A confession: almost 60 years ago I wanted very badly to become an airline pilot.
It actually started almost 70 years ago, in 1943. An uncle in Arkansas died. We lived in Queens, in New York City, and my mother wanted to go the funeral. It took a little doing to get a couple of round-trip airline tickets because a priority was required. My godfather was Senator Joseph T. Robinson (D-Ark.) so that was accomplished in short order.
American Airlines flew a DC-3 from LaGuardia to Little Rock (and on to California). It took all day to get to Little Rock with en route stops in Washington, Richmond, Roanoke, maybe Lynchburg, Tri-Cities, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis. The flight was named the Sun Country Special.
I was nine at the time and was totally smitten by the experience. I even remember the stewardess’s name: Madeline Condon.
The American DC-3s were called Flagships and were named for a state or city where the airline stopped. I later rode on Eastern DC-3s, part of the Great Silver Fleet, and United Mainliners.
When World War Two started, the military took 200 airplanes from the airlines leaving them with 160. The airlines were still able to fly their routes but with less frequency.
By 1953, I was a flight instructor, working at Camden, Arkansas. One day the powers-that-be told us our office would be moved so an airline could have the space closest to the runway. We were also told that the runway would be extended from 3,000 to 3,600 feet because that is what was required for the Trans-Texas Airways DC-3s that would soon start coming to call.
The runway extension was somewhat of a joke. It was squirt and gravel where the runway itself was concrete but it satisfied the need for length though I don’t think anybody ever used it.
We had not heard of Trans-Texas before because it just flew in Texas. It was one of thirteen local service airlines that were created and subsidized by the government to make air travel available to folks in smaller cities. The Civil Aeronautics Board regulated all airlines and subsidized many but the local service concept was new and was probably the most strictly regulated. Basically the CAB told them where they could fly, when they could fly, what they could fly, and how much they could charge. They did get to pick the paint job for the airplanes.
Virtually all the local service carriers flew DC-3s but one, Central, started out with eleven new Model 35 Bonanzas. They soon switched to the DC-3.
One day a truck showed up. In it was a non-directional radio beacon, a VHF radio, weather observation equipment, a teletype machine and some baggage carts. The new Trans-Texas station manager was in charge of the installation and did much of the work himself. He soon hired two more employees and they were ready to go.
There were four flights a day, starting with one in the morning that left Shreveport, Louisiana, and made stops in Magnolia, El Dorado, Camden and Pine Bluff, all in Arkansas, before terminating in Little Rock. Then it would go back to Shreveport, making all the stops. The process would be repeated in the evening.
Shreveport to Little Rock took just under two and a half hours. The straight line distance is just over 170 statute miles so all those stops did add time to the trip. If it sounds like a fast car would have been competitive, it might have been except for the fact that there was no Interstate highway system at the time.
Camden was roughly half way and the fare from Camden to Little Rock was $7. Camden to Shreveport was $9.
For the first time, our airport had an instrument approach. The NDB was on the airport so the TTA pilots would overfly it and then fly a complete instrument approach. There was no radar and no DME so that was the only way to have a point of reference from which to start the approach.
TTA did the weather observations, I think only in support of their inbound flights. I don’t recall the minimums for the approach but would imagine that if an approach was successful, the reported weather was at or above minimums. Likewise if an approach was missed, the reported weather would likely be below minimums.
This was done mostly in uncontrolled airspace so no clearances were actually required. I don’t recall the exact interface between TTA and the rudimentary air traffic control system of the day but do remember them talking about “through clearances” which I presume meant the airline dispatch system approved the approach and departure in the same breath.
None of the pilots at the airport had an instrument rating so all this was truly fascinating to us. There was a camaraderie between the locals and the TTA pilots and they shared with us the approach chart in case we wanted to use it. This came with the admonition to stay the hell out of the clouds when they were coming and going.
To me, what they were doing was the finest possible form of flying. It couldn’t get boring, what with all those stops, and the weather wisdom required to run those traps in thunderstorm season (most of the year) was considerable.
I was talking to one of the captains about thunderstorms one day and he told me he had spent many an hour sitting on the edge of the seat, hoping they would miss the maelstrom that is a thunderstorm. Most of the time they were successful. If they got into a storm, the way to fly was pretty standard. Trim for the proper speed, keep the wings level, and ride with the up and downdrafts. It was widely thought that if you got into a storm, the best way out was straight ahead. That might well still be true sixty years later.
