The Grumman G-21 Goose

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Although Long Island indigenous Grumman Corporation never produced a bonafide “airliner,” one of its designs enjoyed limited commercial success.

Founded by Leroy Randle Grumman, who was once plant manager of the Loening Aircraft and Engineering Corporation, the Grumman Aircraft and Engineering Corporation planted its initial roots in Baldwin, NY on January 2, 1930. As the years went by the company moved to progressively larger facilities—first to Valley Stream eight miles away, then to the Fairchild Flying Field, 16 miles away in Farmingdale, and finally to the sprawling Bethpage plant on April 8, 1937. The need for even more space prompted the opening of a secondary location at the United States Naval Air Facility “Peconic River” plant, in 1953.

Principally a supplier to the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, Grumman produced its famous F2F, F3F, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, F8F Bearcat, F9F Panther and Cougar, F11F Tiger, TBF Avenger, and F-14 Tomcat series, most of which were instrumental in the victorious conclusion of several wars.

The G-21 Goose, the first of its aircraft that saw commercial service, was also the company’s first monoplane.

“In 1936, the Grumman Aircraft Corporation of Bethpage was approached by several wealthy Long Island residents who needed a small plane for personal transportation,” according to Long Island aviation historian Joshua Stoff, “They wanted an aircraft large enough to carry their families and baggage on trips, luxurious enough to fit their business needs, and flexible enough to take off and land either from the land or the sea.”

These residents’ selection of Grumman was the result of a referral. The initial request was to Loening for a successor to its Air Yacht and Commuter amphibians. Since he did not possess the facilities to undertake the project, Loening, who himself was a Grumman consultant, recommended them. Work on Design 21 began in 1936.

Representing transitional technology, the resulting design featured a riveted aluminum structure with a 38.3-foot overall length; a high-mounted wing, which had a 49-foot span and 375-square-foot area (but incorporated aft, fabric-covered sections and control surfaces), two outboard wing floats, and two nine-cylinder, 450-hp Pratt and Whitney Junior radials attached to the wing’s leading edge. Additional design features included a two-step hull for aquatic surface operations; a conventional tail; two single-wheel, upward-retracting main wheels for nesting in the fuselage sides; and a tail wheel.

The enclosed cabin, located behind the two-person cockpit, accommodated up to eight and was entered by an aft, port door. Convenience in flight was provided by a small galley and a lavatory. Baggage compartments were in the nose and behind the cabin.

When it first flew on May 29, 1935, The G-35 “Goose” became Grumman’s first twin-engine, land and water design, and the first with significant civil and commercial application.

The 65-minute inaugural flight from Bethpage, with a Manhasset Bay landing for demonstration purposes, led to type certification four months later, on September 29. The G-35’s max gross weight was 7,500 pounds. The type’s cruise speed was 175 mph and its payload- and fuel-determined range varied from 795 to 1,150 miles.

“The ease of handling, good stability, and satisfactory performance demonstrated during trials soon made the Goose a very popular aircraft with civil and military customers alike,” according to Rene J. Francillon in Grumman Aircraft since 1929. “Moreover, it proved to have a very strong airframe, thus endowing many of the 345 aircraft built by Grumman between May 1937 and October 1945 with a long service life.”

The G-35’s reasonable $60,000 price tag did not deter orders.

Aside from providing, as intended, comfortable transportation from water-front Long Island mansions to Wall Street and being used for similar, private purposes in the rest of the country, Canada, and the UK, this forerunner of the modern corporate jet had commercial application, as indicated by KNILM’s, KLM’s East Indian subsidiary, operation of it in March of 1940.

Bob Reeve, who amassed experience connecting Anchorage and Cold Bay during World War II, began regularly scheduled service to the Aleutian Islands in April of 1948 as Reeve Airways with a motley fleet of Long Island-originating aircraft, including the G-21 Goose and the Fairchild 71, (along with Douglas DC-3s and Sikorsky S-43s).

In the Caribbean, St. Croix-based Antilles Air Boats operated 18 G-21s, linking several islands as of February 1964, with service continuing all the way into the early 1980’s, and Mackey Airlines connected Miami with the Bahamas using its own G-21As until Eastern acquired the company in 1967.

Two carriers also used the type for the short, 21-mile hop from the California coast to Catalina Island—Avalon Air Transport from Long Beach and Catalina Seaplanes from San Pedro Harbor.

Grumman G-21 Goose Images from Wiki Commons

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A very Special 747 collection trilogy — Part 2: Africa and Asia

Written by Fabricio Cojuc

The B747SP’s ability to serve very long haul routes made it a natural choice for geographically challenged airlines, such as South African Airways (SAA), one of its earliest and second largest adopters with six ordered. Its long range capabilities were required to overcome political airspace bans imposed by several countries on SAA, implying circuitous routings and technical stops, and enabled nonstop service in key markets, such as JNB-SYD and JFK. SAA performed the world’s first SP commercial flight on 4.24.76, JNB-LIS-ATH-FCO, beating Pan Am by a few hours.

Three generations of SAA liveries were applied while the SP was in use, beginning with ZS-SPF (MSN21263, 12.22.76, “Soutpansberg”), its last unit delivered. The classic white, orange and blue original delivery livery features three distinctive elements: Titles in English (port) and Afrikaans (starboard); an anti-glare elongated “mask;” and the small Flying Springbok next to a reverse L-shaped line. It was sub-leased to Luxair, Air Mauritius, Air Namibia, and Linhas Aereas do Mozambique, and retired in 2008.

