Historic Airline Group News Center

Posted by David Reed on 09/19/2020

The BAC 1-11

     Back in the 1950's, everyone went jet-crazy. Passengers wanted to get there quick, and were willing to pay the price of a good coach ticket to get there. Until this time, piston-powered aircraft ruled the airlines and their safety record was less than sterling. People saw jets as the answer, making air travel fast and safe. The DeHavilland Comet was built to a BOAC specification for a commercial jet airliner, but other work was afoot. In 1960, Hunting Aircraft, Vickers-Armstrong, Bristol and English Electric merged to form the British Aircraft Company (BAC). Each business had a project they were working on, but the new board decided that Hunting's twin jet held the most promise. BAC went to the airlines with their idea and discovered that they did not want a 30-seat regional jet, they wanted 80 coach seats. The design was redone, Rolls Royce Spey turbojet engines selected and the British Aircraft Company Model 1-11 was born. BAC designed their jet not for the state-owned British airlines, but for the world market. 

     In May 1961 British United Airways ordered the first ten. Five months later Braniff ordered six, while Mohawk bought four. But the CAB fought to keep the American market for American jets, blocking orders for Bonanza, Frontier and Ozark. They were unsuccessful in blocking Mohawk and Braniff, and when they won their case against the CAB in 1963, American jumped in with an order for 30 of the -400 series. At the time, the first BAC 1-11 was just taking flight and the new -300/400 Series were still paper projects under development.

     A crash during flight testing led to the development of the first stick shaker and stick pusher stall protection system. All aircraft today have this safety feature. Final production saw four types: the 200, 300/400, 475 & 500. The 200, 300/400 and 475 all had 89 seats, The 200 was the basic airframe with a MTOW of 78,500 lbs. The 300/400 (the 400 was the US version) had identical dimensions but an increased takeoff and landing weight with more powerful Speys, allowing for more fuel and 50% more range. The BAC 1-11 was very similar to the Sud Caravelle in size, weight and range, but the Caravelle's engines were early technology that lacked the performance of the Spey's. The 475 was the hot rod, basically a 300 series with the 500 series wing and engines. When Douglas came out with the DC9, BAC stretched the BAC 1-11 by fourteen feet to create the 500 series. With the 500 series the range increased to 1865 miles, 1000 more than the 200. Still, it carried eight less paying passengers than the DC9-30. The DC9 had a higher takeoff and landing weight, which meant you could fly short legs without having to worry about exceeding limitations. The DC9's JT8D engines provided 33% more thrust and better economy than the thirsty Spey's as well. BAC considered creating a 2-11 and 3-11 version, but the ideas never materialized. 244 BAC 1-11's were eventually built, compared to 282 Caravelle's and 976 DC-9's. But for operators, the little BAC 1-11 was the reliable airplane that could get the job done.

Posted by David Reed on 08/29/2020

The Lockheed L10 Electra

     Back in 1926 the Lockheed Aircraft Company came into being. But in 1929 and the great depression they went bankrupt. Undeterred, in 1934 a young 35 year old man named Robert Gross was made Chairman of the Board. He had a great group of four engineers, including a young 21 year old Clarence Johnson. At this point in time, airplanes were mostly wood, and Robert Gross bet the business on creating an all-metal twin engine airplane that was low in cost and high in performance. Everything about it was unique- twin tails, twin engine (most planes at the time were single engine), all metal construction. Using the wind tunnel at the University of Michigan, the design was perfected. It was their Model 10, the Electra. 

     At the same time, the government banned any single-engine night flying with passengers, and Lockheed had the answer. Phone calls and letters flew, and over 30 airlines placed orders for the new design. Eleven US airlines bought them, and used it as the basis for all future aircraft designs. It had a crew of two, could carry ten passengers and 500 lbs of cargo for 800 miles at 180-190 mph. It could lose an engine and still fly. It was economical enough to make money. Boeing had just created the Model 247, which was similar but did not have the performance of the L-10 Electra, which made the Electra operating costs lower.

     Lockheed built 149 Electra's, compared to 75 B247's. The Douglas Aircraft Company created the DC-1 which was very similar to the B247 and L10 Electra. However, Douglas got the airlines more involved in the design and created the DC-2 which could carry 14 passengers nearly as efficiently. When the DC-3 appeared in 1936, the Electra was relegated to mostly corporate and cargo work. 

When the airlines "went legit" with safer, newer designs in the early 1930's, the Lockheed Electra, Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2 set the foundation for the future of the airline industry. Douglas won out over the next twenty years, then ran side by side with Boeing through the 1980's, eventually merging in 1997. Lockheed stayed in the airliner business with the Constellation series, continuing their record of superior record-breaking performance and operating economics. After the L188 and L1011, Lockheed turned more exclusively to military aircraft and military systems. In 1995 Lockheed merged with Martin-Marietta to form Lockheed Martin, yet it all started with a 35-year old Robert Gross, a few good designers and a college wind tunnel.

Posted by David Reed on 08/23/2020

TWA Flight Engineer



Posted by David Reed on 08/08/2020

American Overseas Airlines

American Overseas Airlines started life in April of 1937 as American Export Airlines. American Export Lines was the leading US-flag shipping company from 1919 to 1977, operating cargo ships and passenger service. In 1937 they started American Export Airlines to complement their shipping passenger service. Using a PBY-4, AEA conducted route surveys across the Atlantic from New York to Europe. They began service with three Sikorsky VS-44 flying boats.

Pan American Airways objected strongly, for they had always been the premier US overseas carrier, but the CAB and President Roosevelt felt that PAA needed some competition.  AEA was granted the NY to Lisbon route using the VS-44.

