Copyright Photo: Frontier Airlines (1st) Convair 580 N73163 (msn 366) DAL (Bruce Drum). Image: 105571.
US Airways (American Airlines) (American Airlines Group) (Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth) is currently operating under a single AOC with American Airlines (Dallas/Fort Worth). However it has been using the US code for its flights. This will all end on October 16-17 when it operates a ceremonial last flight (flight US1939, named after the year All American Aviation started operations). The airline has announced the details of the last flight. Flight US1939 will operate on October 16 from Philadelphia to Charlotte, then on to Phoenix and San Francisco and then back to Charlotte arriving on October 17 at 0618. Tragically the last US flight will not touch Pittsburgh where it all started.
Above Copyright Photo: Tony Storck/AirlinersGallery.com. US Airways Airbus A321-231 N578UW (msn 6035) now with “American” titles will be retained in the 2005 US Airways livery as the US Airways legacy aircraft.
The chronology of All American/Allegheny Airlines/USAir/US Airways (by US Airways):
All American Aviation brings the first airmail service to many small western Pennsylvania and Ohio Valley communities with introduction of a unique ‘flying post office’ service.
Piedmont Airlines begins operations.
All American Aviation becomes All American Airways and makes the transition from airmail to passenger service with introduction of the DC-3 and an expansion of its service. Pacific Southwest Airlines begins operations with service in California.
Above: Allegheny Airlines’ 1953 Route Map.
All American’s route system (above) grows and the name is changed to Allegheny Airlines, recognizing the mountains and river of the same name that lie in the heart of the airline’s network.
Allegheny Airlines begins the transition to turbine-powered aircraft with introduction of the first Convair 580, its workhorse for the next several years.
The first jet, a Douglas DC-9-14 (below), makes its debut in Allegheny colors. It is replaced the following year by the first of what would eventually become a fleet of 62 larger Douglas DC-9-31 jets (below).
Above: Allegheny Airlines 1966 Route Map.
The first Allegheny Commuter service begins, between Hagerstown, MD and Baltimore/Washington International Airport by Henson Aviation, forerunner of today’s Piedmont Airlines. It was the beginning of today’s network of 10 regional airlines that provide US Airways Express service to 172 cities throughout the nation.
Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Nord 262A-12 N26203 (msn 13) of Lake Central Airlines.
Allegheny merges with Indianapolis-based Lake Central Airlines, expanding the growing route network beyond Pittsburgh to the Midwest including Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati, OH; Indianapolis, IN; and St. Louis, MO.
Allegheny acquires Mohawk Airlines, a Utica, NY airline with service to most cities throughout New York and New England. With the merger, Allegheny acquired Mohawk’s BAC 1-11 jets to complement its DC-9s and becomes the sixth largest airline in the world as measured by passenger boardings.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Mohawk’s Fairchild-Hiller FH-227B N7819M (msn 542) carries an additional Allegheny sticker at Syracuse.
Deregulation comes to the U.S. airline industry. Airlines have new freedom to expand their route systems and more flexibility to develop new and innovative pricing structures, but lose the protection of the fare- and route-setting authorities exercised by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which closes down by 1984.
Allegheny changes its name to USAir to reflect its expanding network, including post-deregulation entry into Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida and later, California.
America West Airlines begins operations in Phoenix on August 1 with 230 employees and three Boeing 737-200s, serving Colorado Springs, CO; Kansas City, KS; Los Angeles, CA; and Wichita, KS. The airline’s schedule calls for 20 daily departures.
Above Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Leased Boeing 737-275 C-GCPW (msn 20959) of America West Airlines in the original 1983 livery lands at Las Vegas.
Above: The original 1983 route map for America West Airlines.
USAir introduces its Frequent Traveler program, which provides travel benefits to USAir’s most loyal customers.
Piedmont acquires Empire Airlines and its Syracuse, NY hub.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Empire Airlines (2nd) Fokker F.28 Mk. 4000 N110UR (msn 11182) taxies from the gate at the Syracuse hub.
Large-scale airline consolidation, a partial product of deregulation, continues. Piedmont Airlines introduces European routes in its system. Competition for the lucrative California market intensifies as local carriers are bought and merged into larger partners. Pacific Southwest Airlines of San Diego becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of USAir Group in May. Piedmont Airlines, the dominant carrier throughout the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, also becomes a subsidiary of USAir Group in November 1987.
PSA is merged into USAir.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. PSA’s BAe 146-200 N384PS (msn E2024) taxies to the runway at San Jose, California.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 737-301 N316P (msn 23234) taxies at Miami.
Piedmont Airlines is integrated into USAir, the largest merger in airline history. The merger brings with it Piedmont’s international routes as well as its Charlotte, Baltimore, Dayton and Syracuse hubs. Baltimore and Charlotte remain hubs. The merger also brings USAir’s first wide body jets, the Boeing 767-200 ERs now used on its transatlantic and some transcontinental routes.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 767-2B7 ER N651US (msn 24764) taxies to the gate at MIA dressed in the 1989 color scheme.
USAir expands its international flying with service between Pittsburgh and Frankfurt, Germany, complementing existing Charlotte-London service begun in 1987 by Piedmont; and in 1991, international expansion continues with the introduction of new nonstops between Charlotte and Frankfurt.
Philadelphia-Paris is added to USAir’s transatlantic schedules in January. Daily nonstops between both Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington International Airport and London Gatwick Airport are introduced in May.
USAir and Trump Shuttle begin a marketing affiliation under which the service becomes the USAir Shuttle. The Shuttle provided hourly service between New York and Boston and between New York and Washington, DC.
Above Copyright Photo: Denis Goodwin – Bruce Drum Collection/AirlinersGallery.com.
USAir’s new terminal at New York LaGuardia opens, as does the new Midfield Terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport.
USAir and British Airways announce an investment/alliance plan, under which USAir gives up its London route authority.
USAir posts its first profitable year since 1988, with earnings of $119.3 million on sales of $7.474 billion. USAir introduces Priority TravelWorksSM, allowing bookings from personal computers.
