Spirit Airlines (Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood) has announced it will charge $100 to check a bag at the gate. The airline is taking the radical step because last minute bag checks at the gate are often delaying the departures according to the airline.
The airline issued the following statement:
Spirit Airlines’ (SAVE) carry-on bag program — which includes priority boarding — has proven successful for customers and the airline. It has helped speed the boarding process, ensured sufficient overhead space is available for all carry-on bags, and it has helped reduce the airline’s fuel consumption rate by the equivalent of nearly six million gallons in the past year alone. The success of the program has allowed customers to pay for only the services that they use and it has permitted Spirit to continue lowering fares for its customers.
Unfortunately, some customers are still waiting until they reach the boarding gate to purchase their carry-on. This slows the boarding process for all customers, delays flights, increases costs for the company, and ultimately results in higher fares for everyone.
Starting November 6, 2012, customers who wait until the last minute to purchase their carry-on at the boarding gate will be charged $100. The $100 carry-on bag fee is intentionally set high to deter costly delay-causing gate activity.
Much lower priced options are available for those who plan ahead and reserve their bags in advance with prices from as little as $20.
“Our goal is for no customer ever to pay the $100 fee,” says Spirit’s Chief Operating Officer Tony Lefebvre. “Spirit offers our customers multiple opportunities to avoid this unnecessary fee and save money. By planning ahead and paying for bags before getting to the boarding gate, our customers are saving time at the airport and speeding up the boarding process. When our customers choose these time-saving, self-service options, our costs go down, and we can pass those savings along to our customers.”
Spirit says advance planning can bring significant savings to customers if they purchase their bags in advance online when making their reservation, when checking in online, at an airport kiosk, or at an airport ticket counter. Checked bags are available for as low as $20 and carry-ons for as little as $25 (including priority boarding).
Spirit’s “Bring Less, Pay Less” bag program passes the cost of handling bags solely to those bringing bags rather than have everyone subsidize these costs. Customers who bring less, pay less. That’s exactly what has happened at Spirit. Spirit’s customers have reduced the amount of baggage, saved money and helped the company conserve the equivalent of nearly six million gallons of fuel in the last year alone compared to the rate of consumption before the introduction of the program.
Spirit Bag Fees (effective November 6, 2012):
|$9 Fare Club
Counter or Kiosk
Spirit continues to offer customers one free personal item that fits under the seat free of charge. Also, a list of other items that are exempt from the carry-on bag fee can be found at spirit.com.
Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing. Airbus A319-132 N505NK (msn 2485) taxies off the runway at Las Vegas.
Virgin America (San Francisco) has announced new flights to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) from both San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The airline is expanding its footprint at PSP, with a new 2012-2013 seasonal flight schedule that will include a new weekly Saturday nonstop flight from JFK to PSP – the only nonstop flight offered from the New York City area to Palm Springs. The new nonstop flight will add to Virgin America’s seasonal daily connecting flight schedule from JFK to PSP and its seasonal daily nonstop schedule from SFO to PSP.
Virgin America’s 2012-2013 nonstop PSP flight schedule is as follows:
|San Francisco (SFO) – Palm Springs (PSP)||Palm Springs (PSP) – San Francisco (SFO)|
|Dep||Arr||Freq||Start date||Dep||Arr||Freq||Start date|
|4:40 PM||6:10 PM||Daily||18-Oct-12||6:55 PM||8:30 PM||Daily||18-Oct-12|
|9:30 AM||10:50 AM||Sat only||12-Jan-13||6:55 PM||8:30 PM||Daily except Sat||12-Jan-13|
|11:35 AM||1:00 PM||Sat only||12-Jan-13|
|9:35 AM||10:59 AM||Sun only||13-Jan-13|
|New York (JFK) – Palm Springs (PSP)||Palm Springs (PSP) – New York (JFK)|
|Dep||Arr||Freq||Start date||Dep||Arr||Freq||Start date|
|10:55 AM||2:00 PM||Sat only||22-Dec-12||2:55 PM||10:45 PM||Sat only||22-Dec-12|
Connecting flights are also available from PSP to Virgin America’s New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Philadelphia (PHL), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Washington D.C. (IAD) cities.
Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing. Named “Virgin and Tonic”, Airbus A319-112 N525VA (msn 3324) approaches Los Angeles for landing.
Interjet (ABC Aerolíneas, S.A. de C.V. dba) (Mexico City) will add Orange County (Santa Ana), California on October 11 with daily service to both Guadalajara and Mexico City.
Copyright Photo: Luimer Cordero. Airbus A320-214 XA-YES (msn 4933) in the special EcoJet markings arrives at Miami.
California Destinations: Sometimes airlines can be space challenged to produce a geographically correct route map. No, Los Angeles has not shifted to northern California.
Guest Editor Dave Nichols
Spring Break with Lake Central
Ah, Spring; better yet, Spring Break. College freshman year, spit and vinegar, time to take it easy for a week in 1965. I couldn’t afford to traipse off to Florida but a break in any form was good and it would give me plenty of time to hang around my local Cessna dealer. I would kick it off with a flight home since I loved big piston twins and would attempt to talk Dad into paying for a ticket. He was a tough sell and a non-aviation aficionado. The bus or train was good enough for me, he said, often. Oh, I forgot to mention that my college was only 110 miles from home. Dad figured it was almost close enough to walk.
College was near Cleveland, Ohio and home was Erie, Pennsylvania: that meant Allegheny Airlines territory. Their Martin 202s and Convair 440s were plying the Newark – Cleveland and Washington (National) – Cleveland runs which made mandatory stops at ERI. The 202s both intrigued and terrified me at the same time, with their flame belching out the stack or the intake (each engine would take turns). Oil would constantly drool out of every crevice on the nacelle. But I was hooked on the airline biz and had already planned to go into it after graduation.
CLE-ERI was a whopping 40 minute flight and I was looking for a way to increase the time and experience. I envied my classmates who actually flew somewhere beyond a half-hour. I discovered that I could fly from Cleveland to Akron on a Lake Central Airlines DC-3, then change planes and continue on a Lake Central Convair 340 through Youngstown and on to Erie. Allegheny’s fare was $10 but Lake Central said they would take me for $12.75. What a deal! I would get 1:20 in the air plus a plane change and two stops in the middle for only $2.75 more! Lake Central didn’t comprehend my aviation excessiveness but was happy to collect the $12.75 and I probably became the first person to fly CLE-ERI through the triangle of CAK and YNG. My parents would never understand so I just told them I was coming in on Lake Central – they didn’t keep up with which airlines flew where and probably wouldn’t ask.
Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection. Lake Central Airlines operated a total of 23 venerable Douglas DC-3s including the former military variants, including the pictured DC-3A-363 N41831 (msn 3275) painted in the 1960 color scheme.
The departure evening was at hand and I just knew this would be a memorable experience. The DC-3s were about gone from airline service so this made the first leg important to me. I still remember that night like it happened five years ago; even one of the N numbers is still tattooed on the aviation side of my brain. Stationary front which meant low ceiling, drizzle and fog. Lots of fog. My 6:00 p.m. departure to Akron was way behind. The DC-3 was slogging through the crud and was still somewhere in Indiana. Every airline’s schedules were in tatters. It was getting dark, now. After two hours of delay, Lake Central had a Convair 340 flight make it in to Cleveland. They added a flag stop to Akron and took us on. I was deflated to lose the DC-3 ride but happy that at least we were moving.
July 1965 Lake Central Route Map.
The inside of the Convair-Liner was damp, overly warm, and completely full of 44 worried travelers. Our takeoff from CLE was uneventful and we entered the clouds just after the gear hit the wells. The air was smooth and the twenty-five minute segment to CAK was routine. We never got above the solid overcast. The approach took us to minimums and the captain had just started to apply power for a go-around when he saw the strobe lights and plunked in for a landing. The ramp was sprinkled with Viscounts, DC-6s and Convairs. I deplaned.
Lake Central Schedules from Akron-Canton:
The Akron-Canton terminal was a sea of college students and businessmen. Collegians from at least six universities were camped out all over the gate areas. A few large transistor radios echoed out the latest Beatles hits, especially “I Feel Fine”. I’ll never forget the irony. Many had been there for five hours and the sad stories were growing. Some passengers were diverted into CAK and were waiting to see what their carriers were going to do. My LC connection was the epic voyage, flight 37, which began in Indianapolis and stopped at Dayton, Columbus, Akron, Youngstown and Erie enroute to Buffalo. This flight was impossible to keep on schedule in instrument weather.
