Historic Airline Group News Center

Posted by David Reed on 11/22/2020

Oh Canada!

Canadian Airlines are like the yellow brick road, except instead of leading to Oz, they all lead to Air Canada.

There have been many airlines calling the Great White North home, but four of them played a big part in creating Air Canada. Trans Canadian Air Lines (TCA), Pacific Western Airlines (PWA), Nordair and CP Air. Just before World War 2, the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway were arch-rivals in the passenger train business. CNR started Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA), based in Montreal and Toronto, because they wanted to get into the air travel business, a growing market as seen in the United States. The Canadian government was not happy calling charter bush companies airlines, and wanted a national airline for Canada. CNR provided the management expertise needed, funding was acquired, and with the government paving the way clear they bought some Lockheed Model 14 airplanes and began regularly scheduled flights. These airplanes proved that the business model was promising, and in 1945 they purchased 30 ex-C-47's for national routes. In 1947 they bought a fleet of Canadian North Stars, designed specifically by Canadair Aircraft Ltd for TCA. TCA put them to work on transcontinental routes as well as flights to Europe after the war. The DC-4M North Star wasn't just a DC-4 with Rolls Royce Merlin engines. It was more like a shortened DC-6 with a DC-4 tail and mid-section. They weren't very fast, and even though they were pressurized, they were still quite noisy.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Railways, not to be outdone, started their own airline, Canadian Pacific Air Lines (CPA), based in Vancouver. To do this, they purchased ten charter bush companies and combined them all into one operation in 1942. Management was a mix of people from the ten companies. With the government heavily involved in TCA, CPA had an uphill battle with TCA for access to government-controlled routes, both transcontinental and international, throughout their history.   Using Lockheed Model 14's and DC-3's (much like TCA), they focused more on developing a regional market within Canada, bringing airline service to a large number of small, isolated communities. When they went looking to go internationally to Europe with their own DC-4's and DC-4M's, they hit a roadblock. The Canadian government had already given these prize routes to TCA. Instead, CPA went to the Pacific, providing scheduled services from their base in Vancouver to Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Fiji and Sydney. When long range jets became available (which replaced CPA's British Bristol Britannia's), the government relented and let CPA fly to European cites not served by TCA.

In 1964, TCA changed their name to Air Canada. In 1968 CPA changed their name to CP Air. TCA moved into Vickers Vanguards and Constellations for long distance, then later acquired the DC-8. CPA went with the Britannia, DC-6 and DC-8. For years, both airlines had always been flirting with the idea of a merger. It only made sense. CP Air had the domestic route structure and the Pacific, while Air Canada was more into flying to the larger Canadian cities, the US and Europe. Air Canada was still controlled by the government though, so any ideas of a merger fell on deaf ears. When open skies came about in the 1970's, CP Air and Air Canada scrambled for bigger planes, purchasing and leasing DC-10-30's, 747's and long-range DC-8-63's. This rapid expansion would prove fateful for both carriers. Smaller Pacific Western Airlines, with some big financial backing, took over CP Air (and smaller Nordair) in 1987. They assumed CP Air's $600 million debt, but they were always struggling finacially after that. The new airline was called Canadian Airlines. 

Air Canada meanwhile was finally freed from government control in 1989. The change went surpisingly smooth. In 2001 the idea of merging CP Air (now Canadian Airlines) and Air Canada finally came to pass, but when the deal was done, Air Canada officials discovered Canadian was in worse shape financially than they had thought. This, along with a worldwide downturn in the airline market, caused Air Canada to file for bankruptcy protection in 2003. They managed to come out of bankruptcy a year later. Since then, the airline has done well, modernizing it's fleet and cutting costs, but the road it took would confuse even a seasoned Wall Street trader. Despite the ownership fog, Air Canada has been profitable again since 2012.

Two other Canadian airlines have survived through all of this. First Air and Air North have their nitch markets and stick with them, improving their service and not looking to compete in the international marketplace. Both are owned by local native tribes, who helped them move into jets, primarily 737's. Though not as big as Air Canada, they have one thing Air Canada doesn't- sustained profitability and fierce customer and employee loyalty. Sometimes, small is good.

Posted by David Reed on 11/16/2020

More Updates!

Your management staff continues to improve the quality of the flights at our Historic Airline Group. Aer Lingus (EIN) has been overhauled to improve the historical accuracy of flight schedules. While some EIN flights went away, others were expanded, espcially the BAC 1-11 operations. Republic (REP) and Northwest (NWA) DC9/MD80/757 flights were revamped to better indicate routes pre and post merger operations. Historically significant flights were also added. All of the Trans Australian (TAA) and Ansett (AAA) flights were replaced with more accurate schedules. Updates were made to Varig (VRG), Panair (PDB) and Cruzerio (CRZ). Portugal's TAP was completely redone, as was Korean Air (KAL), Luxair (LGL), Icelandic (ICE) and Nordair (NDR). Air North (ANT) HS748 flights are back on the Dawson City-Inuvik runs too.

