarce timetable (given its recent vintage) is Northwest Airlines’ issue dated October 1, 1986. [Fig. 18] This is the only “full” system timetable (showing both direct and connecting flights) that was issued after the merger with Republic Airlines. (There were a few international timetables which did show connections but not all services were included.) Northwest changed to a “Frequent Flyer” format, which contained only direct flights, a format which was eventually adopted by nearly all major airlines in the US.

The early 1990’s saw the United States and numerous other coalition members go to war with Iraq. Most airlines struggled with the resulting travel downturn, some went to bankruptcy court, and others failed outright. Midway Airlines became one those casualties in 1991, halting operations after almost 12 years, and having outlasted dozens of airlines that started service in that period.

By the middle of the decade, business conditions were improving, and the allure of the industry was too tempting for some, resulting in a new round of airline creation. Some created “hub” operations in unlikely places such as Colorado Springs, Reno, and Savannah. Others offered service from under-utilized airports serving large cities, to avoid the congestion and higher costs involved with operating to the more popular stations.

Figure 19

Figure 19

Western Pacific inaugurated service in 1995, with the intention of using Colorado Springs as an alternative to the recently opened Denver International Airport, which was 19 miles further from downtown Denver than Stapleton. Particularly for customers in Denver’s southern suburbs, the trip to Colorado Springs was judged to be not much greater than that to the new airport.

The carrier’s timetable dated October 29, 1995 shows several of the airline’s Logojets, which were essentially flying billboards that the company used as an additional source of revenue. The Colorado Springs hub did not work out, and by 1997, the carrier was exploring a merger with Frontier Airlines and moving its operations to Denver. The merger plans did not materialize, and Western Pacific shut down shortly thereafter. [Fig. 19]

Figure 20

Figure 20

While most of the 1990’s era new entrants suffered the same fate as those from a decade earlier, one survived in an unusual way. AirTran Airways was a 737 operator based in Orlando. The carrier’s August 15, 1994 timetable shows service from Orlando to a half-dozen destinations. [Fig. 20]

Odds are AirTran’s story would have ended in bankruptcy like most of the other startups of the period. However, the tragic crash of a Valujet DC-9 in May 1996 while that airline was already being investigated for lax safety procedures, led to the carrier’s grounding several months later. Desperately needing a way to bury the Valujet name while avoiding the obvious implications of a straight forward name change, the airline purchased AirTran the following year. Despite Valujet being the surviving organization, the AirTran name was retained, and persevered until the completion of the merger with Southwest Airlines in 2014.

The events that unfolded following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 shook the airline industry to its core. A number of the 90’s startups failed shortly thereafter, and even most of the major carriers were forced into bankruptcy as cash reserves were depleted.

Figure 21

Figure 21

One of several startups in the 1990’s to recycle the names of airlines from the past was Las Vegas-based National Airlines. A struggling 757 operator that never seemed to find its market, National was already in financial difficulty before 9/11, and ceased operations the following year. [Fig. 21]

Another impact of September 11th, was to hasten the phase out of printed timetables. That day was already coming, given the rapid expansion of internet access worldwide. But the financial hardships being faced by the airlines in the post-9/11 world made printed timetables expendable, and most airlines discontinued their printing shortly thereafter.

Figure 22

Figure 22

American Airlines was one of the carriers whose aircraft were used in the attacks, and the few timetables produced afterwards mirrored the mood of the nation, displaying very somber cover designs as depicted by the January 31, 2002 issue. Their final printed timetable was issued less than a year after 9/11. [Fig. 22]

The last major US airline to issue a printed timetable was Southwest Airlines in 2009. The May 11, 2008 timetable is one of the many “faces” issues that had been the standard since the early 1990’s. [Fig. 23]

Figure 23

Figure 23

The years since have been notable for both the “unbundling” of fares and mega-mergers in the industry. The first involves removing items that were previously included in the purchase of a ticket (e.g., snacks, checked luggage, carry ons, advance seat selection), and charging separately for them. This allowed airlines to advertise lower fares, while turning those add-ons into a substantial revenue source.