Stephen M. Wolf is elected chairman effective January 22. Seth E. Schofield retires as chairman after 38 years’ service to the company and three and a half years and chief executive. USAir continues its transatlantic expansion, winning the right to serve Munich, Rome and Madrid from Philadelphia beginning in 1996. USAir introduces ticketless travel. USAir, in a dramatic two-week period, announces what might in time be the largest single order for airliners; then announces a new name, image, identity designed to carry the airline aggressively into the next century. The airline ordered up to 400 new Airbus A319, A320 and A321 narrowbody twin jets for delivery starting in 1998 and continuing through 2009; then within days announced its new identity as US Airways.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 757-2B7 N940UW (msn 27805) displays its new dark blue 1997 livery which tended to fade.
The airline challenged its relationship with British Airways in court, seeking rights to London Heathrow from four U.S. gateways and to require British Airways to dispose of its USAir stock. USAir notifies BA the codeshare between the two will end in March, 1997, and in December, British Airways announces it will sell its shares in USAir and that its three directors will resign.
The name US Airways is put into use officially on February 27. Signs, stationery, ticket stock, business cards, advertisements, marketing materials, ticket folders and counters all start to sport the new US Airways blue, red, gray and white identity, and the first aircraft are painted in the new scheme as the changeover approaches. The US-BA codeshare expires in March.
US Airways Inc., purchased Shuttle Inc., from a consortium of banks. The Shuttle has flown under the US Airways name since 1992, when US Airways became an investor in the Shuttle with a minority ownership stake. US Airways Shuttle flies 17 daily roundtrips between Boston and New York LaGuardia, and 16 daily roundtrips between New York LaGuardia and Washington Reagan.
MetroJet by US Airways starts service, providing the airline with a low-fare unit to compete in the eastern United States. MetroJet’s single-class, using Boeing 737-200 aircraft, proves highly popular.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 737-2B7 N269AU (msn 22881) displays the unique red fuselage 1998 livery.
Above: MetroJet routes in 2000.
US Airways Express introduces regional jets to its system.
US Airways fleet transformation begins with the introduction of the first of as many as 400 Airbus A320-family aircraft.
US Airways first Airbus A320 aircraft enters service with scheduled daily flights between Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The new 142-seat A320 is part of the US Airways plan to simplify and modernize the fleet by adding Airbus A319, A320 and A330-300 aircraft. US Airways expands its international route network by adding nonstop service between its Charlotte, NC hub and London Gatwick. Charlotte becomes the third US Airways transatlantic gateway.
Colgan Air, Inc. joins the US Airways Express nine-carrier network, expanding service to destinations across the East Coast from Bar Harbor, ME to Atlanta, GA.
The fleet transformation continues with A320-family aircraft arriving at a rate of one per week in the second half of the year.
The US Airways Shuttle begins its transformation to an all A320 fleet (below), retiring the venerable Boeing 727s.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A320-214 N106US (msn 1044) for a short time wore US Airways Shuttle titles. This A320 would later be ditched in the Hudson River.
US Airways unveils its enhanced and redeveloped website, usairways.com, originally launched in 1996, offering customer-friendly features that include a streamlined process for checking fares, making reservations, purchasing tickets, checking flight status and accessing Dividend Miles account information. The site begins drawing more than 600,000 visitors a week. US Airways begins service to its eighth European destination with the introduction of Philadelphia-Manchester, UK service. US Airways opens an international reservations center in Liverpool, UK.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 737-301 N350US (msn 23553) wore this unique “No booking fees No brainer” livery to promote the new website.
US Airways takes delivery of its first Airbus A330-300 widebody aircraft, making the next step in its fleet transformation. Six A330s will enter the fleet by the end of the year.
Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A330-323 N276AY (msn 375) prepares to land at the Charlotte hub.
US Airways becomes the first carrier to fly the 169-seat Airbus A321. In addition to a common cockpit, which vastly simplifies pilot training and scheduling, US Airways’ A320-family aircraft also have common cabin fittings, such as seats, overhead bins, galleys and lavatories, simplifying cabin service and maintenance.
David N. Siegel takes over as US Airways president and CEO in March, naming other new members of the senior management team over the next several months and undertaking a proactive restructuring plan for the company. As part of the restructuring, US Airways enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on August 11, with the stated goal to emerge as a leaner, more competitive carrier in March 2003.
US Airways begins implementation of a codeshare agreement with United Airlines, introducing customers of both airlines to more than 3,000 codeshare flight segments in the first half of the year, reciprocal airport club use and simplified ticketing and baggage procedures.
Midway Airlines joins the US Airways Express ten-carrier network, bringing expanded regional jet service to destinations such as Jacksonville, FL and Myrtle Beach, SC.
US Airways joins the Star Alliance network, an alliance of member airlines that share networks, lounge access, check-in services, ticketing and other services.
US Airways Group, Inc. files again for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy code on September 14, seeking to restructure operating costs in light of ever-increasing fuel prices and cutthroat industry competition.
America West Holdings and US Airways Group, Inc. announce plans to merge on May 19. Former America West Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker is chosen to run the combined airline.
In August, America West and US Airways unveil the livery that will appear on the aircraft of the new US Airways. Employees of both airlines, some sporting ‘retro’ uniforms heralding back to various periods in the airlines’ pasts, celebrate the new paint scheme as a freshly painted Airbus A320 makes its way across the country, stopping for special events with union leaders of both airlines.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A320-214 N109UW (msn 1065) departs from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in the 2005 livery.
The merger transaction is officially complete on September 27, and US Airways Group, Inc. is no longer in bankruptcy. Stock of the merged airline begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the LCC ticker symbol.
Throwback liveries are dedicated mirroring the schemes of PSA, Piedmont, Allegheny and America West. Events are held in the progenitor airlines’ hub cities. The airline posts profits for both the first and second quarters of the year, surpassing analyst expectations and contributing tens of millions of dollars to employee profit sharing programs. The airline employs more than 35,000 aviation professionals and its route map encompasses 3,800+ daily flights serving 239 destinations and 28 countries/territories.
Above Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A319-112 N744P (msn 1287) departs from Charlotte in the legacy Piedmont livery.
