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Welcome to Part Two of our New York-Los Angeles journey. After an overnight ride aboard the Santa Fe Railway's "Missionary" from Waynoka, Oklahoma to Clovis, New Mexico, it's time to again take to the skies and head west. There are new cities to visit, sights to see and things to know.  So... let's go!

A New Horizon
It's 11:00 PM in Waynoka, OK and our Santa Fe Railway sleeper car is ready to roll. The 300-mile ride, primarily across the Texas panhandle, will take about 9 1/2 hours (with several stops along the way). It's likely most passengers will sleep well after a very long day of flying from Columbus, OH. A new horizon awaits as the train pulls into Clovis, NM. After the relatively flat landscape of the Midwest, their journey will now find them flying over the mountains, canyons and desert of the Southwest. The eventual crossing of the San Gabriel mountains will reveal the city of Los Angeles and the end of their trip. The western half of the journey begins.

A Quick Refresher
It's been a few weeks since we published Part One, so we wanted to briefly refresh your memory concerning some key facts: 
  • On both the eastbound and westbound inaugural trips, TAT (Transcontinental Air Transport) flew two Tri-Motors to handle the many VIP passengers who desired to be a part of the event.
  • When TAT and Western Air Express eventually merged in 1930 to form TWA, the company's official abbreviation was T&WA (Transcontinental and Western Air). The "&" designation was typically dropped from the abbreviation. Finally, in 1950, the corporate name was officially changed to Trans World Airlines. 
  • Many of our images are identified as from "SHSMO". That's the State Historical Society of Missouri. They supplied us with digital copies of TAT's Plane Talk company newspaper from 1929.
By the way, if you haven't yet read Part One (or would like to take a re-read), we suggest you deplane (or "detrain") and head back now. Click here to go back to Part One. Now that we've taken care of business... It's time to go!

Good Morning, Clovis
At 8:20 AM (CT), Santa Fe Railway's "Missionary" pulled into Clovis, New Mexico. For those on the inaugural westbound trip, it was now July 9, 1929. The trip from New York City began over 39 hours ago. The scheduled 5:52 PM (PT) arrival in Los Angeles meant they were about 11 hours from their final destination. Our guide is no math whiz, but he knows that 39 hours + 11 hours = 50 hours. So, now we know that while TAT advertised "Coast-to-Coast in 48 hours", it was in actuality a couple of hours longer going westbound. We doubt anyone complained, requested to speak to a supervisor or demanded an upgrade to compensate for the inconvenience.

The railway station in Clovis housed a Harvey House restaurant, so TAT passengers had breakfast there. After breakfast, it was time again to board our old friend, the "Aero Car". In addition to Clovis and Waynoka (where Aero Cars were needed for planned airport-train terminal connections), every station on TAT's system had an Aero Car on hand, in case there was an unexpected need to transport passengers to or from the nearest train station. At Clovis, the Aero Car embarked on a five-mile drive west to the TAT airport at Portair, NM. Breakfast in Clovis was an efficient exercise as TAT scheduled only 50 minutes to eat, take the Aero Car to Portair and then head skyward. 

Portair Field, NM
As mentioned in Part One, most airports in TAT's Western Division were developed and maintained by TAT. For the airfield near Clovis, TAT literally bought a town. Blacktower, New Mexico measured about one square mile and had been abandoned several years earlier. There were a few buildings in Blacktower, including a railroad station that had never been used. TAT remodeled that station into an airport terminal building. All other buildings were torn down. TAT plowed a mile-long east-west runway and sealed it with oil. TAT also felt Blacktower was no name for an airport city, so they renamed it Portair. And here's the really odd thing about Portair: Clovis was in the Central Time Zone. Back in 1929, the Mountain Time Zone began just west of Clovis, which meant (you guessed it!), the time in Portair was an hour earlier than in Clovis. Below is an excerpt from among the first TAT published schedules. Note the 8:20 AM arrival in Clovis and the 8:10 AM departure from Portair. 

Keeping all on their toes! Time change at Portair.
(TWA Museum photo)
At Portair Field, two fresh Tri-Motors and crews awaited to continue the inaugural trip. While it's likely that some people's watches still showed 9:10 AM, at 8:10 AM, the Tri-Motors took off for Albuquerque, NM. By the way, the U.S. Government would make life simpler several years later by putting all of New Mexico on Mountain Time.

Fast-forward to today: As was the case with the previous air/rail interchange at Waynoka, OK, the stop in Clovis was no longer needed once complete coast-to-coast air service was initiated by the newly formed TWA in 1930. Amarillo, TX then became the stop between Wichita and Albuquerque. Portair Field, however, continued to function as a municipal airport serving Clovis until the outbreak of World War II, when it became Clovis Army Air Field. In 1948, it was recommissioned as Clovis Air Force Base. In 1957, it was renamed Cannon Air Force base and housed various bomber groups during the Cold War Era and the Vietnam War. Cannon remains an active base today.    

An Elevating Experience
During the 191-mile flight to Albuquerque, passengers watched the topography of the United States change right under them. As the Tri-Motor approached Albuquerque, the eastern ranges of the Rocky Mountains began to appear. The picturesque scenery meant the Tri-Motors had to fly at altitudes higher than passengers experienced the previous day. Cruising up to 8,000 feet (once in a while, even higher) was sometimes required. "Ear popping" became a larger issue, so TAT's resourceful on board "couriers" provided plenty of chewing gum and advice on how to best handle the more pronounced effect of pressure on passengers' inner ears. It should also be noted that pressurized airplane cabins were still ten years into the future, so cruising at 8,000 feet was still within the average person's oxygen comfort zone. When going higher was necessary, pilots had to be thoughtful. Also, if the cloud ceiling was below 8,000 - 10,000 feet, it could get pretty rocky up there. Which brings up an interesting topic:
We haven't said anything yet about airsickness, so it's time for our guide to deal with it. Airsickness was a problem. Changes in air pressure and flying into turbulence did take a toll. TAT management was more than aware of this and took measures to reassure everyone. In the September 1929 issue of TAT's company newspaper, Plane Talk, an entire section was devoted to airsickness. We have a feeling this was not a scientific study. From the article:

"Some interesting figures on air sickness have been compiled by Parker B. Sturgis, Chief of Transportation of TAT for the first two months of operation.
The compilation reveals only 7.3 per cent of all passengers suffered in any degree from air sickness. Sixty-five per cent of those who were affected recovered before their journey was completed.
The causes of air sickness are equally interesting. Only 40 per cent of the air sickness was caused by rough air; 20 per cent was caused by nervousness or apprehension and 20 per cent of those who became sick were subject to seasickness or trainsickness.
Other causes noted by the Couriers are found to be overeating and failure to eat anything. An upset mental condition caused by occurrences not connected with the flight, were responsible for several cases of airsickness.
TAT Couriers have been instructed and have had experience in the best methods of caring for air sickness. The success of their treatment is indicated by the large number who recovered."1

So now that we have that information, let's move on. As the flight from Clovis was reaching its completion, it flew just north of the Sandia Mountains and south of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to make its approach into Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sitting at an altitude of 5,200 feet, the airfield at Albuquerque was the highest in TAT's system. Accordingly, it was essential that a large landing and takeoff area be provided. That infrastructure was in place for TAT, as the privately owned airfield was already developed. TAT leased usage of the field, only one of two in TAT's Western Division not owned and developed by TAT (the other being the field serving Los Angeles). Two earth/oil blended runways (the longest being 4,000 feet) were available. Existing airport buildings had a unique Spanish-style pueblo architecture, and in keeping that theme, TAT constructed a pueblo-styled terminal of stucco and hollow tile. It was a handsome building, containing a central lounge area, fireplaces, a dining facility, restrooms and even showers. Unfortunately, westbound passengers had only a  fifteen-minute stopover to enjoy the facility. For eastbound passengers, Albuquerque was a scheduled dinner stop giving them an extra fifteen minutes to enjoy a quick meal prepared by the Fred Harvey Restaurant.  