AEA survey routes were the reason the USAAF chose AEA to operate the Air Transport Command’s C-54’s from the US to North African bases in 1944. This was expanded to include flights to England later that year, providing invaluable experience in long range passenger flying. The VS-44 flying boats went away soon after. With the war in Europe over, AEA applied for civil transatlantic routes from the CAB. The CAB did not object to the idea, for AEA’s transatlantic 4-engine landplane experience was commendable, but they did not want an airline controlled by a shipping company. At the same time, American Airlines wanted to get into the transatlantic passenger business. American Airlines contacted AEA and a deal was struck. The CAB approved the purchase of AEA by American on July 5th, 1945. The name was changed to American Overseas Airline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines.

Using surplus C-54’s, AA/AOA began its transatlantic venture on October 26th 1945 using seven C54/DC4 aircraft from New York to Boston, Gander, Shannon and London. Eight months later AOA began replacing them with seven pressurized Lockheed 049’s. While parent company American went with the Douglas DC6, American Overseas chose the L049 for its superior range. Business boomed, so in 1949 AOA began replacing the L049’s with ten new Boeing 377 Stratocruisers, the third customer for the new Boeing. Clearly AOA was pursuing PanAm and TWA for transatlantic business. AOA offered daily flights from New York Idelwild to London through Shannon, with non-stops on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (winds permitting). After London, Stratocruisers continued to Amsterdam or Frankfurt. Constellations continued to operate in 1949 to Shannon, then on to Copenhagen or Stockholm. Stratocruiser flights offered gourmet meals and free cocktails on their flights.

The Stratocruiser proved to be AOA’s undoing though. Uneconomical to operate, American decided to sell the money-losing Overseas division and their eight Stratocruisers (the number actually delivered) in order to focus on domestic operations. Except for Mexico City and Toronto, American was strictly domestic. On September 25, 1950,  PanAm acquired American Overseas Airlines which was completely absorbed into PanAm’s Atlantic division. American Airlines wouldn’t return to London until 1990 when they bought London-US routes from TWA.

Posted by David Reed on 07/29/2020

Kai Tak International Airport

     In the 1920's Kai Tak International Airport began as a housing development by some corrupt investors. It failed and though the land had been cleared, no apartments were built. By 1930 the government had taken over the land and it was used as a flying field. Along came the RAF and turned it into a "proper" airport. Two runways and a big hangar. They dismantled the hangar before the Japanese took over in WW2. The Japanese tried to enlarge the runways and use concrete, but the Canadian laborers added too much sand and the concrete crumbled when the first airplane landed there. After the war the RAF returned and rebuilt the runways as 13-31 and 07-25. The eastern half was the RAF base and the western half was the civilian terminal. Airline traffic flourished after the war. Many airlines from around the world flew there including Cathay Pacific, PanAm, Quantas, BOAC and many others. In the late 1950's Hong Kong made improvements so the new jets could utilize it by reclaiming land, lengthening runway 13-31 to 5459' in 1957, then 8350' on a new runway, then in 1974 to 11,130'. The new runway replaced the old 13-31 and 25-07. The RAF was gone and the civilian western end developed into a large and beautiful terminal with extensive ramp space.

     Due to terrain, takeoffs were permitted on runway 13 only. Landings happened in either direction. A special Checkerboard Approach was developed for runway 13, requiring special pilot training. Aircraft flew in on a standard ILS but at about two miles from the runway, with a large checkerboard on the hill in front of them, the pilots would make a 47 deg turn to the right, usually starting at 650'. Wings level on final occurred around 140'. Many people have said you could see television sets running in apartments as they flew by. Very few accidents occured at Kai Tak. 

     In 1998 the new airport opened and Kai Tak officially closed with a champagne celebration in the control tower. Hong Kong government is very in touch with the people of Hong Kong. A low income housing development and a ship terminal were installed in the Kai Tak land before the people demanded a say in the development. Today, any redevelopment plans must have public approval. Current development leans toward higher income residences, parks and shopping areas. But those that lived under the Checkerboard Approach will never forget those days and nights when Pratt & Whitney jets thundered by every few minutes, interrupting any conversation or TV show. 



Posted by David Reed on 06/20/2020

LaGuardia Airport

The site of LaGuardia Airport was originally the Gala Amusement Park, owned by the Steinway family of Steinway Piano fame. In 1929 the Steinways took down the park and turned it into a private airport called the Glenn H. Curtiss Airport, and later the North Beach Airport. Meanwhile, Fiorello LaGuardia gave up his congressional seat and in 1934 he became the mayor of his hometown of New York City. He was very popular, progressive mayor who loved his city like no other. He also had a close friend in Franklin D. Roosevelt who saw to it that federal funding was readily available for LaGuardia's projects. In his first year in office, Mayor LaGuardia wanted to improve the transportation infrastructure in New York, and he strongly believed New York should have it's own airport. He took a TWA flight to New York and it landed at Newark. He refused to get off, saying his ticket showed New York, not New Jersey. TWA flew him to Floyd Bennett Field and the mayor gave a rousing speech announcing his intent to build a New York airport for New Yorkers. Studies were undertaken, but the mayor felt Floyd Bennett was too far away. Instead, the city bought the Steinway's airport on 558 acres and began construction in 1937. A lot of earth was moved from Rikers Island and other locations and built atop metal framework to create the runways they would need. Work moved quickly and in 1938 American Airlines took out a long term lease on buildings 1,3 & 5 to become their new maintenance base and home office. New York City Municipal Airport opened for business on December 2, 1939 when a TWA DC-3 landed there. Included in the airport was the Marine Air Terminal, or Overseas Terminal. PanAm used it for their Boeing Clipper 314's. In March 1940 the first Clipper 314 departed for Lisbon.

