Pan American,PAWA,varig

The History of Safety Cards, Part 3: The Jets Arrive (Turn of the decade 1950s/1960s)

By Fons Schaefers

Early attempts

One of aviation history’s most narrated events of failure is the false start of air transport by jets. I am referring to the years 1952 to 1954 and the operation of the first iteration of the British-built De Havilland Comet. Safety card-wise, this was a non-event as no leaflets specific to the type were carried. BOAC, at the time, used a generic leaflet focusing on surviving a ditching without identifying aircraft types. The other users of the first Comets were Air France, UAT, and Canadian Pacific which, as far as I know, neither used safety leaflets that showed the aircraft type.

Neither meant the introduction of the Tupolev 104 in the Soviet Union in 1956 jet-specific safety cards. Aeroflot was then far away from using safety leaflets at all. CSA, the Czech flag carrier and the only non-Soviet user of the type, did have Tupolev 104-specific safety leaflets but I doubt that was from the start (see 18 July 2017 contribution by Brian Barron under the ‘safety cards’ tile on this website for the CSA Tupolev 104 card and other cards relevant to this part).

Proper start

In the western world, jet airliners properly began in 1958. In Britain, De Havilland, now better understanding the phenomenon of metal fatigue, launched the Comet 4, which was put in service by BOAC in October 1958. The French Sud-Est Caravelle took off with Air France and SAS in May 1959. In the USA, the Boeing 707 was introduced by Pan American in October 1958 and by American Airlines and TWA in early 1959, while United and Delta started with the Douglas DC-8 in September 1959. The third US airframe contender was Convair with its 880 model (followed later by the 990 derivative), which started commercial service with Delta in 1960.

The arrival of jet airliners was generally welcomed as a major improvement in air travel. Some even considered it a quantum leap. The new propulsion method meant much shorter traveling times. This was entirely due to their higher speed, as their range was not better: the number of hops on the longest route at the time (the Kangaroo route from London to Sydney) remained about the same: typically eight. The jets also brought a capacity step. Pre-jet aircraft had maximum seating capacities of up to about 100; the first jets jumped to around 180, although initially, airlines employed luxury rather than high-density seating arrangements so typically installed around 110 to 140 seats.

Jet engines vibrate less than piston engines and are most economic at altitudes higher than where the props fly, where ‘weather’ and associated turbulence can be avoided. This brings a smoother and more comfortable ride. Yet, as air at altitude is thinner, it requires back-up oxygen for all occupants in case of a decompression. Here, there was a difference in policy between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In the US, automatic oxygen presentation capability to all passengers was required when flying above 30,000 ft. In Europe, that altitude was 35,000 ft. This meant that aircraft such as the Caravelle and most Comets did not need automatic oxygen as they stayed below 35,000 ft. Exemptions were the long-range Comet 4 which BOAC operated at higher altitudes and the Caravelle when operated under US rules, such as by United Airlines.

Jet’s effect on safety cards

Did the introduction of the jet mean a quantum leap in safety cards? The answer is both no and yes.

No: piecemeal changes

Most of the first airlines to fly jets were flag airlines. Many already had safety leaflets in use for their propliners covering their entire fleets (hence called fleet leaflets). The new jets were simply added to the existing leaflet designs with minimum changes. Good examples of this were BOAC, SAS, TCA and Pan American.

Comparing BOAC’s 1957 elaborative, ditching-oriented safety leaflet edition with that of 1958 shows only one change: the aircraft exit diagrams of three types (Stratocruiser, Argonaut, and Constellation) are replaced by that of the Comet 4 (the Britannia and DC-7C remained).

As BOAC flew their Comet 4 up to 40,000 ft it had oxygen provisions for all passengers, so a separate text only leaflet was made to explain those. Its use was no longer required when in 1960 the main leaflet was updated when the Boeing 707 was added to the fleet, and thus to the leaflet. A text plus an illustration on the oxygen equipment was added and, in true piecemeal change style, an illustration of how to open a window exit was added.

At SAS, we see something similar: in the 1959 edition of the leaflet, the Caravelle is added to the diagram page without any further changes to the leaflet. Even the front page still sports the DC-6B!

SAS, 1959
SAS, 1959: front page and exit diagrams panel. Note that entrance doors on the Caravelle (in the tail) and Metropolitan (left forward) are not rated as emergency exit.

But in the 1962 edition, which has both the DC-8 and Convair990 Coronado added, window exit pictures appear and, for these two types only, so not for the Caravelle as it had none, a page explaining the automatic oxygen system. (See Brian Barron’s contribution for the interim edition, which has the DC-8 added but not yet the 990). In 1962, SAS adds a caution against the use of portable radios on board, as they may affect navigation equipment.

TCA’s 1960 edition of its safety booklet (coded TCA-853) only adds a diagram of the DC-8 but without any exit operation or oxygen guidance. The latter, however, came in the form of a separate card (coded TCA 853-1), with both Trans-Canada Air Lines and Air Canada titles.

The early Pan American World Airways (PAWA) Boeing 707 folder sees automatic oxygen added to the traditional life jacket and life raft instructions (not shown) bu is otherwise very similar to the previous folder for the DC-7C. The latter’s handheld chute is replaced by an inflated slide and the window exit now depicts that of the Boeing.

In 1961, PAWA added a note about the dangers of using portable radios and other electronic devices as they may cause interference. Although labeled as important, this note was not translated into any of the other seven languages the folder had. So, perhaps it was added last minute.

PAWA, 1961

Yes: new concepts

Maybe calling them a quantum leap in safety card development goes too far, but several US airlines did use the new jets as an incentive for launching new concepts and ideas.

American Airlines (AA) was probably the first in safety information history to use a double-sided but unfolded heavy paper card. It is coded ‘T-352’ and is believed to be made for the introduction of the type in January 1959. Another AA innovation is to use graphics as the primary means of information, with text in a supportive role. That broke the industry standard of having text prevail with the occasional supporting graphic or photo. AA kept the information on the card to a minimum: an aircraft layout with all seats and exit locations/window exit operation/illustration of a deployed slide/an explanation of the passenger service unit and the automatic oxygen system. There were neither emergency preparation instructions nor brace positions. Also, there was nothing about life vests or rafts, but that matched the route pattern of AA which was then domestic-USA only. Only one language was needed: English.

Curiously, all exits are marked with arrows that point inwards. Only later became it custom to have arrows pointing outwards, in the direction of escape!

American Airlines, 1959

TWA, which introduced their first jet only two months after AA, also came with a double-sided, unfolded card for their 707. This was laminated, which would be a first. The presentation was similar to that of AA, minus the window exit, but with the supporting text appearing in four languages. The window exit and PSU/oxygen illustrations closely resemble those of AA, so was likely provided by Boeing.

United, already known for its very detailed safety information (see previous part), continued that policy for their new DC-8s and Boeing 720s. In its eight-page 1959 DC-8 folder, it uses a mix of illustrations and text, e.g. to explain how to use the seat-mounted oxygen masks.

United Airlines DC-8 overwater booklet, 1961

In 1953, United became the first airline to show how to open and use exits and continued as the first to do so for the jets. No other airline at the time showed how to open door exits (as opposed to window exits) and, in detail, how to attach and inflate the escape slides. In early DC-8s (and 707/720s) these were ceiling mounted and required quite a few actions before being operational. The illustrations shown are from the 1961 overwater DC-8 booklet edition, but the 1959 folder fielded the same.

United Airlines DC-8 overwater booklet, 1961

Qantas and Cathay

I’d like to share the details of two more leaflets. They are from two airlines deep in the eastern hemisphere: Qantas from Australia and Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong. Both do not fit the patterns described above as their leaflets are neither next iterations of a series, nor truly novel. Yet they are of interest as they have some features not seen elsewhere. They are from a Qantas 707 leaflet c. 1963 and from a Cathay Pacific fleet leaflet that dates from around 1966.

Both show emergency equipment locations, a practice not applied widely in those days. Cathay included the cockpit windows of their Convairs as emergency exits for passengers. This wasn’t something widely-practiced then, although some other Convair 880 operators did it as well, perhaps on instigation by Convair.

Qantas ordered the smallest 707 variant (which was even smaller than the 720), but I doubt whether their fuselage tapering was indeed as shown. Boeing was very keen on keeping constant diameter cabins, so perhaps Qantas’ artist was still a bit distracted by the curvatures of the 707’s predecessor, the Lockheed Super Constellation.

Qantas explained the use of the escape slides on their new jets by comparing them to, what looks to me, as a playground slide. Qantas explains that they “operate on the same principle as a slippery dip, or in the French translation: toboggan de plage, which, in turn, translates as beach slide.”

Cathay fleet leaflet 880/Electra, c. 1966
Qantas 707, c. 1963

Trends

The turn of the decade 1950s/1960s was not only marked by the introduction of the jets but also by increasing awareness that many accidents were survivable and passengers needed education on matters other than ditching. As a result, there were quite a few changes in what safety information was given to passengers and how it was presented. Let me summarize the main trends.

Less water, more land

As mentioned, in the 1950s it was realized that the ditching scenario was not unique in being survivable. Crash landings on land became more frequent and often turned out to be survived as well. The safety leaflets, booklets, and cards started to reflect this and the long lists of preparation for a ditching were replaced by information on opening window exits and using escape slides. Some major airlines that did not fly overwater and had never provided safety cards now started to do so. Life jacket and life raft information remained, but for overwater operations only.

Less reliance on crew, more self-help

Before, leaflets stated the crew would open exits and passengers had to obey their orders. An evacuation would be led by them and no further guidance was provided. This example is by Air India.

Air India 707 folder, c. 1960

In the new decade, passengers were called upon to take responsibility and help open exits. Opening instructions were given, especially for those exits near where they were seated. This was already recognized by TWA and United in the early 1940s (see previous part), but since then had faded away, perhaps overshadowed by the focus on ditching.

The new cards gave detailed floor plans (sometimes even showing all seats), evacuation routes, exit locations, and emergency exit operation. The jets brought automatic oxygen systems for which passenger education was considered essential. The cards were ideal for that, but as we have seen, not all airlines were ready for this so had to improvise by making impromptu cards.

Less text, more graphics

In the ditching years, text prevailed in the leaflets, often repeating the same message in many languages. PAWA and BOAC had up to eight different languages on their folders. This led to large folders with endless text in small print that even fond readers may have found hard to digest. The introduction of the jets coincided with illustrations replacing words. Text became of secondary purpose. This trend developed gradually into today’s graphics-only cards.

Fewer folders, more cards

More graphics and less text meant the large folders could be compressed on smaller but heavier paper. The term safety card started to become a reality.

Less fleets, more type-specific

A trend that was slightly less pronounced was that of single aircraft type leaflets/cards replacing entire fleet leaflets/cards. Many airlines still found it convenient to have a leaflet that would suit all the aircraft in their fleet. I estimate at the turn of the decade, about half of the airlines used fleet leaflets, sometimes showing up to five or six different aircraft types, such as BOAC and SAS as shown above. But how would passengers know which aircraft type they were on? Perhaps it was mentioned in their ticket folder or at the start of the flight, but would they remember that when consulting the card or worse, when they needed to heed its lessons?

Other airlines issued separate leaflets or cards per aircraft type, such as American Airlines and TWA. Interestingly, a hybrid form came into use, made possible by the fact that the trio of early US jets had the same exit pattern. American Airlines used one and the same card for the 707, 720, and 990, collectively called the Astrojet. The exit pair that did not exist on the 720 and 990 was dashed.

American Airlines, c. 1962

There was one airline that flew all three first-generation US jets: Varig from Brazil. This was not by careful fleet development choice, but rather by inheritance. Varig itself, in 1960, had bought the Boeing 707. When it took over REAL in 1961 it inherited its order for three Convair 990s. And when in 1965, Panair was amalgamated into Varig, its two DC-8s were added to Varig’s fleet. Varig used a single safety card for the three types. Only the asterisks on the aft pair of window exits, explained as ‘Boeing and DC-8 only,’ betray this was indeed the case. (see Brian Barron’s contribution for entire card).

VARIG, c. 1965

Survivability issues

As the decade unfolded, jets became involved in accidents, some of which raised survivability issues. These triggered a host of cabin safety improvements later in the decade, including that safety cards were mandated by law. More about that in the next part.


August 2022
Email: f.schaefers@planet.nl

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AeroMech,AirLA,Allegheny Commuter,Atlantic Southeast,Bandierante,EMB-110,Embraer,PBA

THE EMBRAER EMB-110 BANDEIRANTE

By Robert G. Waldvogel

The Embraer EMB-110 is the story of a turboprop regional airliner, the aircraft manufacturer that was established to build it, and the foundation of the Brazilian aviation industry. Two people were instrumental during these developments: Ozires Silva and Max Holste. Previously, Embraer built various models of Piper aircraft under license and continued well into the 1970s.

The former, who served in the Brazilian Air Force, earned an engineering degree from the Aeronautical Institute of Technology in Brazil, and a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology in the US. He was promoted to the CTA’s Institute of Research and Development at the Aeronautical Technical Center in 1964 and became the catalyst for the country’s first commercial aircraft.

The former, who served in the Brazilian Air Force, earned an engineering degree from the Aeronautical Institute of Technology in Brazil, and a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology in the US. He was promoted to the CTA’s Institute of Research and Development at the Aeronautical Technical Center in 1964 and became the catalyst for the country’s first commercial aircraft.

“The CTA’s market research showed that a vacancy existed in a market segment in what would later become known as “feeder lines,” according to Jeffrey L. Rodengen in The History of Embraer (Wright Stuff Enterprises, Inc., 2009, p. 36).  “The research also revealed that airlines served just 45 Brazilian communities by the 1960s compared with 360 a decade ago.”

What was needed was a simple, rugged, reliable, low-capacity airplane that could operate from small-community, unprepared airfields that generated low-traffic demand, yet be profitable on short sectors characterized by comparatively high ratios of climb and descent to inflight cruise profiles.

The result was the IPD-6504, a low, straight-wing, twin-turboprop, conventional tail, retractable undercarriage design capable of carrying a dozen passengers.

Although its assembly began in 1966, conditions were hardly ideal: funding was rechanneled from other projects to breathe financial life into the transport, and only a single computer existed at the CTA’s campus three miles away. In order to avoid interference with student use, it was usually used throughout the night. The IPD-6504 designation also sounded too industrial.

To provide it with a better-sounding name, CTA Director Colonel Paulo Victor da Silva re-designated it “Bandeirante”—or “Pioneer”—to reflect the country’s 17th-century settlers who colonized the western portion of Brazil.  As what would later prove to be the first of Brazil’s turboprop and pure-jet airliner designs, it served in a pioneering role of its own.