A look inside a part of Albuquerque's terminal lounge area.
Note Lindbergh's photo above the fireplace.
(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of SHSMO) 

Fast-forward to today: Of all the original TAT stops revisited, we think this one has the most intriguing "fast-forward" story. We'll give you the abbreviated version. This airfield (known as the "original" Albuquerque airport and as Oxnard Field) was located on a mesa just east of Albuquerque. While TAT operated there, Western Air Express (WAE) built another airfield on a mesa west of Albuquerque. After WAE and TAT merged (in 1930), the new TWA moved operations to the west mesa location. Oxnard Field eventually was acquired by the Army Air Forces in 1942 and used as a training facility. Permanently closed to air traffic in 1949, the facility was merged with nearby Kirtland Air Force Base, which sits about five miles to the west. In 1945, part of Oxnard Field served as the forerunner of Sandia Laboratory and was used by the U.S. Government for advanced weaponry development, including nuclear research associated with the Manhattan Project (based in nearby Los Alamos, NM). Today, the grounds of Oxnard Field continue to be used by Kirtland Air Force Base for general purposes. 

Flying the Southwest
We now head to Winslow, AZ, the second-longest air leg of the journey. Time and distance: 2.5 hours, 240 miles. In clear weather, passengers on the Tri-Motor were treated some awe-inspiring scenery. After flying over the San Mateo Mountains, the flight passed over the Painted Desert just east of Winslow. While stunning, this landscape could also be dangerous. This became tragically evident on September 3, 1929. While attempting to navigate around stormy weather, the Tri-Motor City of San Francisco flying  just north of Grants, NM, crashed into the side of Mt. Taylor. All eight people on board were killed. The cause was likely poor visibility, strong downdrafts or both. It took five days to discover the wreckage from the air and an additional day for searchers to reach the site. The accident was widely publicized and was a shock to TAT. In an effort to ease public concern, TAT went on record emphasizing the safety measures built into their operation. E.I. Lewis, the Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission issued a statement in support of TAT and commercial aviation. Here is an excerpt:

"... It is inevitable that there will be accidents. It is simply a repetition of what occurred one hundred years ago on steam railroads when people were made very apprehensive of traveling in the new vehicles because of accidents. It is inevitable, of course, that air travel is going to come and it is unfortunate that this distressing accident occurred."2
A plaque commemorating the Mt. Taylor accident is displayed today at
the Grants-Milan Municipal Airport.
(photo from the Cibola Country Historical Society)
Winslow, AZ
A 1:12 PM arrival brought TAT passengers into Winslow for what had become a routine fifteen-minute stopover. The airfield was owned and developed by TAT. Charles Lindbergh himself played a major role in the design of Winslow's airfield (as well as other fields in TAT's Western Division). At an altitude of almost 5,000 feet, a long runway was again required. TAT designed a three-runway "letter A" configuration with the longest runway measuring 5,000 feet. Although Winslow was not scheduled for a plane/rail interchange, the field was built adjacent to Santa Fe Railway tracks. As noted in Part One, TAT favored airfields being close to rail tracks, just in case an unscheduled switch between plane and train was needed. TAT constructed a pueblo-styled passenger terminal and hangar on the field's east side.

Fast-forward to today: The site of the 1929 field is today the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport. Owned by the city of Winslow, they proudly regard it as: "The best preserved of the original TAT airfields and a lasting tribute to Arizona's important role in aviation history."3 The original TAT-constructed hangar and terminal remain at the airport, having been renovated. TWA continued to fly into Winslow until 1953. Today, no scheduled airline service is available however Winslow-Lindbergh is a busy airport, handling over 20,000 operations in 2016. Tenants include the U.S. Forest Service, which uses the airport as an operations base for aerial firefighting. 

A Grand Trip to Kingman, AZ
If the weather was good and your Tri-Motor flew its preferred route, the 186-mile flight from Winslow to Kingman clearly was a sightseer's delight. Shortly after takeoff, Meteor Crater came into view. Created 50,000 years ago by the impact of a meteorite, the crater sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Its diameter is 3,900 feet and the floor of the crater is 600 feet deep. It's likely the Tri-Motor flew over the crater at about 8,000 feet. There was more to come. Nearing Flagstaff, AZ, the eastern reaches of the Grand Canyon could be seen to the north. As the plane continued west, the canyon turned southward, offering even better views. A TAT passenger, Mr. A. A. Garthwaite, was brief and right on point when he wrote: 

"People who have not taken your service to the coast have missed the greatest experience of the age. The flight over the western country was a revelation I never expected this side of Heaven."4

 By the way, if the above weren't enough, lunch was also served on this leg.

Meteor Crater, as shown in the November 1929 issue of Plane Talk. The original
caption suggests it was taken from a TAT flight.
(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of SHSMO)

Kingman, AZ
The airfield in Kingman was reached in about two hours. Upon landing there, passengers were officially on Pacific time. Another TAT creation, the Kingman airfield had intersecting runways, with the longest stretching 5,200 feet. TAT built passenger terminal and hangar facilities, which closely resembled those constructed at Winslow. Kingman was yet another fifteen-minute stop, however, we suspect it had a special meaning. The next leg (covering 300 miles in just over three hours) would be the last, as its destination was Glendale, CA.
This picture of a TAT Tri-Motor at Kingman provides an excellent view of the
pueblo-style passenger terminal.
(TWA Museum photo)

Fast-forward to today: The records we consulted were not conclusive, but we do know that when TWA was formed in 1930, service through Kingman continued on the coast-to-coast air route. There were service disruptions in the early 1930s and news stories show TWA service through Kingman as late as 1934 (it's likely the Great Depression affected these decisions). A 1937 TWA route map confirms Kingman was no longer a scheduled stop. The TAT airfield closed to traffic in 1942. A nearby training field opened by the Army Air Forces became Kingman Airport, in 1949. Today, the site of TAT's airfield is a commercially developed area near downtown Kingman. The original terminal building is still standing (at the intersection of Airway Ave. and Bank St.) and is used for commercial purposes.