In 1947 Mayor LaGuardia passed away from cancer. The New York/New Jersey Port Authority signed a 50-year lease to run the airport and renamed it LaGuardia Airport. 

Originally, the airport had four runways, but it was reduced to the current two runways, 13/31 and 4/22. They were expanded in 1965 to 7000' and haven't changed since. LaGuardia Airport has had it's share of problems. The landfill was constantly settling and required many reconstruction projects. Even today, the old metal structure at the approach end of runway 13 still causes issues with aircraft navigation systems. Noise has always been a problem for local residents. Early on, airlines found the runways too short for transcontinental flights and moved those to Idlewild and Newark. Jets needed long runways, so it wasn't until 1964 when the first jet, a United 727-100 flight to Cleveland and Chicago, departed LaGuardia. The airport was popular with passengers though, which led to perpetual overcrowding and lengthy flight delays. A new central terminal was built in 1964, just in time for the nearby NY World's Fair. Who occupied the terminals changed often. Eastern's Terminal C operations went to Continental after the merger, but Continental had no plans for expanding at LGA so they leased it to USAirways. Terminal D was shared by Delta and Northwest until Delta bought NWA, and acquired Terminal C gates from US Airways, making LaGuardia a Delta Airlines hub. In 1991 Delta bought the Marine Air Terminal from PanAm and today operates Washington and Chicago flights from there.

In an effort to spread airline service among the three major New York airports, the Port Authority limited LaGuardia flights to 1500 nm in 1984, with Denver being the only exception. Wide bodies have used LaGuardia, including L1011 and DC10 aircraft, but performance restrictions brought an eventual end to that. Today the largest aircraft scheduled to LGA is a Delta 757, though occasionally a 767 is substituted. The largest operator today is Delta with 41% of the flights, followed by American with 25% and Southwest with 9%. To help alleviate long delays, landing and departure "slots" were allocated by the FAA. The figure varies depending on the hour, but a maximum of 71 slots per hour is the current figure for scheduled operations, and three per hour for unscheduled operations.

Today the airport is undergoing major modification and construction, scheduled to be completed in 2021. It promises to bring LaGuardia a new lease on life for many years to come.


Posted by David Reed on 06/13/2020

The Immortal Twin Beech

Back in 1932 Walter Beech and his wife Olive Ann started the Beechcraft Company in an abandoned Cessna factory in Wichita, Kansas. Their designer was Ted Wells, and their first design was the art deco Staggerwing. Business travelers suddenly had a sexy, fast, dependable airplane to fly around the country with. 750 were built, one third going to the US Army. In the mid 1930's, far-thinking Walter envisioned a need for a twin engine utility-style aircraft. The USAAF hinted at a need for such an airplane, especially with the war looming ever closer. Without a government contract, Walter and his group designed and built the first Twin Beech, the Model 18. Carrying two Wright 350 hp radials, the first airplane weighed 6,700 lbs fully loaded. Early on, the Chinese bought a few, intending to use them as light bombers. In four years though they'd only sold 39 airplanes, and only ten of those were for the Army. The war changed all that. By 1945 the gross weight and horsepower were higher with better performance figures, making it THE corporate aircraft for businesses. The first post-war model was the D18S. Many went overseas for military and civil use. From 1937 to 1969, over 9000 Beech 18's were built, half of those being Army aircraft from WW2.

If one word could describe the Twin Beech it would be Flexible. It was a navigation trainer, bombardier trainer, recon aircraft, target tug and general utility aircraft for the military. Corporate aircraft were luxurious and could carry six passengers comfortably at 225 mph. Most served in this role throughout the 1950's and early 1960's. Later, many became productive cargo haulers. To this end the D18S got a taller cabin in the E18 and G18 models along with a cargo door. Tricycle gear was introduced on the production H18. Turboprop power was a popular conversion with Volpar, Hamilton and others. The H model had a maximum weight 50% greater than the original Model 18 with twice the horsepower.

Today they are getting pretty long in the tooth, and most flyable ones are being restored as classics. There are a few still flying cargo or passengers, but parts are hard to find. One former owner said about cargo 18's: "You fly it all night, fix it all day, and weekends too." They handle beautifully, but you must always be on your game. A Twin Beech will eat you for lunch if you get lazy on takeoff or landing. At the Historic Airline Group, we have Twin Beech flights available for charters and cargo flights.

Posted by David Reed on 05/30/2020

Scandinavian Airlines

     In the 1920's, three Northern European countries each started their own airline- Denmark, Sweden and Norway. World War Two changed everything. During the war they began planning for life after, and agreed they needed to create one airline if they were to grow in the international market. Sweden ordered four DC-4's from Douglas in 1943, but had to wait until after the war for delivery. In 1945, using interned B-17's, Sweden started limited service to New York from Stockholm less than 60 days after VE Day. In July 1946 the three countries had ironed out their differences and agreed on the establishment of Scandinavian Airlines System, using the newly acquired DC-4's for their first Stockholm to New York flights. In 1948 these were replaced by pressurized DC-6's, and in 1954 the DC-6B was added, flying with one stop on a Transpolar route to Los Angeles. Meanwhile a mix of Saab Scania's, DC-3's, JU-52's (floatplanes taken from the retreating Nazi's), and a variety of other types were handling domestic flights. Los Angeles meant Hollywood, and many Hollywood stars used SAS to fly to Europe. People flocked at the chance of flying with a famous movie star and business boomed for SAS. In 1956 they replaced the oldest aircraft with 21 Convair Metropolitans and put the DC-7C into service, allowing one stop service to Los Angeles, and flights to Tokyo through Anchorage on Transpolar flights. Things got hectic. In 1959 they were the launch customer for the SUD Caravelle. In 1960 they got their first DC-8-33. In 1965 Douglas made the 50 series for them with enough range to finally reach Los Angeles non-stop. In 1967 the first of many DC-9's arrived, eventually replacing their entire domestic fleet. Also in 1967 came the stretched DC-8-62/63, which replaced the DC-8-33/55. When the 747 came out, SAS bought three but decided they were just too big for their routes and leased them out to other operators. They did however, love Douglas's new DC-10 idea. Fourteen were ordered.

