With a unique combination of beauty, grace and technology, the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar flew millions of TWA passengers from 1972 to 1997. Large-scale models of the aircraft greet visitors when they first enter our building at 10 Richards Road and again upon stepping into our main gallery. It was an impressive airplane. And as you've probably guessed, it has a story to tell.

A "Special" Debut
On May 10, 1972, TWA's first L-1011 (ship N31001) arrived at the airline's maintenance and overhaul base at Kansas City International Airport. The May 22, 1972 edition of TWA Today (the company's employee newspaper) would describe its reception as, "An army of TWAers, who paused from their labors to witness its arrival."1 The day, however, wasn't yet over as the plane then took a round trip "shakedown" flight to Indianapolis. Upon its return to the overhaul base, it flew its approach over downtown Kansas City and Kansas City's Downtown Airport, the home of TWA's first headquarters (and our museum today). There was extensive local media coverage and a press conference was given by TWA senior management, during the flight.

The headline in TWA Today announces the L-1011's arrival.

After reading this, our guide began to wonder. There must have been something really special about this airplane. TWA had received its first Boeing 747 just two years earlier and the nineteenth 747 had joined the fleet just seven months before the L-1011's arrival. How was it that the L-1011 garnered so much attention in the shadow of nineteen shiny, new 747s (destined to become the most heralded aircraft in commercial aviation)? Our guide was intrigued, so he looked at more articles and documents in our museum's archives and then tapped the best resources, our volunteers who knew the airplane inside and out.

The story that follows begins with the L-1011's development and how an overseas bankruptcy almost doomed the aircraft and its manufacturer before the first production model left the factory. Then, we'll tell you about the airplane's career at TWA, through documents, pictures and the words of our museum volunteers who flew it, worked the cabin and maintained it. Sit back. It's quite a story.

"...and drive carefully."
Lockheed Chairman Daniel Haughton (right) hands over the
"keys" of TWA's first L-1011 to TWA's Ed Zak.

Some History

To really gain an appreciation of this airplane and its successful 25-year existence with TWA, we need to go all the way back to its beginnings. While being brief is often a challenge for our guide, he'll try to keep it short and to the point. The L-1011 was manufactured by the Lockheed Corporation, in Palmdale, California (near Los Angeles). Lockheed and TWA were hardly strangers, as TWA successfully flew earlier Lockheed products, including the renowned Constellation. At the dawn of the commercial jet age,   Lockheed was dealing with issues related to its model 188 Electra turboprop (manufactured 1957-1961). These issues, unfortunately, included two fatal accidents, attributed to design flaws. While Lockheed was dealing with related financial, legal and perceptual issues, Boeing and Douglas were establishing firm footings in the commercial jetliner market. By the mid-1960s, Lockheed, anxious to build its own jetliner, proposed a three-engine, medium-long range, domestic, widebody aircraft that could also utilize medium-length commercial runways (such as those at New York's LaGuardia Airport). The model would be called the L-1011. The name "TriStar" was chosen through a company-wide contest.     

Lockheed committed to producing the most passenger and airline-friendly plane possible. Being their first passenger jet, research and development expenses to achieve these lofty goals would be high. At the same time, the newly combined McDonnell Douglas Corporation was building a competitor, the DC-10. McDonnell's conservative business approach and Douglas' prior experience with their DC-8 and DC-9 jet aircraft provided an early economic edge over Lockheed. The competition between the two would quickly turn heated, as airline customers would "play" the two companies against each other, thus eroding the profits of both. In moving forward, Lockheed felt they had a more desirable product, believing they could sell at least 500 L-1011s (the number needed to make manufacturing the airplane profitable). As it turned out, sales never even came close to 500, as only 250 units were produced. Other events during the plane's early days would create additional challenges.

Unlike the DC-10, Lockheed designed the L-1011 around a sole engine type, the British-manufactured Rolls-Royce RB.211. Lockheed believed the RB.211 to be the most advanced and quietest engine available. But, on Feb. 4, 1971 (literally months away from the L-1011's first scheduled deliveries), Rolls-Royce went into receivership, stating they lacked the money to continue building engines. With both their futures at stake, Rolls-Royce and Lockheed asked their respective governments for help. Help did arrive and Rolls-Royce resumed manufacturing the RB.211. This experience, however, cost Lockheed two valuable resources: time and money. Meanwhile, some airlines that had ordered the DC-10 were already flying the aircraft and Douglas was steadily improving the airplane's design, introducing international versions and a variety of engine options. Some argue that the Rolls-Royce delay was a key factor in the eventual demise of the L-1011. Nevertheless, Lockheed moved ahead, delivering its first L-1011s to Eastern Air Lines and TWA in 1972. Unfortunately, Lockheed was also creating its own problems from within. 

In 1976, news surfaced that Lockheed had bribed members of the Japanese government to choose the L-1011 over the DC-10 for Japan's All Nippon Airways. The Japanese Prime Minister was convicted of violating Japan's foreign exchange laws. At Lockheed, both the board chairman and vice-chairman resigned. The fallout hurt Lockheed's reputation on many levels. Financially, it's estimated the scandal effectively cost Lockheed in excess of a billion dollars. Nevertheless, Lockheed continued manufacturing the L-1011. TWA, Eastern and Delta were the largest operators and the airplane proved to be popular. Despite these operational successes, Lockheed continued to hemorrhage money on the program and in 1981, it decided to stop selling the L-1011. TWA took delivery of its 36th and final L-1011 on May 27, 1982. The 250th and last TriStar produced rolled out of Lockheed's Palmdale factory in 1984. They would never again manufacture a commercial airliner. 

(TriStar trivia: The Lockheed Corporation was named after its co-founder, Allan Loughead. To prevent mispronunciation, the company name was spelled phonetically). 

Where to Start?
If you're one of our regular blog readers, you know by now that our guide's biggest gripe is there's never enough time to tell our visitors (and blog readers) all the things that excite him about the museum and its exhibits. And so it is with the L-1011 and its 25-year history with TWA. What to include or exclude? How best to compress this huge story into one brief but riveting blog article? Not easy. So, as he does at the museum, our guide will stop at our impressive L-1011 cutaway model and highlight points about the exterior of the plane, what's inside and what went on behind the scenes during TWA's ownership.

