Inaugural,Jon Proctor,L-1011,TWA

My TWA Inaugural L-1011 Flight

By Dennis Danesi

Way back in July 1972, I was heading with my parents to Los Angeles to visit Disneyland. This was going to be my very first time flying on an airplane and I was thrilled to learn that we were flying aboard a TWA 747. I was already in love with aviation as my Dad would take me to Chicago O’Hare Airport all the time to see the planes and walk around the terminals (back when you could do that) and he would even ask a Pilot or Flight Attendant to take me onboard an airplane for a few minutes just to see the passenger cabin and cockpit.

However, as things usually go, we received a call from our Travel Agent telling us that we were no longer going to be flying on a 747. TWA put this new aircraft on the route and we were going to be on their inaugural L-1011 flight. I was NOT happy at all, what was this L-1011 thing and why can’t we fly a 747?!?!  

When we arrived at the airport that day, I remember the news media being there. On board, they gave us beach towels as a remembrance of this inaugural flight.

 An old Instamatic shot looking out the window of our TWA L1011.
A nose-in shot of the L1011 prior to our departure from Chicago O’Hare. 

I remember the Captain visiting the cabin and greeting passengers, including myself!!

Here is our Captain greeting me with a hearty handshake and smiles all around.
A quick peek into the flight deck and our Flight Engineer looks my way.
Looking forward in the passenger cabin from our seat vantage point. Note: the big screen for inflight entertainment.
Here is a neat view of the L1011’s wing.

Here is the crazy part, I have always wondered which TWA aircraft I was on for my first flight as a kid.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago.  I was starting a page on Facebook for Past US Aircraft and Liveries (US Airlines Past Liveries and Aircraft | Facebook) and was searching for photos. I came across the photo below and the caption Mr. Jon Proctor wrote. Needless to say, I was blown away.  My family and I were on that exact aircraft when Mr. Proctor took the photo so many years ago.  I only wish I had known sooner to share this with him.  His photos are amazing and I am glad that I found his site.

Editor’s Note:  This is why we at the World Airline Historical Society keep the late Jon Proctor’s website alive, for great stories such as this. Do you have a story to share about a memorable flight or an aviation collectible? We want to hear from you! Leave your comments/contact information below or send us an email. We regret we are unable to publish all submissions.

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airline seat designations

Seat 21J: A Century of Airline Seat Designations – Part 1 (1919-1960)

By Fons Schaefers


Anyone who flies regularly as a passenger, even when not necessarily keen on selecting his or her seat of preference, still has an idea of how airliner seats are identified. Seat rows are numbered from front to rear. Across each row, seats are given a letter. Thus, when the boarding pass says seat 21J, the passenger knows not to go and look in the forward section of the airplane but somewhere in the middle. And that it is on the right-hand side. At least, when seen in the direction of flight, because when boarding through a forward door, and walking down the aisle (or one of two aisles, as the case may be), this seat is actually on the left.

This way of identifying airliner seats is universal. But has it always been so? And if not, when was it introduced, and how were seats identified before? Let’s have a look at the history of airliner seat numbering. This article is about the period from the start of air transport to when the current system became common, around 1960. In the next part, I will focus on the years since then.


The very first instance of seat numbering likely dates back to the first year of air passenger transport in Europe, or to be more precise: in the United Kingdom in 1919. The Great War was just over and bombers made by the British aircraft manufacturer Handley Page were converted for passenger use. The company started an airline, named it Handley Page Transport Ltd., and offered flights from London Cricklewood across the Channel to Paris Le Bourget and Brussels-Evere, three times each per week. A single-sheet timetable describes the aircraft as “giant,” having the capacity to carry 12 passengers including the pilot and a mechanic. On the reverse side is a seating layout. Of the 10 passenger seats, two were at the front ahead of the cockpit and in the open air, two more were in a closed cabin behind the cockpit, and the remaining six were in an aft cabin, separated from the forward cabin by a freight hold.”The seats were numbered 1 to 10 from front to rear, left to right.

How passengers boarded is not directly clear. As with all period aircraft, it was a tail-dragger. On the ground, the aft cabin was close to the ground but the nose stood up high. The door in the aft cabin required only minor steps. The forward cabin and the open-air seats were inaccessible from the aft cabin and required boarding from outside. Likely, a tall ladder was used and only athletic passengers were allocated to these seats. In the forward closed-cabin, the plan marks a “door,” which I believe was in the fuselage bottom, accessible by the ladder.