    1980 was a bad year for SAS. Finances were in the red. Their reputation had suffered, with flight often late and customers often very unhappy. Enter Jan Carlzon. Jan took over as CEO in 1981 and immediately made sweeping changes. The 747's and A300's were sold, as were the DC8's. Moreover, SAS invested millions of dollars in programs for staff training and motivation, urging employees to “work smarter, not harder.” And finally, in the effort to bring about changes in management, most of the airline’s principal managers were replaced as a new organizational structure was introduced. The result was a return to profitability and the 1983 Airline of the Year award. Today, SAS operates a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, but will operate only the A320neo, A330 Expanded and A350 by 2023. Today they are looking at teaming with Sabena and Finnair; operate a line of top end hotels; and have an extensive air cargo network.

Posted by David Reed on 05/24/2020

P&W R4360 Wasp Major

The Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major was an American 28-cylinder four-row radial piston aircraft engine. Designed and built during World War II, it was the largest piston engine to be mass-produced in the United States. It was the last of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp family, and the culmination of its maker's piston engine technology.

New aircraft designs at the end of World War II included larger commercial aircraft, larger bombers, larger everything. The R4360 was designed specifically for the C97/Stratocruiser, C-119, B-50 and B-36, maximizing the growth potential of the piston engine,. 

On paper it seemed like absolute perfection, but in real life it was, problematic (mechanics, stop laughing). Heating was a big problem, requiring cowl flaps so big they were a real detrement to performance. The supercharger was geared up to 6:1, while the wide-span propellers were geared down to 0.375:1. Two cylinders were as big as your car's V8. In addition to the supercharger, there were two turborchargers. It took a lot of work to make 3500 hp!

The maintenance was as complex as the design and extended down time resulted. There were lots of ideas on how to fix it, but one thing everyone agreed on- the engine just wasn't reliable. Enter the jet. Orders for Stratocruisers stopped while orders for the Stratojet poured in. The Boeing design 377 was just too large for smaller airlines, so you would think they went directly to freighters. Well, cargo airlines live on a razor-edge budget, and expensive operating costs could not be overcome by limited freight income. So, most Stratocruisers went to the desert or jungle, homes for poisonious snakes and the like, until they were broken down and reborn into something else. Everyone hold up your aluminum beer can- this one's for you, Mr. Wasp Major.



Posted by David Reed on 05/16/2020

The DC-10

    In 1965 Boeing was launching the 747 program with orders from PanAm. Many other airlines jumped on the bandwagon, fearing to be left behind. In February 1966 the Douglas Aircraft Board of Directors decided to explore options for a large capacity aircraft themselves. They decided fairly soon that the market just didn't support the kind of capacity everyone was clamoring for. This actually proved correct, as in the early 1970's airlines were parking their 747's and production slowed to a crawl. Instead, in April 1966 Douglas approached American Airlines with the idea for a different variation of the 747. American wanted to carry 250 passengers in a mixed class on transcontinental flights, flying from 7000' runways. TWA said they liked the idea but wanted to carry two cargo containers (8'x8') side by side in the main cabin. The Douglas team felt that cargo carrying ability was crucial to the design. Eastern and United showed interest too. Throughout the summer and fall of 1966 various designs were created and discussed. In November a meeting was held with all the interested airlines. American dropped the twin-engine requirement and liked the cargo idea. TWA preferred three engines, 260 seats and wanted the new Rolls Royce engine. United was divided between two engines and four engines. As the design weight crept above 300,000 lbs, LaGuardia Airport operations became a concern. This was solved by adding a center leg landing gear, later used on the DC-10-30 and -40 series. Studies showed that worldwide, 66% of airline flights operated at less than 2500 nm. Add to this the regulations requiring twin engine aircraft to always be within an hour of an airport, and the four engine and twin engine designs were shelved in favor of a three engine layout. Engine design was a concern, but GE, P&W and Rolls Royce were all creating new engines in the thrust rating they needed. The front loading cargo nose was abandoned and so the elevated cockpit design went away. The tail engine design was finally settled on, a rear-mounted engine with a long intake. Douglas had now merged with McDonnell and the combined strength of their design teams move the project forward quickly. In October 1967 the design layout was finalized. Airlines, though interested, were still reluctant to dedicate such large amounts of money to new aircraft. By January 1968, Donald Douglas Sr was retired, as was United's Bill Patterson and Eastern's Eddie Rickenbacker. New Board members balked at the $1 billion dollar price tag to launch the program, a program that wouldn't be profitable with less than 250 aircraft sold.

    Lockheed announced they were going ahead with the L-1011 Tristar. At American Airlines, C.R. Smith (who favored the L1011) retired and his replacement, George Spater, was a dedicated MDC man. In February 1968 American announced they were placing firm orders for 25 DC-10 aircraft, plus 25 options, at $16 million each. This was predicated on MDC receiving additional orders from other airlines within 90 days. Lockheed immediately offered their L1011 to TWA and Eastern for $15 million each. TWA and Eastern placed orders for 94 Tristars powered by the Rolls Royce engines. Delta then ordered 24 Tristars. United favored the GE engine but Lockheed wasn't changing. MDC worked out a price that would match Lockheed's, including the GE CF6-34 engine. In April 1968 United placed an order for 30 GE-powered DC-10's plus options for 30 more. The design, especially in the cockpit, was set in stone, as allowing airline customization of the DC8 and DC9 had drastically impacted Douglas's bottom line. Northwest next placed orders for 28 DC-10's, though they specified the P&W engines. Only two years later the first DC-10 took flight.

