Category From props to jets



he 1950s was an incredible decade to be living in America. With World War II fading into distant memory, the country entered a prosperous and momen­tous era with a clear emphasis on the future. Military supersonic flight was now a matter of routine and visions of manned space travel entered the public con­sciousness for the very first time, but the most revolu­tionary aspect of all this futurism was the turbine engine. Just mentioning the word “jet” conjured up visions of great speed and power or snow-white con­trails seen against a stratospheric blue sky, and the mass public seemed suddenly swept up in the great expecta­tions of the new futuristic Jet Age.

Before World War II, the mere thought of an airline passenger purchasing a ticket and boarding a jet – powered airliner to fly to some exotic far-off locale at nearly 600 mph would have been pure science fiction. Then, in May 1952, Britain’s elegant de Havilland Comet 1 boarded its first passengers and took to the European skies. Although the commercial Jet Age didn’t begin in earnest until 1959, the die had been cast and airline passengers were soon flying at speeds and alti­tudes once strictly the domain of record-breaking mili­tary test pilots, little more than a decade earlier. A major
difference, however, is that these lucky passengers were dining on four-star cuisine surrounded by sublime lux­ury while flying at speeds approaching Mach 1!

This book celebrates the magical years from 1952 to 1962 with an in-depth look at the amazing machines that made commercial jet flight possible, as seen from the perspective of the propeller-driven aircraft that were in worldwide service prior to the introduction of the jets. The span of time from the zenith of piston-powered luxury airliners to the world’s first intercontinental jet­liners was only five short years, but this paradigm shift in powerplants, speed, and luxury revolutionized air travel forever.

So fasten your seatbelt, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as authors Jon Proctor, Mike Machat, and Craig Kodera take you along for literary flights in the world’s most luxurious propliners and pioneering first – generation jetliners, using magnificent original color photography from their respective collections coupled with industry-wide photos and memorabilia. It will be a memorable journey steeped in airline nostalgia and history, and will probably make you long once again for this incredible era in aviation that is, sadly, now gone forever.


Distilled water, injected into the Pratt & Whitney JT3C turbojets to augment thrust, produces heavy black smoke as a brand-new American Airlines 707 Jet Flagship lifts off the runway for another transcontinental flight in 1959.

(Charlie Atterbury)


Safety and Reliability—Not Quite There Yet

Perhaps the greatest impediment to the widespread acceptance of air travel as the key mode of transportation in this country, and around the world for that matter, was the ever-present perception of the danger of flying. During the 1920s and 1930s, survival in air transporta­tion was almost akin to living in the Wild West of the nineteenth century, comparable to traversing the coun­try in covered wagons through Indian territory. Airliner crashes became constant newsreel fodder, and mothers begged their sons to take the train and not fly. The Fokker Trimotor or Curtiss Condor seemed like lumbering box kites just waiting to be swatted out of the sky by a fierce storm.

However, each successive decade following World War I did indeed manage to see incremental and then quantum advances in aircraft design, and as a conse­quence, airframe and systems reliability marched steadily forward. Compare the change from the wooden Fokker X to the all-metal Ford Trimotor. It was a wooden-wing spar in a Fokker that broke apart in a thunderstorm killing famed Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne and galvanizing public sentiment against air travel. It was nothing less than a tectonic shift from the corrugated Ford to the sleek monocoque Boeing 247, and then the grand DC-3 in 1936.

These aircraft brought new standards of flying safety and reliability, but all things remained relative, and airplanes still had a nasty tendency to crash. As dis­cussed later, the airlines of the 1930s were obsessed with advertising campaigns aimed at bolstering the safety of flight and the quality of their product. American Airlines even went so far as to broach the subject of safety in their ads. That frankness seemed to have a pos­itive effect overall, but flying was still not like taking the old, dependable train.

Following World War II, four-engine transports like the Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-6, along with the new twins from Convair and Martin, launched the next refinement of the technological base featuring pressurized passenger cabins and strong all – metal construction utilizing new advanced aluminum materials. Augmenting this were radio navigation aids, a flight engineer to handle the new complex technolo­gies, weather mitigating devices such as heated wing and tail leading edges and propeller deicing systems, and of course, the obvious redundancy of two more engines on the larger transports.

And yet, airliners kept running afoul of consistent safety records. Airplanes still crashed often enough to give many folks a fleeting second thought before board­ing a “giant silver bird” or “queen of the sky” bound for points near and far. Train service continued to main­tain its passenger appeal even throughout the 1950s. So what was causing that persistent, albeit lowered, sense of worry when it came to flying commercially?