We look at what airlines and aircraft types are the most popular, and focus improvements in these areas, as well as overall updates and a few new operations. We have significantly increased the number of turboprop flights, especially the Viscount and Electra II. Bringing you the best in historical airline accuracy is our ongoing commitment, and it shows with over 15,000+ flights worldwide.



Posted by David Reed on 11/12/2020

More Updates

We continue to make improvements to our data base of flights. Air North has gotten a complete update, putting their 737-200ADV's to good use in western Canada.

South of the border we have improved Pannair's Connie flights, Varig Electra II's and Portugal's TAP got new intercontinental 707 flights. TAP also got Connie service to the Canary Islands & Madeira.

IcelandAir got improvements done to their Viscount flights, and minor changes were made to Korean and Nordair. In Europe, Luxair got a complete overhaul and the F27 is back.

We continue to bring you over 15,000 historically correct flights from which to chose from. For the best in classic props and jets, you can't beat the Historic Airline Group.

Posted by David Reed on 11/07/2020

American Overseas Airlines

American Overseas Airlines started out life in 1937 as American Export Airlines, a subsidary of American Export Lines, a shipping company. In 1945 they were awarded transatlantic routes to Europe under the condition that the shipping company divest itself of the airline, for shipping companies were not supposed to own international airlines too. At the time, American Airlines was looking to expand into the international market, and so C.R. Smith purchased AEA and renamed it American Overseas Airlines, marketing with American Airlines and connecting to American's vast domestic network. AEA had been operating C-54's for the USAAF in WW2, so in November 1945 they began airline service as AOA using six ex-C54's. One year later the unpressurized C-54's were replaced with seven new Lockheed L049's. Three years later, eight Boeing 377 Stratocruisers were introduced, eventually replacing the Constellations. 

But all was not well. Though capable of the transatlantic route, the L049 just couldn't carry enough passengers to make a decent profit. The Stratocruiser increased the seating capacity, but they were expensive to purchase and operate. In 1950, American Airlines had had enough and sold AOA to PanAm, who took the Stratocruisers and created their Atlantic Division. Though five years is hardly what we would call a legacy carrier, American Overseas Airlines showed others how to set up the infrastructure needed to run airline service between New York and Europe with land-based aircraft. Better aircraft came along and made the route profitable, but it was AOA who set the initial groundwork for transatlantic service. At HAG, we have both L049 and Stratocruiser flights to and from Europe under the American Airlines name.

Posted by David Reed on 10/30/2020

American & TWA Update

We just updated all the American Airlines DC-6B and DC-7B flights. The new flights were all taken from the 1958 AA schedule and represent the peak of American Airlines four engine piston operations. Using actual flight numbers, departure times and arrival times, these new flights are historically correct for this period. In addition, Mercury flights are listed. Mercury flights were American's long distance, all First Class flights. These DC-7B flights were the luxury air travel flights of this era. Five Star meals and an open bar was the reward for your First Class ticket. Our update to American's schedules resulted in a 13% increase in DC-7B flights, and a whopping 52% increase in DC-6B flights.

We also updated the TWA L1049G schedules from 1955. Ambassador flights competed with American and United's DC-7's. They all used Wright's R3350, straining them to their limits. This caused people to consider the Wright's unreliable, but in lower power settings/long-range cruise conditions (like crossing the Atlantic), the R3350 proved to be quite reliable. We've also updated the TWA  trans-atlantic schedules, including continuing flights to Zurich, Rome, Athens and Cairo. When you want your flights to be as historically correct as possible, Historic Airline Group has them for you.

Posted by David Reed on 10/24/2020

Boston Logan Int'l Airport

     On June 13, 1923, a lone aircraft touched down on the new 1500' cinder runway at Boston Airport (Jeffries Field). Built by the US Army on 189 acres on Jeffries Point in East Boston, it was operated by the Army and MA National Guard for five years. The first commercial passenger flight was flown by Colonial Air Transport in 1927 to New York.

     In 1928 the state of Massachusetts took over ownership of the airport, and in 1929 the city of Boston leased it from the state, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Boston Parks Department. Immediately they began making improvements, including lengthening the two runways, adding paved access roads with landscaping, building an administration building and hangars, and doubling the airport size by reclaiming land from Boston harbor. In the late 1930's, Colonial Air Transport became American Airlines, operating regular scheduled DC-3 service between Boston and New York. Air travel boomed, and World War II brought further expansion. Now run by the Boston Department of Public Works, the airport added 1,800 acres by reclaiming further land from Boston harbor. New runways, larger aprons and three new hangars were built. A larger terminal was built, on the same ground where terminal C is located today. Other airlines expanded their presence in Boston, bringing 471,000 passengers by the end of 1949.

