airlines,Jetstream,Sierra Expressway,Sierra West Airlines,Sierra West Express

The Expressway

By David Birkley

Sierra West Airlines was founded by Dan Brumlik and Scott Bekemeyer as a commuter airline that would compete with congested Northern California’s highways and existing carriers with a focus on low fares and frequent service. Utilizing Oakland International Airport as a hub offered easy connections to other airlines like Shuttle by United, Southwest, and others.

Headquarters and HUB operations were to be located at the Oakland International Airport. Sierra West Express chose the reliable 19 passenger British Aerospace Jetstream 3200s with plans to serve 12 cities in Northern California and Southern Oregon with a predicted start date of May 1995. Seven beautifully painted J3200s with updated interiors joined the small airline. Aircraft and support came from British Aerospace and JSX Capital of Sterling, VA. 

The airline received its certificate on August 11, 1995, as Sierra Expressway. With much fanfare, service began on August 18 from Oakland to Eureka/Arcata, Monterey, Sacramento, CA, and to Medford, OR. Service to Redding, CA started in October.  Monterey was dropped in December and new service to South Lake Tahoe was started.

Photo Courtesy: Author’s Collection

The airline attempted to follow the success of ValuJet and Southwest Airlines by offering ticketless, no interline or baggage agreements, and peak and off-peak pricing structure. Low-cost walk-up fares were offered with few restrictions. You could purchase a roundtrip ticket Oakland-Medford for $218 which was less than one-third of the competing airlines. The airline offered two fares Off-Peak (6:00A-8:00A and 7:00P-12:00A) and Peak (8:00A-7:00P).

Once at the airport, one could expect friendly and enthusiastic service at check-in. When complete you were given a heavy thick plastic boarding pass with a story on it why you should be flying. No seat selection was offered onboard. Each out-station staff included a station manager and a small staff of ticket and ramp agents. Stations were also crew bases with three captains and three first officers. The airline employed over 250 personnel in December 1995: pilots, mechanics, and airport staff plus, administration.  

Item Courtesy: Author’s Collection

However, after the brief expansion in late 1995 and a slow reduction in service in early 1996 the airline continued to lose money and load factors hovered around 30%. As hard as the management team tried with enthusiasm, low fares and promotions were not enough.  The airline never achieved its predicted load factors of 50%, and other unforeseen expenses had eaten away at the airline’s operating capital. No choice was left but to close the doors on Friday, February 16, 1996.

Item courtesy: Author’s Collection

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Aerospatiale,aircraft,airlines,Corvette,SN.601

The Aerospatiale SN.601 Corvette

By Robert G. Waldvogel

As one of the first generation of regional jets that flew some two decades before those produced by Canadair, Embraer, and Dornier in the 1990s, the Aerospatiale SN.601 Corvette straddled the line between the business and regional markets and was consequently the smallest to have served commercially.

Its seed was planted when the French government, continuing its strategy of re-establishing the country’s post-war aviation industry began with piston airliners such as the Breguet Deux Ponts, the Sud-Est Armagnac, and the Sud-Ouest Bretagne requested that aircraft manufacturers submit proposals for a compact twin-turbofan liaison/trainer.  Then-separate Sud-Aviation and Nord-Aviation elected to jointly develop an executive jet designated the SN.600 Diplomate in January of 1968 when French indigenous SNECMA designed a suitable power plant for it, the M49 Larzac.

Displayed for the first time in model form at that year’s Hanover Air Show, it featured what became the standard business jet configuration—a low wing, a narrow fuselage, a forward, left door, swept aerodynamic surfaces, and two aft-mounted turbofans.  It most closely resembled the Cessna Citation 500.  It also had very early and very small-capacity regional jet application.

Predicted sales, which later proved unrealistically inflated, were expected to number some 400 from worldwide operators over and above the initial 60 expected from the French military.

Reflecting its joint Sud- and Nord-Aviation company origins, the aircraft, with its “SN” designation, first took to the sky in prototype form on July 16, 1970, but the lengthy development of its intended M49 powerplant necessitated the use of two 2,200 thrust-pound Pratt and Whitney Canada JT15D-1s instead.  While its maiden flight was successful, its test program did not continue in this vein.  During stall trials eight months later, on March 22, 1971, it crashed, ending in its demise.

A protracted period of redesign, before which Sud- and Nord-Aviation merged to form Aerospatiale, resulted in a 5.5-foot longer fuselage, giving the now re-designated SN.601 Corvette 100 a 45.4-foot overall length; a 42-foot wingspan, to which tip fuel tanks could be optionally installed to increase range; two 2,300 thrust-pound JT15D-4 turbofans; and a 13,450-pound gross weight.  Range, with its maximum payload, was just over 1,000 miles.

So-configured, the second and third prototypes respectively flew on December 20, 1972 and March 7, 1973.  The first production example followed suit eight months later, on November 9, 1973, and French certification was received another six months after that, on May 28, 1974.

The type’s problem-plagued program was hardly helped by competition, particularly on its executive side.  The similarly-configured, French-designed Falcon 20, distributed through Pan American Falcon Jets, enjoyed a brand name recognition advantage and was able to penetrate the coveted US market.

Attempts to conclude similar agreements were unsuccessful, specifically with Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV), Piper Aircraft, and its own Atlanta-based US Corvette Incorporated North American aircraft completion, sales, and distribution center.  Although its final one, with Oklahoma-based Air Center, Inc., seemed more promising, it never received a single production-standard aircraft out of the intended seventy.

As the third most expensive business jet after the Cessna Citation 500 and the Learjet 24, it was subjected to cost overruns and the French government gave serious thought to canceling the program.

After receiving only 24 orders, Aerospatiale did just that.  A report produced by the government’s Court of Audit stated that the company’s management lacked an adequate understanding of the risks involved in the face of competition from comparable US, British, and other French designs, saying, “It is certain that the Corvette program is, and will remain, a major commercial and financial disaster.”

In its regional jet role, it found limited application by third-level carriers seeking to offer point-to-point, hub-bypassing service on routes too thin to support larger aircraft.

Air Alpes, for example, which took delivery of two Corvette 100s in 1974 and another two in 1975, operated routes on its own behalf from Paris and those, such as Lyons-Brussels, on Air France’s, its aircraft appearing in its livery on one side and its own on its other.  Accommodating a dozen passengers, they featured two rows of single seats next to the five oval windows on either side, divided by a central aisle.  The cockpit count was two, but there were no flight attendants in the cabin.

Other operators included Air Alsace, Air Champagne, and TAT Touraine Air Transport in France, and Sterling Airways in Denmark.  Airbus Industrie used five aircraft as corporate shuttles between 1981 and 2009.

