The Nord 262 was an early turboprop regional airliner built in France.
It traces its origins to the single-engine, eight-passenger Max Holste MH-1521M Broussard light utility transport flown by a handful of civil operators and the French Army and Air Force that was subsequently developed into the larger M-250 Super Broussard. Powered by two 600-hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340 piston Wasp engines, it accommodated between 17 and 23 passengers.
Although it proceeded no further, it served as the prototype for the even more ambitious MH-260, which introduced a 4.7-foot fuselage stretch and turbine powerplants—in this case, two 986-hp Turbomeca Bastan IV turboprops. First taking to the air on January 29, 1960, it seated up to 30 passengers. While it was the most capable of all the previous variants, it lacked pressurization—a deficiency remedied with the MH-262.
Because of the November 23 agreement for state-owned Nord Aviation to assume responsibility for the program, the aircraft was re-designated Nord 262, although 10 original MH-260s (Nord 260s) were produced, the first of which first flew on January 29, 1962. Two European commuter carriers—France’s Air Inter and Norway’s Wideroe Flyveselskap—operated them on a provisional basis, but they were replaced by the definitive Nord 262 production variant, whose most notable variation was the replacement of its original, square-section fuselage with a circular one that facilitated a 26-passenger, three-abreast capacity with an offset aisle.
Powered by two 1,080-hp Bastan VIB2 turboprops, it first flew in prototype form on December 24, 1962. The first production example, featuring a dorsal fin for increased vertical axis stability, took to the sky two years later, on July 8, 1964, and was awarded its French type certification eight days later.
The first four aircraft, perhaps confusingly, were designated Nord 262Bs, while all others, which incorporated minor improvements, were known as Nord 262As.
With a 63.3-foot overall length and elliptical passenger windows, they featured a high-mounted, straight wing with a 71.10-foot span and 592-square-foot area, and a conventional tail. The single-wheel main undercarriage units retracted upward into lower fuselage side fairings. The maximum takeoff weight was 23,370 pounds and cruise speed was 235 mph. Payload-to-fuel ratios took its range from 605 miles with the former to 1,095 miles with the latter.
Air Inter, which ultimately operated six, inaugurated the type into service on the Paris-Quimper route on July 24, 1964.
The coveted goal of any foreign aircraft manufacturer was penetrating the US market and Nord Aviation succeeded in doing so when Lake Central Airlines ordered a dozen 262s and inaugurated the first into service in May of 1965.
After Lake Central’s takeover by Allegheny Airlines three years later, it wore its colors and, still later, those of Allegheny Commuter. The milestone indicated two important factors—namely, that the US lacked its own commuter aircraft counterpart and that its reliable service saw its operation for a considerable interval.
According to USAir’s (which Allegheny became) March 2, 1982 system timetable, “USAir and Allegheny Commuter—a great team to go with. Service to over 120 cities in the US and Canada.
“All flights C500 through C1999 are operated by independent contractors under an agreement with USAir approved by the Civil Aeronautics Board,” it continued. “These flights are operated by Beech 99, de Havilland Twin Otter, de Havilland Dash-7, Nord 262, M-298, Shorts 330, CASA-212, and Swearingen Metro equipment.
“USAir’s big jet fleet serves over 70 cities throughout its expanding network. Allegheny Commuter’s modern jet-props serve over 50 mid-size cities quickly and economically. From Allegheny Commuter’s mid-size cities, you get convenient schedules to and from USAir’s major cities.”
Although its Nord 262s were in a three-abreast configuration, the right-side seat pairs consisted of a single unit with two seatbelts and pitch was minimal, leaving one passenger to exclaim, as she impressed her knees into the unit in front of her, “This is called ‘wear a plane!”
One flight attendant served the then-standard beverages and peanut packets from a tiny galley and there were copies of USAir’s in-flight magazine in all seat pockets.
The type was instrumental in providing feed to USAir’s Pittsburgh and Philadelphia hubs from small, ill-equipped airports with low demand, but nevertheless provided connections to the carrier’s jet route system with a single ticket and through-checked baggage.