    Douglas's initial desire to keep cargo a major part of the design proved to be key to the DC-10's success. While the DC-10 nearly died at Douglas, with McDonnell's help the design went on to become a success. Early flaws were overcome and 446 were built (including 60 for the USAF). The improved version, the MD-11, sold another 200 aircraft.

Posted by David Reed on 05/10/2020

Donald W. Douglas Sr

Donald Douglas was the founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company. He was born Donald Wills Douglas on April 6, 1892 in Brooklyn NY. He attended the Trinity Chapel School in Manhattan, then enrolled in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis MD. However, he left the academy after three years to pursue a career in aviation. He enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1912, becoming the first MIT graduate with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, completing the four year course in just two years. In 1915 he joined the Connecticut Aircraft Company and helped design the Navy's first dirigible. He went to the Glenn Martin Company in 1915, becoming their chief engineer and designer of the Martin MB1 bomber. He married Charlotte Ogg in 1916. In 1920 he left his well-paying job to move to Los Angeles, California and started the Davis-Douglas Company, which in 1921 became the Douglas Aircraft Company. He worked mostly with the military for product design and development. In 1923 he took four DT torpedo bombers, modified them, and the Navy sent them on an around-the-world trip, establishing Douglas as a serious manufacturer.

Though conservative by nature, Donald Douglas designed the DC-1 to meet a specification presented by TWA, a design his team felt was better than what was asked for. The "Douglas Commercial" DC-1 first flew in 1933, setting a cross-country speed record in 1934 of 13 hours. TWA ordered the aircraft with modifications, the DC-2. American's CEO C.R. Smith called Mr Douglas and said he wanted a sleeper version for his overnight flights. Douglas reluctantly agreed, but only after Smith agreed to order 20 aircraft. The DC3 went on to make the Douglas Aircraft Company the premier airliner builder. Douglas helped develop the aircraft production line, making mass production quicker and less expensive than factory methods currently in use. It was this manufacturing development that helped the US win World War II. Between 1922 and 1945, the Douglas Aircraft Company became the fourth largest business in America.

By 1957 Donald Douglas had brought the DC4, DC6 and DC7 to the marketplace. He was reluctant to get into jets, citing the success of his current airliners. At the age of 65 he turned over his company to his son, Donald Douglas Jr., remaining as Chairman of the Board. By now Boeing was taking off with their 707 design. His son launched the company into the jet age with the DC8 and DC9. The expense of going into the jet age, along with an up and down national economy, strained their finances. The DC10 program pushed them into the red far enough that in 1967 he merged his company with McDonnell Aircraft and became honorary chairman of McDonnell-Douglas until his death on February 1, 1981 at the age of 88. His cremated remains were scattered over the Pacific Ocean per his request.


Posted by David Reed on 05/04/2020

Lockheed's Electra II

Back in the early 1950's, airlines and aircraft manufacturers were trying to decide where the next step in aircraft design would go. Basically, it was a study of powerplants. The trusty radial engine had pretty much maxed out it's potential. The jet engine had been developed in WW2 by Germany and England and was used commercially in the early Comet. Jet engines, though, were not at all fuel efficient. They went through fuel like a fire hose, so to get any kind of range they would need vast quantities of Jet-A. This can be seen in the early 707 flights, which between Europe and North America had to make a fuel stop in Shannon or Gander. The jet was a radical design that the airlines were wary of, who thought this new form of thrust could very well bankrupt the entire industry. Others felt the turboprop was the more logical choice. Using a smaller jet engine, it could turn a more conventional propeller, outperforming the Connies and Douglas aircraft with only a marginal increase in fuel burn. Propeller technology was also improving, and newer designs kept the balance between increased engine power and propeller efficiency.

Lockheed chose not to follow Boeing, Douglas and Convair in the jet race. They saw a huge market in short range turboprop routes. The Vickers Viscount had proved a successful design, and Lockheed initially looked to using the same Rolls Royce engines. But their primary customers wanted more seats, more speed and more range than the Viscount. Lockheed had just introduced the C-130 to the military using a new engine, the Allison T56 turboprop. The airliner was redesigned around the new Allison engine and the Lockheed model 188 Electra II was born. It exceeded all performance expectations, carrying up to 98 passengers, cruising at 325 knots and able to fly up to 2400 nm. The Electra II first flew on December 6, 1957, two months ahead of schedule. Airline accountants and pilots loved it.

The Electra II seemed to have a curse though. American flew one into the East River only two weeks after taking delivery. Eastern lost one when it hit a flock of birds in Boston. Passengers complained of high vibrations, and so the engines were tilted up 3 degrees to fix it. The wing was short, with almost the entire wing covered by the propeller blast. Landings took some skill, and hard landings were fairly common. Within two years there were three unexplained accidents involving inflight breakups. The problem was eventually traced to engine mounts that were not designed strong enough. Lockheed paid for the entire fleet to be fixed, but the expense and downtime was enormous. Airlines and the public lost confidence in the type and orders dried up quickly. Only 170 were built, and one third of those were lost in accidents over the years. 

The salvation came from the US Navy. Looking to replace the P2V Antisubmarine Patrol aircraft, Lockheed proposed the P-3, a variant of the L188. The Navy loved it, It incorporated all the design fixes, had good speed and range and could loiter in an area of interest for hours. A total of 650 were built by Lockheed, and 107 more by Kawasaki in Japan. Service Life Extension Programs allowed the P-3 to serve in many countries around the world for over fifty years.