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) mandated that all Low – and Medium-Frequency (LMF) radio ranges be decommissioned in favor of new the technology, Visual Omni Range (VOR). Lighted air­ways were nearly a relic of the past, leftovers of the air­mail open cockpit days. Most major airports were now equipped with Instrument Landing System (ILS) preci­sion approach aids, and en route traffic radar centers popped up across the nation to separate airplanes from one another along the airways. Aircraft were flying higher and avoiding more weather, flying faster to stay ahead of that weather, and flying with greater fuel range

Safety and Reliability—Not Quite There Yet

As the airline industry matured and grew, new modern "super airports" came into existence to serve the equally new and modern airliners carrying more and more pas­sengers every year. Here we see a gleaming new LaGuardia Airport terminal and tower with a United DC-3 flying overhead in 1939. The terminal building contained a glamorous restaurant and sweeping obser­vation deck back in the day when a trip to the airport was considered an exciting excursion for the entire family. (Mike Machat Collection)

so as to be able to go around that weather. Advanced weather radar onboard the DC-6B, DC-7 series, and 1049/1649 Constellation series (covered in Chapters 3, 4, and 5, respectively) all added more margins of dependability to daily airline operations. So why were airliners continuing to fall out of the sky?

For all the technology invented to improve piston – powered airplanes, and as the working and regulatory environment for fast aircraft continued to grow (although always seemingly behind the latest speed and efficiency of the airplanes it served), it appeared that two chronic problems kept hampering a better safety record for airliners in the late 1940s and the 1950s: unre­liable technology and weather.

Piston engines such as the Wright R-3350 Turbo Compound or Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Double Wasp certainly marked the pinnacle of reciprocating power – plant technology and made possible the advancements noted above, but the very complexity of these engines was also their Achilles heel. More complex than a Swiss watch, these engines required as much maintenance per – flight-hour as several fleets of DC-3s combined! They certainly were not reliable. How many DC-7s landed at their destinations with one engine shut down, its pro­peller feathered? How often did contemporary films characterize airliner engines as being temperamental and cantankerous devices that came apart in flight, threw propellers, and then burned up, terrorizing all passengers onboard?

When one examines hull loss statistics in the United States from 1946 to the present, the overall number of accidents still falls within a pretty narrow range. The negative trend, however, existed in the types of hulls destroyed. A striking reality found in the probable cause of each accident in the prop era identifies the air­craft more often than not as a commercial transport. As years pass with the world’s airlines fully transitioning to all-jet fleets, the same number of accidents then begins shifting more to general aviation or small regional air­craft. Today, air safety for commercial transports around the world, and especially here in the United States, is enviably exemplary, with more people flying per-airplane, per-day, and on more airlines and air­planes than ever imaginable in the early 1950s.

Although technology has truly made a life-sustaining difference to air travelers today, aviation still suffers the occasional grandiose air accident with its attendant headlines, especially those involving large jetliners with hundreds of passengers aboard. What is the explana­tion? Many times we still see weather as a culprit, for we just cannot surmount every single type of atmo­spheric disturbance Mother Nature sends our way. Mighty jet airliners have been ripped apart by thunder­storms, and ice is still the largest operational problem faced by the air transport industry. Let’s flash back to earlier times and imagine flying in a Constellation somewhere over the East Coast in February.

The airplane is flying in ice more than in the clear; and because the Connie uses rubber deicer boots on its leading edges, you can actu­ally see the wings icing up, then the boots expanding to break sheets of it loose. It even shears off the prop blades and slams against the fuselage. The weather is abysmal all the way down to a near zero-zero landing and you’re landing at a field without an ITS, so the Captain is conducting a VOR, or in really tough situations, an ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) approach.

Landing minimums are higher for these non-precision approaches, which means you may or may not see the ground from those slightly higher altitudes. Hopefully the wind isn yt so strong that you are blown completely off course, placing you farther away from your missed approach point, where you either see the runway or have to execute a go-around and try again, or even divert to your landing alternate.

Our pilot has flown into this airport “a mil­lion times" and he’s sure he knows where he is by looking straight down at the ground. If only he can get a few feet lower and sneak into the clear to be able to see the runway straight ahead. As he gingerly continues to feel for clear air; the copilot suddenly screams, “Pull Up!”

But with engines snarling with increased power to escape impending disaster, the ground rushes up to meet the aircraft, the left wingtip contacts the earth, and the rest of our story becomes tragic front-page news the next morning.

More the exception than the rule, the above sce­nario focuses again on an inherent complexity, and how this aspect of postwar propliner operational capability affected air safety. Flying a large, piston-engine airliner, already an extremely complex system, within another incredibly complex system (radio navigational aids) while at the mercy of a precocious and unpredictable weather phenomena is just begging for the ominous chain of events found in all air accidents to be forged, several links at a time.