Although 67 Nord 262As were ultimately produced, their lack of Pratt and Whitney PT6 turboprop engines inhibited further sales. This was remedied when Frakes Aviation converted nine of Allegheny’s aircraft with 1,180-hp, five-bladed propeller PT6A-45s and introduced improved systems, resulting in the Mohawk 298. The Mohawk name was to reflect the remembrance of Allegheny’s merger with Mohawk Airlines. The 298 designation was in deference to the Federal Air Regulation (CAB Part 298) under which they operated. The new M-298 also included the installation of a Solar APU installed in the starboard main landing gear sponson. First flying on January 7, 1975, the upgraded version was certified on October 19, 1976, and entered Allegheny Service the following April. Nine of these Nord 262s converted to the Mohawk 298 standard were operated by Allegheny Airlines on routes too small for their shrinking fleet of Convair 580s but requiring something larger than Beech 99 or Twin Otter equipment. So a new Allegheny “Metro Express” operation was placed in service in certain selected cities. The M-298s continued in operation until one of the nine aircraft was involved in an accident. Subsequently, the remaining eight aircraft were sold to two of the Allegheny Commuter carriers, Middletown, Pa. based Pennsylvania Commuter Airlines and North Philadelphia, Pa. based Ransome Airlines.
Two other variants were built—the 262C or Fregate, with four-bladed, 1,145-hp Bastan VII turboprops and a two-foot, 3.75-inch fuselage stretch that first flew in July of 1968; and its military 262D counterpart, 18 of which were operated by the French Armee de l’Air.
Aside from Allegheny, Allegheny Commuter, and Lake Central, the type was operated by Altair, Swift Aire, Golden Gate, Pompano Airways to name a few as well as Pocono and Ransome Airlines (the latter two comprising part of the Allegheny Commuter Consortium) in the US; and Alisarda, Cimber Air, Dan-Air, Delta Air Transport, Linjeflyg, Rhein Air, and Tempelhof Airways in Europe.
A total of 110 Nord 262s of all versions were produced.
December 15, 2009 was the last flight of the last TriStar off the production line. Number 250 of 250. It was to be an unceremonious and woefully ungracious end to the life of this significant airplane. A ferry from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to what would ultimately prove to be its final resting place in Ras al Khaimah, UAE. Un-pressurized. Landing gear mechanically pinned in the down position. We were directed to take the airplane there ostensibly for storage until its D check could be accomplished, at the completion of which it would be returned to service. But those of us on the crew . . . well, we had all seen Big Guy’s lips move before. We knew the truth.
It began life as manufacturer’s serial number 193G-1250. Originally bound for the Royal Flight division of the government of Algeria, it was instead bought by Saudi Royal Flight. It was registered as HZ-HM5 during its years of service flying the Saudi Royal family, but with the purchase by my company, it was re-registered as N389LS. One of only two TriStars to come out of the factory in VIP configuration, its place in the production line was not the only thing that made the airplane unique.
My lifelong affair with the TriStar began the summer that I was 14 on a family trip to Indianapolis, home of my mother’s sister and her husband. A few times a year we would pack up the family car and make the two-hour trek to see Uncle Ed and Aunt Winnie. My dad and my Uncle Ed were very close not only in their familial relationship but in age, disposition, and history. Both were simple country boys who grew up dirt poor during the Great Depression. Together they would talk, with my Uncle Ed perpetually tending to his omnipresent pipe, occasionally fascinating me by blowing smoke rings. They would laugh and remember, talking about things understood only by those who share that common background. Through the windowpane of my childhood eyes, Indianapolis was a huge city, and during our drives from my small southwestern Indiana hometown of Washington, those eyes would only grow wider as I saw the landscape change from the rolling hills, rural farms, and small towns of southern Indiana to the highways, traffic, and skyscrapers of the big city.
I grew up wanting to be a pilot. Honestly, I don’t really know how that all got started. While growing up most kids go through the stages of wanting to be a policeman, a fireman, or a baseball player. Not so with me. I never went through any of those phases. Nobody in my family ever had anything to do with airplanes. No relatives or close family friends were pilots or were in the military, no one I knew was an airplane mechanic or any of the sort. I just know that I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. I read books about airplanes, drew pictures of airplanes, and built model airplanes. When I was about 6 years-old mom and dad bought a red plastic toy DC-8 from the local Murphy’s store on Main Street in my hometown. It was my very first toy airplane. I have that toy airplane to this day. It figures prominently in my curio cabinet at home, along with my original student pilot logbook, a whiskey compass from a TriStar, a Litton LTN-211 Omega CDU, and other treasured memorabilia significant to my career. Although it is quite a bit worse for the wear, with lots of scratches, scrapes, and even a missing engine nacelle, all accumulated by a small child playing with it almost incessantly, it is among my most precious possessions.
