Thursday, October 2, 2014

Connie 48610 - The First Air Force One!

Constellation 48610 - Columbine II, 1953
video courtesy The First Air Force One

This just in from a close friend who thought the blog would enjoy watching. Thank you Kirk!

This long lost Connie is the very first Air Force One that served General Dwight Eisenhower. It now resides north of Tucson Arizona being attended to by a small crew of restoration enthusiasts who are trying to save her from eternal dilapidation. 

If Jack Frye were around when this gem of a plane was removed from service, I am sure he would have rounded up his buddies and some investors to keep this plane in top running order for posterity. One can only imagine...

Enjoy the video,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Constellation Anniversary Flight

Hi Jack Frye and TWA fans and followers.

We had reported the re-enactment Flight of the Connie sponsored by the National Airline History Museum (NAHM) on this post as being scheduled to occur April 17, 2014. This was to be the 70th anniversary flight from Burbank California to Washington DC commemorating the maiden commercial flight in 1947 piloted by Jack Frye and Howard Hughes.

I am sad to report the flight has been postponed due to reasons unknown at this time. For up to date info you may follow this link. Lets hope this historic flight does indeed take place...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Frye & Western Air embrace Lucky '13'

A young 30 year old Jack Frye on May 13, 1934 paints no.13 on the tail fin of NC584K
defying superstition for the new mail line. Read the related numerology below.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Frye Ranch Video

This video encapsulates our trip to the Frye Ranch in Wheeler Texas this summer. We hope it gives you a sense of where Jack Frye grew up until he left for California in 1922. Its a beautiful sprawling place that most people would enjoy raising a family and tending cattle and livestock which the Frye's experienced on this ranch. Keep in mind, the video only shows 100 acres or so of the original 15,000 acres. Currently there are numerous natural gas and oil wells on the ranch properties. In fact all of Wheeler County is peppered with hundreds of wells as you can see in the still photo below.

Its no wonder that Jack Frye was such a likable and congenial human being. His upbringing on this ranch equipped him with core work ethic and people values to handle the huge tasks and pioneering efforts he made in the airline industry. This thanks to his parents and grandparents who instilled in young Jack the recognition of his potential to succeed. His roots here at home prepared him well for the big world beyond small town Wheeler Texas.
We hope to return and visit with family members that reside on the ranch in the near future. I can't repeat this enough, that, we are very grateful for the Puryear family to allow us to visit and enjoy our day on the ranch. It was a trip and day of discovery and experience I will always cherish.   Enjoy

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jack Frye in the movie, The Aviator

The movie The Aviator directed by Martin Scorsese won an Academy Award for best Screenplay by John Logan. It was and is a fantastic splash of fast airplane action and beautiful cinematography surrounding the life of billionaire Howard Hughes. One of the key characters whom we are most interested in is Jack Frye and his portrayal in the film.
If you have seen the film and would be interested in my review of Frye's character, I have posted a page containing my thoughts in a total of 9 scenes in the movie. If you have not viewed the movie I would like to encourage you to do so. Its very entertaining and worth your time. You can access my review via the link below.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jack Frye Safari #2 - Wheeler Texas

Wheeler Texas, 8/25/13
The Frye Ranch in Wheeler Texas is where Jack Frye began his trek towards becoming one of America’s greatest aviators and Airline executives. Who would have known that as a kid raising cattle and tending to the family needs on the ranch, he would lead one of the world’s greatest airline companies!

Excited to finally be able to visit Jack’s childhood home, we began the trip from southern California driving 16 hours to Wheeler Texas. When we arrived we decided to pass through and pay our respects at Jack Frye’s grave site. This was quite an experience to actually visit and remember the famous Jack Frye who is mostly unknown to the American public. We also paid respects to his brother Donald Frye and parents William and Nellie Frye. The Wheeler cemetery is of the old fashioned and simple grounds without much beauty and ambiance and wasn't manicured very well today. And in retrospect, it’s kind of sad to me that this great man that impacted American society so much is left in a lonely, dusty and less than spectacular grave site. But then again, Jack would probably not have wanted any special attention made upon him, the kind and unassuming man that he was. We were blessed to have been able to finally pay our respects this day.

NOTE: To view photos full size, right click on them and open in a new window.