SAA’s livery was modernized in the 1980s, preserving the original colors and a larger Springbok, but not the mask, with revised dual language titles, as shown by ZS-SPE (MSN 21254, 10.21.76, “Hantam”), its fifth SP delivered. It flew too under sub-leasing contracts between 1989 and 1993, and remained in service until 2003.

Due to major political changes in South Africa, in 1997 a bold branding makeover took place, with new colors and larger titles, while eliminating “Airways”, the name in Afrikaans and the Springbok. ZS-SPB (MSN 21133, 02.24.76, “Outeniqua”), the second SP to enter the fleet, displays the revamped livery. It was also sub-leased from time to time, including to Air Malawi, Cameroon Airlines and Air Afrique, and sold to Panair in 1999.

In March 1976 ZS-SPA (MSN 21132, 1.27.76, “Matroosberg”), SAA’s first SP, set the record for the longest nonstop commercial aircraft flight upon its factory delivery, from PAE to CPT, which stood until 1989. In 1995 it also gave birth to Alliance, renamed Alliance Air in 1998, a joint venture between SAA and the airlines and governments of Tanzania and Uganda. ZS-SPA’s paint scheme on the model is a slight variation of the original one, which featured “Alliance” titles, a larger lion head and the flags of the founding nations involved. The “Special Performance 747” and “SAA Associate” titles in the lower aft fuselage were preserved. Alliance Air later acquired a stake in the national airline of Rwanda, hence the revised paint scheme featured four flags, all visible under the titles. ZS-SPA was wet-leased from SAA, based in EBB with routes mainly to Europe, and the company’s only aircraft. It was returned to service at SAA after Alliance Air went out of business in 2000 and scrapped in 2002.

The SP found great popularity in Asia. Iran Air, then a top Boeing customer, was an original proponent of the type and the first operator in the continent, with a fleet of four. EP-IAB (MSN 20999, 12.16.75, originally named “Kurdistan”) shows the airline’s 1990s livery. It features a dark blue cheat line; the iconic “Homa” Iranian mythical bird; the name “Khorosan” (adopted in 1992) in the lower front fuselage; and titles in Arabic in the front and back. The SP enabled the airline’s first nonstop JFK-THR service (eastbound only). It was stored in 2012 after close to four decades in service as a pillar of Iran Air’s fleet.

Further East in Taiwan, in 1991 China Airlines set up subsidiary company Mandarin Airlines, as a political workaround to the PRC’s boycott of China Airlines, due to its display of the ROC flag. China Airlines transferred several aircraft to Mandarin, including B747SP B-1862 (MSN 21300, 2.28.77) in 1993. The flag-less livery features Chinese and occidental titles, light and dark blue cheat lines, and as a stylish Chinese mythical gyrfalcon. It was deployed primarily in long haul sectors such as TPE-SYD and YVR, in lieu of China Airlines, until 1999.  The aircraft operated with six different airlines and was last spotted in derelict condition in Sharjah (UAE) wearing Kinshasa Airlines’ livery.

Stay tuned for the final chapter of my SP tribute trilogy ….

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The Curtiss T-32 Condor

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, reflecting the name of its founder, Glenn Hammond Curtiss, produced a handful of passenger-carrying transports on Long Island, after it established a research and development facility there in 1918. One of them was the Condor.

Its two major versions represented transitional technology, serving as bridges between the bi-plane and monoplane airliner (examples of the latter including the Boeing 247 and the Douglas DC-2).

“In most respects, (the Condor) was a step backwards in aircraft design—a twin-engine biplane whose forest of struts and wires provided built-in headwinds,” according to Robert J. Serling in Eagle: The Story of American Airlines (New York: St. Martin’s/Marek, 1985, p. 55).

In the early 1930’s Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Air Lines) was expanding. This expansion included the acquisitions of New York Airways in 1931, along with its Atlantic City route, and Ludington Air Lines two years later, in 1933, with its own New York-Washington route authority. Eastern inaugurated a New York-Miami through-service with the very first Model 18 Condor to see commercial service on January 7, 1933. Differing from the later Model 32, it featured twin vertical stabilizers. Eastern used it to funnel winter-weary passengers to Florida’s sunbaked beaches. The Model 18 was also operated by National Air Transport.

Although the new type was slow and lumbering it was considered the first sleeper transport, whose comfort emulated the railroad’s Pullman berths, a necessity on stretches that required the morning set of the alarm to reach throughout the night.

Advancement occurred on many levels in the later Model 32 of 1933. The 32 was powered by two 710-hp, nine-cylinder Wright SCR-1820-F3 radials that turned three-bladed, variable-pitch propellers. This reduced the noise and vibration that otherwise propagated through the cabin like a tuning fork. The Condor II, as it was also known, was the result of frame-and-fabric construction, had a 49.6-foot length (actually shorter than its Condor I predecessor), and an 82-foot wingspan built with a tubular spar. Only a single vertical and horizontal tailplane was employed.

Drag reduction, attempting to compensate for that generated by the wing struts, was to some degree achieved with a retractable undercarriage.

