Tag Archives: Convair

US Airways to operate its last flight as flight US1939 on October 16-17 (a history of the airline)

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):

US Airways logo

1939
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 (1948) logo

1948
Piedmont Airlines begins operations.

All American Airways logo

1949
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.

 

Allegheny 9.1.53 Route Map

Above: Allegheny Airlines’ 1953 Route Map.

Allegheny (1953) logo

1953
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 (1956) logo

1965
Allegheny Airlines begins the transition to turbine-powered aircraft with introduction of the first Convair 580, its workhorse for the next several years.

1966
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).

Allegheny 1966 Route Map

Above: Allegheny Airlines 1966 Route Map.

Allegheny Commuter (1st) logo

1967
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.

Lake Central (1968) logo

Above Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Nord 262A-12 N26203 (msn 13) of Lake Central Airlines.

1968
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.

Mohawk (1962) logo

1972
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.

Mohawk (1967) logo

1978
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 > USAir logo

1979
Allegheny changes its name to USAir to reflect its expanding network, including post-deregulation entry into Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida and later, California.

USAir (1979) logo

America West (1983) logo

1983
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.

America West 1983 Route Map

Above: The original 1983 route map for America West Airlines.

1984
USAir introduces its Frequent Traveler program, which provides travel benefits to USAir’s most loyal customers.

Empire Airlines logo

1986
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.

1987
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 logo

1988
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.

Piedmont (1st) logo

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 737-301 N316P (msn 23234) taxies at Miami.

1989
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 (1989) logo

1990
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.

1992
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.

Trump Shuttle logo

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.

1993
USAir and British Airways announce an investment/alliance plan, under which USAir gives up its London route authority.

1995
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.

1996
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.

US Airways (1997) logo

1997
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 Shuttle (2nd) logo

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Ex-Trump Shuttle Boeing 727-225 N918TS (msn 20445) now wears US Airways Shuttle titles.

1998
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 logo

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.

 

MetroJet by US Airways (2000) route map

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.

1999
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.

2000
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.

2001

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.

2002
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.

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.

2004
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.

2005
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.

2006

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.

2007

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.

2009
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.

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.

USAirways logo

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.

Allegheny (1966) logo

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

American Airlines aircraft slide show (current livery): AG Airline Slide Show

USAir aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

US Airways aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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America West aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

Empire Airlines aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

PSA aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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Allegheny Airlines aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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Jay Selman’s An Inside Look: Connie Tobias – An Aviation Legend Retires

Connie Tobias – An Aviation Legend Retires

Assistant Editor Jay Selman

Assistant Editor Jay Selman

by Assistant Editor Jay Selman

There are pilots, and there are aviators. When Captain Connie Tobias shut down the engines of her Airbus A321 at the conclusion of US Airways Flight 1967 on March 17, 2015, it brought to an end one chapter in a remarkable career of a remarkable aviator.

Connie Tobias in the cockpit (JS)(LRW)

 

Above Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Connie Tobias in the left seat of the retirement Airbus A321.

Below Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. The Airbus A321 receives a congratulatory water cannon salute on arrival at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).

Connie Tobias A321 water cannon salute (JS)(LRW)

In over 40 years of flying, Connie has logged over 22,000 flight hours and flown over 70 different kinds of aircraft, ranging from a 1902 Wright Glider (below) and 1909 Bleriot (below) to the Airbus A330-300. That, in itself, would be a career to be proud of, but the career of Connie represents so much more.

1903 Wright Flyer

Connie Tobias 1902 Wright Glider (LR)

Connie Tobias 1909 Bleriot (LR)

Connie has not lost any of the feistiness that must have been necessary to break through one barrier after another as a woman born in 1950. She reflects, “When I was a five year old girl, I was expected to play with dolls. I did…sort of. I lined them up at an imaginary airport waiting for the imaginary airplane that I was pretending to be! Even at that age, I was captivated by the lure of flight. In those days, of course, women were not expected to pursue careers as professional pilots.