There was plenty of flexibility in the TTA operation. The airplanes were self-supporting so if thunderstorms ran them off the route, they could land anywhere there was a 3,600 foot long paved strip. There were not too many of those around but I do remember a couple of diversions to Monroe, Louisiana. They would occasionally miss an approach due to low weather, but I remember only a couple of times when they overflew because of a crosswind on our single north-south runway.
The operation was dirt-simple when compared with today. Virtually all information related to the flights was via teletype. There was a message posted giving the times on and off the stops, the estimate for the next stop, the crew (Landers/Ferry/Clark is one I remember) and whether the airplane had a left or a right hand door. TTA had both military surplus DC-3s and some ex-American Airlines aircraft, thus the differences in the door location. That was important so the ground crew would know how to park the airplane.
To keep ground time at a minimum, only the engine on the side with the door would be shut down on most normal stops. They carried enough fuel to fly the whole trip without adding fuel.
We all lusted for one of the front seats of a TTA DC-3 and we asked their pilots about that possibility. It was between none and none. They didn’t have a lot of pilots, probably about fifty at the time, and virtually all were ex-military. Waiting in the wings were squadrons more with DC-3 and weather flying experience. It would be an impossibly long line in which to stand.
That was the last thought I gave to an airline job. I got involved in the aviation magazine business and the rewarding career that I found there made me happy the airline option wasn’t quite available to me when I wanted it.
The last DC-3 airline flight that I rode was on Central Airlines, from Kansas City to Wichita with a stop in Topeka. I had left Newark on TWA and was supposed to change to another TWA flight but it was delayed.
I walked down the line of ticket counters to see if I could do better. Central had that DC-3 that was about ready to go and they had a seat.
It was a dark and stormy night and we flew all the way through an area of widespread thunderstorms. There was lightning and thunder and heavy rain when we were on the ground at Topeka.
En route, the stewardess served drinks despite the inclement weather. We never hit any really bad turbulence and when we got to Wichita I walked around to the front of the DC-3 to give the pilots a thumbs-up. That was when I learned that this DC-3 didn’t have the weather radar that had come to most airliners by then. No radome. Those pilots were the last of a breed, never to be replaced.
The object of all the local service carriers was to generate enough revenue to fly without subsidy from the Feds. That was not going to happen with DC-3s on short hops so they started flying larger airplanes and the CAB allowed longer legs.
Most eventually got jets, DC-9s mostly, but by then the airlines were deregulated and the mergers made most of the local service names go away. For a fact, Trans-Texas Airways is a granddaddy of today’s Continental.
The local service airline system was a noble experiment, destined not to last for a number of reasons. One was the fact that the airplane they could afford, the DC-3, was relatively primitive. We pilots get all misty-eyed when we think about the grand old Douglas but airline passengers hated it. The steeply sloped aisle, the lack of pressurization and air conditioning, the relatively slow speed, and the not too roomy seats were all points of contention.
Most of the locals flew the airplane with 28 seats, seven rows of four, where the major carriers flew them with 21 seats, seven rows of three. On speed, if following a highway with a strong headwind, most pilots would fly directly over the highway so the passengers couldn’t look down and see the cars passing the airliner.
If you are interested in the history of local service carriers, “Airlines for the Rest of Us” by Stan Solomon is available from Amazon for $3.99 in the Kindle version. It is a truly interesting book for airline buffs.
- From the archives: how valuable are check rides? - July 30, 2019
- From the archives: the 1968 Reading Show - July 2, 2019
- From the archives: Richard Collins goes behind the scenes at Center - June 4, 2019
I have fond memories of riding on Central Airlines DC-3s between Dallas Love Field and my grandparents’ home in Harrison, Arkansas circa 1962-63. Loud, bumpy, and seemingly close to the ground, but a ton of fun for a kid who had never been on an airliner before. Later Central switched to turboprop Convair 540s on that route which, while faster, just didn’t seem to deliver the same visceral thrill for me.
Love the publicity photo of stewardesses on the tail of one of the “Tree Top Airlines” planes!