Posted by David Reed on 04/24/2020

Vickers Viscount

     In 1942, as Great Britian was going on the offensive with her allies, transport aircraft for the civilian market was an idea far from the forefront. When Winston Churchill attended the 1942 Moscow Conference, he rode in the freezing bomb bay of a Liberator bomber. He immediately asked his predecessor Lord Brabazon to set up a committee to study the subject of post-war civilian airliners and make recommendations. In 1943 the committee submitted a recommendation for five aircraft types: Type 1: A very large, long range airplane; Type 2: A DC-3 type for European services; Type 3: A four engine medium range airplane for British Empire routes; Type 4: A jet-propelled mailplane for the Atlantic routes; and Type 5: a twin engine 14 passenger design for feeder operations.

The second type was divided into two aircraft- Type 2A piston, and type 2B turboprop. For the Type 2A, Airspeed designed the Ambassador. It first flew in 1952, but Airspeed had just been bought by DeHavilland and DH had little interest in the design. The Type 2B was taken up by Vickers and the Type 630 Viscount was created. It flew in 1948 with a design capacity for 32 passengers. BEA, the primary customer, was less than enthusiastic. They wanted more seats for lower costs and so Vickers designed the Type 700. The type 700 had 48 seats and was easily 10% faster than the 630. In August 1950, BEA ordered 20 of the type 700, and several other airlines followed. Initial price was $235,000 GBP (about $2.5M GBP today).

The Viscount was powered by Rolls Royce Dart engines producing about 1900 SHP each. The turboprop design was unproven, and considered a real gamble, but in service they proved to be surprisingly reliable, and overhaul times climbed to 2000 hrs, a huge increase over a piston engine that could only go a few hundred hours. Passengers loved the Viscount. The engines were quieter and significantly smoother than their piston counterparts. The pressurization made for a very comfortable cabin at altitudes where the engines were efficient and the air was smooth. The large oval windows were a huge hit. The performance and efficiency of the design was better than it's competitors and orders rolled in. Trans Australian and Ansett-ANA flew them in Australia with great success. In North America, TCA, Continental, Northeast and Capital/United also flew the type.

Three versions were built- the Type 700 (287 built); the Type 800 (67 built) and the Type 810 (84 built). The Type 800 was a type 700 stretched 3' 10" that could carry up to 75 passengers. The Type 810 was a type 800 with more powerful Dart 525 engines.

For many airlines, the Viscount was the economical airplane that brought success to their post-war marketplace. Fast, comfortable, reliable and smooth, the Viscount was just the airplane everyone was looking for. It was expensive for sure, but compared to the cheap surplus C-47, it was a Rolls Royce vs the Model T.


Posted by David Reed on 04/14/2020

The Fabulous MD80

In the late 1970's, in the wake of the international fuel crisis, airlines started looking for better, more efficient jets. Airbus was then an unknown manufacturer from Europe, and US airlines continued to favor US-built aircraft. McDonnell-Douglas announced the DC9-80 series in 1977. It would carry more passengers in a two-class arrangement than the 727-200ADV. With advanced design JT8D-200 engines (with higher bypass ratio of 1.74 compared to earlier versions with 0.7), it burned significantly less fuel than the 727. Being a stretched version of the DC9, development was quick and first flight came only two years after the program was announced. Boeing was still selling a lot of 727's though, and did not see the need for creating a replacement at the time. Yet the MD80 program almost got cancelled. Initial interest was low, and production started with only 15 firm orders, from Swissair. As the 1980's dawned and Wall Street took over, accounting departments saw two pilots instead of three, two engines instead of three, with as many seats as the 727.

It took two more years, but Boeing eventually decided to upgrade the 737 series to the 737-300. While it promised better fuel efficiency, the 300 series could carry only 126 passengers, compared to the MD80's 143. Orders for the MD80 though just trickled in, mostly from foreign operators. Many US airlines saw the MD80 as just an old tech DC9 that was stretched. McDonnell-Douglas finally convinced them that the MD80 in fact had more new technology than it appeared. In 1982, American Airlines decided the 737-300 (still two years away from production) wasn't worth waiting for and placed an order for 20 new MD-80's with options for up to 65 more. Eventually American would operate more than 360 MD-80's, 30% of the total production. With American's order, many other airlines jumped on board (a large order from a US airline was a gold seal stamp of approval). MD-80 series production was larger than all previous DC9 models combined, with 1191 being produced. It would be six more years before Boeing flew the 737-400 that could compete with the MD-80. The MD-80 family included the MD-80, MD-81, MD-82 and MD-83, the differences being mostly weight, thrust and fuel capacity. The MD-88 was a MD-82/83 with EFIS cockpit displays. The MD-87 was similar in size to the DC9-50 series, but with the aerodynamic and powerplant improvements of the MD-80 series. The last MD-80, an MD-83 N984TW, was delivered to TWA on Dec 21, 1999, and flew the last American Airlines MD-80 flight Sept 4, 2019.