Although an 18-passenger, Corvette 200, with a 6.7-foot fuselage stretch, was proposed, it never proceeded beyond the concept stage, since its original 100 series ceased production in 1977 after 40 aircraft had been built, ending France’s second-worst commercial airliner program after that of the 150-passenger Dassault-Breguet Mercure 100, whose production run was only 12, including two prototypes.

Plagued by prototype accident; along, corrective development period; a change in power plant type; costly operation; failure to establish a North American distribution venue; strong competition; management ignorance; and capacity that proved inadequate, the Aerospatiale SN.601 Corvette nevertheless served as an example of one of the three regional jet origins: an all-new design, the conversion of an existing turboprop one, or the use of a business jet platform.

Air France/Air Alsace SN 601-100, F-BVPF seen at Basel-Mulhouse (BSL) in April 1976.
Note the lack of wingtip tanks.
Photo Courtesy: Eduard Marmet

TAT – Touraine Air Transport
Aerospatiale SN-601 Corvette 100, F-BTTT seen on May 31, 1978, at Basel-Mulhouse (BSL).
Once again note the lack of wingtip tanks.
Photo Courtesy: Eduard Marmet

Aero Vision SN 601 Corvette, F-GPLA seen at Hamburg, Germany on October 10, 2007.
Photo Courtesy: Christian Muller

Uni Air SN 601 Corvette, F-PVPG seen at Faro, Portugal on November 30, 1987.
Photo Courtesy: Pedro Aragao

Sterling Airways Aerospatiale Sn-610 Corvette, OY-SBT seen at Copenhagen, Denmark on September 22, 1984.
Photo Courtesy: Dirk Grothe | Aviation Photography

Sterling Airways Aerospatiale Sn-610 Corvette, OY-SBR seen at Copenhagen, Denmark on September 22, 1984.
Photo Courtesy: Dirk Grothe | Aviation Photography

Former Sterling Airways Aerospatiale SN-610 Corvette, OY-SBR seen at The Fly Museum in Stauning, Denmark on August 27, 2018.
Photo Courtesy: Dirk Grothe | Aviation Photography

Flight deck of former Sterling Airways Aerospatiale SN-610 Corvette, OY-SBR seen at The Fly Museum in Stauning, Denmark on August 27, 2018.
Photo Courtesy: Dirk Grothe | Aviation Photography

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Frontier Airlines,junior wings,Midwest Airlines,Midwest Express,Republic Airways,YX

Junior Wings of Midwest Express

By Lane Kranz

Midwest Express started operations on June 11, 1984, with three DC-9-10s.  The airline later added DC-9-30s and MD-80s.  In 2002, the airline simplified its name to Midwest Airlines and 717s replaced older generation aircraft.  The airline was known for quality service, 2×2 leather seating, and warm chocolate chip cookies.  Financial troubles began post-9/11 and a series of ownership changes occurred.  Midwest Airlines flew its final flight in 2010 as it was absorbed into Frontier Airlines and Republic Airways Holdings.  Its YX code is still used by Republic Airways.

Pictured Above:  (Left) Midwest Express first junior wing with block lettering.  (Center) Midwest Express second issue junior wing with script lettering.  (Right) Midwest Airlines final junior wing reflecting the name change and new corporate logo.

All aircraft pictures courtesy of Joe Hamilton collection.

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F-27,Fokker,Friendship

The Fokker F.27 Friendship

By Robert G. Waldvogel

Fokker designed the F.27 Friendship as a high-performance and capacity, next-generation Douglas DC-3 replacement.

Having undertaken a refurbishment of that very aircraft after World War II, it converted military C-47s into civil sector-applicable airliners, whose experience enabled it to combine the high wing of its own F.VIIb/3m Tri-motor with the all-metal construction of its Ford counterpart.

The resulting F.27-200, the culmination of design features that the majority of surveyed carriers believed necessary in such an aircraft, offered a circular-section fuselage with a forward baggage and cargo compartment, oval passenger windows, and an aft, left boarding door, giving it a 77-foot, 3.5-inch overall length. The pressurized cabin had a 40-passenger capacity in a four-abreast arrangement.

The high, straight wing, with a 95.2-foot span and a 753.5-square-foot area, initially featured double-slotted trailing edge Fowler flaps, but later reverted to single ones, to provide short-field capability, enabling it to serve the small, ill-equipped airports that would, to a significant extent, comprise its operational realm.

Power, generated by two 2,020-hp Rolls Royce RDa.7Dart 528 engines, endowed it with a 45,000-pound gross weight, a 300-mph speed, and a maximum, 10,300-pound payload range of 1,285 miles.

Two static and two flight test airframes were constructed after receipt of Dutch government backing. The first prototype, powered by lower-rated, 1,540-hp RDa.6 Dart 507s and the originally intended double-slotted high-lift devices, took to the sky on November 24, 1955. It was not initially pressurized.

The three-foot longer second aircraft, accommodating 36, offered 1,720-hp RDa.6 Dart 511s.

The initial F.27-100 production version, first flying on March 23, 1958, was inaugurated into service by Aer Lingus nine months later, on December 15.

Integral to the program’s success was the April 1956 license-manufacture agreement with the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Company in the US, which later became Fairchild-Hiller. Because most of the US local service carriers operated antiquated DC-3s, the agreement was seen as an opportunity to replace a significant number of aircraft.

The resulting Fairchild F-27, which first flew from Hagerstown, Maryland, on April 12, 1958, incorporated a lengthened nose for weather radar installation, an increased fuel capacity, and seating for 40, all of which were subsequently applied to its Fokker counterpart.

After it was granted its FAA type certificate on July 16, it was placed into service by West Coast Airlines two months later, on September 27 actually beating the Fokker F.27-100 into service!

Aside from the subsequent, already described, hot-and-high F.27-200, there were several other variants, including the F.27-300 with a port-side cargo door and a strengthened cabin floor; the F-27B, the Fairchild equivalent of it; the F.27-400, a combi version; and the F.27-500, the first to feature a fuselage stretch.

The latter, sparked by Air France’s Postale de Nuit night airmail service and thus equipped with an in-cabin sorting system, retained the F.27-300’s cargo door, but introduced a 4.11-foot longer fuselage for 48 passengers and 2,230-hp RDa.7 Dart 532s. It first flew on November 15, 1967.

Fairchild-Hiller’s own version, The FH-227, with an even greater, six-foot fuselage stretch, was powered by Dart 532-7s and increased the F.27-500’s maximum passenger capacity from 56 to 60. It had a 43,500-pound gross weight. Later versions of the FH-227 had an increase in gross weight to 45,500 pounds.