     Expansion and improvements continued. In 1953 the first nonstop flight from Los Angeles took place. Boston was a gateway airport to Europe. New jets needed long runways and the ever-growing number of passengers meant an ever-increasing number of gates. In 1956 the state created the Massachusetts Port Authority and placed Boston Airport under their control. The same year, the state legislature renamed Boston Airport/Jeffries Field as the Lt. General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport. Lt. General Edward Lawrence Logan was not only instrumental in creating the Massachusetts National Guard, he also served in the Boston Common Council, the state House of Representatives, the state Senate and later as a municipal court judge in South Boston. By this time, Boston's “Logan Airport” was the tenth busiest airport in the country.

     The early 1960's saw major improvements to the runways and lighting systems. In 1961 construction began on the new, two-level international terminal, where Terminal D is today. Runway 33L was lengthened even more to accommodate the newest intercontinental jets. By 1965, international passengers increased by 100% compared to 1951 and Logan was now the nation's eighth busiest airport. In the 1970's a new 285' control tower was completed, along with two new terminals. Bird Island Flats was filled in and became the new 234 acre cargo facility. As the airport grew, so did the noise. Massport spearheaded a drive to better soundproof surrounding homes and buildings.

     By 1980, Boston Logan International Airport was seeing over 15 million passengers annually, and crowded terminals were a growing problem. Massport continues to make improvements, for both expansion and updating existing facilities. However, among the top twenty busiest airports in America, Logan is also the second smallest. This limits growth potential and causes frequent delays, especially during poor weather. Being located next to the water doesn't help either, with dense ocean fog being a common cause of delays. The two parallel runways (22L/22R) are too close together for simultaneous instrument approaches. Studies for the New England region look at many factors, including social and global issues, advances in aviation technology, changes in airline business models, providing airline service closer to centers of passenger demands, and alternative modes of travel. Logan will always be the dominant international terminal, but service from other regional airports may provide the relief that Logan Airport needs to reduce overcrowding. The future for Logan is similar to what it has always been- change and improvements, rolling with the punches. It's a Boston tradition.

Posted by David Reed on 10/19/2020


     The administrative team at HAG has been busy this month. We have revised the schedules for the Eastern's DC6B, DC7B, L1049, L749, Qantas Electra II, and National's DC7B, DC8, DC10 and B727. This means that we have replaced previous flights with flights from representative time period timetables, using actual flight numbers and departure/arrival times.

     In addition, we added 22 Seven Seas Air Cargo VLR (very long range) 747 flights to the schedule. Most of these exceed 6000 miles. The SAS 737-201 was dropped and the New York Air 737 was changed to the 737-300.

     The Historic Airline Group is dedicated to bringing you the world's most accurate classic airline schedules for your classic flight sim enjoyment.

Posted by David Reed on 10/16/2020

C.R. Smith

Cyrus Rowlett Smith was born Sept 9, 1899 in Minerva, Texas. He attended the University of Texas, though he never actually graduated from high school. His passion was business and people. In 1928 Alva Barrett bought Texas Air Transport and hired Cyrus as the Secretary/Treasurer at the age of 30. The next year, Barrett formed Southern Air Transport and made Cyrus Vice President. Meanwhile, a group of investors formed Aviation Corporation and began buying up small airlines and other aviation-related companies. The airlines were formed into two, Colonial Air Lines and Universal Air Lines. Universal's name was changed to American Airways, then later they merged Colonial and American Airways to form American Airlines. AVCO's directors, impressed with how well Cyrus ran SAT, appointed him President in 1934.

Cyrus, or "C.R." as his employees knew him, organized their routes into a sensible network. It was his leadership and inspiration that made American a leader in the airline industry. AA was his baby, and he loved running the airline. He took their vast assortment of aircraft and went with the new DC-2, but he still wasn't satisfied. Cyrus was thinking transcontinental, and for that he wanted an airplane with sleeper berths so he wouldn't have to keep putting his passengers on trains at night. He convinced Donald Douglas to create the DC-3 for him with a promise to buy twenty aircraft. It flew in 1935 and the first ones went to American Airlines. Cyrus was married to Elizabeth Manget briefly, they had one son, but they soon divorced. Cyrus has always said that he was always married to American Airlines. 

When World War II began, Cyrus Smith joined the Air Corps as a Colonel, playing a major role in organizing the Air Transport Command. He was instrumental in developing the routes across the North Atlantic, using American Airlines crews to test the route. When the war ended, he went back to his beloved American Airlines. Cyrus was looking to expand, but he knew the DC-4 was just a stop-gap measure. He worked closely with Douglas to help develop the DC-6 and later, the DC-7.