Handley Page Transport timetable, 1919.

This early way of assigning numbers to seats was exceptional. Other airlines in the pioneering decade did not use seat numbers. I reproduce a cabin chart for the popular Fokker F VIIa as used by KLM in the mid-1920s. All eight passenger seats are identified as “A = Comfortable Passenger-seats.” There is no sign of seat numbering.

KLM Fokker F VIIa, KLM timetable, 1926/1927.


ln Great Britain in 1924, Imperial Airways was formed by a merger of Handley Page Transport and three other airlines. Handley Page continued building airplanes. In 1931, the Handley Page H.P.42 was introduced. Imperial used it in two versions, called the Western type and the Eastern type. The former was operated on the shorter routes in Europe (mostly London Croydon-Paris Le Bourget). The Eastern type was used on longer routes, such as from Cairo, Egypt to Karachi in what was then British India. Their seating capacities differed significantly: 38 on the Western type and only 18 on the Eastern type. In either variant, the passenger entrance door was at the extreme rear, on the left, and the seat numbering started there: left to right, rear to front.

Imperial Airways Handley Page HP 42, 1930.

At a later stage, the capacity of the Eastern type was increased with three double seats. These were placed at various locations across the cabin, but the original numbering was not changed. The result was that the additional seats were numbered out of sequence, creating a seemingly haphazard numbering pattern.

Imperial Airways Handley Page HP 42 Eastern type, 1932.

Later in the decade, when air transport in the USA had taken off and surpassed in volume that of Europe, the Douglas DC-3 was the aircraft type in use by the main airlines. Transcontinental & Western Airlines (TWA) was one of them. Their operations at the time were confined to the United States. Only after the war would it become an intercontinental airline and change its name to Trans World Airways). TWA published the seating layout shown below. Seats were sequentially numbered from left to right, front to rear. Number 13 was omitted, as it is regarded in Western culture as the “unlucky” number.

TWA Douglas DC-3, late 1930s.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operated the DC-3 on what was then the longest air route, between Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Batavia, Netherlands East Indies (now Jakarta, Indonesia), taking five days and making 19 stops. Rather than fitting it with the normal DC-3 seating capacity of 21, only 12 seats were installed as seen in the below seat plans. One of these was non-saleable as it was for the steward. This was always a male, as KLM scheduled its stewardesses on the European routes only. The remaining 11 seats were numbered radiating from the passenger entrance door (located aft on the right side), so from right to left, and rear to front. Seating diagrams together with passenger names and their destination were made up for each flight and distributed to all on board. Current privacy rules and ethics did not exist then. I reproduce two plans, without the list of names. The first is for the flight starting in Batavia on May 6, 1939, and the second is for the flight departing Amsterdam on August 8, 1939. Note that in the latter the numbering sequence was reversed in the front row (seats 10 and 11). This may have been a typo, as the other plan did not have this anomaly.

KLM DC-3 cabin plan, May 6, 1939.
KLM DC-3 cabin plan, August 8, 1939.

The flight on August 8 would be one of the last on the route. With the outbreak of war in Europe a few weeks later, the route was initially truncated (starting at Naples instead of Amsterdam) and later terminated entirely.

Sequential numbering

While Douglas was the most successful manufacturer of airliners just before the war, Boeing tried to take its stake in the market with the Model 307, also known as the Stratoliner. It was unique in many respects: it was the first pressurized airliner and its cabin layout was asymmetrical, with four compartments seating six each on the right side, and a single row of nine seats on the left. Such a layout is reminiscent of European long-distance train coaches but has never since been repeated in air transport. Each of the compartments could be converted into sleeping mode, with four berths each: two upper and two lower. Even the airplane’s windows were asymmetrical, with two closely located windows per compartment on the right side and a more traditional lineup of nine windows on the left. Only 10 Stratoliners were built, five for TWA, three for Pan Am, and, a single ship for private use by Howard Hughes, then the owner of TWA. The prototype was lost early on and this delayed the entry into service which eventually took place in 1940. Within two years they went to war but most came back into civil service in 1945. TWA then used a more traditional cabin layout of 38 seats. Only one airframe, NC19903, survives, a former Pan Am aircraft preserved in flying condition at the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center adjacent to Washington-Dulles (IAD) airport. The hull of the Howard Hughes aircraft was converted years ago into a private houseboat and is now in the collection of the Florida Air Museum.

