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.

References:

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,

Marvin

 

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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.

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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).

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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’.

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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.”

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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).

Sz-34-US-Airways-A330-300,-A-I,-MGGoldman-Coll'n

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.

Sz-35-American-Eagle-Embraer-120,-N124AM

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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