Accommodation in a cabin blanketed with 70 pounds of soundproofing material was for 15 day or 12 night-berth passengers, who were attended to by a single “stewardess.”

First flying on January 30, 1933, the 32 had a 17,500-pound gross weight, an 840-mile range, and a 22,000-foot service ceiling.

American Airlines, which placed a $500,000 order for ten model 32’s, placed them into sleeper service between Ft. Worth and Los Angeles, which constituted a portion of its transcontinental route, on May 5, 1934, offering a competitive advantage over TWA and United. Neither of these competitors could not offer comparable comfort with their existing equipment. The 32 was also used to increase AAL’s daily round trip frequencies between New York and Chicago in September, advertising in its June 15, 1934 system timetable, “The world’s first complete sleeper planes.” One such route included Dallas, Ft. Worth, Abilene, Big Spring, and El Paso in Texas, Douglas, Tucson, and Phoenix in Arizona, and Los Angeles in California.

While The Condor Model 32 rarely achieved its 145-mph maximum speed and had a penchant for icing, it was otherwise popular.

Passengers loved the Condor’s roomy cabin,” according to Serling (ibid, p. 56). “In American’s configuration, the big biplane carried 18 passengers by day and could accommodate 14 in the surprisingly spacious berths. Compared to the noisy, rattling Fords and cramped Stinsons and Vultees, the Condor interior was palatial and compensated for the airliner’s abysmal performance.”

Of the 45 produced, not an insignificant quantity for their time, wore the colors of Swissair in Europe and Avianca and LAN-Chile in South America. They also served in military roles with the Army Air Corps, the Navy, and the Marines in the US, and with the air forces of China, Colombia, Honduras, and Peru, among others.

Curtiss T-32 Condor Images
Wiki Commons

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The American Airplane and Engine Corporation Pilgrim 100

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Pilgrim Photographs from Wiki Commons

Few “airliners,” regardless of size, emerged from aircraft manufacturers located on Long Island. Even fewer were operated by the likes of American Airlines. However, the American Airplane and Engine Corporation Pilgrim 100 was one of them.

Conceptualized by Fairchild, but subsequently continued by the American Airplane and Engine Corporation, the new company planted its roots in the former Fairchild factory at Republic Airport in 1931. It represented, to a degree, the influence an aircraft manufacturer could exert on an airline.

William Littlewood, General Manager of the original Fairchild Engine factory, and Myron Gould Beard, a pilot and engineer there, ultimately took up employment at then-named American Airways. The former’s first significant assignment was to develop specifications for a cost-effective airliner. An “Airliner,” then, signified no more than a dozen passengers.

“Out of this assignment came the Pilgrim, the first commercial transport to be designed according to an airline’s specifications,” according to Robert J. Serling in Eagle: The Story of American Airlines (St. Martin’s/Marek, 1985, p. 19). “It was a single-engine plane carrying nine passengers and flown by a single pilot. The cockpit was inaccessible from the cabin; messages to the passengers were passed through a sliding panel in a bulkhead.”

Principally designed by Fairchild Chief Engineer Otto Kirchner and Project Engineer John Lee, the Pilgrim was the result of an Aviation Corporation’s (Avco) $35,000 study to replace existing single-engine types that proved too small for American’s needs, (AAL’s existing trimotors offered too much capacity). The initial, 15-aircraft order supplied the carrier’s Embry-Riddle, Southern, and Universal divisions.

The prototype aircraft was powered by a 575-hp Pratt and Whitney, nose-mounted R-1340 Wasp engine. The Pilgrim featured a high, straight, fabric-covered wing; three passenger windows and a fourth at the top of the exit door on either side of its fuselage; two single-wheel main undercarriage bogies truss-rigged from the wing; a tailwheel; and an enclosed, single-person cockpit and nine-passenger cabin. The production 100A version was equipped with a 575-hp Pratt and Whitney Hornet B-16 engine, which was replaced by the equally rated Wright Cyclone R-1820 radial on the later 100B which also introduced a larger vertical tail. American operated both variants.

Featuring a 39.2-foot overall length and a 57.5-foot wingspan, the Pilgrim carried a 2,150-pound payload and had a 7,100-pound gross weight. Range was 510 miles. Cruising speed was 118 mph and its service ceiling was 13,600 feet.

Of the 26 Pilgrims produced, American operated 22 100As and 100Bs, and the US Army Air Corps flew four designated “Y1C-24,” employing them on light cargo and supply missions. In their later aeromedical evacuation role, they accommodated four liter patients.

Former American Pilgrims found favor in Alaska

“Pilgrim aircraft were a favorite among Alaskan bush pilots during the time when air transportation was establishing superiority over dog teams, steamboats, and railroads in transporting passengers and freight in the territory of Alaska,” according to the National Register of Historic Places’ Inventory Nomination Form.

Because of their rugged reliability, they helped establish an intra-state aerial infrastructure. More than half of the civil and military Pilgrims provided passenger, cargo, supply, and mail lifelines to remote outposts and isolated communities surrounded by terrain inaccessible by ground transport. They operated in harsh climates, often alighting on ill-equipped fields with wheels and aquatic surfaces with floats. Bush pilots flew them well into the 1960s.