I use to ride the Ozark Airlines DC 3 in the mid 1960’s from Columbia, Missouri to Tulsa where I went to flight school. Student fare was $6.50 one way. The flight stoped in Jefferson City, Springfield, Joplin then Tulsa. I marveled at way the stuardess would serve drinks between each of these stops. Columbia to Jefferson City was only 30 miles, she was sure fast.
My first flight on an airplane was on an Ozark DC-3 in the summer of 1956 from Wichita,KS (ICT) to Springfield,Mo (SGF) the flight took 1 hr 55 minutes and made two intermediate stops, Pittsburg, KS (PTS) and Joplin, MO (JLN). These routes were dictated by the CAB and were airmail routes also. In 1970 I would fly as a co-pilot on a DC-3 hauling real estate brokers around northern CA. The only reason a DC-3 needed a co-pilot was to operate the hydraulic system to lower flaps and the landing gear and to operate the cowl flaps. Flying that thing north of Oakland and Sacramento in more remote areas took me to the thirties and forties. I had to reacquire a CFI in 1974, it expired while working in Vietnam; went to Ross School of Aviation in Tulsa at the Riverside Airport now Jones Airport.
My one flight in a DC-3 occurred in 1965. We had ridden Central’s Convair from Fort Smith to Fayetteville with an extremely rough landing. When we arrived in Kansas City on that stormy Sunday night, they announced that the Convair was being grounded and some of us would transfer to a DC-3. The First Division soldiers coming back from leave to ship out to Vietnam went by bus. Those of us who were booked into Salina, etc., stayed with the plane. I helped load baggage and shift it when we deplaned. We dodged thunderstorms.
The stewardess blamed it all on a rookie who put her hat on the bed that morning while packing–bad luck!
It was truly memorable in every way.
I grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas. My father was a flight instructor at South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field. Between the age of 5 and 9, I spent a lot of time at Goodwin Field on summer weekdays and weekends, as well on weekends when school was in session. Even though that was a long time ago (I’m 52 now), I still remember the DC-3s coming and going. I also remember a time when a passenger had arrived late for his flight, and the DC-3 had already been taxied out to the runway and was ready for takeoff. A radio call to the pilots of the DC-3 alerted the pilots that a late passenger had arrived, at which point the DC-3 returned to the terminal to pick him up. Imagine that happening today. The entire airfield operation was laid back and there was zero security. I had a mini-bike at the time (Briggs and Stratton engine with centrifugal clutch and scrub brakes), and I was allowed to ride it practically anywhere on the airport grounds (taxiways and runways excluded). Had I ventured out on a taxiway or runway, dad wouldn’t have been happy and swift punishment would have ensued. But at Goodwin Field in the late 1960’s, no one would have known or likely cared.
My Dad was a crew chief on C-47’s in the Aleutians right after WWII, so they’ve always been a favorite of mine. I got my first ride in one the summer of 1967 on a Wien Airlines flight from Fairbanks to Bettles Field. In the early ’90s I flew one year for Frontier Flying Service out of Fairbanks, and had the good fortune to fly right seat in their DC-3, with the legendary Jorgy Jorgensen in the left seat showing me the ropes. What a fantastic experience that was! Getting a type rating in the Gooney Bird is on my bucket list, and I’m anxious to check that one off.
My first DC3 flight was on a mail run from DaNang to Hong Kong. I was an orderly room clerk and had the joyful priviledge of catching a ride and having a great weekend. I still consider myself lucky to have been born in an era of transition from prop to turbo prop and Jet and to have flown in most of the earlier airliners.
We flew DC3’s sans radar from ’87-’97 in the pursuit of aerial commerce. We picked our way through by instinct ,hope,and the grace of God. When on occasion we were in the thick of it ,dropping the gear had the effect of stabilizing the ride , (sort of a keel effect like a boat),and slowing us down to maneuvering speed at the same time. Now after finally arriving in the jet age I avoid CBs by a country mile just like everyone else. I used to fly DC3’s for love and money, now just for love.
