Last week we discussed some of the key events over the course of American Airlines’ history. This week I want to take a close look at some of the key events in the early years of American’s existence. From 1939 to 1945, the aviation industry underwent rapid expansion domestically and internationally. American Airlines played a very important role during this period and during World War II the airline was responsible for serving the military and U.S. government by providing supply flights to various destinations in Alaska, Morocco, Australia, Iceland and India. Half of American Airlines’ fleet was turned over to the Air Transport Command division during World War II. These planes were flown all over the world and the remaining fleet carried passengers traveling around the United States.
During this time, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) issued new contracts for some of American’s major routes and American was then faced with competition from TWA and United.
American Airlines began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on June 10, 1939 and three years later, entered the airline catering business with Sky Chefs. It wasn’t until 1944 that the airline would schedule its first domestic U.S. freight service and this business expanded rapidly with the addition of the Douglas DC-4, DC-6A and DC-7 freight planes to the fleet.
After the end of World War II, competition for coast-to-coast flights between the major airlines was fierce and American, TWA and United Airlines fought hard for exclusive rights to fly along the major coast-to-coast routes. American Airlines was already flying the Douglas DC-4 across the country for 13 to 14-hour trips, and later flew the New York to Chicago route which took about 11 hours.
American Airlines continued to compete with fervor, introducing new and improved aircraft from Lockheed and Douglas.
It’s important to note how World War II helped to revive the aviation industry. Many airlines in Allied countries were free of any lease contracts to the military so they were able to carry cargo and passengers to serve as civil air transport planes. Aircraft built during this period, including the Douglas DC-6 and the Lockheed Constellation, which were designed on planes like the B-29 and others. These were very efficient, high-speed planes and offered many benefits to passengers and freight companies.
From 1930 to 1945, the aviation industry became the largest single industry in the world, and became first among all industries in the United States. Less than 6,000 planes were produced per year before 1939. By 1940, production had doubled and again in 1941 and 1942. In May 1940, President Roosevelt ordered that the U.S. aircraft industry should produce 50,000 planes per year, which equated to about 4,000 planes per month.
By 1945, more than 300,000 military aircraft had been produced for the U.S. military and the Allies.
Next week we continue our series on American Airlines but I will be presenting the next part of their story in advertisements of the time. I hope you will enjoy this look back in time and as always take a few minutes each day to reflect back on your roots as an aviator and help me identify what we as “Gatekeepers of the Third Dimension” need to do to protect our profession.
October 22, 2010