Pacific Alaska Airlines introduced the type on November 1, 1935 after American replaced its fleet with larger equipment. The carrier supplemented its existing Lockheed L-10 Electras with the type and used the Pilgrim to inaugurate a scheduled Juneau-Fairbanks service.

Aircraft N709Y, the only one remaining from those days, was acquired by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.

“The Pilgrim N709Y is significant for its historic role in the development of aviation in Alaska,” according to the Inventory Nomination Form. “This aircraft was the first Pilgrim flown to Alaska and was one of approximately 13 Pilgrims (out of the 26 that were built) that served as the workforce of Alaska aviation in the late 1930s and early 1940s.”

The museum’s example was constructed on September 4, 1931. N709Y, serial number 6605, had a 3,247-pound payload and a 7.750-pound maximum takeoff weight, receiving its commercial aircraft license (the former equivalent of today’s airworthiness certificate) before being delivered to American Airways on November 21. With a full passenger complement and baggage load, it had an 86-gallon fuel capacity. Converted to Pilgrim 100B standard in 1934, it introduced the aforementioned larger vertical tail and 1820-F Cyclone engine.

Acquired by Alaska Air Express, it was operated until 1940, after which it wore Star Air Services’ colors, and served Anchorage and Juneau, as well as the Kuskokwim and Iditarod regions. Purchased by Alaska Airlines, it was deployed on scheduled routes from Anchorage, Cordova, and Valdez, and it provided feeder links from Juneau, Petersburg, and Sitka. Alaska Airlines reacquired it on November 11, 1970 for public relations purposes, since it represented part of its historic fleet.

Bell Brothers Seafood was this example’s last operator and one of more than a dozen others owned by the company. More than a million pounds of fish were transported by this single airplane from Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska, usually directly from the beach, before Anchorage’s Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum took possession of it on November 5, 2001.

Subjected to a ten-year, $1 million refurbishment program in Montana, San Francisco, and Anchorage, aircraft N709Y, the last known Pilgrim in existence, saw the replacement of most of its fuselage wood supports; the recovering of its wings, ailerons, horizontal, and vertical stabilizers, and elevators and rudder. Also included was the installation of a newly-constructed fuel tank and tailwheel, clearing it for sightseeing flights.

“Flying people, cargo, cows, and fish, the Pilgrim was key to the development of commerce in Alaska,” the nomination form concludes. “It is powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-1340 engine that gave it the thrust needed to lift and haul equipment, boilers, and fish from gravel strips and beaches. Due to its unique specifications and accessories, this aircraft is registered on the National Registry as the first to have a wash basin and toilet for inflight bathroom use.”

Because of the Great Depression, the American Airplane and Engine Corporation ceased operating in mid-1932 and once again reverted to its Fairchild foundation.

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Farmingdale New York’s Republic Airport and a Short History of Cosmopolitan Airlines

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Cosmopolitan Airlines Convair 440 Wiki Commons

Little-known and most likely long-forgotten is Cosmopolitan Airlines, a carrier which had briefly operated from Farmingdale, Long Island’s, Republic Airport. Republic was not originally intended for passenger-carrying commercial operations. The facility ultimately fielded sporadic scheduled and charter service in its century of existence.

“The Industrial Revolution and airplane manufacture came to Farmingdale during World War I when Lawrence Sperry and Sydney Breese established their pioneering factories in the community,” according to Ken Neubeck and Leroy E. Douglas in Airplane Manufacturing in Farmingdale.  “They were drawn by the presence of two branches of the Long Island Railroad…the nearby Route 24, which brought auto and truck traffic to and from the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge in Manhattan; the level outwash plain, which provided land for flying fields; and the proximity to skilled workers.”    

Although the airport was progressively transformed from its original “Fairchild Flying Field” into the present Republic Airport, and is considered the third-busiest New York State facility in terms of aircraft movements, it was for the most part the location of military and civil manufacturers. These included the Fairchild Aviation Corporation, the American Airplane and Engine Corporation, Grumman, Seversky, Ranger, Republic, Fairchild-Hiller, Fairchild Republic, and EDO, to name only a few.

In 1966, a year after its ownership was transferred from Fairchild Hiller to Farmingdale Corporation, the airport was officially designated a general aviation facility, fielding its first landing of a twin-engine Beechcraft, operated by Ramey Air Service from Islip, on December 7.  In order to transform it into a gateway by facilitating airline connections at the three major New York airports, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracted with Air Spur to provide this feeder service four years later, assessing $12 one-way fares.

Republic Airport’s central Long Island location also poised it to be the site of other limited service to key business and leisure destinations within neighboring states.

One of the first scheduled attempts was made by Republic-based Cosmopolitan Airlines, an FAR Part 121 supplemental air carrier that inaugurated service with a single 44-passenger, former Finnair Convair CV-340 and two 52-passenger, ex-Swissair Convair CV-440 Metropolitans. Both of these types were in four-abreast configuration, and flights began to Albany, Boston, and Atlantic City from its own Cosmopolitan Sky Center in 1978. 

An unusual ad advised potential passengers to “Fly to Atlantic City for only $19.95 net.  Here’s how it works: Pay $44.95 for a round-trip flight ticket to Atlantic City, including ground transportation to and from the Claridge Hotel and Casino.  Upon arrival at the Claridge, you’ll receive $20.00 in food and beverage credits good at any restaurant except the London Pavilion.  You will also receive a $5.00 flight credit good for your next fight to the Claridge on Cosmopolitan Airlines.”