The unique cabin layout made for a unique way of seat numbers. I reproduce a cabin plan from a TWA ticket jacket, dating from about 1941. Left is forward. The numbering reflects the order of passenger comfort: the lowest numbers for compartment seats that could be converted into berths (1 to 17, with number 13 omitted), then the row of seats on the left (18-26), and finally the less popular middle seats in the four compartments (31-38). The first 16 numbers had the suffix U or L for upper or lower berth respectively. Note that in each compartment, the outboard seats were even-numbered and the inboard seats odd. The omission of the number 13 meant a reversal of the numbering direction in the fourth compartment.

TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner, ticket jacket extract, c. 1941.

The practice of sequentially numbering all seats in airplane cabins continued after the war. In the second half of the 1940s, KLM used airplanes much larger than the DC-3, with seating capacities of up to 46. I show a Lockheed L-749 Constellation seat plan dating from a flight in September 1949. KLM still listed all the passenger names and destinations and distributed this to all on board.

KLM L-749 cabin plan, 1949.

With so many seats, it became difficult for the crew to remember their numbers when directing passengers to their seats. Iberia thought of a way to make this easier. They came up with odd numbers on the left side and even numbers on the right side. This was for window seats. For aisle seats, an A was added. The number 13 was omitted. This diagram is taken from their safety leaflet and also shows the location of the life raft, or “dingy” as it was translated by Iberia.

Iberia DC-3, safety leaflet, 2nd half 1940s.

The same numbering method was employed by Colonial Airlines, a New York La Guardia-based airline that primarily flew between the Northeast USA and adjacent parts of Canada, but also had two overseas routes: from New York and Washington to Bermuda. On those routes, they used the DC-4, for which the seating chart is shown below. Being five abreast, center seats were added, marked with a C. You may wonder whether the illustrator actually saw the airplane or had an egg-inspired mental picture of how it looked like.

Colonial Airlines DC-4 seating chart, probably on a boarding pass, circa 1950.

Iberia was apparently not entirely happy with their DC-3 numbering method. For the DC-4 they kept the left/odd and right/even style but discarded the letter A for the aisle seat and used numbers throughout. With more seats right of the aisle than left, this led to a situation where the numbers across the aisle progressively went out of sequence. As an example, the row with seats 39 and 41 on the left had seats 54, 56, and 58 on the right.

Iberia DC-4, safety leaflet, circa 1950.

On their Bristol 170s, which were symmetrical in seating, this worked out better. The nose is right.

Iberia Bristol 170, safety leaflet, 2nd half 1940s.

Pan American World Airways used the same method in their Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, which entered service in 1949. With equal numbers of seats on either side of the aisle, the numbering kept pace except for the aft section where there were no seats on the left in the boarding area. The layout also shows how the beds were numbered: U1 to U10 and L1 to L10. There was no U9 or L9.

Pan American Boeing 377 brochure, circa 1949.

On their boarding cards, Pan Am used a simplified presentation of the seat numbers, with a disproportionally wide aisle. “Double deck” referred to the lower deck lounge. This was not for use during take-off and landing, so its seats were not assigned and therefore remained unnumbered.

Pan American Boeing 377 boarding card, reverse side, 1951.

In the Soviet Union, Aeroflot applied the sequential numbering style on the Ilyushin Il-12 and Il-14. Note that the IL-12 has one more row than the IL-14, even though it is the smaller of the two types. The three-abreast layout shown here in a 1956 brochure was quite comfortable, as both types could seat up to 32 passengers in a four-abreast arrangement.

Aeroflot brochure extracts, 1956.

Compartment letters

In the 1940s and 1950s, several air services were performed with flying boats, in most cases of the Short Brothers & Harland make, a Northern Ireland company. The design of the boats was such that it lent itself ideally to cabin compartments. I reproduce two samples: a Solent and a Sandringham.

The Solent was used by Aquila Airways in the 1950s between Southampton, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. It had eight compartments, identified from front to rear, main deck to upper deck as A to H. Within each compartment seats were numbered from left to right, front to rear. An exception was compartment D which had seats facing sideways and called for a different way of numbering.