Technology and Beauty
Few things in life are as satisfying to behold as the marriage of high technology and beauty. Years before Steve Jobs would envision the iPhone, engineers and designers at Lockheed had it down. When an L-1011 sat at the gate, people noticed. Many were drawn to the tail. The rear engine's "s-shaped" intake duct and the exposed rear section of the engine blended the airplane's body and tail into one sleek structure. Up front, a stylishly curved nose seemed poised to challenge the air it would cut through at 500+ miles per hour. While the competing DC-10 was very similar in appearance, some felt it lacked the elements of the L-1011's smooth design. At the museum, we think every airplane is a thing of beauty, but the L-1011 was in a class by itself. 

Stacking up the L-1011 and the DC-10.
Similar... but different.

The Operation
On June 25, 1972, TWA's first L-1011 revenue flight departed St. Louis for Los Angeles. Flight 177 was flawless, arriving two minutes ahead of schedule. As the airplane approached Los Angeles, Captain Gordon Granger announced to the passengers, "I thought you might be interested to know that we have been on autopilot since takeoff roll and that we are going to make an automatic landing."2 Flight 177's passengers were learning about one of the L-1011's most celebrated features: the first commercial aircraft with full auto-land capability. Equipped with a highly advanced automated guidance system (certainly by 1972 standards), the L-1011 could literally land itself, most notably in the FAA termed "Cat IIIA landing conditions". This meant zero vertical visibility and just 700 feet forward visibility at touchdown. Captain Granger was one of many TWA pilots who would be impressed with the L-1011. In his book, A Life Aloft, retired TWA Captain Walt Gunn wrote:

"The autoland is embarrassingly smooth. A sense of guilt was felt when passengers commended me for the landing when credit should have been given to the computer-driven autopilot, with which I had little influence beyond monitoring its precision."3

Not to be completely upstaged, Captain Gunn also described his technique for manually landing the L-1011 and how it responded with a smooth landing, known in pilot parlance as a "grease job". In such cases, Captain Gunn could accept passengers' praise without the guilt! 

Retired TWA pilot (and museum volunteer) John Coleman also remembers the L-1011. John began his 26-year TWA career in 1966, working as an aircraft mechanic in the hangar at the current Downtown Airport (right by our museum!). In 1968, John became a TWA pilot, initially serving as a flight engineer on the Boeing 727 and then a first officer on the Douglas DC-9. He spent the latter part of his career as a first officer on the 727 as well. In the mid-1980s, John also qualified as an L-1011 flight engineer and eventually, an instructor. During his tenure as an instructor, he occasionally flew trips on the L-1011 as flight engineer.  

John Coleman takes a break from our chat to
pose with one of the museum's L-1011 models

"It  was the technology,"  John says, adding that the L-1011 really was a bridge to the high technology seen in today's jetliners. John mentioned the aircraft's ability to automatically identify and correct system faults (thanks to a bank of computers sitting in a bay below the cockpit). John also recalls the clear, well-placed instrumentation, as well as the spaciousness and excellent outside visibility offered by the cockpit. We at the museum are fortunate to have John and his great experience available to our visitors and us. Our guide thanks John (and Captain Granger and Captain Gunn) for giving us a glimpse into the cockpit.

Under The Hood
As the old saying goes, "If you really want to know how something works, ask someone who has to fix it." Museum volunteer Larry Chalberg is that someone. Larry's 34-year career with TWA began in 1966, as a technician in the instrument shop at TWA's Kansas City maintenance and overhaul base. After a short stint in Los Angeles, he returned to Kansas City, working as an aircraft mechanic at the overhaul base and eventually "on the line" at Kansas City International Airport. Larry well remembers the workings of the L-1011, first encountering it in Los Angeles. He recalls that an L-1011 spending the night in Los Angeles was sometimes ferried to nearby Burbank Airport for overnight modification work (Lockheed owned the Burbank airport at the time, using it for L-1011-related work). He occasionally rode along on the ferry flights as an observer in the cockpit. Recalls Larry, "It was amazing to watch it auto-land. The pilots had to be aware not to instinctively touch the control column (possibly disabling the autopilot). The landings were incredible."

Larry also remembers the airplane as, "mechanic friendly." Changing out many components and instruments in the cockpit was quick and easy. He also remembers the comprehensive diagnostic process performed by the airplane's built-in test equipment computers (known as BITE). The plane's Rolls-Royce Engines were easily accessible, including the tail (#2) engine, which could be accessed from the ground (see the L-1011/DC-10 illustration from an earlier section and you'll get the idea). Larry recalled one evening in Kansas City when an L-1011 needed a main gear tire and brake change. According to Larry, "The whole operation was a breeze and took thirty minutes. It took longer to get the parts over to the airplane than it did to perform the job!"     
Larry Chalberg knew the L-1011 well, having worked on
it numerous times during his career with TWA.

Making it Tick
After speaking with John and Larry, our guide was motivated to find out even more about what made this plane tick. For that he sat down with museum guide Art Lujin. An electrical engineer by training, Art's 25-year TWA career included working on many L-1011 systems. (A note: Art's years with TWA (1992-1997) coincide exactly with the period TWA flew the L-1011). Art's first big assignment at TWA? Spending several weeks with Lockheed engineers and technicians in California, learning the plane's systems and avionics. 

"It was ahead of its time", Art recalled. In addition to the auto-land system, Art remembers other impressive features of the L-1011, such as its Direct Lift Control (DLC). DLC accomplished smooth descents by automatically adjusting the rate of descent without significant changes to the pitch (angle) of the aircraft. This was accomplished by the inner-wing spoilers being deployed in conjunction with the flap settings. Yet another example of how the L-1011 was engineered for both passengers riding and pilots flying it.  

Art remembers constant modifications and improvements made to the L-1011 during its service with TWA. Auto-land in Cat IIIA conditions was improved to Cat IIIC, which effectively allowed landing with zero visibility, vertically and horizontally (at airports equipped with compatible instrument landing systems). Art also mentioned that after an initial "break in" period, the Rolls-Royce engines proved to be reliable and efficient. "The L-1011 was my favorite of all of TWA's airplanes," was how Art summed up our conversation. 

