We will no longer be updating our blog or adding new Photos of The Week. But, there's plenty to see! Just scroll down and enjoy the hundreds of weekly photos and stories we have posted over the past several years.
The rest of our blog is also available for you to view. Click or tap here to go to the homepage.
Posted week of 2/28/22
Passengers in a window seat near or behind the wing may may have been taken aback, as the number two engine on one of TWA's early model 049 Constellations started up. Hopefully, the relaxed body language of the TWA employee watching reassured the passengers that this was par for the course, when the Connie's mighty engines began turning.
While we often marvel at the size and stature of the Constellation, it should also be remembered that it took some real power to get that airplane airborne and keep it flying. Four Wright Cyclone R-3350 engines were well-suited for the job of powering TWA's first generation of Connies. Each engine had 18 cylinders that produced a maximum of 2,200 horsepower, spinning three propellers at 2,800 revolutions per minute. And it looked the part as well, with a diameter of over four feet, a length of over six feet, and a weight of 2,800 pounds. There are still more statistics we can send your way, but we think you get the idea. 1946 aviation technology at its best, albeit just a bit smoky at times.
Posted week of 2/14/22
Taken over 75 years ago, our photo for this week is is still interesting and impressive. Our young friend is trying her best to touch the bottom of the rear section of a TWA Lockheed 049 Constellation, but she can't quite make it. Note that she is even standing on the wing of a small aircraft but is still coming up short.
Even by today's standards, TWA's first-generation Lockheed Constellations were very impressive machines. The slightly curved fuselage peaked at 19 feet in height with the tip of the tail standing at 24 feet. We calculate the point she was trying to touch was about 12 feet high. The entire aircraft was 95 feet in length and had a maximum takeoff weight of 85,000 pounds. Named the Star of India, aircraft NC86512 was delivered to TWA in 1946, the same year this picture was taken.
Posted week of 1/31/22
Although this week's photo is over 80 years old, the sight of TWA's mighty Boeing 307B Stratoliner (ship NC19907) about to touch down in Kansas City remains impressive. TWA flew five of these aircraft starting in 1940. In 1942, the fleet was contracted to the U.S. Army Air Corps to help with the war effort by flying supplies and munitions between the U.S. and points in Europe and North Africa. They returned to TWA domestic U.S. passenger service in 1944 until they were retired in 1950.
Large, powerful and luxurious inside, the Boeing 307B was also the first airplane to be pressurized, allowing it to fly up to 20,000 feet, above clouds and turbulence that typically occurred at lower altitudes. Although the 307 flew only ten years for TWA, it made some significant contributions to TWA's history. In fact, we at the blog were so intrigued by its story, we wrote an article about it, TWA's Stratoliner - Performing Under Pressure. Click or tap here to read the article.
Posted week of 1/17/22
Over the years, we have featured many photos showing the exterior of TWA's Convair 880 aircraft. For this week's photo, we decided to take a look inside. A first class passenger's delight, the Convair 880 featured 44 first class seats! And just to make it even better, the Convairs were equipped with a first class lounge (forward of the first class section) that featured twelve seats, grouped around tables. Back to our photo, off in the distance (beyond the partition) is the economy class section which contained 35 seats. Life was pretty good back there too, as that section had 5-across seating, also making for a roomy ride.
TWA's first Convair 880 jet went into service on January 12, 1961 with the final plane retired on June 15, 1974. We at the blog continue to be impressed by the number of our readers who remain fans of this unique airplane. We invite you to find out more by reading our article A Day With The Convairs. It's a pictorial essay of a young man who took pictures of TWA's Convair 880 fleet, as it sat in retirement at TWA's Overhaul Base in Kansas City, in 1977. Click here to see the article.
Posted week of 1/3/22
As the new year is upon us, we thought we would select one of the more artistic pictures from our museum's photo archive. While we typically accompany our Photo of The Week with statistics and historic facts, we'll skip that this week and just say thank you for your continuing interest in and support of our museum. While 2021 continued to present some Covid-related challenges to us, we kept moving ahead, thanks to our generous supporters, the visitors who came down to see us (never griping about wearing a mask!) and to those of you who follow us online. To everyone, we wish you a happy, safe and enjoyable 2022!
Posted week of 12/20/21
When it comes to original sources of TWA history, printed timetables provide a lot of information about what flying on TWA was like during a given period of time. We especially find the older "linear" timetables fun to read, as determining how and when a flight arrived somewhere took some degree of attention and possibly a magnifying glass (the latter being the case for your aging blog editor).
This week's photo is taken from a page of the January 1, 1950 TWA system schedule. The eastbound international timetable was one of nineteen pages in the booklet which featured domestic U.S. schedules, Transatlantic schedules, a few advertisements and some general information pages. We suggest you click on the photo (it's actually two photos combined) to get a closer and clearer look at the information. We'll help out a little by taking an example:
So, you want to go from New York to Paris? If you traveled on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, you could grab TWA's only Transatlantic non-stop from New York's LaGuardia Airport. They were all flown with Constellation aircraft and Friday's flight was configured as an "All-Sleeper". If you needed to go on other days, you could go via the intermediate stops of Boston, Gander, Newfoundland or Shannon, Ireland (depending on the day of the week).
TWA could take you all the way to Bombay, India, but you really needed to study up to see how and when you would get there. In addition to listing flights, times and cities, there were a number of characters and symbols that were spread around. They were defined at the bottom of the timetable page or elsewhere in the schedule booklet. Times in P.M. were bolded and every so often a change of day would appear as you went down a flight's column.
Modeled after railroad timetables, this format continued until 1969, when TWA introduced the more familiar (and much easier to read) "from/to" sectioned timetables:
In today's world, printed airline system timetables are rare to find, as most schedules are accessible on your computer or phone. We know that makes life easier and more convenient, but there's something special about pulling a paper system timetable from the shelves of our archives and just leafing through it. A real piece of TWA history.
Posted week of 12/6/21
December 1, 2001 was the day the final TWA flight took to the skies. This past Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of that event. While the acquisition of TWA by American Airlines was closed in April 2001, there was an eight month transition period during which the TWA brand was maintained and TWA's aircraft (most still showing their TWA liveries) flew their schedules. On December 1st, TWA's operation was officially ended as flight 220 made the short trip from Kansas City to St. Louis as the ceremonial last flight. Our photo for this week is a special one, as it shows the airplane that made that flight. This picture of MD-83 aircraft N948TW ("The Wings of Pride") was taken this past Wednesday, as it sat outside our museum, reflecting the late morning sunlight.
A few thoughts occurred to us this past Wednesday. One was how quickly twenty years have gone by. But that seems true of most things that are meaningful. It also occurred to us how the TWA brand has endured over those twenty years. If you have any doubts about that, drop by our museum on a busy Saturday, or take a trip to New York's Kennedy Airport and spend some time at the TWA Hotel. The latter is hard to miss, as it occupies TWA's historic flight center terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen. That iconic building, displaying the TWA logo in several places is seen by thousands of travelers each day passing through JFK, one of the world's busiest airports.
Finally, we realize how fortunate we are to have The Wings Of Pride at our museum. It fittingly is parked in the shadows of the hangar at 10 Richards Road, TWA's first operational headquarters and the home of our museum. Seventy years of TWA history, separated by just three hundred feet of asphalt.
So, on this the 20th anniversary of TWA's final flight, we at the museum are pleased to report TWA's history is alive and well. And we at the museum plan to do all we can to help keep it that way.
(Special thanks for Mr. Kerry Floyd and his organization, the Tristar Experience, owners of the Wings of Pride. Through their generosity and dedication to TWA history, we and our visitors can stand in the presence of this important part of TWA's story. We also extend our admiration to Mr. Tyler Morse, Chairman and CEO of MCR Corporation, the developer and operator of the highly successful TWA Hotel in New York. We're pleased to regard both Kerry and Tyler as good friends of our museum).
Posted week of 11/22/21
TWA's advertising agency chose the right people to illustrate the roominess of its Ambassador Class service product, introduced on U.S. domestic flights in 1982. American basketball legends Wilt Chamberlain (7'1" tall) and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (7'2" tall) were the stars of this ad, which was seen on the cover of the April/May 1982 TWA system timetable.
Ambassador Class (known also as business class) was a separate section of the cabin on TWA's widebodies, situated between first class and economy class. It was intended to attract business travelers, offering seats and cabin space that were roomier than economy class, while being appreciably lower in price than first class. In addition to more physical space, Ambassador Class passengers were typically offered a higher level of meal and drink service than was offered in economy class. TWA introduced Ambassador Class on International flights in 1980. Two years later, TWA widebodies serving domestic routes were equipped with the new section as well.
Posted week of 11/8/21
We recently were going through our blog's photos and found this one that we posted in December 2017. Since our readership has grown quite a bit in four years (and we appreciate that very much!), we thought we'd reintroduce it. We know the sight of this item brings back memories for the more "seasoned" travelers among us and for those who never saw these, it's an interesting story of how 1960s ingenuity made flying a more pleasant experience.
Well before the days of digital audio and electronic noise-cancelling headphones, the device pictured above is how TWA (and other airline) passengers got to hear music and in-flight movie audio. The "pneumatic headset" was a breakthrough in passenger entertainment systems and first appeared on TWA (in conjunction with their introduction of movies) in 1961.
Stereo audio was electronically distributed to the armrest of each seat, where it was converted to audible sound through two tiny speakers, within the armrest. A passenger's task was to insert the two-pronged hollow plug (at the end of the black tubes above) into a receptacle in the armrest. Now connected to the tiny speakers, the sound was picked up and piped though the two tubes and into the earplugs at the top. The armrest also contained a channel selector and volume control. Although not the highest audio quality by any means, they did the job for several years. Starting in the 1980s, electronic headsets started replacing the pneumatics, allowing a direct connection to the audio source and a much clearer sound.
Although unsophisticated by today's high-tech standards, passengers still received robust content. In addition to a channel for movie audio, a variety of music was offered including rock, easy listening and classical music. There were also "talk"channels with subjects of general interest. Just for fun, we looked at the audio program from August, 1972. You could rock out to "Outta Space" by Billy Preston or relax with the instrumental rendition of "My Way", by the Ambassador Strings. There were dozens more, but we think you have the idea.
Posted week of 10/18/21
A special moment in TWA's history occurred on the evening of October 4, 1965, when Pope Paul VI completed the first-ever Papal visit to the United States. TWA was selected to fly the Pope from New York back to Rome. In the photo above, the Pope is seen addressing a crowd at New York's Kennedy International Airport before boarding a TWA Boeing 707 jet for his return flight home. Having arrived that same morning from Rome (via Italy's Alitalia Airlines), the Pope had a full day, meeting President Lyndon Johnson, speaking at the United Nations and conducting an open-air mass at Yankee Stadium, attended by an estimated 90,000 people. It was then up to TWA Captain George Duvall and his crew to successfully provide a smooth and pleasant trip back to Rome.
That Papal flight in 1965 was the first of what would be five occasions when TWA would fly the Pope between Rome and the United States, as well as within North America. The other four took place in 1979, 1987, 1995 and 1999. Pope John Paul II was flown on each of those four occasions.
Flying such a special dignitary involved careful planning and meticulous attention to detail and logistics. TWA came through each time, creating a lasting historic legacy.
Posted week of 10/4/21
When the National Football League's Los Angeles Rams moved their franchise to St. Louis in 1995, TWA became the official airline partner of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams' brand new domed Stadium in downtown St. Louis was named the Trans World dome and in order to spread the image of the partnership even further, TWA cleverly painted a graphic of a Rams football helmet over the cockpit and forward section of aircraft N64347, a Boeing 727-231. Even an image of the helmet's face mask was wrapped around the airplane's nose! With TWA's final livery providing a perfect backdrop for the helmet, we can say N64347 was one fine-looking airplane (we're totally unbiased, of course).
N64347 joined TWA's fleet back in 1979 and became the "Rams airplane" from 1996 until its retirement from the fleet in 1999. After that, TWA moved the helmet graphic to a Boeing 757, aircraft N709TW. Of course, this partnership ended in 2001, when TWA was purchased by American Airlines and the Trans World Dome became the Edward Jones Dome (the naming rights acquired by the financial services company). And as a final note to our story, the Rams moved back to Los Angeles in 2016.
Posted week of 9/20/21
Back in 1957, TWA's L1649A Jetstream Starliner Constellation indeed was the largest airliner built. At 116 feet long and with a 150 foot wingspan, the big ship also had the fuel capacity and power to easily fly nonstop across the the United States and to points in Europe. In fact, it was an L1649A that flew a polar route flight from London to San Francisco nonstop in 23 hours and 19 minutes, the longest flight (in terms of time) ever flown by a piston airliner!
The L1649A was the final model of Lockheed's legendary line of Constellation passenger airplanes with TWA having flown each model. Many questioned TWA's (and its owner Howard Hughes) decision to invest in this propeller-driven aircraft at the same time commercial jet flight was right around the corner. Nevertheless, TWA took delivery of 29 of these airplanes, mostly in 1957. With the introduction of the Boeing 707 jetliner into TWA's fleet in 1959, the lifespan of the L1649A as a passenger carrying airplane was a short one. TWA converted a number to cargo aircraft in 1960 and by the end of 1961, the L1649A was no longer flying TWA passengers.
All that history aside, this week's photo is pretty interesting to look at, as it truly illustrates the comfort and luxury of air travel in that era. From the roomy cabin, to the wide seats, to the muraled walls and even a passenger enjoying a cigarette, the advertisement tells us much about the "golden age" of air travel, aboard a TWA Jetstream Starliner Constellation.
Posted week of 9/6/21
Among the most significant pieces in our museum's collection is a Lockheed 12A Electra Junior airplane. Built in 1937, it was owned by TWA between 1940 and 1945. At the museum, we affectionately refer to the airplane as "Ellie", derived from the first letters of Lockheed and Electra. During TWA's ownership, Ellie did not fly revenue passengers but was instead used as an executive transport and as a "flying laboratory" for aviation research. In the latter role, experiments in areas such as high altitude flying, de-icing and static discharge were performed.
There were some notable people who sat in that very cockpit and piloted Ellie. Probably best known is Howard Hughes, who was the owner of TWA during Ellie's time there. Also at the controls of Ellie were TWA's founding President, Jack Frye and his Vice President, Paul Richter. In 2005, sixty years after leaving TWA, Ellie caught the attention of Ruth Holden, the daughter of Paul Richter. Ruth had fond memories of flying on Ellie as a young girl with her dad and couldn't resist the opportunity to purchase Ellie. As its owner, Ruth had the aircraft restored to its original TWA colors and had it flown to airshows and special events. In 2019, our museum proudly purchased Ellie from Ruth. Ellie is truly "back home" in the hangar adjoining our museum... The same one she occupied over 75 years ago.
We're also very proud to mention that Ellie has been selected to be a part of the "Show Me Missouri" project, a collaboration of Missouri libraries and educational institutions. They honored Ellie and our museum by naming Ellie an historically and culturally significant object in the history of Missouri. We invite you to see and read more about Ellie on the Show Me Missouri website (click here to see it) Of course, we also invite you to visit our museum to see Ellie... In all her splendor.
Posted week of 8/23/21
An interesting camera angle accentuates the beauty of TWA's first Boeing 757 airplane, delivered in July 1996. The 757's elongated nose as well as its high ground clearance gave it a distinctive profile. Aircraft 7501 (registration N701TW) made its first passenger flight on August 1, 1996 from St. Louis to Orange County, California. In the remaining 5 1/2 years of its existence, TWA flew 27 of these versatile airplanes on routes within the United States, across the Atlantic and to the Caribbean. It's interesting to note that all of TWA's 757s were delivered new from Boeing with TWA's final livery (or paint scheme). We think that livery adds a real touch of elegance to the photograph.
Aircraft N701TW's story becomes especially interesting after the acquisition of TWA by American Airlines in 2001. After spending some time in American's fleet, it was sold to the United States Air Force, where it became part of the Air Force's fleet of six C-32 airplanes. Passengers who fly the C-32s include the Vice President of the United States, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cabinet officials and occasionally the President himself when Air Force One (a Boeing 747) cannot be accommodated at the destination airport.
As a member of the Air Force, N701TW now carries registration number of 09-0016 and continues to lead a very active existence. In fact, the Air Force recently announced that it has no immediate plans to replace its C-32 fleet. So, the next time you see one of the C-32s on the news, look closely at the tail. If it shows number 90016, you'll know you're looking at what was once TWA's very first Boeing 757, ship 7501.
One of the U.S. Air Force C-32s takes to the sky.
(photo from the U.S. Air Force)
Posted week of 8/9/21
On November 8, 1964, TWA celebrated the delivery of its 100th jet aircraft, a Boeing 727-31 (ship N845TW). The previous 99 aircraft consisted of Boeing 707s, Convair 880s and Boeing 727-31s. TWA was rightfully proud, as it reached this milestone in less than six years (TWA's first jet aircraft. a Boeing 707-131 was delivered in March 1959). To officially recognize the delivery of its 100th jet, TWA held a "Jetennial" celebration at the Kansas City Municipal Airport (today known as the Wheeler Downtown Airport and the home of our museum). The photo above was part of the festivities, as 100 TWA employees formed the number 100 beside the aircraft.
Many TWA employees attended the event and they were joined by 100-year old Amanda Allison, a TWA customer and self-described "aviation enthusiast" from Garden City, MO. It was a memorable day featuring speeches and even a huge "Jetennial" cake. The highlight of the day, however, was a special 100-minute flight the aircraft took, flying over four Midwest capital cities (Topeka, KS, Jefferson City, MO, Des Moines, IA and Lincoln, NE). Passengers on the flight included Amanda as well as a group of TWA employees who participated in a drawing for the chance to ride on the flight. Quite a day!
Posted week of 7/26/21
Commemorative items are an important part of our museum's collection. In TWA's 75+ year history, many plaques, pictures, models and other pieces were given to employees to mark major events. Without a doubt, the introduction of TWA's 747 jumbo jet was among the most notable. To celebrate that event, this small plaque (it's about four inches in diameter) was distributed. The key was described as a duplicate of the key to the cockpit.
For the record, TWA's first 747 was delivered on December 31, 1969. It spent the next several weeks being used for proving flights, training and even "toured" TWA's worldwide system, giving many a preview of what was to come. Finally on February 25, 1970, TWA flight 100 took to the air from Los Angeles to New York at 9:15 AM, marking the official beginning of TWA's jumbo jet era.
Posted week of 7/12/21
This Saturday, July 17, will mark the 25th anniversary of the TWA flight 800 tragedy. At our museum, we have a large display dedicated to the passengers and crew of flight 800, all of whom lost their lives on that summer evening in 1996. In deciding which item from that display to show you, we thought the above button was appropriate. It was worn at one of several flight 800 memorial events held in the aftermath of the accident and honors the victims by simply saying what we felt then and feel today, "Always In Our Hearts"
TWA flight 800 was a Boeing 747 that departed New York's Kennedy International Airport on the evening of July 17. 1996, bound for Paris. About 12 minutes after takeoff, while climbing through 13,000 feet, there was an explosion. The airplane went down in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the south shore of Long Island, New York. There were no survivors. Of the 230 people who lost their lives, 38 were TWA employees either working as crewmembers or flying as passengers.
Although 25 years have passed, our museum's visitors are still interested to know what happened. After a lengthy investigation by several Federal agencies, the accident was attributed to a fault in the plane's wiring system that caused a spark to ignite fuel vapors in the airplanes center tank.
That conclusion was met with skepticism among some in the public and in the aviation community. The skepticism still remains, 25 years later. But at the museum, we most importantly focus on those who lost their lives and the families, loved ones and friends they left behind. In that spirit, we leave you with a poem written by former TWA flight attendant Marilyn Payton. She wrote it shortly after the tragedy occurred:
To the living, we are gone.
To the sorrowful, we will never return.
To the angry, we were cheated.
But to the happy, we are at peace.
And to the faithful, we have never left.
We cannot speak, but we can listen.
We cannot be seen, but we can be heard.