Wheeler Texas

Wheeler Texas Cemetery

After an hour of paying our respects, we drove on over to Sweetwater Oklahoma, 21 miles to the east on highway 152. If you remember Jack was born in Sweetwater in 1904 while his parents William and Nellie were on the way to Wheeler to settle on the Frye Ranch. I was hoping to find somebody that might remember the story of Jack Frye in hopes they would be able to point us to any dwelling where he was actually born. Well, the main intersection of Sweetwater was found to be nothing but a gas station, a convenience store and a couple outcrop buildings. The intersection was bustling with traffic consisting of construction equipment such as gas rigs, earth moving tractors and all kinds of farming equipment overcoming the small 4 corner intersection of Hwy 152 & 30. We even witnessed an accident where a stake bed truck hauling a large backhoe and trailer hit a new Ford F250 as it tried to miss the stake bed turning into the gas station parking lot. The result was the large load hit his brakes very hard, clipped the rear of the F250 and broke the steering arms in the process! Anyway, there will need to be more research done to try and pinpoint where Jack was born.

Sweetwater Texas
So we drove back to Wheeler and stopped by the City building to see if they knew where exactly the Frye Ranch was located. I knew it was somewhere northeast of Wheeler, but the exact spot could have been anywhere on the hundreds of thousands of acres surrounding us. And I also knew the Puryear family was residing on the property, so, I spoke with a nice lady at the city by the name of Claudine and she knew right away that Tom Puryear would be able to help. I gave her a Jack Frye Blog card, explained who I was in relation to the Frye family and she gave the residence a call. After they hung up Claudine said Tom would be calling me.

Downtown Wheeler Texas

Wheeler County Courthouse

Sure enough, about an hour later Tom called me and we had a nice conversation about the family and he gave me exact directions to the Frye Ranch location. Much to my surprise, Tom’s home was no more than 300 yards away from the Frye dwellings! Unfortunately we were unable to personally meet Tom as he had a doctor’s appointment in Abilene, but as we drove into the Puryear Ranch where the Frye dwellings are located, his wife Karen was on the way out and met us on their driveway. What a wonderful and sweet lady Mrs. Puryear is, and so accommodating. We chatted a few minutes about Jack and Emily and their daughter Nevajac, and she was very interested to hear more. She said, Jack was the hero of the family and once I mentioned Nevajac, she suddenly remembered the unique name. Mrs. Puryear said we could drive down to the Frye dwellings, walk around and check out the whole area as we pleased. By now I’m completely thrilled and gave her a big hug.

After we parted company with Mrs. Puryear, I began to experience a sense of connection in a way that reminded me of my upbringing in Apple Valley, CA. Our family also lived out of town with no neighbors or stores and commerce accommodations. We knew what it meant to be without and to conserve of our resources on our 10 acre homestead. As we rounded the Puryear home the first thought I had was young Jack meeting those 3 stranded pilots in the field of which I believe I was viewing right in front of us! This accounting has been shared by Jack’s sister Sunny as being 3 Army Curtiss JN-4 “Jennies”, a plane Jack would become very familiar with a few years later at Burdett Field, Los Angeles.
Looking from the front door, the Frye field
where Jack helped the stranded pilots.
Then as the scene opened before our eyes, there it is, The Frye Ranch dwellings. Just a beautiful and lush area that has the old red brick home and the white two story home in all they’re splendor. And a new home on site now occupied by the son of the Puryears.
The Frye Ranch at last!

As you can see the 2 story home roofing is deteriorating badly though, the brick walls and foundation are solid and intact. The Puryears keep the grounds cut but the rear of the dwellings are overgrown with thick foliage.

We also learned the old Spring house has finally succumbed to a rising water level and is now completely underwater. The pond is now a lake full of catfish. If you look closely at the photo below, you will see a slightly lighter colored area under the water. That’s the Springhouse!

The old Red Brick House with new tin roof. This dwelling was built in 1884 by Jacks grandparents, Henry and Lula Frye. According to Tom Puryear, the home hasn’t been opened in over 30 years, and he has plans to do some restoration work inside.

Entry into the White home showing the Puryear home in the background
One of two underground cool storage lockers behind the house
View of the rugged brick wall texture on the two story home.
Rear view of the red brick house and two story home

Shot of the dwellings from the lake edge. Beautiful clouds!
A great panoramic shot of the Frye Ranch
We had an unbelievable time visiting the Frye Ranch. I have read many accounting's of this place and to be able to set my own eyes and breath and smell the air that Jack did was a wonderful experience. If I could dream a little bit, I can envision a Jack Frye Memorial being erected here with of all things a shiny DC-3 aircraft in the field commemorating Jacks impact on airline and cargo transportation that changed the world. Yes, Jack Frye truly and still is the hero of the family… and TWA.

