Saturday, April 27, 2013

Worlds First Airline onto Frye's Aero Corp.

Before we move into the Boeing L049 Constellation and Jack Frye's important role in its development, I wanted to set a brief background of history leading up to his beginnings in the airline industry..
When thinking about passenger air travel you would assume the first passengers boarded and flew on an airplane over land to their destination. Well, believe it or not, this isnt the case. The first daring passengers actually flew aboard an Airboat! And this is the very airboat that was commissioned for the first paid passenger flight in the world.
Follow this link
Thomas Benoist model XIV, 1914

In 1913, just eleven years after the Wright Brothers flew under power making worldwide history, Tony Jannus came to St. Petersberg Florida with his brother Roger, and his mechanic, to pilot Thomas Benoist's "Flying Boat" No. 43 into aviation history. On January 1, 1914, Percival Fansler's "St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line" became the world's first scheduled passenger airline service to use heavier than air aircraft, carrying passengers between the yacht basin in St. Pete and the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. The line lasted 3 months carrying just one passenger at a time that sat next to the pilot! What is the old addage? - "One baby step at a time." St. Petersburg Mayor A. C. Phiel paid $400 for the honor of being the first passenger on the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The flight occured January 1, 1914 and took 23 minutes, 11 hours shorther than traveling by rail. In total, the line carried 1,204 passengers.
Follow this link
Worlds first paid passenger flight over Tampa Bay.

Since 1911, the US Post Office had been flying various yet dangerous air mail deliveries exploring the new mode of mail delivery. May 15, 1918 was the first scheduled air mail flight from Philadelphia to Washington piloted by Lt. James Edgarton.

New in 1916, the Curtiss JN-4D Jenny was widely used for Barnstorming demonstrations and carrying mail. And as we know the Jenny was Jack Frye's and Paul Richter's plane of choice of their company Aero Corporation of California at Burdett Field training new pilots, carrying mail and barnstorming themselves in the 20's.
Black Cats aerial team flying Jenny's

Jack Frye's Curtis JN-4D Jenny ferrying mail to Catalina Island.

Next in the history line of airline advancement was the US Governments role in establishing scheduled air mail flights across the country. Starting May 15, 1918, the Army Air Service commissioned two Jenny's to fly from Washington DC and Long Island New York respectively. The idea was to establish a Washington-Philadelphia-New York route. They were to meet in Philadelphia, trade mail bundles and continue onto each respective destination. Well, it didnt go so well. One of them got lost while following railroad lines and roads with no maps and a compass that had failed, and had to land. Upon landing the Jenny was damaged. The connecting flight made it to his destination but without the mail he was supposed to receive from the damaged plane.

Continuing on, the Army Air Corps withdrew from air mail service flights and the US Post Office decided to enlist their own pilots and aircraft. After many trials and fatal incidents, 1920 began with the First Transcontinental air mail service flights with a Capt. Benjamin Lipsner helping to establish the new service. This historic first began in September 1919 which reached Omaha, Nebraska. By 1920 the new service had reached San Francisco. The outcome was a dramatic reduction in mail deivery times from 3 days by rail to around 29 hours by air! A huge milestone in airline aviation.

The next hurdle of overnight air mail service was very dangerous and difficult to overcome. Can you imagine flying without navigation tools or a way to follow the stars in weather, and at night? The pilots had to be tough, talented and daring far beyond ever imagined. Consequently more fatalities occurred. Soon bonfires and lighted beacon's were lit along routs and landing strips. Also the planes began to be equipped with flares, crude landing lights and lighted instruments. The pilots also utilized fhe following of landmarks, waterways, familiar towns and anything that was easy to recognize from the air.

To see how pilots found their way, follow this link

I would like to notice another airline that flew flying boats with passengers aboard with great frequency and success in the 1920's. This company was called Aeromarine Airways. One of our contributors to the Jack Frye blog is Mr. Daniel Kusrow who makes it possible for us to display his early airline images. These are some fantastic shots of early transcontinental flying at its best just prior to Jack Frye (age 16) coming to California to persue his dream.