A View From Inside
While just a relative handful of people piloted or worked on the L-1011, millions of TWA passengers flew in it. And it's here that things get quite interesting. Museum visitors can view seven L-1011 scale models, including the aforementioned "cutaway" model, restored by volunteer Dennis McCarthy (read how Dennis did it in our blog article: "Our Model Citizens"). This model illustrates the interior configuration of TWA's first L-1011s. With 30 seats in first class and just 176 in coach (well below Lockheed's maximums), TWA and Lockheed designed a roomy and comfortable interior. The dreaded "middle section" in economy class was made more desirable by having only four seats, separated by an extended width armrest in the center (no need to play "dueling elbows" with your row mate). TWA proclaimed you were "never more than one seat from the aisle."

If casual was your thing, the L-1011 was your plane, as both first and economy class had lounges. And if absolute casualness was what you were seeking, ten center row seats in first class allowed you to swivel and rock. For meal service, flight attendants could place a table between two pairs of swivel seats to allow you to gather 'round the dinner table. Now, if all of this seems to good to have been true, our guide has provided pictorial evidence below (thanks to our Archives folks). It might be a good idea to memorize these pictures and recall them the next time you find yourself jammed into a middle seat, between a chatty adult and his or her belligerent child. 

Don't fill up on the bread! First class mealtime table dining,
1972, L-1011 style.

Lounging and mingling in first class. Note the swivel seats
in the center of the cabin.

A pleasant day in economy class, as well. In this Lockheed mock-up cabin,
a small coat closet (lower left) separated pairs of middle section.TWA opted
 to go with wider armrests.
Our L-1011 cutaway displays the economy
 class forward lounge area.

Change, of course, is inevitable and it came quickly to the L-1011's interior. Operational and revenue considerations forced TWA to periodically reevaluate seating. The interior would undergo several revisions. Over time, the first class swivel and rocking seats gave way to permanent, forward-facing seats. Lounges in both first and economy class were removed and the 206-passenger capacity would eventually expand to as many as 275, including the introduction of a five-seat center section (goodbye, wide armrest). Not all was gloomy, however. The size of the L-1011 (and Boeing 747) allowed TWA to introduce a roomy Ambassador (business) class cabin, starting in the 1980s. 

And... The Galley!
Galleys typically aren't a noteworthy part of an aircraft, but on the L-1011, they were. On the models TWA flew, the galley was below the passenger seating level, effectively in the "belly" of the airplane. While our guide likes to feel he can describe most anything in words, he'll get some help from the picture below:
Photo courtesy of Jon Proctor
Yep, sandwiched (pardon the pun) between cargo and luggage containers was a 1,350 cubic foot galley. Lockheed designers wanted to keep meal preparation activity away from the passengers, thus allowing for more space and less commotion in the cabin. Two elevators ("lifts") transported food carts and crew members between the galley and main level of the airplane (note the lifts in the background). By the way, the picture itself is special. That's TWA employee Jon Proctor, inspecting the galley on TWA's first L-1011 during its first days of service in June 1972. John served as an on board DCS (Director of Customer Service).:

(More TriStar trivia: Lockheed designated each transport as a "lift", so as to not confuse it with the term "elevator", which was a part of the exterior tail section of the aircraft).

The lift ascended to a central cabin service center, one of three galley areas in the cabin. Initially, food carts were parked on "mushrooms" (locking pins to secure the heavy food carts in place) at each primary exit. Trays were then hand-carried to passengers, keeping the aisles clear of carts. This procedure was eventually ended when more mobile and efficient "Singl-Serve" carts were used. This also allowed the removal of additional economy class galley space, allowing for more passenger seating to be installed.  

Flight Attendant Perspectives
No tour of TWA's L-1011 would be complete without chatting with some of our volunteers who worked the cabin. You may recall meeting Pam Blaschum and Joe Ballweg in our recent article about TWA's flight attendants ("Presenting The Case For TWA's Flight Attendants"). Since they both worked on the L-1011, we sat down for a few minutes and chatted.

"I loved that airplane", were the first words from Pam, adding that she often bid L-1011 trips. The smooth rides and landings were what she remembers most. Among her favorite stories is the time she and another flight attendant were sitting in nearby jump seats with limited outside visibility. The plane had just made one of its characteristically smooth landings and as Pam tells it, "Betsy was across from me making announcements, etc. As we cleared the runway and started toward the gate, I leaned as far forward as I could and asked, 'When are you going to make the landing announcement?' Her reply was, 'As soon as we land.'" Pam also recalls the distinctive deep bass-like roar of the Rolls-Royce engines when they spooled up for taxi and takeoff.

Joe Ballweg especially remembers the L-1011's lower-deck galley. He commented that on meal flights, one of the flight attendant crew members would be stationed in the galley full-time, preparing meals. That role was bid by crew seniority and some crew members would always take it. Occasionally, if it appeared the assignment was falling to a "junior" flight attendant, a re-bid saw a crew member with more meal preparation experience assume the role. While impressed by the L-1011, Joe expressed his preference for the Boeing 747. Said Joe, "Both planes were amazing, but I personally preferred the 747. Although much larger than the other Boeing products we flew at the time, I felt more of a sense of familiarity and consistency when working on the 747." Joe's comments again reminded our guide of the unique coexistence the L-1011 and 747 maintained during their careers with TWA. Preferences of one over the other were numerous and varied, both among passengers and employees.      

And So it Was
On September 3, 1997, Captain Rob Bottoms commanded TWA flight 840, from Los Angeles to New York's JFK airport. It was the final flight for TWA's L-1011, marking the retirement of the aircraft's 25+ year lifespan at the airline. It was a career any retiree would look back upon with pride. While originally designed for medium-long range domestic service, Lockheed eventually developed models that could fly internationally. Additionally, TWA and Lockheed worked together to modify several TWA domestic L-1011s, allowing them to fly internationally as well. TWA's L-1011s would thus become a common sight in Europe and the Middle East. For many years, the L-1011 and Boeing 747 worked together, creating a formidable fleet of international aircraft (ultimately joined by the Boeing 767 in the late 1980s).   