Aquila Airways, boarding pass reverse side, mid-1950s.

In the 1950s Short Sandringhams, operated by TEAL of New Zealand and Australia’s Qantas, crossed the Tasman Sea between these two countries. Ansett Airlines used them to operate to such remote islands as Lord Howe Island. After many years, two of the Ansett’s went to Antilles Air Boats (AAB) of St Croix, US Virgin Islands. In 1976 and 1977, one came to England for some pleasure flights off Poole and Calshot, near Bournemouth and Southampton respectively (I was lucky enough to be on one of those). That Sandringham is now preserved in the Southampton Solent Sky Museum, in Ansett livery. There is a nice website with many details of the AAB operation (, including an Operations Manual (from which I copied the seating plan). It is dated 1965 so must have been drafted by Ansett, in spite of having AAB’s name on it. The seat numbering resembles Aquila’s: letters for compartments and numbers within each compartment. Note that there was a seat E.12a, but no E.13.

Antilles Air Boats, Sandringham seating plan extract from Operations Manual.

On land aircraft, compartments were also used and identified by letter for seat allocation purposes. An example is Air India, with its Lockheed Super Constellation, in service from 1954. Compartment identification started at the front. Within each compartment, numbers went from left to right, front to rear. Note that the economy class compartments were the first two (A and B), with the latter two (C and D) being first class with sleeper accommodation.

Air India boarding card, reverse side, mid-1950s.


Another way of assigning compartments and seats was by class. On their Super Constellations, Air France employed a variety of layouts. I show the 15 tourist/32 couchette/4 beds layout.

The tourist class seats had the letter T followed by a number. Similarly, couchette seats and the beds started with a C and L (bed = lit in French), respectively. Couchettes were seats that reclined to allow sleeping but were not as comfortable as the beds.

Air France Super Constellation reservation manual extract, 1957.


So many different ways of designating seats must have been confusing. With capacities increasing, airlines needed a way to bring more structure to matters. The solution existed in the grid pattern that each and every cabin presented. It only needed people to recognize it. The typical grid layout of airplane cabins was that of multiple rows along the length of the cabin and seats lined up in each row. A simple system of coordinates solved the seat designation puzzle. Two solutions evolved:

  • Longitudinally: rows assigned by letters; laterally: seats across assigned by numbers, or
  • Longitudinally: rows assigned by numbers; laterally: seats across assigned by letters.

In both cases, a combination of letters and numbers. This is generally known as an alphanumeric presentation. While this describes well the first solution, I propose using a new word for the second solution to distinguish it from the first and reflect the order of numbers before letters: “numeric-alpha.”


The earliest use of the alphanumeric method that I found was by KLM in 1950. The Lockheed Constellation plan that, ,as we saw earlier, in 1949 only showed numbers now has rows identified from A to M (row J omitted) with the seats across numbered 1 to 4.

KLM L-749 Constellation cabin plan, 1950.

The alphanumeric method was used by other airlines in the same decade as well, including BOAC, Indian Airlines, and Qantas. In most cases, the letters started at the front, but in at least one case (the Qantas Lockheed Electra II) it went from rear to front. The lettering followed the common alphabet (ABC) and, with 19 rows being the maximum of the period, reached the S in BOAC’s Britannia high-density layout. The numbering in all cases started on the left with 1, reaching 4, 5 or 6 on the right. I assume that BOAC’s Comet 4 (which started jet air transport in the Western world on October 4, 1958) had the same numbering method, but could not find evidence. Neither could I find anything about the 1952 Comet 1 cabin layout. I would very much appreciate hearing from readers if they have a numbered seat plan for the Comet 1.

Indian Airlines’ reverse sides of boarding cards for the Vickers Viscount 700 series show its characteristic forward opening, circular doors. The undated image on the left shows 44 seats and likely dates to 1957, the year it entered service. The one on the right is from a later date and has 48 seats.

Indian Airlines, 44-seat Vickers Viscount 700 series, circa 1957.
Indian Airlines, 48-seat Vickers Viscount 700 series.
BOAC Britannia seat plan showing rows A to S, 1959.
Qantas Lockheed Electra II technical drawing showing rows A to O, rear to front, 1962.


The earliest application I found of the numeric-alpha method was by United Airlines on their Boeing 377. This airplane type entered service in January 1950. This may well be the year United introduced this numbering system. A decade later it would become the world standard, but would they have realized that in 1950?