It is, therefore, a vast tribute to the men we called aviators in those days that many a safe trip was con­cluded at their hands despite all the challenges. By the late 1950s, these incredibly talented and wise individuals began to experience first-hand the almost unbelievable improvement in safety standards, and the simplicity of flight operations made available to the airlines when the world finally transitioned from props to jets.

Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

Meanwhile, over in Burbank, the folks at Lockheed were crafting their own “perfect” airliner of the times, known as the 1049 G Super Constellation, or simply, Super-G.

When one thinks of the Connie, one of the strongest details associated with any airplane comes to mind remembering the G model’s optional and removable wingtip tanks. Lockheed certainly had a penchant for these types of auxiliary fuel tanks, and the Super-G was the best application of this technology ever used on a passenger airplane. Combined with a radar nose and the stretched fuselage of the earlier 1049, the Super-G pack­age was by far the quintessential Constellation in terms of both style and practical design.

The G model’s gross weight climbed to 137,500 pounds, which included 609 gallons of fuel housed in each of the wing tanks. Range, even at this weight, was a few hundred miles more than the DC-7B, giving the Connie a small leg up on its Douglas competition. The amount of fuel carried in the G airplane was an amazing two-thirds again as much as the original Model 49 from just 10 years prior. This is the type of refinement of

Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

Not to be confused with today’s Southwest Airlines, Southwest Airways was later renamed Pacific Air Lines and served local towns on the West Coast until it merged into Air West in 1968. It began operations in 1946. One of Southwest’s original DC-3s is seen taxiing at Santa Maria, California. (William T. Larkins)

Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

Two local-service carriers are represented in this picture taken at Kansas City in June 1962. Frontier would later acquire Central in a merger. Both airplanes are converted C-47 transports with original cargo door installations. (Bob Woodling)

Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

Toward the end of its working life, an American Airlines DC-7B arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, shortly before sunset on December 29, 1960. Boeing 707s and 720s were already quickly replacing Douglas propliners across America’s system. (Jon Proctor)




3u Appmiatum


Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

Certificate provided to Eastern passen­gers during the DC-7B’s first year of service stated, "In appreciation and recognition of your flight on Eastern Air Lines’ new DC-7B luxury airliner, the ‘Golden Falcon.’" (Mike Machat Collection)


Lockheed 1049 Super G ConstellationLockheed 1049 Super G ConstellationLockheed 1049 Super G ConstellationLockheed 1049 Super G ConstellationLockheed 1049 Super G ConstellationLockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

design and growth-of-concept that we have referred to, and the manufacturers had really hit their strides with both the 1049G and DC-7B.

A total of 102 1049Gs were produced, with more than half being delivered to overseas carriers such as

Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

This July 1956 photo shows the passenger’s-eye view while boarding a brand-new Eastern Air Lines DC-7B Golden Falcon preparing to depart from Miami International Airport for New York’s Idlewild Airport.

(Sykes Machat photo)

KLM and Air France. In January 1955, Northwest Orient Airlines began transpacific service using G mod­els to fly to Tokyo from Seattle via Honolulu and later, to Anchorage over the great circle route. On the other side of the globe, Lufthansa was having marvelous suc­cess with “The Senator Service” with its twice-weekly flights to the United States. Lufthansa configured its Super-Gs in a deluxe 32-seat cabin layout and this ser­vice was later extended to the airline’s South American routes. For air passengers, this was undoubtedly the best time in the world to be flying aboard a new airliner from Douglas or Lockheed.

The Learning Curve

With every major step forward in aviation comes a learning curve in the form of incidents and accidents from which new aircraft design features and operational proce­dures emerge to prevent recurrences. It is an unfortunate but inevitable step in the advancement of progress during which valuable machinery and precious lives are lost, but life-saving improvements in safety and performance are the valuable results of this process. Perhaps only in retro­spect can we understand just how safe and reliable today’s modern airliners have become. Unlike in the early 1960s, it is now a rarity to have a news bulletin suddenly inter­rupt a radio or TV program blaring out that there was another major airliner crash with the loss of all onboard.

