Reflections of Inter-New York Airport Flying

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

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

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

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

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

New York Airways Boeing-Vertol V-107-II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Helicopter Aerospatiale SA.360C Dauphin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continental Express Aerospatiale ATR-42-300

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

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

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

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

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

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

PBA Provincetown Boston Airlines Embraer EMB-110

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PBA Provincetown Boston Airlines Cessna C-402

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sikorsky S-38

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

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.

Sikorsky S-38 Images by Wiki Commons

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The Republic XF-12 Rainbow: The Airliner That Never Was

Written by Robert G. Waldvogel

The Republic Rainbow was an example of a Long Island-spawned airliner that had significant potential, but never materialized in reality.

The Republic Aviation Corporation itself traces its roots to Seversky Aircraft, which was established by the Russian emigre of the same name. Possessing a sixth sense for high-speed aerodynamic designs, he produced the P-35 fighter that set speed records and won racing awards. He subsequently relocated to Farmingdale facilities.

Despite his design capability, his business and marketing talents were severely lacking, resulting in abysmal sales and prompting his Board of Directors to ironically vote him—the company’s founder—out during a 1938 sales trip to England.

Reorganized and renamed the Republic Aviation Corporation, this action proved the necessary tactic to reverse its fortunes, leading to Army Air Corps orders for its P-43 Lancer fighter. The company was synonymous, however, with the P-47 Thunderbolt, which was nicknamed “The Jug.” Republic produced the first piston aircraft able to achieve a 400-mph speed and notched up sales that almost reached the 10,000-mark, as the company became the second-largest fighter supplier to the Air Corps.

Also reflecting this speed capability was the XF-12 Rainbow. Designed to fulfill the Army Air Corps’ Air Tactical Service Command’s needs for a high-speed and -altitude reconnaissance aircraft, particularly to record enemy installations over Japan, the streamlined, quad-engine, low-wing aircraft, emulating the graceful lines of the Lockheed Constellation, had commercial airliner potential.

“The Rainbow, with a design altitude of 40,000 feet, a payload of 12,000 pounds, and a cruising speed of about 400 mph, held out great promise,” according to R. E. G. Davies in Airlines of the United States since 1914. (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998, p. 328). “Pan American and American Airlines placed provisional orders. But severe problems with the engine and controls caused abandonment of the project.”

First flying on February 4, 1946, the original military version was powered by four 3,250-hp Pratt and Whitney R-4360-61 engines equipped with sliding cowlings that increased their capability by 250 hp at altitude. Lift was provided by high-aspect ratio, straight-tapered, square-tipped wings, which had a 129.2-foot span. Its cabin was subdivided into three aft photographic compartments.

Its statistics were, for the time, staggering: a 101,400-pound gross weight, 5,000-fpm climb rate, 45,000-foot service ceiling, 470-mph maximum speed, and a 4,500-mile range.

The RC-2, its commercial counterpart, would have introduced a five-foot fuselage stretch, a 46-passenger capacity, a lounge, a galley, uprated engines, and an increased fuel capacity. It would have been a serious—and superior-performance—contender as a transcontinental airliner in competition with the Lockheed Constellation itself and the Douglas DC-6.

“Officially designated the Republic XF-12, the Rainbow was a sleek, needle-nosed speedster, whose specifications called for a 400-mph cruising speed, nonstop transatlantic range, a then-unheard-of altitude capability of 40,000 feet, and a passenger capacity of 46,” according to Robert J. Serling in Eagle: The Story of American Airlines. New York: (St. Martin’s/Marek, 1985, p. 197).

The RC-2’s engine difficulties, a rise in its acquisition price, and the lower operating costs of widely available, war-surplus C-54s (the military version of the DC-4), resulted in the cancellation of American’s and Pan American’s provisional orders.

Still-born and little known, the RC-2, like the Lockheed L-1049 and the Douglas DC-7, would have represented the pinnacle of pistonliner development, but its later-than-optimum appearance robbed it of military contract cost advantages, leaving the two XF-12s as the only metal expressions of the design. As a result, Long Island lost its last chance of ever competing with the West Coast aircraft manufacturing giants.