US Airways agreed to add seven Airbus A330-200s to the airline’s widebody fleet to be used to support the airline’s international growth plans.
The airline obtained a single operating certificate from the FAA, hired a new Chief Operating Officer (COO), Robert Isom, and announced plans to build a new 60,000-square-foot flight operations control center in Pittsburgh.
US Airways inaugurated its first-ever service to London Heathrow from its international gateway in Philadelphia. US Airways also announced plans to operate year-round, daily nonstop service to Tel Aviv from Philadelphia, scheduled to begin July 2009. US Airways announced three new transatlantic flights to begin spring 2009: Birmingham, UK and Oslo, Norway from Philadelphia; and Paris Charles de Gaulle from Charlotte. Transatlantic flights in 2009 will total 27 daily flights to 23 destinations.
US Airways successfully activated the airline’s new, state-of-the-art Operations Control Center in Pittsburgh where all flight control and dispatch functions for US Airways’ 1,300 daily mainline flights are carried out.
On January 15, the crew of flight 1549, bound from New York LaGuardia to Charlotte successfully ditched their crippled aircraft in the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew survived.
US Airways was awarded and began year-round service from its Charlotte hub to Rio de Janeiro, resumed its Charlotte to Paris service and began service from Charlotte to Rome. Also in 2009, the airline began nonstop flights from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv and from Phoenix to Montego Bay. During the year, the airline entered into codeshare agreements with Qatar Airways, ANA and TACA.
In the third quarter US Airways announced an airport slot transaction with Delta Air Lines. Upon regulatory approval, US Airways will obtain 42 pairs of slots (roundtrip flights) at Washington Reagan and will acquire the rights to expand to Sao Paulo and Tokyo. US Airways will transfer to Delta 125 pairs of slots used to provide US Airways Express service at New York LaGuardia. US Airways also announced that, once the transaction is complete, the airline would provide service to 15 new destinations from Washington Reagan. The airline announced that the transaction is expected to improve profitability by more than $75 million annually.
In October, US Airways announced a strategic plan to strengthen its core network by realigning its operational focus on its hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix and its focus city Washington, DC. These four cities, as well as the airline’s hourly Shuttle service between New York LaGuardia, Boston and Washington Reagan will serve as the cornerstone of the airline’s network and will present 99 percent of the airline’s available seat miles, compared to the 93 percent in 2009, by the end of 2010.
In March, the airline launched wireless internet through Gogo® Inflight Internet on five of its Airbus A321 aircraft, with the remaining fleet of A321 aircraft outfitted by June. Gogo allows passengers to use their laptops or Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices to access the web, email, log in to corporate Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and access online entertainment options.
In May, Delta and US Airways announced a new agreement to transfer takeoff and landing rights at New York’s LaGuardia and Washington D.C.’s Reagan National airports, which will enable Delta and US Airways to expand service and increase competition at two of the nation’s key cities, and provide the opportunity for additional access to LaGuardia and Reagan National for new entrants and airlines with a limited presence at the airports.
Under the agreement, Delta would acquire 132 slot pairs at LaGuardia from US Airways and US Airways would acquire from Delta 42 slot pairs at Reagan National and the rights to operate additional daily service to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015, and Delta would pay US Airways $66.5 million in cash. In addition, the airlines will divest 16 slot pairs at LaGuardia and eight slot pairs at Reagan National to airlines with limited or no service at those airports. The completion of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including government and regulatory approvals. A slot pair is the authority to operate one takeoff and one landing.
Also in July, the Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively approved the proposed slot transaction, announced in May, at New York-LaGuardia and Washington-Reagan National airports.
In October, Delta Air Lines and US Airways welcomed the decision by the Department of Transportation to approve the proposed slot transaction at New York-LaGuardia and Washington-Reagan National airports, subject to certain conditions. The DOT’s final order represents a clear recognition by the Obama Administration that the slot transaction is in the public interest because of the service benefits and efficiencies that would result in both New York and Washington, D.C.
US Airways: A Heritage Story. By William Lehman.
Founded in 1937, Allegheny Airlines started its life as All-American Airways. Like several other airlines, it began by carrying airmail for the United States Post Office. All-American started airmail service on March 12, 1939, using the single-engine Stinson Reliant aircraft serving several small communities in western Pennsylvania and the Ohio valley. All-American crafted a unique tail-hook, which hung beneath the aircraft to pick up the cloth mail bags, using the same techniques that the railroads had developed in the late 19th century.
After the end of World War II, with a huge surplus of military aircraft that could quickly be converted to carry passengers, the Civil Aeronautics Board started getting swamped with applications from the airmail carriers to be allowed to carry passengers.
All-American was no exception, which was now designated as a local-service airline. The C.A.B. issued All-American a three-year temporary certificate to carry passengers in January 1949; however, passenger service did not begin until March 7, 1949, using a recently acquired Douglas DC-3 which was configured to carry 24 passengers, 2 pilots, and a stewardess. The C.A.B.’s authority for All-American covered Maryland, New York, Ohio, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania.
Already, as of November 1949, All-American was flying 28 flights a day to 36 cities in six states. All-American decided that Pittsburgh would be a good home base for this local-service carrier, which was becoming one of aviation’s early success stories thanks to a route system centered around heavy industry and the East Coast, which was the most densely populated part of the United States. At the time, because of where All-American flew, passengers and employees alike starting calling it “the Allegheny Airline” or “Route of the Allegheny’s.”
Above Copyright Photo: Jacques Guillem Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Allegheny Airlines’ Douglas C-47A-DL (DC-3) N151A (msn 9471) is pictured in the 1953 “boomerang” livery.
On January 1, 1953, All-American officially became Allegheny Airlines, with 13 DC-3’s making up the fleet. As the 1950’s marched on, Allegheny’s growth continued, but the DC-3’s were limited in range. Allegheny needed another type of aircraft that was capable of flying farther. At the same time, two airlines – California Central and Pioneer Airlines – put several used Martin 202 aircraft that had flown earlier for TWA and Northwest Orient Airlines up for sale. Acquiring the Martin 202’s became the focus of Allegheny’s expansion plans.
Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Martin 202 N172A (msn 9142) rests between flights in the first livery worn by the Martins.
The first Martin 202 began service with Allegheny on June 1, 1955. The Martin 202, like the DC-3, was unpressurized, but the “Martin Executive”, as they were called, quickly became a favorite among businessmen. On January 1, 1956, Allegheny was issued a permanent certificate to carry passengers by the C.A.B. By now, Allegheny had expanded to sixty cities with a fleet of 14 DC-3’s and 5 Martin 202’s; the airline was so happy with the performance and range of the Martin 202 that it would eventually acquire and operate a total fleet of 18 aircraft.
Toward the end of the 1950’s, several local-service airlines needed to move beyond the piston airplanes that had faithfully and safely carried thousands of passengers to the more powerful and reliable turbo-props, and Allegheny Airlines was no exception.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. A busy ramp scene at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) as Convair 440-97 N8422H (msn 465) prepares to depart the gate. The propliner is painted in the 1965 livery with the slanted italic titles.
Earlier, Convair Aircraft Corporation of San Diego had produced the popular Convair 340 and Convair 440 aircraft. Due to the arrival of the Lockheed Electra plus the Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 707 jet aircraft, several Convairs were being parked and stored in the deserts of California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. This rare photo shows the short-lived Napier-powered Convair 540 N440EL (msn 445) parked at the gate.
The Napier Engine Company in England recognized this as an opportunity and immediately began work on converting the reciprocal piston engines to turbo-props for the Convair aircraft. Allegheny management quickly seized this opportunity and leased the aircraft now called the Convair 540 (above), which began service with the carrier on July 1, 1959. Allegheny leadership realized that the Convair 540 was the right choice for replacing the DC-3’s. The Convair 540’s were pressurized, a first for Allegheny, carried 44 passengers, flew faster, at greater attitudes, and had higher daily utilization than the DC-3’s and the Martin 202’s.
Allegheny had decided that it was time to start retiring the DC-3’s and Martin 202’s as they were starting to show their age, so an aggressive program to acquire more Convair 340 and 440 aircraft was started with eventual plans to convert all aircraft to Convair 540 standards with the turbo-prop conversion.
At the same time the Board of Directors for Allegheny decided to change the corporate logo from a “boomerang” to the “speed wedge” (above), which would stay with Allegheny well into the 1970’s. In addition the operations and maintenance base was moved from Washington National Airport in Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh.
However, across the pond in England, Rolls Royce acquired Napier Engine Company. Immediately, Rolls Royce decided they would discontinue the conversion program after only seven aircraft had been delivered to Allegheny. This forced Allegheny to convert some of the Convair 540’s back to piston-driven Convair 340 or 440’s. At the same time Allegheny acquired additional Martin 202’s and Convair 440’s so that the DC-3’s could be phased out and removed from the fleet.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. The Allison Convair 580 turboprop conversion is seen on N5845 (msn 52).
In 1965, United States-based Allison Engine Corporation, which had been already providing turbo-prop engines for the Lockheed Electra and military C-130 aircraft, offered the power plant for retrofitting existing Convair airframes. Called the Convair 580, it had powerful four-blade turbo-prop engines that quickly shaved minutes off of the piston driven Convair 340 and 440’s. The Convair 580 captured the attention of Allegheny management in Pittsburgh. Without hesitation, Allegheny added this “new” turboprop to the fleet. Allegheny would eventually operate 44 Convair 580 “vistaliner” (above) aircraft.
Above Copyright Photo: Ted J. Gibson/Bruce Drum Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. The Fairchild F-27J were relatively short-lived type with Allegheny Airlines. F-27J N2707J (msn 118) sits at Marana, AZ after its retirement.
Later that same year, Allegheny also acquired the first of ten brand new Fairchild F-27J aircraft (above). With its Rolls Royce Dart turbo-prop-powered engines, high wing, and large oval windows, it was an instant hit with passengers and crews. With the introduction of the F-27 Allegheny started retiring the Martin 202 aircraft. Three Martin 202’s would be reconfigured to carry freight aircraft only.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. The very first jetliner for Allegheny Airlines/USAir/US Airways was this leased Douglas DC-9-14 registered as N6140A (msn 47049). This rare photo shows N6140A ground-loading its passengers at Philadelphia bound for Hartford/Springfield and Providence.
Allegheny Airlines knew that the jet age had arrived for local-service carriers. West Coast-based Bonanza Airlines needed to lease out a Douglas DC-9-14 aircraft (above) that had been recently delivered to them due to a downturn in traffic. Allegheny entered into a one-year lease agreement with Bonanza Airlines with the first Allegheny jet flight taking place on September 1, 1966.
Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 N969VJ (msn 47421) displays the updated 1966 livery introduced with the DC-9s.
Allegheny would receive their first Douglas DC-9-31“vista-jets” in mid 1967 and immediately place the aircraft into service. This would be the first of more than 70 of the popular twinjet and the start of a long and positive relationship with Douglas and its successor McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation.
In September 1967, Allegheny retired the last of the piston powered Convair 440 aircraft. For the first time, Allegheny operated a pure turbo-prop and jet aircraft fleet, made up of Convair 580’s, Fairchild F-27’s, and Douglas DC-9’s.
The first of what would be several mergers occurred on March 14, 1968, when the Civil Aeronautics Board approved the acquisition of Lake Central Airlines by Allegheny. Allegheny was able to further expand the route system and with the merger pick up important new cities in Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois.
Above Copyright Photo: Jacques Guillem Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. French-built Nord 262A-44 N26203 (msn 11) is painted in the special “wine and cheese” livery. The airliner was also named “Nicole d’Allegheny” in concert with the French theme.
The merger also brought more Convair 580’s, plus a new type of aircraft not previously flown by Allegheny called the Nord 262 aircraft (above). The twelve 29-seat French built Nord 262’s would become a huge headache for Allegheny Operations and Maintenance personnel, due to continuous issues with the Turbomeca Bastan turbo-prop engines that then proved to be very unreliable. Eventually Frakes Aviation in the United States would work to convert the engines to the much more reliable Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engines to finally solve the problem. At the same time the Nord 262 was renamed the Mohawk 298.