Подпись:Complete with all the associated pomp and circumstance, Pan American’s first Boeing 707 service from New York to Paris prepares to receive its passen­gers at Idlewild on a rainy autumn night, October 26, 1958. Although a BOAC Comet 4 snuck under the wire two weeks earlier to beat the 707 to the punch inaugurating the world’s first transatlantic jet service, Pan Am

The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve

Saturday, October 4, 1958, saw the world’s first two jet airliners together for the very first time at New York International Airport. On the observation deck of the International Arrivals Building a crowd of nearly a thousand spectators greeted the BOAC Comet that had just flown the world’s first commercial revenue passenger service across the Atlantic in a jet transport. Not to be outdone, Pan Am’s Juan Trippe ordered one of his new 707s, in New York that day on a route-proving flight, to be parked at the adjoining gate when the Comet arrived from London. The 707 simply dwarfed the smaller British jet, its fuselage polished to a mirror finish. Excitement filled the air along with the new scent of kerosene, and the piercing jet-engine noise was simply deafening. No one in attendance really cared, however, for this was the moment that signaled the official start of the Jet Age. (Sykes Machat photos)

As the first new jets entered service in 1958 and 1959, they were flown by seasoned airline veterans con­sidered by their companies to be the “best of the best” in terms of piloting skill and ability to command a $5 million aircraft with up to 150 souls on board. New onboard systems, powerplant management, flight char­acteristics, and operating procedures had to be learned, and emergency procedures were practiced incessantly, committed to memory, and then mastered in the air. With this new breed of airliners, jet-age training and methodology was required to bring its veteran prop-era pilots up to speed. Classroom training could only go so far, however, and because full-motion simulators had not yet come into the ground training fleet, real aircraft were taken off the line and used for flight crew assimi­lation and pilot checkouts.

February 3, 1959, was a particularly black day in aviation history. On that cold winter evening, American Airlines’ first Lockheed Electra —an airplane in service for only 10 days —crashed into the upper East River while on approach to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. In Clear Lake, Iowa, that night, a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza crashed on takeoff killing rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly and fellow rockers Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper.” Midway over the North Atlantic on a routine passenger flight from Paris to New York that same evening, a Pan American Boeing 707-120 experienced autopilot failure while flying at cruise altitude, causing commercial avi­ation’s first recorded “jet upset” where the airplane unexpectedly departed straight-and-level flight and plunged 29,000 feet toward the ocean.

Miraculously, the crew of the Boeing 707-120 was able to wrestle the controls and pull out of the nearly inverted dive a scant 6,000 feet above the waves, thank­fully saving all onboard including famed American dance legend, Gene Kelly. In testimony to the big Boeing’s rugged construction, the airplane held together through the ordeal, but suffered minor structural damage as a result of heavy g-loads induced during the recovery. And speaking of recovery, only three weeks later, another Pan Am 707 shed an entire engine and pylon during a minimum-control airspeed demonstration while on a training flight from Le Bourget Field in Paris. The crew managed to regain control and land at London’s Heathrow Airport where Pan Am had better maintenance facilities than at Paris.

The learning curve also applied to the news media and how they dealt with Jet Age emergencies. In July that same year, another Pan American 707 lost two wheels from its left main landing gear while taking off from New York and, after burning off enough fuel, returned to Idlewild Airport to make a successful emergency landing on a foamed runway. Unbeknown to airport authorities, however, news of the impend­ing emergency was being broadcast “live” via local TV and radio stations. By the time the crippled jet landed, a crowd of more than 50,000 curious onlook­ers had invaded the airport grounds in order to see the expected crash. They stood literally by the side of the runway, much to the chagrin of rescue crews trying to reach the jetliner!

In August, the first fatal training accident of the Jet Age occurred when an American Airlines 707-120 rolled inverted at low altitude and crashed into a field after executing a two-engine-out missed approach to Calverton Airport on eastern Long Island. The practice crew of three pilots and two flight engineers were killed. Similar training accidents claimed a Braniff 707 later that same year, a Delta Convair 880 in 1960, a TWA 880 and another American 707 in 1961, and a Western Airlines Boeing 720B in 1963. These tragic losses made a compelling case for the development of more-sophisticated cockpit simulators to replace inflight training whenever possible.

By the end of 1962, operational turbine-powered airliners that crashed while in passenger service included a United DC-8 in Brooklyn (midair collision), an Eastern Electra in Boston (bird ingestion on takeoff), a Braniff Electra in flight over Texas (wing separation), an Aeronaves de Mexico DC-8 in New York (runway overrun), a Northwest Electra in flight over Indiana (wing separation), a United DC-8 in Denver (emergency landing), an American 707 at New York (rudder mal­function on takeoff), a Sabena 707 on landing at Brussels, Belgium, an Alitalia DC-8 landing in Bombay, India, a Varig 707 landing in Lima, Peru, and two Air France 707s —one on approach to Paris and the other landing in bad weather at Guadeloupe, West Indies.

When examined in historical perspective, these 18 accidents exacted an exceedingly high toll in terms of human life and machinery lost. However, because they occurred at the beginning of the learning curve, signifi­cant knowledge was amassed and equally significant improvements were made in aircraft design, operating procedures, and even air-traffic control. For instance, leading-edge slats and other high-lift devices were added to the Boeing 707, allowing lower landing speeds and better maneuverability. Ventral fins were also added to the 707 to allow greater inherent stability at low speeds and high angles of attack during landing. To reduce the risk of midair collisions, aircraft speeds were reduced to a 250-mph maximum below 10,000 feet.