Republic Rainbow Images: Wiki Commons

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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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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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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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Airports for the Supersonic Age – Part 1: Planning for SSTs

Written by Marnix (Max) Groot

Published: October 6th, 2019 | Updated: January 31st, 2020
Original article published in

Dawn of the supersonic age

​In the late 1960s, the expectation was that, by the late 20th century, the majority of long-haul passengers would fly in supersonic aircraft.

At the time, all major aircraft manufacturers in Europe, the US and the USSR were developing concepts for ‘supersonic transport aircraft’, or SST. The largest SST model, the Boeing 2707 would carry 300 passengers, which was 60 passengers less than the first 747 in a three-class layout. The Anglo-French Concorde carried between 92 and 128 passengers.

In anticipation of this development, Boeing designed the 747 with the characteristic hump, so that it could be easily converted into cargo aircraft if its design became obsolete for passenger transport.

A 1967 Boeing image showing a contemporary 1960s airport concourse, surrounded by existing Boeing models at the time: the 707, 727 and 737 as well as its upcoming Boeing 747 and the supersonic Boeing 2707. With a length of 306 feet (93 meters), the Boeing 2707 was quite a bit longer than the 747 at 231 feet (71 meters).

Despite their spectacular design and performance characteristics, SSTs were designed to make use of existing runways and terminals. ​ However, SSTs did still have an impact the design of airports, or to be more specific, their location. SSTs were extremely noisy. Hence, new airports that were expected to handle SSTs were often planned far away from the cities they served.

In this article, we will examine how some prominent airports in the late 1960s prepared for the supposedly inevitable takeover of the SST!

East Coast


Being a world city and the primary US international gateway, New York was destined to become the SST capital of the world, with both US and foreign flag carriers operating supersonic service to cities and around the globe.

New York’s Kennedy Airport was the main base for Pan Am and TWA, America’s most prominent international airlines at the time. Both airlines had options on Boeing’s SST as well as the Anglo-French Concorde. In the late 1960s, both airlines commenced expansion projects of their terminals, that were prepared to accommodate the new generation of wide-body aircraft and SSTs.

Read our full history on New York’s Kennedy Airport. Read more about the early days of the Pan Am terminal and TWA Flight Center.

Pan American Airlines, America’s de facto flag carrier, always was on the cutting edge of aviation. The airline had 15 options on the American built Boeing 2707 and 8 options on the Concorde.

A 1968 image showing a model of the upcoming expansion of the Pan Am terminal, which would be renamed the Pan Am Worldport. A Pan Am Concorde is parked at the gate, while a Boeing 2707 is taxiing by.

An advertisement announcing the expansion of the TWA Flight Center. Specific mention is made of SSTs.

A beautiful artist’s illustration of a Concorde in TWA livery. The airline had an option for six aircraft. TWA also optioned 12 Boeing 2707s.


Miami, being the gateway to Latin America and a major base for long-haul Pan Am flights, was expected to become a major SST hub. Miami International Airport was located in the middle of built up areas and SST noise was expected become a major issue.

In 1968, the decision was taken to build a huge new airport in the Florida Everglades, which planners envisioned would become a major intercontinental SST hub. The “Everglades Jetport” would have been five times larger than New York’s Kennedy Airport. ​

The airport was planned to have six runways in its final layout and would be connected to Miami by an expressway and monorail line.

Initially, the Everglades Jetport would supplement Miami International Airport but in the long term it would replace it completely. After completion of the first 10,499-foot (3,200-meter) runway in 1970, construction was halted due to a scathing environmental impact report. Named the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport, the airport nowadays is used as an aviation training facility.

We will soon post a separate article about the Everglades Jetport as part of our “Never Built” series!

A November 1970 aerial of the only completed runway of the Everglades Jetport. After cancellation of the project the airport lived on as a training facility.