Fast-forward bonus: The current Kingman Airport and Industrial Park is also the home of one of the infamous Southwestern aircraft "boneyards". A number of TWA's L-1011s were retired to Kingman in the 1990s. Though it's not the original TAT airfield, it still is a meaningful and interesting coincidence.       

The Home Stretch

Taking place at 2:46 PM, the departure from Kingman was the ninth and final one of the journey. The airfield at Glendale, CA (serving Los Angeles) lay ahead. Departing Kingman, the landscape again changed as the mountainous terrain gave way to the Mojave Desert. Flying southwesterly, the Tri-Motor made its only crossing of the Colorado River, near Needles, CA (offering a view of the intersection of Arizona, California and Nevada). Passengers spent the majority of their three-hour trip flying over the desert until an increase in altitude signaled the upcoming crossing of the San Gabriel Mountains. Desert landscape gave way to the lakes and rivers embedded into the lush green mountain range. Again, assuming clear weather, Mount Wilson and its iconic observatory were easily spotted. Shortly thereafter, the mountains disappeared as the plane descended over Pasadena, CA. TAT passenger Walton Forstall, of Philadelphia, traveled TAT to Los Angeles enroute to Honolulu (via ship from Los Angeles). He wrote extensively of his journey, often creating vivid images with his words. Our guide thinks you'll enjoy his account of his flight into Glendale:

"That journey across Southern California! So swift and with such varying scenery. Mountains, valley and plain, desert and irrigated orchards; one ever-changing kaleidoscope. Again, the symmetry of cultivation. Square and rectangles of green dots, probably most of them orange trees. Three mountain lakes, towns more numerous as we approach the coast; finally, perhaps the greatest spot of all- Pasadena, and then as our motor slows we know we are at journey's end and glide down in Glendale, which that day witnessed the coming and going by airway of several hundred people."5 

Flying over the San Gabriel foothills.
The flat land that comprises cities around Los Angeles
is at the upper left.
(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of SHSMO)

Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, CA
A 5:22 PM (PT) touchdown in Glendale, California marked the end of the westbound journey. Dedicated in February 1929, the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) in Glendale stood about ten miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Among others, TAT and Maddux Airlines rented space from the owner, the Curtiss Airport Corporation. Among the airfield's landmarks was a massive hangar owned by the Slate Dirigible Company. The passenger terminal (privately built) was an excellent example of Southern California Spanish colonial revival architecture. A tower rose from its northwest corner. The main northwest/southeast runway (3,800 feet long) was constructed entirely of concrete. TAT (and eventually TWA) used GCAT for only seven years, moving then to the nearby airport in Burbank. It should also be noted that in 1934, Howard Hughes became a neighbor at Glendale, leasing a small building in which he built the Hughes A-1 Racer aircraft. The paths of Howard Hughes and TWA would cross again in just five years. During the 1930s, GCAT was also an excellent location for stargazing, as many Hollywood film legends came and went through the terminal.

After the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, GCAT was converted to a defense base and only military air traffic was permitted. The Army did a masterful job camouflaging the airport terminal, hangars, ramps and runway. After the war, GCAT reopened to civilian traffic (as Grand Central Airport), however, it saw little activity and was finally closed as an airfield in 1959. It again changed names, becoming Grand Central Business Park.

In the 1950s, the Walt Disney Company rented an industrial building at the airport for use by the company's design staff. Some years later, Disney rented the original terminal building for use by the development teams for Disney World and Epcot Center. Finally, in 1997, the Disney Company bought all the original airport land. In doing so, Disney planned to create the Grand Central Creation Campus (GC3), envisioned as a location for Disney and other creative companies to house offices.

A postcard of Glendale Grand Central Air Terminal in 1929.
The passenger terminal is on the lower left (note the tower). 

The Slate Dirigible hangars are on the upper right.
(photo courtesy of Airport Journals (

Fast-forward to today: After several years of planning, construction of GC3 moved forward and today is a huge complex of buildings, including those serving several Disney divisions. In 2012, work began to renovate the original terminal building. Today, it sits proudly, brought back to its 1929 grandeur. The main road through the campus today is Grand Central Avenue, occupying the space of what was once GCAT's runway.

Restored GCAT terminal building, as it appears today.
(photo by Paul Turang for the Los Angeles Conservancy)
Go East, Young Man
The trip we just took covered the westbound inauguration of TAT's coast-to-coast air/rail service. There was, of course, an eastbound inauguration as well. That took place on July 8, 1929 (the same day the first two westbound Tri-Motors left Columbus). It was a grand event. Two TAT Tri-Motors, sitting on the apron at Glendale, were christened. The first was the City of Los Angeles, with that ceremony performed by Mary Pickford. The christening of the second ship, the City of Philadelphia, was done by Gloria Swanson. 

At 8:45 AM, on July 8th, the City of Los Angeles took off first, with Charles Lindbergh at the controls. Lindbergh's contributions to TAT were frequently mentioned in Part One of our story. His overall involvement in TAT's operation was enormous, from his presence at the first planning meeting to recruiting, training, surveying airfields, overseeing construction and periodically "flying the line". His association with TAT (and eventually TWA) was among the most significant events in the development of commercial aviation. 

Just before boarding the City of Los Angeles for the eastbound 
inaugural flight. Anne and Charles Lindbergh are fourth and sixth from the left.
Also there were Douglas Fairbanks (first on left) and Mary Pickford
 (fifth from the left). Douglas and Mary posed for the picture but did not
 take the flight.
(TWA Museum photo)
All of our historical sources agree that Lindbergh flew the City of Los Angeles to Kingman and then Winslow. From there, accounts differ. Some report he spent the night in Winslow and then piloted the westbound Tri-Motor on July 9th, for the first TAT landing at Glendale. Other sources report he flew onto Clovis, spending the night there before his westbound return. Plane Talk (which we consider out most accurate original source), takes him only as far as Winslow. It's hard to trace all this because there were plane and crew changes throughout these journeys. Our guide thought, however, that you would enjoy playing history detective with him. Up for it? OK... let's look at the following document:

The document above is one of the most historically significant in our museum's archives. You may recall from Part One that each passenger received a map upon boarding his or her TAT flight. Each map contained a space to record flight details. This map belonged to passenger S.W. Higgins, who received it upon his boarding in Clovis on July 9 (Mr. Higgins was also a passenger on the City of Columbus, the first westbound TAT departure from Columbus on July 8th). There are several autographs, including Amelia Earhart, Anne Lindbergh and Charles Lindbergh (we digitally circled them). Were they signed in Clovis? We can't be sure. We do know the plane Lindbergh flew back to Glendale was the City of Philadelphia, so was he on the City of Washington from Clovis to Winslow? Or did Higgins get Lindbergh's autograph in Winslow, or maybe in Los Angeles, after landing? And what of the signature on the lower right, labeled "Pilot"? Was he the captain from Clovis? Or maybe was he Lindbergh's co-pilot from Clovis? And you thought writing this thing was easy?