A busy afternoon at JFK in 1988. Three L-1011s and five 747s are
poised to begin their evening journeys.
(photo courtesy of Capt. Mark Berry: 

Domestically, L-1011s dominated TWA's coast-to-coast services and later helped to build service between the Northeast and Florida. Starting in the 1980s, they became common sights at TWA's St. Louis hub, serving high-density domestic markets. It's also worth noting that for many Kansas City-based TWA employees, the sight of an L-1011 at the gate in St. Louis was always a welcomed sight, as it meant more space available seats and a good shot at getting home that day! They also could look forward to a smooth and comfortable flight. 

Airplanes are funny things. They often take on a life of their own, transcending their model names and numbers. And so it was with the L-1011 TriStar. This was indeed a special airplane.

On a Final Note
As noted, Lockheed's sales projections for the L-1011 were half of what was hoped. Ending production in 1984, the company lost a substantial amount of money on the program. Lockheed would return to its primary businesses of developing military aircraft and defense-related aerospace systems. In 1995, Lockheed merged with the Martin Marietta Corporation. In contrast, sales of the competing McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and its derivatives, would number over 600 (including the DC-10, KC-10 military tanker/transport and the later-generation MD-11). Operational issues with the DC-10 and competition with Lockheed took a toll on McDonnell Douglas as well, one of the factors leading to its merger with Boeing, in 1997.  

TWA would fly 36 of its own L-1011s from 1972 through its retirement. One year after the last L-1011 flew, TWA retired its Boeing 747. These two originators of the widebody era defined a unique and special place in TWA's history. Many of us at the museum were privileged to be a part of that era and our guide has been pleased to share some of it with you.  
Our L-1011 cutaway model occupies a prominent place
in our museum's main gallery, next to the 747.

Want to Know More?
Though lengthy enough, this article only told some small pieces of this airplane's great history and its service to TWA. There's much more to know. If you're interested in learning more, our guide would suggest two great articles as a starting point:     

For Your Information
"Spring has sprung" at the museum, as Kansas City awakens from another winter. Activity at our museum and the Downtown Airport is picking up as the weather gets nicer. We hope you'll take advantage of the pleasant days ahead and come see us. We have more than ever to show you! 

A reminder that the museum's Hangar Dance will be held on April 29, 2017, in the Signature Aircraft Services hangar, adjacent to our museum. This is our largest fundraiser of the year and is a really great evening. We hope you'll join us. Find more information at:

Article written by Wayne Hammer
Edited by Larry Dingman
Additional editing and information provided by Jon Proctor
Copy editing by Pam Tucker
A special thanks to our museum's Archives staff, for their assistance in producing this article.

1 TWA Today, vol. 35, No. 11 / May 22, 1972. 
2 TWA Today, vol. 35, No. 14 / July 3, 1972. 
3 A Life Aloft - From DC-3 To 747, by Capt. Walt Gunn, c 1987, Wings Publications 


To our friends and readers;

On March 27, 2017 an article appeared in the online edition of the Los Angeles Times, titled: "A tribute to TWA, a dead airline, features flight attendant uniforms, planes and a voodoo doll". If you have not yet seen the article, we suggest you read it first and then return to this page to read our response.


Following is the response by our museum's Board of Directors to Nigel Duara (writer of the article) and Marc Duvoisin (Managing Editor, Los Angeles Times). 

April 2, 2017

Dear Mr. Duara;
(copy to Mr. Marc Duvoisin, Managing Editor)

On behalf of staff, volunteers, patrons, supporters and friends of the TWA Museum, we, the museum's Board of Directors feel obligated to respond to your article that appeared in the March 27, 2017 issue of the online edition of the Los Angeles Times, entitled: "A tribute to TWA, a dead airline, features flight attendant uniforms, planes and a voodoo doll".

We take strong objection to the many inaccuracies that appeared in this article and the tone that you displayed throughout. We'll start right at the opening paragraph of the article, which featured your commentary about one of our volunteers, Mr. Art Lujin.  Your description of Art's career with TWA was incorrect. To the best of our knowledge, no employee in the 75-year history of TWA ever held the title of "air traffic control manager", as you stated. To correct you, Mr. Lujin began his career with TWA as an electrical and avionics engineer. He later was promoted to engineering management and served a number of years in TWA's aircraft acceptance division, providing technical analyses of aircraft TWA considered for purchase. Art is an outstanding spokesman for our museum and believes he clearly described his career to the group you were with. He's not at all sure why you assigned him such a title. He also would like to remind you that he told you he retired from TWA in 1997. Your narrative that he "lost his job" when American bought TWA in 2001, was incorrect and was insulting to Art..

In general, we have no disagreement with your assessment of the airline's historical management difficulties, especially during and immediately following the ownership of Carl Icahn. It indeed was a difficult time. However, after Mr. Icahn's exit, many TWA personnel remained with the airline, determined to come through the difficulties Mr. Icahn left in his wake. Throughout the years following (including the two bankruptcies you cited), TWA employees persevered, never losing sight of the obligations of safety and service to their customers. Several employees served on company-wide improvement committees during this time and in 1994, many voluntarily agreed to help subsidize the company's leasing of the aircraft you curiously described as a "relic from the old days" (we'll have more to say about that airplane later). We wish you would have taken the time to better define this era in TWA's history, instead of portraying TWA's last five years as little more than "limping along". During that five year period, TWA won two J.D. Power awards for excellence (1998 and 1999). The awards are displayed in our museum. We assume you didn't see them.

In addition to inaccuracies concerning Mr. Lujin, you also did a disservice to the home of our museum. The "lonely airfield" you described has a name: the Kansas City Wheeler Downtown Airport, owned and operated by the City of Kansas City, Missouri. Its control tower (staffed by FAA air traffic controllers) operates 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. In 2016, it handled a total of 70,603 aircraft arrivals and departures. The FAA classifies our airport as a "reliever" airport, which is just below the classification of "primary" airport. To give you additional perspective, we compared our airport to a similar reliever airport near the offices of the Los Angeles Times. For this purpose, we identified the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. You and employees at the Times may be familiar with it. It's not that far away. In 2016, that airport handled 88,210 arrivals and departures. Statistically speaking, our "lonely airfield" handled 80% of the activity of the Santa Monica Municipal airport. We think you can agree that the figures from both airports are impressive and also think you get the point. All the information we just cited is in the public domain and easy to find. We're at a loss to understand how you arrived at such a completely inaccurate characterization.