Snapshot from a 1968 brochure announcing the Everglades Jetport project. The airport would have had six runways in its final layout and would have been five times bigger than New York’s Kennedy Airport.

West Coast


As the third largest US city at the time (now second largest), Los Angeles was surely to become a major destination for SST jets. Due to the location of LAX, noise considerations were also a major concern, even though most take-offs would have been over the ocean.

In 1968, the city started a search for suitable locations for a large-scale airport, which would supplement LAX and could accommodate SST jets.

One potential solution was the construction of an airport, two miles offshore, which could host SST operations without any noise problems.

Finally, however, planners chose to develop a new airport on a site near Palmdale, 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Los Angeles. The city purchased 17,000 acres of land west of Air Force Plant 42, to develop what would be named Palmdale Intercontinental Airport, a mega jetport with four parallel runways.

Although a small passenger terminal opened in 1971, the scheme never came to fruition.

A separate article on Palmdale will be launched in the future as part of our “Never Built” series!

This Lockheed promotional image showed how a SST could park at one of LAX’s existing satellite buildings. Note that aircraft still parked parallel to the concourse.

An artist’s impression of the supplemental offshore airport serving LAX. The airport would be connected to the existing airport (bottom right) by means of a tunnel. The concept never got beyond the planning stage.


Being a major international gateway as well as a base for both Pan Am and TWA, San Francisco International Airport was projected to welcome significant SST traffic. This is evident in San Francisco International Airport’s 1967 draft master plan. Many of the stands on the newly built and reconfigured concourses show SSTs.

The master plan report mentions that the planners made a special trip to Boeing in Seattle to view the mock ups of the Boeing 2707 (as well as the 747) in order to obtain first-hand knowledge of the problems and possibilities of handling the new generation of aircraft.

Although SST noise was a concern, it was a bit less pressing than at other major airports around the nation. Due to its location bordering San Francisco Bay and its runway configuration, most SST flights would have been able to both land and take-off over the Bay.

A 1967 draft master plan for the future development of San Francisco International Airport. It’s evident that planners considered the SST in their plans with several stands being suitable for this new generation of aircraft. Can you spot them?

Mid-America’s jetports


Contrary to the coastal US cities, most cities in the Midwest and South had an abundance of space to build new airports.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new generation of large-scale ‘jetports’ opened in the American heartland: Houston Intercontinental (1969), Kansas City (1972) and Dallas-Fort Worth (1973).

They were designed in the mid-to-late 1960s, at the height of the SST hype and when air traffic was growing by 15% annually. These airports were located far way from the cities they served and had almost unlimited possibilities to expand.

In 1966, Dallas-based Braniff International Airways took an option on three Concorde aircraft. This is reflected in the 1968 DFW master plan, which indicates various stands with parked Concorde aircraft.

Many design decisions for the new Kansas City Airport–whose terminals bore a strong resemblance to those of Dallas-Fort Worth–were driven by TWA, who operated a major base there.

The airline envisioned the new airport as a major intercontinental hub serving the heartland, using its fleet of 747s and SSTs.

In the near future, we will post full histories on the old and current airports of Dallas, Houston and Kansas City!

The January 1970 issue of Architectural Digest presented the new Houston Intercontinental Airport as an airport for the supersonic age.

This 1973 print called “Airport of the Future” by artist Wilf Hardy shows an SST flying over the new Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I wonder what ”AOL” stands for?

A Concorde is preparing to land (or crash?!) on this artist’s impression of the future Kansas City Airport, which was conceived as a intercontinental hub for TWA.



​​In the late 1960s, at the height of SST development, the Canadian city of Montréal was one of North America’s most important international gateways–many inbound flights from Europe on their way to cities like New York, Chicago and Houston made a stopover at Montréal’s Dorval Airport.

The airport was quickly becoming saturated and planners started looking ahead. They assumed that traffic would grow with 15% annually into the foreseeable future and that the majority of people would be transported in SST aircraft.