Whatever the circumstances, we do know that the first TAT westbound arrival into Glendale on July 9th was piloted by Lindbergh. Amelia Earhart was a passenger on board. We're also sure that July 8 and 9, 1929, were days to remember in Glendale, as well as every city that witnessed the arrivals and departures of TAT's Tri-Motors.

And So it Went
This grand experiment of Transcontinental Air Transport evolved quickly, changing soon after it started. On November 16, 1929, TAT merged with Maddux Airlines, resulting in the formation of TAT-Maddux Airlines (in both parts of our article, we referred to the combined airline only as TAT). Maddux brought with it several Ford Tri-Motors, legendary aviators and a west coast route network. As a result of the latter, TAT-Maddux extended its coast-to-coast service to additional west coast cities, including San Francisco (with flights from Glendale). But, there was an even bigger change to soon come.

Herbert Hoover's Postmaster-General, Walter Folger Brown, envisioned mail and passengers being profitably carried by a small number of large airlines. He felt this would best move mail and people by air while allowing the government to carefully regulate mail contracts. In 1930, Brown held a conference mandating that several airlines merge to form a limited number of large airlines. To that end, Brown insisted that Western Air Express and TAT-Mattux combine. The deal, closed in July 1930, resulted in the formation of Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA).

In retrospect, TAT had little choice. The timing of TAT's initial existence was poor as the stock market crash in November 1929 and ensuing Great Depression rocked the country. TAT's ridership (consisting mostly of wealthy individuals who could afford high fares) dropped noticeably. The September 1929 Mount Taylor crash also damaged TAT's image. And while in this article we have mostly highlighted the triumphs of the TAT experiment, there were many setbacks. Delays, cancellations, missed train/plane connections and a series of minor to moderate accidents were widely noticed. Some even commented that TAT stood for "Take A Train". During its relatively short life, TAT did not turn a profit, showing a three million dollar loss at the time of its merger with Western Air Express. Despite this, it would be shortsighted to consider TAT a failure. The determination, ingenuity and courage of many gave birth to and maintained its short but significant existence. In the opening section in Part One, we referenced the ease and speed of flying from New York and Los Angeles today. We put forward the thought that if passengers on these flights today knew of TAT, they would be amazed. We have no doubt that would indeed be true.  

(TWA Museum photo)

On A Final Note
Our guide has thoroughly enjoyed taking you on this journey. Reading original words written and looking through photographs taken almost 90 years ago was an amazing experience. He never got tired or bored. It's what he does. His one regret? There is so much more to tell. The references we used (listed at the end) are loaded with an impressive array of additional stories and facts. An example: TAT's radio communication system allowed passengers to make radiotelephone calls from air to ground (advertised as to be used only in an emergency). When you have some time, we suggest taking a look at the 1929 issues of Plane Talk on SHSMO's website (the link is listed at the end). We guarantee it will be quite an experience. For now, it's time for our guide to wrap up both parts of this article and clean his really cluttered desk. He'll see you again in our next article.

For Your Information
We are pleased and privileged to celebrate our blog's first birthday. We believe it has been a success and we thank you for your interest and readership. You'll notice the credits are a bit longer this time, as we'd like to recognize everyone who has been involved with the production of the eleven articles we've brought you in our first year. As we enter the "terrible twos" (we'll try to behave), we have some interesting articles on the drawing board for you. There will, however, be a delay in the publication of our next article, as we will be hard at work producing our museum's audio tours. We'll provide more information about that as production moves along. We're excited and feel it will be a great opportunity for us to enhance our visitors' experience. And speaking of visitors, we hope you'll be among them soon. We'll look forward to seeing you! 

Author: Wayne Hammer
Editor: Larry Dingman
Editing and Proofing: Pam Tucker

Blog article review team:
Pam Blaschum, Carol Emert, Karen Holden Young, Art Lujin, John Mays, Jon Proctor and Milo Raub

1. TAT Plane Talk newspaper, Vol. 1, Nbr. 9, September, 1929
2. TAT Plane Talk newspaper, Vol. 1, Nbr. 9, September, 1929 

3. Flying Through History - The Kingman-Winslow Regional Airport (
4. TAT Plane Talk newspaper, Vol. 1, Nbr. 9, September, 1929
5. TAT Plane Talk newspaper, Vol. 1, Nbr. 11, November, 1929

Primary Reference Sources  (Parts One and Two)
Transcontinental Air Transport, Airway Age Magazine, July, 1929 (Vol. 10, Nbr. 7).
Coast-to-Coast by Plane and Train, memoirs by Aurel J. Knarr, 1930.
Transcontinental Air Transport, by Ed Betts, Journal, American Aviation Historical Society, Fall, 1997
Transcontinental Air Transport, Inc., by George Hopkins, American Heritage Magazine, December, 1975 (Vol. 27, Iss. 1)
Plane Talk, TAT newspaper. Jan.1929 - Dec, 1929 (Vol. 1, Nbrs. 1-12). Collection of Missouri State Historical Society Research Center, Kansas City. Folder:Trans World Airlines (TWA) Records (K0453):  
Click here to see the SHSMO 1929 Plane Talk collection





One of the best parts of our museum is where we are located. We are proud to be part of the family at the Wheeler Kansas City Downtown Airport. Opened in 1927, it served as Kansas City's commercial passenger terminal until 1972. Today, it remains a vibrant airport, primarily serving general aviation traffic. On occasion, some pretty interesting things go on here and we'd like to share some of them with you.

May, 2018

If you plan to visit the museum between May and December 2018, you will encounter some repair work being performed on the Buck O'Neal Broadway Bridge, which crosses the Missouri River, right by the Wheeler Downtown Kansas City Airport (the location of our museum). The inconvenience should be minimal, but here's what you'll need to know:

1. If you're coming to the airport from the south (downtown Kansas City), the northbound lanes of the bridge will remain open. You'll continue to use the bridge and exit for the museum and airport normally.

2. If you're coming to the airport from the north, the normal road that takes you to the airport (169 Highway) will remain open and allow you to exit at the airport and our museum, just before the closed bridge access.

3. When you leave the museum, if you wish to head to downtown Kansas City, you will be detoured north to the Christopher Bond Bridge, which will take you across the river and into the downtown highway loop. 

Long recognized as the companion roadway to our home airport, the Buck O'Neal Broadway Bridge today carries 40,000 vehicles each day and has taken millions of people between the airport and downtown Kansas City since 1956.

December, 2017

Quite frequently, aircraft from our armed forces drop in to our airport. If we're lucky, we can catch them on the ramp with their crews present. That was the case a few weeks ago, when this LC-130 transport made a brief stop in Kansas City. When we asked the crew where they were headed, they replied, "Antarctica."

The airplane is one of a group of LC-130 "Skibirds" flown by the 109th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base, in Scotia, NY. The aircraft is a modified version of the C-130 Hercules transport and if you look closely by the main and nose landing gear, you'll notice the special "ski" fittings, allowing the plane to land on ice and snow runways. The Skibirds are part of the military component of the U.S. Antarctic Program, managed by the National Science Foundation.