Despite the difficulty foreign aircraft manufacturers usually had in making inroads into the US market, Fokker, because of its optimum payload and performance turboprop design, and its Fairchild agreement, was very successful.

US local service F.27 operators included West Coast, Piedmont, Bonanza, Pacific, and Ozark. Trans-Pacific Airlines, which was later renamed Aloha and competed with Hawaiian Airlines on virtually the same inter-island network, replaced its piston Convair 340s with Fairchild F-27 turboprops in the summer of 1959, increasing its traffic share from 30 to 43 percent in the process.

Fairchild Hiller’s Longer-fuselage FH-227 initial operators included Mohawk, Northeast, Ozark, Piedmont and Paraense-Brazil.

As the western world’s best-selling turboprop twin in its class, the aircraft achieved an impressive production run—586 Fokker F.27s, 128 Fairchild F-27s, and 78 Fairchild-Hiller FH-227s.

Fokker F.27-200 Friendship
Seen in the colors of Mesaba/Northwest Airlink at Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN in April 1990.
Gary C. Orlando Photo.
The Stretched Fokker F.27-500 series
Seen here in the colors of Midstate Airlines.
Pictured landing at Chicago O’Hare Airport, IL August of 1984.
Ronald Kluk Photo.
The Fairchild F-27F, N384BA.
This particular aircraft was originally delivered to Scott Paper Company as a corporate version.
Seen here in Moline, IL flown by Britt Airways but wearing the Scott Paper colors.
Gary C. Orlando Photo.
The ultimate fuselage stretch: The Fairchild-Hiller FH-227
Ozark Air Lines FH-227, N4216.
Photo Courtesy Fairchild Hiller Gary C. Orlando Collection.

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Chicago,O'Hare

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Postcards

By Marvin G. Goldman

By the end of World War II in 1945, Chicago’s main airport, Midway, was barely coping with accelerating passenger numbers and no significant room for facility expansion. The City had no alternative but to select an entirely new location to meet future needs for additional capacity. In 1945 it selected Orchard Field, northwest of downtown Chicago. The site had been home to a Douglas Aircraft C-54 assembly plant during the war and had four intersecting runways.

In 1949 the Chicago City Council renamed Orchard Field as “Chicago-O’Hare Field,” in honor of naval aviator Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, a Chicago native and Medal of Honor recipient. The original airport code “ORD,” taken from the Orchard Field name, was retained.

O’Hare became the first major airport in the U.S. to be planned and constructed after World War II. Development took several years, and it was only in 1955 that O’Hare officially opened to scheduled commercial airline service. Growth was slow at first, as Midway Airport, being close to downtown Chicago, was much more popular at that time. However, with the arrival of the “jet age” in 1958-1959, and the resultant need for longer runways that Midway Airport didn’t have and lacked room to build, O’Hare took off on its path to becoming America’s busiest airport.

I am aware of only two postcards of O’Hare issued prior to 1959:

1956-issued postcard of O’Hare. Publisher Aero Distributing, Chicago, no. CK211, Curteichcolor no. 6C-K1430. This shows the original terminal building and control tower. The word “International” on the front has already been added to the airport’s name. Three propliner aircraft are on the right side. The back of this card states that O’Hare is the “world’s largest airport” – an interesting claim because even a year later O’Hare only handled 36weekday departures versus Midway’s 414.
United Airlines Douglas DC-6B, N37581, at Chicago O’Hare Far North West Side, Pub’r Aero Dist’g no. CK-249, Curteichcolor no. 7C-K2639, issued 1957. Later versions of this postcard were issued, one with a border and another in a dual view with Chicago’s skyline. United established its presence at O’Hare early on, and developed a major hub there.

In 1959 pure jets started flying into O’Hare. They could arrive there with full passenger loads, whereas load limitations applied to jet flights into Midway due to Midway’s shorter runways. My own first flight, on December 17, 1959, was aboard a new Continental Airlines 707 which flew from Los Angeles to Chicago Midway following a stop in Denver and with a limited passenger load.

TWA and American Airlines 707s parked at O’Hare, in 1959 or 1960 (my card is postmarked September 10, 1960). Also on the ramp is a helicopter of Chicago Helicopter Airways. Behind the aircraft, you can see the observation deck with spectators enjoying the panoramic view of the airport. Pub’r Cameo Greeting Cards, Chicago, no. P30884.

Most postcards of O’Hare were issued during the 1960s, the early jet-age years. By July 1962 all scheduled operations at Midway airport were transferred to O’Hare. In that year O’Hare served 10 million passengers and claimed to be the “World’s Busiest Airport.” By 1965 that number doubled to 20 million, and by 1968 it rose to 30 million. Here is a selection of postcards from that decade:

In January 1962 O’Hare Airport completed a major construction project with the opening of new Terminals 2 and 3. This postcard shows one of those terminals and interior views. Pub’r Aero Dist’g, Curteich no. 2DK-1176, 1962. Each terminal included separate levels for arrivals and departures, innovative at the time. In the small images on this card, you can see two United Airlines Sud-Est Caravelle aircraft, introduced in July 1961.
Aerial view of O’Hare, 1962. Pub’r Aero Distr’g no. CK-294, Curteichcolor 2-DK-1176. Here you can see Terminals 2 and 3 in the background, separated by a round building under construction that would become a restaurant rotunda upon its opening in 1963. The ramp features a mix of prop and jet aircraft, and several jetways are already in use.

O’Hare (through United Airlines) and San Francisco International (through Pan Am) each claim to have been the first airport to use jetways.

Close-up of jetways, completed rotunda restaurant, and Terminals 2 and 3 at O’Hare, probably 1963. Pub’rHandleman Co., Chicago, no. P59106.
Aerial view of O’Hare, now called “The Aviation Crossroads of the World,” showing aircraft lining up for takeoff on its 11,600 ft. runway that opened in August 1960 – the longest civilian aircraft runway in the U.S. at the time. Pub’rCameo Greeting Cards, Chicago, Dexter Press no. 67044-B, Penrod Studio photo, about 1963.
Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-188 Electras parked near the control tower at O’Hare. Pub’r Standard Map Dist., Chicago, no. SM-134.
Northwest Airlines L-188 Electra and Boeing 707, Continental Airlines707, and in the background an Air France 707, at Chicago O’Hare, Pub’r Cameo, Dexter Press no. DT-67051-B, Penrod Studio photo. In the background are 16 fuel tanks connected to hydrants at the aircraft parking stations, eliminating the need to transport fuel to airplanes by truck – another innovation at O’Hare.
United Airlines Sud-Est Caravelle and Douglas DC-8 at Chicago O’Hare. Pub’r Cameo, Dexter Press no. DT-67054-B. Penrod Studio photo.
Waiting Room Lobby, Terminal 2, Chicago O’Hare, postmarked 24 January 1964. Pub’r Cameo, Dexter Press no. 67043-B, Penrod Studio Photo. Note the many telephone booths. The seats, “Tandem Sling Seats” designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1962, were first introduced at O’Hare and became an iconic standard at numerous airports.