I found the seating diagram as it appeared on a period ticket envelope.

Boeing 377 United Airlines, ticket jacket, circa 1950.

Other early users of the numeric-alpha method were TWA (now standing for Trans World Airways) in 1954 on their Lockheed Constellations, Eastern Airlines, also on the Constellation, and, quite surprisingly, the Soviet Union airline, Aeroflot.

In 1956 Aeroflot introduced jet service and adopted the numeric-alpha way of seat numbering. The alpha element was in the Cyrillic script (aбв). I reproduce, from their winter 1957/58 timetable, the layouts of the Tupolev 104 (50 seats) and the improved Tupolev 104A (70 seats).

Tupolev 104 and 104A, Aeroflot timetable winter 1957/58.

The inferior -104 model was quickly taken out of service and replaced by a second upgrade, as reflected in the summer 1959 timetable which shows the new 100-seat Tupolev 104B next to the Tu-104A.

Tupolev 104A and 104B, Aeroflot timetable summer 1959.

More numeric-alpha examples, as well as non-conforming seat designations in the second (and final) part.


For this part, I used a variety of sources, including

  • • Timetables (, Björn Larsson,for KLM Fokker F VII A and Aeroflot, twice);
  • • Safety cards Iberia;
  • •;
  • •;
  • • Air France museum;
  • • SFO museum;
  • •

Fons Schaefers
April 2023

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My Catalina Story

By Arthur Smit-Roeters

What it was like to fly on board a Catalina in the early 1950s in Indonesia

Recently, a good friend presented me with a fantastic book: 80 Years, A Tribute to the PBY Catalina, authored by Hans Wiesman. Some of my flying time in the 1950s with the national airline of Indonesia, Garuda Indonesian Airways (GIA), was being in the air as a steward on a PBY-5A Catalina amphibian flying boat, a period of pioneering. I remember being accepted for training after passing some tests and I was ready to make my first trip after about three weeks of classes. One of my first flights was on board a Catalina flying boat, an ex-WWII long-range patrol seaplane converted into one carrying 16 passengers. Long-forgotten images pop up in my mind.

The front office or cockpit was not my realm. Before today’s glass cockpits became the norm, in my days they had “steam gauges.” I flew on board a “steam gauge” airplane. A somewhat condescending term used to indicate a plane is equipped with old-fashioned and almost obsolete instruments. The electronic Flight Management System now commonplace had not appeared in anybody’s dream. The pilots were it. Navigation was by dead-reckoning and a simple Radio Direction Finder (RDF) was an essential piece of equipment. Yes, it was all manual labor. For me, 88 years old in 2018, it’s unbelievable how things have changed.

What a Garuda amphibian PBY-5A looked like inside

My workspace, located between the cargo area in the tail and cockpit, consisted of two cramped compartments, each holding eight passengers. The wheel wells were located between them. One had to stoop through three hatches to get to the front passenger compartment from the cargo area where my rudimentary pantry was located. I could almost lean on the cargo in my back when I was facing the portside located pantry in front of me. I had to stoop through another hatch, the fourth one, to get to the pilots.  

Each passenger had access to a life preserver. There were no emergency exits. An inflatable life raft was not part of the inventory. The lavatory was just a bucket covered by a seat and located in the tail section. Space was very limited and one could not stand straight up.

The only thing I didn’t like during my flying time was the smell of even an empty airsickness bag that was made of asphalt tar-impregnated paper. The smell induced the user to have a quicker barf time. Since the plane was not pressurized, we could not fly over the weather. Turbulence made this bag a popular item for an airsick passenger.

The inside of the plane was a bare-bones affair. Only the two cabins had a fuselage covering, the rest of the plane inside was just aluminum skin painted chromate green. There were no reading lights or airvents over the non-adjustable passenger seats. No night flights were scheduled, but there were delayed flights with arrival times past sundown. A sunken aisle divided each eight-passenger compartment along the keel into four seats on either side. Passengers faced each other. When two people sitting opposite each other wanted to stretch their legs they had to first figure out where to place their feet.