Still an aviation novice but resourceful enough to call the control tower, I found that CAK was a temporary landable oasis as all airports north were now completely fogged in. Erie was up and down, so there was hope. My spirits were not buoyed when I saw my usual Erie-bound Allegheny Convair 440 taxi in. Allegheny didn’t even fly to Akron! Erie was too foggy and Cleveland socked in behind them, so they diverted to CAK and would bus the passengers on to ERI. I was deeply concerned but still hoping for my $12.75 worth of flying.
Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati. Sister aircraft and former United Airlines Convair 340-31 N73149 (msn 163) rests between flights at Baltimore (Friendship International Airport). LC acquired the airliner on February 27, 1961.
At nine-thirty, Lake Central 37 pulled up to the gate. It was N73123 (msn 42). The continuation of the flight was a “go”. However, the agent told us Erie didn’t look good at the moment but Youngstown had landing minimums. We boarded, about 10 of us, the remainder of the Convair was filled with through passengers.
Something was not right when I entered the cabin. The air was stuffy with a whiff of body odor. The passengers looked ashen. I asked around and was peppered with stories of weather delays at each stop and mechanical problems. The left engine had begun throwing sparks out the exhaust port enroute to Columbus. Since the exhaust outlet is over ten feet away from the engine on a CV340, that’s some powerful sparks. The engine was worked on but a volley of sparks reoccurred on the approach to CAK. Eyeballs along the left side had been pressed against the windows. I’m not an ultra brave soul but since no mechanic examined the bowels of the engine at Akron, I figured it was just an overly rich mixture and carbon flakes were being created and blown out. I dutifully took a window seat on the right side. Sitting next to me was a female co-ed about my age taking her first flight, very quiet but I figured she would be good conversation as the flight unfolded. Besides, I could teach her all the great stuff about Convairs…
Our aircraft was in the pre-takeoff area a long time. Each engine was run up twice. We were the only airplane out there. Flight 37 finally headed down the center stripe and the engines roared. Water spray from the fog being chewed up whipped off the propeller tips. The visibility was very short, quite dark and drizzly. It was a verrry long, extended take-off run. Passengers on the left side suddenly gasped as orange and red sparklies streamed by their windows. I didn’t know the exact length of Akron’s runway but I was aware the asphalt was modest and a sheer drop-off awaited any luckless aircraft at the end. Relief, the nose wheel raised. At that precise moment, just like every simulator check ride you ever heard of, one of the engines started to miss. It was the right engine, the good engine! The #2 radial was stuttering badly. I could see out of the corner of the window the red runway end lights zipping toward us. N73123 wallowed into the air. The Convair sagged like one of Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25s taking off from a carrier deck. The end of the runway flashed under us. All I could see in the white blaze of the landing lights were trees. Tall trees of every specie tried to duck from our assault. We were below the tops of some of them. I swear I could hear the peaks of pines brushing against our main gear tires. At this juncture, most everyone screamed. The young woman next to me fainted. I can still hear the air escaping from her mouth as she slumped in her seat. My colon begged to be emptied.
The beleaguered Convair stabilized after the gear came up. The right engine was not shut down. I’m convinced if it had been, we would have discovered why tree trunks win against aluminum. Once the power was reduced to climb configuration, the right engine smoothed out, much to everyone’s prayers. We were now bolstered from “sure death” mode to “maybe we can walk away with only injuries.” The CV340 climbed slowly through the black murk, the left engine still vomiting sparks but down to a shower a minute instead of continuous. No PA announcement was ever made.
The aircraft made four turns in a holding pattern above Youngstown. The first ILS approach resulted in a missed approach. Everyone bit their nails when the engines were pushed to full power. I was an emotional wreck, now. My face was flushed; I could no longer be a symbol of strength for my neighbor who awakened briefly. I was wickedly reminded of the old pilot psalm that reads: “It is better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than to be flying and wishing you were on the ground.” To our astonishment, the engines behaved this time and climbed us back to approach altitude.