As other lessons were learned from subsequent accidents and incidents over the years, continual improvements in airframe and powerplant design, onboard systems technology, and operational proce­dures were made that eventually led to the impressive safety record we enjoy for all types of commercial air­liners today.

Подпись: American Airlines' Chairman C. R. Smith made the cover of TIME magazine in recognition of his efforts to launch transcontinental jet airliner service, thus cutting travel time in half. This is symbolically represented in this masterful portrait by artist Boris Artzybasheff with the depiction of a watch literally being sliced in half by the jet exhaust at upper left. (Craig Kodera Collection)

Подпись: New DC-8s line the West Ramp at Douglas Aircraft Company's Long Beach plant in this photo taken on December 30, 1959. Aircraft being delivered to Delta, United, and Pan American are prepared for their shakedown flights before entering passenger service, and the tail of DC-8 prototype Ship One can be spotted third from the end. The DC-8 production line remained active until May 1972 when the 556th transport was delivered to long-time Douglas customer SAS. (Mike Machat Collection)



Flagship Knoxville, an American Airlines Douglas DC-3 in 1939. (Craig Kodera/The Greenwich Workshop)



fter World War II ended, the world entered an era of recovery and rebuilding. Commercial air trans­portation began to expand using fleets of surplus military transports and leftover prewar passenger aircraft. Despite
there being a number of false hopes with giant new air­liner concepts that never came to fruition, the promise of bigger and better airliners was looming on the distant horizon. Maybe someday, there would even be jets.

Evolution of Post-World War II Airliners—

USAAF Surplus

The end of World War II saw a massive transfer of aircraft to the airline industry, mostly Douglas C-47s reconfigured to passenger layouts. In addition to civil DC-3s returning from military service, more than 9,000 C-47s were available to choose from, at prices less than $10,000 each.

In addition, 1,100 Douglas DC-4s, built as C-54s for the Army and R5Ds for the Navy, became available and were purchased by airlines in large numbers. American Airlines acquired 50 C-54s at the standard government price of $90,000 each, and spent an addi­tional $175,000 per airplane to install passenger interi­ors. Pan Am, which had ordered DC-4s in 1940, went on to fly 90 of the type, while other carriers purchased smaller numbers.

Powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines, the DC-4 rumbled along at a maximum speed of 227 mph and possessed near-transatlantic range, but was chiefly used on shorter domestic routes, carrying 44 passengers in a standard configuration, plus two pilots and one or two flight attendants. In addition to American, surplus DC-4s were acquired early on by Delta, Eastern, Northwest, Pan Am, TWA, and United.

Подпись: A crowd gathers around this TWA-painted Constellation after its record-breaking, 6-hour 58-minute flight from Burbank to National Airport in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 1944, with Howard Hughes and Jack Frye at the controls. Although it was scheduled for handover to the War Department, Hughes was allowed the airplane for the cross-country flight and, without permission, had his airline's colors applied to complete the publicity coup. The loading steps, made of wood, were specially constructed and painted for the event. This would be the only Constellation to wear Transcontinental Line markings, and it never flew in revenue service with TWA. (TWA/Jon Proctor Collection)

Подпись: In 1948, LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, drew thousands of weekend onlookers with its panoramic observation deck. (Peter Black Collection)

As the war ended, Douglas built a small batch of civil DC-4s before concentrating on production of its new DC-6, which airlines would begin receiving in

Подпись: April 16, 1944, Las Vegas, Nevada. TWA Treasurer John Lockhart, acting on behalf of the U.S. Army Air Force, accepts the flight manual and paperwork as the first Lockheed Constellation is turned over to the airline. A variation of the Constellation logo, with added stars, is visible on the Connie, along with a tailskid that was only fitted on the first few airplanes. Wearing military registration 310310, the airplane was immediately flown back to Burbank and prepared for its record-breaking flight to Washington, D.C., the following day. Note boarding ladder. (Craig Kodera Collection) Подпись: A Pan American World Airways Stratocruiser; its landing gear already retracting into the wells, departs from Los Angeles on June 23, 1950, bound for Honolulu. At the west end of Runways 25-Left and -Right, traffic on bordering Sepulveda Boulevard was stopped for long-range takeoffs in the days before a tunnel was built under the runways to allow extension of the strips. The Stratocruiser remains to this day the most successful adaptation of a military transport (the C-97) into a luxury airliner. (Los Angeles World Airports)

1947. Western Air Lines was a factory-delivery DC-4 customer. At Burbank, California, Lockheed began producing civil variants of its Constellation after divert­ing the type to the military during the war. C-69 Constellations were handed over to TWA and Pan Am, both hungry to replenish their small fleets and add capacity as postwar prosperity began rapid growth in air travel.