On every trip we took to Indianapolis my parents would treat me to a stop at the Indianapolis airport. This was long before “Indianapolis International” existed. At that point in history, it was named Weir Cook Airport. There was a small airport park at the corner of High School Road and Pierson Drive. The park was nothing spectacular, just a couple of picnic tables, a few maple trees, and a small parking lot oriented so you could watch the airplanes land. The approach end of the runway was right across the street from the airport park, separated from the airport park by only Pierson Drive and a security fence. When landing, the airplanes would seem so close it looked like you could hit one with a rock. I would watch with fascination as the 727s, DC-9s and 737s would come across “the fence” for landing.
Back on the ramp in Riyadh, we were preparing for the ferry to Ras al Khaimah. It was really troubling me that the airplane’s last flight was going to suffer the humiliation of being flown all the way with the landing gear pinned down. We had to fly it unpressurized; there was no real way around this requirement. But to fly it on its last flight without retracting the gear was unconscionable in my mind. The main reason for these requirements was that the airplane was out of date on just about every maintenance inspection that was due. Engines, landing gear, everything was out of date. The benefactor of meticulous maintenance by Saudi Royal Flight, it was obvious that the airplane was mechanically sound, and it had just been ferried from Jeddah to Riyadh a few months earlier with zero issues. But rules are rules and given its out-of-inspection status these were the requirements we had to meet. I talked with Steve and Mike, my close friends who were the other two members of the cockpit crew. They shared my sentiment that this was no way to ferry this airplane. We came up with an alternate plan.
I told the maintenance crew preparing the airplane for the ferry that I didn’t want the gear pinned down.
The Saudi maintenance supervisor frowned. “Captain, that is part of the ferry permit procedure. The gear is out of inspection. We are required to pin the gear for the ferry flight.”
Implementing our plan with as stern of a face as I could muster, I said that I understood, but my concern was safety of flight. Given that the engines were out of inspection status, I wanted to be able to retract the gear after takeoff in the event we had an engine failure. In such an event, being able to retract the gear would be critical to the airplane’s performance. With all the drama I could summon for my performance, I told them that I’d hate to have to explain why a former Saudi Royal Flight airplane was a smoking hole in the Saudi desert only because the Captain was prevented from retracting the landing gear after an engine failure because of a paperwork requirement. I knew good and well that an engine failure wouldn’t result in such a catastrophic event, but I thought the theater might add a sense of urgency and credibility to my request. I proposed to him that we would leave the gear extended for the flight unless we had an engine failure, but I wanted the ability to retract the gear if it was necessary. Pinning the landing gear would make that option impossible.
“Captain, I must check with my manager.” My Saudi friend then scurried off, disappearing into the hangar and up the stairs.
The summer of my 14th year we were at the little airport park when I saw my first TriStar. When it first came into view on the approach, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that it was bigger than any other airplane we normally see. It turned out to be an Eastern L-1011, and when it came into full view, I thought it was the most beautiful airplane I’d ever seen. The sun gleamed off its polished aluminum livery. The center engine was stylishly molded into the fuselage. Unlike the DC-10, whose number two engine sat up in the middle of the vertical stabilizer giving it the appearance of being a clumsy afterthought, the TriStar’s number 2 engine conversely gave the airplane a sleek, elegant, aerodynamic profile. The word “Whisperliner” was painted on the side. On the approach it looked as if the nose was pitched up higher than other airplanes, giving it the aura of nobility and pride, a look no other airplane I saw had. I was mesmerized. It was love at first sight. From that moment on I was completely enamored with the airplane. I knew right then and there what airplane I wanted to fly. I stopped drawing pictures of 747s and started drawing pictures of TriStars.
Over the next months I would write to the Lockheed factory and ask for pictures of the airplane. As an adult looking back, I can envision a secretary in an office reading a handwritten letter from a teenage boy asking for pictures of the airplane. I like to think that secretary had a smile on her face as she placed some pictures in an envelope and put them in the mail to this kid from Indiana.
That same summer I had my first flying lesson in a Piper Colt. Oftentimes, as adults reflecting on our childhood, we’re apt to remember times when we can honestly say that under the same circumstances, we’re not sure if we’d have done the same thing our parents did. Such was the case with my starting flying lessons. I had read in the regulations that you could solo a glider at the age of 14. Upon encountering this revelation, I marched my 14-year-old self into the living room where my dad was sitting, showed him the reg, and announced I wanted to start flying lessons. In my now-adult brain, I think I would’ve responded to that declaration with something like, “Well son, let’s wait until you’re a little bit older. If you’re still interested, then we’ll see.” A perfectly logical and doubtless-typical-parental response to a young teenager asking to start something that ambitious, not to mention expensive, at such a tender age. However, that’s not what my dad said. He looked at the book with the reg in it, looked back at me, and said, “Let’s go to the airport this Saturday and see what we have to do.” With that pronouncement from my dad my flying career started.