Posted week of 6/28/21
Upon hearing about United Airlines' recent agreement to purchase fifteen supersonic jets from Boom, we thought it would be interesting to look back at TWA's venture into supersonic transport, in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1964 and 1965, TWA and Concorde (a British/French aircraft manufacturing consortium) made agreements for TWA to purchase six of Concorde's supersonic aircraft (known more familiarly as the SST). The photo above was taken in 1967 at LeBourget Airport in Paris. Concorde constructed a full-scale mock-up of their SST and welcomed TWA personnel to its viewing by adding TWA markings to the aircraft.
By 1973, a number of operational and financial obstacles developed that led TWA to cancel their order with Concorde, so the mock-up above is as close as it got for TWA. Many other airlines that had ordered the airplane cancelled as well, leaving only national carriers Air France and British Airways (at the time BOAC) to acquire and put the Concorde SST into passenger service.
TWA and its SST aspirations make a very interesting story and we invite you to read our blog's article: TWA's Concorde SST - The Plane That Never Was. (Click or tap here to read the article). Of course, technology and engineering have advanced significantly since Concorde developed its SST in the 1960s and we are excited about the possibility of a brand new generation of supersonic aircraft taking to the skies in the not to distant future.
Posted week of 6/14/21
In addition to being marvels of technology, we at the museum think every TWA airplane was a thing of beauty. There are, however, some whose design really caught the eye. TWA's Lockheed L-1011 TriStar was, without a doubt, one of those. A three-engine widebody, one of the plane's "trademarks" was at its tail. The center engine was actually mounted below the tail section with an s-shaped air intake duct prominently mounted atop of the rear fuselage, aerodynamically "blending" into the tail's structure. We think the picture above is especially compelling, as the photographer chose an angle that really accentuates that feature of the airplane.
TWA first L-1011 commercial flight took place on June 25, 1972. TWA would go on to fly 36 L-1011s before retiring the airplane from its fleet in 1997. Passengers found the plane to be roomy, comfortable and a smooth ride. Most former TWA flight attendants and pilots we know tell us it was a pleasure to work. It's hard to believe it's been 49 years since TWA's first L-1011 entered service and almost 25 years since it was last flown by TWA. It's still a beautiful airplane and will always remain so.
Many stories and articles have been written about this great airplane. We invite you to read our blog's story about TWA's L-1011, The TriStar Of Our Show. In it, we look at the history of the L-1011 and get some interesting perspectives from a former TWA pilot, mechanic, flight attendant and engineer, all of whom worked on the L-1011. We really enjoyed writing the article and think you'll find it an interesting read. Click or tap here to view the article.
Posted week of 5/31/21
This TWA Boeing 707-131 jet certainly made its presence known as it lifted off from Los Angeles to New York's Idlewild Airport in July 1959. In addition to its noticeable trail of exhaust, each of the Pratt and Whitney JT3C engines were quite loud (take our word for that!). Those plumes of exhaust were enhanced by the injection of water into the engines during takeoff, producing extra power. The term "water wagon" was affectionately used to describe those early Boeing 707s.
The photo also serves to remind us that not everything about aviation's "golden age" was, well... golden. Although the world back then was not as environmentally aware as it is today, the sight pictured above certainly caught people's attention. The photo also shows us how far aviation has come since those days. Today's commercial jet engines are incredibly quieter, produce much cleaner exhaust, are highly fuel-efficient and are much more powerful. Back in 1959, each of those engines seen in our photo produced 13,500 pounds of thrust. Today, a GE-nx1B engine on a Boeing 787 airplane can produce almost 70,000 pounds of thrust (no water needed!)
Posted week of 5/24/21
This beautiful image of MD-83 aircraft N984TW was provided to TWA by the Boeing company to mark the occasion its being the last MD-80 series airplane produced. It is pictured at the Boeing plant in Long Beach, California, just before it was delivered to TWA on December 28, 1999. To honor the aircraft, TWA named it the "Spirit of Long Beach", acknowledging the location where it and over 1,000 other MD-80s were manufactured. With the addition of the "Spirit of Long Beach" into the fleet, TWA ended up flying a total of 112* MD-80 series airplanes starting with the first one (an MD-82) delivered on April 18, 1983. But there was still another chapter to be in the story of this special airplane...
When TWA was absorbed by American Airlines in 2001, N984TW was part of the transaction and became an American Airlines airplane, displaying American's familiar "silver" metal livery. It went on to fly for American for almost 18 years, being in the final group of 25 MD-83s that American retired in September 2019. As a most fitting tribute, it flew American's last scheduled MD-83 flight from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Chicago's O'Hare airport on September 4, 2019. Appropriately numbered flight 80, the jet touched down at O'Hare, still displaying its original registration number on the rear of the silver fuselage: N984TW.
*the precise number varies slightly among different sources.
Posted week of 5/10/21
Preparing for the introduction of the Boeing 747 into TWA's fleet was a huge undertaking, with thousands of TWA people involved in the process. From pilot training, to engineering, to maintenance training, to inflight services, to airport services, the list goes on and on. In addition to the major tasks, there were a planeload of "odds and ends" that also needed to be checked out. Among them was the aircraft's passenger entertainment system, which leads us to this week's photo and a lighter look at what it took get the big plane ready for passengers.
The photo above was taken on a "proving" flight in early 1970. One of the items being checked out was the inflight movie system. Technicians from TWA and its movie equipment provider are among the passengers on this flight, being entertained by Woody Allen in his classic comedy, "Take The Money and Run". If you look closely at the screen, you can see Woody as a cello player in his school's marching band (think about that!). While watching a funny movie sounds like a pretty good job, making sure the 747's movie systems operated correctly was an important undertaking. Five huge film projectors (lowered from the ceiling) beamed movies onto screens located several feet ahead, at the front of each cabin. The projectors were large and complex, each holding a giant film spool that contained the entire movie.
Another task completed, as the 747 was readied for TWA service. Thanks, Woody!
Posted week of 4/26/21
We hope everyone who reads our blog will get the opportunity to visit our museum. We think we're a special place, for many reasons. One of them is where we're located. We occupy a part of the building at 10 Richards Road, at Kansas City's Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. Ninety years ago, this building opened as TWA's first headquarters. As our visitors step through our museum, they are literally stepping through history. The one part of the building that really brings this feeling to life is the hangar. Look closely at our photo collage above and you'll see what we mean.
The top photograph was taken in the early-mid 1930s. In the foreground is a Northrup Alpha aircraft that was used by TWA primarily to carry mail. Next in the picture are two Ford Tri-Motors, the most well-known planes in TWA's early passenger fleet. It's a typical work day, as a number of TWA personnel are performing various maintenance tasks.
We took the bottom photograph just a few days ago, trying to duplicate the placement and perspective of the earlier picture. Despite newer airplanes and a few cosmetic changes to the interior, it's not hard to stand there and see the past. As we said earlier, we hope you'll get the chance to experience it in person.
(For your further information, 10 Richards Road is owned by the City of Kansas City. Missouri and leased to Signature Flight Support. We, in turn, lease a portion of the building from Signature. The airplanes are privately owned, with Signature providing hangar space. Our museum also rents space in the hangar to display our Lockheed Electra 12A, which was owned by TWA from 1940 to 1945. Although it's hard to spot, you can identify it by its bright red nose cone, in the very rear of the bottom picture).
Posted week of 4/12/21
In this week's photo, we recognize TWA Boeing 707 aircraft N18710. It's pictured taking an overnight break at New York's Kennedy airport before flying what would be the final TWA Boeing 707 flight on October 31, 1983. On that day, TWA flight 849 left Kennedy Airport bound for Chicago's O'Hare Airport and then onto its final destination, Kansas City. TWA's first Boeing 707 flight took place on March 20, 1959, from San Francisco to New York. From then until October 31, 1983, TWA flew over 100 Boeing 707s to cities in the U.S. and around the world, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
As you might expect, there are a number of interesting stories associated with that last Boeing 707 flight. Jim Thompson is a frequent contributor to our blog and was among those who were on flight 849 on October 31, 1983. He recalls the last "scheduled" TWA Boeing 707 flight actually took place the day before when N18710 flew from Miami to New York. Jim was a passenger on that one, along with a number of airline employees and Boeing 707 enthusiasts. However, upon their arrival in New York, it was learned that the plane was unexpectedly assigned to fly one more passenger flight, the following day, October 31. After some scrambling around and a few phone calls, most of those passengers made it onto flight 849 (including Jim), which was truly the final TWA Boeing 707 flight.
Another passenger on both "last" flights was the late Jon Proctor, an airline author/journalist, former TWA employee and a great friend to our museum and blog. Jon wrote an article about flight 849 in TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper. Here's a quote from his article, describing the plane's arrival into Kansas City:
"It became very quiet as we gently touched down, and then a spontaneous burst of applause came from everyone... A few stayed to watch as N18710 was towed slowly off the gate and into the darkness, her logo light still shining through the cold rainy night."
Posted week of 4/5/21
The morning of April 13, 1970 was a big day for TWA in Paris, France as its first Boeing 747 passenger flight arrived from New York. Several company and Paris officials were there to greet the flight, including this group of TWA employees. They surely were oufitted appropriately, wearing dresses that were custom-designed, just for the occasion (and clearly no other!).
The inbound 747 quickly "turned around" to become the first TWA 747 to fly passengers from Paris (to New York). That event was celebrated as well, with a ceremonial bottle of champagne broken across the fuselage. In addition to all the celebration, the history of TWA and advancements in commercial aviation were also on display. Only 24 years earlier, TWA's first transatlantic departure from Paris (also to New York) took place, performed by a model 049 Constellation propeller-powered plane. Having a capacity of about 50 passengers, it made stops in Shannon, Ireland and Gander, Newfoundland before arriving in New York, 21 hours later. In 1970, that same trip made aboard TWA's 747 was nonstop, took eight hours and held almost 350 passengers. Advances made in just 24 years. Extraordinaire!
Posted week of 3/29/21
Thumbing through the April 7, 1969 issue of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper, we came across this picture of three TWA flight attendants with TWA's first Boeing 747, as it was nearing completion at Boeing's plant in Everett, Washington. Pictured are (L-R) flight attendants Barbara Brown, Claire Coughlin and Gail Kuivanen. An interesting photo for sure, but this trio looked familar to us. We looked further in our collection and found this:
This picture is from an unnamed magazine, likely published around the same time. Again, that's Barbara in the middle and Gail behind her. This time, the third member of the group is Rita Figuerora. Then we stepped into one of our museum's galleries:
We're pretty sure copies of this large cardboard cut-out advertising display were seen in many TWA ticket offices and in travel agencies during its time. In this photo, the "live" person posing with the trio is Carol Emert, our museum's archivist. Carol was a TWA flight attendant from 1967 to1970 and recalls wearing those uniforms and the interesting hat that went with them. It's probably not a surprise to hear that visitors often have their photos taken with the trio, as did Carol. While we are unable to verify the names of the flight attendants in the cardboard display, we're pretty sure two of them are Barbara and Claire.
Not to forget the other "star" in our photo for this week, TWA took delivery of its first Boeing 747 on December 31, 1969. It entered passenger service on February 25, 1970 from Los Angeles to New York's Kennedy International Airport. TWA flew its final Boeing 747 flight on February 19, 1998.
Posted week of 3/1/21
Our photographic data base contains many images of TWA's flight attendant training, going as far back as the first "hostess" class, in 1935. The image above, from 1979, is an interesting one as the camera literally captured this flight attendant going airborne during an evacuation training exercise. We assume he eventually made contact with the slide and was "caught" by classmates, who typically gathered by the foot of the slide. While we have put a bit of a humorous tone to this picture's description, the reason for such training was dead serious. Throughout TWA's history, lives were saved by flight crews who coordinated the quick and safe evacuations of aircraft. A tribute to the superb training they received.
The photograph was taken at TWA's Breech Training Academy, located in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of the Kansas City metropolitan area. Opened in 1969 and named in honor of former TWA Board Chairman Ernest R. Breech, the training center was set on a 25-acre campus that housed a main building and three dormitory structures. It was considered among the premier airline training facilities in the world.
Due to financial considerations, TWA closed Breech in 1982 and sold it to a real estate development company in 1985. Training was moved to other locations. The campus that once was the Breech Training Academy remains in use today as a business park, with its buildings converted to offices.
Posted week of 2/15/21
At our museum, we are proud to possess a large collection of TWA-related graphic art. Among those items, our vintage posters and print advertisements do an especially good job of conveying the feeling of adventure and excitement the early era of flying provided passengers. For this week's photo, we present a print advertisement that appeared in the April 1946 edition of Colliers magazine. The artist is noted illustrator Frank Soltesz. If his name sounds familiar, we featured another of his illustrations in our Photo of The Week posted on September 28, 2020. We invite you to scroll down and look at that one too. It includes some biographical information about Soltesz and how he teamed up with TWA to produce some memorable aviation artwork
While it obviously was the illustration above that first caught our attention, we were also impressed by the accompanying advertising copy. It includes the following, that paints a similar picture, with words:
...we aim to make flying all that it can and should be...enjoyed for its ease and comfort and preferred for its perfect freedom from earth-bound cares.
Posted week of 2/8/21
In the fall of 1969, a casual observer driving by TWA's overhaul base in Kansas City may have wondered why there was a 20-foot diameter hole cut in a doorway of the airframe overhaul hangar. After all, that Boeing 707 inside seemed to fit quite well.
The answer came just a few weeks later in January 1970, when TWA's first Boeing 747 jumbo jet joined the fleet. AT 231' feet in length, the big plane was simply too long to fit into the hangar. So the first 153' of the plane resided inside and the last 78' outside.
The photo shows the hole in the "open" position. When closed, the interior edge of the hole gently enveloped the 747 fuselage, as it was lined with an inflatable rubber gasket. A couple of years later, TWA's new "super hangars" were constructed, allowing the 747 (and its wide body sibling, the L-1011) to fit entirely inside. In case you're wondering, the hole above was never "filled" after the super hangars were built.
Below is a picture of this operation in action, as TWA's first 747 was successfully maneuvered and secured in January 1970. Thanks to museum volunteer Don Lueke, who was there and took the photo (it was also our Photo of The Week back on July 1, 2019),
Posted week of 2/1/21
Publicity photographs of famous people having flown on TWA are quite numerous and not hard to find in our museum's public areas and in our archive's photo collection. They run the spectrum from actors to politicians to sports figures and even to famous animals (Lassie flew in first class, by the way). Some of our favorites are of show business personalities acting "in character" as their photos were taken. One of the great examples of that is this week's photograph of comedian and actor Jerry Lewis, presumably exiting a TWA Constellation. Based on the airplane (the Star of Greece, a Constellation acquired by TWA in 1950) and Jerry's youthful appearance, we'll date this picture in the early-mid 1950s.
We also are aware of two films Jerry Lewis appeared in that featured TWA airplanes. "Living It Up" was released in 1954 and "Boeing Boeing", in 1965. TWA's well-known affiliation with screen stars and the movies back then was attributable largely to the presence of Howard Hughes, who was the majority shareholder of TWA from 1947 to 1961 and had many acquaintances in the world of entertainment. They flew his airline often and TWA's public relations department kept busy, being sure their travels were captured on film for publicity and posterity.
And here's some related trivia you might like to know. TWA's brand (airplanes, terminals, ticket offices, etc.) appeared in many movies and television shows and we think you'll be surprised to know how many. The Internet Movie Plane Database (IMPDb) lists them all: Click here to see IMPDb's list
Posted week of 1/18/21
The year 2020 brought many changes to the world. Far too many to list or count. One that occurs to us at the museum has been the accelerated retirement of most of the world's passenger-carrying Boeing 747 airplanes. It has been sad to see so many 747s suddenly parked in storage, likely never again to take passengers to the skies. At the TWA Museum, we are fortunate to have many models, photographs and artifacts related to this great airplane. One of them is this week's photo. In addition to capturing the immensity of the 747, it brought a smile to our faces.
Never missing an opportunity to talk specifics about TWA airplanes, we'll use our young friend to give you a slightly different perspective of the 747's size. Assuming he is about four feet tall, the circumference of the wheels he is standing near is larger than he is taller (wheel circumference on the 747 was about fifty-five inches). If he felt like taking a walk under the entire airplane, he would have no problem as the 747 stands six feet above the ground, at its lowest point. If our friend enlisted four equally tall friends to stand on each other's shoulders, the kid on top might reach the tip of the nose cone, which is approximately twenty feet high. And our young observer would have had to be standing much further back to even see the cockpit windows, which are about thirty feet above the ground.
Although there is no date assigned to the photograph, we figure it's about fifty years old. Times surely have changed as It's possible our young friend by now has grandchildren and it's probable that the 747 pictured was long ago scrapped. Nevertheless, we thank both for giving us (and we hope you) a most pleasant memory.
Posted week of 1/11/21
The arrival of the Boeing 727 jet was a major event in the history of TWA, allowing jet service to be offered to passengers on short and medium-range flights. It also was an exciting time for TWA employees, as they were introduced to the third member of TWA's jet family (following the debuts of the Boeing 707 in 1959 and the Convair 880 in 1961). Our photo for this week is the cover of a 100-page book, published by TWA in 1964 and distributed to several employee groups, giving them an overview of the new airplane. The book was divided into four sections: General, Cockpit, Cabin and Systems. Below is a page from the Systems section, illustrating the flight controls:
From 1964 through 2000, the Boeing 727 was truly a workhorse for TWA, as close to 100 of these jets were a part of the fleet during that period. In addition to being seen at most every TWA airport in the United States, a small fleet of 727s were based in Europe, flying passengers between TWA European Transatlantic "gateway" cities and other cities in Europe and the Middle East.
Posted week of 12/28/20
The detail, clarity and composition of this photo from the early 1960s caught our attention. The subject of the photo is equally interesting. Each of the four engines powering this TWA Boeing 707-331 airplane was equipped with a noise suppression mechanism, which is that array of pipes at the engine's rear. As the name implies, they were designed to help address the concerns that passengers and the public below had with the extremely loud noise produced by that early generation of jet engines. According to the press release accompanying the photo, the suppressors kept the plane's sound level down to that of a small jet. We're not sure exactly which "small jet" was being cited in the comparison, but even with the suppressors, things got pretty loud.
Things have come a long way in the 60 years since this photo was taken. As cool-looking as they were, modern jet engine technology has made those suppressors a relic of the past. Advances in the science of jet propulsion and engine design produce engines today that are much quieter and much more powerful. Nevertheless, some at our museum still remember the sights and sounds of those early engines, powering 300,000 pound airplanes, taking passengers to heights and speeds that those of earlier generations could only have imagined.
Posted week of 12/14/20
A week in the life of a TWA intercontinental Boeing 707 is on display in this very interesting illustration that appeared in the the March 14, 1966 issue of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper. Starting its week in Kansas City, a Boeing 707-331 went as far as Bombay, making six Transatlantic crossing and several trips within Europe and the Middle East before ending the week right back where it started.
In addition to the facts shown in the inset on the upper right of the illustration, the accompanying article noted that during that week, over 700 TWA ground personnel handled some aspect of the plane's operation and 115 flight crew members (pilots and flight attendants) worked on the airplane. We thought for a moment about passengers who flew that final leg (number 27) from Chicago to Kansas City. As the plane gracefully descended into Kansas City, it's doubtful they were aware of the amazing week's work the plane had accomplished for TWA.
P.S. We suggest you click on the photo to enlarge it and then follow along the route. It's quite interesting!
Posted week of 12/7/20
The versatility of TWA's new Boeing 707 is on display in this photo taken at Orly Airport, Paris in May 1961. That is indeed a fifth engine hanging from the left wing. It was, however, not operational and instead was being transported to Bombay, India, where it was needed to replace an engine on another TWA 707 that was grounded. The cover or "fairing" on the front of the engine helped to make it more aerodynamic as it hitched a ride under the wing.
Boeing's engineers designed the 707's wing with the capability of attaching an additional engine for transport. In the case of the 707 pictured above, that engine was attached in Paris and flown to Rome, Italy. Once there, it was removed and attached to another TWA 707 for the flight to Bombay (with a stop in Dharan, Saudi Arabia). Flying replacement engines to far distant stations was always a challenge for TWA and they were quite pleased that the Boeing 707 was able to transport the three-ton engine on a scheduled flight, with negligible effect on the plane's performance or fuel consumption.