Taking to the sky for the first time two years later on October 22, 1968, it rose into the air after a short acceleration run, at which time the numerous witnesses of the historic event raised their arms in unison “to commemorate a moment that was ours alone,” Ozires Silva later commented.

Two other prototypes respectively first flew on October 19, 1969, and June 26, 1970.  All three were Pratt and Whitney PT6A-20-powered and featured circular passenger windows and partially exposed main undercarriage wheels in the retracted position. They were alternatively designated  YC-95s for military use.

Integral to it was the aircraft manufacturer that was established to produce it, Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, or Embraer, which was approved by Brazilian Congress decree 770 on August 19, 1969, creating the country’s first state-owned concern, located in São José dos Campos.

“Since the beginning, the successful Bandeirante prototype served to inspire Brazil’s aviation ambitions,” according to Rodengen (ibid, p. 39).

While Max Holste left the project two months before Embraer’s approval was granted, the aircraft’s development continued to be led by his deputy.

Aside from Brazilian Air force C-95 orders, the Chilean Navy also operated three aircraft.

Reflecting its new manufacturer, the re-designated EMB-110, in production form, introduced several improvements, including 680-shp PT6A-27 turboprops that drove constant-speed, reversible-pitch propellers, a slightly longer fuselage with square passenger windows, a more aerodynamic windscreen, redesigned wings with integral fuel tanks, fries-type ailerons, double-slotted trailing edge flaps and modified engine nacelles in which the retracted main wheels were now fully enclosed.

Its single-wheel tires were developed by Goodyear’s Brazilian division and its cockpit was equipped with a Rockwell Collins Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) and a Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range (VOR).  It first flew on August 9, 1973.

Powered by PT6A-27 turboprops, the commercial EMB-110C featured a 46-foot, 8.25-inch overall length; a 15-passenger capacity, an aft left downward-hinged air-stair, a 50.3-foot wingspan with a corresponding 312-square-foot area and a 12,345-pound gross weight. Range depended upon ratios of payload to fuel, increasing from 153 miles with the former to 1,379 miles with the latter. Speed was 262 mph at 15,000 feet.

Transbrasil, the launch customer, ordered six aircraft and VASP followed suit with an order for five in 1973.

Rio Sul, another Brazilian commuter carrier, proved instrumental in demonstrating the aircraft’s design merits to potential customers. Whenever airline representatives visited Embraer’s São José dos Campos facility, they would be flown to the airline’s headquarters so that they could observe its reliable operation firsthand.

The Uruguayan Air Force became the EMB-110C’s first export customer when it purchased five in 1975. (See illustration below).

Rectifying its principal deficiency, the EMB-110P1 introduced an 18-passenger interior, configured with six three-breast, one-two-arranged seats with an offset aisle, and 750-shp PT6A-34 engines optimizing it for commuter or third-level airline operations. Belem, Brazil-based TABA (Transportes Aereas de Bacia Amazonica) became its launch customer.

Several variants of the baseline version were produced. The EMB-110A, of which two were operated by the Brazilian Air Force, incorporated navaid calibration instrumentation. The EMB-110B was an aerial photography platform. The EMB-110E was an executive version, seating seven in a luxurious interior. The EMB-110F was a pure freighter and the EMB-110K facilitated bulky and outsize shipment loading through a large cargo door. The EMB-110S was a geophysical survey variant.

The EMB-110P2 was basically the same as the P1 with the exception that the large aft cargo door was replaced with a second airstair entrance door. Featuring the 49-foot, 6.5-inch length of the EMB-110P1, accommodation for 18-19 passengers in seven three-abreast rows, and 750-shp PT6A-34 engines, Both P1 and P2 versions were offered with a 12,500-pound gross weight or 5900KG  (13,007 pound) gross weight. and first flew on May 3, 1977.

Sales often depended upon country of operation certification.

“Many of Embraer’s foreign markets already had domestic aviation manufacturers, often established decades earlier,” according to Rodengen (ibid, p. 70). “While the Embraer brand was becoming better known throughout the world, manufacturers based in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States already dominated their individual domestic markets.”

Because the Brazilian regional type had initially been influenced by French national Max Holste, it found its way “home,” to a degree, when it was awarded the French Direction Generale de l’AviationCivile (DGAC) certification, paving the way for its first European operation when local commuter carrier Air Littoral ordered two stretched EMB-110P2s on May 5, 1977.  Air Ecosse followed suit.

Other European certifications led to orders by Air Wales, BritAir, and Kar-Air, and Air Masling operated the type down-under when the Australian Department of Transportation granted its own type approval.

Gateway to the US market and FAA certification was Robert “Bob” Terry, who founded Mountain West Airlines, ordered three EMB-110P1s, and established the type’s sales agent, Aero Industries. Wyoming Airlines also ordered the Brazilian regional aircraft.

On the east coast, Connecticut-based NewAir, which was originally known as New Haven Airways, linked the state with the major New York airports, billing itself as “Connecticut’s Airline Connection,” as well as serving Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport, Philadelphia, and Washington-National. Some 20-weekday roundtrips, requiring 30 minutes for the aerial hop over Long Island Sound with its 18-passenger EMB-110s, connected New Haven and New London/Groton with the Metropolitan New York area.

Dolphin Airways, later Dolphin Airlines, was a significant operator based in Tampa, FL. It served cities in Florida plus Savanna, GA, Charleston, SC, and New Orleans, LA from 1982-1984 as a businessman’s airline.  In addition to a fleet of new EMB-110P1s delivered from the factory, short-term leases included a P2 (N614KC) and an older P1 (N101RA). 

PBA Provincetown Boston Airlines operated EMB-110P1s throughout Florida as a direct competitor to Dolphin Airlines and absorbed much of the Dolphin fleet after the latter ceased operations in January 1984. Seasonally, PBA fed PEOPLExpress and later Continental Airlines flights at Newark International Airport with its Bandeirantes, linking Farmingdale’s Republic Airport with five daily roundtrips.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Aeromech were other significant east coast operators as well as American Central Airlines and Tennessee Airways covered the Midwest United States.

On the west coast, Imperial Airlines provided its own EMB-110 shuttle between Los Angeles and San Diego. United Express and Dash Air were other significant operators in the Western States.

United States airlines ultimately operated 130 Bandeirantes—or more than a quarter—of the 501 aircraft of all versions produced between 1968 and 1990.

The EMB-110 competed in the regional airliner market with the Swearingen Metroliner and Beechcraft 1900 series but, suffered from a shorter range, slower speed, lack of pressurization, and a higher fuel consumption. Its acquisition price was lower because of the lower cost of manufacturing products in Brazil. All of the competing 18-passenger commuter types could comfortably accommodate those passengers while the double seats in the Bandeirante were quite cramped for adults. Most operators later reduced the seating to a total of 15 individual seats. Its commuter versions, particularly, demonstrated low-maintenance requirements, reliable service, passenger and cargo configuration flexibility, and enabled its operators to serve low-demand routes from unprepared fields previously never having received scheduled service and it often became the first type in a fledgling carrier’s fleet, enabling it to expand.

Many EMB-110 Bandeirante operators replaced their fleets with EMB-120 Brasilias and later went on to operate EMB-135/145 regional jet airliners.

“The existence of the Bandeirante led to the creation of smaller regional air travel services in Brazil and around the world, a global market that Embraer has come to dominate, thanks in part to the specialized, flexible, resilient Bandeirante,” Rodengen concludes (ibid, p. 43).

Brazilian Air Force Embraer YC-95 Bandeirante, FAB2131
Preserved in São José dos Campos, Brazil
Photo Courtesy: Raphael Albrecht
Uruguayan Air Force Embraer C-95 (110C)
Florianópolis Hercílio Luz International Airport (FLN) on July 7, 2016
Photo courtesy of Bruno Orifino
Note: the short fuselage and rear passenger entry door on this early Bandeirante model.
Allegheny Commuter, operated by Aeromech Commuter Airlines
Embraer EMB-110 P2, N614KC
Washington National Airport (DCA)
The P2 version had dual airstair doors instead of the large rear cargo door.
Photo Courtesy of Jay Selman via Airliners.net
Aeromech Commuter Airlines EMB-110 P2, N614KC
Pictured at Cincinnati (CVG) in May 1982
Photo Courtesy: Charlie Pyles/Air Pix
Note: The rear airstair is lowered.
Tennessee Airways EMB-110 P1, N103TN
Pictured at Cincinnati (CVG) May 1983
Photo Courtesy: Charlie Pyles/Air Pix
Provincetown Boston Airlines PBA
Embraer EMB-110 P1, N199PB seen at rest between flights
Photo Courtesy of Ellis Chernoff
Note: the modified horizontal stabilizer came about as a result of a mysterious in-flight loss of a PBA Bandeirante with the standard tail plane becoming detached from the aircraft in flight.
Atlantic Southeast EMB-110 P1s, N220EB and N404AS
As seen at Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) in 1987.
Photographer Unknown
Gary C. Orlando Slide Collection
Note: the standard Large Cargo Door found on the more widely produced P1 model.
Air LA Embraer EMB-110 P1, N101TN
Seen taxiing out from the Imperial Terminal at Los Angeles (LAX) in February 1993
Gary C. Orlando Photo.
Originally delivered to Tennessee Airways, it passed to Iowa Airways where it flew as a Midway Connection carrier as evidenced by the livery.

EMB-110 Article Sources

Green, William, and Swanborough, Gordon. An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Airliners. New York: Arco Publishing, Inc., 1982.

Hardy, Michael. World Civil Aircraft Since 1945. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979.

Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The History of Embraer. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida: Write Stuff Enterprises, Inc., 2009.

Waldvogel, Robert G. “The Airline History of Long Island’s Republic Airport.” Metropolitan Airport News. October 2021.

Waldvogel, Robert G. “The Commuter Airlines of Long Island MacArthur Airport.” EzineArticles. August 5, 2019.

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Delft,Houses,KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Miniature Delft-Style Collectibles of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

By Pat and Keith Armes

Three Delft blue-style KLM houses
(Fig. 1) L-R: Houses 100-102)

Have you noticed the many Delft-style miniature ceramic Dutch canal houses produced for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines? They have become quite an airline collectible since their introduction in 1952. There are now 102 different houses that have been produced and distributed to KLM passengers.  In addition, KLM has added limited and special edition Dutch buildings, tile “coasters,’ and ashtrays to this unique area of airline collectibles.

HISTORY

Beginning in 1952, passengers traveling in “KLM Royal Class” (as first class was known at the time) on intercontinental flights were given one of these miniature KLM Delft Blue houses as a “gift” at the end of their flight. In order to be compliant with international rules and restrictions for gifts to passengers, KLM was quick to ensure the “gift” was a “last drink on the house” and cleverly served in a miniature Delft replica canal house. They were individually packaged in a blue box labeled KLM Royal Class, with the house number on top, and included a leaflet picturing previously-issued miniatures. (Fig. 2). The houses varied in size from about 3 to 4 inches tall to 1 ½ to 2 inches wide.  Depth varied slightly, most being around 2 inches.  Over the years the houses were filled with alcohol (Dutch genever/gin) produced in the Dutch distilleries of Rynbende, Henkes, and, since the 1980s, Bols. Today a miniature KLM Delft Blue house is given to all passengers with a business class ticket.

(Fig. 2)

Production and distribution of the miniature houses was sporadic between 1952 and 1994, with many houses produced at one time, and then none for several years. Through 1993, KLM had produced 60 miniature houses. The year 1994 was significant, as it was the 75th anniversary of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. In honor of this milestone, an extra 15 houses (numbers 61-75) were produced to match the age of the airline. Annually since 1994, a new house is introduced on October 7th, KLM’s anniversary. The first production model is presented to the owner of the house the miniature is modeled after. The most recent house produced was #102, which began distribution on October 7, 2021.  It is modeled after the Tuschinski Theatre building in Amsterdam.

The houses were originally produced by Royal Goedewaagen in Gouda, the Netherlands. Even though not manufactured in Delft, they are made in the traditional Delft manner (tin-glazed porcelain, with blue printing and highlights).  KLM ended its contract with Royal Goedewaagen in 1995. Houses #75 and higher, as well as any additional production runs of the earlier numbered houses (reproductions), have been made in Taiwan. The houses are still in production today, so you may find some that have a low number, but are actually from a more recent production year. Beware if your plan is to complete your collection with “original” houses. In order to verify its authenticity, you should carefully examine any house you are considering for purchase. The reproduction houses were made from different molds and will normally have a slightly different “look,” with sharper features and different markings (Fig. 3).

(Fig. 3 additional description) The original house #1 (left) is marked on the base with an impressed “1”, stamped with “Rynbende Distilleries Holland,” and on the back there is a “KLM” stamp and a “Simon Rynbende & Sons” blue & white label. The second house is a reproduction of house #1 (center) which is marked on the base with an impressed “2015” and a “1″ stamped with “Blue Delft’s exclusively made for KLM by BOLS AMSTERDAM 1575” and the back has a “1” “BOLS AMSTERDAM 1575” and “KLM” stamped on it. The third house #1 (Right) is also a reproduction with a “1” impressed on the base along with a “Blue Delft’s exclusively made for KLM by BOLS Royal Distilleries Holland” stamp and “1”, “BOLS” and “KLM” stamped on the back.

HOUSE SELECTION

KLM has a team of real estate professionals and historians that make the recommendation for the next KLM Delft Blue house to be produced each year. The current manufacturing contract is with Bols (Royal Distilleries Holland). According to their requirements, the house must have “Dutch” character and be interesting architecturally and/or historically. It should also be linked to a special historical or cultural event, if possible. Many of the model houses selected are currently privately owned. They are also many that are designated as “local” or “national” monuments.

Most of the houses KLM has used as models have been identified by address and city. The exceptions include numbers 1, 3, 4, 5 & 7.  Identification and location of these houses continues to baffle city and architectural historians. It is speculated they may be the result of an artist adding features from many different houses to create a Dutch “fantasy” house.

LIMITED AND SPECIAL EDITION HOUSES

In addition to the canal houses, there are several well-known “Limited and Special Edition” buildings commissioned by KLM and produced by Bols in the same Delft style.  They were never given away on KLM flights, are not numbered, are larger than the miniature canal houses, and usually more valuable.  Shown below (Fig. 4-7) are the Frans Hals Museum (Groot Heiligland 62, Haarlem), the “Scheepvaart Museum” (National Maritime Museum), “The Royal Palace” (Palace on Dam Square), and “Kaaswaag Gouda” (Cheese Weigh House, Gouda).  They also produced the Hotel Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam (House Marot – Herengracht 548), Hermitage Museum (Amstel 5 Amsterdam), Royal Theater Carré (Amstel 115-125, Amsterdam), Royal Palace Het Loo (Koninklijk Park 1, Apeldorn), The Royal Concertgebouw (Concerthall – Concertgebouwplein 10, Amsterdam) and Huisterkleef (oldest inner tennis courts– Kleverlaan 9, Haarlem) as well as others.