This ends the Jack Frye Safari to Wheeler Texas. I hope you have enjoyed our trip and the photos of the old Frye Ranch. I will be producing a video of our trip soon. This was a very enriching, long traveled and fulfilling journey I will always treasure. I want to thank the Puryear Family for their graciousness in allowing us to experience the property as intimately as we did. They are wonderful people that have a long history with the Frye Ranch dating back to the very beginning.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jack Frye Video Presentation

Its fitting at this time after covering a lot of Jack Frye's professional life to post this video I produced in his honor. I hope you enjoy the presentation and share it with your friends and family. Especially the immediate and extended Frye family members.
One family member quoted to me recently that,"Jack was the hero of the family." Not to detract from other family members of the Frye clan and their accomplishments, I also feel good about reiterating this simple truth. He really was and still is an American hero, not of the combative duties of his fellow countrymen of his time, but to all of the American public who experienced his amazing airline accomplishments making America a better place than before.
Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Men and the History


Right click on images to view Full size

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jack Frye Plays Howard Hughes Hand...

Since December 1934, our young, energetic, fiercely competitive 30 year old President of TWA stood at the crossroads of aviation history. He had helped steer the DC aircraft revolution, was the first to offer passengers a new way of life in travel, and he made air transportation respectable, safe, comfortable and on time. Jack Frye pioneering through the 30’s saw the beginning of major technological advances in aircraft and many logistical ground support operations. The discovery of calm flight above the clouds and the discovery of 150 mph winds up there we now call the jet stream were Frye firsts. The first pressurized cabin airliner, the 307 Stratoliner. The advancement of radio communications from ground to air crew that enabled great scheduling efficiency. And the introduction to the new Sperry Auto Pilot system. These are just a few innovations that occurred during the Frye legacy. Then onto the 40’s, Jack Frye helped conceive the new Constellation aircraft that opened up International travel. His service as president in working with the US Government during WWII was superior and generously rewarded by President Harry Truman with the Medal of Merit, America’s highest civilian decoration. The huge expansion of travel routes and eventually the establishment of shorter global air routes, Jack Frye was on the cutting edge of airline development.

Standing at the gate of a new frontier in air travel, Jack Frye owned it, loved every minute of it, consumed it 24 hours a day with extraordinary skill and style for 13 courageous pioneering years as TWA’s chief. His modus operandi was always forward thinking and committing to growing TWA and airline travel as a whole, and this cost money. We must remember the airline industry was seeing new advancements and new ideas on a daily basis during the 30’s through the 40’s. This fact couldn’t be helped being an immerging industry since the dawn of powered flight at Kitty Hawk. But to Jack Frye’s demise as TWA’s chief executive, there was and is always the case in any large corporation, bean counting lawyers that were constantly at his coattails. One Noah Dietrich, Howard Hughes chief council just couldn’t stomach Jack Frye spending his client’s money on airplanes and staff. He couldn’t and wouldn’t see the silver lining beyond the clouds with his business management style. Dietrich was about protectionism, Frye was about growth and expansion and so was Hughes. But, as has been recorded, Dietrich got into Howards ear and for the most part convinced his master that Frye needed to go.

Through the pilots strike in 1946 amidst plunging revenue during the recession, Howard Hughes was still loyal to Jack Frye and he still favored Jack’s business style and bravado though guardedly. According to George Spater, “Hughes wanted to retain Frye on the condition that Dietrich have a greater say in the running of the airline” (Serling 1983). This alleged notion was flatly denied by Frye. It has been recorded that Jack Frye during this tumultuous time of friction between him and Howard, he installed long telephone extension cords in his Washington residence that would enable him to have hours long conversations with Hughes while walking from room to room or preparing a meal or a drink without interruption. Some of the private conversations of Jack and Howard was known to have been recorded by Frye, but to this day no one knows what happened to the tapes. My suspicion is Jack either destroyed them or packed them away in a box of many that ended up in a storage facility, somewhere.