Visit Daniel Kusrow and Bjorn Larsson's excellent website here

(Following images courtesy by permission, Daniel Kusrow)
A view of the Aeromarine Airport on the beach at Atlantic City, N.J., in the summer of 1920 or 1921. A Model 50 has been driven up on the beach for easy loading. The big sign says:
"Aero-Marine 20 Passenger Flying Boat
Standard Flights $12.00
New York flights $75.00
Information Tickets Here"

The Ambassador in New York harbour, passing the Lapland (18,565 grt, 620 ft. long) of the Red Star Line. In the early 1920s this liner, built in 1909, plied the Atlantic Ocean between New York and Antwerp.
(Photo from the "Aviation and Aircraft Journal" of November 28, 1921)

Photo dating to the days of Aeromarine West Indies Airways, taken from the looks of it in Florida, possibly at Key West. The aircraft is an unidentified Model 75. The man smiling on the dock is Edwin Musick, later legendary Chief Pilot of Pan American, but then an Aeromarine pilot. The tall person standing in the background in white is Aeromarine's Chief Test Pilot, Cyrus J. Zimmermann
(brother of Chief Engineer Paul G. Zimmermann).


Photo taken from a passing ferry between Key West and Havana, March 1922.

 Photo of the Aeromarine arrival in Havana Bay, where the harbour is situated.
The ramparts of the Fortaleza de la CabaƱa can be seen to the left.

A flown cover from the first U.S. mail and passenger flight of Aeromarine West Indies Airways on November 1, 1920, from Key West to Havana.

Airlines began taking over the Air Mail for the US Post Office in 1925. By 1927 the airline system was providing a reliable schedule of air mail service. It continued to lead and shape the industry by regulating the airways and guiding its growth promoting safety and technology. The Air Mail Act of 1925 allowed the Post Office to pay private airlines to deliver the mail. Payments were based on the weight of the mail carried. The Post Office later added a subsidy to help offset airline operating losses, until more efficient aircraft could be developed.

Jack Frye is now 21 years old upstarting his aviation career by beginning his own transcontinental airline company, The Aero Corporation of California. The rest is history!

Aero Corp in 1927. Jack Frye second from left.

We have come full circle from the very first powered flight and the first airline in the world up to Jack Frye's point of entering the airline business. Go to the first post on the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog to read Jacks beginning's in global aviation... Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jack Frye Safari #1 - Tucson Arizona

The First in a series of Traveling Safari's in search of Jack Frye history.

Follow us as we travel to destinations of Jack Frye's past. On this trip we visit the Lodge On The Desert where Jack Frye rented a bungalow while in Tucson on business in 1958-59. We also retrace his final day with us at the hospital that tried to save him, and paying our respects leaving a memorial at the fateful accident site.

Click here to read the article and see the photos.

Bronze statue 'Jack Knife' by Ed Mell, his first large scale work
in front of The Lodge On The Desert

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jack Frye - Arizona's #1 Pilot, Literally!

As a side story, another noteable first for Jack Frye being awarded the very First Pilots License in the state of Arizona. Here is the article describing the event during the covering of Jack coming to Phoenix piloting his executive DC aircraft to establish a new Phoenix-San Francisco air line route, another noteable first for TWA. I believe this "fly-In" occured in September of 1938 which as stated in this article, 11 years prior or 1927 was when the license was actually awarded. Jack was also awarded a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity in order to establish and provide Air Transportation service through Arizona.

I am in contact with the appropriate Arizona officials to obtain copies of these historic documents and will share them with you on the Jack Frye blog, hopefully in the near future.


Below is the moment aviator Jack Frye arrived at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix for what newspaper writers called a Homecoming of Arizona's No.1 Pilot.

Airline baggage image courtesy Danial Kusrow

Friday, April 19, 2013

307 Stratoliners Come Home

Image courtesy WHMCKC

The U. S. Army returned its five C-75s to TWA in 1944, who then sent them back to Boeing for extensive overhaul and rebuilding. Boeing replaced the wings and horizontal tail with those from the improved B-17G bomber model, while more powerful engines were fitted and the electrical system was replaced with one based on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Passenger capacity was increased from 33 to 38. The rebuild cost to TWA was $2 million for the five aircraft, which then re-entered passenger service on April 1, 1945. Although TWA was now committed to the larger and faster Lockheed Constellation, the Stratoliners remained in use for regional passenger service until being withdrawn and sold in April, 1951.
TWA then sold its Stratoliner fleet to the French airline Aigle Azur, who used them for scheduled flights from France to North and Central Africa, and later to French Indo-China. These 307s were later transferred to Aigle Azur's Vietnamese subsidiary and were used by a number of airlines in South East Asia, with at least one aircraft remaining in commercial use until 1974. Pan-Am disposed of its unmodified Stratoliners earlier than TWA, with them being sold to a number of small operators. One aircraft was purchased by the Haitian Air Force, being fitted out as a Presidential transport for Papa Doc Duvalier. This aircraft was later returned to the United States and was purchased by the Smithsonian Museum. (source wikipedia)