(Fig. 4) The Frans Hals Museum, Groot Heiligland 62, Harleem

(Fig. 5) The Scheepvaart Museum (National Maritime Museum – Kattenburgerplein 1)
(Fig. 6) The Palace on Dam Square – The Royal Palace – Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 147
(Fig. 7) The Kaaswaag Gouda (The Cheese Weigh House – Markt 35, Gouda)

A larger version of the Palace on Dam Square (approximately 19.7” X 10.6” X 4.3”) is presented to the winner of the KLM Open Golf Tournament annually. Newlyweds flying KLM World Business Class on their honeymoon have, in the past, been gifted with a limited edition “The Palace on Dam Square” or the “Cheese Weigh house” in Gouda.

If you run across KLM houses #25, #26 or #27 that have purple-colored trim and lettering, you might want to add these elusive houses to your collection (Fig. 8).  They are a special set that was produced to commemorate KLM resuming flights to Bonaire, the Netherlands on April 23, 2000. They use the same design as the KLM houses, including the original numbers, and are appropriately called “Bonaire Houses.”

(Fig. 8) Bonaire purple lettered and highlighted houses

In 1999, the 100th anniversary of KLM, a 100th house was produced representing the Huis ten Bosch Palace (Fig. 1). A second version was also produced and given as a special gift to guests, business partners, and the employees of KLM.  This version was unique in that it did not have alcohol in it, and consequently did not need a chimney.  It also has a special dedication stamp on the back of the house (Fig. 9).

(Fig. 9)

IN ADDITION TO KLM HOUSES AND BUILDINGS

During the 1980s KLM also produced Dutch ceramic tile “coasters” with blue felt affixed to the back. These were given to business class passengers, while the Royal Class passengers received the miniature KLM canal houses. These tile coasters featured classic Dutch house gables (produced in 1981), row houses that could be placed together to form a street (produced in 1984), and Dutch windmills, crafts, children’s games and ships (produced in 1986).   When Royal Class was discontinued in 1994, KLM discontinued producing these tiles. World Business Class passengers were then given the KLM miniature houses.

At one time KLM also produced ashtrays, in the form of miniature houses, for distribution in markets that did not allow alcohol to be served, such as the Middle East (Fig. 14).

(Fig. 14)
(Fig. 15)

Once smoking was banned on airlines, KLM began offering the same miniature houses with special notations on them: “empty due to customs regulations” (Fig. 15).  This is still the practice today for those destinations.

CANAL HOUSE MARKINGS

The KLM miniature canal houses produced through 2021 are House #1 through House #102. Photos of our collection are at the end of this article. While collecting, we noticed that the labels and markings on the KLM houses changed many times over the years. Our research indicates that Rynbende started the distillery in 1793, then in 1953 it was sold to Henkes and was then taken over by Bols in the 1980s. The earlier (original) houses have the Rynebende stamp, the house number impressed, and usually a “Simon Rynebende & Sons” paper label attached. The numbers are sometimes difficult to read and the labels may have been lost over time. In another version, the house number is printed on the base between the “Rynebende” and “Distilleries Holland” while others have “Blue Delft’s Made for HENKES Distilleries Holland” printed on the base (Fig. 16). At some point in the early years, the production year was added and impressed on the base of each house along with house number. This marking method was also used in later years on the reproductions (Fig. 17).

We have a House #1, in our collection, labeled as “made for KLM by BOLS” and a House #1 that has a “made for KLM by BOLS AMSTERDAM 1575” with the year 2015 on it (Fig. 3). Originally House #1 was distributed to passengers in 1952, but BOLS did not take over the distillery until the 1980s, so they are more than likely reproductions. In the center house on Fig. 17 you will notice that there is a marking “HKDNP” which is the abbreviation of “Hong Kong Duty Not Paid” so at some point it must have been in transit (from Taiwan) through Hong Kong.

MOST WELL-KNOWN MINIATURES

Most of the houses have an interesting history that directly relates to when they were built and events that were taking place at the time. Most of the canal houses have had multiple owners over the years with some being built as early as the 1600s. Over the hundreds of years they have existed, and with many owners, the canal houses’ appearance has often changed from the original construction. These include cornice modifications and architectural embellishments.  Many of the houses have been saved from destruction and restored back to their original look thanks to preservation foundations. One of those is the Vereniging Hendrick de Keyser (named after the famous Dutch architect of the same name) which purchases, preserves and restores houses with architectural and historical value in the Netherlands.

Below are some of the more well-known buildings used as KLM Miniatures

  • House #47 at Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, known as the Anne Frank House. It was built in 1635. This is the canal house in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family hid to avoid persecution by the Nazis during World War II. They lived in hiding there from July 6, 1942, until August 4, 1944. Anne recorded her story in a series of diaries which her father had published in 1947 after his return from the concentration camps. The house is currently operated as a museum and is owned by the Anne Frank Foundation. It attracts more than a million visitors each year.
  • House #48 at Josenbreesstraat 4, Amsterdam, known as the Rembrandt House. The house was built in 1606 on three vacant lots. Rembrandt van Rijn owned it from 1639 until 1656 when he went bankrupt. The house was purchased by the Amsterdam City Council in 1906 and currently operates as the Rembrandthuis Museum.
  • House #75 at Hofweg 9-11, The Hague, known as the KLM House. The building was built in 1915 as a luxury department store. It was designed by the famous modern Dutch architect, H.P. Berlage. The corner building at 9 Hofweg was occupied by an automobile sales company on the 1st floor. KLM occupied the upper floors as a ticketing office beginning May 1925. KLM continues to operate, in the Berlage building, offering many services including a KLM Travel Clinic. The sandstone relief structure on the front of the building is of Saint Martin handing half of his cloak to a beggar.
  • House #76 at Vlamingstraat 40-42, Delft, known as “The Little Street.” Johannes Vermeer is an important Dutch painter who lived from 1632-1675. His famous paintings include “View of the Houses in Delft,” which is better known as “The Little Street,” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” His attention to detail required long periods of time to complete paintings so there are only 36 known paintings by this artist. After an exhaustive search, it was determined the house depicted in the painting by Vermeer was of the Little House which is also the model for KLM House #76.
  • House #26 at Nieuwe Uitleg 16, The Hague, known as a secret hideaway for secret agent Mata Hari. Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer born in 1876 who later became a spy for Germany, England, and later France. She lived in the house at Uitleg 16 in 1914 until she was executed in France for espionage on October 15, 1917.
  • House #95 at Stadhouderskade 78, Amsterdam, known as the Heineken Brew House. The original red brick building on Stadhouderskade was built in 1865 with a boiler building next door to house the steam engine. The new brewhouse was erected in 1913 with distinct lancet-shaped windows and colorful stained-glass panes. A second brewery was built on the property in 1958 and a laboratory was added in 1968 but the complex became too small due to the demand and production moved out of Amsterdam in 1987. The house has reopened as a visitors’ center for the “Heineken Experience.”
  • House #102 at Reguliersbreestraat 26-34, Amsterdam is the Tuschinski Theatre, which is one of the oldest original theatres in the world. It is a 1920s movie palace located in Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square) in City Center. This cinema was opened by Polish immigrant Icek Tuschinski on October 28, 1921, and has been restored to its original grandeur. It is on the list of Rijkmonuments (National Monuments) of the Netherlands.

OUR KLM HOUSE COLLECTION

Below are images of our personal collection of KLM Houses (Fig. 18-27).

(Fig. 18) L-R: Houses 1-12
(Fig. 19) L-R: Houses 13-24
(Fig. 20) L-R: Houses 25-36
(Fig. 21) :-R: Houses 37-48
(Fig. 22) L-R: Houses 49-60
(Fig. 23) L-R: Houses 61-72
(Fig. 24) L-R: Houses 73-84
(Fig. 25) L-R: Houses 85-94
(Fig. 26) L-R: Houses 95-99
(Fig. 27) L-R: Houses 100-102

WHERE TO FIND KLM DELFT MINIATURES

There are several ways to obtain these KLM Delft Miniatures. The first, and most expensive, would be to purchase a business class ticket on a KLM international flight and receive one on board that day. Airline memorabilia shows are another good source, where vendors usually have a selection of these KLM miniatures for sale. Information on these shows can be found on this site with the next annual Airliners International show scheduled in Dallas, TX, in June 2023. Internet Auction Sites, such as Ebay and Etsy, have sellers that offer these miniatures at varying prices (be careful of bidding wars that may overinflate the value). There are also two websites that offer the entire collection so you can fill in missing houses and obtain new releases for your collection. These websites are www.klmhouses.com and www.klmdutchhouses.com. The shipping is expensive to the U.S. but the cost is the same for a single house or multiple houses, so buying in quantity can greatly reduce the shipping cost per house.

RESOURCES

The book, House No. 90, written by Bonnie Parren and Limoen Producties in 2009 for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, is a very interesting introductory reading related to the KLM miniature houses. As indicated by its title, the history only goes through house #90 and the descriptions of the actual model houses are very brief. This book comes in a nice box with a “relief” style plastic house #90 glued to the cover.

House No. 90

The second book used for research and highly recommended is Little Kingdom By the Sea: A Tribute to Dutch Cultural Heritage written by Mark Zegeling and published in 2019.  It has very detailed information about the history of each KLM model house, including the current status of most of them.  It also has helpful maps of Amsterdam and the Netherlands which show the location of the model houses still in existence. See Appendix 1 for house listing.

Little Kingdom By the Sea

COLLECTING THOUGHTS

Hopefully, this review of the KLM miniature houses and other specialty items will help you in finding and identifying these unique collectibles. Or, as this is just one small group of the thousands of gift and advertising items airlines have produced from their beginning (from commemorative plates and glasses to kiddie wings and beyond), it will whet your appetite in seeking those airline items that you find most desirable to collect. After all, it’s finding that one special new or historical airline item that makes collecting so much fun!

Happy Collecting,

Pat and Keith Armes


APPENDIX 1

Below is a listing of the KLM Houses, with numbering sequence and the Address and City of the modeled house as referenced in the book Little Kingdom by the Sea.

HOUSE#ADDRESSCITY
#1UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE
#2SPUISTRAAT 294AMSTERDAM
#3UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE
#4UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE
#5UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE
#6ACHTER HET HOFPLEINMIDDELBURG
#7UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE
#8OUDEZIJDS VOORBURGWAL (OLD RAMPART) 18A/BAMSTERDAM
#9LEIDSEGRACHT 10AMSTERDAM
#10OUDEZIJDS VOORBURGWAL 57AMSTERDAM
#11PIJLSTEEG 31 (Same as house #23)AMSTERDAM
#12ZANDHOEK 4AMSTERDAM
#13KAMP 10AMERSFOORT
#14HERENGRACHT 510AMSTERDAM
#15VOORSTRAAT 282DORDRECHT
#16HOUTMARKT 17HAARLEM
#17SPIERINGSTRAAT 1-3  (Same as house #25)GOUDA
#18OUDEGRACHT 111UTRECHT
#19RAPENBURG 31LEIDEN
#20DAMPLEIN 8EDAM
#21MARKT 47DELFT
#22KAAI 25VEERE
#23PIJLSTEEG 31 (Same as house #11)AMSTERDAM
#24MIENT 31ALKMAAR
#25SPIERINGSTRAAT 1-3 (Same as house #17)GOUDA
#26NIEUWE UITLEG 16THE HAGUE
#27NIEUWEHAVEN 59 – DESTROYED BY FIRE 1940ROTTERDAM
#28GROOTE MARKT 2A – DESTROYED BY FIRE 1940ROTTERDAM
#29KORT GALGEWATER 21LEIDEN
#30HIPPOLYTUSBUURT 26DELFT
#31KOORNMARKT 87DELFT
#32KOORNMARKT 81DELFT
#33VOORHAVEN 12ROTTERDAM
#34WIJNHAVEN 16DELFT
#35OUDE DELFT 39DELFT
#36HIPPOLYTUSBUURT 8DELFT
#37OUDEZIJDS VOORBURGWAL 300AMSTERDAM
#38HERENGRACHT 607AMSTERDAM
#39NIEUWEWEG 12 HINDELOOPEN
#40KEIZERSGRACHT 104AMSTERDAM
#41SINT JACOBSSTRAAT 13LEEUWARDEN
#42PRINSENGRACHT 514AMSTERDAM
#43PRINSENGRACHT 516AMSTERDAM
#44HOOGLANDSE KERKGRACHT 19LEIDEN
#45KEIZERSGRACHT 140AMSTERDAM
#46BEGIJNHOF 27AMSTERDAM
#47PRINSENGRACHT 263AMSTERDAM
#48JODENBREESTRAAT 4AMSTERDAM
#49FR+B13IESESTRAAT 42COEVORDEN
#50ROZENGRACHT 106AMSTERDAM
#51VOORSTRAAT 49FRANEKER
#52HERENGRACHT 415AMSTERDAM
#53HERENGRACHT 203AMSTERDAM
#54PRINSENGRACHT 773AMSTERDAM
#55OUDE SLUIS 19SCHIEDAM
#56HERENGRACHT 64AMSTERDAM
#57HERENGRACHT 95AMSTERDAM
#58HERENGRACHT 101AMSTERDAM
#59HERENGRACHT 163AMSTERDAM
#60HERENGRACHT 314AMSTERDAM
#61KEIZERSGRACHT 439AMSTERDAM
#62PRINSENGRACHT 305AMSTERDAM
#63KEIZERSGRACHT 407AMSTERDAM
#64KEIZERSGRACHT 755AMSTERDAM
#65KEIZERSGRACHT 487AMSTERDAM
#66KEIZERSGRACHT 403AMSTERDAM
#67PRINSENGRACHT 721AMSTERDAM
#68PRINSENGRACHT 969AMSTERDAM
#69KEIZERSGRACHT 319AMSTERDAM
#70KONINGSSTRAAT 4ALKMAAR
#71SINGEL 81AMSTERDAM
#72SINGEL 87AMSTERDAM
#73DIJK 11ALKMAAR
#74REGULIERSGRACHT 7AMSTERDAM
#75HOFWEG 9-11THE HAGUE
#76VLAMINGSTRAAT 40-42DELFT
#77SCHOOLSTRAAT 2BREDA
#78LEIDSEGRACHT 51AMSTERDAM
#79LANGE HAVEN 74-76SCHIEDAM
#80GRAVENSTRAAT 18AMSTERDAM
#81WAAGPLEIN 1GRONINGEN
#82BONNEFANTENSTRAAT 5MAASTRICHT
#83KEIZERGRACHT 672AMSTERDAM
#84MUNTPROMENADE 7WEERT
#85HEERENSTRAAT 1CURACAO
#86SPAARNE 16HAARLEM
#87WIERDIJK 12ENKHUIZEN
#88ROZENGRACHT 99-101AMSTERDAM
#89MUURHUIZEN 109AMERSFOORT
#90AMSTELDIJK NOORD 55AMSTELVEEN
#91BADHUISWEG 175THE HAGUE
#92BRINK 55DEVENTER
#93RAPENBURG 19LEIDEN
#94KOGERSTRAAT 1DEN BURG/TEXEL
#95STADHOUDERSKADE 78AMSTERDAM
#96KORTENDIJK 67GORINCHEM
#97KONINGINNENHOOFD 1ROTTERDAM
#98KLEINE HOUTWEG 65HAARLEM
#9997 MIDSTRAATJOURE
#100‘S-GRAVENHAAGSE BOS 10THE HAGUE
#101‘S-HERTOGENBOSCH MARKET 79‘S-HERTOGENBOSCH
#102REGULIERSBREESTAAT 26-34AMSTERDAM

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Midway Airport

Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) in Postcards

By Marvin G. Goldman

Chicago’s Midway Airport, originally named “Chicago Municipal Airport,” opened in 1927 at Cicero Avenue between 55th and 63rd Streets, about nine miles from the center of downtown Chicago. The site was owned by the Chicago Board of Education through a 19th-century federal government land grant that allocated one square mile of every 365 for a school. So, at the time the City of Chicago acquired use of the site in 1926, it was one square mile in size, with only a small grammar school in one corner, and the rest was devoted to growing onions. Because of housing development outside the perimeter of the field, Midway Airport today remains on that same one square mile (plus only a small extension with a few structures).