My guests had to board via a door with a high threshold where the port-side gun position was located in the war years. Thus, stairs with a lot of steps had to be rolled up to the side for entry or a bobbing launch when on water. After the first obstacle, the passenger had to crawl through the hatches in the bulkheads to get to the front cabin. There were no overhead bins and suitcases of all sizes had to stay in the cargo area, the space where once the two gun positions (blisters) were formerly located. Carry-ons as we know them today didn’t exist.

Getting aloft

Prior to getting aloft, I had to make sure everybody was strapped in. The sounds and sights of a Catalina flying boat takeoff from the water were always spectacular.

Before the start of an engine, one could hear the groaning and clanking valves as the propeller was rotated through nine or more blades with the ignition “off” to clear accumulated oil out of the bottom cylinders of the double-row, 14-cylinder engine. Then with ignition “on” the engine burped a few times before a smooth sound indicated all was going well.

After taking in the floating anchor and when the aircraft was lined up, takeoff power was applied and with the increasing speed, foam started to blow past the windows. The plane was about ready to leave the water when we could hear a sound like skimming over a gravel road under our keel, announcing the aircraft was hitting the top of the waves. With the two engines close overhead and no sound isolation, it was very noisy inside, but the auditory sensation of healthy engines was always music in my ears.


As seen from the aircraft’s window the jungle below looked like an endless and dense cauliflower field with an occasional bare patch where natives had slash burned the area and planted their corn or cassava. The soil looked yellowish. It certainly was not loam. Over the years hardwood trees were able to survive and thrive with the help of the monsoon rains with precipitation of 120-145 inches a year in the lowlands. A downed airplane would disappear in the dense jungle foliage. It seemed all the water in rivers had a brownish color and crocodiles were ever-present.

With an average cruising speed of 108 knots, and being in the air for many hours, it was difficult to get out of one’s seat for some leg stretching, but some people did.  The distance between Jakarta and Singapore is about 550+ miles. With a cruise speed of 108 knots per hour, the flight, with a stop in Billiton (Belitung), and a Singkep sea landing, made the flight an all-day affair. Logging 100 hours of flight time per month in PBY-5As, C-47s/DC-3s, and Convair 240/340s was almost normal for me.

Tasks on board

Once in the air, I doled out cold lemonade drinks, first to the cockpit crew since they were at their stations to do their checks long before the pax boarded. Then I went around with reading material including various magazines and newspapers. Safety cards? Are you kidding? On the Singapore flights, I had to help passengers with deciphering and filling out their customs and health forms printed in English. Inflight meals were very simple. No alcohol was served.

Flight impressions

I still remember landing on the river where the Dutch Bruynzeel lumber company had their sawmills at Sampit, a jungle outpost. The slow-moving river water had a brownish color due to suspended sawdust, tree saps, and rotting leaves. The employees were always happy to see the Catalina since we brought with us one or two tall wooden reinforced boxes filled with movie reels for their entertainment during the coming week.

Although a ground crew in their boat made sure that the landing surface was clear of obstacles, we always made a pass over the site, looking for submerged logs. We had no problems getting back in the air, but I remember there was a bend in the river at the end of the takeoff run. The tree-lined jungle river was wide enough for maneuvering when checking the magnetos of each 1200-horsepower P&W R-1830 before departing. It was great to look up at the tall trees on both sides of the “water runway” at the start and then feel how slowly but surely the big 104-foot span barn-door wing (it was not equipped with flaps) lifted us over the trees at a leisurely speed of 75 to 80 knots indicated air speed (KIAS) and then continued at a leisurely cruise speed of about 108 knots or about 124 mph.

All landings on smooth water were power landings. One time the captain allowed me up front to witness a stall landing, normally used when the waves were choppy. The airplane’s nose was up high and the rudder pedals were useless. The Dutch ex-Navy WWII cockpit crewmembers were excellent pilots and sailors.

I made many flights to Kallang Airport (Singapore), via Billiton (Belitung) Island and Singkep Bay where passengers were transported to and from the plane by a motor launch. On days when the sea had light swells, it was awkward to transfer some passengers between the up-and-down movements of the Catalina and the launch.  It took some time for the landlubbers to deplane or board.

 While waiting for the Singapore-bound passengers it became unbearably hot inside the plane. The crew, in various stages of undress, moved to the top of the wing. At one time the board engineer had to relieve himself and went to the end of the portside wing that had its wing float in the water. A devilish crewmember suggested that the rest of us run towards starboard at the “right” time and see if we could flip the engineer off the wing tip. Running towards the high starboard end, the portside float lost its suction, and the engineer, wearing only his briefs, lost his balance and tumbled into the sea. The few seagulls looking for handouts could not stand his loud and unhappy cursing and left.