We landed on the second attempt. There were no movie-like cheers from the passengers. Everyone was wrung out. We sat like zombies until the airstair door opened. The pilots certainly had enough. Lake Central bused us and I arrived home at 2:00 a.m. Even Disney couldn’t give you an experience like that for $12.75.
Epilogue: Every time I came across N73123 in the field I would always smile a half smile and just shake my head. This airplane went on to a full and very productive life. Converted to a 580 by Lake Central in 1967, absorbed into Allegheny in 1968 as N5843, then to Mountainwest Airlines, Nor-Fly (Norway) as a freighter, and to Canada with Kelowna Flightcraft. She was finally exported to New Zealand in 1997 where she was current with Air Freight NZ as ZK-KFH. That airframe logbook is very thick.
Write Dave Nichols at email@example.com
Read Dave previous articles:
What Allegheny Meant To Me: CLICK HERE
A Day with Southern Airways: CLICK HERE
Mohawk’s Incredible Weekends Unlimited: CLICK HERE
All timetables, maps and logos kindly suppled by Airline Timetables.
Frontier Airlines (2nd) (Denver) has announced it will not operate the nonstop service it planned to launch between Durango, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada starting on October 4, 2012 due to a lack of demand.
Frontier will continue to provide service to Durango with daily flights to its hub in Denver.
Copyright Photo: Ton Jochems. Airbus A319-111 N939FR (msn 2448) lands at Las Vegas.
Southwest Airlines (Dallas) yesterday (August 22) introduced its latest state logojet (N230WN) named “Colorado One” in support of its operations at Denver International Airport.
The company issued the following statement:
“Southwest Airlines is taking its “LUV” for the state of Colorado to new heights by unveiling Colorado One, a Boeing 737-700 emblazoned with an artist’s rendition of the Colorado state flag! Southwest unveiled the newest specialty aircraft in the carrier’s fleet at a ceremony at Denver International Airport (DIA) with more than 500 local employees and community leaders, along with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, and Manager of Aviation for Denver International Airport, Kim Day.
The ceremony included attendees waiving Colorado flags, enjoying locally-made granola snacks, and cheering as Kelly, Governor Hickenlooper, Mayor Hancock, and Day closed the event by christening the aircraft amid fan-fare.
Southwest Airlines began service to Denver on Jan. 3, 2006, with 13 daily nonstop departures to three destinations. The airline currently operates 168 daily nonstop flights to 54 destinations from Denver.
Copyright Photo: Southwest Airlines. Boeing 737-7H4 N230WN (msn 34592) is also the 5,000th Boeing 737 built, a significant milestone aircraft.
Southwest-AirTran Destination Map:
Spirit Airlines (Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood) has announced schedules for new service to/from Los Cabos and Cancun, Mexico starting on November 8, 2012.
The new service includes one daily nonstop service between Los Cabos, Mexico (serving Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) and San Diego, with connecting service to Dallas/Fort Worth.
In addition, four weekly nonstop flights between Los Cabos, Mexico and Dallas/Fort Worth start on June 13, 2013.
Three weekly nonstop flights between Cancun, Mexico and Dallas/Fort Worth start on April 25, 2013, with service increasing to daily on June 13, 2013.
The company is also launching nonstop Dallas/Fort Worth-Philadelphia (four days a week) service on April 26, 2013 as it builds up its DFW hub.
Copyright Photo: Brian McDonough. Airbus A320-232 N607NK (msn 4595) taxies at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood hub.
Updated Route Map:
Lufthansa‘s (Frankfurt) 10,000 cabin staff (flight attendants) have rejected the latest contract proposal. The union will decide next week whether they will strike according to this report by Reuters.
Read the full report: CLICK HERE
Copyright Photo: Brian McDonough. Brand new Boeing 747-830 D-ABYA (msn 37827) climbs majestically away from Dulles International Airport near Washington.
Frontier Airlines (2nd) (Denver) today announced two new nonstop destinations from Orlando, Florida (MCO), bringing the carrier’s nonstop destinations served from Orlando to 13. Nonstop flights to both Columbia, Missouri (COU) and Shenandoah Valley, Virginia (SHD) will begin on November 20, 2012.