The airline’s 1983 schedule for the 36-minute flight to Atlantic City’s no-longer existent Bader Field included the following:

Hand-written paper tickets, issued to each passenger and listing the routing as “FRG-ACY-FRG,” stated: “Flight coupon valid only on the Cosmopolitan flight listed on the unshaded portion hereof.”

Same-day returns potentially provided for nine hours in Atlantic City.  Although these flights were popular, they hardly generated a profit. Cosmopolitan Airlines was forced to discontinue its operations at the end of 1983. Just prior to the shut-down the carrier had been in the process of expanding public charter service to Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

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Airlines of Great Britain – Part 4

Written by Charlie Dolan

It is said that “all things must come to an end”, and so it is with our visit to the insignia of airlines of the British Isles. It’s not that there are no more carriers which were based there, but the ones already featured are the only ones represented in my collection. I still look for more, but the ones most coveted at the moment are the wings and cap badge of Hunting Clan Airlines. I have been after them for years, but so far none have turned up. Perhaps someday.

Before heading to other places around the globe, here are the insignia of the last ten carriers from Great Britain in my collection. I begin with Sir Freddie’s Laker Airways. I spent many evenings at Niagara Falls Int’l Airport working the Laker Skytrain flights as the passengers cleared U.S Customs and Immigration. While that happened, the aircraft was refueled and groomed before pressing on to Los Angeles. Shown in the article are a blue version of the insignia and a red version with two different cap badges.

Laker Airways     GK       LKR     1966 – 1982

Another visitor to KIAG was Lloyd International Airways , which operated charter flights using Boeing 707 aircraft. On several occasions, while we were searching the aircraft cabin, the crew members who had already cleared federal inspection came back aboard and proceeded to doff their uniforms and change into street clothes before heading out to view Niagara Falls. The phrase we heard often was “You guys are already married anyway”. Well, yes, but you are distracting us from our jobs.

Lloyd Int’l Airways (Charter)           1961 – 1972    
Logan Air (Scotland)   LM       LOG     1962 – present

I often wonder whether the running feet of Manx Airlines have anything to do with the absence of tails on the Manx cats.

Manx Airlines    JE        MNX    1982 – 2002

Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook Airlines were large operations which seem to have left the skies too early. Cook had been in the travel industry for many decades and perhaps that led to the downfall. The airline was part of a much larger operation which had staffed offices in many cities, incurring costs which could not be sustained. I heard that the internet had a lot to do with their demise. My wife and I did enjoy a flight with Thomas Cook from Manchester, U K to Orlando after a cruise to Iceland and a visit with friends who were stationed in Paris. We took Flybe from Paris to Manchester and Thomas Cook back to the States. The flight was excellent as was the service. I was sad to see them fold.

Monarch Airlines      ZB       MON   1967 – 2017
Thomas Cook Airlines           MT      TCX     1999 – 2019

Silver City had a long history before going to British United Airways and used one of the nicer looking insignia I’ve been able to collect.

Silver City Airways   To BUA      SS        SS        1946 – 1962

Tradewinds and Trans Globe were cargo operators and used the Bristol Britannia for their services.

Tradewinds Airways       Tradewinds Airways  (cargo)       IK        IKA      1967 – 1990   
Trans Globe Airways  (became Tradewinds)   1959 – 1968

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is represented with two versions of insignia. His carrier and Logan Air of Scotland are the only two of this group of air carriers still extant.

Virgin Atlantic Airways        VS        VIR      1984 – present

Who can offer a guess as to the future of the airline business after the world gets back to “normal”?

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The Boeing B-314 Flying Boat

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Credit Wikicommons

Seeking to inaugurate transatlantic scheduled service from New York to complement its existing Martin M-130 Pacific routes from San Francisco (Alameda) to Hong Kong via Manila, Pan American Airways submitted a proposal for a long-range, four-engine, transoceanic flying boat. It would be capable of carrying a 10,000-pound payload on at least 2,400 statute mile routes against a 30-mph headwind at 150-mph. The proposals went to Boeing, Consolidated, Douglas, and Sikorsky. This was in February of 1936. As Andre A. Priester, its chief engineer, pointed out, “Flying boats carried their own airports on their bottom.”

The ultimately selected Boeing B-314 was a true, aerial ocean liner that was both efficient and elegant, and in a class of its own.

Befitting a mixed-mode vehicle, it employed ship construction techniques with a compartmented double bottom and full-depth, forward and aft, watertight bulkheads, producing a 106-foot overall length. The massive, three-section, high-mounted wing, which spanned 152 feet, was subdivided into a center, hull-integral section that extended beyond either side’s inner engine nacelles, and two outer, watertight sections. Its center wing spar, supported by the upper fuselage, featured both increased strength and internal volume, while its 4,200-gallon fuel capacity was distributed between wing center section and lower-fuselage extending “sponson” tanks. Appearing like mini-wings, these sponsons provided lateral, in-water stability, obviating the need for traditional floats, and alternatively served as passenger entry platforms leading to the cabin door. So cavernous were the main wings, that they contained interior catwalks to permit in-flight inspection and maintenance of both their structure and the state of the engines.