Based on that assumption, it was decided to build a vast new airport one hour north-west of Montréal. In its final layout, the airport would boast six runways and six passenger terminals. A large buffer zone was established around the airport to ensure noise would never become an issue. The first phase of Montréal Mirabel Airport opened on October 4th, 1975.

A fantastic artist’s impression of Mirabel in the final layout. The airport would boast six runways, six passenger terminals and vast cargo and maintenance areas. The first terminal to be built was located in the top middle of the image.


Contrary to the American heartland and Canada, space in Europe comes at a premium. The development of large-scale greenfield airport projects is generally very difficult in Europe.

With the advent of the Jet Age and SSTs dominance on the horizon, several European capitals, such as London, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen sought to build new airports.


Similar to New York, London was slated to become one of the busiest SST hubs. In 1964, the UK’s long-haul flag carrier BOAC (later British Airways) declared the intention to buy eight Concorde aircraft.

Heathrow, London’s primary airport, was located in the city’s western suburbs and aircraft noise was becoming a major concern. In addition, with traffic booming in the 1960s, both Heathrow and Gatwick were thought to reach capacity well before the end of the century. Hence, the construction of a third London airport was deemed necessary.

In 1971, the government selected Maplin Sands, located in the Thames Estuary, as the location for a new four-runway airport. With takeoffs and landings taking place over open water, London Maplin, would have offered an effective solution for the SST noise issue.

However, in late 1973, the Maplin scheme was abandoned due to rising construction costs and falling passenger demand due to the oil crisis.

We’ll be publishing a separate article on the search for a third London airport in the near future.

A rare artist’s illustration of the unbuilt London Maplin Airport, which was planned to be built on reclaimed land in the River Thames estuary.


​Similar to New York and London, Paris was bound to see plenty of SST operations. In 1964, Air France, declared the intention to buy eight Concorde aircraft. Air France’s home base, Paris Orly Airport, was nearing capacity and was located in the middle of built up areas, making it unsuitable for the operation of noisy SSTs.

In 1964, the French government gave the green light to build a new Jet-Age airport north-east of Paris. Planning work on Roissy Airport, named after a nearby village, started in 1966, when it seemed sure that 747s and SSTs would soon rule the skies.

In its final layout, the airport would boast five runways and five massive, futuristic, round terminal buildings, the perfect setting for the SSTs. Seemingly to match the high speeds in the air, the airport’s design was optimized for high-speed circulation, loading and unloading of aircraft. Roissy, renamed Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, opened for service in March, 1973.

A fantastic artist’s impression of Phase 1 of the “future” Paris de Gaulle Airport, an airport that was designed with both SSTs and 747s in mind.

South America


In the late 1960s and 1970s, Brazil enjoyed very high rates of economic growth. People started to speak about the “Brazilian miracle”. During this period, the government made large scale investments in infrastructure and industry.

​It’s within this context that in 1967, a study into the large-scale expansion of Rio’s Galeão Airport was commenced. As Brazil’s major tourist hub, Rio de Janeiro was expected to see its fair share of SST service. The government engaged Aéroports de Paris–the same organization that designed the brand new Paris de Gaulle Airport–to design a state-of-the-art gateway to Brazil.

The expanded Galeão Airport, called “The Supersonic Airport”, opened in 1977, almost three years behind schedule.

An artist’s impression of the expanded Galeão Airport. If you look closely however, you can count four Concordes on the ground. Note the similarity of the taxiway design to that of Paris de Gaulle.

To be concluded in Part 2!

Click here for Part 2, where we will continue the supersonic story and see how things actually worked out for the SST and how SST service was at airports around the world!

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The Plane that Smiled Back

Written by Emma Rasmussen

Few airlines in the twenty-first century can provide the same friendly allure that the airlines of decades past once exuded. One such example of this seemingly forgotten vibrance and zeal is Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA). Sporting an iconic “smile” on the noses of their aircraft, it is hardly any wonder their slogan was “The World’s Friendliest Airline.” Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, their smiley airliners, adorned with colorful cheatlines, proudly served the state of California. Headquartered in San Diego, PSA became the way to fly in the Golden State.