Allegheny made a bold experiment with Mohawk 298 aircraft by repainting nine of the twelve aircraft in a purple and gold paint scheme and naming them after flight attendants. The plan was to promote a business atmosphere with select wine and cheese on flights targeting the business community. While this did not last long it did prove to be very popular with passengers.
The Mohawk 298 would go on to faithfully serve Allegheny and the spin-off of the nations first organized commuter feeder to mainline airlines called Allegheny Commuter.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. The Nord-converted Mohawk 298 N29811 (msn 42), operated as an Allegheny Commuter carrier by Ransome Airlines (Philadelphia), sits at the gate at Philadelphia.
After the merger with Mohawk Airlines, and with the final phase-out of the Martin 202 aircraft, Allegheny found that several cities could not support the larger turbo-prop and jet aircraft due to either small populations or small airports. In 1967, with approval from the C.A.B. the Allegheny Commuter network was set-up. Allegheny Airlines set up marketing agreements with several small commuter airlines that included one-stop check in and seamless travel from the commuter network to mainline Allegheny flights. This included painting aircraft similar to Allegheny as well as providing advertising and marketing.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. The Boeing 727-200s were operated on the higher-density routes such as Philadelphia-Pittsburgh. This rare photo shows Boeing 727-2B7 N751VJ (msn 20303) departing from Philadelphia.
By mid 1970 Allegheny purchased two brand new Boeing 727-200 aircraft (above) to add capacity to the fleet. However, with the addition of a Flight Engineer, and the high cost of maintaining just two aircraft, Allegheny sold both aircraft to Braniff International as the home office had decided to stay with the twin jet DC-9 and found other airlines willing to lease their DC-9 series 30 aircraft at very reasonable lease rates.
Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. BAC 1-11 204AF N1118J (msn 100) taxies at the former Syracuse, New York stronghold of Mohawk Airlines.
The second merger with Mohawk Airlines was approved by the C.A.B. on April 12, 1972. In the merger Mohawk brought to Allegheny twenty-three BAC One Eleven’s (above) and seventeen Fairchild Hiller FH-227s.
At the time Mohawk was in deep financial trouble and needed the merger to survive. Shortly after the merger was approved, Allegheny purchased additional BAC One-Eleven aircraft from Braniff International, which was phasing out that aircraft type.
By late 1973, Allegheny had continued to grow to become the sixth largest airline. Allegheny leadership continued to aggressively pursue new route opportunities and had a constant presence in Washington D.C. to push for more cities to be added to Allegheny’s network. At the same time, Allegheny was able to purchase additional DC-9-32s from Delta Air Lines, which had earlier merged with Northeast Airlines.
By 1974 Allegheny decided that a new paint scheme and rebranding was in order. The current paint scheme was worn out and dated. Gone was the speed-wedge and blue cheatline that had faithfully served Allegheny for over thirty years. The bold new paint scheme featured a large stripe that went from red at the nose to maroon by the tail, with a three-stripe tail in bright red, dark red, and maroon.
At the same time, while other airlines were introducing First Class on their DC-9’s, Allegheny decided against it. Instead, Allegheny used the “Custom Jet Class” to promote the all-coach configuration with new interiors that provided ample legroom with new seats, and overhead bins to give the aircraft a “wide-body” look.
Above Copyright Photo: Elliot H. Greenman/Bruce Drum Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Short-lived McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51 N923VJ (msn 47665) rests at the Pittsburgh International Airport maintenance base in the new 1975 livery.
The new look premiered with a new aircraft type: the DC-9-51 aircraft in 1975. This new airplane provided more capacity, and kept costs down as it was simply a stretch of the DC-9-31 aircraft. Allegheny thought this would achieve the balance in higher density markets that had been tried five years earlier with Boeing 727-200’s.
However, shortly after delivery of eight aircraft, the DC-9-51 was severely weight-restricted in several key Allegheny markets. What was originally thought would be a benefit was now another headache; reduced passenger capacity, and less ability to carry mail or airfreight made the aircraft too expensive for Allegheny’s needs.
Allegheny and Eastern Airlines entered into an agreement to swap Allegheny’s DC-9-51’s for an equal amount of Eastern’s DC-9-31’s. The final transaction was completed in 1978.
Also in 1978, Allegheny phased out the last Convair 580. While the Convair 580 continued to serve the airline well, a decision was made to have a pure jet fleet and have Allegheny Commuter continue to operate the 580’s. Allegheny was now a pure-jet airline flying BAC One- Eleven and DC-9-31/32 aircraft, with the exception of the 12 Mohawk 298’s.
Allegheny continued to push the C.A.B. for more routes in the midwest and west. While frustration was mounting over lengthy hearings and long delays in being awarded new routes or raising airfares, the mood in Washington D.C. was changing. Airlines such as Texas International, Ozark, Piedmont, Hughes Airwest, and Allegheny called for the end of a regulated market, and lobbied heavily for full deregulation of the airline industry.
In late 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the “deregulation act,” which would forever change the industry. Allegheny no longer needed permission or approval to start or stop service and for the first time could set its own fare structure.
As deregulation marched forward United Airlines starting parking older Boeing 727-100 aircraft. Allegheny acquired eleven of the popular tri-jet, while at the same time aggressively ordering additional DC-9-30’s from McDonnell Douglas and new 727-200s from Boeing.
Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Ex-United Airlines Boeing 727-22 N7044U (msn 18851) is pictured at Pittsburgh.
At the same time, then Chairman and President Ed Colodny decided the name Allegheny Airlines sounded too regional, especially with planned expansion to the west, which had been a long-time goal of Allegheny. After receiving board approval, Mr. Colodny announced to the world that Allegheny Airlines would become USAir on October 28, 1979.
Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Initially the re-named USAir would operate under the 1975 Allegheny livery. USAir (later US Airways) was a large Boeing 737 operator, operating the pictured 737-200 type along with the updated 737-300 and 737-400 models.