On my first lesson, the airplane wasn’t 100 feet in the air before I knew that I had discovered how I wanted to spend my life. It was so much better than it was in my imagination. In the following years, I soloed and received my Private Pilot’s certificate before I graduated from high school. All that time the letters to Lockheed continued, the L-1011 pictures and drawings kept coming, and I never forgot the TriStar that I saw in Indianapolis that day. But as I matured and started to learn more about the realities of how aviation works, I came to realize that it wasn’t as simple as showing up at an airline that flies the TriStar and saying, “I want to fly the L-1011.” Before anything else happens, you have to be hired by an airline that flies the airplane. And to get hired by that airline you must have mountains of experience. Then, once you manage to get hired at said airline you must reach the seniority level that allows you to hold that particular airplane. I came to realize that the TriStar was much further away than it seemed that day at the little airport park. I frowned at the thought that I would never get to fly the airplane I dreamed about.
Onward and upward. The years went by. Gathering my ratings, flight-instructing throughout college building experience, I managed to eventually be hired by a local commuter airline. But as time went by more reality began to set in. I had been flying the Fairchild FH-227/F-27 for a few years, which was a Part 121 airplane, but I didn’t have a significant amount of jet time, nor did I have military flying experience. At that specific point in airline history, both were virtually requirements to get a job flying for a major airline.
The calendar had now advanced to 1987. It was 13 years hence from my first TriStar encounter at the little airport park. The TriStar had been in service for 15 years. Production of the TriStar ceased three years earlier and the clock was ticking on its service life. Technology was changing. Just two years before the FAA approved 120-minute ETOPS operations and was now considering allowing 180-minute ETOPS. Translated to English that means routes that were once the exclusive domain of 3- and 4-engine airplanes could now be flown by airplanes with only two engines. TWA, one of the airlines that operated my beloved TriStar, had recently spent millions bringing their B-767-200 fleet up to 120-minute ETOPS standards because of the fuel savings vs. the TriStar on a transatlantic flight. The tea leaves weren’t hard to read. Even if I got hired by an airline today it would be many years before I held the seniority that would allow me to fly the airplane. That realization, and the gravity behind it, saddened me.
“Captain, my manager says he will approve the gear pins being left out, but you must agree to leave the gear extended unless an engine failure or other emergency occurs.”
“I will agree to that, no problem” (trust me…heh heh), I said making a concerted effort to conceal the elation that desperately wanted to appear on my face. The stage was set. There wasn’t going to be any gear down ferry for this airplane’s final flight. The requirement to fly the airplane unpressurized was a different story, not something we could worm our way around based on a technicality. We had to file a flight plan that would reveal our requested cruise altitude, and a copy of the flight plan had to be provided to the Saudi civil aviation authorities as part of the ferry permit. Even if we were to ask ATC to climb to a higher altitude after takeoff the authorities would know about it, and we might later have some explaining to do. One typically doesn’t request an “emergency climb” to altitude. So, we were stuck with flying unpressurized. But the indignity of a stiff-legged ferry flight was now, unbeknownst to our Saudi hosts or anyone but those of us on the crew, history.
The time came to depart. There existed a paradox, an incongruity in my emotions on this flight. It was quite a thrill for me to be flying the last TriStar ever built, but at the same time, that excitement was wholly deflated by the fact that unless Big Guy’s lips weren’t moving in their usual fashion it was very, very likely this would be the airplane’s final flight. The engines were started one by one. The sounds, the sensations now so very familiar to me after my years flying the airplane, were all present as the airplane performed exactly as it was designed to during the engine start. The familiar growl of the Rolls-Royce engines as they accelerated after ignition, the starter valves closing at 46% N3 RPM, the sound of the air rushing into the cockpit as the packs were turned on . . . all was as it was supposed to be.