In addition to flights in Antarctica, the Skibirds also run seasonal flights to Greenland. In all cases, they carry cargo, provisions, fuel and people necessary to support this important research. As always, we are impressed by the men and women of our military and are always privileged to meet them at our airport.

August, 2017

We took a break from our museum tours to snap this very busy and interesting photo on a sunny August afternoon. We're standing right outside the hangar that is attached to our museum, looking north on the Signature Flight Services ramp. Starting at the left foreground, a Cessna Citation 560 is looking out on two of four A-10 "Warthog" fighter jets that were visiting Kansas City. They are based at nearby Whiteman Air Force Base. Beyond the Warthogs sits a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757. It was chartered by the Seattle Mariners baseball team, who were in town for a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals. 

Handling over 70,000 aircraft operations in 2016, we suspect our friends at the Kansas City Aviation Department will tell you the scene above was just "another day at the office."

July, 2017

At the airport, we typically see general aviation aircraft (including many sleek and modern business jets). While there is no scheduled passenger service, on occasion a commercial airliner makes an appearance. Usually parked on the Signature Flight Support ramp (right by our museum), it does raise questions from our visitors. So, we thought you'd like to know too.

The Air Canada A319 above is a charter aircraft that brought the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team to town to play the Kansas City Royals, June 23-25. During the baseball season, many teams (including the Royals) utilize the Wheeler Kansas City Downtown Airport for coming in to and going out of Kansas City. The airport's proximity to Kansas City (we're literally across the Missouri River from downtown KC and not that far from the Truman Sports Complex) makes it a preferred destination to those who fly here on private or chartered airplanes. 

At 6,827 feet in length, the airport's main runway can accommodate many of today's most common passenger airliners including the smaller members of the Airbus family and Boeing's 737 and 757 airplanes. We see quite a few during the season!

Finally, our friends at Air Canada tell us "Jetz" is the charter division of the airline. They maintain three A319s, each with 58 business class seats inside. Sports teams and entertainers are among their clients.

June, 2017

There are more pictures to view. See the link at the end of the article

The airport received a special visitor the week of June 12th. The "Madras Maiden" is a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and it's quite an impressive airplane. It was manufactured in 1944 and served the military through 1959. Since it was manufactured toward the end of World War II, it did not see combat action. But... it sure was equipped for it! 

The plane is flown by the Liberty Foundation. A non-profit organization, they use it as a "flying museum", dispatching it throughout the United States to exhibit this important part of our country's history. We enjoyed meeting members of the Liberty Foundation's crew and appreciated them allowing us to board the aircraft. It was an awesome experience. We invite you to find out more about the Liberty Foundation (as well as where and how to see the plane) by accessing their website at

We'd also like to mention our neighbors at Signature Flight Support. The B-17 spent much of the week on their ramp. We share the building at 10 Richards Road with them and the constant activity around their operations area provides a great backdrop for our museum. They also keep a watchful eye on our museum's JetStar II airplane, which is also parked on their ramp. We appreciate having them as our neighbors!

We took more pictures and invite you to view them on our museum's photo page at





We'd like to take you on a trip from New York to Los Angeles. Been there... Done that? Not like this. The year is 1929 and a most incredible journey is about to begin with a train ride from New York's Pennsylvania Station to Columbus, Ohio. Upon arrival there, a Ford Tri-Motor airplane awaits. And that's just the beginning...

Forty-Eight Hours
Whatever time of day you're reading this article, our guide can tell you with a large degree of certainty that there is an airplane flying from New York to Los Angeles. He checked. On the day this was written, 52 scheduled passenger flights made that non-stop trip. Thirty-seven flights originated at Kennedy Airport and 15 departed Newark Airport. The distance is about 2,500 miles. "Gate to gate" times vary, but flights average a little over six hours1. Every day, thousands of passengers fly the route. We doubt they think much about it, as they traverse the country at 35,000 feet. They might give it some thought, however, if they knew what you're about to find out.

Our journey begins 88 years ago. Then, the airline that would eventually become TWA inaugurated its legendary train/plane service between New York and Los Angeles. On July 7, 1929, twenty passengers (among many others) boarded the Pennsylvania Railroad Airway Limited at New York City's Pennsylvania Station, for an overnight trip to Columbus, Ohio. Once there, two Ford Tri-Motor airplanes2 bearing the name of Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), were waiting to fly them further west. After four en route stops, they would arrive in Waynoka, Oklahoma, where a Santa Fe Railway3 train was then boarded for an overnight ride to Clovis, New Mexico. From Clovis, two other TAT Tri-Motors were boarded for a three-stop flight, terminating at the Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, California (near downtown Los Angeles). The final tally: Two overnight train rides, two flights and nine landings. Elapsed time: About 48 hours. 

A Story to Tell 
We have a story to tell. It's one of those that has a little of everything - vision, innovation, the indomitable human spirit, money and politics. There's even a cartoon rabbit thrown into the mix (more on him later). We'll follow the journey through photographs, documents and artifacts contained in our museum and archives. There's so much to tell, we'll do it in two parts. Part One will take us from New York City's Pennsylvania Railroad Station to Columbus on the evening of July 7 and we'll then spend the next day flying Columbus-Indianapolis-St. Louis-Kansas City-Wichita-Waynoka. At that point, our guide will need a very long break, so we'll end there. Part Two, will find us pulling into Clovis, after our overnight train ride from Waynoka. Aboard another Tri-Motor, we'll take a four-stop flight to Los Angeles. Ready? Well... before we roll out of Pennsylvania Station, we'll need to give you some background history. Our guide thinks it'll be very helpful to know and promises he won't bore you. Once that's taken care of, we'll be on our way, finding out some interesting things about TAT, its Tri-Motors and the cities along the route. At each stop, we'll fast- forward and describe what things are like there today, 88 years later. 

The Airway Limited at New York City - ready To roll.
(image courtesy of State Historical Society of Missouri)

As you can imagine, the amount of material published about this event is voluminous. For this article, our guide will focus on the journey itself, using a variety of sources, including all the 1929 issues of Plane Talk, TAT's company newspaper. Fortunately, the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO) maintains a digital collection of all the 1929 Plane Talk issues, which allowed us to fill in some we didn't have in the TWA Museum's collection. They also made the digital images from all those issues available to us, relieving us of the delicate task of handling the actual newspapers. You'll notice SHSMO referenced in several photographs.