Posted by David Reed on 03/27/2020

The Boeing 720

On a warm, sunny afternoon on May 15, 1954, Boeing rolled out the first 707 from the factory. Two years later Boeing began studying the next logical step, a short-medium range jet for smaller airports. Remember, the first 707's needed almost two miles of runway to take off. The design shared a lot of commonality with the 707 to reduce development costs and certification time. The design had the same cross-section as the 707-120, but was eight feet shorter and retained the same 130' wingspan. Weight was reduced by 25% by using thinner fuselage skin and smaller wheels. United Airlines had the DC8 and were looking to order the CV880 for shorter routes. Not wanting to lose another big customer, Boeing formally announced the 707-020 in July 1957. United placed their order but didn't want to look like they were ordering 707's, so the name was changed and the Boeing 720 was born. First flight was in November 1959 and featured the same JT3C engines as the original 707, Leading edge flaps across the entire leading edge of the wing, a redesigned inboard leading edge and other structural modifications to reduce weight. The 720 could carry 156 passengers in a single class layout, or 131 in two class. During certification, a landing was made in only 2200'! The FAA approved the 720 for service in June 1960 and one week later it entered service with United Airlines. Four months later, after an exhaustive design and feasability study, the 727 program was announced. While the 727 was competing with their own 720, the 720 lacked some critical features the airlines needed for smaller airports. The 720 needed a ground power cart and air cart for starting and separate airstairs for loading/unloading. Short routes are financially leaner routes, yet the 720 operating costs were not much different than the 707. The 727 had an APU, built-in rear airstairs and a wing that made for even slower landing and takeoff speeds. The 720 engines were changed to the JT3D turbofan and the model became known as the 720B. Despite having only built 154 aircraft, the 720/720B program was profitable due to it's low development costs. The first 720 built, N7201U, was also the first one in service, Chicago-Denver-Los Angeles with United Airlines in 1960. In 1973 it was sold to Contemporary Entertainment as a charter jet with a 40-seat executive interior. Notable rock bands used the "Starship" for their tours between 1973 and 1977, including Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, The Band, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, Alice Cooper and Peter Frampton. It was eventually broken up for parts in 1982.

Posted by David Reed on 03/20/2020

Pacific Northern Airlines

    Pacific Northern Airlines (PNA) began as Woodley Airways in 1934, a one man, one airplane operation with a lucrative air mail contract. Founded by Arthur G. Woodley, a pioneer known for his unimpeachable integrity, awesome profanity and a hair-trigger temper. Arthur was fiercely loyal to his airline, his employees and his passengers. Woodley Airways did a lot for air travel in Alaska. They created their own communications system, were the first to operate multi-engine aircraft, the first to utilize instrument flight procedures. In the 1940's Woodley was awarded an airline license (Certificate of Public Convenience) to operate from Anchorage to Bristol Bay, Seward, Kenai, Juneau, Cordova and Yakatut. In 1945 he incorporated with investors, buying two Boeing 247's for the new routes and changing their name to Pacific Northern Airline. The Boeing's were replaced in 1946 by four ex-Army C-47's. Alaska Airlines and PNA would operate intra-state routes (where PNA had a much stronger position), while PanAm and Northwest operated flights outside of Alaska. In 1951 PNA's big break came when they were awarded the lucrative Anchorage-Seattle and Juneau-Seattle routes, putting them in direct competition with PanAm and Northwest Orient. PNA initially bought four C-54's for the routes, but switched to ex-Delta L749's in 1955 for more seats and more speed. In 1960 and 1961, PanAm, Northwest Orient and Alaska Airlines placed jets into service on their Alaska/Seattle routes. PNA tried to keep up with the Constellations, but finally bought two B720's in 1962. In 1965 the CAB revoked PanAm's Alaskan routes, citing an excess of competition. This put PNA in an even stronger position. This caught the attention of Western Airlines, who proposed a merger. Normally the CAB would not approve a merger of two healthy airlines (Western and Pacific Northern were having their most profitable years yet), but they did approve this one and in 1967 the two merged, with Arthur Woodley going to the Western Airlines Board of Directors. Western merged with Delta Airlines in 1986. The Historic Airline Group has numerous flights for Pacific Northern Airlines, including the Constellation and Boeing 720.   

Posted by David Reed on 03/16/2020

Arctic Twins

First Air and Canadian North are two different yet strangely identical airlines. First Air began operations in 1946 as Bradley Air Services in Ottawa, doing charter flights. It wasn't until 1973 that First Air began scheduled operations, and that was between Ottawa and North Bay with an eight passenger airplane. Service expanded slowly, with flights from gateway airports at Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnepeg and Montreal to two hubs at Yellowknife and Iqaluit. In 1995, First Air bought Ptarmigan Airways and NWT Air. Buying Ptarmigan was buying their competition for air freight in the great white north, but NWT Air had something they really wanted- 737's, 727's, L188 Electra II's and L100 Hercules, truly Big Iron. Not just any 737/727's either, these were the combi models, perfect for hauling paying passengers and freight together on routes that had a demand for both. They called it First Air and business was good. But there were issues. Buying Ptarmigan and NWT Air stretched their finances to the limit, and overnight they suddenly had many different types of airplanes requiring spare parts and crew training. They struggled along for the next ten years, going through difficult management times. Now one of the owners of First Air was a company called Makivik Corporation. Makivik Corporation was in charge of managing the Inuit lands. Inuits are the Indigenous peoples of northern Canada, a fact legally recognized by the Canadian government. Makivik is charged with promoting development of the Arctic regions, and having a stake in First Air helped ensure they could provide the air service essential to that goal.

Then in 1989, along comes Canadian Airlines. Canadian wanted their own subsidiary airline to provide feeder service for them from the northern Canadian regions. Canadian Airlines formed the new airline using 737-200 aircraft, on routes that were nearly identical to First Air's routes. This was why First Air bought NWT Air, so they could still compete in the northern airline business with their own jets. In 1998 Canadian Airlines sold Canadian North, to be renamed Air Norterra, whose ownership was divided equally among the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, representing the Inuvialuit people of the western Canadian Arctic, and Nunasi Corporation, representing the Inuit people of Nunavut.

Now, First Air had long established passenger loyalty and freight contracts, as well as a reputation for dependability. Canadian North had the code share agreement with Canadian Airlines, newer equipment and money to spend. First Air began reorganizing their fleet to a simpler group of aircraft types. The Makivik Corporation could see the benefits of merging the two, and after an aborted attempt in 2014, in 2018 the two airlines merged, with Makivik and the Inuit group taking control. In advertising they are known as Canadian North Airlines, but the logo on the aircraft is still First Air. How that plays out is yet to be determined.