And this brings to closure the Stratoliner story with Jack Frye and TWA. The blog will now venture into the ultimate four engined propeller driven airliner in history - The Lockheed Constellation popularly known as the 'CONNIE'.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WWII breaks out - Boeing 307 Becomes C-75

December 7, 1941 as we know was the horrible day America was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter congress and FDR declared war which became WWII. The US Government ordered TWA to deliver the 5 Stratoliners to the Civil Aeronautics Board.

The first delivery to a customer was to multi-millionaire Howard Hughes, who purchased one 307 for a round-the-world flight, hoping to break his own record of 91 hours 14 minutes set between July 10–14, 1938 in a Lockheed 14. Hughes' Boeing Stratoliner was fitted with extra fuel tanks and was ready to set out on the first leg of the round-the-world attempt when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, causing the attempt to be abandoned. This 307 later had the extra fuel tanks removed, was fitted with much more powerful Wright R-2600 engines, and was transformed into a luxurious "flying penthouse" for Hughes, although it was little used, eventually being sold to oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy in 1949.

Deliveries to Pan-Am started in March 1940, with TWA receiving its first 307 in April. TWA's Stratoliners flew three-stop flights between Los Angeles and New York while Pan-Am's flew from Miami to Latin America. Ten 307s were built, three being delivered to Pan-Am (named Clipper Flying Cloud, Clipper Comet, and Clipper Rainbow) and five to TWA (named Comanche, Cherokee, Zuni, Navajo, and Apache) with the one aircraft going to Howard Hughes. As previously noted, the first 307 crashed during a flight test demonstration to Dutch airline KLM.

On the entry of the United States into World War II. following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Pan-Am continued operating its Stratoliners on routes to Central and South America, but under direction of the Army Air Force, while TWA's 307s were sold to the U. S. government, being designated Boeing C-75 and operated by the United States Army Air Forces (although normally still flown by TWA crews). (source wikipedia)

TWA President Jack Frye in the middle of negotiations with the US Government was glad to lead the way and commission his fleet of 307's for duty. This must have been quite a managerial leap of patriotism for both him and the shareholders of the company to see their brand new fleet go to war!

Caption above reads:

Members of the Civil Aeronautics Board were present at the Inaugural take-off of the first Stratoliner with crew recently turned over to the Army to serve in a foreign courier service. Pictured above (L to R) are standing: N.S. Talbott, TWA Director: Oswald Ryan, C.A.B.: Peter Redpath, navigator: Donald Terry, first officer: President Jack Frye: Otis Bryan, captain: Milo Campbell, first officer: W.L. Noftsinger, second officer: George Baker, C.A.B.: kneeling, Harllee Branch, C.A.B.: Wesley Pogue, chairman, C.A.B.: W.R. Shook, radio operator, C.A.B.: Robert Proctor, flight engineer: Guy Arnold, navigator: Edward P. Warner, C.A.B.

Images courtesy WHMCKC

Frye Inspects New Stratoliners

I am pleased to present a brand new photo donated to the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog by Mr. Jon Proctor, retired TWA employee. The photo is of superior quality and shows some interesting styling selections in the seat upholstery with stars embedded. Since this is the very first airliner with a pressurized cabin enabeling it to fly passengers safely and comfortably in the sub-stratosphere (closer to the stars), could it be the designers and Jack wished to help passengers grasp this subliminal "closer to the stars" idea? Who's to say. Also note it appears the gentleman are sitting in what might be the first class section. From what Jon mentions in his comments, one can surmise Jack was out on the west coast on business to inspect the brand new planes prior to their delivery to Kansas City.

(right click image to view full size in a new window)

Here are Jon's comments:

"I have attached a picture of Jack, sitting in a Stratoliner, that came to me from Ed Betts (mentioned on your site); he and I were great friends and corresponded frequently before his passing. I believe he got it from Boeing, which leads me to believe it was taken at Seattle before the first Stratoliner was delivered. Unfortunately there was no caption with the picture and I don't have a name for the other person. More than likely it was an Boeing official. I've put out some feelers and if I find the name I'll let you know. Jon Proctor".

Be sure to visit Jon Proctors website at He has a very interesting and informative career history with TWA, Pan Am, and is an accomplished historian/journalist having written several airline books.