Since this is the TWA Museum Guides blog, it's probably a good idea to take a minute and let you know how this whole story adds up to TWA.Throughout this article, we'll refer a lot to Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT). Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, TAT would become part of the newly formed Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA4). It's a complicated story, so our guide will give you a very broad overview, as a lot happened in a very short period of time. TAT was founded in 1928. Their expressed purpose was to establish a fast, safe and comfortable means to travel across the United States. It would be accomplished by using a combination of TAT aircraft and established Pennsylvania Railroad and Santa Fe Railway trains. In 1927, Jack Frye, Paul Richter and Walt Hamilton started Standard Airlines (SAL), flying between California and Arizona. In March 1930, not long after TAT began its transcontinental operation, Standard Airlines was sold to Western Air Express (WAE), with Jack Frye becoming its Chief of Operations. Finally, additional mergers followed, resulting from the Airmail Act of 1930. Three large airlines emerged. One of them was TWA, formed in October 1930, when TAT and WAE merged. After some sorting out of the executives from the merged companies, Jack Frye would become TWA's President in 1934, with Paul Richter and Walt Hamilton serving as Vice-Presidents. 

Got it all? Good. Oh... one more thing. Not long after starting transcontinental service, TAT merged with Maddux Air Lines and was officially known as TAT-Maddux. To keep things simple, we'll reference the company as TAT throughout the article and up to its merger into TWA in October 1930. 

New York City, 1927
To best understand the formation of TAT, we need to examine what the world was like in the spring of 1927. Passenger air travel in the United States was in its infancy, mostly scattered and experienced by only a select few people. Then in May 1927, Charles Lindbergh completed his historic flight from New York to Paris. A wave of air travel enthusiasm swept the country and some people of vision seized the opportunity. Not long after Lindbergh's return home, a small meeting took place at the Engineers' Club in New York City. Colonel Paul Henderson, former Assistant Postmaster General and then Vice-President of National Air Transport, started the meeting by drawing a map of the United States on an envelope. He added a line across the map, identifying a route of logical stopping points, to be traveled by train and airplane. The proposed route would run reliably and consistently, using the most modern aeronautic and navigation technology available. Colonel Henderson made certain the people best suited to undertake the task were in that room with him. One of them, C.M. Keys, was an aviation executive, banker and an early proponent of passenger air service in the United States. Also present was Charles Lindbergh. Less than a year after that meeting, funding was procured, commitments were signed and Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) was born. 

Good guys to know: Lindbergh, Keys and Henderson.
(TAT Plane Talk images courtesy of SHSMO)

By the way, we know you're wondering, so we'll address it up front. It was decided to use trains for part of the journey because of some concerns:
  • Flying in east coast weather.
  • Flying across the Allegheny Mountain range.
  • TAT "did not think the time right to transport human cargo in the darkness."5
These concerns were quickly addressed after TWA was formed in 1930 and true coast-to-coast air travel began shortly thereafter.

Quite a Plan
The plan was ambitious. After first obtaining five million dollars in capital, TAT started by identifying Columbus, Ohio as its easternmost terminal and began building infrastructure westward to Los Angeles. It was an unprecedented effort. A state-of-the-art communication system was engineered and constructed, allowing each (train and plane) station along the line to talk with the others quickly and reliably.  The need for clear and consistent air-to-ground communication capabilities was also addressed. To supplement the existing structure of the U.S. Weather Bureau, TAT built the largest (up to that time) private weather observation and reporting network, utilizing the latest scientific methods for atmospheric measurement and weather forecasting. Airfields from Columbus to the west were chosen and then brought up to standards necessary to land heavy airplanes on well-drained and solid runways. Of special importance was the establishment of comfortable passenger terminal facilities. And if no airfield existed (a common situation in the southwest), TAT built one from the ground up. Lighting to properly illuminate the airfields was installed and beacons were placed along the entire route (again, to supplement the less comprehensive existing system). As mentioned, night flying was not initially planned, however, lighting and beacon systems were installed for potential delays or emergencies. It was also foreseen that night flying would eventually become a reality. TAT selected Ford Tri-Motors for its fleet and a nationwide search identified the best aviators to fly them. C.M. Keys became TAT's President and Colonel Henderson its Vice-President. Colonel Lindbergh accepted the Chairmanship of the airline's Technical Committee. Lindbergh's contributions would be key, including surveying potential airfields, selecting equipment (most notably, the Ford Tri-Motor) and overseeing pilot/mechanic recruitment and training. Every contingency was considered. Keys made it very clear, "We begin operations only when we are properly ready." 

Getting it done!
Top: The terminal in Columbus, OH, being constructed by the city.
Bottom: TAT was on their own in much of the west, here literally building

 an airfield at Waynoka, OK.
 (TAT Plane Talk images courtesy of SHSMO) 

They Weren't Alone
It should be noted here that TAT's idea was not a new one. There was competition. In fact, the first organized transcontinental air/rail journey had already taken place earlier in 1929, when Jack Frye's Standard Airlines flew between Los Angeles and El Paso, TX, connecting with a train of the Texas and Pacific Railway to and from the east coast. Other airlines utilized air/rail transitions in places like Kansas City, Mo, Cleveland, OH and Garden City, KS. We chose to highlight TAT because of their scale, reach and the comprehensive structure they planned and built. 

Pennsylvania Station, New York City
Opened in 1910, New York's Pennsylvania Station was a true landmark. Covering roughly eight acres, trains arrived from and departed to every direction, through massive rail tunnels dug under the Hudson and East Rivers. On July 7, 1929, the station saw a major event as the Pennsylvania Railroad Airway Limited prepared to depart for Columbus. A Ford Tri-Motor graced the station's massive central hall, with Amelia Earhart standing close by. Truth be told, Amelia was just doing her job, as she was a TAT employee, serving as Assistant to the General Traffic Manager. At 6:05 PM, Charles Lindbergh sent a message from Los Angeles to New York. The message activated a huge bell at Pennsylvania Station, signalling the departure of the Airway Limited. Ms. Earhart and about fifty VIPs were among the passengers on board. As the train rolled west, TAT prepared two Tri-Motor aircraft at Columbus, awaiting the train's arrival the next morning, scheduled for 7:55 AM.    

Amelia Earhart standing by the Ford Tri-Motor, the City of New York,
at Pennsylvania Station, July 7, 1929.
(photo from the Collections of The Henry Ford)      
Fast-forward to today: To the dismay of railroad enthusiasts, architects and most everyone else, Pennsylvania Station was demolished in 1963. While the underground tracks and platforms remained, new buildings replaced the station's above-ground structure. Construction included a new Madison Square Garden and office towers. One tower, 2 Penn Plaza, would eventually house TWA's New York reservations and sales offices for several years.      

Columbus, Ohio
Upon arrival in Columbus, passengers officially entered the TAT network. The city of Columbus developed their airport with TAT in mind. An impressive new terminal building and hangars were erected. The Pennsylvania Railroad constructed a train platform adjacent to the terminal. The transition from train to plane was little more than a short walk. Two runways (the longer being 3,500 feet) were constructed with a concrete base and paved with bituminous macadam to handle the heavy Tri-Motor aircraft. Don't worry, our guide had no idea either. Bituminous macadam is actually a type of pavement made of crushed stone, held together with a binding material. That technique is still in use today, in the paving of vehicular roads. We point this out because throughout our guide's research, the words "pavement" and "drainage" were seen numerous times. Most U.S. airfields in the 1920s were little more than cleared tracts of land. Landings on muddy and bumpy ground often occurred. Such conditions were unacceptable to TAT.  