Posted week of 11/30/20
TWA's Skyliner newspaper of December 15, 1960 looked back on the year and forward to 1961. Among the events to occur in the new year would be the arrival of TWA's first Convair 880 jets. Our photo for this week comes from the front page of the Skyliner and shows a quartet of the earliest deliveries being prepared at the Convair assembly plant in San Diego, California.
In 1956, TWA ordered thirty of these airplanes, however, matters regarding financing forced TWA to downsize the order to twenty in the following year. Financial issues continued to affect the acquisition of the 880s and in 1959, Convair was forced to "set aside" TWA's first orders. Finally, matters were resolved and the delivery of TWA's first Convair 880s began in January 1961.
In our photo, we can identify the closest airplane as N819TW, which was delivered on January 5, 1961. A total of five were delivered to TWA that month, the first of 28 Convairs TWA operated through 1974. If you'd like to see and learn more about TWA's Convair 880, we'd suggest you take a look at our article: A Day With The Convairs. A very interesting story with great photographs. Click or tap here to go to the article.
Posted week of 11/16/20
The sight of only the forward section of a Boeing 707 being prepared for delivery to TWA may be a bit odd. The story behind it, however, is incredible.
It all started on August 29, 1969, when TWA flight 840 was on its way from Rome to Athens. The plane was hijacked and forced to land in Damascus, Syria. Once there, the hijackers evacuated the airplane and then detonated a bomb that completely destroyed the nose, cockpit and forward section of the aircraft:
Engineers from TWA and Boeing (including members of Boeing's storied "AOG" team) went to Damascus and determined the plane could be salvaged by joining a completely new front section to the rest of the aircraft that was not damaged. The new front section was loaded onto a C-97 "Guppy" freighter at Boeing's facility in Seattle (as shown in the main photo) and arrived in Damascus in early November 1969 (a little over two months after the bombing). Boeing and TWA were ready to go to work when the new section arrived and only a few days later, the airplane was airworthy, making a stop in Rome for further inspection and then flying to Kansas City for complete inspection and testing. The airplane was then integrated back into TWA's fleet and flew the line until 1983. Did we say the story was incredible. Yes, we did.
By the way, the smaller photo depicting the aftermath of the hijacking was our blog's Photo of The Week back on May 28, 2018. Click or tap here to go to that posting and find out some additional details about flight 840.
Posted week of 11/2/20
In its 76-year history, TWA was responsible for many innovations in commercial aviation. Our museum's list of TWA industry "firsts" spans many areas including navigation, engineering, maintenance and passenger service. While maybe not as technically impressive as others, one that really mattered to everyone occurred in 1957, when TWA was the first airline to develop and install coffee brewing machines aboard its aircraft. Up to that point, coffee was brewed on the ground and then loaded onboard in thermos jugs -or- instant coffee was made during flight. We're certain the hostesses shown in this week's photo were happy to serve freshly-brewed coffee to passengers who were equally pleased to smell the aroma and have a cup or two, especially on those early morning flights!
Interested in other TWA "firsts"? Our companion website has a list that's pretty interesting to read. We invite you to browse through it by going to: http://www.twamuseum.com/industry-firsts/
Posted week of 10/26/20
Timing is everything! When a racing shell needed to be transported from Seattle to Kansas State University, TWA's newest 727-231 airplane just happened to be ready for its delivery flight from Boeing's facilities in Seattle to Kansas City. The sixty foot racing shell slid into the airplane through the rear stairway hatch. With no passengers on board, it rested upon the folded down center and middle seats on the right side of the airplane. Upon arrival in Kansas City, TWA got its new airplane and K-State's rowing crew got its shell.
Posted week of 10/12/20
Appearing almost to be caressing this TWA Boeing 747, you're looking at just part of the massive scaffold and platform system that was used to service the big jet at TWA's maintenance and overhaul base near Kansas City International Airport. The photo was taken in one of two "super hangars" that were built at the base in 1971. Each hangar had 50,000 square feet of bay space and reached a height of 98 feet, at its arched entry.
The platform you see surrounding the front end of the airplane stood at about 20 feet off the ground, while higher locations (suspended from the ceiling) reached close to 60 feet. The hangars also made easy work of housing TWA's other wide bodies, the Lockheed L-1011 and Boeing 767. By the way, these uniquely-shaped hangars still stand today and have remained a familiar sight to Kansas Citians for almost fifty years.
Posted week of 9/28/20
The September 10, 1946 issue of Colliers Magazine featured this most impressive advertisement for TWA. We suspect readers spent an extra couple of minutes admiring this beautiful illustration of TWA's new Constellation aircraft descending over New York Bay and lower Manhattan at dusk. The advertisement was the work of noted illustrator, Frank Soltesz. His work in newspapers and advertising was noticed in 1945 by TWA President Jack Frye, who then offered him a job doing commercial illustrations for TWA. Our photo shows one of several that Soltesz produced.
Our museum and our archives are home to a large number of great posters and print advertisements illustrating TWA airplanes and worldwide destinations. Many are the work of famous illustrators and graphic artists, including David Klein, George Petty and Frank Soltesz.
Posted week of 9/21/20
Five TWA Boeing 707-131 airplanes are close to completion at Boeing's assembly facilities in Renton, Washington. The two closest planes in the photo are identifiable as N735TW and N736TW. They were delivered to TWA on April 18 and April 29, 1959, respectively. As it turned out, TWA ordered only fifteen of these "first generation" 707-131 models. As the last of the fifteen were being delivered, Boeing was busy manufacturing an improved version of the 707 that was more powerful and had longer range.
As the 1960s rolled on, more advanced models of the 707 were added to TWA's fleet, making it the symbol of TWA's evolution into the jet age. Images of the 707 were prominently displayed on countless TWA travel posters and advertisements, throughout the world. From its maiden voyage in March 1959 through its final flight in October 1983, approximately* 125 Boeing 707 jets flew in TWA's fleet.
* Precise counts vary slightly among our sources.
Posted week of 9/7/20
A TWA Constellation flying over the pyramids of Egypt produces an intriguing image. Cairo, Egypt was among the cities TWA served in 1946, the year it began international passenger service. Based on the Constellation model and its graphics, it's likely this photograph as taken right around that time.
Looking out the window at the pyramids below was certainly an amazing experience for those lucky passengers. It made us wonder what a flight from New York to Cairo entailed, back then. We looked at a TWA timetable from July 1, 1948 and discovered it was quite a journey. We picked TWA flight 990, that left New York's LaGuardia Airport at 5:30 P.M. each Saturday. It then went on to Gander, Newfoundland, a common stopping point for fuel before heading over the Atlantic Ocean. Flight 966 then took a southerly turn, stopping at Villa de Porta in the Azores, an island group in the Atlantic, about 900 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. It was then on to Lisbon itself for the next stop, followed by stops in Madrid, Rome and Athens. Arrival into Cairo occurred at 8:10 A.M. on Monday (Cairo time). It took about 32 hours to go the distance. Before you get numb just thinking about it, keep in mind many passengers broke up their journey, visiting some of the cities en route. However the trip was accomplished, looking down on the pyramids surely was a memorable way to end it.
Posted week of 8/31/20
The introduction of the Boeing 747 into TWA's fleet (in 1970) presented many operational challenges. Among them was how to board and deplane 350 people as quickly and comfortably as possible. Several solutions appeared in TWA terminals around the world, but how it was handled at Los Angeles International Airport (shown above) makes for quite a picture and quite a description.
A third boarding bridge was installed to service passengers sitting behind the wing. It was known officially as a "Skydock". As impressive as it is to view, we think it's the dimensions of what you're seeing that really will get your attention. The Skydock itself extended 100 feet from the terminal building to the 747's door. Passengers walking through the Skydock were about eighteen feet above the ground, as it was suspended just two feet over the surface of the wing! Powered hydraulically, the Skydock weighed 45 tons. Just to give it some further perspective, that left wing of the 747 was about eighty feet in length. Impressed? We are.
In the midst of all that technology and engineering, we have to wonder what boarding passengers were thinking as they trekked through the Skydock. Some may have wondered it there indeed was a light (or an airplane) at the end of that tunnel!
Posted week of 8/24/20
A major milestone occurred for TWA in 1970 with the opening of "Flight Wing One"at TWA's Flight Center terminal at New York's Kennedy International Airport. The photograph above was taken shortly after Flight Wing One was opened. Eero Saarinen's famous main terminal building is clearly identifiable in the lower center of the photo and Flight Wing One is connected to it, on the upper left. To the right is Flight Wing Two. Interestingly, it was Flight Wing Two that was completed first, when the terminal opened in 1962.
The excitement surrounding the opening of the state-of-the-art Flight Wing One was magnified many times by its primary purpose, which was to accommodate TWA's newly-acquired Boeing 747 jumbo jets. The photo shows three 747s at their gates with a fourth one on a nearby taxiway. We also have a great look at the "tunnels" that connected the main terminal building to each Flight Wing. Among the most storied features of the TWA Flight Center, the interior of each tunnel had red floor carpeting and lighted curved walls, designed to give passengers the feeling of "stepping into" the jet age. Millions of TWA passengers walked through them and we're sure many still recall that very feeling.
You can still walk through those same tunnels, however today they will lead you to the guest room buildings of the TWA Hotel. Opened in May 2019, the TWA Hotel is now a landmark in its own right, allowing guests and visitors to again experience the architectural beauty and grandeur of the TWA Flight Center.
Posted week of 8/3/20
Among the many in-air photos in our archives, this one is unusual, as it was taken from above the airplane. It really gives us a unique glimpse into the form and engineering of the Boeing 727, accentuating its t-tail and three engines in the rear. The subject of our photo is ship N853TW, which was the fourth 727-31 airplane delivered to TWA in May 1964. TWA's first 727 flight took place on June 1, 1964.
The Boeing 727 would become an important piece of TWA's history. TWA would go on to fly almost 100 727s, a combination of the original 727 and the longer 727-200 model. The final TWA 727 flight (a -200 model) took place on September 30, 2000. As it taxied to the gate in St. Louis, a traditional water cannon salute recognized the final flight of a great member of TWA's fleet.
The Boeing 727 would become an important piece of TWA's history. TWA would go on to fly almost 100 727s, a combination of the original 727 and the longer 727-200 model. The final TWA 727 flight (a -200 model) took place on September 30, 2000. As it taxied to the gate in St. Louis, a traditional water cannon salute recognized the final flight of a great member of TWA's fleet.
Posted week of 7/20/20
Following some intrigue at the corporate level, TWA finally took delivery of the newest generation of aircraft in May 1940. The majestic Boeing 307 Stratoliner flew its maiden voyage for TWA on July 8th of that year... eighty years ago! Our photo shows the majesty and size of the Stratoliner (with a wingspan of 107 feet), nicely framed by the TWA hostesses standing before it, in their bright, white summer uniforms.
TWA flew just five Stratoliners over a ten-year period (Boeing manufactured only ten) but they hold an interesting place in TWA's history. At that point in time, they were the largest and most powerful aircraft to enter TWA's fleet and for the first time, TWA flew an airplane that was pressurized. "Flying above the weather" was now possible, adding a new level of comfort and speed to air travel. Complementing the smooth ride was a roomy and luxurious interior.
There's much more to the Stratoliner story, including its "hitch" in the military during World War II. If you're interested to learn more, we invite you to read our article: TWA'S STRATOLINER - PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE. CLICK OR TAP HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE
Posted week of 7/13/20
Having arrived into TWA's fleet less than two years after the introduction of the Boeing 707, it might have been easy to mistake the Convair 880 shown above for its Boeing fleetmate. The fact was the Convair 880 was its "own plane" and holds a relatively small but memorable place in TWA's aircraft history.
TWA's first Convair 880 flight took place on January 12, 1961 with its final flight occurring only thirteen years later. That last flight, by the way, was performed by the airplane pictured above, N824TW. Among the Convair's most memorable features was its speed. When "let loose", it could approach 650 miles per hour. In fact, shortly after the Convair's arrival in 1961, a San Francisco to Los Angeles flight was performed in only 39 minutes. Normally, flying time was (and still is) about one hour.
TWA flew only 28 Convair 880s and their early retirement was hastened by rising fuel prices in the early 1970s. Its four thirsty General Electric engines consumed a lot of fuel, while carrying only about 100 passengers. Also contributing to the aircraft's early demise was the decision of its manufacturer (General Dynamics) to stop production in 1962, just three years after the aircraft was introduced. Only 65 Convair 880s were produced, with TWA's fleet of 28 being the largest in the world. Finally, the subject of our photo, ship N824TW spent its retirement in storage in Kansas City and was scrapped in 1979.
Posted week of 6/29/20
A TWA Model 749 Constellation provides quite a view for motorists driving by Los Angeles International Airport, through the Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel. Opened in April 1953, the tunnel is about 2,000 feet in length and passes motorists under LAX's runways 25 Left and 25 Right (and their associated taxiways).
Based upon the automobiles and the airplane, it's likely this picture was taken around the time the tunnel was first completed in 1953. We're looking south and assuming it was a routine weather day in Los Angeles, we'll infer that the Constellation had just landed to the west and was taxiing to the terminal, which at the time was located east of Sepulveda Boulevard. The current LAX terminal complex was first opened in 1961, and is situated to the west of Sepulveda Boulevard. However, Runways 25L and 25R are still very much in use and motorists cruising on Sepulveda are still occasionally greeted by huge airliners and their sweeping wingspans, not far overhead.
By the way, our thanks to our friend Jim Thompson and his "expert" automotive friends who helped us in determining when the photo was likely taken, based on the age of the automobiles.
Posted week of 6/22/20
Timetables often provide an informative look into TWA's history. The one pictured from the fall of 1957 is really quite meaningful, as its front and back covers announce the introduction of TWA's polar route, which allowed nonstop travel between Los Angeles and London, as well as nonstop service between San Francisco and London/Paris. The really interesting parts of this story are the Lockheed Constellations that flew the polar route and the incredible duration of these flights.
It was the introduction of TWA's Lockheed Constellation model 1649A (in 1957) that made this possible. The final Constellation model produced, the very powerful 1649A could hold almost 10,000 gallons of fuel and had non-stop capabilities that were close to 6,000 miles. That distance allowed for non-stop flying from the U.S. west coast to more westerly cities in Europe. At a maximum cruising speed of about 340 miles per hour, the published non-stop flying time on these routes was eye-opening (or closing), to say the least. From Los Angeles to London, 20 hours, 10 minutes. From London to San Francisco, 22 hours, 5 minutes (one of the latter flights was airborne for an incredible 23 hours, 19 minutes). Simply amazing!
While we at the blog are not navigators, we can tell you the polar route is pretty much what you'd imagine. Due to the shape of the earth, flying via the extreme north latitudes is the shortest way between the points mentioned above. Defined as areas above 78 degrees north latitude, these routes took the Connies over areas very close to the north pole. Some TWA knowledge for you, inspired by a timetable!
Posted week of 6/15/20
It's been three years since we featured a photo of TWA's unique Fairchild C-82A Packet airplane, so we located a better shot of it and decided to bring "Ontos" back for an encore. Ontos is the Greek word for "thing" and that nickname, given by TWA crews, surely describes its appearance. However, Ontos did important work for TWA from 1957 through 1972.
Based in Paris, the C-82A (there was just one in the fleet) was acquired primarily to haul Lockheed Constellation engines to TWA stations throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. The engines on the later-model Connies were especially prone to problems and occasionally required replacement. It was Ontos that delivered emergency replacement and spare engines to those distant locations.
The appearance of Ontos was made even more memorable by the addition of a Westinghouse jet engine mounted on its roof, between the cockpit and the wing. Together with its two wing-mounted props, Ontos had an impressive maximum takeoff weight of 54,000 pounds. As the 1960s unfolded, TWA jets began replacing the Connies. Due to the better reliability of jet engines and TWA's ability to transport engines in jet freighters, Ontos' days became numbered. Retired from TWA in 1972, it will always hold a unique place in the fleet's history.
NOTE: Several readers have since contacted us to let us know that Ontos is alive and well, and on display at the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, in Maryland. Hopefully, many of you will have the chance to check out this great piece of TWA history! (Click or tap here for the museum's web page).
In December 1965, TWA's Transportation Division introduced TWA personnel to the newest member of its growing jet aircraft fleet, the brand new Douglas DC-9. The photo above is the cover of a 45-page booklet that gave a general introduction about the airplane as well as specific information about the cockpit, cabin and operating systems of the airplane. It was intended for a wide range of personnel and had a "little of everything" inside. Here are a couple of pages from the "systems" section:
TWA's first DC-9 flight took place on March 17, 1966, flying from New York's La Guardia Airport to Kansas City's Municipal Airport (MKC). MKC (now known as the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport) is today an important part Kansas City's aviation history and the home of our museum.
(posted week of 5/25/20)
We have a number of air-to-air photos in our collection, but this one really caught our eye. Looking level at the nose of this early model C-69 (eventually to become a model 049) Constellation, you get a great perspective of the plane's unique profile.
The aircraft itself is special, as well. Carrying Lockheed serial number 1969, this plane was manufactured as a C-69 military airplane for the U.S. Army Air Force. TWA flew it for the USAAF Air Transport Command, in support of the war effort, starting in 1945 (around when we believe the picture above was taken). In 1948, it was acquired by TWA and converted to a civilian model 049. Named the "Star of Zurich", TWA flew it until it left the fleet in 1961.
(posted week of 5/25/20)
Pictured this week is TWA's first Boeing 717 (ship N401TW), which began passenger service in March 2000. TWA ordered 50 of these airplanes, however, only 30 were delivered before American Airlines acquired TWA in December 2001. The Boeing 717 closed another chapter in TWA's history as it was the final aircraft model ordered and delivered to the airline.
Of TWA's 30 Boeing 717s, 24 of them eventually found their way into the fleet of Delta Air Lines, having gone from TWA to American Airlines (American did not fly them) then to AirTran Airways and then to Delta. Delta currently operates the largest fleet of Boeing 717s in the world, however, a number of them are today grounded and the future of the plane in Delta's fleet is being evaluated. We wish the best to Delta, their great employees and all airlines around the world, during these difficult times.
(posted week of 5/18/20)
Our Ed Betts photograph collection contains several images of the proposed TWA Concorde Supersonic Transport (SST). Most are illustrations, but back in 1967, TWA officials met in Paris with Concorde officials to see a full-sized mock-up of the SST in TWA colors. The photograph above was taken during that visit, at LeBourget Field, in Paris. And that's pretty much as far it got for TWA! A badly-timed mixture of economic and environmental concerns in the early 1970s resulted in TWA and dozens of other airlines cancelling their orders. The Concorde would eventually fly, but only for the national airlines of Concorde's home countries, Britain and France.
Interested to know more about TWA's quest to fly supersonic? Back in 2016, our museum's acquisition of a large Concorde model inspired us to write our very first blog article: TWA's Concorde SST - The Plane That Never Was. Click or tap here if you'd like to read it.
(posted week of 5/4/20)
The unmistakable profile of a DC-9 tail is captured quite creatively in this week's photo. Shown here is one of the early DC-9-14 airplanes first introduced into TWA's fleet in March 1966. Over the next 35 years, TWA would go on to fly six types (known as "series") of the DC-9, including those later identified as the MD-80 and Boeing 717. Totaling over 130 airplanes, it was quite a run!
It's appropriate to note that the last scheduled departure of a TWA flight took place on a member of the DC-9 family. TWA flight 220, an MD-83, flew from Kansas City to St. Louis on Dec 1, 2001, thus closing the book on the story of a great airline.
(posted week of 4/20/20)
Forty-six feet shorter than a full-sized 747, the unusual appearance of the Boeing 747SP (short for Special Purpose) was an eye-catcher, for sure. It had greater range than its larger sibling and Boeing characterized it as a 747 variant, suitable for lower capacity routes. It didn't go quite as hoped for Boeing, as its production numbers fell far below expectation.Three 747SPs occupied TWA's fleet for only about five years. Pictured above is ship N58201, acquired in March 1980. It was sold to the government of the United Arab Emirites in 1985. TWA's other two SPs went to American Airlines in 1986.