Before Hughes could fire him, Jack Frye played his hand and resigned from TWA, February 17, 1947. He had no ill will toward Hughes, and likewise of Howard. In fact Howard really wanted him to stay on condition he take some of Dietrichs financial advice. Hughes was obviously tentative but Jack being the visionary pioneer type refused. And for good reason. Obviously by Jack Frye’s incredible track record of achievements up to 1947, his career was dedicated and purposeful and made fantastic headway in the globalization of air travel. Did Howard forget that? Was he such a whiner and a small man not to see what Jack Frye had achieved for his investment? Sure the company was in the red but was about to rocket into the black if Jack Frye stayed on board and on course. It was Noah Dietrich that saddled Hughes into succumbing. One of the last persons Jack Frye saw before officially leaving TWA was Hal Blackburn. With unbelief he asked Jack, “Are you really leaving us?” Frye sadly replied, “Blackie, I don’t know.” “Under the circumstances, unless things change, I can’t stay.”

The following are some employee memories of Jack Frye from Serling's 1983 book – Howard Hughes Airline.

Buy it here

George Spater – “I don’t know if he’s ever gotten the credit he deserved. He was a great believer in high standards of service. He’d go over the TWA advertising copy word by word to make sure it was in good taste and honest. He insisted that the airplanes be clean. He was a great originator and innovator.”

John Collins – “It was Jack Frye who thought up the idea of putting a red carpet down between the boarding gate and the airplane. I laughed at this and talked Jack out of it by claiming the carpet would blow away the first time there was a high wind. But later United adopted the idea and so did TWA.”

Carter Burgess – “God he was a bright guy. He was a great writer, a remarkable master of the English language. Some of his memorandums were masterpieces. I remember one he wrote to John Collins about the size of the cinnamon buns on morning flights. ‘They look like cow pies’, Frye complained. He could be ruthless yet he was a very decent guy, and he could fly an airplane about as well as any pilot who ever lived.”

Bob Rummel – “Easygoing in appearance but very tough and determined underneath.”

Jean Phillips – Frye was reputed to have Indian blood and Jean believed it. She told Jack, “When you come down the corridor I know it’s you before you step foot in my office.” But I never hear Frye coming. I think it’s because he walks on the balls of his feet like an Indian.

Image courtesy Eric Johnson collection

Jack Frye left a huge part of himself with TWA,
                                                 the airline he loved so much...
All that I have read, and the former TWA employees that I have spoken too unanimously concur that Jack Frye was a beloved president. To this day for those who remember him and his story, every single memory and perception of the man who trail blazed TWA into the history books express - Jack Frye was the aviators aviator, the employees favorite boss, and the passengers fondest memory of a man who delivered them the best travel service with style and a pleasure knowing they were in safe and comfortable hands. It was Jack Frye that originally conceived and delivered the idea of safety, on time schedules and comfort for his guest travelers. And it is recorded that many employees in management and in the rank and file truly wanted Frye to return as their chief through his remaining 12 years of life. He constantly put himself in the travelers position to find out what pleased them as America's most personable airline executive... What a Legacy! May he continue to be remembered and honored as such.
We have covered most all of Jack Frye's incredible career pioneering the airline industry, but there is much more to tell of this great American. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jack Frye receives Presidential Metal of Merit

I believe Jack Frye being the Texas gentleman and genuine man of service to his employees and customers was never out to be in the limelight, but rather to just do the job the very best he could. We have seen this characteristic of him throughout this blog space time and time again. Especially during the war when duty called for the country to pitch in to defeat the enemy. WWII was a cleansing period of history for which we all today are deeply indebted to the hundreds of thousands of GI's sacrificial service and the thousands of industries who supported them in so many ways. Aviation was key to the defeat of Hitler and the Japanese forever sealing victory for freedom and mankind during this critical period of our history. And being the gentleman he was, Jack Frye freely extended congratulatory credit to all of his employees for their excellent service.

Image courtesy Nevajac Frye collection

Jack Frye and his company Trans World Airlines was one of the very first key companies led by a man who deeply loved his country. And he was certainly deserving of the award we are sharing with you on this post - the Presidential Metal of Merit. America's top civilian decoration for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the United States. There are only 65 recipients of this honor while it was in appointment!

If you have followed along these many months on the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog, you will have realized this honor was perfectly suited for the man who had a dream way back in 1923. There was never one more deserving of this honor that finally put Jack Frye in the limelight he so richly deserved. If you are just joining the blog. I hope you start at the beginning post and read and learn of this pioneering aviation hero of all time. You will be richly rewarded for doing so... Enjoy