We agree with your basic premise that much work was necessary to ensure the advancement of the rights of female flight attendants. However, we're not so sure we agree with your contention that TWA and the airline industry notably lagged behind other industries and social institutions in achieving these changes. We trust you based that conclusion on more than what you gathered just from selected museum documents we display. In presenting the history of TWA's flight attendants, our variety of exhibits are intended to show an objective and well-rounded description of these employees and the work they performed. It's all important. In your article, you devoted five sentences of copy to the issue of flight attendant weight requirements, three sentences of copy to their uniform styles and zero sentences of copy to the important work they performed, insuring the safety of TWA's passengers and serving as TWA's most important public representatives. We assume you consulted our website while researching your story, so maybe you missed the link to our blog. We invite you to read our blog's article about the history of TWA's flight attendants. As was the case in your article, our blog article talks about the cultural evolution of the profession and we talk about the uniforms, but we also balance it with other information, including what we mentioned above. We hope you and others who read your article will read our article as well.

We'd like to now provide correction and clarification concerning the TWA "Wings of Pride" airplane located at our museum. It's the one you referred to as a "still and lonesome crimson Boeing 737-800, a relic from the old days". Actually, the aircraft is a McDonnell Douglas MD-83. We believe you are instead referring to the American Airlines Boeing 737-800 that currently flies in their active fleet. That aircraft is painted in a TWA livery, as a tribute to the heritage of TWA. Art Lujin pointed out this and many other details, when he took you and your group to tour our MD-83. To reacquaint you with some of the details Art shared with you, our MD-83 was flown by TWA from 1994 to 2001 and then by American (upon their acquisition of TWA in 2001) until they retired it in 2013. Then, a local non-profit group (and friend of our museum) bought it, made it airworthy, had it meticulously repainted to its original TWA appearance and flew it to our museum in 2015. This group (TriStar History and Preservation) partners with us not only to display the aircraft, but to use it to familiarize and encourage young people to consider careers in aerospace, engineering and science. Their mission is also an important part of ours. It's beyond our understanding how you distilled any bits or pieces of this information into a description of  a "still and lonesome relic" On our blog we did a two-part article on the history of this airplane and the tremendous amount of time, expense and true dedication it took its owners to renovate it and fly it to our museum. The two articles print out to eighteen pages. If you have not done so, we think its worth the time to read it.

We also wanted to make you aware that we are not located in southern Kansas City (as you claim) but are just north of the Missouri River. In northern Kansas City. You must have also missed some of the road signs for our museum, as there are more than just the one you saw. In fact, there are several as you approach the airport from north or south. We occupy several rooms on the east side of our building's first floor. This historic building served as TWA's first headquarters, filling that role throughout the 1930s, 40s and part of the 50s. We are proud to be in this building, which is a living history of TWA. "Out of the way" is an interesting term you used to describe its location. The primary tenant of our building is one of the largest private fixed-base airport service providers in the world and the building itself sits just a few hundred feet from the outer taxiway at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. Like any continuously growing museum, we'd like (and have recently constructed) more space to display our ever-expanding collection, however, contrary to your observation, we don't feel "hemmed in".

Finally, characterizing us as "stubborn like the company it chronicles" (which you gave as a rather strange justification for our "out of the way" location), didn't sit well with us or our members and patrons who support our efforts. What disturbed us to our core, however, was your portraying our city, museum and airport as TWA's  "graveyard". In fact, you used the word twice in the article. We and these institutions are proud of our mutual association to the history of TWA. At our museum specifically, we strive to present an interesting and enjoyable experience, as our visitors learn of TWA's significant contributions to commercial aviation and the city we call home. That is our mission and it can be found in literature readily available in our museum or on our website. We don't know if you read it. If you did, you should have mentioned at least some of it. We are privileged to keep this history alive. Please take careful note of the last word in the previous sentence.

In closing, you should know the fallout from your article has resulted in numerous emails and phone calls from concerned friends, patrons and former TWA employees. We generally go through the litany of issues stated above. To be honest with you, having such conversations does nothing to make any of us feel better, but we feel a deep sense of obligation to deal with it. It is for that reason that your article and this letter will be posted on our website and blog. We will also announce this to our members, patrons and the sizable group of former TWA employees and their families, who consider us an important part of their lives. We'll also get word out to our followers on Twitter and Facebook. While the size of our audience is small in comparison to the readership of the Los Angeles Times, it's the best way we know to defend our image, which has been shaken by your article. We believe the thousands of readers of our website, newsletter and blog should always receive information that is accurate and truthful. We only wish you would have exercised the same consideration for your readers.

The Board of Directors, TWA Museum, Kansas City, MO.
Pamela Blaschum, Director
Karen Holden Young
Ann Noland
Nancy Sitzmann
Mary Ellen Miller
John Mays
Chris Funk
Christopher Nold
Alice Wasko
TWA Museum at 10 Richards Road
10 Richards Road
Kansas City, MO 64116

We're hard at work getting our next article ready to go. For this one, we'll take a good look at TWA's L-1011 TriStar, which served our passengers for 25 years. We've gone through a number of articles, documents and photographs in our archives and gallery to tell the story of this great aircraft from our unique TWA Museum perspective. But, we didn't stop there... We also talked to some of our volunteers who piloted, served passengers and maintained this most unique airplane. It'll be quite a story!    

Whether you're on our mailing list or follow us on Twitter or Facebook, we'll let you know when it's published. For now, here are some pictures from the upcoming article:

And here's a short video... A 1972 TWA television commercial showing the excitement the L-1011 generated, just two years after the arrival of the 747!

Check back with us soon for the publication of this article.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Our museum's largest display case tells the story of TWA's flight attendants. Uniforms, images and related items make this among our most popular attractions. And, it's no wonder why. Here, and in other displays, visitors see the unique place our cabin staff occupied in the history and culture of TWA. 