TWA's intention in purchasing the SPs was to take advantage of their increased range by using them for non-stop service to Saudi Arabia and for re-entering the Transpacific market, with service to China and other points in the Far East. Unfortunately, these route acquisitions never materialized. Our thanks to Jim Thompson (a friend of our museum and blog) who provided us with references about TWA's proposed Transpacific usage of the 747SP.
By the way, we posted an artist's rendition of TWA's 747SP as our Photo of The Week for July 16, 2018. There's additional info about the airplane there, so scroll down to that week's post, if you're interested.
(posted week of 4/13/20)
TWA's first Boeing 757 (ship N701TW) presents a graceful image as it cruises over the clouds. Acquired in 1996, TWA would go on to fly 27 of these versatile airplanes until 2001, when TWA's fleet was acquired by American Airlines.
While flying with American for only a short time, N701TW would eventually serve a very important role, as it was acquired by the United States Air Force in 2011. Re-branded as a C-32 military transport, its passengers have included the Vice President of the United States, members of the President's cabinet and on occasion, the President himself (when the President's 747 is too large for the destination airport). So, the next time you see United States Of America aircraft 09-0016 on the news, you'll can smile and say hello to N701TW!
(posted week of 4/6/20)
From our museum's Betts collection, we're pleased to share this beautifully composed photograph of TWA Boeing 747-131 aircraft N93108, on the ground at TWA's maintenance and overhaul base in Kansas City, MO.
N93108 (fleet number 17108) was a TWA "lifer", joining the fleet in May 1970 and retiring in February 1998. In fact, it had the distinction of flying TWA's last passenger revenue 747 flight on February 19, 1998, from Tel Aviv, Israel to New York's Kennedy International Airport.
(posted week of 3/30/20)
The world is a serious place these days and understandably so. We hope all our readers are doing well and encourage everyone to follow recommended directives and protocols, in order to remain healthy. With so much on our minds, we thought we would lighten things up a bit. For the next several weeks, our Photo of the Week will be selected simply because its a really nice picture to view and enjoy. We think this week's photo fills that bill well.
The grace of TWA's Boeing 727 is clearly on display, well-complemented by the "double stripe" livery displayed on TWA's aircraft from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. Airplane N54341 was a Boeing 727-231 (Advanced), acquired new by TWA in 1979. A beautiful airplane flying on a beautiful day!
(posted week of 3/23/20)
Making their way through Lockheed's production line in Burbank, California, four series 1049 Constellations (not yet adorned with their iconic triple tails) get prepared to take to the skies, in 1952. Known as the "Super-Constellation", the 1049 was (among other things) larger and faster than its predecessor, the model 749. These advancements also added longer range, allowing TWA to operate the first non-stop service from Los Angeles to New York in October 1953.
TWA flew only ten 1049 Super-Constellations. Just three years later, an even more powerful model 1049G (known popularly as the "Super G") came onto the line, giving TWA even more reach and scheduling flexibility. When all was said and done, TWA flew over 150 Constellation aircraft, from 1946 through 1967.
(posted week of 3/2/20)
Fifty years ago, on February 25, 1970, TWA flight 100 departed Los Angeles International Airport at 9:15 A.M., marking the inauguration of TWA's Boeing 747 passenger service. Under the command of Captain J.E. Frankum, flight 100 touched down at 4:50 P.M. at New York's Kennedy International Airport. Upon landing, the aircraft's 254 passengers broke into an extended round of applause.
In a history filled with notable aircraft, such as the DC-3 and the Lockheed Constellation, the Boeing 747 holds its unique and special place. TWA would go on to fly 36 747s from that day in 1970 through February 1998. We could say much more, but will instead quote from a letter sent in 1998 from John A. Tracci (Director of International Maintenance) to TWA maintenance personnel around the world, paying a most worthy tribute to the 747:
"With the on-time departure of Flight 883/19(Feb) from Tel Aviv, a remarkable era of TWA history has come to an end.
If you stayed up late last night you could have noticed high above the skies of Europe the vapor contrails of four powerful engines painting for the last time their straight line signature in a westerly direction. As plane 17108 winged westward I am sure your mind could have easily recalled the joy, the pleasure, the struggle, the challenge to keep them flying, for I can think of only a very few of us not touched by its size, complexity and power ... yet so graceful."
(posted week of 2/24/20)
Although the angle from which this picture was taken may exaggerate the size a bit, the fact is TWA's first Boeing 747 simulator was large! Standing over twenty feet tall, it was installed in 1969, at TWA's satellite training center at New York's Kennedy Airport. In fact, TWA was the first airline to have a 747 simulator operating in-house. This was, of course, all put in place for the introduction of TWA's 747 into service. That took place just about fifty years ago, when TWA's first scheduled 747 flight lifted off from Los Angeles to New York on February 25, 1970. Look for more 747 photo postings in the next couple of weeks, as we celebrate this significant anniversary.
The gentlemen who appear somewhat dwarfed by the simulator were members of TWA's flying management team: (from the left) C.M. Horstman, General Manager-Flying, H.G. Graff, Supervisor- Flight Training and B.N. Williams, Manager - International Pilots.
(posted week of 2/10/20)
Readers of the April 24, 1954 edition of TWA's Skyliner newspaper were given a preview of Boeing's version of a brand-new jet transport. Readers were reminded not to get too excited yet, as this was just an illustration. There is no question, however, that a look at Boeing's first commercial jet in development, with TWA markings, generated a great deal of excitement.
The aircraft pictured would evolve to become the Boeing 707. That legendary model number was yet designated when Boeing flew the first prototype in July 1954. After several technical and design adjustments, the Boeing 707 was named and took to the air on its first test flight in 1957. By that time, many airlines had placed orders including TWA, who placed its first order for eight of the aircraft in February 1956. The first TWA 707 commercial flight took to the skies on March 20, 1959, from San Francisco to New York.
(posted week of 1/27/20)
This week's photo shows one of the many "firsts" in TWA's history. On March 13, 1974, TWA flight 800 was the first scheduled airline flight to land at the new Charles de Gaulle Airport, in Paris, France. Flight 800, a 747 inbound from New York's Kennedy Airport (JFK) touched down at 6:51 A.M. and CDG (the new airport's code) was open for business. Soon thereafter, CDG would become (and still is) the primary international airport serving Paris, taking over that role from Orly Airport. It's interesting to note that that TWA's very first international flight occurred on February 6, 1946, when a Lockheed Constellation made the trip from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Paris' Orly Airport. That flight made two enroute fuel stops, taking 16 1/2 hours. By contrast flight 800's nonstop flight to CDG took about seven hours and we're certain was a much smoother, quieter and roomier ride. Such a huge difference in only 28 years illustrates the accelerated rate of technological advancement that took place in commercial aviation through the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
In our photo, the letters are being held by Paris-based flight attendants who greeted the flight. Some of flight 800's crew is also there, including Captains C.M. Horstman and Gordon Granger. The photo appeared in the April 8, 1974 edition of TWA's Skyliner newspaper, however, we also have this color copy of the photo that appeared in the March 2014 issue of Paris Lifestyle magazine, commemorating the 40th anniversary of CDG's opening.
(posted week of 1/20/20)
A TWA Boeing 707 makes its approach into Hong Kong in 1966, the year TWA began service there. Initially, TWA's service to Hong Kong was via the Atlantic Ocean, making stops (and occasional plane changes) in Europe, the Middle East and other cities in Asia. The number and places of stopover/change varied by the flight and day of the week, however, a typical TWA transatlantic trip from New York to Hong Kong could take 25-30 hours. In 1969, TWA became an around-the-world carrier, which meant Hong Kong was also served from the U.S. via the Pacific Ocean, with stops in Guam, Okinawa and Taipei (again, the stops varied by flight and day-of-week). TWA completely ended its service to Hong Kong (and other Asian cities) in 1975, after a route exchange with Pan American World Airways. That agreement also ended TWA's flying the Pacific.
The airplane in our picture is flying noticeably low above Hong Kong's heavily populated area, as that was standard procedure for approaching the southeast runway at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport. Descending over Kowloon City, the airplane's instrument landing system guided pilots not to a runway, but a point in Kowloon's Tsai Park called Checkerboard Hill. Painted in white and orange squares, the hill marked the visual point where the pilot would execute a sharp right turn while descending about 500 feet. Once out of the turn, the plane was just seconds away from the runway's threshold. For passengers sitting by a right side window, it was an "unforgettable" flying experience.
(posted week of 1/6/20)
In 1985, the cabin of this TWA Boeing 727 was populated with a bunch of clowns! Actually, they were members of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, filming a scene for a television special. The group never took to the air, as the 727 (located that day in Tampa, Florida) was used only as a location for a scene in the show. Another example of TWA's well-known media exposure, an important part of its history.
By the way, kudos to the clown on the upper right who found his (or her) way into the overhead storage compartment. No easy feat, considering those bins were not as large as they are on aircraft today. The photo appeared in the March 25, 1985 issued of the TWA Skyliner company newspaper.
(posted week of 12/30/19)
For a ten-month period (during 1980-1981), one of TWA's Boeing 727-231 jets stood out from the rest of the fleet by displaying a polished bare-metal paint scheme. Aircraft N64339 was the test case for TWA's "Operation Skinny", a program to reduce aircraft weight, thus reducing fuel consumption. After the ten-month trial, the bare metal scheme was not adopted. Although less fuel was burned, the costs of maintaining the bare metal skin for the entire fleet were determined to be too high. Additionally, opinions received during the trial showed the public favored TWA's planes continuing to be painted white, with their predominantly red tail. N64339 's unique appearance ended in June 1981, when it was repainted to look like its sibling TWA aircraft.
The black-and-white photo above is from our museum's TWA Skyliner newspaper collection. Our policy is to display only photos in our museum's collection. Many readers sent us color photos of N64339 from various sources and we appreciated it very much. Among them, was the beautiful picture below, taken by Harry Sievers, when the plane first rolled out of the paint shop in August 1980. With Harry's permission, we decided to make an exception to our policy, so everyone can enjoy this great photo. Thanks to Harry (and Jon Proctor, for reaching out to Harry).
N64339 is significant for another reason. On June 14, 1985, it was flying as TWA flight 847 from Athens to Rome, when it was hijacked. The resulting 17-day ordeal remains an important part of TWA and civil aviation history. During the hijacking, Captain John Testrake and his crew displayed the highest levels of courage and professionalism. After returning to the United States, N64339 had its interior renovated and it continued flying the line until its retirement. It is more than fitting to also note that it was the last TWA Boeing 727 to be retired, on September 30, 2000. A plane with a story to tell, for sure!
(posted week of 12/16/19)
Motorists travelling west on Interstate 70 through Denver, Colorado received a unique view of a taxiing TWA Boeing 707, while driving in the vicinity of Stapleton International Airport. Vehicles on I-70 were passed under one of Stapleton's north/south runways and its associated taxiways.
At the time the photo was taken in 1968, TWA served several destinations from Denver including New York, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles. Stapleton saw its last flight in 1995, as the new and much larger Denver International Airport opened several miles to the northeast. Over the next several years, the land upon which Stapleton Airport once stood saw the development of industrial, retail and residential establishments.
By the way, a large number of major airports in the U.S. and around the world currently have similar plane/car passages and the scene above is repeated many times, in many cities.
(posted week of 12/9/19)_____________________________________________________________________
There's no doubt that TWA attracted a fair amount of attention on this day in 1956, in downtown Chicago. We suspect there were many double-takes on the part of pedestrians, as they observed a model of a TWA Constellation being hoisted high above the street. It was on its way to being placed on a sign at State and Randolph Streets. While the 2,600 pound model remained "airborne" for only a little while, we're sure it was a memorable few moments for those lucky enough to be there.
Thanks to blog readers Gregory Smith and Jon Proctor, who provided us additional details about the event.
(posted week of 12/2/19)
During the course of our research, we sometimes come across some interesting advertisements. In their own unique way, they give us a good look at how TWA pursued the business of flying, during certain periods of time. In 1947, TWA reached out to newspaper readers in New York, hoping they would see there were some very good reasons to fly TWA. They included reliable baggage handling procedures, a dedicated phone system for TWA flight planners to stay in touch with field personnel and fine in-flight meals (with no tip expected).
It was also noted that you could fly from New York to Los Angeles, leaving in the afternoon at 3:30 PM and arriving in Los Angeles at 11:35 PM, in time to "enjoy a full night's sleep". More specifically, the flight referenced was an 11-hour trip on a Lockheed 049 Constellation that included a stop in Chicago. We commend anyone who could have stayed awake during the entire flight, landed in L.A. with their body still on New York time (2:30 AM), gone home and had a full night's sleep! Whatever the outcome, the odds appeared good that their baggage made it with them.
(posted week of 11/25/19)
Ciampino Airport, Rome in 1946 is the location of this week's photo and it contains some interesting information. The passengers look to be arriving and departing at Ciampino's modest terminal building, as a TWA Douglas DC-4 "Skymaster" stands by the gate. Among the lesser-known members of TWA's historic fleet, eight DC-4s served TWA passengers for about 10 years, beginning in 1946. While TWA was building its fleet of Lockheed Constellations, the DC-4 concurrently flew a variety of Transatlantic flights, including the first service to Rome in May 1946.
TWA's DC-4s were all originally built as military C-54s and then converted to passenger planes when later purchased by TWA. In terms of range and speed the DC-4 was outclassed by even the earliest models of the TWA's Constellations. We can also add comfort to that list, as (unlike the Constellation) the DC-4 was not pressurized, which meant its maximum cruising altitude was about 10,000 feet.
We checked TWA's timetable from October 5, 1947 and picked out flight 904, a DC-4 that left New York at 11:30 PM on Sundays. After stops in Gander, Shannon, and Paris, it arrived in Rome at 6:10 AM (local time) on Tuesday morning. Doing some time zone arithmetic, we calculated the trip took about 25 hours. We'll take an educated guess that any passengers in our photo arriving from New York were happy their trip to Rome was (finally) complete!
(posted week of 11/18/19)
While we marvel at the many incredible airplanes that have been a part of the 60+ years of commercial jet airplane travel, we sometimes overlook the critical role jet engine technology plays in bringing it all together. That relationship was on display in this 1970 TWA photograph showing the comparative sizes of the Boeing 707-331 engine on the left on the (then) new Boeing 747-131 engine next to it.
And it is quite a comparison. Each of the 707's four engines (Pratt and Whitney JT3-D) produced 18,000 pounds of thrust, allowing a 707 weighing up to 335,000 pounds to become airborne. As impressive as that was, each of four 747 engines (Pratt and Whitney JT9-D) could produce up 41,000 pounds of thrust, allowing a 747 weighing up to 735,000 pounds to take off. As you can imagine, jet engine technology continues to evolve. Today, an Airbus A330-300 weighing over 500,000 pounds can fly similar routes on just two engines, each producing 70,000 pounds of thrust!
On a final (and no less important) note, hats off to the thousands of TWA mechanics, technicians and engineers who kept the engines running smoothly, providing safe and reliable travel to millions of TWA passengers.
(posted week of 11/4/19)
After the arrival of its first Lockheed Constellation in 1946, TWA started looking for shorter-range aircraft to replace its DC-3 fleet. In 1950, TWA (under the ownership of Howard Hughes) selected the Martin 404, manufactured by the Glenn L. Martin Company, in Baltimore. Unfortunately, it would take two years for the 404 to be delivered, so TWA first introduced the Martin 202A to its fleet. Pictured above is Martin 202A airplane N93201. TWA ordered twelve 202As and all were delivered in September 1950.
Less than two years later, the first of forty Martin 404s made their way into TWA's fleet. The two Martin models flew with TWA throughout the 1950s, with all being sold or returned to lessors by the early 1960s. Interestingly, TWA sold many Martin 404s to a small southeastern regional carrier named Piedmont Airlines. Over time, a series of mergers resulted in Piedmont becoming part of US Airways, which then combined with American Airlines in 2015. A few years earlier (in 2001), TWA had become a part of American as well.
An extra note to our TWA trivia fans: If you look closely, you'll notice the unique vertical arrangement of the aircraft registration number on the top part of the tail!
(posted week of 10/28/19)
(posted week of 10/28/19)
Of the hundreds and hundreds of images at our museum related to TWA's Boeing 747, this one is among our favorites. Rather than list all the reasons why we like it, we'll just let you sit back and enjoy it. It is a great picture!
The aircraft shown is TWA ship N93101, parked at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The photo was taken in 1969, several months before the plane's delivery to TWA (which took place in August 1970). TWA officially took delivery of its very first 747 (ship N93102) on December 31, 1969 and the first 747 passenger revenue flight occurred on February 25, 1970, when TWA flight 100 lifted off from Los Angeles, bound for New York's Kennedy Airport.
In the photo, the group standing below the plane represents the cockpit and cabin crew that would typically be assigned to a TWA 747 flight.
(special thanks to our friend Jon Proctor, who provided many details about the photograph)
(posted week of 10/14/19)
Looking almost like they're gathered around the office water cooler, these three TWA 747s prepare for their next trips at New York's Kennedy Airport. The photo was taken in the early 1980s, when JFK was THE place to find a large amount of TWA's 747s, on any given afternoon.
TWA's two terminals at Kennedy were a beehive of activity back then with domestic flights generally arriving in the early afternoon to connect passengers with TWA widebody jets, poised to take them to destinations in Europe and the Middle East.
(posted week of 9/30/19)_____________________________________________________________________
Images of TWA airplanes in flight are among the most interesting in our museum's large collection of photographs. We think this photo of a TWA Boeing 767-300 heading over San Francisco's Golden Gate is quite elegant, as well. Taken sometime between 1998 and 2001, it clearly does NOT show its age. There are still many Boeing 767s currently in service and the scene above still occurs today (in other airline liveries, of course).
The aircraft pictured (N634TW) was delivered new to TWA in 1998. We always enjoy following the travels of our former family members and like many, this one has a story to tell. It went over to American Airlines upon their acquisition of TWA in 2001. After spending a short time with American, the plane joined the fleet of Air China, then AeroSvit Ukranian Airlines and finally El Al Israel Airlines. The latest status shows El Al taking the plane out of its fleet earlier this year. It should also be mentioned that throughout its assignments, it changed registration numbers a few times (not uncommon in the airline business) but we'll always think of it as N634TW, the subject of a pretty cool picture!
(posted week of 9/23/19)
(posted week of 9/23/19)
"Timing is everything", was more than just an expression for John Mays, our museum's librarian and a board member. On August 3rd, a cancellation resulted in him being re-booked to Dallas on a soon-to-be retired American Airlines MD-83. It turns out it was aircraft N984TW. That airplane was delivered new to TWA in December 1999 and most notably, was the final MD-80 type airplane manufactured. As a tribute, it carried the name "Spirit of Long Beach" during its time with TWA. But there's even more!.. N984TW also flew the final MD-83 departure for American on September 4th, (American flight 80, from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Chicago).
Back to John's flight, upon its arrival in Dallas, it parked right next to another former TWA MD-83, N964TW (as well as near an unidentified MD-83 in the distance). It's at that point that John took the photo you see, from his seat on board N984TW. We'd say John had a pretty interesting flight!
We've been keeping up with the final days of the remaining TWA MD-83s that were retired from American's fleet on September 4th. Thanks to American (and former TWA) First Officer Curt Lowery, we can tell you 28 MD-83s were officially retired that day and all were former TWA airplanes. They then made their way either to Roswell, NM or Tulsa, OK. Curt was first officer when the last American MD-83 departed Grand Rapids, MI on September 3rd. He was kind enough to send us a picture of him and Captain Louis Shaheen, as they prepared to take former TWA airplane N9616G on that final departure from Grand Rapids.
|First Officer Curt Lowery and Captain Louis Shaheen with N9616G in Grand Rapids|
By the way, if we've stirred your interest in N984TW (the last MD-83 produced, American's last MD-83 departure and John's ride down to Dallas!), scroll down to our Photo of The Week for April 29, 2019. We have a great photo of the aircraft being manufactured in Long Beach, CA
Our thanks to John Mays and Curt Lowery for helping to give us a great photo and the information to help make it special.