Credit Wikicommons

Powered by four, 14-cylinder, 1,500-hp Wright Cyclone R-2600-A2 piston engines housed in 69-inch-diameter nacelles and driving three-bladed, 14.9-foot-diameter, fully feathering Hamilton Standard propellers, the Boeing B-314 had an 82,500-pound maximum takeoff weight and a 23,500-pound payload capacity. Its service ceiling was 21,000 feet.

Subdivided into two decks, the flying boat featured a carpeted and upholstered-chair upper level stretching more than six feet in height and extending 21 feet in length. It was provision

ed with pilot, copilot, navigator, and radio operator cockpit positions; a master’s desk; a meteorologist’s station; crew sleeping bunks; and a baggage compartment which was partially located in the wing. Cockpit and cabin crew consisted of between 10 and 16 members. A starboard-positioned stairway provided inter-deck connection.

The sound-proofed cabin, itself subdivided, featured five, ten-passenger compartments; a single, special, four-passenger section; a deluxe bridal suite; a dining room; a full-service galley; a men’s restroom; and a ladies’ powder room. Passenger capacity ranged from 74 by day to 34 by night, in convertible berths.

Credit Wikicommons

Amid the blare of a brass band and a quay thronged with friends, relatives, messengers, reporters, and photographers, the first 22 passengers, having had their tickets, passports, and baggage checked (the latter restricted to a 15-pound maximum), filed down the long dock to which the B-314, immersed in Port Washington, Long Island’s, Manhasset Bay, was moored. The date was June 28, 1939, and the plane they boarded was the most mammoth and luxurious American airliner yet built, one that both internally and externally reflected the nautical heritage which had inspired it.

Piloted by Captain Rod Sullivan, who had previously operated the inaugural flight to Wake Island in the Pacific on the Sikorsky S-42, the transatlantic B-314 “Dixie Clipper” inched away from the dock at 1500 hours, local time.

Credit Wikicommons

Lumbering through Manhasset Bay, it executed its acceleration run, cascading water being pushed up behind it. Moving up “on step,” it disengaged itself from the surface, and the North American continent, leaving both behind at a 120-mph airspeed. When a post-departure engine check revealed good readings, the throttles were pulled back from the 1,550 to the 1,200-hp level, thresholding an initial climb to 750 feet, and then a secondary power reduction, to 900 hp, for a final ascent to altitude at 126 mph.

Aerially connecting the North American and European continents, the “Dixie Clipper” alighted in Horta, the Azores, and Lisbon, Portugal, before terminating in Marseilles, France, the following day after a flawless execution of the southern transatlantic route.

“Yankee Clipper” operated the first northern one on July 8 with 17 passengers. Fares were $375.00 one-way and $675.00 round trip.

Credit Wikicommons

According to Pan American’s June 24, 1939 timetable, the once-weekly, 3,411-mile northern crossing, operating as Fight 100, departed Port Washington at 0730, arriving in Shediac, New Brunswick, at 1230. An hour later, it took off for Botwood, Newfoundland, alighting at 1630, before redeparting at 1800 for the oceanic portion of the journey, touching down in Foynes, Ireland, at 0830 the following day and once again becoming airborne at 0930. It reached its Southampton destination at 1300. The return, Flight 101 left two days later, at 1400, and arrived in Port Washington, also at 1400, the day after that.

The longer, 4,251-mile southern route, operated under flight number 120, departed at 1200, transited Horta, the Azores and Lisbon, and arrived in Marseilles at 1500, two days after it left Long Island. The return, as Flight 121, departed at 0800 and touched down in Port Washington at 0700, also two days later.

Credit Wikicommons

World War II proved to be Port Washington’s enemy as a center of civil flying boat activity. Hostilities initially necessitated northern and southern route terminations in, respectively, Foynes and Lisbon, before the former was altogether discontinued on October 3, 1939, the last Manhasset Bay operations occurring with “Dixie Clipper,” “Yankee Clipper,” and “American Clipper” on March 28 of the following year.

Although Pan American ultimately transferred its Atlantic operations to North Beach (later La Guardia) Airport, longer-range landplanes, particularly in the form of Boeing’s own B-377 Stratocruiser, Douglas’s DC-6 and DC-7, and Lockheed’s Constellation, along with more suitable, paved runways, quickly eliminated the need for waterborne aircraft capabilities.

Brief though it was, the flying boat era constituted a glorious period of commercial aviation.

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Airlines of Great Britain – Part 3

Written by Charlie Dolan

As I continued with my romp through the British Iles in my collection, I came up with these ten carriers for the May installation. Two of these airlines operated the De Havilland Comet after the fatal design flaws had been identified and corrected.  Those were Channel Airways and Dan-Air London. The Comet, redesigned after its introduction in the mid-1950s served BOAC well and went on to serve these carriers well as it did for Middle East Airlines, Mexicana, BEA, Olympic, and East African Airways.

Channel Airways CW 1946 – 1972

Channel Airways, Dan-Air London, Jersey European Airways and G B Airways were scheduled carriers. Highland Express was conceived as a scheduled airline, but with a fleet of only one Boeing 747-400, that vision could not be realized. The remaining carriers were charter companies, with Heavylift providing specialized cargo services utilizing a fleet that included Shorts Belfast, Boeing 707, and Antonov AN124-100 aircraft.