The Historic Airline Group has flights for both Canadian North and First Air. Both are currently undergoing a complete redo for our summer update. They will still be separate airlines, but their schedules and equipment will be an even more accurate representation of these two significant Arctic operators.

Posted by David Reed on 03/08/2020

Pratt & Whitney JT8D

The jet era in US commercial aviation began with the development of the J57 engine for the Air Force's F100, F101, F102, B52 and KC135. Being as the 707 was a derivative of the KC135, the same engines were used, designated the JT3C. The JT3C produced 11,200 lbs of thrust, 13,000 lbs with water injection. This was followed by the JT4A engine, designed with 13,500-17,500 lbs of thrust, primarily for use with the 707-320 series and the DC8-30. Rolls Royce had just developed the 508 Conway engine, a turbofan jet that was more fuel efficient and increased the range by 8%. Pratt & Whitney followed with their JT8D, a new design originally designed for the Navy's new A-6 Intruder (J52). The JT8D utilizes a six stage low pressure compressor section (including the two stage fan), and a nine stage high pressure compressor. The JT3D bypass airflow exited outside the nacelle, while the JT8D bypass airflow remained inside the nacelle and exited out the same exhaust location as the hot air, reducing noise levels. The JT8D produced 20% more thrust than the JT3D while increasing fuel efficiency by 19%.  In the early 1960's the JT8D was the state of the art engine to have, powering the 727, 737 and DC9. Some design work was done to explore replacing the 707's JT3D's with JT8D's, but the cost could not be justified by the airlines. In the 1970's the JT8D was further evolved into the -215/217 version, with a 10" larger fan stage, higher thrust and 10% better fuel efficiency than the earlier JT8D's. Designed specifically for the MD80's, the engine found favor with the Air Force who used them on their E3 AWACS and E8 JSTARS aircraft. A modification by the Valsan company to the 727 replaced the two outboard engines with either -217 or -219 engines, while the center engine remained as is. This increased cruise speed by 50 knots, reduced fuel burn and increased range. 14,750 JT8D engines were built.

Posted by David Reed on 03/01/2020

First 707 to Europe

     On October 26, 1958, Pan American 707-121 N711PA Clipper Mayflower departed New York Idlewild Airport with 111 passengers to become the first 707 to fly a revenue trip to Europe. These initial flights were not non-stop though. These 707-121's were transcontinental (barely) but not yet intercontinental. Eastbound flights stopped in Gander and westbound flights stopped at Keflavik. Even before the first 707 flew, Boeing knew they needed to improve the design. One month after PanAm began jet service to Europe, the first 707-320 was rolled out, N714PA. It had a longer fuselage, a bigger and better wing and updated engines (JT4A vs JT3C). Fuel capacity increased 37% and takeoff weight increased by 88,000 lbs. The JT3C was adequate with 11,200 lbs of thrust, and they were equipped with water injection. 3000 lbs of distilled water was injected ahead of the combustion chamber, increasing thrust 16% on takeoff with a noticeably very smokey exhaust trail and a deafening roar. The 707-320 used the JT4A which made 13500-17500 lbs of thrust dry. These engines though were not long lived. Pratt & Whitney added a fan section to the JT3C and created the first JT3D turbofan. This engine first flew in 1961 and all JT3D types had a B suffix (707-320B, etc). With the JT3D the initial climb rate went from 1300 fpm to 3450 fpm at MTOW and takeoff distance was reduced by 25%. When Boeing introduced the 707-320 Intercontinental, they flew it from Seattle to Rome non-stop, returning to Seattle non-stop from London. 885 commercial 707's were built, at a cost (in 2020 dollars) of $61 million each. That's less than the cost of a new 737!  

Posted by David Reed on 02/24/2020

P&W R2800

    The Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company was created in 1925 by the Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool Company of Hartford CT to develop an air-cooled aircraft engine. Their first engine was the 425 hp R1340 Wasp, a nine cylinder engine that powered a wide variety of aircraft including the Boeing 247 and the Ford Tri-Motor. Next was the Wasp Junior, an R985 that powered smaller aircraft like the Beech 18. Next came the R1830 Double Wasp which powered the DC3/C47. Pratt & Whitney had the money and the skilled talent to build the world's most reliable engines, and aircraft manufacturers purchased them by the thousands. In 1937 they developed an improved Double Wasp, the 18-cylinder R2800 engine. It started out as a 2000 hp powerplant, and grew to as much as 2800 hp. It powered the Navy's best fighters in WW2 including the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair and the Army's P-47, B-26 and A-26. It quickly developed a reputation for relability and was a natural choice for the post-war DC-6 and Convair 240 airliners. Many variations were built, and the C model was a complete redesign of the original with many unique updates. The DC-6 used the R2800-CB16 C-model, making 2400 hp. While Douglas built a rock-solid airframe, Pratt & Whitney provided the reliable powerplants that made the DC6 the most economical piston engine airliner ever built. Over 125,000 R2800's were built. Starting the Double Wasp was like playing a piano, with three fingers and a thumb of one hand manipulating the boost pump switch, starter motor, primer and safety switch while the other hand worked the throttle and mixture controls. In flight, you spent a lot of time managing the engines, keeping them working perfectly as they were designed to be. One pilot said,  “The R-2800 days were the highlight of my career, in a sense. That’s when flying was fun, and there was a whole lot to engine management—a whole lot. You’d spend hours sitting at the feet of the masters, who understood how to keep these things running, how to get them started and shut down. You might find a cryptic note here and there about operating technique or how to effectively reduce fuel flow, but you couldn’t learn by reading about it, you learned by watching somebody do it, and you passed it on to somebody else.”  

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