Thank you Jon!

The Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog always welcomes donated photographs and stories about our favorite airline president. As is always the case, we award full credits and attach links to your donated materials.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Road Trip series of Jack Frye's past in Arizona

Its finally coming to fruition... We are embarking on a series of trips to the Southwest in order to retrace the very grounds in which our favorite TWA President had such a large influence on airline industry. There will also be some interesting accounts of his personal life. This weekend marks the first trip in which my wife and I will be doing research on the ground and in various halls of records seeking facts, producing video and photographs related to Jack Frye.

Photo courtesy Nevajac Frye collection
We are very excited to be able to share with you the reading audience our impressions and accountings on this great mans professional impact on the Southwest airline scene. To be able to walk in his steps five decades later, and have the opportunity to share our experiences with his daughter and grandchildren is a complete honor.

Some of the subjects we hope to bring to you:

  • Pioneering airport locations of commerce
  • Key commerce business meeting rooms
  • Private Jack Frye dwellings
  • Jack Frye ranch properties
  • Video accounting and memorial of Jack Frye's last day of his life
  • St. Mary's Hospital

Stay tuned as this series unfolds on the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog.


Monday, April 8, 2013

TWA Red Stripes & Jack Frye

An interesting bit of trivia is, where did the idea of the TWA red stripes come from. I have read that, Jack Frye was walking down a street in New York City and saw a painting of a TWA airplane in a store window. The artist had added double stripes on the vertical fin. Frye liked the idea, bought and brought the painting back to TWA's headquarters at 10 Richards Road in Kansas City. He gave the painting to John Roche, who was assigned to the project. Roche transferred the stripes to TWA drawings, and then to the airplanes.

After the end of World War II, the double stripes were carried over the full length of the aircraft fuselage. Below are examples of prewar tail stripes only, and postwar applications. Both photos are from old TWA archive files.

Prewar striping

Postwar striping

Many thanks to Jon Proctor, retired TWA employee/historian, for this accounting of the origin of TWA's iconic Red Stripes. Visit his website here.

Edit: It is published by other sources the actual paint color specification was resolved to be Sherwin Williams Vermillion Lacquer 32092. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

TWA Notable Firsts


Click this quik-link to view all of the 'airline firsts' developed
with Jack Frye at the helm of TWA... As more are posted,
they too will be connected to this link 

Enjoy... Eric

Inaugrural STRATOLINER Commercial Flight

The 'dress rehersal' flights through the worlds newest travel-zone, the 'sub-stratosphere' 4 to 5 miles above the earth was held the week of June 23-29. as a final preliminary to the regular operation of the fleet of Boeing Stratoliners.
The new 307 STRATOLINER went into Coast To Coast service, July 8, 1940. On hand for the inaugrural flight from Burbank Terminal is movie stars Brenda Joyce and Tyrone Power who were on board for the historic flight to LaGuardia Field, New York. The 307 was piloted by captains W.G. Golain and Jack Zimmerman for the 12 hour and 13 minute flight.
Jack Frye's company officially breaks the elevation barrier for all the world to see setting the standard for future airline travel. What a hallmark of his and his development teams career.
First passengers on the historic flight.
Images courtesy WHMCKC
For a more complete history of the Boeing 307 Stratoliner aircraft, click here

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Frye Announces TWA Plans, June 1940

New TWA TRANSCONTINENTAL Routes for the Stratoliner. The next historic milestone in air travel for Jack Frye and company. These were exciting times to be able to serve passengers nationwide with the new Stratoliners and their comfortable pressurized cabins. When we compare a route map of the 21st century and its hundreds of lines amassed like a city of spider webs, versus the simple map below from 1940, this truly depicts the sensational advancement and coverage airline companies have weaved into the fabric of our nation, and the globe!

We take it for granted that airline travel in the pioneering years up to 1940 as shown here, was not a normal everyday occurance folks could experience going about their daily business. We tend to forget, this period was still a luxury to be able to fly from state to state, and coast to coast for the average citizen. It was still out of reach for the masses for reasons of affordability and the fact that there just wasn't enough seat space to go around. Oh yes, Jack Frye must have had many nights of sleeplesness wrestling with how-to accomodate more and more passengers and to grow his company safely, on time and at a profit. This announcement might well have been one of those nights he was able to wrestle and tame knowing his companies new plans were pointing toward success.

Right click on image to view full size in a new window

Images courtesy WHMCKC