The new USAir would retain the Allegheny paint scheme, and proudly have the new name placed on the upper forward fuselage and tail. However, the white fuselage would give way to a polished aluminum aircraft, which would weigh less, and save money, a technique used successfully for many years at American Airlines. For USAir, this was just another chapter in the story of a great airline.
The Allegheny Airlines Fleet:
Douglas DC-3 24 — 1953-1966
Martin 202 5 — 1959-1963
Convair 340 17 — 1960-1967
Douglas DC-3 11 — 1948-1962
Convair 440 27 — 1962-1974
Convair 580 40 — 1965-1978
Fairchild F-27J/Fairchild-Hiller FH-227 27 — 1965-1974
Nord 262 13 — 1968-1977
Mohawk 298 9 — 1975-1979
Douglas DC-9-14 1 — 1965-1966
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31/32 70 — 1966-1979
Boeing 727-100 11 — 1978-1979
Boeing 727-200 2 — 1970-1971
BAC One-Eleven 31 — 1972-1979
Guest Editor Dave Nichols
Ball Peen Hammers and Earth Worms
By Dave Nichols
I was on the jump seat of a 727 shortie operated by a major carrier. We were on a regular passenger flight from Houston to Cleveland, then on to Buffalo and New York-LaGuardia. Ah yes, the days of point-to-point flying. During 1976, many air traffic control facilities were doing reciprocal arrangements between pilots and controllers. Each would walk a mile in the other’s shoes. I was spending the day with this crew. Next week, they would come to approach control in Houston and “plug in” with me and closely observe radar air traffic control. I participated in a lot of these programs. As a pilot and controller, I enjoyed both sides of the fence. About 20% of the controllers at Houston Approach were active pilots. Six of us were dyed in the wool, over the edge aviation addicts. When we weren’t controlling we were flying light planes or jump seating with air carriers to broaden our knowledge. As a commercial pilot I did not get a break with a major air carrier. Jump seat privilege helped me fill my personal jet gap.
The flight today was going to play chicken with an easterly moving squall line, somewhere west of Cleveland. The captain was hoping it would move fast enough to rumble across CLE before we got there. Not to be: the line of thunderstorms was 20 miles west of Cleveland when we arrived, so we were assigned a holding pattern 40 miles west. The stack was filling up – about 10 aircraft, all 1000 feet apart vertically, flying the racetrack pattern. Above us was a Northwest DC-10; I remember this because it seemed like only 500 feet due to its size. As we sliced in and out of small cumulus clouds I could see the wide-body up there just ahead of us. It looked like we were maneuvering to perform in-flight refueling. Just below our level was a North Central Convair 580.
Airline captains have a common thread: they like to be in charge and in control. I don’t blame them. When holding in time consuming and fuel eating stacks they become antsy. The schedule is flitting away and the fuel remaining starts gnawing at the planning side of their brains. They are stuck on a treadmill. Transmissions to controllers become more frequent. “Has that squall line moved east of the airport yet?” and “Say surface winds now,” and the infamous “Could you vector us around the end?” Impatience is present in all professions and at all levels.
What I have noticed through the years about holding pattern etiquette is it only takes one airliner to leave the hold and several others will follow. After a few minutes, some remaining captains feel they are being shuttled to the rear of the line and they start requesting to head inbound. Sometimes this chain of events happens too soon. The controller knows the heavy weather will not be gone before the first airplane starts the approach. He has the big picture. On today’s trip it was the DC-10 above us who asked first to leave the mundane pattern and be vectored for the approach. I could tell by the controller’s voice inflection that it was too soon. All of us were in the clear, away from the mess. The storm would move past CLE in about twenty more minutes. Why would anyone want to bore into that gray mass and shoot the approach?
Within seconds, a 737 pilot asked to follow the DC-10 “in”. The momentum quickly built. Our captain was the third to leave. As we banked away I saw the Convair 580 below us. He stayed. I whispered: “You are the wisest of them all.” The approach controller warned every one that final approach was covered in heavy rain. He reluctantly turned us over to the final approach controller. Just in case you didn’t know, controllers do not have the right to deny an approach to a pilot as long as the airport is still there.
Our altitude was about 7,000 feet when we penetrated the blackness. As we came up on the new frequency, the DC-10 called out “picking up hail at five thousand”. His voice was high pitched. In the same breath we were in it, too. Ball peen hammers were glancing off the windshield. This was my first encounter with hail at 230 knots. I couldn’t believe how the windshield was able to hold up. The cracking sound of the hail on the glass was startling. I expected the windshield to be in my lap any second. I never even had the presence of mind to think about the engines; Those poor compressor blades. Our captain asked for a 90-degree turn to the left but the radio frequency was hopelessly clogged with people stepping on each other. In one full minute we were out of it. It was still solid IFR with turbulence but no hail. The thunder was as loud as an explosion. I now know what submariners felt during a depth charge attack. The lead dog DC-10 plowed on, beat up but undaunted.
When we turned a 12-mile final the turbulence stopped. All we had to contend with now was just torrential rain. The 737 ahead of us was quite concerned about the rain at the airport and braking conditions on the runway. The controller said, matter of factly, “Braking action reported fair to poor due to standing water and worms.” “Worms?!” blurted the 737 first officer in a non-humorous voice. “That’s affirmative, we haven’t had a landing in a while so the ops car did the braking test. He said there are thousands of earth worms all over the runway.”
Despite the experiences of the last ten minutes, boyish smiles were passed around the cockpit. Now it was time to get this three-holer on the runway. The rain was inundating, engulfing. The DC-10 called a missed approach. Quick glances were shared. Windshield wipers on “full” did not buoy my confidence. A blurry landing flare was made and our machine plunked down firmly on the mains. When the nose wheel lowered to the soaked, worm covered pavement we “shlipped and shlided” ten degrees left and right. The rudder was all the captain had to maintain directional control. Brakes resulted in nothing but anti-skid thumps but he got it slowed down with just reversers. We exited the runway in good shape.