It was a big day in Columbus. Despite rain, 3,000 spectators were on hand to watch the two Tri-Motors take off to the west. Amelia Earhart joined passengers on one of them. Despite the rain in Columbus, TAT's meteorological bureau was cranking out observations and reported clear skies to the west. So at 8:15 AM (only twenty minutes after the Airway Limited's arrival), the Tri-Motors were on their way to their next stop, Indianapolis, Indiana. After the departures, TAT hosted a breakfast in their Columbus hangar. Attendees included Henry Ford and his son Edsel. We must assume the Tri-Motor's tires were Firestones, as company founder Harvey Firestone was present as well.

Goodbye Columbus! TAT aircraft (the City of Columbus and the City of Wichita)
 prepare to head out on July 8, 1929.
(TWA Museum photo)
Fast-forward to today: The unique and beautiful original terminal building (pictured above) remains today at the southeast boundary of the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. 
TAT's original hangar still stands as well, adjacent to the terminal. As the airline industry grew, the city of Columbus quickly outgrew its original terminal. It was expanded and remodeled many times, almost tripling its size. In 1958, a new terminal complex was built elsewhere at the airport. After 1958, the original terminal building was put to alternative general aviation uses and began to experience a slow decline. In 1985, a major deconstruction and renovation was undertaken and the aforementioned expansions were removed, exposing the original structure. For almost two decades the structure was a viable business complex. By 2008, the building was empty and quickly deteriorated thereafter. In 2013, a civic-minded group stepped forward to preserve the old terminal building. POCAT (Preserving the Original Columbus Air Terminal) was formed to stabilize and redevelop the terminal. Working with the CRAA (Columbus Regional Airport Authority), aviation, community, architecture-related organizations and individuals, POCAT raised sufficient funds (including a matching gift from the Columbus Foundation) to stabilize the building. CRAA has since installed a new permanent roof and the building is ready for creative re-development. POCAT's goal is the completion of a careful and historically-relevant renovation, with the building eventually becoming a permanent, profitable and self-sustaining entity. 
(Note: Our guide thanks Tom Kromer and Jim Thompson of POCAT, for their assistance in writing this section).

On to Indianapolis
During the 180-mile flight from Columbus to Indianapolis, it's likely many passengers unfolded bound maps provided by TAT. Since the Tri-Motors typically flew at 5,000-6,000 feet or below, the maps were useful in spotting cities and landmarks along the way. 

An original TAT passenger route map, on display in our museum.

Here's something interesting. Starting In October 1929, passengers flying TAT were treated to the first in-flight movies. We're not kidding. When tired of map reading, you could look at a screen in the front of the cabin to watch some newsreels, supplemented with the cartoon adventures of "Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit". Conceived by Walt Disney, it's believed that Oswald was Walt's inspiration for Mickey Mouse. The October 1929 issue of Plane Talk described the projector and accompanying movie equipment:

"Of compact construction, the machine itself weighs less than eight pounds. With screen and batteries, the total combined weight of the equipment is 34 pounds, a vital factor in its adaptation to the airplane."6

So, the next time you're at 35,000 feet, deciding which episode of House Hunters to stream to your iPad, remember the photo below:

What's a WiFi?  Viewing on-board movies in 1929.  
(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of SHSMO)
The scheduled 9:13 AM arrival into Indianapolis took place at Stout Field. Already an existing airfield, necessary improvements to the runways were made. TAT and the Curtiss Flying Service partnered to have a hangar and terminal facility built. Weather, communication and lighting facilities were installed as well. Passengers spent just fifteen minutes at Stout Field before becoming airborne again, heading to Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri.   

Fast-forward to today: As a passenger airport, Stout Field's time was short. By 1931, TWA (and other airlines) were using the newly-constructed Indianapolis Municipal Airport (today known as Indianapolis International Airport). Stout Field was used briefly as an Army Air Corps base during World War II and eventually as an airfield for the Indiana National Guard and Indiana State Police. The last active runway was closed in 1961. Today, the area partly contains commercial buildings and is home to divisions of the Indiana National Guard. What was Stout Field's longest runway is now part of Stout Field Drive, the main roadway through the area.

Meet Me in St. Louis
Leaving Indianapolis at 9:28 AM, passengers likely got hungry during the two-hour flight to St. Louis. Because the first "hostess" was not hired until 1935, TAT "couriers" offered refreshments. These versatile young men, mentioned in an earlier blog article: Presenting The Case for TWA's Flight Attendants , provided a variety of passenger services. Duties included baggage handling, passenger pick-up and cabin meal service. Food service on this leg? We'll let passenger, Mr. S.S. Smith describe it: "The hot bouillon with wafers served aloft about 9:30 in the morning is a wonderful feature for the passengers."7  

A 12:03 PM scheduled arrival brought passengers to Lambert Field in St. Louis, a place that would become very familiar to later generations of TWA passengers and employees. At the time, Lambert was viewed only as a temporary location for TAT service. TAT and the Curtiss Flying Service acquired acreage right across the Mississippi River, in Illinois and intended to move their operation there. It never happened. As development of the new airport moved forward, pressure from Missouri politicians influenced TAT to remain at Lambert. TAT agreed to house their company headquarters on the Missouri side as well. TAT's passengers were likely unaware of such political gyration, instead thinking about the full lunch that was going to be served en route to Kansas City. 

The TAT "nerve center" at its St. Louis headquarters. The two
teletype machines were constantly "clicking out" information
about weather, flight activity and passenger reservations.

(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of SHSMO)
Fast-forward to today:  Lambert Field, St. Louis and TWA became synonymous starting in 1982, when TWA began building its major hub operation there. It would also move its headquarters from New York to St. Louis, in 1992. At its peak of operation, TWA offered over 500 daily domestic and international departures from Lambert. That proposed airport on the Illinois side did become operational and is today the site of the St. Louis Downtown Airport. Lambert Field continues operation today as one of the Midwest's major airports.

On to Kansas City
After another fifteen-minute stop, TAT passengers left St. Louis at 12:18 PM, for the 227-mile leg to Kansas City. As mentioned earlier, a luncheon was served aloft, prepared by the Fred Harvey Company. The "Harvey House" was among America's first successful restaurant chains, known to many in the mid-western and western United States. Harvey's company also provided meals aboard the Santa Fe Railway (to be ridden by passengers later that evening). The Harvey meals on TAT were generally well received and we can tell you they were more substantial than bouillon and wafers.