In fact, when I went to a military recruiter in 1969 to see about becoming a military pilot, I was told rather strongly to go home and be a wife to someone. A year later, I sent a letter to American Airlines seeking employment, I received a similar response. Today, such a response would seem outrageous, but 45 years ago, those answers were generally accepted as the norm.”

Connie Tobias in the Wright Glider (LR)

However, Connie Tobias is anything but the norm. She does not claim to be a rebel, nor is she an iconoclast. She is, however, a strong-willed woman who sets out to accomplish what is important to her. She notes, “People will try to steal your dreams. I refuse to let that happen.” In 1975, Connie, always a fitness freak, set out to bicycle her way across the United States, from California to Delaware. While taking a rest stop somewhere in Missouri, she had her epiphany. “I looked up to the sky and saw a jet airliner cruising high above, leaving a condensation trail in its wake. It was at that exact moment that I decided that there was no way I could spend the next 40 years working in an office cubicle which may or may not have windows. No, that was the moment that I decided that I would do whatever I had to do in order to make the cockpit of an airplane MY office.”

Connie began to take flying lessons in 1975 in Xenia, Ohio. Later, she used a unique angle to build up time. “I washed planes at Ohio University Airport in Athens, Ohio. A freshly-washed airplane needs to be dried quickly, and what better way to dry an airplane than to fly it? I looked for any way possible to build up hours. I flew for a truck and oil field manufacturer, in and out of Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. I earned my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating and built up hours that way. I even flew as a “bird dog” for fire patrol operations, flying single-engine and light twin-engine aircraft. Basically, I did whatever I could to build up flying time.”

Connie’s big break came in 1982 when she applied for a pilot’s position that was posted at Aeromech Airlines, a regional airline based in Clarksburg, WV. She recalls with a wry grin, “The owner of Aeromech was a Greek gentleman, Angelo Koukoulis. The folks in Personnel at the airline accepted my application from Connie Tobias, probably believing that they were getting a Greek man. Of course, I was neither! In those days, female pilots were very few and far between. I was the second female pilot hired by Aeromech Airlines (below). Let’s just say I was generally not greeted with open arms into the fraternity that was almost exclusively male.”

Above Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Aeromech Airlines Embraer EMB-110P1 Bandeirante N615KC (msn 110230) is parked at the commuter terminal gate at Washington’s National Airport in Allegheny Commuter colors in February 1980.

As soon as she was checked out on the Embraer Bandierante, Connie was advised that she would have to earn an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. Using pretty much the last of her meager savings, Connie passed her ATP practical with flying colors, and her written exam with an astounding 99%. Soon afterward, she learned that none of the male first officers at the airline had ATP ratings! Rather than being angry, she made up her mind that the best way to flourish in any environment was to be the happiest, most positive personality that she could be. Before long, she had built up an impressive stack of complimentary letters. While the aviation fraternity was still slow to accept her, it was apparent that the flying public loved her.

In 1983, Aeromech Airlines merged with Cleveland-based Wright Air Lines, and Connie found herself based in Albany, NY, flying the Convair 600/640. While the Bandeirante was configured for 15 seats, it was a new generation airplane. While the Convair held up to 50 passengers, it was late 1940s technology, devoid of any power-enhanced controls. “The Convair really had to be man-handled, and it was quite a challenge for someone of my size. I worked hard to develop the proper technique to control the Convair, and I believe that that helped earn respect and acceptance from some of the male pilots I flew with.”

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Wright Air Lines Convair 640 N862FW (msn 9) is seen in Miami on October 30, 1983.