Very few postcards on Chicago O’Hare have been published from the 1970s to date. Here are some examples:

United Boeing 747-100, N4727U, taxiing on the bridge over expressway at Chicago O’Hare, about 1972. Pub’r Illinois Dist., Aurora IL, no. J12199, Phil Valdez photo. This bridge, which opened in December 1966 to improve aircraft maneuvering efficiency, was the first airport taxiway bridge spanning a public roadway.
Aerial view of Chicago O’Hare showing its newer control tower that opened in May 1971 and behind it the airport hotel that debuted in February 1973. At right is an American Airlines concourse. Oversize card, 4-1/2” x 6-1/2”. Pub’r Photoscapes, Glencoe IL no. CHI 284, Kanna Wang photo.
The expansion of O’Hare in the 1960s and early 1970s can be seen in this 1975 aerial view postcard. Note the numerous concourses and vast land area. Pub’r Aero Dist’g, Evanston IL, no. E-48, Curteichcolor no. 5ED-373.
United Airlines’ new Terminal 1 concourse at Chicago O’Hare that opened in 1987. Pub’r Postcard Factory, Markham, Ontario, Canada, no. 643925, P. Pearson photo. The new Terminal 1 was built on the site of the original O’Hare Terminal 1 and was dubbed “The Terminal for Tomorrow.”
United Airlines’ new Terminal 1 underground walkway that opened in 1987. It was created by artist Michael Hayden and called ‘The Sky’s the Limit’. Pub’r Pitt Souvenirs, Northbrook IL, no. PSK 3019, photo by Daryl R. Doulder.

Note: All the postcards shown are in the author’s collection. They are all fairly common.

Since 1990, Chicago O’Hare International Airport has continuously been expanding to meet the demands of growing passenger volume. In 1990 American Airlines, the second-largest carrier at O’Hare next to United, completed a large renovation and expansion of its facilities in Terminal 3; and in 1993 a newer international terminal, Terminal 5, opened.

In 2005 the airport embarked on an “O’Hare Modernization Plan,” a $6 billion airfield reconfiguration designed to transform O’Hare from an air traffic bottleneck into a more modern airport with fewer ‘”system-impact delays.”. Sixteen years later, in September 2021, O’Hare celebrated the completion of this project which included four new runways, the extension of two other runways, two new air traffic control towers (South and North), and the replacement of intersecting runways with parallel runways.

Yet more plans are underway at O’Hare. In 2018, a year when O’Hare handled over 84 million passengers, with about 2,400 daily flights to over 200 scheduled destinations, the airport adopted its latest master plan, called “O’Hare 21.” This plan includes, most significantly, a Terminal Area Plan whose centerpiece is a new O’Hare Global Terminal, to replace Terminal 2 and be a gateway to the airport. The Plan also intends to integrate domestic and international terminal operations, allowing airlines in each of the three major airline alliances (Oneworld, Skyteam, and Star Alliance) to consolidate operations in one terminal. Other features include increasing gate capacity by 25%, improving baggage and security services, and near-term expansion of Terminals 3 and 5.

References

  • flychicago.com. Chicago Department of Aviation site, tab “O’Hare History.”
  • wikipedia.org. “O’Hare International Airport.”
  • chicagotribune.com/news. “O’Hare International Airport timeline: From farm to global terminal,” by Kori Rumore (September 9, 2021).
  • Spiselman, Anne, “Chicago O’Hare and Its Next 25 Years,” Airways Magazine, March/April 2019, pp. 78-87.

With all the new developments and activity at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, I hope to see you at Airliners International™ 2022 Chicago, June 23-25, 2022, at the Hilton Rosemount/Chicago O’Hare Hotel. This is the world’s largest airline history and airline collectibles show and convention, with nearly 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. You might want to enter the Postcard Contest at the show. More information on AI2022 is available at airlinersinternational.org. Follow this link for Postcard Contest Rules.

Until then, Happy Collecting,

Marvin

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In the Air with Garuda Indonesian Airways: 1951 – 1956

By Arthur Smit-Roeters

For over five years I had the opportunity to fly as a steward on board a De Havilland DH114 Heron, in addition to Catalina flying boats, C-47s/DC-3s, and Convair 240s/340s. 100 flying hours a month were the norm.

What was it like to fly on board a De Havilland 114 Heron 1? I will relate a little story of one of my many adventures on the Heron.

Pictured below is a DH114 Heron 1B (fixed gear), the aircraft I served on in the 1950s.

Garuda Indonesian Airways De Havilland Heron 1B, PK-GHB c/n 14015
Photo: Arthur Smit-Roeters Collection.

A Snake on Board

In the early 1950s, I was assigned to fly as a steward on board a chartered 14 passenger Garuda Indonesian Airways De Havilland Heron 1B1, with the Vice President of Indonesia, Dr. Mohamed Hatta on board. Because the plane was not air-conditioned and flew at lower altitudes, the cabin temperature stayed warm and became unbearably hot on the ground in the sweltering equatorial heat and high humidity. The plane was not designed to carry a steward and was not equipped with a galley. One could hardly stand up straight in the cabin and less so in the tail section where the improvised galley was located.

After our takeoff, I was going to prepare snacks and noticed a beautiful green-colored rope with a red argyle pattern hanging over two cold-drink containers. When I reached out to pick it up, the rope curled up and the end showed a snake’s head with a nervous split tongue. It was ready to bite me. The vivid colors indicated that the “rope” was a very poisonous snake. I could not jump up or sideways due to the confined space but, I did step back at high speed and slammed the cabin door shut. Dr. Hatta and his entourage were told about the extra passenger.

Everybody became very edgy. A fly, an additional stowaway the flight, made life in the cabin very interesting. Every time it landed on a person, that person made some extremely quick evasive movements as if the snake was on him. The perceived intruder must have moved around quickly because many people were literally sitting on the edge of their seats while swatting away at the imaginary snake, but Dr. Hatta kept his composure. In the meantime, I kept an eye on the door threshold in case the snake slithered into the cabin. That was not possible, but I needed to be sure.

Our captain changed course, back to Sepinggan (Balikpapan, BPN, Kalimantan) Airport. We landed uneventfully but, I was not brave enough to open the door to the galley. I reasoned the serpent could have grown into a dragon and I was not a dragon slayer. Meanwhile, the captain had radioed to local flight operations that we had a snake on board and asked for plane handlers to remove it.