(posted week of 9/9/19)______________________________________________________________________
At the museum, we are proud of our extensive photograph collection, that includes thousands of images of airplanes flown by TWA from the 1925 though 2001. If you're a longtime blog reader, it will come as no surprise to you that we can look through them all day long! Every so often, one catches our eye. It could be the location, the angle of the photograph, the reflection of the sun, etc. We think out photo this week qualifies as one such "eye-catcher".
You're looking down at one of five Boeing 307 Stratoliners that TWA acquired in 1940. It was an engineering marvel for its time. With a large wraparound "control center" cockpit standing 17 feet above the ground, 75 feet in length and a wingspan of 107 feet, it was something to behold. After having flown the Ford Tri-Motor, the DC-2 and the DC-3, the Stratoliner was really the first true "airliner" (as the term is used today) flown by TWA. Seating between 25 and 34 passengers, comfort was its major selling point, as its pressurized cabin (the first in commercial aircraft construction) allowed it to cruise at a height of 20,000 feet, above most turbulence.
There's much, much more to story of the Stratoliner and you can find that out by reading our feature-length blog article: TWA's Stratoliner - Performing Under Pressure (click here to read it). But for now, we invite you to enjoy the view this unique photograph provides. Beauty and function courtesy of 1930s-era engineering. It is indeed something to behold!
(posted week of 8/26/19)_______________________________________________________________________
A large amount of activity at Orly Airport in Paris accompanies the arrival of TWA's Constellation from New York, in the late 1940s. And rightfully so, as back then, such a flight was a big event. TWA's early New York Paris flights originated at LaGuardia Airport and flew 4 1/2 hours to Gander, Newfoundland for the first fuel stop. After 90 minutes in Gander, the North Atlantic was crossed with the flight arriving in Shannon, Ireland, seven hours later. After an hour in Shannon, it was onto Paris, typically accomplished in about 2 1/2 hours. So, if you've been doing the math with us, the journey from beginning to end took about 16-17 hours (note stopover lengths at Gander and Shannon varied at times). As hard as that may be to comprehend these days, the return flight (taking the same route in reverse) took over 20 hours, due to prevailing westerly winds.
Of course flying today from New York to Paris is comparatively easy. A casual inquiry shows us at least ten aircraft make the non-stop crossing each day and it's done in a little over seven hours. We have a feeling the arrival of any of those flights is not nearly as exciting as it was when TWA's early Connies roared into Paris, almost 75 years ago.
(posted week of 8/19/19)
While it might appear that this 049 Constellation is heading toward trouble, all is under control... at least according to Howard Hughes! The photo was taken in 1947 with Howard himself at the controls. He was demonstrating his Terrain Warning Indicator (TWI) system by flying among the canyons of southern California. Interested in most any aspect of aviation, Hughes purchased the TWI system technology from the U.S.Air Force and adapted it for civilian use on some of TWA's early Constellations. As it turned out, TWI didn't go over very well at TWA, as its lack of consistency prevented it from gaining the confidence of TWA's pilots.
Howard Hughes' tenure at TWA began in 1939, when he began amassing shares of TWA stock. He became the majority shareholder in 1944, maintaining that position until 1966, when legal actions by TWA's board finally forced him to sell his shares. We could write a book about Howard Hughes and his influence on TWA. In fact, a few have been written. One of our favorites at the museum is Howard Hughes' Airline: An Informal History of TWA by Robert Serling. It's worth a read! And yes, that Connie (and Howard) made it back to the airport just fine.
(posted week of 8/12/19)
Among many TWA cockpit instruments on display in our museum, this Bendix Doppler navigation console marked a major technological advance in commercial transoceanic flying. First installed on TWA's international Boeing 707 jets in 1962, the Doppler navigation system accurately determined an aircraft's position by analyzing radar waves transmitted from and then returned to the aircraft.
The advent of Doppler radar also meant the presence of a navigator on board was no longer necessary. Up to that point, the navigator was an important part of a TWA international flight crew, primarily using celestial navigation (performed with a sextant) to determine position and distance when crossing the ocean. As TWA's Constellations were phased out of the international fleet, so too was the job of navigator. By the way, the museum also displays two types of navigator sextants, not far from the Doppler radar console.
(posted week of 8/5/19)
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of man first setting foot on the moon, we note a significant (but often overlooked) part of TWA's history. Starting in 1964, TWA entered into a contract with NASA to provide a large variety of support services for the operation of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two such activities are shown in our photo for this week. Starting in 1966, TWA employees were assigned to KSC to serve as guides on bus tours of the space center (they even drove the buses!). In 1968, TWA took over management of the new Visitor Service Program. They continued to oversee the bus tours, but contracted that job (including bus driving) to an outside company.
Even more impressive is what's going on in the background. That's a mammoth Saturn V rocket and its payload being transported on a special "crawler" vehicle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39, for the Apollo 12 mission, which launched on November 12, 1969. TWA personnel assigned to KSC assisted in that task as well, providing observation and leveling support, as the crawler moved at 1 mile per hour, toward the launch pad. By the way, it was a 3.5 mile journey, that took about five hours. And for the record, the rocket stood almost 40 stories high and weighed about 100,00 pounds.
There was much more TWA did at the Kennedy Space Center. At the peak of activity, over 2,000 TWA employees were involved in several aspects of the center's operation. When visitors would notice the TWA logo around the Kennedy Space Center, the inevitable question arose, "What's an airline doing here?" The answer was "Very much", including jobs such as painters, janitors, guards, messengers, supply specialists, electricians, clerks and even medical staff. All of them there to help the thousands of NASA employees do their jobs of putting Americans in space.
In doing our research, we were unable to determine when TWA's presence at the Kennedy Space Center officially came to an end. We do know that the 1968 contact was ten years in length and we did find a small note in a 1978 issue of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper mentioning that TWA still operated the Visitor Information Center.
(posted week of 7/15/19)
A most interesting photo from our archives' Ed Betts collection shows ten Lockheed model 049 Constellations nearing completion at Lockheed's production facility in Burbank, California. The caption on the photo only tells us "Production line at Lockheed Burbank", but by matching up some clues in the photo with information we have on hand, we can tell you more.
The Connie in the foreground is far enough along to reveal its registration number (on the right wing) of NC86506. That airplane was delivered to TWA in February 1946, so we can date the picture a few weeks before. The other nine Connies aren't as obvious, but again, some clues reveal many are likely TWA aircraft, as well. To make that conclusion, we noted that each airplane has a large number by its nose (numbered 28-36). Knowing that NC86506 was manufacturer's serial number 2027, we'll assume the others are serial numbers 2028-2036. With that information in hand, our historical data tells us that all but 2032, 2033 and 2036 were delivered to TWA. So, we'll conclude that at least seven of the airplanes you see were on their way to TWA.
For those of you who really like digging into the details (like us), you'll also notice that NC86506 is painted with the title TRANS WORLD AIRLINE (no "S" at the end). At the time of this photo, TWA was still officially Transcontinental and Western Air, however, they began changing the letters to stand for Trans World Airline, upon receiving authority to begin international service in 1945. In 1950, TWA made it official by changing its company name to Trans World Airlines.
It, of course, was a Connie that flew TWA's first international revenue passenger flight (New York-Paris) in 1946 and they were the backbone of its pre-jet international fleet. TWA's last Constellation flight took place in 1967. In 21 years of passenger service, TWA flew over 150 of these iconic airplanes.
(posted week of 7/8/19)
1970 was a significant year for TWA, as its fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft began to appear in the skies. In January 1970, aircraft N93102 was the first 747 to arrive at TWA's maintenance and overhaul base in Kansas City. As can be seen, some ingenuity was required to accommodate the huge airplane in TWA's existing hangar bay, constructed in 1957. The solution was to cut a 20-foot diameter hole (where two doors met) to allow "most" of the airplane to fit in the hangar. In 1971, TWA constructed its two "super hangars" at the base, allowing an entire 747 to fit indoors.
This photograph was taken by Don Lueke, one of our museum's volunteers, who back in 1970 worked for TWA, at the base. Don clearly recalls the tremendous excitement that was generated when the airplane arrived. On a less dramatic note, he also recalls how cold it was as he stood outside taking pictures, on a January day in Kansas City. Don took some additional pictures (including some inside the hangar) and we have posted them on our museum's photo page. Click here to see the photos.
Thanks for sharing your photos with us, Don.
(posted week of 7/1/19)_______________________________________________________________________
We are pleased to announce our acquisition of an historic TWA airplane. This beautiful Lockheed Electra "Junior" 12A arrived at our museum on June 20, 2019. It looks quite at home in the hangar attached to our museum and there's a good reason for that. TWA owned this airplane from 1940 to 1945 and it was housed in this very same hangar. It was used primarily as a test and research aircraft for TWA pilots and engineers. Although it never flew a revenue passenger, it also was sometimes used as a company VIP transport, flying a variety of people from employees to entertainment stars. The left seat has seen some pretty famous occupants, including TWA owner Howard Hughes, TWA President Jack Frye and Vice-President Paul Richter.
The airplane's previous owner was Ruth Richter-Holden (Paul Richter's daughter). She affectionately referred to the airplane as "Ellie" (L and E, as in Lockheed Electra). As its owner, Ruth took loving care of Ellie, keeping her looking beautiful and superbly operational! Ellie appeared at many airshows and exhibitions, always commanding everyone's attention. Thanks to Ruth's warm and wonderful consideration, the TWA Museum is now the proud owner of Ellie. We are thrilled to have her and are excited to welcome her back home in Kansas City. We're also very excited to show her to our visitors.
There is A LOT more to tell you about Ellie and in the future, we'll be publishing the full story of Ellie, from her beginnings through her last flight from California to Kansas City. For now, we'd like you to meet Ellie a bit closer via our museum's photo page. We have posted several pictures (exterior and interior) of Ellie in the hangar and invite you to view them. Just click here to see the pictures.
(posted week of 6/24/19)
Technology and engineering take center stage in this vintage photograph of a TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner cruising over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Colorado River. We don't have a date associated with the photo, however, knowledge of the Stratoliner's history with TWA gives us some idea. All five of TWA's Stratoliners were delivered in 1940. They then took a "leave of absence" from the fleet from December 1941 through April 1944, as they were used by the U.S. government to ferry munitions and supplies to Europe and North Africa during World War II. Upon their return to TWA, they resumed their previous roles on domestic U.S. routes until they were sold in 1951.
We also aren't quite sure what the official name of the dam was when the picture was taken. Dedicated in 1935 as the Boulder Dam, it was renamed the Hoover Dam in 1947. We would suggest you put all the dates and history aside for a moment and just enjoy the photograph. We think it's really a great one.
We should also note that the Stratoliner was one of the most significant airplanes in TWA's history, for several reasons. We invite you to find out more about it by reading our blog's article "TWA's Stratoliner - Performing Under Pressure". Click here to read the article.
(posted week of 6/10/19)
|Bottom photo courtesy of the TWA Hotel|
It's hard to believe that 57 years have passed between these two photographs. There's not much we can say except congratulations to our friends at MCR Development on the opening of the TWA Hotel at New York's Kennedy Airport, on May 15, 2019. Although TWA officially closed its books in 2001, a significant footnote to its history has been added, eighteen years later.
Over the past month we have posted photographs of TWA's Flight Center during its operation and have received many comments from our readers. We heard from some who worked there, in some cases in locations seen in those photographs. Many commented that it was the TWA Flight where they said goodbyes to or shared reunions with friends and family.
Anyone who had the good fortune to step inside this building during its existence for TWA can now return and experience that same space, which has been meticulously renovated and looks better than ever. To those who never visited the terminal when it served TWA passengers for 39 years, you now have the chance to step in and see how it was. Tyler Morse and his very talented staff at MCR worked hard to bring that all back. To all of them, we simply say, thank you.
(posted week of 5/27/19)
A most interesting photograph gives us a good look at TWA's JFK Flight Center with both "flight wings" in operation. The 747 being "groomed" is docked at Flight Wing One, occupying one of four gates designed specifically for the 747. That part of the terminal was completed in 1970. In the background is Flight Wing Two, which was part of the original Flight Center complex when opened in 1962 (a 707 can be seen at a gate there). We also have an excellent view of the distinctive main terminal and the tube-shaped corridors passengers walked through to get between the main terminal and the flight wings. Those familiar with Kennedy Airport will also recognize the 15-story control tower in the distance, which stood from 1957 until 1992.
The photograph also gives a good perspective of the sheer size of the 747 and how Flight Wing One's 747 gate area was designed to accommodate the large passenger traffic flow the plane created. By the way, the two TWA maintenance personnel deserve to be commended, as they are elevated about sixty feet in the air, doing their jobs.
(posted week of 5/20/19)
A day in the life of TWA's Flight Center at JFK is captured in this eye-catching photo, showing just a small piece of the building's unique architecture and decor. One of the terminal's iconic Solari "flip boards" sits just inside the terminal's main entry doors, displaying arrival and departure information.
As is the case with some of our archival photos, we don't have detail about when the picture was taken, but a closer look tells us it's likely the mid-1960s. The cars in the "across-the-street" parking lot provide one clue (and yes, those are trees on the lot's perimeter!). The other is contained in the arrival information posted.
We've zoomed in, so you can see that flights 703, 803 and 901 are arriving at the "arrivals building". That separate building (known officially as the JFK's International Arrivals Building) is where TWA inbound international flights originally docked upon their arrival at JFK, to clear U.S. Customs. Once the plane was emptied of passengers and cargo, it was towed to the TWA Flight Center to be boarded for its next departure. That process was no longer necessary starting in 1970, when TWA completed construction of its Flight Wing One gate complex, which included a complete customs and immigration facility. From that point forward, all TWA inbound flights from anywhere in the world were able to arrive at the Flight Center. A 20 million dollar construction project, Flight Wing One included four huge gate areas, specifically designed to handle TWA's newly-acquired Boeing 747 aircraft.
(posted week of 5/13/19)
Photographed in the early 1980s, TWA's operation at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was described in a TWA press release as the largest domestic/international airport complex operated by an airline, in the world. To the left, is the familiar TWA Flight Center terminal, opened in 1962. To the right was the then newly-occupied TWA domestic terminal. Together, the ramp and terminal operations covered 82 acres at JFK.
TWA'S domestic terminal was first occupied by TWA in 1981, after National Airlines (its original tenant) was acquired by Pan American World Airways. Originally opened in 1969, it was named the Sundrome, acknowledging National's logo, which was a stylized illustration of the sun. Designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, the Sundrome was regarded as an architectural and engineering masterpiece, boasting large, unencumbered expanses of open and bright areas.
The TWA Flight Center and its adjacent domestic terminal were connected to each other via an outside covered walkway. Some scoffed at the relatively utilitarian appearance of the walkway, connecting what many regarded as two architectural gems (the Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen and the domestic terminal designed by I.M. Pei). Nevertheless, thousands made their way on that walkway to catch their connecting domestic and international flights.
Eventually, TWA downsized its JFK operation and left the domestic terminal (subsequently named Terminal 6). Over time, a variety of other airlines would occupy the space. Terminal 6 was demolished in 2011.
The TWA Flight Center remains and will shortly begin its new life as the center of the TWA Hotel. Officially opening on May 15, we will be recognizing this occasion by featuring historic pictures of TWA's JFK operation, for our photos of the week in May. Best wishes to our friends at MCR, developers and owners of the new TWA Hotel! (www.twahotel.com).
(posted week of 5/6/19)_______________________________________________________________________
A TWA MD-83 takes shape at the Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) plant in Long Beach, CA. However... this is no ordinary event! That MD-83 (MSN 53634, N984TW) would be the last of the MD-80 series aircraft produced. It was delivered to TWA in December 1999 and to honor the occasion, TWA named it the "Spirit of Long Beach". That was no insignificant tribute, as TWA had long ago stopped naming its aircraft (with the exception of the "Wings of Pride" MD-83, acquired in 1994).
TWA's MD-83 (supplemented by a smaller fleet of MD-82s), proved to be reliable workhorses for TWA's medium and short haul routes, starting with the first MD-82 acquisition in 1983. It also played an instrumental role in TWA's successful retirement of its aging Boeing 727 fleet. TWA would eventually fly 101 MD-82s and MD-83s. The tremendous success of the entire DC-9/MD-80/MD-90/Boeing 717 family of aircraft is indisputable and will go down in history as one of commercial aviation's most significant airplanes.
(posted week of 4/29/19)_______________________________________________________________________
It almost happened... but not quite! Back in the mid-1960s, TWA was excitedly making plans to fly the British/French-built Concorde Supersonic Transport (SST). By 1965, TWA had non-binding options to purchase six SSTs. The publicity photo above was taken in 1967 and shows a full-scale mock-up of the SST temporarily painted in TWA livery. The picture was taken at Le Bourget Airport, in Paris.
Unfortunately, things began going downhill just a couple of years later. As Concorde began test flights in 1969, the results were of concern to TWA and every other airline that had ordered the aircraft. It became quickly evident that the cost to maintain and operate the SST would be very high. Environmental concerns also surfaced about its noisy engines and the sonic boom it created when breaking the sound barrier. Finally, in 1973, TWA concluded it would not be feasible to operate the Concorde and cancelled its order.
Some say the history of the Concorde is really the story of how technology in the 1960s was not yet ready to produce a commercially viable supersonic passenger airplane. Regardless, the excitement TWA had when planning to obtain the Concorde was real and indeed captured the enthusiasm and spirit of the company.
If you'd like to know more about TWA's attempt to enter the supersonic age, we think you'll enjoy reading our blog article "TWA's SST - The Plane That Never Was". Click here to read the article.
(posted week of 4/22/19)
This week, let's dig deep into our archives' photographic collection. In 1929, Transcontinental Air Transport (one of TWA's predecessor airlines) initiated service between New York and Los Angeles, using a combination of train and plane travel. It only took two train trips and nine stops in a Ford Tri-Motor to get you to the other coast... In 48 hours! TAT was quite an operation, staffed by aviation pioneers, including Charles Lindbergh (Chairman of the Technical Committee) and Amelia Earhart (Assistant to the General Traffic Manager).
The photo above shows one of the train-to-plane interchanges taking place. We believe this one occurred in Clovis, New Mexico. Passengers were transported from the train station to the airfield in one of a fleet of TAT luxury trailers, known as "Aero Cars". How far we have come in just ninety years!
In July 1930 (just a year later), Transcontinental Air Transport merged with Western Air Express to form Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). In 1950, TWA was officially changed to stand for Trans World Airlines. By the way, if you're interested in taking the entire 1929 air/rail journey with us, we have a seat for you. Click here to read our blog's feature-length article, "Coast-To-Coast". Enjoy the ride!
(posted week of 4/8/19)_______________________________________________________________________
With our photo for this week, we recognize a milestone in TWA's history: The 60th anniversary of its first jet aircraft passenger flight. On March 20, 1959, aircraft N732TW, a Boeing 707-131, lifted off from San Francisco International airport and headed to New York International (Idlewild) Airport. The atmosphere at San Francisco's airport was festive, as thousands of onlookers jammed the observation decks and cheered loudly as Captain Gordon Granger rotated the speeding jet skyward at 2:34 PM. Flight 46 was airborne and TWA's jet age had begun
An event of this importance has several backstories and we thought we'd share one of the more interesting and impressive ones. Under the ownership of Howard Hughes at that time, the ability of TWA to pay for its first Boeing 707 deliveries was in question. As the industry was watching, TWA continued to move forward with its plans for a March 20, 1959 launch date. To meet that date, Hughes devised a leasing arrangement that can be described as "creative". TWA's chief creditor, the Equitable Insurance Company, didn't appreciate Howard's creativity and allowed TWA to make the lease payments on only one plane (N732TW). So, for the first 21 days, TWA flew the daily San Francisco-New York round trip with one plane! Remarkably, N732TW did the job, making the twice-daily transcontinental crossing with no mechanical delays. A great testament the employees of TWA, Boeing and Pratt and Whitney (the manufacturer of the engines).