Some of us are fortunate enough during our careers to encounter what I think Ernest K. Gann may have called a “Fate is the Hunter” moment. Sometimes things happen serendipitously that you couldn’t have gotten to work out no matter the level of planning or preparation. One of those moments occurred for me at an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh while doing simulator training for new hires on the FH-227. My close friend Gene Freeman had been hired by American Trans Air the previous fall. Gene had been flying the BAC-111 for our regional airline. Doubtlessly the most brilliant individual I’ve ever known personally, Gene was an accomplished pilot. He encouraged me to apply to American Trans Air, which of course I did. It was no small incentive for me to do so given that American Trans Air operated TriStars, having acquired nine of them from Delta Air Lines in 1986. I applied but received not even an acknowledgment that my application was delivered. Very little jet time, no military experience. It was no surprise to me.
It was my tradition to take new hires out to dinner at this wonderful little Italian place the evening prior to commencing our simulator training. Always consisting of only the three of us that would be present in the simulator, this was more of a team-building exercise than anything. Additionally, it was a chance to calm the nerves of what were usually young pilots embarking on their first encounter with Part 121 airline training. We would sit and talk, discuss the upcoming sim training and how it would be conducted. What the expectations were, etc. It can be quite stressful on a young person experiencing their first training of this type. My goal was to get the trainees to relax so they had a better chance of succeeding.
As providence would have it, seated at the table next to us there was an older gentleman with two younger fellows. After a period of time, the older gentleman leaned over and said he’d been hearing some of our conversation and asked if we were pilots? I said yes, we are. He then asked who we flew for and what airplane were we flying? I answered his query, and his reply surprised me. He said, “I’m the Director of Training for American Trans Air and we’re here doing 727 sim training.” Responding in a way that is quite uncharacteristic for me, from whence it came I don’t know to this day, I blurted out, “Is that right? I sent an application in to you guys, and you didn’t even respond to me.”
After realizing how that probably came across to him, I was shocked at the tone of insolence I had probably just conveyed. He responded by telling me to come to the 727 simulator the next day after our training period was finished. He said, “we’ll put you in the 727 sim and see if you can fly.”
The simulator flight went great, and I was offered an interview at American Trans Air. I dared hope that the TriStar was in reach. American Trans Air had just bought the airplanes not even two years previously. They weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But my Ernest Gann moment had not yet fully played out. At the completion of my American Trans Air interview, I was told that the company had a full complement of 727 pilots, but they were short on L-1011 crews. I would be hired as an L-1011 copilot!
The elation, the ecstasy I felt at that moment is beyond my poor power to articulate. The dreams of a 14-year-old boy had just come true. The letters to and pictures from Lockheed all those years ago didn’t seem silly anymore. I wished I could talk to the kind secretary who sent them to me all those years ago, but I didn’t even know her name. I know not whom to credit for my inconceivable gift of good fortune. God, prayer, fate, destiny, or maybe just plain ol’ blind, dumb, stupid luck…perhaps a combination of all of them . . . I’m not really sure. The only thing I can say for certain is that dreams do come true, because at that moment mine did. No one will ever convince me otherwise. The first person I called to tell was my mother. My father unfortunately had passed away a couple of years previous, but no one would understand the depth of what this meant to me more than my parents.
We lifted off the ground at Riyadh bound for Ras al Khaimah. Our “evil plan” for the landing gear was to leave it extended until we were certain we were no longer under the observation of the control tower at Riyadh and certainly out of view of the maintenance facility we left from. After that . . . up came the landing gear. The airplane was now clean and flying like she was meant to fly, although just at a much lower altitude. We cruised at 9,000 feet to avoid the necessity of wearing oxygen masks. We looked at each other and laughed, all self-satisfied with our landing gear coup.
As we proceeded along with the flight, we came to appreciate that we were cruising at such a low altitude. For one, thing we were slow, restricted to 250 knots indicated below 10,000 feet. Between the speed and our low cruise altitude, we enjoyed a view of the Saudi desert that we would’ve never had on a normal flight. The dunes of the desert were clearly visible, spotted with the occasional camel herd which we could easily see. We avoided Qatari airspace to the south and set our course just off the UAE coast flying over the waters of the Persian Gulf. We could see the oil rigs clearly. It was an amazing sight that few people get to experience. Ras al Khaimah sits very near the tip of the horn of the Saudi peninsula that defines the Strait of Hormuz. We could see the oil tankers. Our low cruise altitude and the crystal-clear desert weather provided us a vista that we otherwise would have never been able to witness.