Unfortunately, the merger between Wright and Aeromech proved to be a bad marriage and before long, Connie received word that the airline was on its last legs. “First officers for regional airlines were generally earning something below poverty-level wages, and Wright was no exception. I was living paycheck to paycheck, and I knew I had to do something. I had enough money to apply to exactly one airline.” She elected to put in an application to Piedmont Airlines (1st), which was known to be actively hiring women as pilots. In mid-1984, Connie Tobias was hired by Piedmont, becoming the 16th female pilot flying for the company. Today, by comparison, women make up approximately 5% of the US Airways pilot workforce.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Ex-Northeast Airlines/Delta Air Lines Boeing 727-295 N1643 (msn 19448) displays the 1974 livery for Piedmont.

In the mid-1980s, Piedmont was growing by leaps and bounds. Connie started out as a first officer on the Boeing 727 (above), a dramatic step up from the archaic Convair. Piedmont proved to be the Land of Opportunity for Connie, and a mere 26 months later, she became a captain on the company’s Fokker F-28. In rapid succession, she graduated to captain on the twin-engine Boeing 737 and later, the larger tri-jet Boeing 727.

In 1989, Piedmont merged with USAir, later US Airways. As the airline added larger aircraft, Connie made a decision to trade in her low-seniority captain’s seat in exchange for a more comfortable lifestyle of a high-seniority first officer. Connie was able to hold a position in the right seat on the transcontinental Boeing 757 (below) and intercontinental wide-body Boeing 767. She later became a first officer on the largest and longest-range aircraft in the US Airways fleet, the Airbus A330. By all measures, Connie had beaten the odds and broken through the glass ceiling, achieving success in a field that had been considered a male world when she began her journey.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. USAir’s ex-Eastern Boeing 757-225 N604AU (msn 22199) taxies at Miami in the 1989 livery.

Some seven years ago, however, Connie suddenly found herself facing a new battle, this one against Mother Nature. She explains, “To discuss my medical challenges would take another entire article, but let’s just say I had a total of 13 medical issues. Altogether, I was out of work for six years. I was told that I would probably never again be able to pass a first class medical exam that airline pilots must pass twice a year.”

Connie took on the greatest battle of her life with the same tenacity as she faced other challenges. “I was determined to finish my airline career in the cockpit, and not in a hospital bed. To that end, over the course of six years, I required the services of 19 doctors, and was put under anesthesia ten times. This was the biggest battle of them all in my career, and my life.” But Connie has never been one to accept “No” for an answer, and in typical fashion, she fought back. First, she literally clawed her way back into a healthy body. Once that was accomplished, she worked unceasingly to bring her flying skills back up to speed.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A319-112 N765US (msn 1371) painted in the 1997 color scheme departs the runway at Charlotte.

 

Finally, in 2013, she was restored to flying status with US Airways, on the Airbus A320 family (above). After being off flying status for six years, she was required to fly in the right seat for six months, but in July of 2014, Connie Tobias once again earned the right to wear the four stripes of a captain on the Airbus.

As inspiring as the story of her airline career is, there is much more to the story of this aviator. She explains, “You might say that an aviator has a love affair with the sky. I love flying, and as airliners become more and more automated, it is easy to get a little bit bored. Sure, there are times when I get to exercise and challenge my piloting skills, but I wanted to do more piloting…more aviating…than what airline life was offering me. I began looking at opportunities outside of the airline environment to get my piloting fix.”

That search took Connie to the Collings Foundation, a private non-profit educational facility dedicated to the preservation and public display of transportation-related history, including historic aircraft. For an aviator like Connie Tobias, it was a dream-come-true. “The Collings Foundation gave me the opportunity to fly all sorts of exotic aircraft, from a McDonnell F4D Phantom II (below) to a 1909 Bleriot XI Monoplane. Of course, in order to fly these aircraft, I had to earn a variety of ratings and endorsements, including seaplane and glider and taildragger skills. I also took an extended course in aerobatics and upset recovery. Ironically, while flying the Phantom was one heck of a kick in the pants, it was the Bleriot that required the greatest challenge and the most research…and opened the most unique of doors for me.”