PSA’s humble beginnings can be traced back to the years immediately following World War II. Kenny Friedkin, an American aviator, and businessman founded the airline and set the tone for its colorful culture. Friedkin had previously attempted to start an airline known as “Friedkin Airlines,” but this venture failed. PSA was his second and successful attempt. Friedkin’s new airline began offering a weekly round-trip flight from San Diego to Oakland and Burbank. A single DC-3 was leased for $1,000 USD per month.

By the 1950s, PSA’s fleet had grown and been modernized. Friedkin replaced his DC-3s with DC-4s, and painted rectangles around the windows so they more closely resembled the newer DC-6 (which had rectangular windows). At the end of the 1950s, the operation had evolved. An average of 37 flights across California were conducted, with a fare of $9.99 USD. When larger Lockheed L-188 Electra’s joined the fleet PSA instantly overtook its competitors by carrying more passengers between Los Angeles and the Bay Area than any other airline. PSA’s fleet would become even more advanced with the introduction of the Jet Age.

Between 1965 and 1970, PSA took delivery of several new Boeing and Douglas jet airliners, replacing its fleet of propeller aircraft. Between 1974 and 1975, PSA operated two Lockheed L-1011 Tristars. The operation of this twin-aisle airliner would make PSA the only intrastate airline to operate a wide-body airliner. The Tristar was particularly unique for PSA at the time, as it featured a luxurious lower deck lounge. Despite these major fleet updates, PSA was faced with stiff competition from Air California (later “AirCal”), it’s fellow Golden State intrastate airline and largest rival.

PSA and Air California operated the few remaining Lockheed Electra’s in their fleet (in PSA’s case L-188’s that were re-purchased after its original Electra’s was retired) to provide flights into Lake Tahoe Airport, which had a jet ban until the 1980s. PSA retired it’s Electras, as did Air California when the jet ban was lifted. PSA never returned to this hot destination, but AirCal recommenced flights with all new McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and Boeing 737-300s. PSA focused on expanding its business model to other neighboring states after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 took effect. AirCal soon followed suit.

PSA’s new pastures included Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson, Reno, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City. The maturing airline installed automated ticketing and check-in machines at its various destinations. PSA had planned to expand further east through the purchase of assets from Braniff International Airways, a struggling Texan airline. Unfortunately, this transaction did not come to pass, and PSA expanded to Idaho, the Pacific North West, and small under-served airports throughout California. The introduction of the BAe-146 in the early 1980s enabled PSA to expand within California.

One can attribute PSA’s success to their affordable intrastate business model, which Southwest Airlines later pursued upon its own founding. However, it is important to note that PSA had a pleasurable company culture that made it unique. Friedkin, the airline’s founder, was known for his laid-back attire and assortment of Hawaiian shirts. Management encouraged crew members to joke with passengers and provide extravagant customer service. The airline introduced flamboyant, yet flattering uniforms for their stewardesses, which matched the airline’s branding. PSA’s corporate culture inspired Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher implemented many of PSA’s innovations in his own airline after ample studying.

Today, PSA’s legacy lives on as a nostalgia livery for American Airlines and the inspiration for Southwest Airlines. In 1988, PSA completed its merger with USAir, which eventually became US Airways. By the mid-1990s, PSA’s original route network had completely ceased to exist within USAir. After several more airline mergers, PSA eventually found a place in American Airlines’ heritage. PSA may no longer exist, but it remains a colorful part of aviation’s extensive and storied history.

Originally published in Horizons – Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

Photos  from the Jon Proctor collection & WikiMediaCommons

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On Time, On the Hour, and On the Money

Written by Shea Oakley

If you are an older traveler and airline enthusiast living along the so-called “Northeast Corridor” of the U.S. it is likely you have a story about the Air-Shuttle. When I use the term “Air-Shuttle” I’m not referring to those run today by Delta or American. For me this reference has always been synonymous with Eastern Air Lines, the airline that started the whole concept of an hourly guaranteed seat service between New York-La Guardia, and both Boston-Logan and Washington-National airports. The airline that “threw in the towel” only after over a quarter-century of dominance on those routes, and that only two years before its own demise as a pioneering American air carrier. At the time of the Shuttle’s sale to Donald Trump in 1989 there was perhaps no greater symbol of the decline of a once great company than its loss.