On U. S. domestic routes, TWA gained a significant advantage over its domestic rivals, as even the ex-military Connies were on a par with the DC-6s yet to arrive. Fifteen of these larger, more-modern airliners required less modification work than the C-54s and had the advantage of pressurized cabins that allowed them to cruise at higher altitudes to avoid bad weather. Eighteen-cylinder, Wright Cyclone R-3350 radial engines permitted cruising altitudes of 21,000 feet. Accommodations for up to 57 passengers were provided on daylight flights, with sleeping berths added for longer night and transatlantic flights.

The type was used to inaugurate TWA’s transat­lantic service in February 1946 and quickly spread to domestic routes as well, supplementing five four-engine Boeing 307 Stratoliners that were returned to TWA from military duty in 1944. The C-69s were followed by civil-built Model 049 Connies. TWA also acquired 15 C-54s for transatlantic use through purchase and lease contracts.



Puddle Jumper, an American Airlines Convair 240 in 1954. (Craig Kodera)



he piston-engine airliner evolves and matures to new and impressive levels, bringing greater speed, longer range, and increased passenger capacity as well as true transcontinental travel. Aircraft performance
increases, and so does the level of operational safety and reliability. International air travel also comes of age as airline routes expand and more passengers take to the skies than ever before.

SE 210 Caravelle I, I A, and III

There can only be one “first” of anything, and for rear-engined jet airliners, the Sud-Est SE 210 Caravelle proudly holds that honor. French aircraft manufactur­ers were identified by region, Nord (North), Sud – Ouest (Southwest), or Sud-Est (Southeast). Named for the small, swift, twin-masted sixteenth-century sailing ships that also became the aircraft’s official logo, the Caravelle turned heads at the Paris Airshow when revealed to the public for the first time in 1957. However, the airplane’s genesis dates back to the late-1940s when

SE 210 Caravelle I, I A, and III

SE 210 Caravelle I, I A, and III

Although an early Constellation operator, Eastern Air Lines turned to Douglas for a 50-strong fleet of DC-7Bs, which wore several variations of the company’s colors. Two stewardesses are seen departing at the end of their duty day in December 1963 at New York’s Idlewild Airport. Also known as New York International, the airport was officially renamed for slain President John F. Kennedy on Christmas Eve day that year. (Harry Sievers)

SE 210 Caravelle I, I A, and III

The Connie’s classic lines are handsomely accentuated by wingtip fuel tanks in this overhead view taken at Kansas City. It was TWA’s first airliner to feature two classes of service, with separate entry doors for each cabin section.

(TWA/Jon Proctor Collection)

the French aircraft industry led the country back from the ruins of World War II by formulating a plan for the design and development of a new commercial airliner to be exported worldwide.

This airplane was to be a medium-size, medium – range jet transport intended to fill the apparent gap in new commercial aircraft sized just below larger, longer- range four-engine jetliner designs then on the drawing boards in England, Canada, and the United States. Initially called the X-200 and masterminded by Sud’s brilliant Chief Engineer Pierre Satre, numerous configu­rations were proposed with the tenth design, or X-210, emerging as the most likely candidate for development. This was a three-engine aircraft called the Tri-Atar, which bore a striking resemblance to another airplane that would later be known as the Boeing 727. By 1951, capitalizing on improvements in jet powerplant tech­nology, a twin-engine version of the X-210 came into focus, and the Caravelle was born.

Sporting twin Rolls-Royce Avon turbojets housed in slim nacelles mounted on the aircraft’s aft fuselage, this new jetliner looked sleek, efficient, and practical, yet stylishly modern at the same time. With the engines at the rear, the Caravelle’s slightly swept wings were left strictly to provide lift at maximum efficiency, giving the aircraft an impressive glide ratio of 19:1—the same as high-performance gliders of the time. The airplane’s landing gear was also suitably short, giving it a low
stance, and allowing full maintenance and ramp service with only a few work stands required.

Passengers enjoyed another major benefit of the rear-mounted engines: The painful roar of exhaust noise was far behind the cabin. From a safety standpoint, fuel lines and associated heat sources were located behind the cabin as well. From an aerodynamic point of view, engine thrust vectors were located much closer to the fuselage centerline than with wing-mounted engines, ensuring safer single-engine operations (should those occasions ever arise). Finally, an integral boarding stair was fitted to the lower fuselage aft of the rear pressure bulkhead, alleviating the need for cumbersome external boarding stairs at smaller airports.