The Ras al Khaimah runway was now in sight. The excitement of the sights we enjoyed during our flight is now completely overcome by the finality of the landing. The closest I can come to describing my feelings were that sense of sadness and regret that one feels when they are taking their beloved pet to the vet to be euthanized. While we know the purpose of our journey, our cherished pet knows nothing of it. Our pet merely trusts us to take it somewhere it is supposed to be. The throttles came back for what would be the very last time. There was a little anxiety as we lowered the gear. If it failed to extend then we were “busted”, and our plan exposed. But as it had done for the last 20+ years the airplane did what it was supposed to do. The flaps were extended, and I sat the TriStar down on the Ras al Khaimah runway as gently as I could. We taxied to the ramp very slowly, wanting to extend the flight for as long as we possibly could. We shut the airplane down, ran our securing checklists and the crew exited the airplane. I was the last one off of the airplane as I wanted to take a few pictures of the interior before deplaning. As I walked out of the cockpit I said aloud, as if the airplane could hear, “I’m sorry. I wish there were something I could do. I really do.” I took a couple of pictures of the airplane’s data plate as I exited the left forward entrance door.
Thus ended the last flight of the last TriStar. When we arrived at the hotel and I got to my room I was overwhelmed emotionally. I’d be lying through my teeth if I told you I didn’t shed a tear.
The TriStar and I had some incredible adventuresduring our time together, both prior to this flight and many afterwards. I flew the airplane on six continents. It took me to the Pyramids of Egypt, to the wonder and history of Europe, to the rain forests of South America, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and to see the ancient wonders of the Orient. Wake Island, Fiji, Pago Pago and other Pacific Island paradises. It saw my mother riding with me in the cockpit jumpseat from Washington Dulles to Indianapolis. It allowed me to fly with some of my heroes like Bill Weaver, Jeff Fowler, Don Moor, Bob Taylor and Rodney Boone. I was part of launching a rocket off the bottom of the airplane from 39,000 feet. Through the TriStar I met friends that I would have for life. Steve and Mike, my fellow crewmembers on the last flight of the last TriStar are still close friends with whom I have regular contact. It saw me as the TriStar Fleet Manager for American Trans Air for a bit over five years, a position and period which I look back upon as my proudest achievement in aviation. Along with my dear friend Gene Freeman and the dedicated, professional crews flying the TriStar we achieved a level of success with the airplane that our upper management not only disdained but frankly could simply not understand. Together Gene and I flew the airplane near the North Pole, reaching a latitude of 87 degrees north. No one else except the RAF has done so with the TriStar. I did things and went to places riding safely on the back of my magic TriStar carpet that was far beyond the wildest dreams and imagination of a teenage Indiana country boy.
Professionally I credit the airplane with evolving me into the pilot I became. Every professional pilot must pass through what I call a seasoning, a period where our skills, habits and attitudes are tempered in the crucible of experience and honed to a fine edge. The TriStar was a wonderful teacher to me in that respect. In the TriStar I learned to manage a widebody aircraft, learned to prioritize tasks and developed leadership skills. Today, even after flying marvelous airplanes such as the 747-400, I’m awed by the foresight the men and women who designed the TriStar possessed. Like the mobile phone and tablet devices we use today, its systems walk that fine line between being deeply complex yet not complicated in the operational arena. It gave me a deeper understanding of how airplanes work and how they fly and the difference between those two. There isa plethora of what one would consider small things in the airplane that someone obviously devoted a lot of time thinking about during design and development. Boeing’s magnificent 747-400, with its glass cockpit, FMS and two-pilot technology, is at its best merely a faint copy of the TriStar.
The pragmatists, the engineers, the skeptics who don’t believe an airplane can have a personality, will tell you that it’s impossible for a mechanical device such as an airplane to have a character or an essence. But they just don’t understand. I know of more than one poetic pilot who waxes lyrically about the soul of his airplane, anthropomorphizing the tons of aluminum, wire, cable and glass that make up his machine. But in the case of the TriStar, specifically in the case of the TriStar and me, there’s no doubt that in my mind the skeptics are dead wrong. I have a connection to the airplane that is rarely duplicated in my interactions with sentient beings. The airplane is a part of me, as surely as my hand or foot is. I’ve flown some wonderful airplanes during my career but none of them even come close to the TriStar. It does, and will always, define my career in aviation.
The Shorts Skyvan, a light freight transport, and the 330 and 360 commuter airliners that were based upon it, were rugged and reliable aircraft, the latter facilitating the growth of then-developing regional carrier route structures.
Based upon an amalgamation of two conceptually similar designs, the HDM.106 and the HDM.107 that Short Brothers of Belfast, Northern Ireland, purchased from F. G. Miles in 1958, the eventual Skyvan used the foundation laid by both for a utility and small cargo aircraft, whose development commenced the following year. It was initially designated the PD.36.
