Departed Wings: Altair Airlines (AK)

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Written by Jon Jamieson

                                  1966-1982                               Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Altair Airlines was established as a commuter carrier based at Philadelphia airport and started operations on November 4, 1966. Early service connected Philadelphia with Scranton, Harrisburg, and Allentown using the nine-passenger Beech Queenair aircraft. The name Altair, was curious and was derived from the bright star “Altairus” located in the constellation “Aquila” or Eagle for which the airlines logo was created.

One of the Beech 99s caught departing the ramp for another regional flight in 1971.

By 1970, Altair had expanded operations across to adjoining states, was serving twelve cities, and had acquired the Beech 99 turboprop. At times, facing competition from rival Allegheny Commuter in many of its markets, Altair was able to maintain profitability and service. With the watchful eye of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), a new 32-seat limit was placed on commuter aircraft in 1972. Altair, in an effort to increase loads, looked to the French designed Nord 262 turboprop, with a capacity of twenty-seven seats to meet the CAB recommendation.

The French built Nord 262 served Altair through the late 1970s and is seen taxiing at Washington National Airport in 1981.

The first Nord 262 was delivered in 1975 and was used with the Beech 99s to continue flying over 100,000 passengers yearly. On the heels of deregulation in 1978, many airlines realized an opportunity to enter new markets and Altair was no exception. The airline placed an order for ten of the 74-seat Fokker F-28 jets with plans of route extension to Florida and the Eastern Seaboard.

The Fokker F-28 allowed Altair to expand to further markets including Florida. Parked on the ramp at Tampa International Airport in 1982, is N504.

The first F-28 “Starjet” service started on October 15, 1980 and routes expanded as far south as Tampa and Sarasota, Florida. After only a year in service and on the heels of the PATCO strike in 1981, Altair started to suffer financially. An attempt was made to establish a hub-and-spoke system from Philadelphia and Altair purchased three Douglas DC-9s from Air Canada for the service. Although the airline had become “pure-jet” by mid-1981, continuing financial loses as well as fierce completion with both Piedmont and USAir at Philadelphia, forced the privately held Altair into a downward spiral. With over $34 million in losses, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on November 9, 1982 and suspended all operations.

Still painted in the airlines colors, the Douglas DC-9 only saw service for a few months and is parked awaiting disposition at Philadelphia International Airport in early 1983.

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Comments (7)

  • Avatar

    Jeffrey L Maynard

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    My father Captain Bill Maynard was with the airline for its entire existence he was in on the design of the logo for the tail he loved to fly airplanes he was born in the Backwoods of West Virginia a boy with a dream barely a high school education my father was a good pilot with over 20 some thousand hours of flying time he’s 91 years old now but when he looks up and sees a plane in the sky you still see the dream in his eyes the late great General MacArthur once said and I quote old soldiers never die they just fade away and so it is with a pilot as well

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Scott Davis

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      Jeffrey,
      Please ask your Dad if he remembers Altair Pilots Linder and Courtney? I took a flight in 1976 PHL to ILG. For some reason I can still hear the Flight Attendant welcoming us aboard and mentioning the crew as “Capt Courtney and 1st Officer Linder”. I remember little details like that, especially being an airliner buff. I took flying lessons for a brief time at Wing’s Field in Blue Bell, Pa. It would be fun to learn more about your Dad, Courtney, and Linder!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jeffery Maynard

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    Am hoping to gain some kind of access or permission to obtain some photos and or merchandise to include in a gift that I want to have made for my father, who still dreams of the days when he was a pilot captain for Altair airlines. Please advise on what steps I can take to make my fathers life-long dream of being a airline pilot captain, come true one last time before he leaves this world. Thank uou fot your time, Jeffery Maynard

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Wayne Klaw

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      I flew many hours with your dad.Say hi and contact me by email. Wayne

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Ancientskies1

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      Hi Jeffrey,

      You can try eBay for Altair memorabilia. There are possibly also common-use (non-copyrighted) photos of Altair aircraft on this site: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Images

      May God be with you and your father…

      Sincerely,
      Shea

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Joyce Reif

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    Thank you for bringing back the best memories! I was part of the first Flight Attendant class and remember Bill. Always taking photos of the Nord 262 and F28 right? Thanks again. Joyce

    Reply

  • Avatar

    CHARLES SCHEPACARTER

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    Jeffery,
    I flew many times with your father at Altair. Every flight was a positive plus experience.
    We trained together in Amsterdam on the FK-28. Would like to connect with him.

    Reply

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