Is Frontier taking a page out of Allegiant’s book of serving vacation markets (like Orlando) from smaller underserved markets like Columbia and Shenandoah Valley? It is a departure from the past of serving mainly the biggest markets from its Denver hub.
With Allegiant now adding Airbus A319s in the future, is Frontier making itself into a potential future acquisition for Allegiant?
Orlando-Columbia (beginning Nov. 20, 2012)
|MCO-COU||1:50 p.m.||3:35 p.m.||Tues||A319|
|COU-MCO||4:15 p.m.||7:35 p.m.||Tues||A319|
|MCO-COU||8:00 a.m.||9:45 a.m.||Sat||A319|
|COU-MCO||10:25 a.m.||1:45 p.m.||Sat||A319|
Orlando-Shenandoah (beginning Nov. 20, 2012)
|MCO-SHD||7:30 a.m.||9:25 a.m.||Tues/Thurs||A319|
|SHD-MCO||10:05 a.m.||12:10 p.m.||Tues/Thurs||A319|
|MCO-SHD||7:00 a.m.||8:55 a.m.||Sun||A319|
|SHD-MCO||9:35 a.m.||11:40 a.m.||Sun||A319|
The new service will operate on 138-seat Airbus A319 aircraft.
Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing. Approaching Los Angeles is Frontier’s Airbus A319-112 N948FR (msn 2836). N948FR displays the image of Pete, the Pelican on the tail.
JetBlue Airways (New York) today announced its intent to serve Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, the largest destination in the British Overseas Territory’s archipelago. Beginning on November 15, 2012, the airline will serve Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) with three times weekly service on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Saturday service from Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) beginning on November 17, 2012.
Destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean now make up almost one-third of the carrier’s route network. Grand Cayman will be JetBlue’s 74th destination and the 23rd destination in the Caribbean. Earlier this month, JetBlue also announced intent to serve two other new Caribbean destinations: Cartagena, Colombia beginning on November 2, 2012 and Samana, Dominican Republic starting on November 14, 2012, both from New York’s JFK.
With this new addition, by the end of 2012 JetBlue will serve the following Latin American and Caribbean destinations: Aruba; The Bahamas (Nassau); Barbados; Bermuda; Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman); Colombia (Bogota and Cartagena); Costa Rica (Liberia and San Jose); Dominican Republic (La Romana, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Samana, Santiago and Santo Domingo); Jamaica (Kingston and Montego Bay); Mexico (Cancun); Puerto Rico (Aguadilla, Ponce and San Juan); St. Croix; St. Lucia; St. Maarten; St. Thomas; and, Turks and Caicos (Providenciales).
JetBlue’s schedule between New York and Grand Cayman:
|JFK to GCM:||GCM to JFK:|
|Depart – Arrive||Depart – Arrive|
|7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.||12:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.|
|- Flights operate three times weekly on Mon., Thurs., Sat.
beginning Thurs., Nov. 15 , 2012 –
- All times local -
JetBlue’s schedule between Boston and Grand Cayman:
|BOS to GCM:||GCM to BOS:|
|Depart – Arrive||Depart – Arrive|
|10:25 a.m. – 2:35 p.m.||3:30 p.m. – 7:25 p.m.|
|- Flights operate on Saturdays beginning Sat. Nov. 17, 2012 –
- All times local -
JetBlue’s flights to Grand Cayman from Boston and New York will be operated with its Airbus A320 aircraft.
Copyright Photo: Eric Dunetz. Airbus A320-232 N746JB in the New York Jets motif departs from JFK.
Routes from New York (JFK):
Pluna Lineas Aereas Uruguayas (Montevideo) will be shut down permanently according to a report by Reuters.
The government of Uruguay has decided to close down its bankrupt carrier after failing to find new investors to replace investment fund Leadgate which has pulled out. Uruguay assumed control over Pluna in June 2012 after Leadgate, which controlled a 75 percent stake, refused to contribute more capital according to Reuters.
The government is considering establishing a new flag carrier.
PLUNA (Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegación Aérea) was established in September 1936 and started operations on November 20, 1936.
Read the full report: CLICK HERE
Copyright Photo: Marcelo F. De Biasi. Pluna operated 13 Bombardier CRJ900s, each in an unique color and design.