By the end of 1927, six airlines operated from Chicago Municipal Airport, including predecessor airlines of Braniff, Chicago and Southern, Eastern, Northwest, TWA, and United, and in the mid-1930s American joined them. Amazingly, by 1932 Chicago Municipal claimed the title of “busiest airport in the world,” and it remained so until 1961 when airlines moved to the new suburban Chicago O’Hare Airport.

Postcards of Chicago Municipal Airport through the years

The 1930s

United Air Lines Boeing 247D
United Air Lines Boeing 247D, NC13361, at Chicago Municipal Airport, 1933. Publisher Real Photographs Co., Liverpool, England, no. 396.
Chris Slimmer collection.

The Boeing 247 entered service in March 1933, immediately becoming the most modern aircraft at the time, with all-metal construction and much higher speed. United Air Lines received the first production models and placed 30 in service by June 1933. Chicago Municipal became a major hub in United’s coast-to-coast east-west service.

Photo of American Airlines aircraft at Chicago Municipal in Airport 1935.
American Airlines Curtiss Condor and Stinson aircraft at Chicago Municipal Airport, about 1935. Part of a set of at least four different Chicago Municipal Airport postcards. Pub’r C. R. Childs Co., Chicago, no. 5004-4.
Chris Slimmer collection.

Originally, United had a monopoly on the first Boeing 247s being produced, leaving other airlines, such as American, to rely on older types such as those shown.
Chicago Municipal Airport postcard with inset drawings of a United Air Lines Boeing 247D, NC13661, its interior and baggage handling and a drawing of the airport’s runways.
Chicago Municipal Airport postcard with inset drawings of a United Air Lines Boeing 247D, NC13661, its interior and baggage handling, and a drawing of the airport’s runways, 1937. Printed by Curteich, no. 7A-H725, and distributed by J.O. Stoll Co., no. 155, each of Chicago.

Amusingly, the dark larger stylized aircraft drawing on this card shows four engines, but the Boeing 247 only had two.
American Airlines Douglas DC-2, NC14922, and Braniff Airways DC-2 at Chicago Municipal Airport.
American Airlines Douglas DC-2, NC14922, and Braniff Airways DC-2 at Chicago Municipal Airport. Pub’r Gerson Bros., Chicago; Printed by Metrocraft, Everett, Massachusetts. Postmarked 27 September 1938.

The Boeing 247 remained the top airliner for only a very short time. By mid-1934 Douglas Aircraft introduced the DC-2 which was superior to the 247. TWA was the first to operate the DC-2, and other airlines serving Chicago soon followed.

TWA Douglas DC-3 DST, NC17314, at Chicago Municipal Airport. Pub’r Ferris, no. 106-1. Ex-Deke Billings collection.

The DC-3, introduced in 1936, improved on the DC-2 and became a classic success. The DST version included sleeping berths. TWA acquired the pictured aircraft in January 1937.
Some postcard publishers would take black and white photos and colorize them.
Here is the same view as the preceding, but colorized and with added blue sky, puffy white clouds, and trees! Pub’r A. C. McClurg & Co.,
Chicago, no. 5467.
United Air Lines Douglas DC-3 at Chicago Municipal Airport
United Air Lines Douglas DC-3 at Chicago Municipal Airport.
Airline issue, about 1937.
Back of the preceding card.
Back of the preceding card.
The text shows how United embraced the DC-3 following the short reign of its Boeing 247s.

The 1940s

Following the end of World War II in 1945, Chicago Municipal Airport became busier than ever. To cope with the high volume of passengers, it opened a new larger terminal in 1947-1948, with distinctive rounded upper floors in the center, including the noted “Cloud Room” restaurant.

American Airlines Douglas DC-4 and DC-3 at Chicago Municipal Airport about 1948
American Airlines Douglas DC-4 and DC-3 at Chicago Municipal Airport about 1948, with the newly built terminal in the background.
Real Photo Postcard, Groganphoto, Danville IL.

In June 1949 the Chicago City Council changed the airport’s name to “Midway Airport” in honor of World War II’s Battle of Midway in the Pacific Ocean.

The 1950s-1960s

By 1950 fifteen scheduled airlines, as well as several nonscheduled ones, served Midway Airport. By 1952 passenger volume reached 5 milliion, and passenger numbers peaked at 10 million in 1959. Continuing throughout the 1950s and until 1961, Midway remained a beehive of activity on its one square mile – the busiest airport in the world.

Chicago Midway Airport aerial view showing numerous propliners, 1950s
Chicago Midway Airport aerial view showing numerous propliners, 1950s.
Pub’r Cameo, Chicago; printer Colourpicture, Boston, no. K5484.
Ramp side of Midway’s new terminal building, with a Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-3. 1950s.
Ramp side of Midway’s new terminal building, with a Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-3. 1950s. Pub’r H. S. Crocker Co., Chicago, no. CGO39, William Nawodylo photo.
Midway Airport's Crowded Ramp Space in the 1950s,
Midway Airport’s crowded ramp space in the 1950s, showing North Central DC-3, N21729; Lake Central DC-3, N21713; TWA and Eastern Constellations; and an Ozark DC-3.
Published by jjpostcards.com, and issued by Airliners InternationalTM 2022 Chicago as postcard no. 1 of a 12 postcard set available at that show. Photo by Steve Pinnow.
TWA Lockheed 049 Constellation at Chicago Midway, 1950s.
TWA Lockheed 049 Constellation at Chicago Midway, 1950s. Pub’r Buss Bros., Chicago, no. 71839, Jack Taylor photo, printer Dexter Press.
TWA Martin 4-0-4 and Other Propliners
TWA Martin 4-0-4 and other propliners viewed from the observation deck, Chicago Midway. 1954. Pub’r Aero Dist’g CK-153,
Curteichcolor 4C-K776.
Chicago & Southern DC-4 and Northwest B377 at Chicago Midway, 1950s
Chicago & Southern DC-4 and Northwest B377 Stratocruiser at Chicago Midway, 1950s. Pub’r Dexter Press no. 50098.
TWA Lockheed 1049G Super Constellation Tail, N7117C, Northwest B377 and Other Propliners at Chicago Midway
TWA Lockheed 1049G Super Constellation Tail, N7117C, Northwest B377 Stratocruiser and other propliners at Chicago Midway, late 1950s.
Pub’r Cameo; Plastichrome no, P13985.
Capital Airlines DC-3, Vickers Viscount, and Constellation at Chicago Midway
Capital Airlines DC-3, Vickers Viscount, and Constellation at Chicago Midway, between 1955 and 1960.
Pub’r Cameo; Plastichrome no. P13986.
TWA Lockheed Constellation at Midway Airport, 1959
TWA Lockheed Constellation at Midway Airport, 1959.Pub’r Aero Dist’g, Chicago, no. CK.267, Curteichcolor no. 9C-1476.
One of the most beautiful airport postcards.

By the late 1950s, some foreign airlines started flying into Midway Airport, including Air France, Lufthansa, and Brazil’s REAL. Soon the airport was renamed “Midway International Airport.”

Meanwhile, the burgeoning number of daily flights and passengers at Midway in the 1950s, the increased use of larger, four-engine aircraft, and the lack of room for expansion, compelled the City of Chicago to develop another airport, which became O’Hare, to handle future air traffic as well as the new generation of pure jet aircraft arriving in 1959 and thereafter. Expansive O’Hare Airport, 31 miles from Midway, opened in 1955. By 1961 almost all the major airlines consolidated their Chicago operations at O’Hare, in July 1962 United was the last to move, and O’Hare took off on its path to becoming America’s busiest airport. Midway became a shadow of its former self, with only a little over 400,000 passengers being handled during all of 1963.

The 1970s-1990s

By the late 1970s, O’Hare Airport began experiencing its own growing pains and air traffic congestion. With the passage of the U.S. airline deregulation act of 1978, low-cost carriers developed. They found it difficult to get slots to operate at O’Hare, but noticed that Midway was largely empty, much closer to downtown Chicago, able to accommodate smaller, two-engine jets, and available. A startup airline, named Midway Airlines, launched operations in 1979 with Douglas DC-9 jets and made Midway Airport its home base. This was the beginning of Midway Airport’s revival.

Midway Airlines Douglas DC-9 Departing Chicago Midway Airport, 1980s
Midway Airlines Douglas DC-9 Departing Chicago Midway Airport, 1980s.
Published by the then Midway Chapter of the World Airline Historical Society and printed by McGrew Color Graphics.
Midway Airlines Takeoff from Chicago Midway Airport, Airline Issue,1980s
Midway Airlines Takeoff from Chicago Midway Airport, airline issue, 1980s.
The airline’s advertising emphasized the closeness of Midway Airport to downtown Chicago, appealing to businessmen and tourists alike.
Chicago Express Airlines, ATA Connection, Saab 340B, N306CE
Chicago Express Airlines, ATA Connection, Saab 340B, N306CE, airline issue by American Trans Air, between 2000 and 2005.

ATA, based in Indianapolis, IN, opened a hub at Chicago Midway in 1992. It set up “ATA Connection,” operated by its subsidiary Chicago Express Airlines, based at Midway, to provide commuter service from Chicago Midway to surrounding Midwest cities using Saab 340B aircraft.

Most significantly, Southwest Airlines started serving Midway Airport in 1985 and became, by far, its leading air carrier.  By 2001 Southwest was operating 121 daily flights to Chicago Midway.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700, N918WN, in Southwest’s special ‘Illinois One’ livery
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700, N918WN, in Southwest’s special ‘Illinois One’ livery, honoring the State of Illinois, home of Chicago Midway.
Pub’r World Collectors Cards no. 1002. Joerg Jaeggin collection, and available from jjpostcards.com.

In 1997, with air traffic at Midway rapidly increasing, the City of Chicago announced the Midway Terminal Development Program, and a new, modern terminal was opened in March 2001.  I have not seen any postcards showing this new terminal at Chicago Midway; if you know of any, please let me know.

The 21st Century

Over 10 million passengers utilized Midway Airport each year from 2014 to 2019, marking a return to its prior peak year of 10 million passengers in 1959. As of May 2022, 10 airlines were serving Chicago Midway. Southwest is by far the largest airline at Midway, operating 73 of 123 routes. The other airlines presently serving Midway, in order of activity, are Frontier, Delta, Volaris, United, Sun Country, Allegiant, J-Air, Tradewind Aviation, and Kalitta Charters.

Notes

All postcards shown are in the author’s collection except as noted. I estimate their rarity as follows: 

  • Rare: the American Airlines card in black and white;
  • Uncommon: the United B247 and DC-3, and TWA DC-3, cards in black and white; and the cards showing a Delta DC-3, Ozark DC-3, Lockheed Super G Constellation with fuel truck, and Chicago Express/ATA Connection Saab 340.
  • The rest of the postcards are fairly common.

A new set of 12 postcards related to O’Hare and Midway Airports, issued by Airliners International 2022 ORD and published by jjpostcards.com, will be available at Airliners International’s 2022 show and convention described at the end of this article.

For collectors interested in aviation trading cards, 60 airports in the U.S. and Canada that are members of the Airports Council International—North America, have been periodically issuing airport trading cards as part of a North American Airport Collectors Series.  The cards are 2-1/2” x 3-1/2” in size (about 6 x 9 cm.). Ken Bateman advised me that one of these airports issuing such trading cards in recent years is Midway Airport.

References

Lynch, Christopher. Chicago’s Midway Airport. Lake Claremont Press, 2002.

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.

Lee, Chris. “Midway.” Airways Magazine, September 2018, pp. 32-43.

Chicago Midway International Airport.

Flychicago.com.

www.midwayhistorians.com/photos.html contains link to a large photo album by Midway historian Pat Bukiri.

Wikipedia entry on “Midway International Airport.”

See also my companion article, “Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Postcards,” in wahsonline.com, Captain’s Log, Postcard Corner section (2021).

In closing

I hope to see you at Airliners International™ 2022 Chicago, June 23-25, 2022, at the Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare Hotel. This is the world’s largest airline history and airline collectibles show and convention, with over 200 vendor tables for buying, selling, and swapping airline memorabilia (including, of course, airline postcards), seminars, the annual meeting of the World Airline Historical Society, annual banquet, tours and more. The show. will have available a new set of 12 postcards published by jjpostcards.com related to Midway and O’Hare Airports.

Consider entering the Postcard Contest at the AI 2022 show. More information is available at airlinersinternational.org. Follow this link for the Postcard Contest Rules.

