Not Another 727!

Written by Shea Oakley

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted on NYCaviation.com

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

Written by Russell Goutierez

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

                                               Marvin Goldman Collection

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

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

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

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DC-3 Lands in Jersey Swamp

Written by Henry M. Holden

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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Departed Wings – Frontier Horizon (FW)

Written by Jon Jamieson

1984-1985          Denver, Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rooftop Dakota

Written by Henry M. Holden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Henry M. Holden, 1997, 2013, 2019

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

 

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The Last Scheduled DC-3 Service on Planet Earth

Written by Henry M. Holden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from World Airnews October 2010

 

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

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Departed Wings: Altair Airlines (AK)

Written by Jon Jamieson

                                  1966-1982                               Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Lester Anderson

IDL to IDL

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

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

Newark Airport Spotting

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

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

Delta in First

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

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

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

Apollo 18 Saturn V

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

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

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

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

Miami

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

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BOAC and How It All Began for Me

Written by Shea Oakley

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(First published on NYCaviation.com)

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

Written by Lester Anderson

Am I getting old?

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

By Richard Silagi

I sat next to who?

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

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

Meals

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

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

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

National Air and Space Museum Archives

The Flying Nosh

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

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

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

Denver International Airport

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

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

How to Manage your Business Flights

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

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

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

Boeing

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

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

Interesting Airplane Information

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

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

For example, did you know that:

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

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

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

By Jon Proctor

San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives [Public domain]

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

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

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

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

Lester Anderson

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

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