Another time on short final to the steel-matted Billiton strip in bad weather, one of the engines acted up and the propeller had to be feathered. After circling the area at what seemed just above treetop level, the pilots spotted the strip, and then the remaining engine called it quits! The PBY became a big glider, which took up valuable runway space and thus overran the airstrip. No power meant losing hydraulic pressure in the lines and no brakes. We didn’t have to disembark in the mud since a truck picked us up. There was a light drizzle and our miserable bunch was taken to the terminal, a simple bamboo structure with a palm frond roof.

In the early 1950s, all countries along the western Pacific Ocean rim were still in the process of recovering from the devastation caused by the Japanese war machine. I remember many items were exorbitantly expensive if you could find them. This included nylon stockings, parachute nylon, yardage of nylon, yardage of silk, cigarettes like Lucky Strike and Chesterfield, Johnnie Walker Red or Black Label Scotch whiskey, oranges and apples imported from Europe, etc.

A few crewmembers thought they could make a quick buck, but since nobody was a professional smuggler, things didn’t turn out well. The customs people were smarter than the would-be smugglers.

I remember on a return trip from Singapore somebody was going to make a lot of money by illicitly importing a shipment of 144 cartons of Chesterfield cigarettes. The customs officials in Billiton got word about the attempt and the crew was warned about it while in flight. The response was quick and the big package was pushed out of the plane through the ventral gun hatch below in the tail. Some fishermen may have found lots of cigarettes, manna from Heaven, in their fishing nets,

Billiton customs always came on board to check for suspected contraband from Singapore. On a flight before me, they hit the jackpot. The Catalina had a wooden floor and when the law man picked up a loose string, he unknowingly untied a knot. A bundle of nylon burst out from under the floor. There was no owner who claimed this expensive shipment.

The crew always pulled jokes on each other. When the captain’s billfold, including passport and customs/health papers, landed on the floor under his seat, the front office staff decided to pull a good one on him. After landing in Singapore the Garuda representative was motioned to come up to the door. It was explained to him that after he received the captain’s belongings, he should move to a spot on the ramp below the portside cockpit window and then later get the attention of the man in the left seat. Then he would innocently explain that a plane before him had delivered his credentials. Our pilot in command was sweating bullets while he was crawling all over the cockpit to find his papers but was mighty happy that he got them back. Not having papers at an international airport meant problems galore. He was a good sport, but the rest of the crew knew revenge would be sweet.

I also remember flights from Jakarta to Pontianak via Billiton and landing on the wide Kapuas River in Borneo (Kalimantan). Once we were coming in (on the way to Pontianak) below treetop level to chase crocodiles sunning on mud banks alongside the river back into the water. It was no surprise to pull up and fly over a cargo ship that appeared in front of us. I was part of a crew on many Catalina flights to Balikpapan (a town dominated by a big oil refinery and oil tanks) routed via Banjarmasin (a major trading center). I had to give up my seat on the short ±75 mile flight from Balikpapan to Samarinda due to heavy passenger demand. There was room for only 16 people, eight per compartment. There was one compartment in front of the landing gear and one behind it. I had to stoop through hatches from the galley area to the cockpit with drinks and food. Those were the days. All the PBY pilots were easygoing and came from the Dutch Navy after WWII, which made them different from cockpit personnel manning other types of planes. 

I accompanied President Sukarno on a charter trip through the Lesser Sunda Islands on board the Catalina “Enu.” On a second trip with the president, he addressed me by my first name. Wow, what an honor. The “Djoronga” was the second plane accompanying us on this trip. During one of the flights a crew member, I think it was our wireless operator, with a good Leica 35mm camera (extremely expensive in those days) took some unique shots of the other PBY flying in close formation below us, through the opened gun hatch below in the tail.  See attached photo.

The Garuda Indonesian Airways Catalinas were all phased out in the mid-1950s.

Memories, just memories.

An in-flight shot of Garuda Indonesian Airways (GIA) PBY-5A Catalina, PK-CPD circa 1952.
Photo courtesy of the Arthur Smit-Roeters Collection.
Art’s Garuda Employment Letter, August 24, 1955.