Until then,

Happy collecting. Marvin


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Britt Airways,Chicago Air Lines,Fairchild Hiller,FH-227,N239MA,N378NE,Tail chasers

FH-227 on ramp

My First FH-227 Flight

By Gary C. Orlando

It wasn’t until 1987 that I would actually get to fly on the Fairchild Hiller FH-227 having been obsessed with this aircraft since before I entered Kindergarten in 1972. It was first introduced to me serving our local airport of Rock Falls, IL (SQI) by Ozark Air Lines. Afraid of it at first because of its screaming-loud Rolls-Royce Dart engines, it soon became my favorite airplane of all time.

On September 25, 1987, I took a 25-minute flight from Moline, IL (MLI) to Burlington, IA (BRL) and back. The outbound flight was Continental Express/Britt flight 4723, scheduled to depart at 12:35 PM arriving at 1:00 PM. The aircraft that day was N378NE, the same plane that graced the skies over Rock Falls six years earlier while operating a charter flight for Britt. N378NE was originally delivered on November 2, 1966, to Northeast Airlines where it flew until Northeast merged with Delta in 1972. N378NE was one of only two FH-227Cs that Delta actually used in regular service before selling all of the former Northeast FH-227s to Air New England in early 1975.

Back at Moline with my ticket in hand, I walked across the ramp to climb the airstair door. I was giddy with excitement! As I entered the aircraft I noticed the interior was just the same as it appeared in the Air New England article written by my friend Rand Peck, that I had read many years earlier in an issue of Airline Quarterly magazine. There were no overhead bins; only racks for coats, hats or small carry-on items. Another curious thing was the seat numbers started with seat row number One in the rear of the plane, getting higher in number going forward, up to row number Twelve. I had my tape recorder with me and I took my seat: 10A, by the propeller on the left-hand side of the aircraft.

View looking out an airplane window
This was my view shortly after takeoff out of Moline headed down to Burlington. Seat 10A, quite noisy but, neat!

Since I was the only person getting on the plane in Moline, Sheri, our flight attendant, came directly over to give me a personal safety briefing. She didn’t announce who our pilots were. I guess I should have asked but, I was just too excited!

Flight attendant in airplane cabin
This was Sheri, our flight attendant, after landing in Burlington. She was very kind to pose for a picture.

I had actually flown on my first Fokker F.27 flight a year previously with Chicago Air Lines to and from Moline to Chicago Midway Airport (MDW). Engine startup was much the same on the FH-227 as it was the F.27; the only noticeable difference was the 227 was a lot louder. However, the real difference came at takeoff time. While the newer Fokker F.27 had been quieter, almost a muffled sound, the FH-227C was very loud. The typical staccato sound emitted by the pointed props was clearly heard in the FH-227. The F.27 was much quieter with its square-tipped props. I like loud, so I was happy.

Fokker F.27-500 on ramp
A year earlier on August 26, 1986, I flew on this Chicago Air Lines Fokker F.27-500, N239MA, seen here after arrival from Chicago Midway Airport prior to our eventual return.

After we landed in Burlington, the Britt agents allowed me to do a little walk-around photoshoot of this big ol’ bird that I had just flown on. I only wish we had digital cameras back then because I would have hammered that plane with pictures. Enjoy the shots of my walk around of N378NE.

Between the two flights, my time in Burlington was spent hanging out at the airport and exploring. I made quick friends with one of the Britt agents named Gary Freitag. We had a nice conversation about Britt and my interest in the airline and especially the Fairchilds. All too soon it was time to climb back aboard for my return to Moline.

Our return flight was Continental Express/Britt flight 4756. It was scheduled to depart at 3:15 PM and arrive back in Moline at 3:40 PM, where it would then return to Chicago.

As I boarded the airplane I would again be welcomed by Flight Attendant Sheri, along with Captain Wiles and First Officer Munson as our pilots. On this leg back up to Moline, I took a more central spot under the wing (Seat 7A) to get a different sound, which indeed it was. The sound wasn’t as “proppy,” as I coined the term. The row of seats was even with the center of the engine nacelle, providing an excellent vantage to hear the characteristic in-flight whine of the Rolls-Royce Dart engines and to watch the main gear cycle up and down. That whine really becomes more pronounced after takeoff when the pilot reduces engine RPM by opening up the props to take a bigger bite of the air. The approach for landing is interesting, to say the least. It’s almost a “dive bomber” approach, especially on short final. Altogether, it’s a different ride than in a low wing plane because it feels like the plane is hanging on the wings instead of sitting on the wing.

After my arrival back in Moline, I quickly headed back outside with enough time to record audio of N378NE starting up and taxiing out for its departure back to Chicago.

It was a great little adventure that I would repeat a month later on October 27, 1987, but next time on Britt Fairchild F.27, N386BA.

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Air France,American Overseas Airlines,BOAC,Ditching,Egress,Northwest Airlines,Pan American,Panagra,PAWA,Safety cards,Safety first,Safety leaflet,TWA

History of Safety Cards, Part 2: The Ditching Decade

By Fons Schaefers

Trammel Again

World War Two confirmed the United States (US) as the leader of world civil aviation. The war, which started in Europe and lasted the longest there, caused the European players to lose the dominant position they had gained in the pioneer years of the 1920s and 1930s. In the United States, civil aviation could develop fairly uninterrupted. The Douglas DC-3 became the norm in air travel from 1936 onwards and throughout the war years. It solidified the dominant position that the United States, by now, had reached in civil aviation not only in terms of technology and traffic volume but, also in terms of safety regulatory standards. A position that it has kept ever since.

In the first part of this series, we saw the very first signs of what we now know as cabin safety. An improvement in exit marking and lighting was made in response to the 1943 Trammel accident, but there was also the issue of the exit handles not being apparent to passengers. Coming back to the question about the first safety card in the US, it was brought to my attention that two airlines introduced specific printed instructions to passengers. Presumably, they were inspired by Trammel.

United Airlines added to its flight information folder an item on the location of the control of the ‘auxiliary exits’ in their DC-3s.

United Airlines, c. 1943
TWA, c. 1943

TWA went a step further and added in its “Welcome aboard” folder detailed cabin diagrams of the three DC-3 versions in their fleet indicating exits and equipment. I reproduce the model 277 which has the cabin door at the RH rear side. Instructions for operating the three auxiliary exits are given below the diagram. No instructions were given for opening the main door, however.

While not being true safety cards, these two publications can certainly be seen as forerunners.

Ditching Safety Leaflets

Proper leaflets dedicated entirely to passenger safety followed in the year immediately after the end of the war. Their subject invariably was passenger preparation for ditching. I am aware of leaflets first issued by Pan American World Airways (PAWA), American Overseas Airlines (AOA) and BOAC in 1946, Air France in 1947, SAS[1] and United Airlines in 1948 and TWA and Panagra in 1949. More airlines would follow in the 1950s, as we will see later. Here are some front pages. AOA was the international arm of American Airlines. It flew to Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and West Germany. The three languages (English, Dutch and Swedish) represent these countries, except for Germany. It may well be that the volume of German passengers in those years was too low to merit the extra translation. AOA was bought by PAWA in 1950. PAWA’s leaflet shown is the 1947 issue.

American Overseas Airlines
Pan American World Airways, c. 1947

[1]SAS called their ditching leaflets ‘Safety at Sea’ so as to alliterate with their own name.


British Overseas Airways Corporation
Air France
Pan American-Grace Airways (Panagra)

What caused this surge of safety leaflets and why were they all about ditching? The answer is threefold.

Still fresh in contemporary minds was a notable water accident that occurred just before the war. On its way from New York to Bermuda on January 21, 1939, an Imperial Airways Short Empire flying boat named Cavalier had to make a forced landing halfway along its oceanic journey. It broke up upon impact and sank shortly after. All 13 occupants had survived the impact, but three drowned. The flying boat had no life rafts on board and, for that matter, neither did it have seat belts. The only life-saving equipment on board was 22 ‘seat-type’ and six ‘crew-type’ ‘rubber life belts’ (life vests)[1]. Of these 28 life vests only eight were used, four of each. The survivors clung to them for 10 hours in the water, which was moderately warm, before rescue came. The British Air Ministry Inspector of Accidents made a list of recommendations for safety improvements on flying boats, including life rafts as standard equipment and instructing passengers on the fastening of seat belts on take-off and landings, the pointing out of emergency exits and how to fasten life-belts. It was noted that ‘an illustrated notice showing how life-belts should be put on was displayed in each cabin of the flying boat. This, I assume was a fixed message similar to those carried on ferry boats.


[1]Press summary of Report of the Investigation of the Accident to the Imperial Airways aircraft G-ADUU (Cavalier) on January 21, 1939, Office of the Air Attaché British Embassy, Washington D.C., March 25, 1939.


During the war considerable experience had been gained with transoceanic flying, albeit with military transport aircraft. In about 1 per 1,000 crossings[1] they had to make a water landing on the ocean, which became known as a ‘ditching’. The survivability rate was about 30%. This experience, together with that of Cavalier, may well have inspired the US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to issue a regulation for increasing the chances of surviving a ditching:

‘The crew of aircraft used in overwater flights shall be drilled periodically in “abandon ship” procedures. Passengers shall be acquainted with the location of emergency exits, with emergency equipment provided for individual use, and with the procedure to be followed in the case of an emergency landing on the water.’[2]

This regulation, which was part of a whole set of new regulations, applied from September 1945 but only to U.S. carriers flying ‘outside the continental limits of the United States.’ At the time, they were only PAWA, AOA and TWA. In 1947 they were joined by United Airlines which started to fly to Hawaii and Northwest Airlines which connected the US with Japan and China.


[1]Human Factors in Air Transport Design, Ross A. McFarland, 1946, p. 534

[2]U.S. Civil Air Regulations, 41.507 Use of emergency equipment, effective September 1, 1945


Thirdly, the Search and Rescue (SAR) division of the then still provisional International Civil Aviation Organization issued in December 1946 recommendations for the briefing of passengers: before take-off, on the use of safety belts and the location of emergency exits; after take-off, on life jackets and other emergency equipment. In the case of an in-flight emergency, passengers should be further briefed in anticipation of an impact that, more likely than not, would be on water.

Thus, the focus of the new requirement and recommendations for briefing passengers was on overwater flights and an emergency landing on water. There was no equivalent requirement for an emergency landing on land. Why not? To answer that question, we have to study accidents of the time. They typically occurred during the cruise portion of a flight. Even in the cases where the aircraft remained controllable, impact landings on land tended to be fatal to all. The 1943 Trammel case had been an exception, but only partial, with two survivors out of 20 occupants. The Cavalier accident and the military services however had demonstrated that a ditching could be well survivable.

So, now that the war was over and commercial air transport was to grow in size and span oceans, a ditching was recognized as the principal survivable accident scenario. They were therefore prone to regulatory support. The form chosen was to mandate that airlines ‘acquaint with’ or brief passengers about ditching procedures. Nowhere were leaflets or booklets mandated, but airlines found they served the purpose.

A Closer Look

Studying these instructions and keeping in mind current practices, a number of differences in tone and directions stand out. The key message was that of aviation being safe, the crew having been thoroughly trained and always in control in which its authority was never to be questioned (see PAWA illustrations above and below).

A ditching, it was believed at the time, would not come sudden but announced, with plenty of time to prepare for it. On the part of passengers, that meant loosening the tie, removing sharp objects, taking off spectacles and high-heeled shoes, putting on warm clothes and then a life vest, sit tightly strapped in and, when so ordered, brace for impact. There was no common opinion on what to do with seatbacks: some airlines said upright, others said recline as much as possible. For some airlines, the brace position for forward row passengers was to sit on the floor with the back against a bulkhead (see illustration Air France 1953).

Opening exits, if even mentioned at all, was to be left to the crew. The American airlines typically added a layout of the aircraft with exit and raft locations, while in Europe this was less common. PAWA included a detailed graph of the life raft and the survival pack contents on their leaflets (see illustration below).

PAWA and BOAC issued new versions of their safety leaflets almost every year. United, TWA and Northwest, on the other hand, stuck to their original designs for at least a decade, only changing them to match fleet updates. For the other airlines, changes were more random.

PAWA, c. 1947
PAWA, c. 1947
Air France, 1953

BOAC’s 1946 folder explained life jackets and rafts, called ‘dinghies,’ but did not have a layout of the aircraft, nor any explanation about where the exits were or how they opened. Yet, seat belts were explained. Contrary to the Americans, who only advised the use of seat belts in preparation for an emergency landing, BOAC advised that the seat belts ‘should be fastened when the aircraft is taxiing[1], taking off or landing’. Clearly, that stemmed from the Cavalier accident recommendations.


[1]The addition of taxiing is particularly noteworthy as that was many decades ahead of becoming common practice in the rest of the world, except that SAS also had this in their safety instructions.


BOAC seat belt instructions

For aircraft not equipped with pressurized cabins, oxygen masks were explained by BOAC.

BOAC oxygen mask instructions

In the 1947 BOAC folder exits were mentioned for the first time, but not depicted. It said, “there are ample emergency exits on all Speedbirds which will be pointed out to you by a member of the crew before take-off.” Also added was a single text line about desert packs ‘containing rations and water’ being carried, as well as ‘very comprehensive First-Aid Packs.’ The portion about the oxygen mask now cautioned ‘please don’t confuse this with a gas mask. It does not have to fit tight.’ With the war still fresh in people’s minds, passengers apparently had made this comparison when reading the earlier version.

Aircraft Diagrams

The summum bonum of 1950s luxury flying was the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. To give an impression of how cabin diagrams were rendered in safety leaflets, here are five of them, by as many different airlines, so you can compare. BOAC chose to only show the aircraft from outside, with the exits marked with arrows. Conversely Northwest did not point out any exit, but only emergency equipment, using an engineering drawing of the cabin. Yet, on a closer look, the escape ropes gave a hint as to where exits were, at least for those not over the wings. Over-wing exits needed no ropes. The other three airlines also used cabin plans, all in their own fashion, showing both the exits and emergency equipment. They were oriented with the front of the aircraft at the top, matching the compass of a forward-facing passenger. All Stratocruisers had the lower lobe lounge, but only one airline, PAWA, marked its exits, plus that of the storage area ahead of the wings. There are many other interesting features in these layouts such as the spacious, gender-specific washrooms. They are clearly identified in the AOA layout and can also be recognized in the United and Northwest samples.

United Airlines, 1949
AOA, 1949
PAWA, 1958
BOAC, 1958
Northwest Airlines, 1952

Cozy Rafts and Duck Landings

The texts in the safety leaflets were light-hearted so as not to put off passengers by emphasizing the dangers of flying. Phrases were used like:

life vests are fashionable in emergency landings. Yours is bright yellow and quite handsomely tailored

and

Brace for impact – careful the order is not embrace!’                                                       

Similarly, entertaining cartoons were used, often showing a life raft as a cozy place to be. Here is a collection. Click on each image to enlarge.