The Faces of TWA
Not long ago, one of our younger museum visitors asked the seemingly simple question, "How many people does it take to fly a jet?" What would you say? Two? Maybe three? That's what our guide said, but as he was heading home that afternoon, he thought some more about it. The answer is really dozens of people. In addition to the cockpit crew, flights could not operate without the work of others. Among them, planners, crew schedulers, dispatchers, mechanics, computer programmers, agents, baggage handlers and, of course, flight attendants. And if you think about it, of all of those people, it's typically flight attendants who have face-to-face contact with customers for the greatest amount of time. In the confined space of an airplane cabin, it comes down to flight attendants to greet you, see to your comfort and most importantly, keep you safe. As if that weren't enough, they also represent the culmination of the work performed by all those other employees. From the first group of TWA "hostesses" hired in 1935 to the flight attendants working the last TWA flights in 2001, they truly were the "faces of TWA".

A Brief Word About Terminology
When the decision was made by TWA in 1935 to hire for this position, management of the airline determined it would be staffed by women and they would be called "hostesses". The term inferred a welcoming quality, as one would experience when entering a home. That title would remain until 1970 when the more familiar name "cabin/flight attendant" was officially adopted. In our article, you'll see us use both terms, dependent upon the time period being discussed.

Dressed for Success
Although you'll find items related to our in-flight collection throughout the museum, the core of it occupies our largest display case. Measuring 20' x 8', Case 3 contains eleven historic hostess uniforms, dozens of photographs and countless memorabilia pieces. It's among our most visible and popular displays. The attention of most visitors is initially captured by the first uniform on display. It was actually the second uniform style worn by TWA hostesses. Introduced in 1938 and designed by TWA's chief hostess, Gladys Entriken, there were two seasonal variations. The "winter" version we show has an additional story to tell. In 1941, famed artist George Petty created a drawing featuring the image of a TWA hostess. The purpose was twofold: to generate publicity for TWA and to drum up patriotism, as World War II unfolded. "TWA's Petty Girl", wearing a winter uniform, would be seen by millions through posters, postcards and even luggage tags. The museum displays two reproductions of the drawing, one adjacent to the uniform.

1938 uniform as seen in our museum and in the
George Petty drawing

Taking a Moment
Before moving onto the next item, our guide would like to direct your attention to a small photo just above that 1938 uniform...TWA's first hostess class (graduated December 6, 1935).  The class consisted of 22 young women and we can tell you some things about them. Their path to graduation was not easy, as TWA initially hired just 60 hostesses from a pool of over 2,000 applicants. Furthermore, each of the women seen was between 21 and 26 years of age, was between 5' and 5'4" tall, was a registered nurse and was not married. We should add that TWA looked for each to possess "intelligence, tact and charm". Their training took place at Kansas City Municipal Airport (today, the home base of our museum) and consisted of topics including geography, ticket handling and working the heating system on the DC-2. Each received $2.50 per day during her three-week training course for personal expenses and apartment rent. Most significantly, they were creating a new career path for women in an industry that was in its infancy, embarking on a journey that was certainly unfamiliar to them. The future was potentially exciting and rewarding as much as it was unpredictable. As our visitors learn more about the thousands of people who would become TWA hostesses and flight attendants, it's important to reflect on the faces in this picture. The start of it all.

Back on the Case
With one uniform down and ten more to go in Case 3 (as well as eight additional uniforms in nearby cases), this usually is the point where some visitors may panic, as they fear our guide will spend the next several minutes talking fashion. Not to worry. We'll tell you right now that our guide is no fashion expert and will not attempt to describe nineteen uniforms and accompanying accessories (he still isn't clear on what gaberdine actually is and easily confuses names of fashion designers). So, with apologies to Oleg Cassini, Pierre Balmain and others, we'll point out just a few that are significant and/or generate the most attention.

By 1944, TWA was preparing to integrate the first Lockheed Constellations into its fleet. Hostess training classes were now six weeks in length, as longer flight segments on newer, more comfortable aircraft required more service training. 1944 also marked the introduction of one of TWA's most intriguing hostess uniforms, the "cutout". Designed by Howard Greer, its most notable feature was the stylized "TWA" in a cutout pattern by the right shoulder. What makes this uniform especially interesting is the triangular flap buttoned above the cutout. When unbuttoned, it fell to cover the "TWA" letters, making the uniform wearer unidentifiable as a TWA hostess. An off-duty hostess could lower the flap, enabling her to participate in prohibited on-duty activities such as smoking or chewing gum. This uniform's introduction was soon followed by a major hiring change. World War II, and the accompanying need for nurses, made it difficult for TWA to attract enough qualified candidates for hostess positions. As a result, the requirement to be a nurse was discontinued. The "cutout" uniform was eventually retired in 1955, after an impressive eleven year run. Many of our museum's vintage photos from the 1940s and 1950s prominently feature this unique uniform.

The "cutout" uniform in service and as displayed at our
museum today.

Designs of the Times
As you move through the contents of Case 3, you'll begin to realize that we are displaying more than uniforms and related items. You effectively are looking at the chronicle of a unique profession, as well as the evolution of culture and style of the mid-to-late twentieth century. TWA reached out to the leading fashion designers of the era to present a sophisticated and contemporary image. Even though some uniforms on display are over fifty years old, they are still very impressive. Style is, of course, a matter of personal taste. Those museum volunteers and visitors who once were TWA flight attendants will often tell us what they did or did not like about wearing a specific uniform. Our guide always enjoys listening to this and the many other reactions of visitors.

Is That Really a Paper Dress You're Wearing?
During the era of airline "regulation" (prior to 1978), most every aspect of air travel in the U.S. was dictated by the Civil Aeronautics Board. Among other strict market regulations, airlines competing on the same route were required to charge the same fares. As the faces of TWA, hostesses/flight attendants occasionally participated in marketing efforts intended to set TWA apart from its competitors. One such promotion is highlighted in Case 3. Begun on April 1, 1968, "Foreign Accent Service" was TWA's attempt to leverage its international image to attract passengers to its domestic U.S. flights. Certain longer-haul flights (such as New York - Los Angeles) were themed to create a foreign, cosmopolitan atmosphere. It could have been French, Italian, British or American (an inquisitive young visitor once asked our guide what was "foreign" about the American theme). To "brand" that experience, hostesses were outfitted in one of four appropriately themed uniforms, made from paper (that's right, paper). Hostesses donned the uniform prior to the flight and disposed of it when the flight was over.

