Tag Archives: dc3a

Prop It Up: Trans-Texas Airways Route Proving Run

Guest Editor Dave Nichols

Trans – Texas Airways Route Proving Run

By Dave Nichols

Trans-Texas Airways was one of the original Local Service Airlines, like Allegheny, Ozark, and Southern.  On October 10, 1947, TTA was the proud owner of five ex-American Airlines DC-3s, 16 pilots and some five stewards.  This was one day away from starting revenue passenger services and it dawned on the executives that they hadn’t done a proving run.  The airline had only two routes in the beginning.  The southern run was Houston-Hobby, Victoria, San Antonio ending at San Angelo.  The northern schedule went from Houston to Palestine, Dallas-Love, Fort Worth-Meachem, Brownwood and terminating in San Angelo.  All stops were in Texas.  So, Manager of Flight Operations, Hank Erdmann, rounded up all the pilots and a young woman from the executive office to act as a surrogate stewardess and they prepared to tackle the northern route for a day.  No federal inspectors were on board, which would prove to be fortuitous.

The captains and co-pilots had developed camaraderie of sorts but had little experience flying together as a crew.  No cockpit management system existed; they used the checklists together and the first officer tried to learn the captain’s ways of doing things.  The left seater did most of the flying.  The first crew selected to jump in the frying pan was Captain Bob Quin and co-pilot Bob Barrett.  The cockpit door was to remain open.  DC-3 N33654 (msn 4117) was selected.  She was a good airplane with the name La Gansa (The Goose) written on the nose.   N33654 departed from Hobby and headed north under Visual Flight Rules, 150 miles to Palestine.  The pilots had never been there and couldn’t even pronounce the name correctly:  “Pal-es-teen’.”  There were no nav aids near the airport.  Captain Quin came up on the town too high and too fast.  Unable to get in the groove, he called for gear and flaps up and made a go-around.  The catcalls and heckling began in earnest from the cabin, and it continued around the traffic pattern.

Once parked at the tiny wooden terminal, the pilots were changed out.  Bill Moore and Bob Saner took over for the 100-mile leg to Dallas.  They had not flown together before.  The flight was routine until touchdown at Love Field.  Captain Moore had his own technique of raising the flaps as soon as the main tires struck the concrete.  His call of “flaps up” startled the co-pilot, diverting Moore’s attention from the landing.  The DC-3 took a good bounce.  Co-pilot Bob then reacted to the command and raised the flaps, just as the airplane was at the apex of the bounce.  Up came the flaps and down came The Goose.  The flight ops chief roared:  “Enough of this crap, only Hassler and Richards (the #1 and #2 seniority captains) will fly the right seat to keep you idiot captains in check.”  This tactic would not be enough.

Bud Downes flew to Fort Worth.  He was the resident DC-3 wizard and everything went soothingly well.  It was to be the only perfect leg of the day.  Pappy Jensen commanded The Goose southwestward to Brownwood.  He had plenty of flying time – in C-46s.  Those airplanes weren’t content to stay in trim so Pappy had become accustomed to let the airplane wander a bit.  The Goose’s left wing would droop for a few minutes, then Pappy would respond and pick it back up.  After 30 minutes of this, crewmembers moaned from the cabin:  “For God’s sake, Pappy, raise the left wing!”  Then Jenson would jerk it level but the wing was predestined to slowly drop down again, unheeded.

After the central Texas stop at Brownwood, came the 80-mile hop to San Angelo, which was at the end of the TTA system.  Bobby Carle, who drew the honors, had only minimum time in a DC-3, being a B-24 pilot.  On landing, he was a tad hot over the fence and the aircraft floated teasingly above the runway.  Then the inevitable bounce, followed by Carle’s nudging of the throttles, which resulted in more bouncing.  This was repeated liberally.  The gallery sitting behind yelled in unison for him to pull the power off, put the yoke in his belly and let the darn thing die.  It was kismet that San Angelo had a long runway.

After a lunch break and a scolding from the boss for everyone to stop pestering the stewardess, T.K. Lee flew the group back to Brownwood.  Like several of his B-24 brethren, he found himself too high on the approach to runway 13, which was only 4,600 feet long.  Not wanting to endure the jeers that would surely come like darts, he elected to land.  He pushed the nose down until she trembled.  The landing was long.  When the mains were planted, T.K. mashed the brakes and put the yoke in his lap to keep the nose from going over the top.  Smoking brake pads wafted into the cabin.  With tires screeching and brakes squealing like hogs at feeding time, the sweet old Goose stopped right at the very end of the runway.  However, the tail was still in the air.  Suddenly, having reached zero inertia, the tail came plummeting down like a broken elevator cab.  There was a tremendous jolt.  All that was heard in the cabin were 18 people exhaling in unison.  A lone voice carried forward:  “I am surrounded by idiots.”

Bob Barrett summarized that day with this sage sentence: “The contrast between the brash young men who elbowed their way into the Goose that morning, grabbing at that poor little girl and hurling nasty remarks up to the cockpit, and the somber and humbled men who filed slowly off the DC-3 that evening back in Houston was amazing.”  Their thought process and maturity had taken a quantum leap.

They had an airline to start the next morning.

Addendum:  Of the 16 original Trans-Texas pilots, 12 made it a full career with TTA and later the renamed Texas International.  From DC-3s, Convair 240s and 600s, and the DC-9-10, these TTA “gray beards” retired off the DC-9-32.

Route Map of Trans-Texas Airways on November 1, 1949 (courtesy of Airline Timetable Images):

Trans-Texas 11.1.49 Route Map

Trans-Texas DC-3 Banner

Top Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. Sister ship Douglas DC-3A N18121 (msn 1997) rests at San Antonio between flights.

Trans-Texas Airways/Texas International: AG Slide Show

Dave always likes to hear from his readers. Write Dave Nichols at propitupblog@gmail.com

Read Dave’s previous articles:

Ball Peen Hammers and Earth Worms (North Central Airlines): CLICK HERE

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

Finnair is celebrating 90 years of flying this year

Finnair (Helsinki) will be celebrating 90 years of flying this year. As part of the year-long celebration the company has issued this statement and video:

Finnair has been making aviation history since it was founded by Bruno Lucander in 1923. This is the story of the resourceful and resilient early days of commercial air travel and how Bruno and his team operated in Helsinki’s wintery weather conditions.

Finnair pilots also share their thoughts and explain how the same can-do attitude is being passed on from older to younger generations of pilots.

This video is part of a series celebrating and documenting Finnair’s 90 years long journey. Enjoy!

Copyright Photo: Christian Volpati. Douglas C-53C (DC-3A-453) OH-LCH (msn 6346) is painted in the 1947 Finnish Airlines-Aero OY color scheme.

Finnair: AG Slide Show


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