Dan-Air London DA DAN 1953 – 1992

Both Dan-Air London and G B Airways had their backgrounds in marine shipping and brokerage firms. Their insignia feature designs resembling the “house” flags of shipping lines.

Donaldson Int’l Airways DI 1968 – 1974
Excalibur Airways EXC EQ 1992 -1996
Flying Colours MT FCL 1996 – 2000
To Thomas Cook
G B Airways GT GBL 1931 – 2008
To Easy Jet
Heavylift Cargo Airways 1978 – 2006
Invicta Int’l Airways IM 1964 – 1982
Jersey European Airways BE BEE 1979 – 2020
To Flybe

Flying Colours, Excalibur, Donaldson and Invicta were primarily charter operations.

Highland Express Airways VY TTN 1984 – 1987

I’m sure not if the insignia of Highland Express is a pilot wing or a jacket brevet used by cabin or ground staff. It is one of the only insignia of that airline that I have seen. Any information about it would be appreciated.

Hope you enjoy this installation. More British carriers to follow shortly.

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A very SPecial 747 collection trilogy: Part 1 – US Airlines

Written by Fabricio Cojuc

From the moment I first saw the Boeing 747SP as a 12 year-old kid I immediately loved it. The SP (for “Special Performance”), a shortened and lighter fuselage variant of the original 747, enabled airlines to perform ultra-long haul nonstop missions for the first time. Its chubby look made the “baby 747” particularly special (pun intended).

The first SP was delivered on 05.19.75 to launch customer Pan American World Airways. The famed “Clippers” were deployed mostly throughout its Pacific network. My replica fleet includes N534PA (MSN 21026, 05.07.76) “Clipper Great Republic” and N540PA (MSN 21649, 05.11.79) “China Clipper” (the name is also displayed in Chinese letters) in the classic airline colors, plus N533PA (MSN 21025, 03.05.76) “Clipper Young America” wearing the billboard updated livery and 50th anniversary titles. All wear the famous Pan Am reversed US flag.

Before its delivery, in late 1975 N533PA performed a world demonstration tour for Boeing. This frame is famous for having established a RTW speed record for a commercial aircraft in May 1976, completing a JKF-DEL-HND-JFK flight in slightly under 40 hours. It also became the first 747SP to be scrapped.

In 1985 Pan Am sold its Pacific division to United for $750 million, including all the SPs (11).

United’s B747SP N147UA (MSN 21548, 07.12.78, ex N538PA) is a very special frame, “Friendship One.” In January 1988 it beat the RTW speed record then held by a Gulfstream business jet. It flew a SEA-ATH-TPE-SEA routing in just over 36 hours. United’s fleet traditionally carried the titles “Friendship,” thus “Friendship One” named after a foundation created to raise money for unprivileged children (141 seats were sold on the flight, yielding a donation in excess of half a million dollars). Its forward section featured titles of the project’s sponsors, however these were not applied on the model. The livery, known as “Low stripe Saul Bass rainbow,” was worn by United’s fleet from 1988 to 1993, when “Battleship grey” appeared.

The revamped image, seen on N145UA (MSN 21441, 05.06.77, ex N536PA), contrasted sharply with the former livelier colors. It featured a grey upper fuselage and striped blue tail with a smaller sized logo. Thin pinstripes of orange, red and blue color separated the upper fuselage from a dark blue belly. The titles added the word “Airlines” for the first time, with the legend “Worldwide Service” also visible in the lower front section. This model does not feature the Star Alliance logo, first applied in 1997.

TWA, American Airlines and Braniff were the other three US commercial airlines that flew the SP. The first has proven elusive to add to my fleet so far, but the last two have a special place in my collection.

American’s 747 “Luxury Liner” SP fleet was comprised of two original TWA frames. N601AA and N602AA were introduced in 1986 and allocated mainly to the DFW-NRT and JFK-LGW routes until their retirement in 1994. The sharply polished model is N601AA (MSN 21962, 04.80, ex N57202), which ended its career as a training aid for emergency evacuations in Luxembourg in 2002.

For its part, Braniff International took delivery of three new SPs from Boeing between October 1979 and May 1980. These operated for a very short period of time only, given the airline went out of business in 1982. They were used mainly on the DFW-HNL and DFW-LGW routes. Plans to deploy them on DFW-NRT and DFW-BAH long-haul routes never materialized. My “baby orange” vintage model is N603BN (MSN 21785, 10.30.79). It ended up as a VIP transport with the Royal Flight Oman fleet (A4O-SO) and is still active after 41 years in service.

More good SP stuff to come in part two of this trilogy ….

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The History of Northeastern International Airways

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

Its four-year reign was brief and tumultuous, with a high point representing what could have steadily been if ambitions had not exceeded expenses.  Yet, perhaps this carrier’s greatest legacy is that it sparked one of Long Island MacArthur Airport’s major development cycles, attracting passengers and, ultimately, other carriers, putting the fledging airfield, which had continually striven for identity and purpose, on the map.  The airline had the globe-suggesting name of Northeastern International Airways with the unlikely two-letter code of “QS,” although it never stretched further than the West Coast.  Its founder was Stephen L. Quinto and his intended goal was to place his footprint on Long Island MacArthur Airport.