I understand the love affair with DC-3s
But my experience with them is very recent. I work for a company that makes US military equipment and we often rent a DC-3 to flight test our equipment. The DC-3 is reliable comfortable and carries plenty of equipment and Engineers to get our job done. The company we rent DC-3s from has three of them. We have flown all over the united states in them and love them. I even got to get some Dual instruction multi engine time logged in my Pilot log book flying right seat as one of the company DC-3 pilots is a CFI. And for those passengers that didn’t like the ramp walking up to “first class” due to the tail dragger effect, they are missing out on some good leg exercises! A great airplane perhaps the best design ever and still flying anywhere anytime to this day, over 70 years after they were built. The radial engines are awesome. And the short and soft field capabilities are outstanding. If you get a chance to fly in a DC-3, take it !
Great story, Dick. Many folks I suppose once contemplated a flying career with the airlines but for one reason or another it didn’t happen, and now, years later are thankful for unanswered prayers! I didn’t fly DC-3’s either as a pilot or passenger, but my admiration for the airplane was immense after seeing the Eastern Airlines version in the Smithsonian with over 50,000 hours on the airframe. Numerous friends with DC-3 experience are only too happy to regale listeners with their adventurous tales.
One of my fondest recollections of the plane has to do with the sound of those big round engines starting up — coughing, snorting, wheezing and finally smoothing out into that unmistakable purr.
One night years ago at Port Columbus, Ohio after settling up with Lane Aviation for the fuel and parking fees for my Bonanza preparing to head back to PHF at Newport News, VA, my passengers and I were walking across a very dark ramp out to where our plane was tied down and, somewhere out in the darkness (we knew not where), a DC-3 was being brought to life. The sound of those big engines being fired up was pure romance. I stopped, set the bags down and just listened to the music. I can still hear it playing in my head!
I rode a United DC3 to LAX from SAN and return back in ’53. I flew as a Flight Engineer on USAF C54s [the four engine version of the DC3]out of Japan during the 1951 era of the Korean War on the Korean airlift with the 315th Air division. The Greek AF sent a squadron of C47s as their UN contribution. We called them “The Galloping Greeks,” as they would operate anywhere, off of empty farmland, dirt roads, or whatever it took. TheDC3 was and still is a venerable airframe, and there are still a large number of them in daily use. Keep ’em Flying.
I was in a US Navy Reserve Squadron operating C-54s aka R5-Ds in 1963-64; the airplanes had been in VR-3 and VR-6 during the Berlin Airlift, we were still getting coal dust out of those planes.
To try to be an airline pilot these days….is…well…almost…slim chance.
I was five in Sep 43. Mom and my baby brother and I having been bumped once finally boarded an Eastern DC3 for Atlanta out of La Guardia. We were being sent by Uncle Sam to live out the War with my Dad in Ft. Benning, GA where he was stationed. I will never forget the experience. I got to be a passenger in several other DC3s but it was never like that first time.
As a young executive in Austarlia I travelled in DC3′ then we graduated to DC4′ then DC4B’s then electras, viscounts, and then the big time DC9 2pod on the tail JETS! What an eara, Now I’m happy wandering about the sky in the old piper cherakee 180 D (PA28)
My first flying job after leaving Oxford Air Training School(UK) in 1973 was with Briitsh Island Airways on DC-3’s flying from Gatwick with mail and newspapers for British Forces in Germany and to the Channel Islands.After leaving BIA to join BCAL and British Airways I continued flying a ‘DAK’ privately for Martin Baker ( G-APML ) until the 1980’s.
The last DC-3 I saw was a South African reg Turbo DC-3(in Ndolo Zambia)used for survey work even had an apu!
I would be interested to know where G-APML flew whilst with Martin-Baker. In the late 60’s, I used to hear it regularly on my airband radio coming south on Amber One, leaving the airway by descent to the south west of Daventry. Its destination was presumably Chalgrove, but where had it originated from? (part of a long-term flightsim project). It did, of course, become less of a rarity when acquired by Air Atlantique in 1981. I did get to fly on it in 1982 when it was operating mail flights Luton-Liverpool during a postal strike.
For those of us that have lived in Southern Louisiana and flew from Lake Charles, we knew Trans-Texas Airlines as “Tree-Top Airlines” since they never climbed much above 5,000 feet. As a joke, we used to ask the pilots (before the days of locked cockpits) why they bothered to retract the landing gear since it was only minutes before letting down to the next stop.