After parking at the jetway, the rain stopped and I went outside with the flight engineer. He was going to do a thorough walk around. The ramp guys were laughing pretty hard despite the fact that they were soaking wet. All over the belly was a slimy coating of brown mush. The ground crew thought it was poop from the forward lav but it was thousands of night crawlers, reduced to organic pulp. The flight engineer yelled for a hose down. As we completed the fifteen-minute walk around, the mechanics went up in a cherry picker to look at the engine intakes. I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that beautiful Convair 580 taxiing in without a drop of water on it.
Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum. Convair 580 N4810C (msn 100) of North Central Airlines prepares to taxi from the gate at Central Wisconsin Airport.
Write Dave Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Dave previous articles:
A Day With Aspen Airways: CLICK HERE
Nostalgic Tickets: CLICK HERE
Spring Break with Lake Central: CLICK HERE
What Allegheny Meant To Me: CLICK HERE
A Day with Southern Airways: CLICK HERE
Mohawk’s Incredible Weekends Unlimited: CLICK HERE
Guest Editor Dave Nichols
A Day With Aspen Airways
By Dave Nichols
The Convair 580 lurched to the left followed by the nose bobbing up and down, then a quick unexpected jab to the right. How much abuse could this airliner take? And we were just taxiing… Seriously, though, Aspen Airways Convair-Liners took a daily pounding over the Rocky Mountains and came back for more, year after year.
Being intrigued by Aspen’s (AP) operation, I put in for jumpseat authority in September 1977. Linking up with the flight crew at the Aspen hangar in Denver, I met captain Bill Rosquist. An immediately likeable person, Bill was in his mid-30s, slim with sandy hair. He introduced me to the 580 Convair that would be assigned the Denver (DEN)-Aspen (ASE) round trips for most of the day: N73133.
Copyright Photo: DDM Photos – Dave Nichols Collection. Convair 580 N73133 (msn 70) rests between flights at Los Angeles. The airliner at this time wears the 1972 two-tone blue scheme. It would later wear United Express colors.
Since it’s “all about the airplanes”, Bill told me the history of this airliner. Manufacturers Serial Number 70, N73133 had been originally purchased and operated by United Airlines in 1953. One of the last Convair 340s flying with UA, Tex Johnston Inc. purchased the airplane in 1968. That company modified it to a 580 but it was a bare-bones conversion with no flight director, updated avionics nor updated panel. N73133 then went through two owners and some desert storage when liberated by Aspen in 1975. The aircraft had always kept its original N number. This Convair-Liner was kind of an orphan with AP. Not equipped like the other 580s in the fleet – purchased from Allegheny and Frontier – N73133 was used almost exclusively on the DEN-ASE run. Today, the airplane was still in the older color scheme of white fuselage with orange cheatline, the last to be repainted. The other nine 580s were resplendent in the super sharp aspen tree leaf design.
The summer and fall are quieter months for Aspen Airways. The airline was adept at wet or dry leasing their excess capacity to other carriers during the slack months. Aspen was also dabbling in scheduled Lake Tahoe and Yellowstone National Park flights from California locations. Two other 580s were rotated into Denver-Aspen service this month and they were at the ready in Denver: N5814, an ex-Allegheny machine and N73126, a former Frontier aircraft.
I would experience three DEN-ASE round-trips today with captain Bill and N73133. I started at 9:00a.m. and would finish at 2:30 p.m. The 110-mile flight took 40 minutes and was flown directly over the mountains; such was the climb performance of the marvelous 580. The turnaround time in Aspen was 25 minutes and at Denver-Stapleton a quick 15. The captain, first officer, flight attendant and I taxied the 50-seater from the hangar to the terminal to start the day’s operation. During my initial cockpit scan I could easily see the economy of this particular aircraft’s conversion. The flight deck layout and goodies did not even compare to the Allegheny 580s I was familiar with. Boarding was quick and basic through a lower level non-jet bridge concourse. Eleven people joined us and we briskly taxied to the active runway. Flaps set at 15-degrees. A reduced power take-off was made. Yes, reduced power, just like the big-boy jets.
During the initial climb, Bill explained that the airplane would need only six minutes to be high enough to clear the mountain peaks which run north and south on the west side of Denver. The east side of town is flat prairie. The skies were completely clear and cobalt blue – it was a great day for flying over the Continental Divide.
One never tires of watching and feeling the Convair 580 perform. It’s like a sled dog musher behind 12 well-trained and fed Alaskan Huskies. When you holler “lets go” the experience is always enriching. Our 580 was climbing at 2500 feet per minute showing 185 knots indicated airspeed. It was purring. As soon as the Convair left 14,000 feet, we were vectored westbound to intercept the airway. Once level at 20,000 feet, our indicated airspeed ticked up to 240 knots yielding a true airspeed of 290 knots. The airspeed indicator needle was in the yellow arc.
Carrying on a conversation in the 580 is doable; it’s not as loud as the 440. Bill reminded me that the airframe of a 580 is pretty much original Convair 340/440. Our speed was much faster than originally performed in the recip version but the design was able to withstand it. Even in the mid-70s, Convair 580s had ten years of exposure on them. There was an Achilles Heel: turbulence. If mountain waved induced turbulence was encountered at an intensity of “severe”, he would have to throttle back to 170 knots. Bill added: “We Always get knocked around on this route but I can maintain 240 knots until it gets nasty.”
At 40-miles west of Denver it started. Even though the skies were incredibly clear, the turbulence was ever present. I could see the great Continental Divide ahead through the windshield; a devil’s backbone of north-south mountains clustered tightly together, all peaking around 14,200 feet. We had been flying over mountains already but the great divide is the mother lode. Even though we were 5,000 feet above the peaks, there was no immunity. The area was sprinkled with the carcasses of unfortunate airplanes that did not make it over the ridge or through a few mountain passes. I also knew that directly off the right wing, near Loveland Pass, was the final resting place of a chartered Martin 404 that ended most of the lives of the Wichita State University (Kansas) football team a few years earlier.