As soon as the Heron came to a stop on the ramp, none of the ground personnel dared to open the door since the snake would probably strike at a ramp worker. After our uncomfortable flight of about 15 minutes, we were now confined for what seemed an eternity in this narrow hot aluminum tube and everybody was soaked with perspiration. A very brave person opened the outside door and emptied the contents of a fire extinguisher into the galley. The critter was stunned by this unwelcome treatment. Finally, somebody using a long stick and with enough courage, removed the incapacitated snake and we were then able to exit the plane. After our 15 minute flight, the outside air felt cool to the skin.

So there ends my adventure of a snake on the plane.

1 In 1952 Garuda Indonesian Airways ordered 14 Heron 1B aircraft to replace their 16-passenger Catalina flying boats. The Heron 1B was designed to carry 14-17 passengers, but GIA’s configuration was for 12.

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Airline,Airways,Flag,Pan Am,Pin

Pan American Airways: A Collector’s Guide to Pan Am Flag Pins

By Tiemen Spits

The flag pins were a private issue and were allowed by the Airline’s corporate office to adorn the Pan Am uniform. No clear policy existed about the usage of the pins; the popularity of it was purely driven by the flight personnel. Research shows that the use was multi-purpose.

  • As a destination pin: the flight attendant wore the flag of the country or state that was the final destination of the flight. For ease of use, we have divided the pins in three groups:
    • Country contains the pins from the different foreign countries,
    • USA State/Territory/Commonwealth contains the USA state and Commonwealth pins,
    • Special/other, for example Berlin and the Pan Am globe pins are found in this group.
  • As an indication of the country/state of origin of the flight attendants: this was not the original intention of the pins, but developed over time and was widely embraced in support of national pride of the individuals.
  • As an indication of the linguistic skills of the person wearing it: this is not to be confused with the language pin/badge.

The pins are a simple but elegant form: two flags crossed at the pole with the Pan Am stylized globe underneath. The flag on the left is always the flag of the USA, while the flag on the right varies with the country of origin. The example below is the flag pin of El Salvador.

USA-El Salvador Pin

From ex-Pan Am employees we learned that the pins started to show up in the mid to late 1980s. However, the existence of the Cuba pin indicates that the earliest use must be before 1963 when the Cuba travel restrictions were put in place. These were not lifted until the year after Pan Am’s bankruptcy in 1991.

There are a few pins that do not adhere to the general format described above. These include the Joint Venture pins, the EU pin, and the Pan Am logo pin.

Joint Venture (JV) Pins

The Joint Venture (JV) pins were issued to show the commitment of Pan Am to partnerships with Russia and Hungary with respectively Aeroflot and Malev airlines. The Russia/Aeroflot partnership was signed in 1988 and operated flights between New York Kennedy Airport and Moscow International Airport. The flights used the Pan Am 747’s and the cockpit and cabin crews were Pan Am, while three of the flight attendants were Aeroflot. They would also act as interpreters. The Malev partnership was signed in 1989 and committed to non-stop flights between New York and Budapest. Both joint ventures lasted until Pan Am’s demise in 1991.

The Pan Am logo pin is distinguished from the others by the fact it does not sport the blue ball/globe.

Pan Am Malev JV Pin

The European Union Pin

The European Union pin depicts the European Union logo which was designed in the mid-1950s when the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed.

Pan Am EU Pin

The Berlin Pin

The Berlin pin is a special issue to show that Pan Am was one of only three airlines to fly into West Berlin, Germany after Berlin was isolated at the end of World War II. Commercial flights into Berlin were limited during the Cold War. The only three airlines flying into Tegelhoff were British Airways, Air France, and Pan Am.

Pan Am Berlin Pin

The Flying Flag Pin

Instead of a static flag, the flag is designed actively flying in the wind. The pin is thicker, the wells are deeper, and the cloisonné has been deposited thicker. In my years of collecting I have only found one pin in this style: Indonesia.

Variant Versions of the Same Country Pin

Finally, there are country pins that exist in multiple variant issues due to a change of the national flag while the pins were in use at Pan Am. These pins are

  • Austria
    • Without any device in the horizontal white bar.
    • With the Austrian coat of arms in the horizontal white horizontal bar (variant version). Because the new Austrian coat of arms was officially approved/adopted in its current form in 1984, it is possible that this variant version started to appear in the same year.
  • Romania
    • With the communist device in the yellow vertical bar. (30 Dec. 1947 – 27 Dec. 1989).
    • Without any device in the yellow vertical bar (from 27 Dec. 1989 – end of use).

How to Use This Guide

To find whether a pin was issued for the country/region of interest, use this alphabetical index.  For easy identification we have divided the pins into three main groups:

  1. International destination pins
  2. USA State/Territory/Commonwealth pins
  3. Other pins

Within each group, the pins are listed in alphabetical order by their country/state/commonwealth’s name. Each pin’s image is accompanied by the country represented by the flag and a one-line note elaborating on the image when needed. The author is still looking for Honduras and Portugal and any other pin not shown in this collector’s guide.

International flag pins

USA flag pins

In the USA these pins present the state of origin or destination. According to some sources, pins existed for all 50 states; however, I have found no evidence of this. Below are the currently known state pins.

Miscellaneous Flag Pins

There are two pins in this group that deviate from the “standard” issue, namely the Pan Am logo and the Indonesia pins. The Pan Am logo pin does not have the globe in the center below the flags and the Indonesia pin is made thicker than the “normal” pin and the cloisonné wells are deeper. Also, the flag is not draped but waving.

Each pin is approximately 1” wide by 1 ¼” high, except for the Aeroflot pin, which is approximately 1 ½ “high.

As of March 2018 – a total of 77 pins have been identified. If you have additional information about the pin usage, personal experience with them, or want to trade, please contact me at terschellin49@gmail.com or leave a comment below. Happy collecting!

This article and all images originally appeared on www.halpostcards.com (copyright 2017-2021) and are used here with the author’s permission.

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Aerovias Brasil,Air Panama,Aviateca,Central America,TACA

A Quick Visit to Central America

By Charlie Dolan

After spending several months concentrating on the airlines of the British Isles, I think we need to get some warmth into our bones with a quick visit to Central America. I might regret this decision because with September temperatures in the nineties and “feel like” temperatures in the hundreds here in Florida we might long for the north again.