On one memorable flight from lake Charles to New Orleans with a stop in Lafayette, La, the pilot could not find the runway in a low ceiling so after the third missed approach he left for New Orleans. I could look down and read the street signs in Lafayette and tried to guide the pilot but he got angry and told me to sit down and shut up.
Got my PPL in 1974, influenced greatly by the site of DC3’s flying over my home on approach to DAY in the 1950’s. I never got to ride in one with actual seats, but eventually made hundreds of skydives from the old Douglas workhorse. Left a couple of them earlier than planned due to engine failures, and jumped several times with four DC3’s in close formation. What an amazing airplane…
Thanks for a great story I love that old bird. Worked part time with a GREAT DC-3/C-47 mechanic/pilot, and had the good fortune to ride right seat in a couple that he had worked on. A couple of the best flights I remember, Especially when the pilot said “You have the controls.”
Just one more:
The scene is at the Santa Monica airport sometime in the far distant future… say, 2050. A small crowd has gathered to witness the retirement of the very last DC-3. As the master of ceremonies concludes the presentation… that old familiar drone causes everyone to look toward the sky above. Behold, there goes yet one more.
Good article. Love the DC-3s. I started flying in ’70s as a teenager with a love for all things in avaition. When I got out of school I went to work for TTA(then Texas Internaional Airlines) where I got involed with restoring a DC-3. This was after the meger with Continental. I remember getting to go with my wife and others from Houston to Oshkosh airshow. It was resorted to the old airlines conf. As we showed the aircraft I realized what an impact the DC-3 had made for so many peoples lives. The joy of those to just get in it look around that never got to fly in one.
It sounds likely that you may be a fan of Ernest Gann’s classic “Fate is the Hunter”. I have an ole dog-eared copy that I re-open quite often; each chapter is a distinct story dedicated to his fellow pilot’s, many of which paid the ultimate price while starting and building the fabulous system that we enjoy today. Good old Douglas-3 WAS the founding equipment.
I have read “Fate” several times and it is wonderful. So are all of Ernie’s other books.
Fate , is the DC3 bible, it was required reading for my freightdog brethren , in fact back in my Douglas days I used to keep a copy in my flight bag
Ernest K. Gann lived up at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA. I met him and talked to him at the old Bellevue Airport (was just north of I-90 on the east side of the floating bridge) this was around 1971. He flew his C-320 Skyknight down there to get some work done on it. A really nice guy we did some hangar flying we knew some pilots in common I had been laid off from Trans International Airlines (TIA) some of our Captains had flown with him at Trans Ocean Airlines in the late forties and fifties. I’ve also read many of his books and watched some of the movies that were based on his books.
Though I have never been in a DC-3, friends who have would disagree on just one thing. “…and the not too roomy seats were all points of contention.” Have you flown non-first class lately? The pictures and remembrances indicate more room then than now. I also believe it was more fun.
Flying as co pilot on DC-3’s in 1969, bringing real estate prospects into a development in southwest Florida, had my first, and worst, experience with thunderstorm cell penetration. It was near the La Belle VOR at 10,000 ft, and for about a half minute or so (seemed much longer), there was not a pilot aboard the aircraft, only passengers. I have no idea how the aircraft stayed in one piece, but of course it did. Popping out of that dark mass into bright light, I still recall vividly all these years later. On the ground later, a walk around revealed missing inspection panels under both wings. What a tough airplane!
I flew a Delta Airlines DC-3 on the Atlanta to Columbus,Ga. route in 1957. It was a night flight and my seven year old twin brother and I, and an older lady were the only passengers. After we had our Cokes, the typically pretty and pleasant stewardess told us that the Captain would like for us to join him in the cockpit. We went up the aisle grinning from ear to ear. The captain showed us the basics and then put me on his lap and my hands on the yoke and had me make a gentle bank to the left of approximately 5 degrees and then level the wings. After several minutes of left seat time it was time to iniate the approach and for us to return to our less exalted seats. I am not sure my grandparents ever did believe that I helped fly us there.