The bumps were mostly hard and jolting. Deep potholes in the airway pummeled us at irregular intervals. Clouds would actually have helped the crew know more about the location and severity of the turbulence. Rocky mountain-based pilots know how to read clouds. Occasionally we experienced that thermal drop where the bottom falls out and everything goes zero-G for several seconds. The flight attendant said that’s when some white knuckle passengers start upchucking. Can you imagine what the Frontier F/As went through with a whole propeller fleet crisscrossing the Rockies?
North of Aspen, captain Bill banked the Convair to the left and set up for the visual approach to runway 15. We would have a 40-degree crosswind at 11 knots. Bill turned his head and with a quick grin said: “No one enjoys flying into Aspen-Pitkin but it’s not terrifying. You can see how close the mountain bluffs are to the airport.” The first officer pointed to two locations of former wrecks. The shards of aluminum and Plexiglas were frequently visible, winking from ledges. Aspen Airways crunched-in their first Convair 240 (N270L msn157) when the gear collapsed on this airport in 1970. Trying to approach and land from the southeast requires a steep descent. It was done more recently with the BAe146 jet but in the 70s it was not the norm. I could see some of the ski runs which are powdery white and contoured in winter but now were rocky and brown. Captain Rosquist made a top notch landing using 28-degree flaps. The 580 does best touching down with only a slight nose-up flare. Reverse pitch is so productive it’s like throwing out an anchor. We deplaned and walked around the ramp.
The turnaround provided Bill a chance to give me a condensed history of Aspen Airways. Founded in 1968 with a base in Denver and a sole route of DEN-ASE. The first aircraft was the ill-fated CV240 purchased from Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. A replacement 240 – N91237 (msn 140) – was hastily purchased in 1970. The model 240 was barely suitable for the mountainous routes and loads, so CV340/440s were added from 1970-72. All were ex-Delta. The recip fleet totaled four and they gave solid service up to 1978. At the time of this story, AP was using the piston Convairs on charter work away from Colorado.
Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum. Formerly operated by Delta Air Lines in the Deep South, Convair 440-38 N4816C (msn 118) (converted from a 340-38) moved west to serve with Aspen Airways. N4816C is parked at Aspen, Colorado in the summer of 1973.
Needless to say, the 580 Convair was the machine they had been praying for. CV580s were purchased in 1973 and would eventually number 13, with aircraft being bought and sold as needed. Aspen experimented in scheduled routes to various Colorado seasonal ski areas. Charters were quite successful. By 1977, the fleet was at eight airplanes, with four coming from Allegheny and three from Frontier at more than a million bucks apiece.
Time to press on, we enplaned 15 pax and rocketed out of ASE. Taking the safe way, we retraced our inbound track starting with a take-off on runway 33. Flight 418 would have a snack service and on afternoon runs the airplane offered wine and cheese to the folks in the back; very popular and unexpected from a small airline.
Aspen Airways, at the time, was truly the air bridge to the City of Aspen. A long and twisting mountain car drive was reduced to a scant 40 minutes on board AP. In 1977, the walk-up fare was $32 one-way. Blocks of tickets were available to locals for a nice discount. Being a fan of old timetables, I noticed that AP only raised fares an average of 4% a year.
1980 Route Map: Aspen Airways expanded outside of its traditional Denver-Aspen Colorado route west to California with its growing Convair 580 fleet in 1979. Due to Deregulation, Air California, PSA and United Airlines abandoned a lot of local routes, especially to Lake Tahoe. Burbank became the short-lived hub of the West Coast operations.
The well muscled 580 is a kerosene binge drinker, even by 1977 standards. Three hundred gallons an hour goes into the burners at 20,000-foot cruise. At low altitudes, the beast swigs 420 gallons every 60 minutes. This is about double the avgas a CV440 goes through. The piston sister has a max gross weight of 49,700 pounds. The 580 tops out at 53,200 pounds. Wide-open throttle garners 2500 horsepower for the 440 and a whopping 3750 for the beefy 580. The 440 cruises around 190 knots indicated, with the 580 blowing by at a cool 250. Is it worth the much higher purchase price and fuel costs? In the 60s and 70s, the answer was a resounding “yes”. By 1985, it was “no”, even for many of the freight dogs.
The return flight to Denver placed us going in the same direction as the flow of air. Once near the Continental Divide I could feel the airplane surfing the invisible waves. After a while, you could sense climbing over a swell, riding the crest and then rushing down the forward face: “hanging ten” on a 51,000 pound piece of aluminum. This was all cool and such but occasionally the Convair would sink into a trough between two large waves – hello breakfast. From the cockpit, I could easily hear the passengers groan under the force of negative Gs.
As an epilogue, Aspen Airways became a United Express affiliate in 1986, still operating those incredible 580s. N73133 was donated to a museum in Alaska in 1986 but was later freshened up and put back in service with Kelowna Flightcraft in Canada as a freighter during 1992. Conversion to fire fighting air tanker took place around 2000 where it was flown by Conair as C-FKFM. Air Wisconsin purchased Aspen Airways in 1991 and quickly disposed of the Convair-Liners, bringing in their BAe 146s. The other former Aspen 580s found work right away: nine of the thirteen were still active around the world up to 2003.
Copyright Photo: Jacques Guillem Collection. BAE 146-100 N462AP (msn E1017) is seen in action at the Denver base. The jetliner is painted in the orange version of the 1971 livery.
Many flying people will remember Aspen Airways fondly and perhaps a little scarily. I’ll bet you have an Aspen Airways story, too. The giant rolling river of air moving eastward over the Rocky Mountains is still there, every minute of every day, waiting to challenge whatever flying machine wishes to traverse.
Write Dave Nichols at email@example.com
Read Dave previous articles:
Nostalgic Tickets: CLICK HERE
Spring Break with Lake Central: CLICK HERE
What Allegheny Meant To Me: CLICK HERE
A Day with Southern Airways: CLICK HERE
Mohawk’s Incredible Weekends Unlimited: CLICK HERE
1985 Route Map: In 1984 the company entered into a market agreement with United Airlines and began to add more feeder routes from and to the Denver hub, abandoning the West Coast operation. On September 1, 1986 Aspen Airways became a full United Express carrier and therefore abandoned its unique and colorful liveries for the traditional United brand.
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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