Stubby and short, it was hardly the sleekest airframe in the sky, but its features were necessary for its intended missions, including twin engines; a high-mounted, straight wing with an aspect ratio of 11; a box-resembling fuselage with slab sides and an internal, 6.6-square-foot cross-section; an aft loading ramp operable in flight; dual vertical tails; and a fixed tricycle undercarriage.
Powered by two 390-bhp Continental GTSIO-520 piston engines, the Skyvan 1 first flew in prototype form on January 17, 1963. Underpowered, it was retrofitted with 520-shp Turbomeca Astazou II turboprops, once again taking to the skies ten months later, on October 2, in whose guise it was provisionally known as the SC7/10 Skyvan 1A.
Yet a second powerplant change, this time to the even more capable 637-shp Astazou X, coupled with minor wing modifications and a lowered tailplane, resulted in the March 1965 variant, the Skyvan 1A series 2, for which Aer Alpi of Italy became the launch customer, placing an order for two aircraft.
The definitive production version, fitted with 730-shp Astazou XIH-1 engines, introduced several modifications, among them a more streamlined nose, larger, rectangular passenger windows to replace the original round ones, a single nose wheel, and with the ninth production airframe, a 31-inch cabin length increase, for a new, 18.7-foot total. Finally, a fuel capacity increase, from 175 to 225 Imperial gallons carried in four wing tanks.
High-elevation and –temperature airfield operations necessitated an even more capable version. Introducing 755-shp Garrett AiResearch TPE-331-201A turboprops, which drove three-bladed Hartzell propellers, and an increased 300-Imperial gallon fuel capacity, the resultant SC7 Skyvan 3, employing the now modified Mk 2 prototype, first flew on December 15, 1967.
With a 40.1-foot overall length and a 64.1-foot wingspan, it offered a 4,600pound payload, 12,500-pound gross weight, and 654-mile range with its maximum fuel and a 3,000-pound payload.
Because the flat ceiling and vertical walls of its boxy cabin provided considerable volume within a relatively small area, it offered flexible accommodation, from the previously quoted 4,600 pounds of cargo–comprised, if necessary, of small vehicles–to 12 stretchers and up to 22 single-class passengers. A convertible variant accepted palletized freight, with provision for its lightweight, slimline seats to be folded against the sidewalls.
Incorporating these features was the succeeding Skyvan 3M military version, which also introduced nose-installed weather radar, a roller-equipped loading system, and accommodation for 12 stretchers, 19 paratroopers, or up to 22 standard troops. More importantly, it offered increased maximum payload and takeoff weights of 5,000 and 13,500 pounds respectively.
The Austrian Air Force, the first to order the type, took delivery of its two examples on September 12, 1969.
A third-level or commuter airline variant, the Skyliner, incorporated passenger features, including a low-entry door on the aft, port side and a modernized cabin with individual air vent and reading light units, a small galley, and a lavatory.
Development of the passenger-configured Skyvan and Skyliner, undertaken to produce an inexpensive, unpressurized commuter airliner, resulted in several fundamental modifications that introduced higher capacities and sleeker lines.
A 12.5-foot forward fuselage stretch, for instance, coupled with a more pointed nose, afforded a 30-passenger capacity in a three-abreast, one-two, arrangement at a 30-inch seat pitch, complete with molded sidewalls and enclosed overhead storage compartments. A 9.9-foot insertion in the braced, high-mounted, supercritical wing took the span to 74.8 feet and its area to 453 square feet.
Power was provided by two Pratt and Whitney PT6A-45 turboprops, turning five-bladed propellers, while the tricycle undercarriage was retractable for the first time.
Launched after receipt of UK government financial aid on May 23, 1973, the aircraft, initially designated the SD3-30, first flew in prototype form on August 22 of the following year. A second one first flew on July 8, 1975 and the first production example took to the skies five months later, on December 15.
Although launch orders were placed by US-based Command Airways and Canada-based Time Air, the latter, in fact, was the first to inaugurate the type into service on August 24, 1976.
Succeeding the baseline Shorts 330-100, the 330-200, announced in 1981, offered 1,020-shp PT6A-45R engines, whose power increased to 1,198-shp when the “r”—for “reserve”—was used. With a 7,500-pound payload and a 22,900-pound gross weight, this variant carried 3,840 pounds of fuel, but, like all others in the Skyvan/Skyliner/330 series, it suffered from speed deficiencies, only cruising at between 180 and 200 mph.