I have a few insignia from that part of the world in my collection, but one of the carriers with the most extensive route structures and most colorful insignia is TACA. In the 1930s, TACA (Transportes Aereos Centro-Americanos) was founded by Lowell Yerex. It was started as a cargo carrier and eventually operated flights ranging from Miami in the north to Rio de Janeiro in the south. Most of these services were short-haul, but the presence of TACA touched just about all the countries of Central America, As air commerce developed in Central America, competition arose between TACA and carriers affiliated with Juan Trippe’s Pan American World Airways (PAA). TACA was based in El Salvador and maintains its headquarters there today. Over the years, its fortunes waxed and waned as it formed companies such as TACA of Venezuela, TACA Brasil, TACA de Costa Rica, and TACA de Nicaragua. Pan American-backed companies operated in Honduras (SAHSA), Nicaragua (LANICA), and Costa Rica (LACSA). The backing offered by PAA and TACA generally was about forty percent of the local carriers’ budgets. By the late 1940s the larger carriers had withdrawn their backing of the smaller companies.

Panama was served by Aerovias Panama and later Air Panama. Air Panama was backed by Spain’s Iberia and the earlier Aerovias Panama had been aided in operating to the USA by Trans Caribbean Airways.

There were a few independent airlines operating in Central America as well. One of those was Aviateca (Compania Guatamalteca de Aviacion, S.A.) of Guatamala.

I have some photos of one of this company’s Convair 440s taken by my father when he flew from Belize International Airport to Tikal to view the Mayan ruins.  He had been serving as a ship’s medical officer after having retired from private practice in New York.

So, here are some Central American airline insignia to check over. All are in my collection, with the exception of TACA Venezuela and Aerovias Panama. The heraldry of the “parent” companies can be seen in The TACA affiliates’ blue parrot and the Pan American style cap badge seen in companies operating in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and even as far as Afghanistan (Ariana). Hope you enjoy them.

Aerovias Brasil 1942 -1961. TACA partner until1947. Merged with VARIG Empresade Transportes Aereos Brasil S. A.
Air Panama 1968 – 1989. Bankrupt 1990. Operated as Air Panama International.
Aviateca GU GUG 1929 – present. Empresa Guatamalteca de Aviacion S. A.
Lanica NI 1946 – 1981 Lineas Aereas de Nicaragua.
SAHSA SH SHA 1945 – 1994. Servicio Aereo de Honduras, S.A. Merged with TAN Honduras to operate as TAN/ SAHSA
TACA TA TAI 1932 – present (as AVIANCA). Transportes Aereos Centro-Americanos. Operations spanned Miami, FL, USA to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
TACA Venezuela 1944- 1952. Linea Aerea TACA de Venezuela To LAV.

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New York Airways Boeing Vertol V107 II

Reflections of Inter-New York Airport Flying

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

If a person about to board an airplane in Omaha were asked where he was flying to and he responded, “Omaha,” he may receive a few perplexed looks and even an audible, “But aren’t you there now?” Yet, when you live in metropolises that support multiple airports, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Tokyo, it is possible to fly from one to the other.

While distances between them may not be that excessive, surface travel, particularly during rush hours, can require excess time, and there is nothing like landing at an airport and proceeding to the next gate for a connecting flight and even having your checked baggage interlined to it.

New York, my hometown, qualifies as having one of these inter-airport networks. At least it has tried throughout the years, but none were successful. Aside from the obvious JFK International, La Guardia, and Newark Liberty International airports, there are secondary or satellite airfields, such as White Plains’ Westchester County and Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airports, and even a tertiary one, Farmingdale’s Republic Airport. And all this excludes heliports.

Several fixed- and rotary-wing air shuttles were launched over the years, and a recent reflection enabled me to review the ones I took.

New York Airways Boeing-Vertol V-107-II

New York Airways, one of them, made a valiant, two-decade attempt to offer scheduled, rotary-wing service within the tri-airport network with the Boeing-Vertol V-107-II.

The type, which eventually became its flagship and virtual symbol of it, not only traces its origins to a design, but to the very, manufacturer that created it. Vertol, a Philadelphia-based, rotary-wing company, was concurrently designing two tandem-rotor helicopters—namely, the Chinook for the US Army and the CH-46A Sea Knight for the US Navy and Marines.

The latter, the result of a design competition for a Marine Corps medium assault transport, first flew in August of 1962 and was first delivered two years later, carrying troops and cargo between South China Sea positioned ships and Vietnam. Of its three prototypes, one was modified to civil V-107-II standard and it first flew on October 25, 1960, at a time when Boeing had acquired the company, resulting in the Boeing-Vertol name.

Powered by a 1,250-shp General Electric T58-8 turboshaft engine, it featured a 50-foot rotor diameter. With an 84-foot overall length, it had an 18,400-pound gross weight.

First flying in full production guise the following year, on May 19, it was FAA type-certified in January of 1962 and entered scheduled New York Airway service on July 1. The remaining ten built were sold to Kawasaki of Japan to serve as license-produced pattern aircraft, but that plan never proceeded into production.

Images of the V-107-II taking off from the Pan Am rooftop heliport symbolized skyscraper-stretching Manhattan island and formed an integral part of the city’s culture. They also represented an aspect of urban mobility: subways below its streets and helicopters above its buildings depicted successful technological triumphs over traffic-saturated streets and significantly reduced travel times.

Noise and vibration were counteracted with convenience, speed, travel times that were measured in minutes, and unparalleled views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. Approaches to the encircled “H” touchdown point on the water jutting pier placed the aircraft’s size into perspective when it was virtually swallowed by Manhattan’s monoliths during its alight.

New York Helicopter Aerospatiale SA.360C Dauphin

New York Helicopter replaced New York Airways during the 1980s, although it used smaller equipment.

Owned by and operated as a subsidiary of Roosevelt Field-based Island Helicopter, it routed its Aerospatiale SA.360C Dauphin rotary-wing aircraft through the Newark, East 34th Street Heliport, and La Guardia circuit from JFK, operating from the TWA Terminal there.

Designed to replace the Alouette III, the Dauphin, with a fully glazed front nose section; a 980-shp, four-bladed Astazou XVI main rotor turbine; and a Forreston tail, first flew in prototype form on June 2, 1972. After it was retrofitted with a more powerful, 1,050-shp Astazou XVII and new rotor blades, it offered improved performance, along with lower noise and vibration levels.

The first production version, with a stepped nose, a single Turbomeca Astazou XVIIIA engine, and a 37.8-foot rotor diameter, carried eight passengers in two rows. Its maximum takeoff weight was 6,725 pounds.

Although only 34 were built because potential operators considered it underpowered, it served as the foundation of a military version, the SA.361.

One of my JFK-Newark hops entailed a short taxi to the takeoff pad amid the quad-engine widebodies that weighed some 750,000 pounds, causing the Dauphin to comparatively appear like little more than a fly. It generated lift with a full-throttle advance and was leveraged into a nose-down profile as its main rotor, biting the air at the proper angle, induced forward speed.

