United Airlines - History of a Great Airline - Part One - July 26, 2013

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United Airlines – History of a Great Airline – Part One – July 26, 2013

“Robert Novell’s Third Dimension Blog”

Hello and welcome back to the “Third Dimension Blog.” This week we are going to revisit the series on United Airlines and I have a number of ads, from years past, for your viewing pleasure; in addition, this article was written in 2010 and I did not update the specifics of the current era.

I hope the week was not too taxing on your spirit and the weekend will afford you some time away from aviation – we all need this. If you have to work, then be sure you enjoy some free time during the week to enjoy life.

Now, let’s talk about United Airlines. Enjoy………………………………..

United Airlines Before

the Deregulation Act of 1938

United Airlines officially began airline operations in 1926 as a mail carrier. It was also the first fare-paying airline to fly customers from coast to coast in the United States, and by 1930, had introduced the concept of an airline stewardess. The airline soon became one of the “Big Four” contenders in the U.S. and continues to be one of America’s major airlines. It was founded in Boise, Idaho.

United Airlines was originally formed as a partnership between Boeing Airplane Company and Pratt & Whitney. It was overseen by the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation and United Air Lines was actually an operating division that was established on July 1, 1931. United’s slogan was the “World’s Largest Air Transport System”. The four transport divisions of the United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation had now become United Airlines.

When the Air Mail Act of 1934 broke up all of the aviation holding companies in the United States, the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation was broken up into Boeing, United Aircraft and United Air Lines. It was at this time that United Airlines began offering coast-to-coast service from New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Within four months of the beginning coast-to-coast operations, United Air Lines was making as many as 11 round trips every day between Chicago and New York.

United’s new president, William A. Patterson, was hired to start fresh with more airmail contracts. As it expanded its early route system, it also turned four of its major cities into hubs – Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington. These four cities are still the airline’s principal hubs today.

On October 11, 1933, a United Boeing 247 exploded in mid-air and crashed somewhere near Chesterton, Indiana. All seven people onboard were killed during the explosion and investigators reported that it was caused by a nitroglycerin bomb that detonated in the baggage hold. This event officially became known as the United Airlines Chesterton Crash and is the first proven case of air sabotage in commercial aviation history. The transcontinental flight was carrying three crew members and just four passengers with a final destination in Oakland, California. It departed from Newark, New Jersey on October 10, 1933 and was heading to Chicago when it exploded. No one was ever charged or identified in the incident, and it remains an unsolved mystery.

The Deregulation Act of 1938 was initiated by Congress to protect the public interest and ensure that airlines could compete fairly for various routes. New airlines had to obtain a certificate through the Civil Aeronautics Board before they were permitted to offer flights between certain cities. United Airlines was already relatively well-established by this time, and continued to expand and grow at a steady rate unaffected by the legislative changes.

The preceding ads are presented for educational purposes and cannot be reproduced or used for any other purpose.

United Airlines During

World War II to January 21, 2011

By 1940, United Airlines became the first airline to provide cargo flights. It had also recently opened the first U.S. flight kitchen to provide in-flight meal service, and it soon became known as the airline that offered a new level of customer service.

United Airlines Route Map in 1940

During World War II, many United-trained ground crew members and employees were flying bomber planes and supporting various mail efforts. The war prompted many new technology developments for the aviation industry, and United was able to adopt many of these technologies shortly after the war. Most of the airlines, including United Airlines, were well-prepared for the war effort and mobilized many aircraft, supplies, and equipment relatively quickly.

The Air Transport Command (ATC) formed in 1942 to coordinate the transport of aircraft, equipment, and cargo across the United States, and to deploy cargo, aircraft and personnel around the world. Demand for consumer air travel dissipated during World War II and United, like many other airlines, was fully focused on the war effort.

Most aircraft flew more than 80 percent full during the war and the military requisitioned approximately 200 of the United States’ 360 airliners, including United’s aircraft.

World War II did revive the airline industry in many ways. Major airlines, including United, had moved away from carrying postal mail and developed new networks that would carry casual flyers, as well as military personnel and cargo. Airlines in the Allied countries were free of lease contracts to the military and saw an explosive increase in demand for civil air transport shortly after World War II was over. Many airlines invested in new aircraft including the Douglas DC-6 and the Lockheed Constellation.

The preceding ads are presented for educational purposes and cannot be reproduced or used for any other purpose.

Next week I will finish up the series on United Airlines and until then—take care, be safe/fly safe, and have a good weekend.


Robert Novell

July 26, 2013