One of the airfield’s long-term goals, as revealed by market studies, was the establishment of nonstop Long Island-Florida service to facilitate travel for those wishing to visit their sunshine state- retired parents, and to tap into the tourist trade seeking winter warmth.  Airline deregulation, along with Quinto, made both possible.

Northeastern International Airlines DC-8-62, N162CA, at Ft. Lauderdale FL, 1984 1223, Marvin G Goldman Photo

Leasing a former Evergreen International DC-8-50, registered N800EV, and operating it in a single-class, 185-passenger configuration, he inaugurated Long Island MacArthur (Islip)-Ft. Lauderdale service on February 11, 1982, charging low, unrestricted fares.  As an intercontinental aircraft, its relatively low fuel uplift, combined with a full passenger and baggage complement, enabled it to use 5,186-foot Runway 33-Left, from which it climbed out over Lake Ronkonkoma and departed Long Island over its South Shore. Complementary soft drinks and snack baskets of peanuts, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, and fresh fruit were served in the cabin.  Checked baggage was included in the fare.

The initial schedule entailed four weekly rotations to Ft. Lauderdale and one to Orlando, although a second aircraft, registered N801EV, made increased frequencies and destinations possible.

In Northeastern’s first year of operations, the airline carried more than 150,000 passengers and ended the period on a high note by transporting a monthly record of 32,075 in December, a figure attributed to weather-caused, Florida-bound flight cancellations at the major New York airports, and the subsequent bus transfer of stranded flyers to Islip.

Quinto attributed his carrier’s initial success to the trusted and proven concepts of service quality and low, unrestricted fares, along with filling a market gap that had been hungry for years.  For this reason, Northeastern adopted the slogan of “A lot of airline for a little money” and, because it served its hometown base of MacArthur, the company eliminated the commute to either JFK or La Guardia for eastern Nassau and Suffolk County residents, telling them “We’re one step closer to home.”

Northeastern 727-21, Photo by Keith Armes MarvinGoldman Collection

Although its corporate headquarters was in Ft. Lauderdale, Long Island remained its operational base.  After leasing two 128-passenger former Pan Am 727-100s, which were draped in pink and blue cloud liveries, it offered seven daily departures from Islip to Ft. Lauderdale itself, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, and St. Petersburg, which was a secondary airport to Tampa.  Nonstop flights were also offered from the Connecticut airfield.

Low-fare, deregulation-sparked momentum, once initiated, could not be arrested.  The following year, which entailed the acquisition of three longer-range DC-8-62s—including N752UA from United Air Leasing, OY-KTE from Thai Airways International, and N8973U from Arrow Air, saw service to 11 destinations and the annual transport of just under 600,000 passengers.

Northeastern A-300 from WikiCommons-Photo by Uli Elch

Yet, deviating from its thus far successful strategy and ignoring the tried-and-true “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, Northeastern elected to tackle the “big boys” at airports such as JFK and acquire widebody aircraft, ultimately operating transcontinental services.  The widebodies themselves came in the form of four Airbus A300B2s in 314-passenger single-class, eight-abreast configurations: D-AIAD from Lufthansa in January (1984), D-AIAE from Lufthansa in February, F-ODRD from Airbus Industrie in May, and F-ODRE from Airbus Financial Services, also in May.  It became the second US airline after Eastern to operate the European type.

The strategy may have elevated the low-cost carrier with Long Island roots to a big player, but its over-expansion was defeated by insufficient cash flow.  Although it had earned $64.7 million in revenues in its fiscal year ended on March 31, 1984, it recorded a $5.2 million loss.

Its non-financial statistics told another story.  By the summer, it operated 66 daily flights to 17 US destinations with a three-type, 16-strong fleet, including 727-200s from the likes of Mexicana de Aviación and VASP, and employed 1,600 personnel.

Its June 1984 system timetable encompassed Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Islip, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York-JFK, Oklahoma City, Orlando, St. Petersburg, San Diego, Tulsa, and West Palm Beach.

Yet gravity is not the only element to cause an airborne object to descend, even those with wings.  Finances equally provided—or, in this case, nullified—lift, sparking a rapid descent.  Another $4.4 million was lost during the third quarter that ended on September 30, 1984 and with it began the survival-mode strategy of eliminating aspects which could no longer be monetarily supported, including the layoff of 450 employees and the return—it was actually a repossession—of the A300 fleet.

Viewing his once rapidly rising carrier as a jigsaw puzzle, Quinto attempted to keep its picture whole without its forcibly removed pieces and replace them with what he could scrounge.  Like plugs pulled from Northeastern’s rapid rise, the lights outlining its structure blacked out.  Destinations were eliminated, reservation lines were severed, flights were cancelled, bills were not paid, and passengers were left stranded.  On January 3, 1985, the three-year, low-cost carrier fell to the same fate as Braniff, filing for Chapter 11 in a Miami Bankruptcy Court with $28 million in assets and $48 million in liabilities.

The last glimmer of hope came at the end of that same year with a $1 million loan and the lease of a single MD-82 from Alisarda, registered HB-IKL.  Yet Northeastern’s final light was doused in early 1986, drowned by liquidation, but such was not necessarily the case for the Long Island airport that had spawned it and to which its legacy was left.

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