This newspaper ad from 1968 says it all.
(click to enlarge)

In Case 3, you can see all four uniforms up close (the French mini-dress, Italian toga, British pub server and Manhattan penthouse party hostess). These "wear once and dispose" dresses were designed as wrap-arounds, secured with velcro fasteners. Hostesses typically carried a pair of scissors and tape to adjust the length. The promotion was short-lived. Logistical problems involving coordination of the dresses with the flight's theme developed and supply problems meant later uniforms had to be constructed with a lighter-weight paper, which was more prone to tearing. Some senior hostesses were reluctant to wear the dresses, including legendary flight attendant, Ida Staggers. Ms. Staggers, hired in 1936, was not pleased with this promotional role. Despite a large financial outlay for logistics and advertising, the program died quietly, never making it past 1968.

Our rare collection of all four "Foreign Accent" uniforms on display.

Less flamboyant (and longer-lasting) was TWA's "Blue Chip Service" promotion. Also begun in 1968, it was used on the highly competitive New York La Guardia - Chicago O'Hare route. Aimed squarely at business travelers, a number of amenities were offered, including a robust service on meal flights and hefty snacks on others. For a time, beer on tap from a mobile keg was offered (carbonating the brew at cabin pressure often produced a "frothy" experience). Flight attendants wore a white polyester dress, decorated with images of blue chips. The uniform is on display in Case 3. Not surprisingly, it attracts its share of attention.

The Blue Chip uniform clearly stands out among others. 

An Era of Many changes
Our chronological tour continues to the smaller Case 4, which displays uniforms from the 1970s. These uniforms also accompanied significant changes to the profession of TWA flight attendant. Policy regarding work after marriage had been amended several times over the years and was permanently resolved in 1969. Marriage was no longer at all a factor in continued employment and most significantly, in hiring. Starting in 1971, pregnancy no longer ended a flight attendant's career. 1970 also saw the discontinuance of the term "hostess" and introduction of "cabin/flight attendant". And a significant threshold was achieved in 1972 as males were hired to work as TWA flight attendants. Case 4 includes three Stan Herman-designed uniforms introduced in 1974, with coordinated female and male styles.

And finally, a separate case adjacent to Case 4 contains TWA's last designer-inspired uniform. Designed by Ralph Lauren and introduced in 1978, the summer version is displayed. That summer uniform was later discontinued in favor of a year-round navy-colored version and was worn throughout the 80s and 90s. A final uniform, introduced in the 90s, had similar lines to the 1978 Lauren winter uniform. Some flight attendants continued to wear the Lauren uniform until the American Airlines acquisition in 2001. To round out our uniforms displayed, a nearby case contains the last uniform worn by Ozark Air Lines flight attendants prior to their merger with TWA in 1986.

Part of Case 4,showing Stan Herman's 1974 coordinated 
male and female uniforms.

1978 Ralph Lauren summer uniform
Ozark Air Lines uniform

Men At Work
Although 1972 is widely viewed as the year males were first introduced into TWA cabin service, their presence actually goes back much farther. Prior to the hiring of hostesses in 1935, TWA passengers were served on board by male "couriers". These young men were actually quite versatile. Their workday often included driving passengers to the airport, picking up meals on the way, loading baggage and, of course, offering in-flight service. Their darker (midnight blue) winter uniforms resembled those worn by pilots; however, their white summer uniforms gave more of a nautical look. Due to economic hardships associated with the 1929 stock market crash, the courier position was discontinued and a new guy was assigned to cabin service... the co-pilot! Needless to say, this "dual occupation" of cockpit/cabin crew member created difficulties. In certain situations, when the co-pilot was required in the cockpit, the passengers were pretty much on their own. A few years later, hostesses came to the rescue. Males next appeared in the cabin with the establishment of the purser position, coinciding with the awarding of international traffic rights to TWA in 1945. The purser remained an all-male occupation until 1967, when female flight attendants were permitted to pursue the position, as well.

Among TWA's original multi-taskers, couriers display their 
summer and winter uniforms.

Introducing Our Faces
Museum volunteers who were once TWA hostesses and flight attendants were a tremendous help to our guide in preparing this article. In addition to providing historical information, they communicated the excitement, triumphs and sometimes frustrations associated with their work. They provided a unique perspective and a reminder that, while our museum displays thousands of artifacts and images, it's truly our people who make it the great place it is. Our guide thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them and it was quite clear that they have not lost the pride and enthusiasm about the work they performed. We'd like you to meet them (note that you can click on each photo to enlarge it).

Carol's graduation class picture from 1967. Today, Carol
poses with our "permanent" volunteers who display  
some of the same uniforms she wore.
As our museum's archivist, Carol Emert feels that her work with TWA has come full circle. Born and raised in Fredonia, KS, her hostess career spanned April 1967 through May 1970 (Carol's class was the first to train solely on jet aircraft). Although marriage no longer precluded her from continuing her career, she decided to leave as her new husband's work required relocation away from her Kansas City base. Carol went on to obtain a degree in fine arts and spent almost 30 years at the prestigious Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas, There, her duties included manager and curator of exhibitions and collections. She also served as interim and acting director. Today, Carol shares her skills with us in the critical work of archiving and preserving the thousands of TWA artifacts at our museum. Carol spends most of her time behind the scenes and is rarely seen by our visitors. Yet, her work as our archivist is key to the success of our museum.

Zana's 1960 graduation picture, wearing the
uniform she first admired from the observation deck. Today,
Zana stands next to one by Case 3. 
Growing up in Trenton, MO, Zana Allen's family periodically took trips to nearby Kansas City to shop and spend the day. One stop usually included a visit to the observation deck at Kansas City Municipal Airport. As a youngster, Zana remembers watching the "beautifully outfitted" TWA hostesses walking to and from their aircraft. Voted "Princess" at the Missouri Regional State Fair in Trenton, one of the other winners eventually became a hostess at TWA and persuaded Zana to give it a try. Interestingly enough, Zana's first uniform (when hired in 1960) was the same one she admired from her days on the observation deck. Zana left TWA in 1962 to begin a family. During her flying time, Zana experienced the dawn of TWA's jet age. She remembers it as an exciting, yet sometimes challenging time and was thrilled to be a part of it. Today, Zana serves as a research and archives assistant at our museum.