Escaping the air traffic-saturated maze of runways, it unrestrictedly gained altitude over Brooklyn, cruising over the azure surface of Upper New York Bay with the torch-carrying statue known as “Liberty” always in view in the distance. Making its approach to Newark International, it gently alighted, now at a nose-high angle.

Piper PA-31-350 similar to what Air Vermont flew.
Gary C. Orlando Photo

An Air Vermont JFK-Islip flight, part of a multi-sector one that continued to Hartford, Albany, and Burlington, constituted another inter-New York airport journey.

Based in Morrisville and established in 1981, it served 13 northeast cities, according to its October 1, 1983 timetable: Albany, Berlin (New Hampshire), Boston, Burlington, Hartford, Long Island, Nantucket, Newport (Vermont), New York-JFK, Portland, Washington-National, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Worcester with a fleet of Piper PA-31 Navajos and Beech C99s.

The former, featuring a low wing, a conventional tail, and a retractable tricycle undercarriage, may have been “large equipment” to private operators, but it was dwarfed by the jetliners taxiing to 10,000-foot Runway 31-Left.

Not even using a tenth of it, the twin-engine aircraft surrendered to the sky and surmounted the Queens sprawl, before setting an easterly course and closing the 40-mile gap to Long Island MacArthur in as many minutes.

After a landing and a short taxi to its original oval-shaped terminal, I immediately understood why one of the scenes from the original Out-of-Towners movie was filmed there: it exuded a quiet, hometown atmosphere, especially after the JFK congestion.

Continental Express Aerospatiale ATR-42-300

Aside from JFK International Airport’s rotary-wing links to Newark, Islip’s Long Island MacArthur provided its own in the form of Continental Express, operated by Britt Airways, whose codeshare agreement enabled passengers to connect to Continental’s mainline flights. It operated ATR-42-300s.

Following the latest intra-European cooperation trend, the French Aerospatiale and Italian Aeritalia aerospace firms elected to collaborate on a regional airliner that combined design elements of their respective, once-independent AS-35 and AIT-230 proposals.

Re-designated ATR-42—the letters representing the French “Avions de Transport Regional” and the Italian “Aerei di Transporto Regionale” and the number reflecting the average seating capacity—the high-wing, twin-turboprop, cross of Loraine tail, was powered by two 1,800-shp Pratt and Whitney Canada PW120 engines when it first flew as the ATR-42-200 on August 16, 1984. The production version, the ATR-42-300, featured up-rated, 2,000-shp powerplants.

Of modern airliner design, it accommodated up to 49 four-abreast passengers with a central aisle, overhead storage compartments, a flat ceiling, a galley, and a lavatory.

Granted its French and Italian airworthiness certificate in September of 1985 after final assembly in Toulouse, France, it entered scheduled service four months later on December 9 with Air Littoral. With a 37,300-pound maximum takeoff weight, it had a 265-knot maximum speed at a 25,000-foot service ceiling.

Continental Express operated four round-trips between Islip and Newark, parking at a Terminal C gate for convenient connections to Continental’s jet flights.

PBA Provincetown Boston Airlines Embraer EMB-110

Attempting to establish a link between Farmingdale and Newark International itself, PBA Provincetown Boston Airlines commenced shuttle service with Embraer EMB-110 commuter aircraft, connecting Long Island by means of a 30-minute aerial hop with up to five daily round-trips and coordinating schedules with PEOPLExpress Airlines. It stressed its convenience in advertisements—namely, avoidance of the excessive drive-times, parking costs, and longer check-in requirements otherwise associated with larger-airport usage, and it offered through-fares, ticketing, and baggage check to any PEOPLExpress final destination.

According to its June 20, 1986 Northern System timetable, it offered Farmingdale departures at 07:00, 09:50, 12:00, 14:45, and 17:55.

The EMB-110 itself was a low-wing aircraft.

Named after the Brazilians who explored and colonized the western portion of the country in the 17th century, the conventional design, with two three-bladed turboprops and a retractable tricycle undercarriage, accommodated between 15 and 18 passengers. It was the first South American commercial aircraft to have been ordered by European and US carriers.

Originally sporting circular passenger windows and powered by PT6A-20 engines, it entailed a three-prototype certification program, each aircraft respectively first taking to the air on October 28, 1968, October 19, 1969, and June 26, 1970. Although initially designated the C-95 when launch-ordered by the Brazilian Air Force (for 60 of the type), the EMB-110 was certified two years later on August 9.

Powered by PT6A-27 engines, production aircraft featured square passenger windows, a 50.3-foot wingspan, a forward, left air stair door, and redesigned nacelles so that the main undercarriage units could be fully enclosed in the retracted position.

Designated EMB-110C and accommodating 15, the type entered scheduled service with Trans Brasil on April 16, 1973 and it was integral in filling its and VASP’s feederline needs.

Six rows of three-abreast seats with an offset aisle and 12,345-pound gross weights characterized the third level/commuter EMB-110P version, while the longer fuselage EMB-110P2, first ordered by French commuter carrier Air Littoral, was powered by up-rated, 750-shp PT6A-34s and offered seating for 21.

PBA Provincetown Boston Airlines Cessna C-402

While load factors failed to support PBA’s 19-seat EMB-110s from Farmingdale to Newark, it continued to operate the service with smaller Cessna C-402s.

First flying on August 26, 1965, the low-wing, retractable undercarriage aircraft was powered by two three-bladed, 325-hp turbocharged Continental TSIO-520-VB piston engines. Although it was smaller than the EMB-110s that it replaced, its appearance at predominantly light Beechcraft, Cessna, Mooney, and Piper characterized Republic Airport next to its single Passenger Terminal and boarded by ticket holders through its port door located behind the wing, gave it a “mini-airliner” command.

Its pilot was just as “single” in number and its flight attendant count was decidedly lower than that, or zero. Nevertheless, it demonstrated the secondary purpose a general aviation airfield could serve, where parking was complimentary and only feet from the check-in counters, congestion was unheard of, and the quick air shuttle flight, replacing the Verrazano-Narrows and Goethals bridges, facilitated a link to the national air transportation system through connecting PEOPLExpress flights.

When Continental later acquired PEOPLExpress, PBA provided the same feed to its route system through Newark.

Privately Flown Cessna C-172 Skyhawk, N734HD
Photo Courtesy: Guido Warnecke

While there was no scheduled airline service between ten-mile-separated Republic and Long Island MacArthur airports, I created my own, of sorts, with four-place Cessna C-172 Skyhawks.