Connie Tobias F-4 Phantom (LR)

It started with Foundation founder Bob Collings running into Connie one day and remarking, “You know, you look like Harriet Quimby. Will you portray her and, while you are at it, learn to fly the Bleriot?” Quimby was an award-winning photojournalist as well as a movie screenwriter who was also interested in aviation. On August 1, 1911, she became the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States. The following year, she became the first female to fly across the English Channel. There is a saying that it is a lucky man who hears opportunity knock, but it is a wise man who opens the door. Obviously, the same applies to a woman, and Connie Tobias proved to be an extremely wise woman who opened the door that led to her parallel career and unique claim to fame. She took Bob Collings’ suggestion and developed a presentation of the life and accomplishments of Harriet Quimby, which she has performed for audiences around the world.

She says, “It is an honor and privilege to be in a position where I can be an inspiration to future aviators, especially girls and young women. In the days when I was breaking into the aviation world, there really weren’t many female role models I could emulate. I’d like to think that between my own accomplishments in aviation and my portrayal of Harriet Quimby, I can inspire others to dream big.”

Flying the Bleriot required intense preparation. Connie relates, “One day, I was watching the movie ‘Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines’. As the movie concluded, I realized that all of the pilots had one thing in common. They all crashed. It was a stark reminder that those early airplanes were very crude in their design, and extremely delicate to fly. I wanted to fly the Bleriot, but I wanted to make darned sure that I was successful. I spoke to the folks at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, home to a number of pre-World War I airplanes including another 1909 Bleriot. The Bleriot guru at Old Rhinebeck suggested that I contact another expert in Texas, and I kept following one lead after another, taking in as much as I could about flying an aircraft that was controlled by powered wing warping. Wing warping was a system for lateral control of early aircraft, and basically a precursor to the aileron.” Connie even referred to Louis Bleriot’s writings in her quest to understand everything she could about the Bleriot and wing warping. In the end, she did, indeed, fly the Bleriot, and she flew it well.

Success begets success. The popular concept is Six Degrees of Separation, that we are connected with anyone in the world by six or fewer steps. In the aviation world, it is closer to Two Degrees of Separation. In 2003, the owners of the Wright Flyer collection were looking for pilots to fly both the 1902 Wright Glider replica and the exact replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, which made the first powered flight. Thanks to her exposure flying the Bleriot, Connie Tobias was selected as one of a handful of pilots to fly the Glider. She wow’ed the organizers by using her skills honed by her tons of research, including hang gliding, by choosing the proper moment to fly the Glider in a near-perfect hover on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, NC. Of those pilots, only Connie had previous experience flying an aircraft that utilized powered wing warping. Late in 2003, she became the first and only woman to fly the 1903 Wright Flyer exact replica. When asked what airplane in her logbook was the most memorable, she answers, “The 1903 Wright Flyer. After all, how many men or women can say that they flew that airplane?”

Connie’s commitment to inspiring students with Quimby’s story along with her involvement in flying the 1903 Wright Flyer and 1909 Bleriot has won her special recognition from The National Aeronautic Association and the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Connie has appeared in numerous documentaries, is a Distinguished Graduate of Engineering, holds the Medal of Merit from Ohio University, and has been inducted into the Amelia Earhart Forest of Friendship. She has been generous in her donations to a cause near and dear to her heart, a scholarship fund at her alma mater, Ohio University. The scholarship assists young men and women in pursuit of a career in aviation. She says, “I remember what it was like trying to break into the aviation world with an empty bank account. There were several times early in my career when I was literally down to my last few dollars. If I can help young men or women avoid some of the financial struggles that I went through, I am happy to do so.” This scholarship is appropriately named The Harriet Quimby Scholarship.

Connie Tobias and the Cabin Crew (JS)(LRW)

Above Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Connie poses with the cabin crew on her last flight with US Airways.

