AHM was honored to have the Mid America Chevelle Club be our guests on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early July. All of the 1960’s and early 70’s ‘muscle cars’ are immaculately restored. The cars were on display in the South parking lot at AHM with the beautiful back drop of the downtown KC skyline.
The club members agreed that there seems to be a common thread between aircraft and car enthusiasts. These are beautiful machines (both cars and aircraft) are tangible pieces of an important part of our collective heritage. They need to be preserved for the benefit of current and future generations.
AHM welcomes other similar groups to contact us for information on setting up a group tour for one of your club’s social outings.
The Airline History Museum is honored to introduce our newest Captain for our growing aircraft fleet. Captain Tate joined our group of elite pilots as of Saturday, 21 May 2016. The Captain brings a life-long devotion to
the advancement of aviation and aerospace science.
As shown in the pictures, Capt. Tate explains the functions and purposes of the various elements of the flight deck instruments and controls. The captain meticulously follows regulations as he conducts a thorough pre-flight inspection of all elements of his aircraft before every flight.
We here at AHM wish to thank Tate’s parents and family for bringing the captain to join our crew, and wish him and his family success and happiness in their future endeavors.
Familiar BrandNames occupied the south parking lot at AHM on Saturday, May 14. Historic names such as Diamond T and Autocar joined the more familiar names of Peterbilt, Dodge and Mack. The vintage trucks on display included over-the-road, pick ups, fire pumpers, and even a mail truck.
In addition to our historic airliners in the hangar and the vintage trucks,
we were pleasantly surprised when several vintage cars arrived to complete our day. Among the cars to arrive were a late 30’s Buick Roadmaster, a 50’s Kaiser Manhattan and a ’57 Ford station wagon. Muscle cars on hand included (writer’s favorite) 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO, AMX 390, ’72 Chevy Monte Carlo and others.
We at the Airline History Museum express our many thanks to the American Truck Historical Society, Independence 76 Fire Company, and the numerous individuals who brought their classic restored historic vehicles. We all are looking forward to a bigger and better event for next year.
Mr. and Mrs. Gerald E. Tanner (Frances) visited AHM to tour and to donate this original James E. Westermann oil painting “The First of Many”. The picture depicts a TWA Mechanic marshaling TWA Boeing 727 No. 4301TW at Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri. The painting also shows the McDonnell-Douglas facility at Lambert and an F-4B “overflying” the airport.
Mr. Tanner was awarded the “Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award” in August 2012 for over 50 years in the aviation maintenance/mechanics profession. During his career he was affiliated with the US Navy – VF-142, McDonnell Aircraft Corp., Trans World Airlines (at MCI, SFO, and STL), and United Parcel Service. He is a two time winner of the “TWA Annual Award of Excellence”, 1989 and 1997.
The artist, James E. Westermann, was an artist/illustrator with McDonnell Aircraft Corp.
The Airline History Museum is grateful to the Tanners for their donation of this one-of-a-kind item. It is through the dedication of enthusiasts like this that we continue to preserve the rich history of the airline industry.
Today we were honored by the visit of the UFO’s (the United Flying Octogenarians). The minimum age for membership in UFO is 80. These folks range in age from 80 to 102 years young. Pictured above are Sam Swihart (84), Jim Laney (95) and Gene Engledow (102).
Each of these men had great stories to share during their visit. As examples, Mr. Laney flew Connies during his career and Mr. Engledow worked with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle while serving in the USAAF.
A special thank you for visiting AHM today and for sharing your great experiences with us!
There are big things happening at the Airline History Museum! The museum is currently working to bring home two new aircraft a Boeing 727-223 and a Douglas DC-8-62. The buzz right now though is about a smaller addition with a big history. The Northrop Delta’s arrival at the Airline History Museum has generated such a buzz in fact that it was recently featured in the Kansas City Star. Check out the clip below of Vice President of Operations John Roper talking about the history of this amazing piece of Airline History and please donate here to support the museum.
No doubt about it, Lennon is one special young man. At just 15 years old, Lennon is already an aviation supporter. For the past 3 years, He has given up almost every weekend to volunteer at the National Airline History Museum. As he says in this video, he “fell in love with the place.” That is our reason for this Kickstarter. That is why we’ve poured thousands of hours and 20 years into restoring and getting the DC-3 in the air again – to inspire a younger generation to learn about airline history and apply their learnings to our future. Thanks, Lennon for all you do, and thank you all for supporting our cause!