Fortunately, other financing arrangements were soon concluded and N732TW was lonely no more. TWA would go on to fly over 130 Boeing 707s, with the final flight taking place on October 31, 1983. And for the record, N732TW left TWA's fleet in 1971, going on to fly for other airlines.
(posted week of 3/18/19)
The lights from Kansas City's Municipal Airport capture the movement of the propellers on this TWA DC-3, making for a very captivating photo. Most likely taken in the late 1930s or 40s, we also get a good look at the airport's distinctive terminal building, which was constructed in 1939. Note the large crowd of people gathered on the second level observation deck. Watching this new generation of passenger airplanes come and go was a pastime for many Kansas City residents and the airport observation deck was a popular attraction. Another interesting piece of the picture is at the very right, as a lone TWA employee stands at parade rest, watching the plane depart.
We are looking to the northeast. Just a few hundred feet to the south of the terminal building was TWA's headquarters. While the terminal is long gone, the headquarters building (at 10 Richards Road) still stands today and serves as the home of our museum. The airport itself (now known as the Wheeler Kansas City Downtown Airport) continues to be a busy place for general aviation and charter aircraft, creating an interesting and active backdrop to our museum.
(posted week of 3/11/19)
This week's photo takes us to August 1, 1996, as TWA's first Boeing 757 (ship N701TW) takes off on its inaugural passenger flight from St. Louis to Orange County, California. But there is much more to this event. Only fifteen days earlier, TWA flight 800 (flying from New York to Paris) exploded in midair, killing all 230 people on board (including 38 TWA employees). The feelings of TWA people seeing the bright, new 757 were best summed up by flight attendant Carolyn Beck: "After the last few weeks, I really needed something positive and upbeat, and this is it." Both the photo and Carolyn's quote appeared in the August 1996 issue of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper.
TWA would go on to fly 27 Boeing 757 aircraft. American Airlines took possession of them (or their leases) when they purchased TWA in 2001. Because the engines on TWA's 757s were different (compared to American's 757s), American flew some of TWA's 757s for only a short period of time before 26 of them found their way to other airlines and one took quite a unique path. N701TW (TWA's first and the one pictured) went to the United States Air Force where it became part of the Air Force's C-32 fleet. Passengers who fly the C-32s include the Vice President of the United States, members of the President's cabinet and on occasion, the President himself (when the President's 747 is too large for the destination airport).
As far as those other 26, they continue to serve a number of airlines today, including Federal Express and Delta Air Lines. Speaking of Delta, they currently fly 17 former TWA 757s and have retained the original TWA registration numbers. Of those, 15 end with the letters "TW". So, the next time you see a Delta 757 at the airport, take note of the plane's registration (on the rear of the fuselage, just above the windows). You just may spot one that proudly states it was once a TWA plane!
(posted week of 2/25/19)_______________________________________________________________________
We recently discovered the above photograph in our museum's library. A TWA L-1011 and MD-83 heading for landings on parallel runways. Unfortunately, there is no information attached to the photo. We don't know where, when or by whom the photo was taken. Yet, we think there is something quite compelling about it, as it captures a brief second of a day, in the operation of TWA. Assuming both aircraft were at capacity, TWA professionals are about to safely deliver over 300 people to their destination. An event that occurred millions of times in TWA's 75-year history. Whether you worked for TWA or flew as a passenger, we think this picture truly is worth a thousand words!
(posted week of 2/11/19)
Blog reader Saliann Nichols sent us an article from the September 13, 1971 issue of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper and as soon as we saw the picture accompanying it, we knew it would be a great addition to our Photo of The Week page.
The scene above took place at the "Air Age '71" airshow, at Mitchell Field, in Milwaukee, WI. A TWA 747 is seen making a flyover above part of a crowd of 220,000 attendees. The really amazing part of the story is that the appearance of the 747 was not advertised or expected. At 5:00 PM, an announcer at the airshow directed the crowd's attention to the sky as this magnificent airplane first appeared in the distance. Two passes over the crowd were made. The first was a low altitude "clean" pass, with the plane in cruising configuration. It then made a turn and came back for a slow-speed flyover, with landing gear down and flaps deployed. You can almost feel and hear the excitement by looking at and thinking about the picture.
The appearance of the 747 was the work of several dedicated TWA employees and members of TWA's Chicago "Go" committee. "Go" was an organization of employees who participated in activities to enhance TWA's image in the Chicago area. At the request of the Chicago sales team and with the approval of TWA's chief pilot, a plan was quickly devised to use the aircraft from TWA's London-Chicago O'Hare flight, during its layover at O'Hare. A group of volunteer employees, including flight and cabin crew, got everything in motion for the brief trip north to Milwaukee.
In addition to the attendees at the airshow, thousands more people around the airport area were treated to this most extraordinary sight. A memorable summer afternoon in Milwaukee.
(posted week of 2/4/19)
Among the more unique logos in U.S. airline history, the image of three swallows identified Ozark Air Lines. According to Ozark history, their logo represented reliability, as demonstrated by the legendary swallows that returned predictably each year to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, in California. Starting as a local service airline briefly in 1945, Ozark re-established itself in 1950, making its headquarters in St. Louis. By the late 1950s, the three swallows were a familiar sight within a six-state Midwestern area. When airline deregulation occurred in 1978, Ozark began to literally spread its wings to many major markets, capable of flying passengers coast-to-coast (via its hub in St. Louis). In 1986, TWA purchased Ozark airlines, effectively gaining singular control of the hub operation in St. Louis.
Our museum proudly displays a number of historical items related to Ozark including the captain's hat pictured above. In keeping with their unique corporate identity, the embroidery on the brim of the hat consists of three swallows on each side. At the time of the acquisition, Ozark flew 50 jets, all variants of the DC-9 (including four MD-80s). They all became TWA airplanes and Ozark captains traded their unique hats for more conventionally-embroidered TWA captain hats.
(posted week of 1/21/19)
Ten years (almost to the day!) elapsed between the delivery of TWA's first Lockheed L-1011 and their last. We thought we would recognize both occasions by creating a split-image photo for you. The top shows the first one (aircraft N31001) as it left Lockheed's factory in Palmdale, California, bound for its delivery to Kansas City. That event took place on May 10, 1972. On May 27, 1982, TWA took delivery of its last L-1011 (aircraft N7036T). It occupies the bottom of our photo and is seen making its delivery landing in Kansas City.
N31001, of course, had the distinction of operating TWA's first L-1011 revenue flight on June 25, 1972 from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Although it would have been somewhat poetic, the last L-1011 delivered did not fly TWA's last L-1011 flight. Nevertheless, N7036T remained an active member of TWA's fleet until TWA stopped flying the the L-1011 in 1997.
Our thanks to our friend Jon Proctor who provided us with some of these details, including the fact that he was actually on board that first delivery flight shown at the top of the photograph. Jon was among a select group of TWA employees who were given the opportunity to take a familiarization flight aboard the delivery trip.
By the way, if you're new to our blog, you might be interested to read The Tri-Star of Our Show. It's one of our blog's full-length feature articles and tells the story of the L-1011's time with TWA. Click here to go to the article.
(posted week of 1/14/19)_______________________________________________________________________
Here at the blog, we like to occasionally snoop around our archives to find some of the more unusual items on hand. A pleasant fragrance attracted us to a shelf that contained the bin shown above. We counted 710 mini-bars of TWA airplane lavatory soap. As seen, a few even dated back to the old "twin globe" logo days. We have no plans to use the soap, but it's fun to have it around. It joins other items that we have huge multiples of including playing cards, meal menus and swizzle sticks. We even have hundreds of loose "penny tiles", that were used to surface the floors and walls in TWA's Flight Center, at New York's Idlewild/Kennedy Airport.
We wish you a happy new year and hope we started it off for you with a smile. Speaking of 2019, we have plans to expand our blog during the year and we'll keep you posted as we implement them. For now, please don't forget to wash your hands before leaving the blog!
(posted week of 12/31/18)
The early 1970s were a pivotal time in TWA's history, as the Boeing 747 was introduced to a number of TWA cities, both internationally and within the U.S. Issues of TWA Today (the employee newspaper) from that time are filled with pictures marking many of these inaugurals and related events. One such photograph is shown above. On October 31, 1971, TWA began 747 service between Chicago's O'Hare airport and Las Vegas. Three TWA flight attendants and a ground hostess posed for this most interesting photograph, taken before takeoff from O'Hare.
The 747 in the background is N93103, delivered just a year earlier. We think it's likely that "new plane" smell was still evident as close to 400 people settled back, marveling at the space inside this amazing airplane and anticipating their escape to the excitement of Las Vegas. We don't think it got much better than that, back in 1971!
(posted week of 12/24/18)
Museum visitors taking our audio tour are greeted by the voice of former TWA president Richard Pearson. In our photo above, Dick is seen recording his introduction back in August, at the Blue Hills Country Club, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Dick's career at TWA started in 1967, when he became a project leader in TWA's fledgling data processing division. He was also closely involved in the development of TWA's PARS computer reservation system. In 1976 he moved over to aircraft Maintenance and Engineering and in 1978 was promoted to the position of Vice President. In 1984 he was elected Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of TWA. He then served as President of TWA during 1985 and 1986. A native of Ottawa, Kansas, Dick currently resides in Kansas City.
Dick has been a longtime friend and supporter of the TWA Museum and we appreciate his contribution to our audio tour. Now up and running at the museum, the audio tour takes our visitors through thirteen exhibits in our main gallery, guided by the voices of our museum volunteers. We expect to expand the audio tour to three more stops in 2019.
(posted week of 12/10/18)_______________________________________________________________________
In the company of some friends, TWA's first Boeing 767 (N601TW) is seen in the latter phases of construction at Boeing's plant in Everett, Washington. It's the closest diagonally parked airplane and its partial tail logo can be seen. Published in the May 10, 1982 edition of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper, there's lots going on in this picture. In a beehive of activity, N601TW shares the space with three identifiable United 767s and one Delta 767. The plane in the foreground is a fourth United 767.
TWA took delivery of N601TW in November 1982 and its inaugural flight took place just a few days later as flight 892 flew from Los Angeles to Washington's Dulles Airport. In 1985, TWA became the first U.S. airline to fly a twin-engine airplane non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, in commercial service. That occurred in February 1985, when a 767 flew flight 810 from Boston to Paris. That was no small feat. TWA engineers worked to have the 767 properly outfitted to comply with government requirements, which had limitations concerning the distance a twin-engine plane could be from alternate landing sites. Today, twin-engine airplanes dominate international flying, around the world.
Upon its purchase by American Airlines in 2001, the Boeing 767 was the remaining wide body airplane in TWA's fleet, handling much of its international flying.
(posted week of 12/3/18)
In 1971, TWA took a major step forward by introducing its PARS computer system into its reservations offices and airports, around the world. The photo above shows TWA employees in its Los Angeles reservations office saying goodbye to paper reservations cards, which were part of a manual procedure used to record and store passenger and flight data. At the airport, PARS also served a major role in airport operations, passenger ticketing, check-in and seat assignment (among many other functions).
Computer reservation systems were a major part of airline technology, introduced in the 1960s and 1970s. Airlines were among the first major businesses to successfully use real-time computer systems to interface directly with their customers. PARS (an acronym for Passenger Airline Reservations System) served TWA well, both as an in-house computer system and as a distribution system for third-party sellers (such as travel agencies). In 1987, Northwest Airlines became hosted in PARS (also maintaining an ownership stake in the system) and in 1990, Delta Air Lines became a partial owner of PARS as well (although they continued to run many of their passenger functions in their own in-house system).
Today, PARS still functions as a travel distribution system, hosting a variety of airlines and travel companies throughout the world. Its name has changed to Worldspan and it is a part of the Travelport group of companies.
(posted week of 11/26/18)
TWA's presence in the movie and television industries is a big part of its history. Starting mainly in the 1940s, TWA aircraft (interior and exterior), airport facilities and uniforms were seen in literally hundreds of movies and television programs, throughout the world. Our archives contains a variety of studio publicity photos showing famous actors performing in scenes with TWA being a prominent part of the surroundings.
Credit for this phenomenon goes in large part to Howard Hughes, who had a controlling interest in TWA from 1939 to 1961. In addition to his accomplishments in business and aviation, Hughes was also a film director and producer. Under his leadership, TWA became known as the "airline of the stars". In addition to acting in scenes with a TWA presence, many famous personalities of the time flew TWA commercially (we have lots of pictures of those folks, too).
So, what's your favorite film that featured TWA? Let us know and we'll post responses in our blog's "Write To Us" section. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on Facebook or Twitter.
(posted week of 11/19/18)
A most interesting photo shows TWA's fleet of Convair 880 airplanes stored at TWA's Kansas City Maintenance and Overhaul Base, after their retirements from service. Although there is no date attached to the description of this photo, it was likely taken in the mid-1970s, as the last Convair 880 flew for TWA in June 1974. The majority of the fleet was either sold or scrapped by the late-1970s.
Built by the Convair division of General Dynamics Corporation, stiff competition from Boeing and Douglas caused the Convair 880 to never gain a foothold in the airline industry. Only 65 were manufactured. Of that amount, TWA flew 28, being the planes's largest operator. The photo above shows all 25 Convair 880s TWA owned at the time of their retirement (of the original 28 flown, one was leased and two were lost due to accidents). It's also likely that the scene above was the largest gathering of Convair 880s in the same place, at the same time.
(posted week of 11/05/18)_______________________________________________________________________
This picture of a Constellation cabin shows passengers enjoying TWA's "Sky Coach" service. The low-fare concept was introduced by TWA in 1949, on its flights between New York and Los Angeles (and selected cities in between). Service was begun with DC-4 aircraft and then extended to similarly configured Constellation aircraft, as shown above.
While the photograph was likely staged, it does tell us some things about travel back in the early 1950s. Clearly the seats (the equivalent of today's economy class) are quite roomy and its interesting to note the overhead storage was for comfy pillows and blankets... not overstuffed backpacks and wheelie bags. In-flight entertainment likely consisted of reading, card-playing or having a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Everyone was well-dressed and, of course, every child was cute and well-behaved.
While we at the museum tend to look back fondly at this "golden age" of flying, there were drawbacks (as some of our readers have pointed out). TWA's early Constellations presented maintenance and operational challenges, especially with the extended stress of flying long distances. Additionally, flying was expensive. A 1951 sky coach round trip fare between New York and Los Angeles was $220 (which is equivalent to about $2,100 today).
(posted week of 10/29/18)
The goal of having the ability to circumnavigate the world was something TWA had great interest in from the moment it began its Transatlantic services in 1946. The pieces finally began to come together in 1969 when TWA was granted rights to begin flying limited Transpacific routes. Finally in 1971, the last of the gaps were closed as Hong Kong (TWA's easternmost existing Transatlantic city) was connected to the U.S.via the Pacific and around-the world travel on TWA became a reality.
Our photo of the week is from a 1974 TWA system timetable. While appearing a bit strange in dimension, it does illustrate the ability to depart most any TWA city via one ocean and return via the other. The Transpacific schedule between Hong Kong and Honolulu was a variable one, as stops in Taipei, Okinawa and Guam differed by the day of the week. The Transpacific legs were flown with Boeing 707-331B aircraft. Strong competition (especially from carriers able to fly the Pacific more quickly and efficiently via Tokyo) and rising fuel prices resulted in TWA ending their Pacific service in 1975 (Transatlantic service to Hong Kong, Bombay and Bangkok eventually were dropped as well). So for a relatively short period of time, the routes of Trans World Airlines truly reflected its name.
(posted week of 10/22/18)
One of our museum's most important exhibits is our Flight 800 Memorial Room. In it, we pay tribute to the 38 TWA employees and 192 passengers who lost their lives when flight 800 exploded off the south shore of Long Island, New York on July 17, 1996. The gallery serves to remind our visitors that while this was a tragic event, it is important that it be memorialized.
Many articles related to flight 800 (including portraits of each of the 38 TWA employees and a monument that once stood in New York) are displayed in this softly illuminated and quiet space. We also display a special photograph, showing Boeing 747 aircraft N93119. The picture (seen above) was taken in St. Louis, just days before the plane took off from New York's Kennedy Airport on July 17th, as flight 800. The Boeing 747-131 aircraft was acquired new by TWA, in 1971.
Visitors often ask us about the cause of the explosion. The official NTSB conclusion was that a wiring short circuit set off a sequence of events that resulted in an explosion in the airplane's center fuel tank. Those findings were (and will always remain) controversial. However, we believe our Flight 800 Room sends a much more important message to our visitors. Though rare, accidents are a part of aviation and those whose lives are lost in its pursuit should be properly remembered. Our Flight 800 Memorial Room also displays the histories of other TWA accidents, honoring the TWA employees and passengers who lost their lives in them, as well.
(posted week of 10/15/18)
Visitors to our museum can now step into our recently- acquired TWA Boeing 707 cockpit procedures trainer. Much like our L-1011 trainer, it is a full-scale representation of the cockpit and our visitors can get a real "feel" for what it was like to sit at the controls. The 707 trainer was owned and used by TWA. One of the most significant aircraft in TWA's history, the Boeing 707 was flown from 1959 to 1983.
Many of our museum's acquisitions are possible thanks to some pretty interesting and amazing people. It's what makes our museum "hum". In this case, we introduce you to Fred Schieszer, Professor Emeritus of Aviation at the University of Central Missouri. In the early 1980s, Fred coordinated the acquisition of the trainer from TWA and it was used as a teaching tool at UCM's Department of Aviation for many years. After its time at UCM was up, Fred was instrumental in arranging the trainer's next big role, as an exhibit at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Museum in Ashland, Nebraska (roughly between Omaha and Lincoln). When SAC recently advised Fred that the trainer's time at their museum may soon be up, Fred contacted us. With Fred's help and expertise and the efforts of some of our volunteers, the trainer made its way from Ashland down to Kansas City in August, where it was set up in our museum's Education Center room, for our visitors to enjoy.
(posted week of 10/8/18)
"Time flies" is an understatement when you consider that 50 years ago (on September 30, 1968), the first Boeing 747 prototype rolled out of Boeing's factory in Everett, Washington (the picture above, showing one of the 36 747s flown by TWA, clearly shows the aircraft's grandeur). TWA had orders for nineteen 747-131 airplanes at the time of the plane's introduction and on December 31, 1969, TWA took delivery of its first, ship N93102. The first revenue flight took place between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles on February 25, 1970. The first international flight took place between New York and London on March 18, 1970.
TWA flew three series of the 747 (-100, -200 series and the 747 SP) from 1970 until its last scheduled 747 flight in February 1998. There is much that can told about this amazing aircraft and we could fill pages and pages with information. But for now, we'll just say happy 50th birthday to the debut of an airplane that TWA and many, many other airlines flew (and some still fly!) with pride.
(posted week of 10/1/18)
This image of a TWA Boeing 717 (pushing back from the gate at Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport) gives us lots to tell about this airplane and TWA. Originally designated as the MD-95, it was re-named the Boeing 717 to acknowledge the merger of McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, in 1997. The last version of the original DC-9 family of jets, the 717 was also the last commercial aircraft to be produced at the former McDonnell Douglas factory in Long Beach, California. And most significantly for us, the Boeing 717 was the final aircraft type delivered to TWA.
The airplane shown, N2419C, also has an interesting story that is common to some of the newer aircraft TWA was flying, when TWA's operation was merged into American Airlines, in December 2001. Delivered new to TWA in April 2001, it was part of an order of 50 Boeing 717s TWA executed with Boeing in 1998. (TWA had accumulated 30 in its fleet by 2001). When TWA ceased operations, the leases for its 717s went to American, however, the planes were not flown by American. In April 2003, N2419C was acquired by AirTran Airways and re-registered as aircraft N910AT. AirTran was eventually acquired by Southwest Airlines, however, (you guessed it) Southwest decided not to fly AirTran's 717s. N910AT then went to Delta Air Lines in 2014. Still registered as N910AT, it continues to fly today as a member of Delta's fleet (in fact, a number of ex-TWA 717s took that same path of ownership!).