Now that Connie Tobias has retired from her airline job, what does she plan to do with all that free time? “Free time? What free time? My last flight with US Airways was on March 17. The following day, my birthday, is being spent packing for a long-awaited trip to a gala birthday party in Paris. I leave on the 19th, and will spend a little time touring Europe. Once I get home, I will have plenty to keep me busy. I plan to do some hiking, learn another language, and play the piano better. I’d love to continue to fly small airplanes and regain those skills. I still have my instructor’s rating, so that is a possibility. I still have a dream of flying a Bleriot across the English Channel. There is a possibility that the Wright airplane collection will be going to China, and if it does, I plan to go over there for that. I have also thought about flying for the Collings Foundation. And, of course, there is still a demand for Harriet, so I plan to continue portraying her as time permits. I expect to have a full dance card for the foreseeable future.”

If that is not enough, Connie is involved with the following organizations”
International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA),
Ninety Nines (99’s),
Women in Aviation International (WAI),
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA),
Aviation Advisory Board and Board of Visitors – Russ College of Engineering – Ohio University,
National Alumni Board of Directors – Ohio University,
National Aviation Hall of Fame – Board of Nominations

Free time? What free time? We can all learn from the life of Connie Tobias. US Airways is losing a senior captain, but aviation is not. No way.

Copyright Photo Below: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Fellow female pilots come to salute Connie on her last airline flight and her arrival at gate D7 at Charlotte.

Connie Tobias + Female Crew Members (JS)(LRW)

Historic Photo of the Day – May 23, 2013

Saudi Arabian Airlines Convair 340-68B N597MA (msn 222) OPF (Bruce Drum). Image: 102879.

Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum.

Saudi Arabian Airlines: AG Slide Show

Frameable Color Prints and Posters: AG All Photos Available

Prop It Up: Ball Peen Hammers and Earth Worms

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 propitupblog@gmail.com

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

Prop It Up: A Day With Aspen Airways

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.

Aspen Airways 2-tone logo

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.

Aspen Airways 1980 Route Map

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 propitupblog@gmail.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

Aspen Airways: AG Slide Show

Daily Airline News: AG World Airline News

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.

Aspen Airways 7.1985 Route Map

Prop It Up: Spring Break with Lake Central

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.

Please click on the map for the full size.

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 propitupblog@gmail.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

Lake Central Airlines: 

Frameable Color Prints and Posters: 

All timetables, maps and logos kindly suppled by Airline Timetables.

The Timetable Chronicles: Ozark Air Lines (Part 1)

Today I again have the privilege to introduce a new Guest Editor to the World Airline News. My friend David Keller has joined the team joining Dave NicholsJoel Chusid and Jay Selman.

David’s columns will look at the colorful histories of the world airlines. Today, the first article features Ozark Air Lines, the historic airline that was based in “David’s backyard”. We will bring each airline “back to life again” with period photos, timetables, route maps and logos.

David grew up (and he has basically lived his entire life) in the shadow of Lambert/St. Louis International Airport.  David received his first airline timetable “by accident” almost 40 years ago.  David was calling the airlines to request photos, but Allegheny sent him a timetable instead.  David couldn’t get enough of it, and started calling every airline with a toll-free number to request timetables!

David now has a collection that numbers over 10,000 unique timetables, plus smaller collections of postcards, playing cards, ticket jackets and various other airline-related collectibles.

David also writes articles for the quarterly Captain’s Log publication of the World Airline Historical Society.

David is also the owner of Airlinetimetables.com, an unique on-line source for historic and current timetables.

Guest Editor David Keller

Guest Editor David Keller

The Timetable Chronicles: The World of Airline Timetable Collecting

Ozark Air Lines (Part 1)

At the conclusion of World War II, the U.S. government proceeded with a plan to create a second level of air carriers, which would generally become known as “feeder” or “local” service airlines.  This was designed primarily to further develop the air transportation system by bringing service to additional communities across the country.  Part of the equation for was government subsidies to promote this service, as most of these additional destinations could not be served profitably without such assistance.  One of those carriers was Ozark Airlines, which was the last local service carrier to gain a certificate in the years after the war.  (Several commuter airlines were elevated to local service status in the 1970’s.)