As a high-wing, four-seat, general aviation airplane powered by a single 160-hp, dual-bladed Avco Lycoming O-320-H2AD piston engine, it offered flight training-consistent performance: a useful load of 910 pounds, a maximum takeoff weight of 2,300 pounds, a 43-gallon fuel capacity, and a 125-knot speed. Its sea level rate-of-climb was 770 fpm; and its service ceiling was 14,200 feet.

Taking the left seat and accompanied by my instructor in the right, I made several flights between the two Long Island airports, performing outside aircraft inspections, starting the engine with the obligatory “Prop clear” yell, requesting permission to taxi, and completing systems checks in the run-up area, before moving on to the runway’s threshold and receiving takeoff clearance.

Opening the throttles and retaining centerline adherence with minuscule rudder pedal deflections, I gently eased back on the yoke, allowing the high wing to peel the aircraft off the ground in a single leap.

The sky is high and in it man is meant to fly, I often thought.

“Airliner realism” increased during approach to MacArthur, as radio transmissions, such as “USAir 1420, cleared to land, Runway 24,” placed my aircraft in the midst of the “real thing.”

Subsequent departures from the same runway entailed maintaining its heading and a visual flight rules (VFR) parallel of the Long Island Expressway below, until my own, “Republic Tower, this is Cessna 734HD, inbound for landing” transmission granted me continued clearance. A turn to base and final preceded a gentle, three-point touchdown.

Scheduled service it was not, but flying it yourself elevated the experience to something higher.

The dense New York airport network may not have offered the most exotic flying experiences, but their operation by several unique fixed- and rotary-wing carriers more than made up for it.

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A very Special 747 collection trilogy. Part 3 – Oceania, Europe and Private

Written by Fabricio Cojuc

Australia’s QANTAS, a long-standing Boeing customer and leading B747-100 operator, seemed to be a natural SP customer when the type was introduced, but operated only two. The “Stubby Puppies” were most commonly deployed to the US West Coast and Far East.

The airline’s second unit (MSN 22672, 08.03.81, VH-EAB, “Winton”) carried the leasing company’s name and logo, visible in the lower front fuselage (it was renamed “City of Traralgon” in 1991). The classic 1970s livery features the iconic winged Flying Kangaroo logo over the traditional red-colored tail; a light orange cheatline; large red QANTAS titles together with “SP” references (mid-fuselage and upper tail); and the Australian flag above the registration. The special “Official Carrier Brisbane 1982” (Commonwealth Games) titles were applied just after its delivery flight to Sydney. This aircraft flew Pope John Paul II on a special PER-SEY-CIA flight on December 1, 1986. It was leased to subsidiary Australia Asia Airlines in the mid-1990s.

The first unit (MSN 22495, 01.11.81, VH-EAA, “City of Gold Coast Tweed”) also spent some time with Australia Asia Airlines and Australian in the 1990s. The 2000 look, based on the 1984 revamped livery, features smaller QANTAS titles, the airplane´s name in the lower front and “The Australian Airline” legend under the titles; the Australian flag; a modernized, wing-less Flying Kangaroo; and a subtle golden line along the outer edge of an elongated red-colored rear aircraft section. This livery has continued to evolve over the years through different adjustments but still retains, to date, the same basic elements.

VH-EAA and -EAB were retired and scrapped in 2002 at MZJ.

European airlines loved their classic Jumbos but not the SP, except French leisure carrier Corsair. Its only SP (MSN 21253, 08.27.76) was delivered new to South African Airways, leased to Royal Air Maroc in 1985 and subsequently leased to Corsair in 1994. It was first registered in Luxembourg as LX-ACO, becoming F-GTOM in 1996. Based at ORY, its frequent destinations included BKK, RUN, MRU, PPT (via LAX), FDF and PTP. It operated some flights on behalf of Air Tahiti Nui between PPT and NRT. The all-white fuselage featured large titles as well as a light and dark blue sea and sun tail design. The aircraft preserved the original Corsair color scheme until its retirement, unlike the rest of the fleet which migrated to TUI colors in 2004.

F-GTOM was involved in a serious wing-clipping ground incident with a Philippine Airlines B747-400 at LAX on June 6, 1999, sustaining considerable damage to its left wing and fuel tank. It was returned to service after repairs and remained in service until 2002. It was decommissioned and eventually abandoned at CHR.

The SP found a successful niche among private operators, especially in the Middle East, as a luxurious executive aircraft at the service of governments and royal families.  A fitting example is Qatar’s Amiri Flight VP-BAT. Originally delivered to Pan Am (MSN21648, 03.09.79, N539PA, “Clipper Black Hawk”) and transferred to United in 1986, it was sold to Qatar and transformed into a flying palace in 1996. The aircraft  featured a “Head of State VIP configuration” with 89 seats, several bedrooms , meeting rooms, health care area, and stylish lavatories. The aircraft was based at Doha and Bournemouth and registered in Bermuda. The SP was sold to the government of Yemen in 2018.  The 42 year old aircraft is currently on the selling block and in preservation at MZJ.    

Another Bermuda-registered SP, Las Vegas Sands Corporation VP–BLK (MSN 21961, 10.30.79, N58201 originally delivered to TWA) was sold to the United Arab Emirates Royal Flight in 1985 (A6-SMR) and converted to executive configuration.  In 2007 it was purchased by Sands as a VIP transport for corporate passengers and high roller casino gambling patrons,  becoming for many years a familiar sight at LAS. The aircraft has been parked for several months, presumably due to high operating costs and the sale of the Sands Corporation. 

The finale takes us to SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), a US-German partnership involving NASA and DLR. Fittingly registered N747NA, the SP was originally delivered to Pan Am (MSN 21441, 04.07.77, N536PA, “Clipper Lindbergh”), then purchased by NASA from United (N145UA) in 1997 and heavily modified into an airborne observatory over a whopping ten-year period. The major structural overhaul included creating a cavity to house an airborne telescope; installing all support systems; and modifying the cabin interior to provide working areas for scientist and educators. A large door in the aft fuselage can be opened in flight, enabling telescopic observations in the stratosphere thanks to the SP´s high cruise altitude capabilities up to 45 thousand feet. This one of a kind aircraft is mainly based in PMD, but also spends some time in CHC. The original Pan Am name was retained and is barely visible in the lower front fuselage.

Boeing manufactured 45 SPs between 1975 and 1989 of which only a handful remain active today. It proved to be an exceptional aircraft performance-wise, setting multiple speed and distance records, and exceeding many of its original design operational parameters. The SP was caught in the middle of rapidly evolving technologies, including the evolution of the B747-100 into the -200 and -400 series, escalating fuel prices, and the demise of Pan Am, its largest operator. The B747SP will certainly be remembered as a pioneering, game-changing commercial aircraft.

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