So, if you find yourself about to board a Delta 717, check out the registration number on the fuselage. You just might be flying on the former TWA Boeing 717 pictured above!
(posted week of 9/24/18)
From 1972 through 1997, 38 Lockheed L-1011 TriStars flew for TWA, however, only one looked like ship N31029, pictured above. In 1995, TWA began re-painting its aircraft in a new design scheme (or livery). Understandably, it was decided to not paint aircraft that were soon to be retired or returned to their lessors. Although the The L-1011 fleet was nearing its retirement age, TWA chose one L-1011 to be repainted. It was ship N31029.
With the above in mind, we were curious why N31029 was re-painted, only to sport the new livery for just a few months. So, we checked with our friend Jon Proctor, who knows more than a few things about TWA's L-1011s. Jon did not have an "official" answer but surmised that perhaps it was related to publicity. In any case, the sight of N31029 in TWA's final livery was an impressive sight and we're glad it found its way to at least one of the great L-1011s.
For the record, N31029 was acquired by TWA as a new airplane in August 1975. In 1978, it was converted from a TriStar 1 series to a TriStar 100 series, thus giving it the capability to fly overseas. Of note, this same airplane was leased to Delta Air Lines for two years (1978-1980) and then returned to TWA. It ended its flying career as a TWA airplane.
(posted week of 9/17/18)_______________________________________________________________________
Back in the late 1960s, there was a battle to win the market for a new generation of wide body jets that were smaller and more versatile than the Boeing 747. And so began the competition between the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and the Lockheed L-1011. Both manufacturers courted airlines around the world. Our photo of the week above shows McDonnell Douglas' vision of a TWA DC-10, in what was then TWA's "double globe" livery.
In 1968, TWA (along with Eastern Air Lines) chose the L-1011. While many considered the L-1011 a technologically superior airplane, the DC-10 proved much more successful, with McDonnell Douglas producing a number of variants, as well as a second-generation of the model (the MD11). Lockheed, on the other hand, managed to produce only 250 L-1011s, taking major financial losses on the project.
Our blog's article about TWA's L-1011 goes into some detail about the battle between the DC-10 and L-1011 and why the L-1011 wasn't as successful. If you haven't read it yet, we think you'll find the entire article quite interesting. Click here to read it.
(posted week of 9/10/18)
Frank Sinatra's 1958 album "Come Fly With Me" is notable to us because of the prominence of two TWA Constellations on the cover. Released by Capitol Records in 1958, the album was themed as a musical trip around the world. In addition to the title track, songs featured included "Autumn in New York", "Moonlight in Vermont" and (of course) "I Love Paris".
Although Frank's image on the cover portrays a pretty happy guy, the truth was he was not pleased. Famed record producer George Martin recalled that Sinatra felt uncomfortable that his image was being used as free advertising for TWA, hinting that Capitol Records had made a "private deal" with TWA (which at the time was owned by Howard Hughes, one of the entertainment world's most well-connected people). Despite Frank's misgivings, the album did very well, ascending to number one for five weeks on the Billboard charts, in 1958. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
The album cover is just one example how the TWA brand was among the most highly-recognized in the industry.
(posted week of 9/3/18)_______________________________________________________________________
This week, we take you back to a time when contemplating which seat to occupy on your flight was a much simpler exercise. The above Boeing 707 seat chart is from a 1980 brochure highlighting TWA's "Airport Express" service. The colorful seat map served as a reference for passengers to select their seats in advance, taking advantage of automated seat assignment functionality on TWA's PARS reservation system. Typically, a seat could be reserved about a month before departure.
You'll also note the seats in coach all had the same basic dimensions and except for some minor restrictions, if the seat was available, you could reserve it. It didn't matter what fare you were paying, or where it was located. If it was empty, you had a shot at it. We'll also venture to say the seat "pitch" (or distance between the same point on two seats, one behind the other) was more generous, compared to certain economy class seats today. The seat chart also, however, reveals that some things are now better. Today's high-definition in-flight entertainment is much more robust and accessible than the limited choices presented on the 707's three movie screens. You'll also notice there were smoking sections in both first and economy classes back then and we all know how "effective" that delineation was for non-smokers. Also, first class seats on comparable aircraft today offer many more options in recline and overall comfort.
(posted week of 8/27/18)
We are pleased to announce that the TWA Museum Audio Tour is now up and running at our museum. This first phase covers thirteen "listening stops" in our main gallery, giving our visitors the opportunity to view our displays in greater detail. Each audio tour listener is lent a state-of-the-art portable listening device and high-fidelity headphones, giving them a clear narration at each stop. They also have the ability to choose which stops to take, and can visit the stops in any order. Here are some more facts about the tour:
..The narrator for each stop is one of our volunteers. The entire tour was produced and recorded at the museum.
..Each of the thirteen stops is about 6-7 minutes in length.
..Visitors will continue to be given the additional options of a personally guided tour, or they can just browse at their leisure. We will also continue to run escorted tours to our "hangar galleries" and outside to visit our JetStar airplane.
..On the audio tour, visitors will experience some things that will enhance the description of the display. For instance, at Stop #107 (pictured above), listeners will find out about the Concorde SST and how close TWA actually came to flying it (and why they didn't). And... they'll hear the sound of a Concorde taking off from London, as well as a sonic boom produced by the Concorde while flying off the coast of France. At Stop #103, the audio begins with the unmistakable sound of a Constellation at full power, taking off.
..There are more stops currently being produced that will take visitors on the audio tour into our second gallery, including an informative and moving visit through our Flight 800 Memorial Room.
..We're pleased to offer the audio tour to our visitors at no extra charge. It's included with the price of admission.
In the near future, we will combine our audio tour with video to produce virtual tours for our online and blog readers. Look for the first of those appearing on our blog and website, in 2019. Better yet come on down, grab a listening device and headset and take the tour! We think you'll like it!
(posted week of 8/20/18)
Our L-1011 cockpit procedures trainer has come a long way since we received it in pieces, back at the beginning of the year (scroll down to see our photo of the week post from 2/26/18). Thanks to the skill and hard work of our museum's volunteers and friends, the exhibit is now a popular stop on our tour. We are talking over possibilities of adding some interactive capability to the sim, but for now it's a static display.
Nevertheless, it is attracting quite a bit of attention. Our younger visitors are especially excited to sit in the front, gazing over the spectrum of instruments and dials. Even the flight engineer's position gets its share of curious young pilots-to-be (some learning about the historic role of the flight engineer, for the first time)!
Not to be forgotten, adults also enjoy the exhibit. Former L-1011 pilots and mechanics visiting really appreciate the opportunity to step into the realistic environment, often telling us about their past experiences working on and flying this great airplane. We hope you'll get the chance to stop by soon and have a seat!
(posted week of 8/13/18)
The newest addition to our museum's large-scale model collection arrived on August 2 and it's something to behold. In 1/25 scale, it has a 60" wingspan, a 47" long fuselage and stands on its pedestal at a height of 4 1/2 feet. The story of how it was built and how it came to us is as interesting as the model itself.
Back in July 2017, we were contacted by Jim Sineath, a resident of nearby Lee's Summit, Missouri. Jim informed us he was building a scale model of a Lockheed Constellation in TWA colors and sent us some of the early construction photos. He wanted to know if we'd be interested in displaying it when completed. We didn't hesitate to say "yes". Over the past year, Jim kept us updated with photos of his progress. We expected something special, however, when Jim delivered his model last week, we were amazed!
Some details about the model: Jim fabricated and constructed the entire model on his own. It took him twenty months to complete. It's made of balsa wood with a fiberglass surface. Its design is based on the Constellation model 749, however, he included some features from later models as well. It's named the "Star of Paris", a tribute to the city that's a favorite of Jim and his wife.
Jim's extensive background in aviation included a sixteen year career as one of the original Life Flight helicopter pilots in Kansas City. He has also been a helicopter instructor and check airman. In speaking of his model, Jim commented: "I did it as a tribute to all of those who worked for TWA and those who will be inspired to seek a career in aviation."
Thank you, Jim. Our museum is privileged to have friends like you.
(By popular demand, we have added more pictures of Jim's model. Click here to see them. )
(posted week of 8/6/18)
This illustration from our archives collection is identified as "TWA Calendar 1938, DC-3 Sky-Sleeper". The activity pictured around the nighttime boarding of this DC-3 clearly conveys the excitement of travelling in the early days of TWA's operation. The lighting and shadowing seems also to add elements of intrigue and romance to the scene. It really caught our eye.
The plane itself is depicted accurately. DC-3 ship number 350 was built and operated as a DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport) and was one of the earliest delivered to TWA in April 1937. If you're a regular visitor to our photo of the week, you may recall seeing previous posts showing TWA's great DC-3s. If you'd like to see a couple, scroll down to the photos posted for the weeks of 2/19/18 and 4/16/18.
(posted week of 7/30/18)
On July 6, 1984, TWA said goodbye to the last of its retired Boeing 707 jetliners. In the photo above, Boeing 707-331B aircraft N8738 lifts off from Kansas City International Airport, headed for the aircraft storage facility at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. TWA's very first Boeing 707 went into service 25 years earlier.
TWA's retired Boeing 707s met a variety of ending chapters once they retired from the fleet. Some were sold to other airlines and military forces, some were flown to storage facilities and some were taken apart at TWA's maintenance and overhaul base in Kansas City. Speaking of the latter, retired TWA President Dick Pearson told us that TWA had leased an industrial-grade hydraulic "guillotine" to facilitate the destruction process at Kansas City. When the oldest 707s were placed under it, the blade was lowered and it bounced right back up. Those early 707s seemed to know they were great and were not about to go quietly!
(posted week of 7/23/18)________________________________________________________________________
This artist's rendition appeared in a 1979 brochure, introducing the new Boeing 747SP to TWA employees. TWA purchased three of these airplanes (the "SP" standing for "special performance") with the first going into service on May 1, 1980, flying the Los Angeles-Boston-London route. The 747SP was not hard to spot, as it was 47 feet shorter than a full-size 747. Adding to the oddity of its appearance was the fact that the upper-deck "hump" had the same dimensions. Also, the tail of the SP was slightly larger, an aerodynamic accommodation due to less weight being forward of the wing and its effect on the plane's center of gravity.
Boeing had two goals in mind when designing the 747SP. One was increased non-stop range. It was an impressive 7,500 miles. The other was to offer a companion aircraft for larger 747 operators that could be used on lower-capacity routes (an attempt by Boeing to compete with the Lockheed L-1011 and Douglas DC-10). Neither idea worked out well, as Boeing manufactured only 45 747SPs, in a 13-year period (by contrast, Boeing has manufactured over 1,500 full-sized 747s over the past 50 years and is still going!).
TWA used its three SPs on a variety of domestic and international routes, never fully utilizing its unique long range. They flew for a short time in the fleet, being sold in the mid 1980s. One was sold to the United Arab Emirates, for use as a government and VIP transport. The other two were sold to American Airlines.
(posted week of 7/16/18)
The long and successful reign of the Boeing 727 in TWA's fleet began with the plane shown above. Taken in late 1963, TWA's first 727-31 rolls through its final production phase at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington. TWA took delivery of its first two Boeing 727s (N850TW and N851TW) on April 29, 1964, flying them from Renton to Kansas City. They went into revenue service on June 1, 1964.
TWA would go onto fly 96 Boeing 727s (that figure includes both the original 727 model and the later "stretched" version), retiring the last one in the year 2000. In addition to domestic U.S. service, TWA maintained a fleet of 727s in Europe, flying them within Europe and the Middle East, connecting passengers to and from TWA's European Transatlantic gateway cities. They truly were workhorses. It's also interesting to note that the Boeing 727 was the first three-engine plane TWA flew since flying the Ford Tri-Motor, in the 1930s.
With its T-shaped tail and three rear-mounted engines, the Boeing 727 was one of the most recognizable and successful aircraft ever produced. Boeing manufactured an amazing 1,832 of these airplanes over a 22-year period. They literally were seen everywhere, populating the fleets of countless airlines, around the world.
(posted week of 7/9/18)
This picture taken at Los Angeles International Airport in 1983 really caught our attention. Seen in the TWA Skyliner employee newspaper, it was part of an article that described how some airlines with limited service, contracted with TWA to handle their flights. Southwest Airlines with "limited" service at LAX? Yep... that indeed was the case.
In 1983, Southwest had ten daily departures from Los Angeles and TWA provided maintenance and ramp services for them. The two airlines also had a similar arrangement in San Francisco, where TWA provided services for Southwest's five departures. My, how times have changed!
Today, Southwest operates 133 departures from LAX, flying to 32 cities and they employ almost 900 people in ground and technical operations there. In 2017, they were the fourth largest airline at the airport, accounting for 11.7% of the traffic carried there. They also have a major presence at some of Los Angeles' "satellite" airports, including Ontario, Burbank and Orange County.
We are always pleased to welcome our friends from Southwest to our museum. Crew members on a layover in Kansas City will sometimes stop by to say hello and look over the great history of the airline that "lent them a hand" at Los Angeles, 35 years ago.
(posted week of 6/25/18)________________________________________________________________________
TWA's first three MD-82 airplanes (then known as the DC-9-82) await their finishing touches at the McDonnell Douglas factory in the spring of 1983. Neatly in a row are the first three delivered to TWA (N901TW, N902TW and N903TW). Keeping things in order, N901TW was the first delivered to TWA in April 1983, making its first revenue flight on May 3, from Kansas City to Washington, DC. The MD-82 and MD-83 proved very popular with TWA, as 101 of them were flown in TWA colors, right up to TWA's final scheduled departure in 2001 (flown with an MD-83).
No stranger to this family of airliners, TWA flew the first model of the DC-9 back in 1966 (our photo for the week of 4-30-18 shows the delivery of the first DC9-14). Several other models and variations were flown in the next 35 years, including the Boeing 717 (the last of the DC-9 family of airliners to be produced). When all was said and done, TWA flew over 150 airplanes of the DC-9 family.
Interestingly, TWA also had the honor of flying the very last MD-80 type aircraft built. Ship N984TW was delivered in December 1999. In recognition of this milestone, TWA named the airplane "The Spirit of Long Beach", recognizing the historic home of the Douglas factory.
(posted week of 6/18/18)________________________________________________________________________
The amazing transformation of TWA's iconic Flight Center at New York's Kennedy International Airport is entering its final stages. As seen in the photo above, work on the interior restoration is moving right along. In early 2019, the new 512-room TWA Hotel will open, with TWA's original terminal building serving as the "heart" of the hotel. The rooms themselves will be contained in two new structures, adjacent to and connected with the original terminal.
The TWA Hotel is a project of MCR Development, in New York. At their invitation, our museum's Board of Directors recently traveled to Kennedy to tour the construction site and came back with some amazing pictures, such as the one above. Our museum and MCR have become good friends over this past year, with MCR's CEO, Tyler Morse, visiting our museum a few months ago and introducing us to some of his staff. We have since provided Tyler's designers with some items that will be displayed at the new hotel. In reality, the new hotel will serve as a museum too, displaying a large variety of TWA memorabilia, in many ways reflective of the early 1960s, when the terminal first opened at (what was then) Idlewild Airport. A vintage Lockheed Constellation will also grace the surrounding grounds of the hotel. Wow!
Want to see and know more (we're sure you do!). More pictures from our recent visit to the construction site. Click here to see them.
We also encourage you to visit www.twahotel.com, where you can learn more details about the hotel itself.
(posted week of 6/11/18)________________________________________________________________________
In August 1959, TWA and one of its brand new Boeing 707-131 aircraft played a role in Cold War diplomacy. Then Vice President Richard Nixon made a trip to Moscow and Poland. TWA was called upon to fly members of the press from Moscow to Warsaw. Once there, Vice President Nixon boarded the airplane (N744TW) and flew it to Keflavik, Iceland. In Keflavik, the Vice President switched to a military airplane, while TWA took the press corps home to Washington, DC. The photograph above was taken enroute to Keflavik, as Nixon spoke with the press on the plane's public address system. There were three TWA captains assigned to the support crew, with Captain Gordon Granger in command (we're not certain which captain is pictured).
While in Moscow, the airplane was put on public display for two days and about 5,000 Russian citizens got their first chance to step inside of a U.S.-built jetliner. Even Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev walked through N744TW. He thought it was a good airplane, but commented it held less people than the Soviet-built Tupolev TU-104 jetliner.
(posted week of 6/4/18)
While the photo is clearly troubling to look at, the story accompanying it is a testament to the bravery, professionalism and ultimately the ingenuity of TWA's employees. On August 29, 1969, TWA flight 840, a Boeing 707-331B was hijacked after leaving Rome. It was scheduled to fly onto Athens and then Tel Aviv. It was the final destination that attracted the interest of the hijackers, who identified themselves as members of the Palestinian Liberation Movement. After leaving Rome, the hijackers demanded the plane be diverted to Demascus, Syria. Upon its arrival in Demascus, the plane was completely evacuated and moments later, an explosion was set off, resulting in the complete destruction of the front end of the aircraft. No one was hurt.
There are many aspects to this event, however, we'll put those aside for now, concentrating instead on what happened afterward to the airplane itself. Amazingly, technicians from Boeing and TWA were able to engineer a repair to the aircraft and it was eventually put back into service, flying the line for TWA until its retirement in 1983. To fix it, a completely new forward section (extending from the nose to just beyond the forward cabin door) was manufactured by Boeing in Seattle and then flown to Damascus, where the work was completed. Again, amazing.
As an historic footnote, the repaired airplane was re-registered (from N776TW to N28714), as there was concern that the aircraft would receive unwanted further "attention" if it retained its original registration number.
(posted week of 5/28/18)
In 1940, TWA took a significant step forward with the acquisition of the Boeing 307 "Stratoliner". Perhaps most significantly, the Stratoliner was the first commercial aircraft to be pressurized, flying above most bad weather and providing its passengers with a ride that was smoother, faster and more comfortable than predecessor aircraft. Boeing made sure that cruising above the clouds was a luxurious experience as well, constructing a spacious cabin that had a diameter over eleven feet, at its widest point. Within the cabin, up to 33 passengers sat in lounge-style seating with ample width and legroom.
This concept of luxury extended to the restrooms, as well. There were two on board. Female passengers could retire to the "Ladies Charm Room". As the picture above illustrates, there was lots of room. The 207 cubic foot space contained 34 square feet of floor area, which included two dressing tables, two full mirrors and an upholstered bench by each table. The toilet was in a separate enclosed area. Men were made comfortable as well, as their "Men's Lounge" had 32 square feet of floor area and a lounge seat that was upholstered in "top-grained leather". As with the ladies room, the toilet area was in its own enclosed space. We should also mention the ceiling height in the Men's Lounge was seven feet!!
Just some things to ponder the next time you "excuse yourself" at 35,000 feet.
(posted week of 5/21/18)
In this era of the Max, Superjumbo and Dreamliner, an image of the pioneering Boeing 707 taking to the skies still catches one's attention. This legendary airplane opened the world of jet travel to millions of people. Pictured above is ship N775TW, a Boeing 707-331B, acquired by TWA in 1962. Larger and more powerful than the (also popular) -100 series, the 331s allowed TWA passengers to jet non-stop between the U.S. and Europe. The Boeing 707 served TWA well, with many flying through the early 1980s, including N775TW.
In all, TWA operated over 100 Boeing 707 airplanes (an almost even mixture of -100 and -300 models). TWA's last Boeing 707 passenger flight took place on October 31, 1983. Ship N18710 originated at Kennedy Airport in New York, stopping at Chicago O'Hare and terminating in Kansas City. After its arrival, it was towed to TWA's nearby Maintenance and Overhaul Base, where it joined several other TWA 707s, to await further disposition.
(posted week of 5/14/18)________________________________________________________________________
February 5, 1966 marked the arrival of TWA's first DC-9 aircraft. Ship N1052T is shown in the photograph above, upon its delivery flight to Kansas City. This was the first of 20 DC-9s (6 were DC-9-14 models and 14 were DC-9-15 models) that TWA first ordered in 1964. And so began a long and significant relationship between TWA and the Douglas DC-9 family of jets, that would last through TWA's final day of operation. Over that period of time, TWA flew almost every generation of the DC-9 produced.