 Soon after, he broke with his Douglas aircraft traditions and ordered the new 707 from Boeing. American led the way in studying the affect of high altitude weather and winds on airline flight planning, research they shared with other airlines worldwide. The first transcontinental jet service was introduced by American in January 1959 with flights between New York and Los Angeles. The national airway structure was not prepared for jets, and delays were common. American helped develop jet routes that allowed new jet airliners take better advantage of their speed and altitude capabilities within the US domestic network.  

Cyrus retired in 1968, though he returned briefly in 1973. After he retired in 1968, Lyndon Johnson offered him the position of US Secretary of Commerce. He took the job, but the bureaucracy of the position frustrated him and he resigned after less than a year. Cyrus enjoyed his retirement, hunting and fishing being his favorite activities. He passed away in 1990 after a lengthy illness at the age of 90. He received many awards and honors throughout his life for his contributions to aviation. The American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth was named after him. 



Posted by David Reed on 10/09/2020

Long Beach Airport LGB

     Long Beach Airport started out as one of those training fields in the middle of nowhere. Earl Daugherty opened a flight school on 20 acres in 1919. The city was all for it. One year later the city turned sixty acres of farm field into a municipal airport and named Earl as the manager.

     That same year, oil was discovered in Long Beach. The city was rolling in the money, so they went out and bought an even bigger area of land. This new airport was designed to be an air commerce airport, bringing income to the city and local workers. They called the airport Daugherty Field. Throughout the 1920's the airport grew and grew, with many commercial businesses going up adjacent to the airport, while administrative buildings, hangars and terminals were built. On December 28, 1920, Amelia Earhart discovered flying here. The Depression of the 1930's didn't do much at Long Beach except slow things down some. In 1939 Long Beach increased the airport size by an additional 225 acres. They built an office and a hangar for the Navy and leased it to them for $1 in 1928. Unfortunately, that cozy arrangement didn't last. The Navy wanted the city to take better care of the airport, the city balked, and so the Navy went and built their own airport nearby (Los Alamitos NAS). But they didn't leave Long Beach. Instead, they leased the property to the USAAF. Military politics aside, Long Beach Airport has always been about maintenance and manufacturing.

     The 1940's were busy times for Long Beach. Douglas Aircraft was going full speed ahead with C-47, DC4 and DC6 production. As Los Angeles grew and Long Beach developed, the airport found itself surrounded and unable to expand beyond a single 10,000' runway. Over 200 businesses occupy airport property today. It wasn't until the 1960's that Long Beach Airport had non-stop flights to places other than San Diego and Los Angeles. Western, PSA, American, United, everyone at one time or another flew into Long Beach. Today it is monopolized by Southwest Airlines, drawing many passengers from the local area who prefer smaller Long Beach over mega-LAX. They still proudly refer to the airport as Daugherty Field. At the Historic Airline Group, we have United DC3 flights, JetAmerica MD80's, Western 737s, and a huge freight operation at Long Beach. It is the western hub for our own Seven Seas Air Cargo operations.

     In addition, HAG has just completed making Eastern DC6B and DC-7B flights historically correct. We've also updated Capital and United Viscount flights. What you'll notice is the flight numbers and times are taken directly from historic timetables. Enjoy!

Posted by David Reed on 10/06/2020

October 2020 Updates

     We just completed an in-depth update of our schedules. Corrections were made, specific flights were updated for accuracy, several new airlines added. The Historic Airline Group has added People Express, Midwest Express, Sunworld, Republic and Jet America. Our total flights have been increased by over 20%. Notable updates include all American Airlines DC3 flights, Northwest DC7C flights, Eastern B757 flights, as well as numerous other flight updates.

     Our goal is always to bring you the best of classic airlines. We feel the current update has brought us even more historically accurate schedules as well as adding new airlines to choose from. People Express began in 1980 and was one of the original low-cost carriers. PE was based at Newark Airport. Midwest Express started as a corporate airline out of Appleton, Wisconsin for Kimberly-Clark. As an airline, it would cater to business travelers, serving many large cities using DC-9 aircraft. Sunworld International Airways flew DC9's out of a hub in Las Vegas, later moving to Reno and then back to Las Vegas. They flew from 1983 to 1988. Republic Airlines was created when North Central and Southern merged in 1979 during deregulation. They operated from 1979 to 1986 when Northwest acquired them to bring an established domestic route network to Northwest's international operations. Republic operated from four hubs- Memphis, Minneapolis, Detroit and Atlanta. Jet America was the airline from Long Beach, CA, flying from 1981 to 1987 using the MD80 aircraft. Originally a Learjet charter operator, they began airline service with flights to Chicago. As they grew, they expanded service to many distant destinations. Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, was a less crowded airport that many passengers found more convenient than LAX.

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.

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