Along the Northwest Coast

Along the Northwest Coast


Подпись: Back in the late 1920s, the west coast of the United States did not have swift surface transport, either by land or sea. The area was a good prospect for air transport, and the cities were quick to respond to the need. A West Coast Air Transport Fokker F-10-A tri-motor is seen here at Portland’s handsome air terminal.


West Coast Enterprise

One of several independent airlines in California that was trying to launch passenger air service without a mail con­tract was Union Air Lines, of Sacramento, concentrating on the more populous cities of the Golden State. On 5 March 1928, it started a daily service between San Fran­cisco and the northwest cities of Portland and Seattle. This also offered express package service, and operated as West Coast Air Transport, which was incorporated in Delaware on 27 June 1929. Its fleet consisted mainly of tri-motored Bach Air Yachts, which, however, must have met with problems when flying across the mountainous areas of northern California.

Western Air Express lakes Over

Harris Hanshue believed in the benefits of expansion and aimed to build an airline empire in the West. As part of this ambition, he acquired West Coast late in 1929, and thus com­pleted a route from Seattle to San Diego, effectively from Canada to Mexico. But unfortunately, the only mail contract along that route was Pacific Air Transport’s CAM 8, which operated, as part of the Boeing organization, from Seattle to

Los Angeles. Without a mail contract, West Coast lost money heavily, and after the crisis of 1930 (see page 24) Hanshue had to retrench, terminating service in December 1930 and selling to Boeing, for $250,000, on 16 March 1931.

Along the Northwest Coast

West Coast Air Transport operated several little-remembered aircraft. The picture is of a Bach tri-motor Air Yacht and the airline was appar­ently an early air express operator, (photo courtesy Harry Gann)

Hcmshue Builds a Network

Steady Expansion

Подпись: PortlandDuring the first two or three years of its existence, Western Air Express spread its wings mainly by providing connecting services to the traditional transcontinental air mail route from San Francisco to New York (see map, page 17). No doubt Harris Hanshue felt that he should play more than just a subsidiary role in the national scheme of things, and consequently turned his eyes towards the East.

Подпись: Oakland

Hcmshue Builds a Network

His most important step in that direction was to open, on 15 May 1929, a direct service from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, and extending this on 1 June to Kansas City. In May 1930, branch lines were opened to Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and to Fort Worth and Dallas. He had also provided, on 21 September 1929, a north-south link from Cheyenne to El Paso, by founding Mid-Continent Air Express. Even without a mail contract, Hanshue must have felt that he was establishing a revenue-earning base from passengers alone.

Подпись: are paraded in front of the octagonal hangar, which was an impressive structure at the time.

A line-up of Western Air Express aircraft at the Alhambra airport serving the Los Angeles area. The aircraft are (left to right) a Fokker F-10, Fokker F-14, Boeing 40, Boeing 95, Douglas M 4, and a Steannan 4D. They

. Fokker F-32


Pratt & Whitney


400 miles

Hornet В (575 hp) x 4


70 feet


24,250 lb.


99 feet

. Fokker F-32

. Fokker F-32Подпись: The large crowd was no doubt in awe as they watched the giant hokker F-32 on display. The occasion was for a “Fox Flying House Party, New York to Hollywood —according to the painted inscription on the fuselage.

A Giant Before its Time

The Fokker F-32 was the largest aircraft to enter airline service—briefly—until the introduc­tion of the Douglas DC-3 in 1936. It had four engines, mounted in tandem, suspended from the typical Fokker thick-aerofoil wooden wing. Western introduced it on 17 April 1930, and it pro­vided hitherto unprecedented service between Alhambra and Oakland. It had four plush com­partments, with well-upholstered reclining seats. There were call-buttons for a steward—a Western innovation—lavatories, folding tables, galleys, and reading lights.

Hour of Glory

There were some technical features of note. The instrument panels were better than those in any previous aircraft. The fuel tanks were kept well away from the passengers, in the wings, which was another innovation. Each engine had its own fire-extinguishing system; but unfor­tunately this had to be used too often. Western operated two aircraft for several months in the summer of 1930. But after the much-publicized Fokker F-10 crash in March 1931, its wooden construction came into disrepute, and the type was grounded. Nevertheless, Western Air Express had had the honor of operating their first four-engined transport airplane in the United States; and although Universal Air Line System ordered the F-32, Western was the only one to operate it.


Подпись: The Shotgun Marriage


The Master Plan

President Hoover’s Postmaster-General, Walter Folger Brown, was the architect of the system of air transport routes that became the foundation of the United States airline industry as we know it today. Having studied the multiplicity of railroads, numbering close to 300, none of which spanned the continent, he devised a plan that was based on three or four coast-to-coast trunk routes, connected by several north-south routes to form a consolidated grid pattern. This required the amalgamation of some of the initial contracts granted from 1926 to 1929. and most of the airlines, realizing the potential, complied with Brown’s wishes. One outcome was the emergence of transconti­nental giants such as United Air Lines and American Airlines.

Conflicting Claims

Brown did not approve of the idea of two operators on the same route, both claiming air mail payments. The United, American, and Northwest transcontinental routes emerged without much trouble; but for the south central route, serving many important cities, Western Air Express and the newly – formed Transcontinental Air Transport (T. A.T.) both wanted the coveted CAM 34 contract.

Both had good claims. Western was operating from Cali­fornia to several mid-western cities (see page 20). T. A.T. spanned the continent with a well-promoted air-rail service. But Brown was not going to break his own rales, and open the floodgates for other disputes and claimants. What became known as the Shotgun Marriage was solemnized by Brown on 16 July 1930. The two names were merged on 24 July 1930, to become Transcontinental & Western Air (T. W.A.), with Han – shue as its first president.

Curious Precedent

As it enters the 21st century, air transport throughout the world is improving inter-modal connections between airline service and high-speed rail. Methods of passenger transfer today could learn lessons from the amenities offered by T. A.T. in 1930. Cooperation, rather than competition between the different modes, could have advantages today—as it did then.



Delivery Date


Boeing 95





Fleet Numb





ers 50-53

30 Mar 29 10 Apr 29 30 Mar 29 15 Apr 29

Crashed, St. George, Utah, 24 Feb 30 Crashed, Cedar City, Utah, 10 Jan 30 Sold to Mildred F. Obbink, 3 Jul 34 Sold to Elenore Riley, 25 Jul 34

Boeing 4(






5 Mar 30

6 Mar 30

Crashed, 9 Feb 32 Sold Jul 34

Fleet Numbers 54-55; All aircraft purchased new from Boeing

W. A.E. also acquired a Lockheed Model 3 Air Express (5/NC4897, Fleet Number 250) but this was damaged when landing at Las Vegas on its inaugural flight, 6 June 1928, and returned to the manufacturer.





. Fokker F-32

Los AngelesI Kiqg’



R. EGD___________________ 0°^ <У


. Fokker F-32

Подпись: Т.Д.Т. ЮШШ 5-fiT TRI-M0T0R Fleet. Fokker F-32