A TAT courier serves lunch. Note the slipcovers on the Tri-Motor's
passenger seats. TAT's original seats were made of light-weight aluminum.
We also assume this photo was staged, as it was shot through an open cabin door.
(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of the SHSMO)
Kansas City Municipal Airport was reached in about 2 1/2 hours. Of all the stops on the TAT route, Kansas City is our guide's favorite! His attitude is understandable, as TAT airplanes literally rolled past the site of what today is our TWA Museum. Scouted as an airport site by both the Army Corps Reserve Association and Charles Lindbergh, it was built by the city and opened in 1927. Three months after his flight to Paris, Lindbergh landed at Kansas City in his famed Spirit of St. Louis aircraft to attend the airport's dedication. In 1929, the city constructed a modern passenger terminal, again to the standards requested by TAT. Interestingly, the airport's two runways were not paved but were surfaced with cinders and coated with heavy oil.  After their fifteen-minute stay, passengers were headed to the next stop, Wichita, Kansas.   

It is estimated that over 20,000 people were present for Charles Lindbergh's
arrival at Kansas City Municipal Airport's dedication, On August 17, 1927. Aside from the

runways and some facilities, much of the airport area in 1927 was undeveloped.
(TWA Museum photo)
Fast-forward to today: Kansas City Municipal Airport quickly grew in size and popularity. In 1931, the newly-formed TWA selected the airport for its headquarters. The headquarters building is today the home of our museum. The original 1929 passenger terminal and airport infrastructure were constantly expanded to keep up with the evolution in commercial aviation. The inability to expand the airport's footprint dictated a new airport in a roomier location. In 1972, commercial passenger traffic moved to the new Kansas City International Airport, constructed twenty miles to the north. Today, the original Municipal Airport (now known as the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport) remains quite active, handling mostly general aviation traffic.  

Wichita, Kansas
Leaving Kansas City just after 3:00 PM, Wichita was reached in a little under two hours. TAT divided operations into Eastern and Western Divisions. Wichita represented the westernmost station of the Eastern Division and as the plane landed at Wichita, passengers began to see the transition. In Wichita, a combination of drier climate and "perfect natural drainage" allowed TAT to land Tri-Motors right on the prairie turf. A true passenger terminal was not yet constructed, so TAT used part of a sixty-foot wide hangar (surrounded by a concrete apron) for early passenger facilities. Construction of a true terminal (by TAT standards) began in 1930, however, the Depression resulted in the terminal taking five years to complete. On a more pleasant note, we're certain Amelia Earhart was pleased to be in Wichita, TAT's only station in her home state of Kansas (even if only for fifteen minutes). 

It became a long day for the passengers aboard the two Tri-Motors that left rainy Columbus that morning. There was one more leg left, a short flight to Waynoka, Oklahoma. At 5:11 PM, they were once again in the air.

Fast-forward to today: The site of TAT's Wichita stop eventually became Wichita Municipal Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports in the 1940s. The United States Air Force established a presence there and in 1952, the property was officially given to the Federal government. This served as the beginning of today's McConnell Air Force Base. In 1954, all commercial operations were moved from McConnell to the present Mid-Continent Airport (recently re-named the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport). The beautiful 1930s original Wichita Municipal Airport Terminal has been renovated and today is the home of the Kansas Aviation Museum and Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame. 
The interior of today's Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita.
(photo from

Hello, Waynoka
A 6:24 PM landing in Waynoka, Oklahoma ended the day's flying. Passengers had by now logged over 1,000 air miles and five takeoffs and landings, all in an eleven-hour period of time. Waynoka was the entry for TAT's Western Division. A hangar erected there served as a transfer point, as all passengers and their baggage were directed to TAT's  "Aero Car". This unique conveyance was actually a luxury 16-passenger trailer (with very comfortable seating) that was pulled by a Chrysler Roadster (a Studebaker President was used at some other TAT stations).

The Aero Car's destination was Santa Fe Railway's Waynoka Station. There, passengers ate dinner at the Harvey House restaurant before boarding their overnight train to Clovis, New Mexico. At Clovis, two new Tri-Motors awaited. 

Hop aboard the "Aero Car"
(TAT Plane Talk image courtesy of SHSMO)
And with the above, we'll end Part One of our journey. A final word or two about Waynoka. The property was purchased and developed by TAT. Due to its relatively dry climate, paved runways were not deemed necessary. Instead, they were constructed by repeatedly furrowing the soil and adding oil during the process. When the oil settled, the runways were leveled and graded, providing a strong surface. This process would be repeated at other Western Division stations.   

Fast-forward to today: Waynoka's moment in the sun was short, as the plane/train transfer there was needed for just over a year. In 1939, TAT's hangar was dismantled and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas (where it still stands). Today, the former runways are wheat fields. Waynoka's railroad station (built in 1910) still stands and is on the National Register of Historical Places. It serves as a museum and the home of the Waynoka Historical Society.  

Good Night, Waynoka 
As the Santa Fe train (named "The Missionary") leaves Waynoka at 11:00 PM, our guide will take a break. We invite you to continue to Part Two, as our Tri-Motors traverse the Southwestern United states, flying from Clovis to Albuquerque, NM,  Winslow and Kingman, AZ and then Los Angeles. We'll have many more interesting facts and images to share with you, including the inauguration of service eastbound from Los Angeles, piloted by Charles Lindbergh. The train is rolling. We'll see you in Clovis (the link to Part Two is at the bottom).

The entrance to Waynoka's railroad station, in 1929.
Photo from the Waynoka Historical Society

On a Final Note
About a month ago, the Airline Archivists/Historians Association held their 2017 conference at our museum. At the time of the conference, our guide was beginning work on this article and the timing was superb! At the conference our guide connected with some people who had in depth resources about the subject of our article. In addition to Tom Kromer and Jim Thompson from POCAT (mentioned in the Columbus portion of our journey), he met Don Peters, a former TWA pilot who also works with POCAT. Great historical information about our home, the Wheeler Kansas City Downtown Airport, was provided by Lezley Mix, the Assistant Airport Manager. Our guide also gained access to priceless information thanks to Archivist Whitney Heinzmann of the State Historical Society of Missouri. We suspect you are now pretty familiar with their TAT-related collection items. If you would like to see SHSMO's entire digital collection of TAT Plane Talk and later editions of TWA's company newspapers, check them out at: .

Article Written by Wayne Hammer
Edited by Larry Dingman
Copy editing by Pam Tucker
Special thanks to Ruth Richter Holden, the daughter of the late Paul E. Richter.


2. For TAT's inaugural eastbound and westbound flights, two Tri-Motors flew, in tandem. Once operations normalized, one plane per flight was used. 
3. The line's official name was the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. In the article, we'll refer to its more familiar name of the Santa fe Railway.
4. Transcontinental and Western Air's official abbreviation was T&WA, although the"&" was often omitted from publications, signs and airplane liveries. In 1950, the corporate name of the airline was officially changed to Trans World Airlines. 
5. Airway Age magazine, Vol. 10, Nbr. 7, July 1929.
6. TAT Plane Talk newspaper, Vol. 1, Nbr. 10, October, 1929
7. TAT Plane Talk newspaper, Vol. 1, Nbr. 12, December, 1929

Digital issues of TAT Plane Talk are cataloged at the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center, Kansas City. Folder:Trans World Airlines (TWA) Records (K0453).