BA CityFlyer (British Airways) (London-City) is bringing a bit of winter sunshine to London City Airport by extending its popular Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza flights to a year-round service.
At present the two Balearic Island destinations are summer-only but from October 2012 they will continue through the winter with two flights a week on Thursdays and Sundays.
Copyright Photo: Rolf Wallner.
Frontier Airlines (2nd) (Denver) today announced new nonstop service between Durango, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada beginning on October 4, 2012. The twice weekly nonstop service will operate using 138-seat Airbus A319 aircraft.
Following are schedules for the new service:
Durango – Las Vegas (beginning Oct. 4, 2012)
|LAS-DRO||5:59 p.m.||8:14 p.m.||Thur/Sun||A319|
|DRO-LAS||8:54 p.m.||9:09 p.m.||Thur/Sun||A319|
In other news, Frontier Airlines today also announced it will extend its nonstop seasonal service between Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg International Airport (MDT) and its Denver International Airport (DEN) hub through October 27, 2012. The carrier first launched the three weekly flights on May 24, 2012.
Following are schedules for the extended Harrisburg service:
Harrisburg-Denver (Sept. 7 – Oct. 27, 2012)
|DEN-MDT||4:40 p.m.||9:55 p.m.||
Wed, Fri, Sun
|MDT-DEN||9:47 a.m.||11:37 a.m.||Mon, Thur, Sat||A319|
Copyright Photo: Eddie Maloney.
Firefly (Fireflyz.com.my) (Subang) will introduce weekly scheduled charter service between Kuala Lumpur and Christmas Island in Australia from July 7. These services will be operated every Saturday, departing Kuala Lumpur at 9.20 am (0920) and arriving at Christmas Island at 10.55 am (1055). The return flight leaves Christmas Island at 11.55 am (1155) and arrives in Kuala Lumpur at 3.30 pm (1530). Firefly will utilize its Boeing 737-400 aircraft which has a seating capacity of 162 on this route.
The new services are a collaboration between the airline and Sunwise Nominees Pty Ltd doing business as Christmas Island Air.
Christmas Island is an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. It is 2,600 1,600 miles northwest of Perth, 220 miles south of Jakarta and 1,708 miles west of Darwin. Christmas Island is famous for tropical seabirds and red crabs.
|Flight No||Route||Departure||Arrival||Flight Time|
|FY8320||Kuala Lumpur/ Christmas Island||9.20am||10.55am||2 hours 35 min|
|FY8321||Christmas Island/ Kuala Lumpur||11.55am||3.30pm||2 hours 35 min|
Guest Editor Dave Nichols
Prop It Up
“What Allegheny Meant To Me”
By Dave Nichols.
The tower controller transmitted to the departing Convair 440 a mile off the end of the runway: “Allegheny 704, your right engine exhaust is much blacker than your left engine.” A static-filled simple answer followed in a gravelly voice: “OK, we’ll watch it.” The sound quality seemed like a transmission from the moon. And off they went to complete the two stops remaining to La Guardia. This was Allegheny Airlines to me.
Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati. This rare photo of short-lived Martin 202 N172A displays the original 1953 colors (click photo for additional details).
A well-worn and dimpled Martin 202 taxied in briskly with ice clinging to the radome, nose wheel strut bobbing up and down from the uneven ramp asphalt. At the instant of propeller shutdown, a small swarm of Allegheny ground staff would buzz around the airplane. Avgas pumping, bags trundling down the conveyor belt followed immediately by suitcases and mail going into the fuselage and belly bins. Deplaning passengers stepped quickly down the tail cone airstairs. Enplaning people would already be on the tarmac, protecting faces from the sharp wind of winter. The Martin’s big R2800 engines gave off steam into the frigid air. Light snowflakes swirled down from a leaden sky. The engine nacelles were covered in soot. Oil seeped from four places. Half a decal was loose and flapped in the wind. From the fence I could see the captain replacing approach plates and tidying up his half of the cockpit. The captain’s side window opened for a few seconds as two ounces of cold stale coffee dribbled to the ground. Several relaxed sentences passed between captain and co-pilot while, below, the lead ramp agent held up two fingers and made a twirling motion with his hand. This NASCAR-style pit stop of nine minutes was over. It was time to go, again, in a scene that would be played out eight times that day for the two pilots. A foot of flame belched from the exhaust outlet followed by a loud bark as the engine was awakened from its brief nap. When the airliner roared down the runway, its two, large, red rotating beacons mounted on top and below the fuselage gave eeriness to the sight. The Martinliner left the ground crisply and quickly returned to the gray overcast from whence it came. For a few seconds you could see just the two counter-rotating red beacons showing through the dense cloud cover, then just the bellowing of two radial engines at full throttle. This was Allegheny to me.