This is a very interesting article and brought back some memories. My first flight on an airliner was on an Ozark DC-3 from Wichita to Springfield, MO. with intermediate stops in Pittsburgh, Kansas and Joplin, MO. That was in June of 1956. I later flew as a co-pilot for a charter company in Oakland, CA. on a DC-3 in early 1970. We flew from Oakland, CA. to Yuba County Airport in Marysville and then to Willits Field in Mendocino County, CA. and then back to Oakland. Flying the DC-3 was like going back to the 40’s in the air unless you looked down at I-5, only thing missing was the absence of the old radio ranges for navigation. I later flew as a first officer on DC-8/61s and 63s, on international charter flights, a far cry from the DC-3. Today a DC-8 is ancient when compared with the modern airliners especially the 787, 777, and Airbuses. There are still some DC-3s out there in commercial service today; Hard to believe an airplane developed 80 years ago would still be used today commercially.
Talking about some old memories. Back in 1963, I was hired as a F/O ( co-pilot ) for TTA on the DC-3. I flew as F/O for a little over 4yrs, then checked out as Captian on the DC-3 in 1967 just before TTA retired them out of service. I remember my very first trip as Captian so well, it seems like yesterday. Probably one of my fondest and funniest memories (other than my first trip as Captian) as a airline pilot over 38yrs….I still remember the trip series # 176 HOU to MEM with all the stops. HOU-BEA-LCH-AEX-MON-LIT-PBF-JBR and finally MEM ( about 5 and a half hours in good weather ) It was a uneventful trip on the way to MEM except for some iceing conditions between LIT and MEM and a missed approach at JBR because the weather was below min’s…. After our normal layover in MEM, we departed the hotel and it was raining like hell on the way to the airport,( I’m thinking just an isolated thunderstorm in the MEM area.) WRONG !! I get to operations at the airport and the agent hands me a note to contact dispatch before leaving MEM. I called and the dispatcher wanted to inform me of the weather conditions between MEM and HOU. He told me that every stop between MEM and HOU was reporting a thunderstorm except HOU and it was forcast to have thunderstorms upon my arrival time. Back in those days (1967) we did not have radar on the DC-3, the only way we could tell there was severe weather was by the forcast’s and barometric pressure ( normally between 30.00 in. and 29.85 in.) I looked at the hourly weather print out and ALL the barometric pressure readings was about the same 29.60’s at every stop with low ceilings I knew then, this was NOT going to be a fun trip back to HOU. I boarded the plane and again it was raining like hell. As we were doing our pre-flight check list, I noticed a high ranking military official boarding the plane, I didn’t think anything about it at the time,until later in the flight….Well just as I figured, it was one of the nastiest flights i have ever been on, from t/o to landing, it was nothing but turbulence, heavy rain with brief periods of hail between EVERY stop, it was terrible. In those day’s a new Captian had to fly the airplane on every leg until you reached 100hrs. of flight time as pilot in command. Let me tell you, I was one whooped dude when we got to HOU.( 2hrs late ) Of course when we landed in HOU it was raining and my plastic apron was dripping wet ( we had to wear the apron in heavy rain because the DC-3 was unpressurised and the cockpit was dripping with rain all over ). Remember the high ranking military passenger that boarded in MEM, I was removing my apron to hang it up to dry, I heard this loud thump, thump, thump on the exterior just below my cockpit window, I looked out the window and here was this military guy holding a umbrella and looking straight at me shooting me the finger, my first reaction was to shoot the finger right back at him, but my common sense got a hold of me and I refrained, I just saluted him, which I’m sure pissed him off even more. I was so tired, I just started laughing until I had tears in my eye’s. This poor bastard rode that airplane in some of the worst weather one could have on a commercial airliner for 7+ hrs, now that I think about it, I would probably have done the samething….So much for my first trip as a Captain on the beloved DC-3…I have plenty, plenty more, maybe I will tell more someday.
I was setting in from of my computer , I got to thinking what would a google search say about Trans Texas Airways. This Air Facts is the first one of several of different facts about TTA as I was looking at comments from people I see your comment.
I am living west of Fort Worth In Weatherford, TX. Phone 817 599 5855 . Where are living now days. I just had my 78th Birthday June 29 and my health is good.
Give me a call some time. Best Regard to You, Roger E. Hines
I’m happy to have gotten a bunch of hours flying an R4D/DC-3 that had been, in an earlier life, a Robinson Airlines DC-3. My Dad was, in those years, making a number of business trips on Robinson’s DC-3,s, and the odds are high that he flew in the back of what I flew and instructed in the front of 60 years later.