To facilitate the airplane’s development, the French physically grafted the sleek bullet-shaped nose of an exist­ing jet airliner onto the forward barrel section of the Caravelle’s fuselage. That other jetliner just happened to be Britain’s de Havilland DH-106 Comet, recently grounded from a series of tragic inflight accidents (see Chapter Two). Sud purchased two complete nose sections from de Havilland and had them shipped from Hatfield, England, to Sud’s final assembly facility at Toulouse. With the exception of engine pylons and tail surfaces built by Fiat in Genoa, Italy, the rest of the Caravelle’s airframe was manufactured exclusively in France.

The first Caravelle prototype rolled out of Sud’s final assembly building on April 21, 1955, and flew

SE 210 Caravelle I, I A, and III

successfully for the first time one month later. In November of that year, the country’s national airline, Air France, placed an order for 12 Caravelles with 12 options, and the race was on. Certification flight testing was completed in March 1956, and route-proving and system-integration test flights soon began in earnest. One such flight offered a rather graphic demonstration of the aircraft’s impressive single-engine performance when the second prototype flew between Paris and Casablanca on only one engine!

After the two prototypes, the Caravelle I became the first operational aircraft sporting a З-foot fuselage stretch and a new avionics “hump” on the upper aft fuselage. Rolls-Royce Avon 522A engines provided 10,500 pounds of thrust each, and passenger capacity was established at 85 in an all-economy configuration. A slightly upgraded Caravelle 1A model was devel­oped, after which the Caravelle III became the standard, with all earlier airplanes upgraded as Ills. With a wingspan of 112 feet 6 inches and a fuselage length of 105 feet, the new jetliner was perfect for serving smaller outlying country airfields and big city airports alike.

Scandinavian Airlines System became the first airline in the Western world to inaugurate twin-engine pure-jet airliner service when it put the Caravelle III into opera­tion flying from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Beirut, Lebanon, in April 1959. Air France began its Caravelle
service on the Paris-Rome-Athens-Istanbul route the following month. Swissair and Air Algerie soon fol­lowed, flying the sleek twinjets on short – and medium- range routes throughout Europe and North Africa.

Other Caravelle III operators included Finnair, Alitalia, and Sabena in Europe, and Varig of Brazil in the Western hemisphere. A total of 111 Caravelle I, I A, and III models were built, while the total number of all Caravelles, including larger turbofan-powered versions, numbered 282 aircraft. This was the largest single pro­duction run of any European-built airliner at the time.

Overall Impact of Jet Airliners on World Travel and Commerce

Turbine-powered airliners made a huge impact on world economics almost from the day they entered rev­enue service. Now imagine doubling capacity while simultaneously halving travel times and lowering costs. Such were the rewards when modern jets and turbo­props began replacing piston-powered aircraft, some of which had been flying since the end of World War II.

Across the Atlantic, a mind-numbing 10 to 12 hours of reciprocal engine noise and vibration were replaced by less than 7 hours aboard an airplane that burned cheaper kerosene and actually allowed conver­sations inside the cabin without raising one’s voice. Flights were smooth enough for delighted passengers to marvel as they built playing card “houses” or balanced quarters on drop-down tray tables.

The timing could not have been better, with grow­ing economic prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic ready to welcome increased capacity and at lower fares. Even during the first nine months of 1959, with limited jet service, traffic was up 13 percent, while capacity rose only 5 percent. Aboard the jets, Economy class quickly replaced Tourist class, while 20 percent of customers were still flying in First class. Pan Am’s jets achieved an 86-percent load factor, which was unheard of until that time. Within a year, passenger loads on its jets jumped from 55 percent of available capacity to 80 percent.

The advent of jet travel also ended the domination of steamship travel between the United States and Europe. While some of the great ocean liners soldiered

Подпись: The Convair 880's sleek lines and elegant proportions are apparent in this predelivery photograph. TWA operated a total of 28, including one briefly leased from Northeast Airlines, making it the largest Convair jetliner operator. (Convair/Jon Proctor Collection) Подпись:

on for several years, their blue-ribbon speed records were eclipsed by the formidable combination of jet comfort and lower ticket prices. With the available speed of the jet airliner, passengers began traveling to and from Europe for long weekends, something they would have never considered after making a five-day crossing of the North Atlantic by ship, or even a 12-hour airplane ride aboard a Constellation or DC-7.

Even more amazing is what the new jets, and even turboprops, did for business travel. Prior to jet service, trips across the country and back, at minimum, required three days. Now a round trip could be com­pleted in less than two days, with the “road warrior” arriving at business meetings fresh and alert, then returning home much the same way. Airfreight was delivered expeditiously as well, diverting perishables such as fruits and vegetables to spacious jet cargo holds.