Other airlines preferred the analogy to ducks. Shown are Northwest, 1952, and Hawaiian, 1963.

Ditching experience

So, with all the focus on ditching, did they indeed occur, and were life rafts lifesavers? The first recorded use of a life raft, ironically, was not on water, but in a desert, giving shade and shelter. That was following the crash on June 18, 1947 of Clipper Eclipse, a PAWA Lockheed Constellation, in Syria. Star Trek aficionados will likely know this accident. Its creator, Eugene Roddenberry, was the third officer and took a leading role as the two pilots were killed upon impact. In this crash, out of 37 occupants, 22 survived and were rescued.

The first reported ditching was in 1949. Until about 1963, on average one ditching occurred per year, worldwide, making the 1950s the ditching decade. In all cases, it involved piston-engine airliners. Other than as initially predicted and thus advertised in the safety instructions, most were sudden with no time for preparation. On the positive side, many were close to shore rather than mid-ocean, facilitating quick rescue. The survival rate was high; in some cases even 100%.

A new accident scenario

But another accident scenario quickly overtook that of the ditching in terms of numbers and survivability issues and, thus, the need for cabin safety measures. That scenario is the survivable accident involving a fire, at or near an airport.

It first happened three weeks before the Syrian crash, on May 29, 1947. United Airlines flight 521, a DC-4, failed to lift off at New York-La Guardia. It crossed the airport perimeter and half bounced, half flew until it came to rest 800 ft beyond the runway. It caught fire immediately and many occupants perished as they were unable to escape. In a congressional hearing in February 1950, it was testified that ‘passengers were seen by witnesses drumming on the inside of cabin windows, burning to death.’[1] The formal accident investigation by the CAB did not go into any of the survivability issues. Its report, issued after many preventive measures had been taken, concluded that ‘all action that it seems sensible to take has already been taken’. In hindsight, this was quite a cynical comment, as no cabin safety measure had been taken at all, let alone even considered. It needed a second accident before the CAB realized that their focus should not only be on preventing accidents to happen in the first place, but also when they do occur, on survivability issues. In their report on the January 21, 1948, Eastern Constellation crash at Boston they said that ‘this accident forcibly points to the necessity for the development of more suitable passenger evacuation facilities’. In that accident, some passengers survived but, had to jump a distance of more than 15 feet from the airplane to the ground.


[1]Hearings before a subcommittee of the (U.S. Congress House) committee on interstate and foreign commerce, February 14, 1950.


Many similar accidents would follow and in numbers and dramatic impact soon eclipsed the forced ditchings. From two different angles, scientists recognized this serious trend and started tests to collect data to understand the mechanisms of fire spread and airliner evacuation respectively. The Medical Division of the Office of Aviation Safety of the US Civil Aeronautics Administration (now FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute) organized evacuation studies and live tests in 1951 and 1952, jointly with the George Washington University, the US Air Force and three airlines: American Airlines, PAWA and TWA. This gave insight into the limitations imposed by exit sizes, sill-to-ground distance and descent assist means as well as human performance and interaction during evacuations. A new regulatory formula was drafted for prescribing exit numbers, sizes and locations which in essence is still in use today.

In the same period, NACA (now NASA) conducted full-scale tests in which self-propelled Curtiss C-46 and Fairchild C-82 aircraft sped along a monorail into concrete obstacles to study fuel fire ignition and propagation patterns and their effect on survival time for occupants.

Although the two scientific programs were done in isolation from each other, their results were merged and ripened the idea of a maximum evacuation time. Even before that, already in December 1951, the CAB had proposed a 90-second evacuation time limit but, this met with resistance from operators. The scientific evidence, aggravated by many more accidents, was needed to overcome that. Eventually, more than one and a half-decade later, a firm evacuation demonstration time limit was introduced, with conditions tighter than those proposed in 1951. More about this in a later part.

The airlines did not pick up the new accident trend as quickly. Rather, over the decade more airlines issued ditching safety instructions. In North America, these were Braniff, Canadian Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Eastern Airlines and Trans-Canada Airlines. In Europe, Iberia (Spain), LAI (Italy), KLM (Netherlands), Olympic Airways (Greece), Sabena (Belgium) and TAI (France). In the rest of the world such major airlines as Avianca (Colombia), Cathay Pacific Airways (Hong Kong), Civil Air Transport (Taiwan), JAL (Japan) and TACA (El Salvador) educated their passengers on ditching preparations.

Three front pages of typical 1950s ditching leaflets are reproduced: Iberia, Eastern Air Lines and KLM.

Iberia
Eastern Airlines
KLM

United’s egress

There was one airline that did recognize at an early stage the land evacuation scenario as serious and dedicated a safety leaflet to it. Not surprisingly, this was United Airlines, the airline of the 1947 La Guardia accident. Its president since 1934, William Patterson was known to care about the happiness and welfare of others and, like others, must have been deeply touched by that accident. From a 1981 biography: ‘Concern for safety had always been a major deterrent to airline travel, and improved safety was one of “Pat” Patterson’s major goals. During his 36 years with United, he personally inspected close to 70 percent of United’s accidents in order to obtain a personal feel for the extent of loss and the hardships brought upon the persons involved[1].’

When the ‘coach’ class was introduced in 1952 under strict CAB regulations, this meant lower fares, which would reduce revenue. To compensate for that, aircraft passenger capacities had to be increased. US airlines were happy to do so, but one: United Airlines. Patterson used the ‘evacuation card’ (no pun intended) to try and reverse this trend which in his view was unsafe. He staged, with the help of Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory of Buffalo, New York, a series of full-scale evacuations of a 66-seat DC-4 (the normal seating on a United DC-4 was 44, so a 50% increase). Passengers were offered a scenic ride over Niagara Falls, then land back at Buffalo where a surprise evacuation was ordered. In one case, the aircraft actually did develop a major engine problem and reportedly landed at Syracuse![2] The results he would then use to try and convince the CAB that increasing capacities would be hazardous. This plan did not work out[3],[4]. Yet, possibly as a follow-on to those tests, United Airlines introduced in early 1953 a safety folder specific to the land evacuation scenario for its domestic, non-overwaterDC-4s and DC-6s. This leaflet, in style and appearance, was completely different from the ditching leaflet used for the overwater fleet. It was called ‘the egress’ and issued in both a yellow as well as a blue version. A later revision (c. 1956) is also known. Note that the main doors are equipped with an escape chute but others only have a rope.


[1]William A. Patterson of United Airlines, Richard E. Hattwick, Journal of Behavioral Economics, Volume 10, Issue 2, Winter 1981.

[2]transcript of Emergency Evacuation Technical Conference, Seattle, September 6, 1985, Volume IV, p. 622.

[3]Aviation Week December 8, 1952.

[4]Regulation of Air Coach Service Standards, Stanley Berge, Journal of Air Law and Commerce, Volume 20, Issue 1, 1953.


The Egress-United Airlines, c. 1953
The Egress-United Airlines, c. 1953

Chutes replace ropes

Towards the end of the decade airlines did add safety instructions for emergency landings on land in addition to, or instead of, those on water. At the same time, passengers were no longer briefed to wait for the crew to open exits, they were instructed how to open them themselves (see Sabena illustration below), or how to deploy and use escape chutes.

The chutes needed to be held taut by two ‘able bodied persons’ who had to jump down first. Still, they formed an improvement over the escape ropes and Jacob’s ladders that were the only descent assist means a few years before. A glance at the instructions for attaching floor straps to ensure that the chute would work will tell you that this would not be easy, especially for novices under stressful conditions. Yet, that was the state-of-the-art in 1957. Self-supporting, inflatable escape slides were about to be invented.

PAWA, c. 1958
BOAC, 1957
Sabena, 1957

Souvenir

How were the safety leaflets circulated? The pre-war practice of issuing flight information packets (‘kits’) to passengers with a host of promotional material was continued well into the 1950s. In a pocketed folder were stacked such items as postcards, route maps, timetables, suggestion forms, stationary, destination brochures and even small dictionaries. Somewhere inconspicuously hidden in between was the safety folder. All was for the passenger to keep as a souvenir. No ‘do not remove from aircraft’ caveats yet. That would come later, as we will see in a future edition of this series. But before that we will look in the next edition what the beginning of the jet age meant for safety cards.


Illustrations reproduced from author’s collection, except for United and TWA 1943 and United ‘s ‘The Egress.’

March 2022
Email: f.schaefers@planet.nl

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Allegheny Commuter,MH-250 Super Broussard,Mohawk M-298,Nord 262,Ransome Airlines,Turbomeca Ste. Nord 260,USAir

The Nord 262

By Robert G. Waldvogel

The Nord 262 was an early turboprop regional airliner built in France.

It traces its origins to the single-engine, eight-passenger Max Holste MH-1521M Broussard light utility transport flown by a handful of civil operators and the French Army and Air Force that was subsequently developed into the larger M-250 Super Broussard. Powered by two 600-hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340 piston Wasp engines, it accommodated between 17 and 23 passengers.

Although it proceeded no further, it served as the prototype for the even more ambitious MH-260, which introduced a 4.7-foot fuselage stretch and turbine powerplants—in this case, two 986-hp Turbomeca Bastan IV turboprops. First taking to the air on January 29, 1960, it seated up to 30 passengers. While it was the most capable of all the previous variants, it lacked pressurization—a deficiency remedied with the MH-262.

Because of the November 23 agreement for state-owned Nord Aviation to assume responsibility for the program, the aircraft was re-designated Nord 262, although 10 original MH-260s (Nord 260s) were produced, the first of which first flew on January 29, 1962. Two European commuter carriers—France’s Air Inter and Norway’s Wideroe Flyveselskap—operated them on a provisional basis, but they were replaced by the definitive Nord 262 production variant, whose most notable variation was the replacement of its original, square-section fuselage with a circular one that facilitated a 26-passenger, three-abreast capacity with an offset aisle.

Powered by two 1,080-hp Bastan VIB2 turboprops, it first flew in prototype form on December 24, 1962. The first production example, featuring a dorsal fin for increased vertical axis stability, took to the sky two years later, on July 8, 1964, and was awarded its French type certification eight days later.

The first four aircraft, perhaps confusingly, were designated Nord 262Bs, while all others, which incorporated minor improvements, were known as Nord 262As.

With a 63.3-foot overall length and elliptical passenger windows, they featured a high-mounted, straight wing with a 71.10-foot span and 592-square-foot area, and a conventional tail. The single-wheel main undercarriage units retracted upward into lower fuselage side fairings. The maximum takeoff weight was 23,370 pounds and cruise speed was 235 mph.  Payload-to-fuel ratios took its range from 605 miles with the former to 1,095 miles with the latter.

Air Inter, which ultimately operated six, inaugurated the type into service on the Paris-Quimper route on July 24, 1964.

The coveted goal of any foreign aircraft manufacturer was penetrating the US market and Nord Aviation succeeded in doing so when Lake Central Airlines ordered a dozen 262s and inaugurated the first into service in May of 1965.

After Lake Central’s takeover by Allegheny Airlines three years later, it wore its colors and, still later, those of Allegheny Commuter. The milestone indicated two important factors—namely, that the US lacked its own commuter aircraft counterpart and that its reliable service saw its operation for a considerable interval.

According to USAir’s (which Allegheny became) March 2, 1982 system timetable, “USAir and Allegheny Commuter—a great team to go with. Service to over 120 cities in the US and Canada.

“All flights C500 through C1999 are operated by independent contractors under an agreement with USAir approved by the Civil Aeronautics Board,” it continued. “These flights are operated by Beech 99, de Havilland Twin Otter, de Havilland Dash-7, Nord 262, M-298, Shorts 330, CASA-212, and Swearingen Metro equipment.

“USAir’s big jet fleet serves over 70 cities throughout its expanding network.  Allegheny Commuter’s modern jet-props serve over 50 mid-size cities quickly and economically. From Allegheny Commuter’s mid-size cities, you get convenient schedules to and from USAir’s major cities.”

Although its Nord 262s were in a three-abreast configuration, the right-side seat pairs consisted of a single unit with two seatbelts and pitch was minimal, leaving one passenger to exclaim, as she impressed her knees into the unit in front of her, “This is called ‘wear a plane!”

One flight attendant served the then-standard beverages and peanut packets from a tiny galley and there were copies of USAir’s in-flight magazine in all seat pockets.

The type was instrumental in providing feed to USAir’s Pittsburgh and Philadelphia hubs from small, ill-equipped airports with low demand, but nevertheless provided connections to the carrier’s jet route system with a single ticket and through-checked baggage.

Although 67 Nord 262As were ultimately produced, their lack of Pratt and Whitney PT6 turboprop engines inhibited further sales. This was remedied when Frakes Aviation converted nine of Allegheny’s aircraft with 1,180-hp, five-bladed propeller PT6A-45s and introduced improved systems, resulting in the Mohawk 298. The Mohawk name was to reflect the remembrance of Allegheny’s merger with Mohawk Airlines. The 298 designation was in deference to the Federal Air Regulation (CAB Part 298) under which they operated. The new M-298 also included the installation of a Solar APU installed in the starboard main landing gear sponson. First flying on January 7, 1975, the upgraded version was certified on October 19, 1976, and entered Allegheny Service the following April. Nine of these Nord 262s converted to the Mohawk 298 standard were operated by Allegheny Airlines on routes too small for their shrinking fleet of Convair 580s but requiring something larger than Beech 99 or Twin Otter equipment. So a new Allegheny “Metro Express” operation was placed in service in certain selected cities. The M-298s continued in operation until one of the nine aircraft was involved in an accident. Subsequently, the remaining eight aircraft were sold to two of the Allegheny Commuter carriers, Middletown, Pa. based Pennsylvania Commuter Airlines and North Philadelphia, Pa. based Ransome Airlines.

Two other variants were built—the 262C or Fregate, with four-bladed, 1,145-hp Bastan VII turboprops and a two-foot, 3.75-inch fuselage stretch that first flew in July of 1968; and its military 262D counterpart, 18 of which were operated by the French Armee de l’Air.

Aside from Allegheny, Allegheny Commuter, and Lake Central, the type was operated by Altair, Swift Aire, Golden Gate, Pompano Airways to name a few as well as Pocono and Ransome Airlines  (the latter two comprising part of the Allegheny Commuter Consortium) in the US; and Alisarda, Cimber Air, Dan-Air, Delta Air Transport, Linjeflyg, Rhein Air, and Tempelhof Airways in Europe.