These ancillary fees now amount to billions of dollars in revenue industry-wide, and the Ultra Low Cost Carriers such as Allegiant and Spirit make a substantial percentage of their total revenue in this manner. Air and seat belts are still included in the basic ticket price … for now.

The mergers of the past decade have brought the industry very close to the result envisioned by some industry analysts when Deregulation was being considered nearly 40 years ago. Several predicted that the ensuing competitive battles would leave American, Delta and United as the survivors to divvy up most of the US market. (It would have been difficult to predict that a small airline which hadn’t yet left the state of Texas would be able to enter the ranks of those well-entrenched carriers.)

While the airline industry in other parts of the world didn’t necessarily follow the same timelines as it did in the US, most areas experienced similar changes. Air service has largely been deregulated and/or liberalized, and the established legacy carriers are struggling to compete with new startup carriers. Additionally, although 9/11 was an attack on the United States, airlines worldwide felt its impact.

2016. The vast majority of folks in the developed world have access to digital content via computers, tablets, phones, or even watches, and have hundreds of TV channels to choose from. Most of us would have difficulty disconnecting from our electronic connections to the world, and find the memory of life without them fading quickly. (Although I do find it a bit annoying that after all the years of finding schedules for my home town, St. Louis, alphabetized as “Saint Louis” in printed timetables, they are now sorted in online schedules by the abbreviated spelling, and appear after San Francisco, Seattle, South Bend, etc.)

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has wrestled approximately 50% of the commercial jetliner market from the US. Printed timetables would be eligible for the endangered species list (if such items qualified for inclusion), and are inevitably headed for extinction.

Yield management is so specialized it seems each individual seat has its own fare. And that fare can change from one day to the next.

The four remaining major carriers account for the vast majority of passenger miles flown, and do so with planes frequently 90% full with higher seat densities than ever before.

And this year will mark a transition for The Captain’s Log publication of the World Airlines Historical Society, which move from print to digital distribution. I’m not sure exactly where this journey leads (other than knowing that the images I include in my upcoming articles will be seen in full color rather than black and white), but I’m on board and looking forward to the trip!


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Why I Collect Airmail Etiquettes

This article is part of The Captain’s Log, Issue 40-4, Spring 2016
Arthur H. Groten M.D.

For the past several years I have been writing about those funny little pieces of paper that are applied to envelopes to designate carriage by air. I have been a stamp collector for 65 years although for the past 20 or so I have concentrated on postal history or how the postal system works.

We have all seen etiquettes on letters such as airmail, registered, certified and special delivery, to name a few. They tell us what additional services are being utilized. Because much of my interest in postal history has centered on the development of commercial airmail I started paying attention to the labels. Recently, I’ve begun limiting my collection to those used before WWII and I still have several thousand different with many used on envelopes.

You’ve had a taste of these covers in my articles which tend to be about a specific country or theme. Those will continue. Here I want to show a number whose unifying theme is that each is the first airmail etiquette issued by the country involved.

The very first was issued by France on August 17, 1918, a simple boxed “Par Avion” on red paper. (Figure 1) It is on a postcard carried on the first experimental flight by A. Vancaudenberghe at St. Nazaire.

A number of labels specify the route to be used such as Czechoslovakia’s 4 different destinations from Prague. Figure 2 calls for the route from Prague to the Netherlands to pass through Strasbourg. The other routes were through Paris, Warsaw and London. Another, from the Ivory Coast to Paris in 1931, noted “de Dakar a Toulouse.” (Figure 3)

Some, though not many, have the country name on them such as the etiquette on this registered cover from Madagascar to Paris on the first official flight between the two countries in 1930. (Figure 4)

Others indicate the extra postage required for airmail as on this 1934 cover from Mozambique to Scotland: the air fee was Fr. 1.05. French is the official international postal language. In this case, Mozambique added the Portuguese “Por Aviao” to the French “Par Avion.” (Figure 5)

From Tahiti to France in 1927, a particularly rare label was used to seal the letter. (Figure 6)

Etiquettes in the shape of arrows are often seen as on this 1931 cover from Guatemala. The paired oblique lines indicate the end of air service, in this case, most likely in the U.S. (Figure 7)

I have many more and, in due course, they will appear in these pages. I welcome correspondence with interested members.


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