I was 12 years old and so hooked on the local service airlines. Just witnessing all that made the hairs on my body stand up as if electrified. The grittiness, the against- all-odds determination of the employees coupled with the pockmarked, greasy, wild old airliners were all too surreal for me. Through bad weather, weary airframes, out of date systems and troubling engines, Allegheny made it work. This was normal! They continued to grow.
I can still remember so much of commercial aviation during my youth. I always looked up when any airliner would fly over – always. I got yelled at by my Little League baseball coach for looking up at a Mohawk Convair 240, at the same time a fly ball was heading my way. I missed the catch and was forced to join the spares on the bench. He yelled to the whole team: “Now Nichols can watch all the friggin’ airplanes he wants!”
I also have a passion for Lake Central Airlines and Central Airlines. Allegheny, however, was my first flight and evolved into my hometown’s most dominant airline. My boyhood is permeated with scenes of Allegheny airplanes and its people.
I met Allegheny shortly after they started flying into my city of Erie, Pennsylvania in 1953. I was in the second grade. American Airlines first served ERI in 1938 with one lone DC-2 round-trip from Newark multi-stopping across central New York State, a virtual flag stop at Erie and on to Cleveland. Remember Ernest K. Gann writing that Erie was so boring they seldom looked out the side windows? Erie has this incredible natural peninsula and large harbor – how could that be boring? Anyway, AA got bored with Erie and received permission to drop it in 1953. AL was standing in line to replace them. ERI got 3 total round-trips in return: two Newark-Cleveland with five stops and one Atlantic City-Cleveland with six stops. Capital was the mainline carrier in ERI with service to their hub at Pittsburgh. (When Capital failed in 1961, Allegheny moved rapidly to fill the vacuum at PIT –- “and now you know the rest of the story”). By 1956, AL sported eight round-trips thru ERI, allowing Erieites same plane service to six Pennsylvania cities along with terminuses at Detroit, Cleveland, Washington D.C., Newark and Atlantic City.
Allegheny was the carrier always supplying more flights to more cities, even though Mohawk commenced Erie service in 1956 and Lake Central followed in 1957. Erie was the third largest city in PA at the time but all it offered as an airline terminal was a one-room wooden building. Can you picture a trunk line and three local service carriers all operating in that wooden building? Capital pulled out of ERI in late 1960, just before they ceased business altogether and were acquired by United. Lake Central was awarded the desirable ERI-PIT run. Allegheny management was livid but they got it back in 1968 with the acquisition of Lake Central.
Copyright Photo: Jacques Guillem Collection. Douglas C-47A-DL (DC-3) N151A makes a quick stop at Cleveland (CLE) (click on the photo for additional details).
My first flight on any airplane was ERI-CLE in an Allegheny DC-3. The morning westbound run to CLE in the summer of 1955 found an incredibly excited boy of nine flying unaccompanied to visit a cousin. What a bonus for me to have relatives in Cleveland. I worked on my parents for months to let me fly. “Hey mom and dad, you won’t have to drive the 100 miles to take me and pick me up.” The one-way fare was $7.05. At 10:39 a.m., AL 701 gurgled up to the white wooden building. The green and white DC-3, one of 14, had departed EWR at 7:50 a.m. and flown westward to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, then Bradford and Jamestown before landing at Erie. The airplane was plush to me, with thick upholstery, soft seats, curtains in the windows and carpet on the floor. All this fabric made the sounds softer and muted. About 10 people got on; I sat in the last row on the left side. There was a steward on board who offered us individually wrapped Chiclets gum on a silver tray. Now, this 45 minutes of incredible experience was to be mine. I had been at the Erie airport many times with my grandmother Carrie to pick up or drop off my grandfather Carle, who flew Capital weekly. My turn had come; this DC-3 had arrived here for me. The flight was wonderful, sightseeing perfect as we flew parallel to the Lake Erie shoreline and I got to see my first big airport operation at Cleveland.
