The Legacy Carriers - Part Three - August 21, 2009

The Legacy Carriers – Part Two – August 14, 2009
August 14, 2009
The Legacy Carriers – Part Four – August 28, 2009
August 28, 2009
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The Legacy Carriers – Part Three – August 21, 2009

This week we continue the series on legacy carriers and we take a look at two more of the giants in the industry that are gone but not forgotten. As always I would like all aviators to connect with their roots and one of the ways they can do that is by using the “Third Dimension Blog” as a resource.

Quote of the Week

Whether outwardly or inwardly, whether in space or time, the farther we penetrate the unknown, the vaster and more marvelous it becomes.”—Charles A. LindberghAutobiography of Values

The Failure of TWA and Pan AM

TWA and Pan AM were part of the big four that made aviation what it is today and the demise of TWA is the saddest of all the fallen carriers. TWA was not always TWA but started life as Transcontinental Air Transport, The Lindbergh Line incorporated in 1928, and merged with Western Air Express in 1930. The merger was forced by Postmaster General William Brown and the airline was then known as Trans Western Airlines. In the mid-forties the name was changed to Trans World Airlines.

TWA will always be known as the Howard Hughes airline, and Carl Icahn will always be known as the man who destroyed that airline. TWA seemed to always play catch up instead of leading. Howard Hughes was responsible for the Constellation taking TWA ahead of the pack, but then he refused to move away from the Constellation into the jet age and left the airline floundering. TWA had an east to west route system but never developed its north to south route until after deregulation which put them at a real disadvantage when we talk about competing in an unregulated environment. The story has many ups and downs but TWA 800 was the final blow and things never rebounded.

Pan Am is another sad tale. Pan Am was the pioneer of international aviation, and during the regulatory era, it had been awarded worldwide routes but no domestic routes.

Shortly after deregulation, Pan Am proceeded to rectify the situation by purchasing National Airlines. National seemed to be a good fit with its Miami location and offered a route network that naturally drew planes into the Pan Am hub at Kennedy Airport. Pan Am failed at that merger, not because it lacked foresight or resources, but because it poorly executed the merger. Pan Am’s expertise was in delivering international operations where customers readily tolerated delays of an hour or more. It was unable to deliver a competitive degree of on-time performance when compared with domestic services of other U.S. carriers. It was unable to integrate its systems and its work forces effectively, and unable to modernize its fleet. In the last decade of its operations, Pan Am lost more than $12 billion. It survived by selling off its assets. The Pan Am Building in New York, the Intercontinental Hotel Chain, land in Tokyo, and its routes to Japan and London were all sold for top dollar. Once those were gone, the airline itself disappeared. Gone, but not forgotten.

I know this was brief but I have a reason. Former employees of each of these airlines have web sites that contain a wealth of information on who, what, when, and where. Take some time to explore the story that they tell. A good starting point for Pan Am is and for TWA I would start with

Next week we will finish our series on the “Legacy Carriers” and pay tribute to all who are gone but not forgotten. So, until then take some time to look back, connect with your past and remember as an aviator you are a “Gatekeeper of the Third Dimension.”

Protect your profession, your future and the future of your fellow aviators.


Robert Novell

August 21, 2009