Great article on a historic and capable aircraft. I never had the opportunity to fly in the DC-3/C-47, but did get to watch them arrive and take-off from Rockford, IL (KRFD) in the 50’s and early 60’s. My parents would take me out to the airfield to watch the GA planes take-off and land, and if we were fortunate, an Ozark DC-3 would arrive to deliver passengers. Awesome sight for a young kid, biggest plane I had ever seen. Of course we had the EAA Fly-In and got to see a variety of experimental and military warbirds and meet their pilots. Most were war veterans. My first flight was in the Ford Tri-Motor at the EAA. Never forget it. Like sailing in the air. Ozark eventually replaced the DC-3 with the Boeing 727 in the early 60’s. The first real airline flight I had was in a Braniff 727 from O’Hare to Kansas City. Beautiful plane. Sadly Rockford is a UPS hub now and GA is not the same. The SkyRoom is gone and being able to stand at the fence and watch the the GA aircraft come and go is a pleasant memory. Thanks.
My Dad got on in 65 Bud Koch. I am a pilot myself
I don’t see a Kindle version of “Airlines for the Rest of Us” on Amazon. Am I missing something?
What a great article. The South African Air Force was one of the biggest “users” of the the DC 3, another nick name being the “vomit comet”!!!! Thousands of hours were spent on dropping supplies and troops and supporting our Parabats during our Bush War 1975 – 1988. Part of our training at 88 Advanced Flying School, Maritime Unit- training as Air Crew on MK3 Shackleton Air Craft 35 SQN, was 40 hours on Daks.
We were unable to get replacement Maritime Aircraft, and some of the DC 3’s were modified with Turbo Engines. They still play a part today in our Air Force
What a beautiful article on the young vision towards the airline job (back then, a young endeavor itself). I was myself airline driven from the very beginning (like most of us, since it is the aviation we get more easily exposed to when not coming from an aviation related family), but on the long way to get an airline job, fell in love with general aviation. Now, I fly the airliners, aiming for a future in general aviation. Kinda of opposite of most pilots I know.
I grew up on the island of Barbados. We were taking a family vacation to the nearby island of St. Vincent, and travelling there on LIAT “Leeward Islands Air Transport”. LIAT operated these loud turboprops that buzzed like bees. I was a kid, I don’t know what they were. Well, on the morning of departure, the turboprop we were to fly on was partially disassembled on the ramp. No joke, three mechanics had pulled all the covers off the right engine and pieces were littered around the ramp. You could sit and watch the action from an observation deck. LIAT is also jokingly referred to as “Leaving Airport Any Time”, so 4 hours later, the turboprop was no closer to being reassembled. LIAT decided to charter a DC3 for the flight. We and a good bit of freight were stuffed into a dilapidated forlorn DC3. Apparently we were a bit tail heavy. I remember the pilot made us all sit as far forward as possible and several men actually stood with their backs to the cockpit wall for takeoff, feet braced against the seats. Such was local air travel in the 1970’s in the third world. An uneventful flight, and such a wonderful noise those radials made. I loved airplanes and flying for as long as I could remember and this, as an 8yr old was heaven. Still love the DC3.
my first flight on any airplane was on a DC-3 was as a young enlistee in the US Army in 1968. Green and scared i boarded the flight from Dallas Love Field direct to Fort Polk Louisiana for Basic and Infantry training. I had always loved airplanes but never had the opportunity to fly on one.
Fast forward to 1970 stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas which had a flying club. I earned my PPL there and over the years went on to add ratings up to ATP.
I like to think that first ride on that on “3” kick started the whole thing. I still remember the feeling when those radial engines fired up.
In 1958 after high school, I was in the army boot camp at Ft. Leonard Wood (misery) as we called it, with the coal fired stoves, but the thrill of flying in a DC-3 to Ft. Ord, CA bouncing through the mountains and the “Stews” giving us lunch in a little white bag was a thrill I’ll always remember.
I was also 18-1/2, so I could drink beer on the Post. LOL
I was an active private pilot for fifty yrs. until a couple yrs. ago. Mmmmm!