Ozark began life as an intrastate carrier in 1945, operating flights from a base in Springfield, Missouri to Kansas City, St. Louis, and several smaller stations.  The timetable dated September 15, 1945 (below) shows what appears to be a single aircraft operating 10 daily segments within Missouri.

Please click on the timetable to expand.

Ozark’s ultimate goal was to be awarded an operating certificate to provide local airline service to communities in the Midwest.  However, that award actually went to Parks Air Lines, which had been set up by Parks College in the eastern suburbs of St. Louis.  Parks issued several timetables during the summer of 1950, including an August 1, 1950 timetable (below).  This issue depicts the carrier’s DC-3 (dubbed “LocaLiners”) and a “Grain Belt Route” slogan.

Please click on the timetable to expand.

However, Parks Air Lines encountered difficulties getting service started, and to the best of my knowledge, never flew any revenue flights under the local carrier certificate.  The certificate and aircraft ended up with Ozark Air Lines, fulfilling the carrier’s desire to become a local service airline.  The timetable dated September 26, 1950 (below) shows Ozark’s initial service, and also reveals that much was held over from Parks; flight times, fares, phone numbers, even the typeface used was unchanged.

Please click on the timetable to expand.

Copyright Photo Above: Ton Jochems. A restoration of an Ozark Air Lines Douglas DC-3 keeps the Ozark memories alive today.

As with many of the local carriers, Ozark rapidly expanded as its certificate would allow.  By the mid-1950’s, Ozark was operating to 28 destinations in 8 midwestern states, as depicted on this January 2, 1955 timetable.

Please click on the timetable to expand.

By the mid- to late-1950’s, the local service airlines were contemplating larger equipment to supplement their DC-3 fleets.  Generally speaking, these airlines followed one (or more) of three paths to acquire larger aircraft; purchase new F-27’s from Fairchild, acquire Convair 240/340/440’s on the secondhand market, or similarly procure used Martin 202/404’s.  Ozark was something of an anomaly, in that the carrier actually exercised all three options.

Ozark’s first post-DC-3 type was the F-27, and the timetable dated January 4, 1960 (below) is the first to show the type in service.  (Internet sources put the first F-27 service as September 27, 1959, but the timetables for late October and December 1 both advertise the F-27 as “Coming Soon” and indicate that all flights were being operated by DC-3’s  Earlier issues did suggest a planned September start date for the F-27, but it appears that was postponed.)  This issue shows further expansion of the airline’s route network (particularly in Iowa) and jet-prop service to 11 destinations.

Please click on the timetable to expand.

Please click on the Route Map to expand.

Above Copyright Photo: Jacques Guillem Collection. Convair 240-4 N2400Z waits for its next assignment at St. Louis.

Used aircraft were less expensive than new F-27’s, so Ozark picked up a small number of used Convair 240’s.  Being older and slower than the F-27’s, the Convairs received little mention.  The timetable dated August 13, 1962 (below) is the first to show the 240 in service, operating between St. Louis and Chicago via intermediate stations in Illinois.

Please click on the timetable to expand.

A few short years later, an equipment swap with Mohawk Airlines saw the Convairs leave Ozark’s fleet, to be replaced by Martin 404’s.  This allowed Mohawk to operate a standardized Convair fleet, while Ozark gained by getting a larger number of Martins to expand operations.  The timetables indicate no “overlap” of the two types, with the Martins taking over the 200-series flights previously operated by the Convairs in the December 1, 1964 timetable (below).  This issue does promote new Martin 404 service between St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Click on the Route Map to expand.

To be continued in Part 2: The coming of the Douglas DC-9 jets and the Fairchild-Hiller FH-227B turboprops.

Ozark Air Lines/Ozark Airlines: 

Comments can made directly on this WAN blog or you can contact David directly at:

David Keller

email: dkeller@airlinetimetables.com

website: http://airlinetimetables.com

blog: http://airlinetimetableblog.blogspot.com