Douglas DC-3: National Treasure turned Family Jewel
When Mark Gandy began volunteering his time to restoring the Douglas DC-3, he had no idea the significance this aircraft had in his personal story. Mark worked as an aircraft mechanic for TWA for 16 years, and then for American Airlines after the acquisition. After he retired in 2012, a friend asked him to come help him with a restoration project on a DC-3 at the Airline History Museum. His friend knew he’d had several years of experience working on these airplanes during his time with TWA.
Mark was interested in the project, as he’d seen the airplane in pieces when they brought it in on trailers. Mark began volunteering two days a week, working on the Douglas DC-3, and he began suspecting that this particular airplane was special.
Mark didn’t end up working on airplanes by accident; it was “in his blood.” His father, Jack Gandy, was a pilot for TWA from 1939 to 1956. In the middle of those years, he flew for the US Navy during WWII. Mark contacted his brother, who has his father’s old logbooks, and read off the line number.
“It was true, the airplane I’d been working every week to restore, was in my father’s log book as a plane he had flown – before the War as co-pilot, and after the War as pilot,” he said.
The project meant even more to Mark now, as it was not only a piece of national history, but a piece of his family’s history. Mark’s father, Jack, was tragically killed in a mid-air collision in 1956, a crash that changed the face of airline safety and air traffic control communication forever.
Mark was 10 years old when his father passed, and he has a lot of fun memories of life in the air. One story he shared was quite humorous. He recalls as a child having the opportunity to fly when there was space available with his employee family pass. The flight he recalled was one from Kansas City to Phoenix, Arizona. The plane was full, and the only seat available was in the very back. It was a summer day, and the airplane was pretty warm.
“Because the DC-3 wasn’t as stable as modern aircraft, the back of the plan was pretty bumpy. I was sick as a dog because of how much the tail moved around,” Mark chuckled.
The DC-3 flying experience is another reason Mark works on the airplane. He reflected on the differences between flying now and flying in the 50s – when DC-3s were one aircraft of choice by airlines. In a word, Mark summed up the DC-3 flying experience as “fun.”
“It didn’t used to take two and a half hours to fly to California, it used to take five or six. Now it’s more like getting on a bus and going from point A to point B,” he said. In modern aircraft, passengers can mostly “check out,” by listening to music, playing video games and watching movies. Back when the DC-3 was in service, the flight was as much a part of the trip as the destination. And in those days, he recalled, the service on the aircraft was one of the biggest things. (Teaser: stay tuned for our next post when we talk to a flight attendant from this time period.)
“It’s one thing to read about [flying in a DC-3] in books, but there’s nothing like walking around and being in these aircraft,” he said. “These planes were not pressurized, so they didn’t fly as high and didn’t travel quite as fast, so you could really see the land and the features and roads. It was a thrill.”
Experiencing these aircraft and learning about our airline heritage is the reason that the Airline History Museum is working so hard to get this plane finished. As it sits, “Douglas” is about 85 percent done. People, just like Mark, have poured countless hours into resurrecting this plane, and want nothing more than for the public to see it and see what it’s like to go for a ride.
“This project needs to be completed. I can’t even begin to calculate how many man-hours have gone into this plane. It’s a labor of love, and I want to see it fly,” Mark said. Once this restoration is done, Mark thinks it will be the best one around, as it is as close to the original as humanly possible. Once funded and completed, “Douglas” will fly around to different air shows, be on display at the museum for educational purposes, and will allow people to experience the joy of flight from this era on different sight seeing trips around Kansas City.
“What makes people respond so deeply and personally to a machine, an object that supposedly possesses no spirit or soul, that’s presumably little more than a heartless mass of metal and wires, devoid of any humanizing influence”?
Conger Beasley Jr.
That quote was taken from an article that appeared in the KC Star about the Connie.
Today I was thinking about that quote as I was polishing the propeller getting it to a mirrored shine, I saw my reflection in the prop; I was thinking about the whole DC-3 and how it shines when it’s polished.