A total of 110 Nord 262s of all versions were produced.

MH-250 Super Broussard
MH-250 Super Broussard
Photo from Wiki-Commons
Turbomeca Ste., Nord 260, F-BKRH
ROUSSEAU AVIATION NORD 262, F-BTDQ
Seen at Jersey, Channel Islands, UK, Sept. 24, 1974.
Photo Courtesy: Dan Grew
Turbomeca Ste., Nord 260, F-BKRH
Powered by the original Turbomeca Astazou engines.
Seen at London, Gatwick Airport (LGW) in May 1987.
Photo Courtesy: Doug Green
RANSOME AIRLINES – ALLEGHENY COMMUTER NORD 262, N26225
Seen at Washington National Airport
RANSOME AIRLINES–ALLEGHENY COMMUTER NORD 262, N26225
Seen at Washington National Airport (DCA)
Photo Courtesy: Jay Selman
RANSOME AIRLINES – ALLEGHENY COMMUTER
MOHAWK M-298, N29817
RANSOME AIRLINES–ALLEGHENY COMMUTER
MOHAWK M-298, N29817
Seen at Washington National Airport (DCA), February 1983
Photo Courtesy: Jay Selman

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L-1011,Lockheed TriStar

TriStar and Me

By Mark Barnard

December 15, 2009 was the last flight of the last TriStar off the production line. Number 250 of 250. It was to be an unceremonious and woefully ungracious end to the life of this significant airplane. A ferry from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to what would ultimately prove to be its final resting place in Ras al Khaimah, UAE. Un-pressurized. Landing gear mechanically pinned in the down position. We were directed to take the airplane there ostensibly for storage until its D check could be accomplished, at the completion of which it would be returned to service. But those of us on the crew . . . well, we had all seen Big Guy’s lips move before.  We knew the truth.

It began life as manufacturer’s serial number 193G-1250. Originally bound for the Royal Flight division of the government of Algeria, it was instead bought by Saudi Royal Flight. It was registered as HZ-HM5 during its years of service flying the Saudi Royal family, but with the purchase by my company, it was re-registered as N389LS. One of only two TriStars to come out of the factory in VIP configuration, its place in the production line was not the only thing that made the airplane unique.

My lifelong affair with the TriStar began the summer that I was 14 on a family trip to Indianapolis, home of my mother’s sister and her husband. A few times a year we would pack up the family car and make the two-hour trek to see Uncle Ed and Aunt Winnie. My dad and my Uncle Ed were very close not only in their familial relationship but in age, disposition, and history. Both were simple country boys who grew up dirt poor during the Great Depression. Together they would talk, with my Uncle Ed perpetually tending to his omnipresent pipe, occasionally fascinating me by blowing smoke rings. They would laugh and remember, talking about things understood only by those who share that common background. Through the windowpane of my childhood eyes, Indianapolis was a huge city, and during our drives from my small southwestern Indiana hometown of Washington, those eyes would only grow wider as I saw the landscape change from the rolling hills, rural farms, and small towns of southern Indiana to the highways, traffic, and skyscrapers of the big city.

I grew up wanting to be a pilot. Honestly, I don’t really know how that all got started. While growing up most kids go through the stages of wanting to be a policeman, a fireman, or a baseball player. Not so with me. I never went through any of those phases. Nobody in my family ever had anything to do with airplanes. No relatives or close family friends were pilots or were in the military, no one I knew was an airplane mechanic or any of the sort. I just know that I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. I read books about airplanes, drew pictures of airplanes, and built model airplanes. When I was about 6 years-old mom and dad bought a red plastic toy DC-8 from the local Murphy’s store on Main Street in my hometown. It was my very first toy airplane. I have that toy airplane to this day. It figures prominently in my curio cabinet at home, along with my original student pilot logbook, a whiskey compass from a TriStar, a Litton LTN-211 Omega CDU, and other treasured memorabilia significant to my career. Although it is quite a bit worse for the wear, with lots of scratches, scrapes, and even a missing engine nacelle, all accumulated by a small child playing with it almost incessantly, it is among my most precious possessions.

Curio cabinet with model airplane
Curio Cabinet – My curio cabinet at home with the red toy airplane.
Photo: Mark Barnard

On every trip we took to Indianapolis my parents would treat me to a stop at the Indianapolis airport. This was long before “Indianapolis International” existed. At that point in history, it was named Weir Cook Airport. There was a small airport park at the corner of High School Road and Pierson Drive. The park was nothing spectacular, just a couple of picnic tables, a few maple trees, and a small parking lot oriented so you could watch the airplanes land. The approach end of the runway was right across the street from the airport park, separated from the airport park by only Pierson Drive and a security fence. When landing, the airplanes would seem so close it looked like you could hit one with a rock. I would watch with fascination as the 727s, DC-9s and 737s would come across “the fence” for landing.

Back on the ramp in Riyadh, we were preparing for the ferry to Ras al Khaimah. It was really troubling me that the airplane’s last flight was going to suffer the humiliation of being flown all the way with the landing gear pinned down.  We had to fly it unpressurized; there was no real way around this requirement. But to fly it on its last flight without retracting the gear was unconscionable in my mind. The main reason for these requirements was that the airplane was out of date on just about every maintenance inspection that was due. Engines, landing gear, everything was out of date. The benefactor of meticulous maintenance by Saudi Royal Flight, it was obvious that the airplane was mechanically sound, and it had just been ferried from Jeddah to Riyadh a few months earlier with zero issues. But rules are rules and given its out-of-inspection status these were the requirements we had to meet. I talked with Steve and Mike, my close friends who were the other two members of the cockpit crew. They shared my sentiment that this was no way to ferry this airplane. We came up with an alternate plan.

Last TriStar cockpit crew
This was the cockpit crew. Left to right: Mike McCook, Mark Barnard, Steve Gunn
Photo Courtesy: Mike McCook

I told the maintenance crew preparing the airplane for the ferry that I didn’t want the gear pinned down. 

The Saudi maintenance supervisor frowned. “Captain, that is part of the ferry permit procedure. The gear is out of inspection. We are required to pin the gear for the ferry flight.”

Implementing our plan with as stern of a face as I could muster, I said that I understood, but my concern was safety of flight. Given that the engines were out of inspection status, I wanted to be able to retract the gear after takeoff in the event we had an engine failure. In such an event, being able to retract the gear would be critical to the airplane’s performance. With all the drama I could summon for my performance, I told them that I’d hate to have to explain why a former Saudi Royal Flight airplane was a smoking hole in the Saudi desert only because the Captain was prevented from retracting the landing gear after an engine failure because of a paperwork requirement. I knew good and well that an engine failure wouldn’t result in such a catastrophic event, but I thought the theater might add a sense of urgency and credibility to my request. I proposed to him that we would leave the gear extended for the flight unless we had an engine failure, but I wanted the ability to retract the gear if it was necessary. Pinning the landing gear would make that option impossible.

“Captain, I must check with my manager.” My Saudi friend then scurried off, disappearing into the hangar and up the stairs.

The summer of my 14th year we were at the little airport park when I saw my first TriStar. When it first came into view on the approach, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that it was bigger than any other airplane we normally see. It turned out to be an Eastern L-1011, and when it came into full view, I thought it was the most beautiful airplane I’d ever seen. The sun gleamed off its polished aluminum livery. The center engine was stylishly molded into the fuselage.  Unlike the DC-10, whose number two engine sat up in the middle of the vertical stabilizer giving it the appearance of being a clumsy afterthought, the TriStar’s number 2 engine conversely gave the airplane a sleek, elegant, aerodynamic profile. The word “Whisperliner” was painted on the side. On the approach it looked as if the nose was pitched up higher than other airplanes, giving it the aura of nobility and pride, a look no other airplane I saw had. I was mesmerized. It was love at first sight. From that moment on I was completely enamored with the airplane. I knew right then and there what airplane I wanted to fly. I stopped drawing pictures of 747s and started drawing pictures of TriStars.

Over the next months I would write to the Lockheed factory and ask for pictures of the airplane. As an adult looking back, I can envision a secretary in an office reading a handwritten letter from a teenage boy asking for pictures of the airplane. I like to think that secretary had a smile on her face as she placed some pictures in an envelope and put them in the mail to this kid from Indiana.

That same summer I had my first flying lesson in a Piper Colt. Oftentimes, as adults reflecting on our childhood, we’re apt to remember times when we can honestly say that under the same circumstances, we’re not sure if we’d have done the same thing our parents did. Such was the case with my starting flying lessons. I had read in the regulations that you could solo a glider at the age of 14. Upon encountering this revelation, I marched my 14-year-old self into the living room where my dad was sitting, showed him the reg, and announced I wanted to start flying lessons. In my now-adult brain, I think I would’ve responded to that declaration with something like, “Well son, let’s wait until you’re a little bit older. If you’re still interested, then we’ll see.” A perfectly logical and doubtless-typical-parental response to a young teenager asking to start something that ambitious, not to mention expensive, at such a tender age. However, that’s not what my dad said. He looked at the book with the reg in it, looked back at me, and said, “Let’s go to the airport this Saturday and see what we have to do.” With that pronouncement from my dad my flying career started.

On my first lesson, the airplane wasn’t 100 feet in the air before I knew that I had discovered how I wanted to spend my life. It was so much better than it was in my imagination. In the following years, I soloed and received my Private Pilot’s certificate before I graduated from high school. All that time the letters to Lockheed continued, the L-1011 pictures and drawings kept coming, and I never forgot the TriStar that I saw in Indianapolis that day. But as I matured and started to learn more about the realities of how aviation works, I came to realize that it wasn’t as simple as showing up at an airline that flies the TriStar and saying, “I want to fly the L-1011.” Before anything else happens, you have to be hired by an airline that flies the airplane. And to get hired by that airline you must have mountains of experience. Then, once you manage to get hired at said airline you must reach the seniority level that allows you to hold that particular airplane. I came to realize that the TriStar was much further away than it seemed that day at the little airport park. I frowned at the thought that I would never get to fly the airplane I dreamed about.

Onward and upward. The years went by. Gathering my ratings, flight-instructing throughout college building experience, I managed to eventually be hired by a local commuter airline. But as time went by more reality began to set in. I had been flying the Fairchild FH-227/F-27 for a few years, which was a Part 121 airplane, but I didn’t have a significant amount of jet time, nor did I have military flying experience. At that specific point in airline history, both were virtually requirements to get a job flying for a major airline.

The calendar had now advanced to 1987. It was 13 years hence from my first TriStar encounter at the little airport park.  The TriStar had been in service for 15 years. Production of the TriStar ceased three years earlier and the clock was ticking on its service life. Technology was changing. Just two years before the FAA approved 120-minute ETOPS operations and was now considering allowing 180-minute ETOPS. Translated to English that means routes that were once the exclusive domain of 3- and 4-engine airplanes could now be flown by airplanes with only two engines. TWA, one of the airlines that operated my beloved TriStar, had recently spent millions bringing their B-767-200 fleet up to 120-minute ETOPS standards because of the fuel savings vs. the TriStar on a transatlantic flight. The tea leaves weren’t hard to read. Even if I got hired by an airline today it would be many years before I held the seniority that would allow me to fly the airplane. That realization, and the gravity behind it, saddened me.

“Captain, my manager says he will approve the gear pins being left out, but you must agree to leave the gear extended unless an engine failure or other emergency occurs.”

“I will agree to that, no problem” (trust me…heh heh), I said making a concerted effort to conceal the elation that desperately wanted to appear on my face. The stage was set. There wasn’t going to be any gear down ferry for this airplane’s final flight. The requirement to fly the airplane unpressurized was a different story, not something we could worm our way around based on a technicality. We had to file a flight plan that would reveal our requested cruise altitude, and a copy of the flight plan had to be provided to the Saudi civil aviation authorities as part of the ferry permit. Even if we were to ask ATC to climb to a higher altitude after takeoff the authorities would know about it, and we might later have some explaining to do. One typically doesn’t request an “emergency climb” to altitude. So, we were stuck with flying unpressurized. But the indignity of a stiff-legged ferry flight was now, unbeknownst to our Saudi hosts or anyone but those of us on the crew, history.

SELCAL
SELCAL_HZ-HM5 – Thought this was kinda cool. Steve is programming the FMS. (Yes, the L-1011 had an FMS long before the 757/767 came along. Had a VNAV function, could couple the FMS to the autopilot and everything. The SELCAL plate is visible in the photograph.
We hadn’t yet changed it to reflect a new SELCAL code or the new registration number.
Photo Courtesy: Mike McCook
Map Display on L-1011 aircraft
Map Display – This photo shows the cockpit map that was used to identify the location of Mecca at all times during the flight.
The map display comes up once the INS’s are aligned.
Photo Courtesy: Mike McCook

The time came to depart. There existed a paradox, an incongruity in my emotions on this flight. It was quite a thrill for me to be flying the last TriStar ever built, but at the same time, that excitement was wholly deflated by the fact that unless Big Guy’s lips weren’t moving in their usual fashion it was very, very likely this would be the airplane’s final flight. The engines were started one by one. The sounds, the sensations now so very familiar to me after my years flying the airplane, were all present as the airplane performed exactly as it was designed to during the engine start. The familiar growl of the Rolls-Royce engines as they accelerated after ignition, the starter valves closing at 46% N3 RPM, the sound of the air rushing into the cockpit as the packs were turned on . . . all was as it was supposed to be.

Some of us are fortunate enough during our careers to encounter what I think Ernest K. Gann may have called a “Fate is the Hunter” moment. Sometimes things happen serendipitously that you couldn’t have gotten to work out no matter the level of planning or preparation. One of those moments occurred for me at an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh while doing simulator training for new hires on the FH-227. My close friend Gene Freeman had been hired by American Trans Air the previous fall. Gene had been flying the BAC-111 for our regional airline. Doubtlessly the most brilliant individual I’ve ever known personally, Gene was an accomplished pilot. He encouraged me to apply to American Trans Air, which of course I did. It was no small incentive for me to do so given that American Trans Air operated TriStars, having acquired nine of them from Delta Air Lines in 1986. I applied but received not even an acknowledgment that my application was delivered. Very little jet time, no military experience. It was no surprise to me.

It was my tradition to take new hires out to dinner at this wonderful little Italian place the evening prior to commencing our simulator training. Always consisting of only the three of us that would be present in the simulator, this was more of a team-building exercise than anything. Additionally, it was a chance to calm the nerves of what were usually young pilots embarking on their first encounter with Part 121 airline training. We would sit and talk, discuss the upcoming sim training and how it would be conducted. What the expectations were, etc. It can be quite stressful on a young person experiencing their first training of this type. My goal was to get the trainees to relax so they had a better chance of succeeding.