Aside from US launch customer, Command Airways, other US regional operators included Golden West Airlines, Mississippi Valley Airlines and Metro Airlines. These three carriers, Henson Aviation, Suburban and Chautauqua Airlines all operated under the Allegheny Commuter banner. Lastly, not to be left out was Burlington, Vermont based Air North.
Aer Lingus and Olympic were major European operators of the type.
A military version, the C-23A Sherpa, featured an aft loading ramp. Some Shorts 360 aircraft were converted to become C-23A Sherpas.
Production, which ceased in 1992, totaled 136 examples of all variants.
The Shorts 360, the definitive development of the Skyvan and the 3-30, introduced a three-foot forward fuselage plug for a new 70.6-foot length, a redesigned aft portion with a tapered profile, a swept, single vertical tail, two additional seat rows for a 36-passenger total, uprated, 1,194-shp PT6A-65R engines, a 25,700-pound maximum takeoff weight and higher cruise speeds, of up to 243 mph.
Suburban Airlines, operating under the Allegheny Commuter consortium, placed the launch order with aircraft N360SA, seen in the photo below.
First flying in prototype form on June 1, 1981 and certified on September 3 of the following year, it entered service two months later.
Advanced versions, introduced in 1985 and 1987, featured higher rated engines and six-bladed propellers before production, totaling 165 aircraft, ended in 1991.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
International destination pins
USA State/Territory/Commonwealth 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Igor I. Sikorsky immigrated from Russia to the US, arriving on American shores with dreams, drive, and aeronautic blood coursing through his veins, but little more than lint in his pockets.
Five years after stepping ashore on this side of the Atlantic, in 1924, he planted Long Island roots that grew into the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation and through it concentrated on one of two aircraft types with which he would become synonymous—the amphibious flying boat, with the other being the rotary-wing helicopter.
Although the first of the former, the S-34, nosed into Long Island Sound near College Point on May 31,1927 (after one of its two engines failed at 800 feet) the succeeding S-38, which was designed between May and July of the following year, fared far better. Functional it was. Art it was not.
Amphibiously ambidextrous—if there is such a term—it was a combined aquatic and air “structure” that displayed the decidedly separate, but somehow connected aspects needed to operate in both realms: a short, hull-shaped fuselage and a high, straight wing, v-strut attached to the smaller, lower, hull-extending one. From the upper were slung two Pratt and Whitney Wasp radials and, from the trailing edge, twin booms that ended at the tailplane itself, consisting of a horizontal stabilizer from which two vertical surfaces extended both above and below.
“While considered an ugly duckling by some, it quickly proved to be one of the most efficient and practical airplanes of its time” according to “The Pan Am Connection” article in the June 2000 issue of the Sikorsky Archives News. “A Navy test pilot of the time called it a better ship than any other of its size and power.”
Despite its $55,000 price tag, the first ten aircraft were gobbled up after the S-38’s May 25, 1928 maiden flight.
Sikorsky, father of his aerial offspring, naturally later lavished it with praise.
“The ship had very good takeoff characteristics from land and water,” he claimed. “It had a climb of 1,000-fpm fully loaded and a maximum speed close to 130 mph. The ship could cruise nicely around 100 mph, and it stayed in the air on one engine.”
It saw considerable airline service.
Because of the S-38’s capability, it was instrumental in Pan American’s Caribbean, Central American, and South American route development, beginning on October 13, 1928. Airfield shortages proved no obstacle. As Andre Priester, Pan Am’s chief engineer, pointed out, “Flying boats carried their own airports on their bottom.”
Pan American ultimately operated 38 of the 111 produced.
The type opened up international passenger service on May 22 of the following year, bridging the 2,064 miles to the Canal Zone during a 56-hour journey, although it required overnight stops in Belize and Managua, both in Central America.
Six months later, Hawaii-based Inter-Island Airways, which was founded in January, commenced scheduled service from Honolulu to Maui, Hilo, and Kauai with two eight-passenger S-38s, effective November 11. Molokai and Lanai were served on request.
Devoid of land-based airports, Duluth, Minnesota, on the mainland, was aerially connected after Northwest brought its own S-38s into bodies of water near the city in 1931, and New York Airways, a subsidiary of Pan American, began service to Atlantic City on June 1 of that year with the type, later extending service to Baltimore and Washington with a motley fleet that also encompassed the Ford Trimotor and the Fokker F-X. The route was ultimately acquired by Eastern Air Transport on July 15, 1931.