December 1, 1955 Allegheny Timetable (courtesy of Airlinetimetables.com) showing flight 701 (third column) (click on the timetable to expand the size):
1955 Allegheny Route Map (courtesy of Airlinetimetables.com):
I loved the Allegheny DC-3s, flying in them perhaps a dozen times. I do not remember any mechanical breakdowns. The weather along Lake Erie is up and down on a continual basis. Despite the building cumulus or solid stratus down to minimums, I felt as safe as can be in those DC-3s.
Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection. Martin 202 N93205 is painted in the second “powder blue” 1960 livery which also introduced the “speed wedge” tail logo.
Then one day in 1959, I readied for yet another flight to CLE. (I hounded my parents a lot). Pressing my forehead to the fence at the old terminal, what should roll up but a Martin 202. It was huge, covered in streaked dirty oil and was mean looking. I had seen some Martins in the air on Allegheny’s Detroit route but the DC-3s had exclusively been used on the CLE runs – until now. My stomach sank and my bowels rumbled. I was afraid of this beast. A friend had barfed on a 202 from Harrisburg to Washington so I equated the Martin with easy to get sick on. However, boarding through the tail on the ventral stairs was cool. Holy cow, a really pretty stewardess; not just any stewardess but a genuine French stewardess! She was dressed in a modern uniform with the cutest beret. Claudette — yes, I have always remembered her name — was part of an exchange program between Allegheny and a French airline. I believe there were a dozen women who participated. Hey, if she was brave enough to fly on a 202, I could do it, too. The interior was striking and Allegheny is to be praised: powder blue headliner and side panels, with seat fabrics and curtains in a cream, tan and light blue weave. The airline found a way to tastefully dress up a ten year old heavily used airplane.
The Martinliner sat high off the ground, was noisy, great for short field take-offs and noticeably faster than the DC-3. Alternate runway 2-20 at ERI was only 3500 feet and occasionally the 202s would use it if the wind was up and the temperature down. Being unpressurized, the 202 was limited to a ceiling of 8,000 feet MSL, maximum. By 1961, no Allegheny DC-3s graced the tarmac at ERI or posed next to the new concrete and brick terminal. For three more years all AL flights through my home were 202s. I flew on the “Martin Executives” throughout high school and part of college. After all the years, when I think of Allegheny, the image of a battle-worn Martin pops into my head. I was always half excited and half fearful every time I climbed aboard. It was a rush, though. The only other airliner that gave me the same love/scared feeling was the Lockheed 188 Electra.
Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum. Convair 440-97 N8422H prepares for departure from a crowded Philadelphia ramp (click on the photo for additional details).
The summer of 1964 brought Allegheny Convair 440 service to my hometown. Two years later, the first 580 conversion touched down on the 6500-foot runway 6-24. At the same time, July 1966, AL retired its Martin fleet, save for a standby aircraft and two Cargoliners. I flew as a passenger on one of the last Allegheny Martin 202 revenue flights, captained by Bob Fox.
Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum. The Convair 580 upgrade extended the life of the Convair 340/440 fleet.
In 1968, I would be reunited with a former Allegheny Martin, N93209, and be able to fly it. That was a full circle and emotional experience for me. I was handling the controls and switches that hundreds of Allegheny pilots had done before me. The other pilots I worked with couldn’t understand how I felt. After all, it was just a battered, greasy, noisy and mean looking airplane.
Note: Allegheny Airlines became USAir on October 28, 1979 and US Airways on February 27, 1997. Today US Airways, along with US Airways Shuttle and US Airways Express, operates more than 3,200 flights per day and serves more than 200 communities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Central and South America. The airline employs more than 32,000 aviation professionals worldwide, operates the world’s largest fleet of Airbus aircraft and is a member of the Star Alliance network, which offers its customers more than 20,500 daily flights to 1,293 airports in 190 countries. Together with its US Airways Express partners, the airline serves approximately 80 million passengers each year and operates hubs in Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia and Phoenix, and a focus city in Washington, D.C. at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
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