Along with passengers, aircrews completed their work more quickly, enabling much improved utilization of pilots and flight attendants. Aircraft builders employed more workers to keep up with heavy produc­
tion as airline managers all but begged for faster delivery of new airplanes. Even engine manufacturers shared in the bountiful revenues, along with the various parts manufacturers and other airline-related businesses.

State of the Industry: Rebuilding Fleets, Markets and the Boeing 377

Although surplus military transports served to boost postwar capacity, airline managers envisioned even greater growth and ordered newer, modern aircraft to meet demand and improve performance. While new DC-6s began entering the market, Lockheed upgraded its Constellation, boosting weight and range in the form of the 749 and 749A variants. These types found work in transatlantic service and to Hawaii from the West Coast.

Meanwhile, the Boeing Company utilized its mili­tary B-29 design to bring about a civil version, the Model 377 Stratocruiser, combining the bomber’s wings and an enlarged fuselage that featured sleeping berths, dressing rooms, and a lower-deck passenger compart­ment used as a lounge. Power came from four 3,500-hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Double Wasp turbocharged engines, by far the largest and most complicated civilian reciprocal powerplants of the time. These engines gave the 377 a service ceiling of 35,000 feet and a range of more than 4,000 miles. At 25,000 feet it could cruise at between 300 and 340 mph.

The “Strat” was first utilized on Hawaiian routes by Northwest, Pan American, and United; Pan Am also introduced the type on transatlantic flights. Within the continental United States, the larger-capacity airliners were pressed into service on medium – and long-haul routes. Curiously, all three types had transcontinental nonstop capability but, as we will learn, coast-to-coast nonstops were still several years away.

State of the Industry in 1954

By 1954, air travel had permeated the awareness of the general public. No longer only for the rich, travel­ing aboard a modern airliner was now a concept embraced by more and more of the U. S. and interna­tional populace. America’s favorite pilot, Arthur Godfrey, loved to talk about the safety and reliability of modern airliners on his TV shows, and it seemed as if every ad for a new car featured a giant silver Constellation flying gracefully overhead. When com­pared to today’s statistics, however, the percentage of people in the United States who had actually experi­enced flying aboard a commercial airliner in 1954 seems staggeringly low—only three percent, with the notice­able majority of these travelers being businessmen.

Be that as it may, people could now board a DC-7 or Super Constellation and travel across the United States in pressurized comfort at speeds of 300 mph and altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet. For regional or local service, the new and improved Convair 340 would probably be the aircraft of choice. Airlines even struc­tured their routing to combine the best of both worlds; you could fly coast-to-coast in the DC-7 and then con­nect to your final destination in the Convair. Businessmen flying on regional airlines could now leave
on their sales calls or attend that big meeting across the state in the morning, and be home easily in time for din­ner that evening.

Vacation travel abroad, although becoming more prevalent by air, was still considered something done more suitably by steamship than by airplane. This was understandable considering the number of elegant new ships taking to the oceans in 1954. The magnificent S. S. United States was breaking transatlantic speed records nearly every time she sailed, while the smaller S. S. Independence and Constitution were equally majestic. Cunard’s glorious Art Deco twins, the HMS Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth handily proved the adage “Getting there is half the fun!” The brand-new (and ill- fated) Italian Andrea Doria and her sister ship Cristoforo Colombo looked like floating art museums on the inside. Passengers didn’t mind spending the bet­ter part of a week getting to Europe from the East Coast (or to Ffawaii and Asia from the West Coast) by ship because of the sumptuous level of service.

Подпись: Supplemental carrier Transocean Air Lines flew DC-4s to the four corners of the world, both in cargo and passenger configurations, from its Oakland, California, base. TALOA was an acronym for Transocean Air Lines followed by the two-letter Oakland airport code. This operation was the spawning ground for the Ernie Gann story that led to the epic Warner Brothers motion picture, The High and the Mighty. (William T. Larkins)
When the modern propeller-driven airliner is entered into the equation of vacation travel in 1954, we see the factors of pure speed versus luxurious service being prevalent. European cities were 10 or 12 hours away from New York by airplane rather than five or six days by ship; getting there quickly was the clear priority.

Still, this time period represented the heyday of modern ocean liners, and nothing from commercial aviation could stop it. What would be required to greatly impact oceanic travel was a radical new powerplant that could propel commercial airliners to almost the speed of sound, much like Great Britain had attempted with its pioneering Comet, but with much greater range and larger passenger capacity. Although military aircraft were reaping the benefits of this new powerplant, the reality of 600-mph airliners was still many years away.

The radical new powerplant necessary to take com­mercial aviation to the next level and eradicate the com­petition for long-range travel from ocean liners was called, quite simply, the modern turbojet engine.