Larry on the line in 1974. Today, he poses in front of  a
similar uniform, at our museum.  
Larry Dingman's 27-year career with TWA included a variety of in-flight related positions: flight attendant, purser, on-board director of customer service and flight attendant trainer (he also took calls in TWA's New York reservations office for six months). For a time, Larry also wrote and edited "On The Line", the internal publication for TWA in-flight services. A Kansas City native, Larry spent one year teaching high school before joining TWA in 1973. One of Larry's career memories was serving Barbra Streisand. Larry recalls her being very personable and enjoyed having her on board. The experience, however, was somewhat dampened when one of Barbra's dogs got airsick in Larry's lap. Today, Larry is one of our museum's visitor guides and serves as editor for this blog.

Among the first five male TWA flight attendant graduates in
his 1972 class picture. Joe today, helping to archive our
museum's collection.
Joe Ballweg graduated from the first TWA flight attendant class that included males (in 1972). Thus began a 34-year career with TWA, with the first sixteen years in a variety of in-flight service positions. After flying for four years (as a flight attendant and on-board director of customer service), Joe spent the next twelve filling a number of roles in in-flight management and training. Born and raised in Ohio, Joe graduated college with a degree in radio and television communications. On the advice of friends, he applied to TWA. Joe can tell hundreds of career stories, but the most meaningful ones reflect his admiration of the work performed by the thousands of flight attendants he interfaced with. Joe says, "Flying is a constantly changing horizon, with different planes, cities and passengers each day. Whatever the circumstances, you got the job done." Today, Joe works in our museum's research and archives area.

Janet's 1973 graduation photo. Today, she enjoys meeting and
chatting with our visitors in the museum's gift shop
After graduating college, Janet Lhullier worked for a financial services company, transferring bonds and stocks. The highlight of her day was often lunchtime, when she could step outside and escape her windowless office. When a co-worker left the company to become a flight attendant, Janet was influenced to think about a career change. Eventually hired by TWA in 1973, Janet's "office" would never again be windowless. Based in New York and Boston for most of her 30-year career, Janet flew both domestic and international as a flight attendant and flight service manager, modestly describing herself as a "small town girl from Oklahoma who got to see the world." She also discovered that when you smile, people tend to smile back, which she feels served her well, over her career and throughout her life. Adds Janet, "Sometimes my face would hurt from constantly smiling on a 10-hour flight to Athens, but it was worth it!" Today, Janet's smile is shared with fellow volunteers and visitors, in our museum's gift shop.

Pam's 1964 graduation picture. Seen today, Pam stands
proudly in front of our museum's Lockheed Jetstar.
Our guide saved Pam Blaschum for last because she is special. Serving as the director of our museum, Pam continues to display the humor, energy and affection for people that accompanied her 41-year career flying for TWA. Growing up in Kansas City, she remembers being about ten years old when she was intrigued by a neighbor who was a hostess for Braniff. Eventually hired by TWA in 1964, Pam's career would take her all over the world. Pam says quite simply, "I loved my job." Pam became our museum's director in 2009 and was instrumental in relocating it (in 2012) to our current home, in TWA's first headquarters building. A "hands on" director, Pam is often seen in the museum's galleries, greeting and chatting with visitors, and occasionally exhibiting some good-natured humor (she once threatened to lock a visitor in the museum if they did not make a purchase in the gift shop). The TWA Museum wouldn't be the TWA Museum without Pam.

On a Final Note
As always, there's much more to the story. Our guide could talk for hours (don't panic... he won't). TWA flight attendant history is filled with countless facts and stories. Perhaps the best way to end the brief narrative we've presented here is to tell you about two events that were over fifty years apart, but tell a similar story. On April 7, 1936, a TWA DC-2 crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Hostess Nellie Granger was one of only three survivors, having been thrown from the aircraft. In shock and pain, she went back to the plane and rescued two passengers. After making sure they were stable and warm, she walked several miles before finding a house from which she called rescuers. News commentator Boake Carter would write: "An air hostess who today carried through a deed which well may make the womanhood of America proud."

On July 30, 1992, TWA flight 843, an L-1011 bound for San Francisco, experienced an aborted takeoff at New York's Kennedy Airport. The result was a crash. While fire and smoke were engulfing the aircraft, the crew of nine flight attendants and three pilots (assisted by five off-duty flight attendants and two off-duty pilots) undertook the daunting task of evacuating 273 passengers. The evacuation was completed in less then two minutes. There was no loss of life. Following is an excerpt from the NTSB report of the accident:

"The emergency evacuation was performed in a timely, 
efficient, and exemplary manner that was the direct result of TWA's training 
program. Both the flight attendants and the flight crew members, as well as
the off-duty crew members, performed exceptionally well in the evacuation." 
(NTSB Report AAR 93/04, p. 67, para. 17)

The stories of Nellie Granger and the crew of flight 843
are displayed in our museum 

For Your Information
We're open again after our winter break. We've updated several exhibits, including our flight attendant displays in Cases 3 and 4. We've also expanded our display space to show more of TWA's great history. Our guide is already taking notes and pictures, preparing to tell you all about it and more. Not to be excluded, our blog has also undergone a bit of a face lift as we've redesigned our home page to be less cluttered and to make the entire blog easier to navigate through. You may have noticed it on the way to this article. Feel free to let us know what you think about it. Speaking of hearing from you, we have introduced a new feature. "Letters To Our Guide". It provides a place for you to share your opinions and questions about anything on blog, for all our readers to see. Click here to see all the details. Your feedback is very important to us, so let us know what's on your mind.

We look forward to visiting with you again in our next blog article and as always, hope you'll get the chance to stop by the museum and see us.

Article written by Wayne Hammer
Edited by Larry Dingman
Copy editing by Pam Tucker
We also wish to acknowledge the author, editors and contributors of the reference publication:
TWA Cabin Attendants - Wings of Pride, 1935-1985