I am one of those “avgeek” denizens of the Northeast who has a few personal recollections of the Eastern Air-Shuttle to share.

Sorry, no tales about eventful LGA-DCA Connie flights through summer thunderstorms. The last back-up L-1049’s were retired less than a week after my birth in February 1968. The retirement took place on St. Valentine’s day that year and EAL had a brilliant advertising tagline touting the advent of all jet-powered service: “On Valentine’s day You can Kiss Connie Goodbye.” I do, however, have a Lockheed Electra story. It was July of 1977 and my dad and I were returning to our home in New Jersey from a whale-watching trip in Nova Scotia. At Logan we hoped to catch what I believe was the last La Guardia-bound Shuttle that night. I remember gazing at two aircraft from the concourse windows of Eastern’s exclusive terminal building at that airport. One of them was a newly stripped to bare metal DC-9-31. Beyond it, gloriously lit by airport floodlights, was a white EAL airplane with four turboprop engines incorporating the largest propeller blades I had ever seen. Apparently the load looked heavy that evening so Eastern, true to its perennial Air-Shuttle guaranteed seat policy, had trundled out the old bird (one of several still being used for back-up sections only). I was nine years-old and more than a little excited. The Electra looked so exotic to this child of the “Jet Age” and I wanted that ride so dearly that I could taste it. Alas, it was not to be. We were all accommodated on the ‘Nine and as we pushed back my dream plane sat there, forlornly alone on the ramp. Three months later the airline retired its last Electra’s, thus crushing my hope of ever having such an opportunity again. At age nine you don’t tell your parents you are heading out to the airport and catching every Air-Shuttle flight until you manage a ride on a Lockheed 188.

One day in 1981 I boarded flight 18256, once again from Boston to New York. My logbook confirms it was a Boeing 727, and my strong recollection was that it also was a 727-100, the airplane possibly was an equipment sub for the Shuttle-dedicated 727-200’s on strength at the time. The interior (and the “flight dynamics” that day) seemed to me a bit rough around the edges, generally projecting an aura of the aircraft in question having been perhaps an early, 1964-era, build “Three-Holer”. That said, the flight was on time and the service as good as the Shuttle framework allowed. It is interesting to me that some of those very early 727-100’s were still wearing the distinctive EAL “Falcon” logo while flying late into the 1980’s.

My last Shuttle trip was just before I left home to get an aviation management degree at college. I wanted my father, with whom I had enjoyed many trips in earlier years, to accompany me on one last journey before I “left the nest,” so to speak. Having decided on a day together in Washington D.C., we were on the first LGA-DCA flight that morning. This was during the late summer of 1986 and Eastern was in the process of renovating all of its Shuttle terminals. The recent Texas Air buyout struggle (which would ultimately lead to the ignominious end of EAL) seemed very far away as the smells and sounds of construction filled its section of National Airport when we deplaned that day. I remember that the 727 stretch back to La Guardia said “Air-Shuttle Plus” on the forward fuselage. This was part of a leftover marketing effort to become more competitive with the New York Air shuttle which had attained to a fairly large chunk of the market at Eastern’s expense. New York Air ironically had also belonged to Frank Lorenzo’s short-lived airline empire along with the airline that “earned its wings every day.”

Today if I want to head North to Boston or South to our nation’s capital there is, of course, no Eastern Air-Shuttle to fly. There is little doubt in my mind that American or Delta’s contemporary shuttle operation will get me there with reasonable dispatch and bearable service. But they are still imitators as far as I am concerned. When someone uses the term “Air-Shuttle” I will always only remember the one that was “On Time, On the Hour, and On the Money.”

Note: All photos sourced from and WikiCommons

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