TWA became a "major" operator of the DC-9 starting in 1986, when the acquisition of Ozark Airlines resulted in the addition of several DC-9s into the TWA fleet. Meanwhile, in 1983, TWA purchased its first DC-9-80 series aircraft. The -82 and -83 models would eventually dominate TWA's domestic short and medium haul fleet for the rest of the company's history. Fittingly, the last TWA-brand departure occurred on December 1, 2001, when TWA flight 220 flew from Kansas City to St. Louis. That flight was made on DC-9-83 (by then called the MD-83) ship N948TW, also known as TWA's employee-sponsored "Wings of Pride".
Right up to the time of its of its purchase by American Airlines, TWA was flying the final version of the DC-9 family, the MD-95 (renamed the Boeing 717). So ended the stories of both a great airline and a great airplane.
(posted week of 4/30/18)
In addition to being nice to look at, this TWA advertisement from the early 1960s tells us quite a bit about TWA's burgeoning fleet of jet airplanes and Kansas City's vital role in maintaining them. We're assuming the registration on the plane in the foreground is accurate, which identifies it as N770TW. That airplane, a Boeing 707-331 was acquired by TWA in 1960 and flew the line for twenty years. In addition to the two other 707s, to the right are two Convair 880s. TWA's first Convair flew in 1961 and that fleet would grow to 28 airplanes.
As the advertising copy indicates, the planes are residing at TWA's Maintenance and Overhaul base by (what eventually would become) Kansas City International Airport. Of special interest is the advertisement's theme of TWA's jets "coming home" to Kansas City after flying the skies around the world. Kind of a neat image, we think. Also note the mention that while being serviced at "home" they're receiving the best care in the world! We couldn't agree more.
(posted week of 4/23/18)
On the back of this photograph is written the description: "DC3 lineup at Newark NJ airport. Lte 30's". There's really not much more to add as this captivating photograph really speaks for itself. We count twelve DC-3s, but the image is a bit cluttered as you get to the rear of the line. It's also interesting to observe that each aircraft has a uniformed employee standing attentively in front. Quite a sight!
The tails on the first two are legible, so we can tell you the first is aircraft NC17323, delivered new to TWA in August 1937. Next to it is NC17321, also delivered new in January, 1937. Interestingly enough, they were both constructed by Douglas as sleeper transports (DSTs). The lack of sleeper berth upper windows would indicate TWA opted not to utilize either as a sleeper airplane. However, the third and fourth ones in line are visibly outfitted to be sleepers, as you can discern the two small upper windows (and a different passenger window layout) on each.
The 104 DC-3s TWA flew presented a variety of configurations and appearances. Flexible is an adjective that can be added to durable and reliable, when describing these great airplanes. In fact, we invite you to scroll down to our photo of the week from 2/19/18, to see yet another DC-3 that was built to be a sleeper, flown as a regular passenger plane and even saw service in World War II. When it comes to airplanes, there was nothing like them!
Update (4/19): Blog reader Steve Forsyth observes some of the tail shapes down the line indicate DC-2s are present, as well. We couldn't tell for sure, but will accept the possibility that Steve can see better than we!
(posted week of 4/16/18)
In 1967, TWA announced a significant expansion to its Maintenance and Overhaul Base, located adjacent to (what would eventually become) Kansas City International Airport. The architectural drawing above is one of several in our archives that shows the initial plan. Some of what you see in the drawing actually came to be, most notably, the shell-shaped "super hangars". The first phase called for two such hangars, which did get built on the north side of the complex and were opened in 1971. Phase two called for two more on the south side, however, they were never built.
The picture is made more intriguing by the illustration of two SSTs. Those actually are Boeing SSTs, for which TWA had placed twelve orders. Those airplanes never came to be as the Boeing SST program was discontinued in 1971. TWA also had orders for six Concorde SSTs, but they were rescinded in 1973. It's also interesting to note the size of the hangars were designed to handle the large length and wingspans of both Boeing's SST and their upcoming 747. While many are most familiar with Concorde's relatively smaller SST, Boeing's version was dramatically larger, with a length of 300' (longer than the 747!).
Completed not long before the opening of Kansas City International Airport, the two hangars were a landmark at the airport. Standing ten stories high, they clearly let the flying public know of TWA's presence in Kansas City. American Airlines took possession of TWA's leases on the entire base after their purchase of TWA in 2001. American eventually vacated the base in 2010. Today, the "super hangars" remain, leased to private aircraft maintenance companies.
By the way, if we've piqued your interest in TWA's history with the SST, check out our blog article: TWA's Concorde SST - The Plane That Never Was. Click here to read the article.
(posted week of 4/9/18)
A wide-angle view accentuates the sleek lines of the Lockheed L-1011. One of several photographs from our museum's digitized Ed Betts collection, the airplane shown above was the second L-1011 produced. It was rolled out of Lockheed's factory for flight testing and certification in December 1970. In anticipation of flying the L-1011, TWA sent several employees out to Lockheed's plant (in Palmdale, California) to take publicity photos like this one. After testing and certification, the airplane above was delivered to Eastern Air Lines. Huh? Eastern?
Yes. Eastern. It turns out the first twelve L-1011s produced were heavier in weight than TWA preferred, so that first run of twelve went to Eastern. After successful testing, the above airplane was re-painted in Eastern's livery and eventually delivered to them as aircraft N301EA. For the record, Eastern did fly the first L-1011 in commercial service, two months before TWA (but not with aircraft N301EA).
The thirteenth L-1011 (TWA's first) came off the Lockheed's production line as ship N31011 and was delivered to TWA in May 1972, soon to make TWA's first L-1011 passenger flight on June 25, 1972. Eventually, TWA would fly 36 of its own L-1011s before the last was retired in 1997. A memorable 25-year run.
Want to know more about TWA's great L-1011. Below are links to our blog article about the L-1011 and to a more detailed article written by Jon Proctor (a good friend of our museum and blog). Speaking of Jon, our thanks to him for providing us additional details about the above photo and the interesting story behind it.
(posted week of 4/2/18)________________________________________________________________________
The January 1943 issue of TWA's Skyliner newspaper featured a most interesting article about the WAMs, TWA's Women Apprentice Mechanics. In 1943, 110 women worked in Kansas City (with additional women in New York and California) filling positions left vacant by male TWA mechanical and technical personnel who were serving in the armed forces during World War II.
Pictured above is Mrs. Dawn Winans, at work in the propeller shop, in Kansas City (in the hangar next to what is today our museum!). Self-described as a housewife, Mrs. Winans also had a mechanical aptitude, commenting that she "kept up the household equipment". This included overhauling her family's Model T automobile. One of Dawn's co-workers, Mrs. Hildred Ogden had been a beauty shop operator before becoming a WAM for TWA. Mrs. Ogden also demonstrated mechanical aptitude and was quoted as saying, "I prefer grease to cosmetics."
The WAMs served in most every area of TWA's maintenance operation including (but not limited to) the engine, radio, and sheet metal shops. They also helped maintain the interior and exterior appearances of TWA's fleet. Several received high praise for their skills and dedication. Some remained with TWA full-time, after the war. Mr. R.W. Lichtenberger, a TWA maintenance foreman at Kansas City had this to say about a member of his group, Miss Mary Payne:
"Our foremost woman, Mary Payne, is on a specialized assignment. Out on the main floor in the hangar, surrounded by dozens of men workers, she is making special installations for navigation training, on compasses. And she's doing a grand piece of work."
(additional information for this commentary obtained from Flying Magazine, June 1943, vol XXXIII, Number 6. Article authored by Idell D. Hays)
(posted week of 3/26/18)
We chose a photo that can best be described as "majestic", as this TWA model 1049 Constellation cruises above the picturesque topography of the Southwestern United States
The aircraft pictured above (N6906C) carried the name: "Star of The Rhine" and flew for TWA from 1952 through 1960. The model 1049, known more commonly as the Super Constellation had several improvements over its predecessor, the model 749. Among them was its increased length of 114' ( almost 20' longer than the model 749) higher maximum take-off weight and a faster cruising speed of 320 miles per hour. The Super Constellation made the nonstop flight from Los Angeles to New York in just under eight hours.
TWA had a long and storied history with the Constellation. First flying it commercially in 1946, four models of the Connie were flown, with the last being retired in 1967. In all, TWA flew over 150 Constellations to a long list of cities in the United States and overseas. With its unique triple-tail, it remains one of the most recognizable commercial aircraft in history and clearly symbolizes the grandeur of airline travel before the advent of the jet age.
(posted week of 3/19/18)
|Special Thanks to Hank Belz, for providing this improved image from the Skyliner|
From our collection of TWA aircraft that "almost were", we present the Airbus A330-300. The photo was taken from a copy of TWA's Skyliner employee newspaper of 4/18/89. In March 1989, TWA executed a memo of understanding with Airbus for a firm order for 20 of these aircraft and options for 20 more. Under the same agreement, TWA had the right to convert 10 of those orders and 10 options to the longer-range Airbus A-340.
This was all part of the plan to began the phase-out of TWA's Boeing 747 and Lockheed L-1011 aircraft (first flown in 1970 and 1972, respectively). The expectation was to have the first A-330 flying in 1993. It was estimated the A-330 had operating costs 1/3 lower than the L-1011.
A number of events after the 1989 order changed everything. After declaring its first Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992, TWA halved the order to 10 firm and 10 options, all for the A-330. That plan was eventually modified when in 1998, TWA decided to use the several million dollars already pledged to Airbus to instead order 50 smaller A-318 and 25 A-320 aircraft. Of course, TWA's end in 2001 meant no Airbus aircraft ever flew in TWA colors. At the museum, we have a model of the proposed A-318 in TWA colors and it's featured in our Museum Photo of The Week for 1/15/18. If you haven't seen it, scroll down a bit, and take a look.
At the museum, we often hear people ask: "what if..." Thanks to our collection of items such as the above photo, we can give you some idea.
(posted week of 3/12/18)________________________________________________________________________
Our museum's newly-acquired L-1011 cockpit procedures trainer (CPT) gets installed in our museum's Education Center gallery. Formerly owned by Delta Air Lines, It was donated to us by the National Museum of Commercial Aviation, in Atlanta. It came to our museum in pieces, with most of the components loaded in 34 boxes. That's where our great volunteers and friends of our museum stepped forward.
We were fortunate to have Greg Tyler (former TWA Avionics Technician from Indianapolis) and Gary Mayden (TWA/American Maintenance Crew Chief from St. Louis) come to Kansas City to work with several of our museum's volunteers in assembling the simulator. That's Greg in the white shirt with his friend, former TWA electronics technician Felix Bernard.
The L-1011 trainer joins our exhibit of TWA crew training items at our museum. These includes TWA pilot training modules from the 1960s (you can see one in the background), an ex-Ozark Airlines FH-227B navigation trainer and flight attendant training mock-ups.
Our special thanks to the National Museum of Commercial Aviation and its Chairman, Chuck Maire. That museum recently closed and we were honored to take possession of the trainer, for future guests to see and enjoy. TWA, Delta and Eastern Air Lines were the largest operators of the L-1011, with TWA flying the aircraft from 1972 through 1997. If you'd like to know more about the L-1011's role at TWA, check out our blog article: The Tri-Star Of Our Show (click here to read the article)
(the above information about the photo was excerpted from an article by Pam Blaschum, which will appear in the upcoming edition of our museum's newsletter).
(posted week of 2/26/18)________________________________________________________________________
This picture from our archives caught our attention for a couple of reasons. That chauffeur is doing his job well, standing attentively by his TWA Airport Limousine car. An image you might want to keep in mind, the next time you're waiting on an endless taxi line or searching for your Uber driver in the arrivals area.
We'll date the picture as the late 1930s, based on the car and presence of that very impressive DC-3 airplane. Being the curious bunch we are, we did some research on that airplane (NC18954) and found it has an interesting story of its own. Delivered to TWA in June 1938, it was impressed into wartime service by the U.S. Army Air Force in June 1942. It came back to TWA two years later and served its passengers again until it was retired from the fleet in 1952. It's technically a DC-3B-202A, a model built specifically for TWA.
On the DC-3, you'll notice a small rectangular window above the passenger seat window. That was for a sleeper berth, as this particular model was fitted with a small forward section that could be converted to a sleeper configuration. There were two such windows on each side. This was one of 26 DC-3s flown by TWA that were constructed for sleeper accommodation, however fleet records show that only 14 of them were officially designated as "DSTs" (Douglas Sleeper Transport). We are assuming the other 12, while capable of being converted, were not utilized as sleeper aircraft.
TWA would go onto fly 104 DC-3s of varying configurations. Included in that number were 55 that were originally built as military aircraft and later converted to commercial passenger use.
(posted week of 2/19/18)
Our archives holds a number of TWA baggage tags. While they occupy a very small space, some of them tell a pretty big story. The bag that was attached to the top tag was carried by TWA at least 55 years ago, as it was going to IDL, New York's Idlewild Airport. Opened in 1948, Idlewild was named for the golfing resort upon which the airport was built in southeastern Queens, in New York City. In December 1963, it was renamed Kennedy International Airport, shortly following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. TWA had a rich and storied history at this airport, including it's iconic terminal, the TWA Flight Center, designed by Eero Saarinen (and opened in 1962, while the airport was still known as IDL). Today, Kennedy Airport's three-letter "JFK" code is one of the most recognizable in the world and the airport continues to be one of the world's busiest.
If you traveled to Kansas City prior to 1972, you (and your checked baggage) went to MKC, located just across the Missouri River from downtown Kansas City. In 1972, all scheduled airline operations moved north to the new Kansas City International Airport (MCI). As we at the museum know very well, MKC (known officially today as the Wheeler Kansas City Downtown Airport) continues to operate as a very active airfield. Despite no longer hosting scheduled airline flights, it does have its share of interesting sights. In fact, our blog section "On The Street Where We Live" chronicles some of those sights we occasionally see, right by our museum. Click here to see that section of our blog.
Pretty interesting stuff, from just a couple of baggage tags!
(posted week of 2/12/18)
One of our museum's more interesting exhibits resides in our Education Center room. You're looking at a cockpit navigation instrument simulator for a Fairchild FH-227B turboprop. It was originally owned by Ozark Airlines and became TWA's property when Ozark was purchased in 1986. Ozark flew a total of 21 FH-227Bs, acquiring them in 1966 and 1967. The last propeller blade spun for Ozark in October 1980, when the last 227B was retired from the fleet.
At the time of its purchase by TWA, Ozark was an all-jet airline (DC-9s and MD-80s) with service from the east coast to the west coast. They also shared a hub in St. Louis with TWA and in 1986, TWA owner Carl Icahn felt it was time to deal with competitive issues, by purchasing Ozark. In our museum's main gallery, we have a display containing several items from Ozark (including the final uniform worn by their flight attendants).
As far as the simulator is concerned, it's a favorite stop for visitor photographs, as you can sit inside. We occasionally get a few snickers from some visitors as they peer into the cockpit. However, we are quick to remind them of the amazing engineering and ingenuity that went into designing reliable and realistic flight simulation, during the pre-digital era.
(posted week of 2/5/18)
Throughout the years, TWA saw scores of famous people on board its aircraft. In fact, it often was referred to as the "airline of the stars". This was especially noticeable in the 1940s and 1950s, as Howard Hughes (TWA's owner during that time) had many friends and business acquaintances in the entertainment industry. The photo above shows this included four-legged notables too, as Lassie is seen at the base of a stairway leading to a TWA aircraft. Although there is no date on the photo, we'll say mid to late 1950s.
This was no ordinary travelling pet. Typically accompanied by trainer Rudd Weatherwax, Lassie occupied the first class section and was treated... like a passenger. Weatherwax recalled a flight where the captain announced Lassie was on board and the passengers broke out in applause and cheers. Since accuracy is our blog's most important priority, we should tell you Lassie was a male (despite being identified as a female on television and in the movies) and there were nine Lassies during the run of the popular TV show from 1954-1971. All were descendants of the original Lassie (and you thought all we knew about were airplanes?).
Our museum and archives contain dozens of photographs of actors, professional athletes, politicians and legendary people of the times, spending some of their time on TWA.
(posted week of 1/29/18)
The legendary Boeing 727 displayed its versatility with the model 727-100QC. The letters stood for "quick change" and that it was! Its unique design allowed TWA to convert the aircraft from a passenger airplane to a cargo plane (and vice versa), in just about an hour. The trick was the interior floor, which had sets of rollers embedded in it. Seat and galley pallet "modules" could be slid to the front of the airplane and removed through a large vertically-hinged forward loading door (shown prominently in the picture). Once the cabin was emptied, cargo pallets could then be loaded. After the cargo run was completed, back in went the seats and galleys.
The airplane pictured above, N890TW, was TWA's first QC model, acquired in April 1967. TWA would eventually fly eight of these and kept them until 1982, when they were all sold to United Parcel Service. By the way, TWA wasn't alone in its use of this most unique aircraft. Boeing manufactured 164 727-100QC airplanes that were used by carriers around the world.
(posted week of 1/22/18)
This week's photo reminds us that even in its later years, TWA was looking to the future. This included plans to renew and add to its fleet of airplanes. In 1998, TWA placed a significant order for new airplanes with Airbus Industries. Included in the order were 50 Airbus A318 jets. Pictured above is a 1/100 scale model of the proposed aircraft, standing in our museum. At the same time, TWA ordered 25 of the larger A320 aircraft and placed an order with Boeing for fifty 717s, adding to that aircraft type already in the fleet.
Unfortunately, an Airbus in TWA colors was not to be, as TWA was acquired by American Airlines in 2001, prior to the proposed delivery dates of the orders. In addition to being a great-looking model, it serves as an example of the determination to move forward that TWA showed in 1998, despite its financial challenges.
By the way, our museum has a few other models of airplanes in TWA colors that never came to be. Each has an interesting story explaining why the models exist and the reasons they got no further. If you're interested in knowing more, check out our blog article about the museum's models, "Our Model Citizens" (Click here to see the article).
(posted week of 1/15/18)
It's possible some prospective passengers reading this 1957 advertisement may have been confused, seeing the title "Jetstream" attached to a propeller-driven Lockheed model 1649 Constellation. Some felt TWA was implying that this final model of the Constellation was as good as passenger jet aircraft, which would soon be competing with it. TWA marketers, on the other hand, claimed the term related to the airplane's ability to take advantage of the jet stream winds (as stated in the ad).
Semantics aside, The 1649 Constellation was a solid airplane, with tremendous operating range. Capable of carrying up to 10,000 gallons of fuel, it could fly nonstop between the west coast of the U.S. and Europe (via the "polar route") and stay airborne for around 20 hours! Just two years after starting its 1649 Constellation service, TWA began flying its first Boeing 707 jet, hastening the retirement of their entire Constellation fleet. TWA's last Constellations flew in 1967.
First flown commercially by TWA in 1946, over 150 "Connies" were operated by TWA in that 21-year period, consisting of four model types.
(posted week of 1/8/18)
A unique headline greeted TWA employees when they unfolded the October 24, 1966 issue of the company's Skyliner newspaper. It announced the beginning of TWA's service to Hong Kong, effective October 31. The new destination became the most distant on TWA's then Transatlantic route system, extending it 1,063 miles beyond Bangkok. TWA passengers were thus treated to Hong Kong's infamous approach into Kai Tak airport, literally looking into apartment buildings as they descended over high-rises situated in the densely populated city. Three years later, TWA would receive authority to fly west of Hong Kong (via the Pacific), thus gaining the prestige of being an around-the-world airline. Unfortunately, that distinction would last only a few years, as TWA relinquished its Transpacific flying rights in 1975, through a route exchange agreement with Pan American World Airways.
Also of interest in the photo is the Skyliner's masthead, showing a representation of a supersonic transport aircraft. In 1966, TWA had six options placed for the French-British Concorde SST and ten options to order Boeing's SST. The entire airline industry anxiously anticipated the beginning of supersonic passenger travel. Of course, it didn't happen for TWA and most other airlines. Boeing cancelled its SST program in 1971 and TWA dropped its orders for the Concorde in 1973.
(posted week of 1/1/18)
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