As providence would have it, seated at the table next to us there was an older gentleman with two younger fellows.  After a period of time, the older gentleman leaned over and said he’d been hearing some of our conversation and asked if we were pilots? I said yes, we are. He then asked who we flew for and what airplane were we flying? I answered his query, and his reply surprised me. He said, “I’m the Director of Training for American Trans Air and we’re here doing 727 sim training.” Responding in a way that is quite uncharacteristic for me, from whence it came I don’t know to this day, I blurted out, “Is that right? I sent an application in to you guys, and you didn’t even respond to me.”

After realizing how that probably came across to him, I was shocked at the tone of insolence I had probably just conveyed. He responded by telling me to come to the 727 simulator the next day after our training period was finished. He said, “we’ll put you in the 727 sim and see if you can fly.”

The simulator flight went great, and I was offered an interview at American Trans Air. I dared hope that the TriStar was in reach. American Trans Air had just bought the airplanes not even two years previously. They weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But my Ernest Gann moment had not yet fully played out. At the completion of my American Trans Air interview, I was told that the company had a full complement of 727 pilots, but they were short on L-1011 crews. I would be hired as an L-1011 copilot!

The elation, the ecstasy I felt at that moment is beyond my poor power to articulate. The dreams of a 14-year-old boy had just come true. The letters to and pictures from Lockheed all those years ago didn’t seem silly anymore. I wished I could talk to the kind secretary who sent them to me all those years ago, but I didn’t even know her name. I know not whom to credit for my inconceivable gift of good fortune. God, prayer, fate, destiny, or maybe just plain ol’ blind, dumb, stupid luck…perhaps a combination of all of them . . . I’m not really sure. The only thing I can say for certain is that dreams do come true, because at that moment mine did. No one will ever convince me otherwise. The first person I called to tell was my mother. My father unfortunately had passed away a couple of years previous, but no one would understand the depth of what this meant to me more than my parents.

We lifted off the ground at Riyadh bound for Ras al Khaimah. Our “evil plan” for the landing gear was to leave it extended until we were certain we were no longer under the observation of the control tower at Riyadh and certainly out of view of the maintenance facility we left from. After that . . . up came the landing gear. The airplane was now clean and flying like she was meant to fly, although just at a much lower altitude. We cruised at 9,000 feet to avoid the necessity of wearing oxygen masks. We looked at each other and laughed, all self-satisfied with our landing gear coup.

As we proceeded along with the flight, we came to appreciate that we were cruising at such a low altitude. For one, thing we were slow, restricted to 250 knots indicated below 10,000 feet. Between the speed and our low cruise altitude, we enjoyed a view of the Saudi desert that we would’ve never had on a normal flight. The dunes of the desert were clearly visible, spotted with the occasional camel herd which we could easily see. We avoided Qatari airspace to the south and set our course just off the UAE coast flying over the waters of the Persian Gulf. We could see the oil rigs clearly. It was an amazing sight that few people get to experience. Ras al Khaimah sits very near the tip of the horn of the Saudi peninsula that defines the Strait of Hormuz. We could see the oil tankers. Our low cruise altitude and the crystal-clear desert weather provided us a vista that we otherwise would have never been able to witness.

Oil rigs near Strait of Hormuz
This is from 9,000 feet over the Persian Gulf just a few miles north of the Strait of Hormuz.
Photo Courtesy: Mike McCook

The Ras al Khaimah runway was now in sight. The excitement of the sights we enjoyed during our flight is now completely overcome by the finality of the landing. The closest I can come to describing my feelings were that sense of sadness and regret that one feels when they are taking their beloved pet to the vet to be euthanized. While we know the purpose of our journey, our cherished pet knows nothing of it. Our pet merely trusts us to take it somewhere it is supposed to be. The throttles came back for what would be the very last time. There was a little anxiety as we lowered the gear. If it failed to extend then we were “busted”, and our plan exposed. But as it had done for the last 20+ years the airplane did what it was supposed to do. The flaps were extended, and I sat the TriStar down on the Ras al Khaimah runway as gently as I could. We taxied to the ramp very slowly, wanting to extend the flight for as long as we possibly could. We shut the airplane down, ran our securing checklists and the crew exited the airplane. I was the last one off of the airplane as I wanted to take a few pictures of the interior before deplaning. As I walked out of the cockpit I said aloud, as if the airplane could hear, “I’m sorry. I wish there were something I could do. I really do.” I took a couple of pictures of the airplane’s data plate as I exited the left forward entrance door.

L-1011 data plate
A close up of the shot of the Manufacturer Data Plate inside the door.
Photo: Mark Barnard

Thus ended the last flight of the last TriStar. When we arrived at the hotel and I got to my room I was overwhelmed emotionally. I’d be lying through my teeth if I told you I didn’t shed a tear.

The TriStar and I had some incredible adventuresduring our time together, both prior to this flight and many afterwards. I flew the airplane on six continents. It took me to the Pyramids of Egypt, to the wonder and history of Europe, to the rain forests of South America, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and to see the ancient wonders of the Orient. Wake Island, Fiji, Pago Pago and other Pacific Island paradises. It saw my mother riding with me in the cockpit jumpseat from Washington Dulles to Indianapolis. It allowed me to fly with some of my heroes like Bill Weaver, Jeff Fowler, Don Moor, Bob Taylor and Rodney Boone. I was part of launching a rocket off the bottom of the airplane from 39,000 feet. Through the TriStar I met friends that I would have for life. Steve and Mike, my fellow crewmembers on the last flight of the last TriStar are still close friends with whom I have regular contact. It saw me as the TriStar Fleet Manager for American Trans Air for a bit over five years, a position and period which I look back upon as my proudest achievement in aviation. Along with my dear friend Gene Freeman and the dedicated, professional crews flying the TriStar we achieved a level of success with the airplane that our upper management not only disdained but frankly could simply not understand. Together Gene and I flew the airplane near the North Pole, reaching a latitude of 87 degrees north. No one else except the RAF has done so with the TriStar. I did things and went to places riding safely on the back of my magic TriStar carpet that was far beyond the wildest dreams and imagination of a teenage Indiana country boy.

Professionally I credit the airplane with evolving me into the pilot I became. Every professional pilot must pass through what I call a seasoning, a period where our skills, habits and attitudes are tempered in the crucible of experience and honed to a fine edge. The TriStar was a wonderful teacher to me in that respect. In the TriStar I learned to manage a widebody aircraft, learned to prioritize tasks and developed leadership skills. Today, even after flying marvelous airplanes such as the 747-400, I’m awed by the foresight the men and women who designed the TriStar possessed.  Like the mobile phone and tablet devices we use today, its systems walk that fine line between being deeply complex yet not complicated in the operational arena. It gave me a deeper understanding of how airplanes work and how they fly and the difference between those two. There isa plethora of what one would consider small things in the airplane that someone obviously devoted a lot of time thinking about during design and development. Boeing’s magnificent 747-400, with its glass cockpit, FMS and two-pilot technology, is at its best merely a faint copy of the TriStar.

The pragmatists, the engineers, the skeptics who don’t believe an airplane can have a personality, will tell you that it’s impossible for a mechanical device such as an airplane to have a character or an essence. But they just don’t understand. I know of more than one poetic pilot who waxes lyrically about the soul of his airplane, anthropomorphizing the tons of aluminum, wire, cable and glass that make up his machine. But in the case of the TriStar, specifically in the case of the TriStar and me, there’s no doubt that in my mind the skeptics are dead wrong. I have a connection to the airplane that is rarely duplicated in my interactions with sentient beings. The airplane is a part of me, as surely as my hand or foot is. I’ve flown some wonderful airplanes during my career but none of them even come close to the TriStar. It does, and will always, define my career in aviation.

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American Trans Air,ATA

My last and best mission as an Account Representative for American Trans Air

By Phil Brooks

October, 1987

I was 25 years old, working for American Trans Air (ATA) at their headquarters in Indianapolis, IN as an Account Representative in the Sales Department, mostly on the phone, but occasionally traveling to observe U.S. operations with my charter customers-a dream job for this airline enthusiast!

We were in a regular morning meeting, going over that weekend’s upcoming charter flights. One of the Managers, who specialized in military charters, mentioned he would not be supervising that weekend’s U.S. Army Rangers charter from Pope Air Force Base, NC, to Aviano NATO Base, in Italy, due to Halloween plans. I didn’t have anything going on, so I volunteered to work it.  

That was approved, and on October 30 I was sent on a USAir DC-9-31 to Cleveland, OH (CLE), where I would meet the crew and aircraft, a 727-22 (N284AT, formerly with United Airlines), and ride its ferry flight to Pope (POB). Since it was a weekend, I also volunteered to ride it over to Italy, rest with the crew, and then ride the ferry flight back to Indianapolis. This was actually cheaper for the company than the airline ticket cost from nearby Fayetteville, NC (FAY) to Indianapolis. It would be almost 20 years before I would log FAY, but this was a lot more fun! I was on a salary, so they didn’t incur any expense with me working on my days off. I think I ate all my meals on the plane.

The well-traveled 727 in the story, photographed by the author at Indianapolis International Airport (IND) in October 1990.
The well-traveled 727 in the story, photographed by the author at Indianapolis International Airport (IND) in October 1990.

Arriving at CLE, I walked out to the ticket counter area and met with our Ground Handler, who drove me out to the aircraft. The Boeing was parked remotely; this was my first time boarding an airliner away from a terminal, which was of course fun for me.  

Fate intervened on approach to Pope, as we were advised that the airfield was closed. We diverted to nearby Raleigh (RDU), my first visit to that airport, where I would visit at least 100 times more in the early 2000s, when I was visiting my girlfriend, later fiancee, later wife, Pam!  We parked at an Eastern Airlines gate, and I went inside (to a payphone!) to call Pope Base Operations to see how long the delay would be. I was told that a C-130 transport aircraft had blown tires, which had to be changed on the runway, and they were about ready to re-open. I passed that on to ATA Flight Dispatch. We launched on the recovery flight shortly thereafter. This was my first airliner diversion to an unplanned destination (I’d had an over-flight of an airport due to weather ten years earlier); my total now is 14 out of more than 6,500 flights, every one a good story!

We arrived at POB in the dark and commenced loading 65 Rangers and their equipment. I had a truckload of young soldiers to load the bellies, so it went quickly. The Rangers’ parachutes were loaded as “seat baggage” in the rear of the cabin, which had 129 seats (single class). Their weapons were in the cabin, but I was told that the firing pins had been removed.

We departed with no further delay on our two-stop mission to Italy, making fuel stops at Gander, Newfoundland (YQX) and Shannon, Ireland (SNN), without deplaning. All the airports on this trip were new to me. After attempting to sleep in a cabin seat, I moved to a cockpit jumpseat once we made landfall on the other side of the Atlantic. I observed that all our passengers were sleeping soundly-one of them had told me that they were happy to not have to parachute out, for a change! I enjoyed listening to ATC transmissions on a headset.

Our arrival was in the late afternoon at Aviano (AVB) and we were billeted at the Hotel Villa Ottoboni, in the nearest town of Pordenone. I still have (yes, I got permission to take it) a little plastic tray from the bar there, that one would put their payment on, and I use it every day to store my change!

I was exhausted and went right to sleep, getting up just in time to head back to the airport, but I remember the flight attendants went out on the town-impressive! They would sleep on the trip back, but I didn’t want to miss anything!  I don’t remember anything special about the departure, as it was still dark outside.

We made an uneventful fuel stop at Shannon; but, at Gander, the crew decided they wanted to eat something other than the provided catering. I volunteered to purchase everyone’s Fish and Chips meals for lunch. I have no passport stamp for my visit, so don’t believe that I officially entered Canada-probably just used the snack bar in the Transit Lounge.  We were the only international arrival at the time.

Finally returning to our IND base, the Customs Officer met us in the jet bridge and cleared us right there-I felt like a VIP!

Captain Baker wrote up a nice review of my participation, recommending that this be done more often. Alas, a week later, the company found themselves in a financial crisis and needed to cut costs immediately. I was furloughed on November 9, but within a few days, was hired at USAir as a part-time Customer Service Agent at IND. I don’t think I would have ever left ATA if they hadn’t laid me off; that was a great place to work for a young airline enthusiast who didn’t need to make much money!

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junior wings,Sun Country

Junior Wings of Sun Country Airlines

By Lane Kranz

Sun Country began operations in January 1983 as a charter airline with a single 727-200. Its inaugral flight was Sioux Falls, SD to Las Vegas, NV. Many of the employees were former Braniff employees which shutdown in 1982. Sun Country expanded its charter business with additional 727s and added DC-10s in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, Sun Country was the third-largest charter airline in the US.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Sun Country shut down and filed for bankruptcy in December 2001. The airline re-emerged and began scheduled operations. Ownership would change hands numerous times and included an FBI investigation for financial fraud. Their business model evolved into a ULCC model and remains heavily leisure-focused. In 2020, the airline operated its first all-cargo flight for Amazon under the Prime Air banner. Today, the airline operates scheduled, charter, and cargo services. According to the airline’s website, they operate only 737 jets:  34 passenger aircraft and 12 freighters.

Sun Country Airlines B727-227, N275AF
Seen at LAX International Airport on 10 Dec 1985
Wearing the original Sun Country colors and logo.
Photo Courtesy of Derek Heley
Sun Country Airlines B727-227, N275AF
LAX International Airport, December 10, 1985, wearing the original Sun Country colors and logo.
Photo Courtesy of Derek Heley
Sun Country Airlines DC10-40, N144JC
Seen at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport
October 1988
Photo Courtesy of  Richard Vandervord
Sun Country Airlines DC10-40, N144JC
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, October 1988
Photo Courtesy of Richard Vandervord
Sun Country Boeing 727-259, N289SC
Seen landing at Las Vegas, MCarren International Airport
October 2001
Gary C. Orlando Photo
Sun Country Boeing 727-259, N289SC
Landing at Las Vegas, MCarren International Airport
October 2001
Gary C. Orlando Photo

Photos: Sun Country Airlines


Sun Country has issued 5 different junior wings:

The original 1983 junior wing
The original 1983 junior wing.
The stylized logo early 1990s
The stylized logo early 1990s.
Name banner added, late 1990s
Name banner added, late 1990s.
Medium blue and all-caps late 2000s
Medium blue and all-caps late 2000s.
Dark blue and all-lower case 2010s reflects new/current livery
Dark blue and all-lower case 2010s reflects new/current livery.

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