Article last revised on December 18, 2018.

Mr. Smit-Roeters Flew West on February 11, 2023. You can read his obituary by following this link.

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


By Robert G. Waldvogel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales often depended upon country of operation certification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazilian Air Force Embraer YC-95 Bandeirante, FAB2131.
Preserved in São José dos Campos, Brazil
Photo Courtesy: Raphael Albrecht
Uruguayan Air Force Embraer C-95 (110C)
Florianópolis Hercílio Luz International Airport (FLN) on July 7, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Bruno Orifino
Note: the short fuselage and rear passenger entry door on this early Bandeirante model.
Allegheny Commuter, operated by Aeromech Commuter Airlines
Embraer EMB-110 P2, N614KC
Washington National Airport (DCA)
The P2 version had dual airstair doors instead of the large rear cargo door.
Photo Courtesy of Jay Selman via
Aeromech Commuter Airlines EMB-110 P2, N614KC
Pictured at Cincinnati (CVG) in May 1982
Photo Courtesy: Charlie Pyles/Air Pix
Note: The rear airstair is lowered.
Tennessee Airways EMB-110 P1, N103TN
Pictured at Cincinnati (CVG) May 1983.
Photo Courtesy: Charlie Pyles/Air Pix
Provincetown Boston Airlines PBA
Embraer EMB-110 P1, N199PB seen at rest between flights.
Photo Courtesy of Ellis Chernoff

Note: the modified horizontal stabilizer came about as a result of a mysterious in-flight loss of a PBA Bandeirante with the standard tail plane becoming detached from the aircraft in flight.
Atlantic Southeast EMB-110 P1s, N220EB and N404AS
As seen at Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) in 1987.
Photographer Unknown
Gary C. Orlando Slide Collection
Note: the standard Large Cargo Door found on the more widely produced P1 model.
Air LA Embraer EMB-110 P1, N101TN
Seen taxiing out from the Imperial Terminal at Los Angeles (LAX) in February 1993.
Gary C. Orlando Photo.
Originally delivered to Tennessee Airways, it passed to Iowa Airways where it flew as a Midway Connection carrier as evidenced by the livery.

EMB-110 Article Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nord 262

By Robert G. Waldvogel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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L-1011,Lockheed TriStar

TriStar and Me

By Mark Barnard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Air Cargo Carriers,Allegheny Commuter,Command Airways,McNeely Charter Services,Mississippi Valley Airlines,Shorts 330,Shorts 360,Simmons Airlines,Suburban Airlines

The Shorts Skyvan and 330/360 Commuter Airliners

By Robert G. Waldvogel

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.

Shorts Skyvan

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.

Air Cargo Carriers Shorts SC-7 Skyvan, N731E
Seen at Sterling/Rock Falls, IL, Summer 1989
Chartered by the Rock River Valley Skydivers.
Gary C. Orlando Photo

Shorts 330

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.

Command Airways Shorts SD3-30, N52DD
Command Airways was the launch customer for the SD3-30 in the United States.
White Plains, NY, January 1979.
Photo Courtesy of Howard Chaloner
Mississippi Valley Airlines Shorts SD3-30, N333MV
Clinton Municipal Airport, Clinton, IA, August 18, 1981
Gary C. Orlando Photo
Air Cargo Carriers Shorts SD3-30, N334AC
Moline/Quad City Airport, September 1999.
Such an odd colour scheme!!
Gary C. Orlando Photo
McNeely Charter Services Shorts C-23B Sherpa, N262AG
Moline/Quad City International Airport, February 5, 2003
Gary C. Orlando Photo

Shorts 360

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.

SHORTS 360, N360SA
Suburban Airlines – Allegheny Commuter Shorts 360, N360SA
Washington National Airport (DCA), September 1986
Photo Courtesy of Guillaume de Syon
SHORTS 360, N362MQ
Simmons Airlines- American Eagle Shorts 360, N362MQ
Greater Rockford Airport, Rockford, IL, March 1990
Gary C. Orlando Photo

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

The Expressway

By David Birkley

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy: Author’s Collection

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

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

Item Courtesy: Author’s Collection

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

Item courtesy: Author’s Collection

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The Aerospatiale SN.601 Corvette

By Robert G. Waldvogel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Fokker F.27 Friendship

By Robert G. Waldvogel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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