What I’m getting at is really the reflection, the reflection we see in the mirror or better yet the reflection we see in the shine of this aircraft. It show’s me and you and all the people that have lent a hand in getting this bird back in the air. So as we move yet one step closer to getting this aircraft airworthy, Smile, because the reflection is of us all.
Today I felt a lot like the little old lady who watches her only son graduate from college at the head of his class. This spine tingling pride was precipitated by Chairman of the Board A. A. Bradford’s announcement that Central Airlines has entered the jet age.
As I pondered (from a pilot’s viewpoint) the many wonderful possibilities and capabilities of turbine-powered Conair’s, I could not help but compare them to our equipment of fifteen years ago this month.
I remember that rainy day in September when our pre-inaugural flight only reached Dallas because of bad weather. We were flying single engine Beechcraft Bonanzas with no company communications and with no navigation aids except a manual loop and a small range receiver. With only these aids, we still flew lower minimums on a strict VFR basis into many airports than did the trunks with all their sophisticated equipment.
Our route of flight was conducted along railroads, highways and telephone lines. With no company communications, we tried to keep track of other Central flights on ground control frequency to avoid collision in the murky weather. We only had to worry about our own flights because other planes would be either high above us on an instrument clearance or would be waiting it out on the ground.
This was how it began.
Many changes have improved our airline over the years. To me, these changes were milestones; important steps up the ladder to our airline of today. Since it is obvious that many of our employees have not been here since the beginning, I will attempt to list for you what I think are some of the important milestones in our company’s growth.
THE BIRTH OF AN AIRLINE
September 15, 1949 – Our first scheduled flight. This first flight was piloted by Captain Gordon Bourland from Fort Worth to Dallas, Gainesville, Ardmore, Ada, Shawnee and Oklahoma City. Although Captain Bourland made the first flight I made many of Central’s Flights 1 and 2 before additional service was inaugurated.
THE ARRIVAL OF DC-3’s
By late 1950, we were operating two round trips daily from Fort Worth to Tulsa and Amarillo with DC -3 equipment. It was a big step up for we were no longer a make-believe airline. We flew night and instrument schedules and proudly carried in the cabin of our airplane the forerunner of today’s stewardess. There was a difference though; they were male.
1951 – 1952— KOREAN WAR YEARS
In 1951 Central went to war. We assigned three leased C-46s and two DC-3’s to the Air Force for the movement of troops. I was a member of that little group of pilots based in San Antonio who made Central Airlines planes a common sight on every airport in the United States. With double crews, we averaged two hundred hours per month in the air, and coast to coast shuttles were routine with our pilots.
Our first stewardess, although we had used stewardesses on some of our military flights, it was late 1952 when they replaced our pursers on the line. How many of you remember the pillbox hats and the long green skirts so filled with pleats that it cost $5 just to have them pressed?
Every expansion has been a milestone. We extended our routes into Colorado and Missouri and continued to provide additional service in our original four-state area. Our fleet of DC-3’s grew from 3 to 18, and the ranks of our employees continued to swell — Central Airlines was growing up.
In 1954 Congress authorized permanent certification for the locals. This permanent certification was possibly the greatest single factor in the growth and expansion of not only Central but of all the other local carriers in the country. We now had status, permanency and the ability to obtain financing that had been so difficult before.
ACQUISITION OF CONVAIR EQUIPMENT
In late 1960 we signed a contract with American Airlines for six of their retiring Convair 240’s. These airplanes began service in March of 1961. Our pilots began talking of things they hadn’t thought of since they left the trunks to help start up a little airline. Radar, BMEP, pressurization and other half-forgotten items soon became the general subject of conversation. In July of this year DME was added and the airline became a little more sophisticated.
THE JET AGE
When Mr. Bradford announced the conversion of our Convair fleet to all turbine power, he opened up new frontiers for Central Airlines. I for one am grateful for management with the vision to plan for the future.
We are not a foundling airline any more. We are growing up.
As one who has been here since the beginning, I am mighty proud to have been a small part of its growth. I do not plan to write another article until the 25th birthday of Central. It is my earnest hope that at that time, I can write about the day we added our first pure jet. Until then, just let me say that I am very happy with the first fifteen years.
It’s a good airline, let’s all keep it that way.