Friday, May 31, 2013

Dignitaries and Officials greet The Connie

Image courtesy WHMCKC
After the historic Flight of the Connie the photo ops began. Here shown are many high powered dignitaries and associates related to the Constellations successful and record breaking flight. Can you find and name some of them?
Here are the names of Army, Navy and civilians who viewed the Constellation during her brief stay as described in the caption.
Image #1,
Chairman CAB - George Mahon - Rep. TX, C.A. Woodrum - Rep. VA, Howard Hughes, Buell Snyder - Rep. Penn & Chairman Army Appropriations Committee, Jed Johnson - Rep. Okla, Sen. Edward C. Johnson - Colo, Jesse Jones - Sec of Commerce, George Burgess - Asst. Secretary of Commerce.
Image #2,
Sen. Alben W. Barkley - KY, Harry S. Truman - MO, Arthur Vandenberg - MI, Ralph Brewster - ME, Ernest McFarland - AZ, L.L. Biffle - Sec. to the Majority - US Senate.
Image #3,
Otis Bryan - V.P. TWA, Maj. General Follett Bradley, Howard Hughes, Gen. B.M. Giles - Chief of staff AAF, Col, M.F. McKee, Lt. Col. SC. Fraser, Col. A.J. Wilson, Lt. Col. Bradbury, Lt. Col. J.R. Brewer, Maj. D.S Blossom, Col. Carter Clark, Maj. J.B. Taylor, Maj. 'BO' McClennan, Lt. Col. Robert Harper, Maj. Frank Nurley, Maj. Bryce Harlow.
Image #4,
Russell Turner - United Press, Malcolm Lamborne - Washington Star, Charles Corddry - UP, F. Lee Tallman - Exec. V.P. TWA, Rear Admiral - Emery S. Land, Jack Frye - TWA Pres, Vera Clay - Newsweek, Rear Admiral - Howard L. Vickery, Marjorie Regain - Washington Times Herald, Capt. Robert Loomis - TWA, Edward Bolton - TWA, Karl Hess - Daily News, Anne Hagner - Washington Post, Eric Bramley - American Aviation, Ben Dulany - Time Inc, Patricia O'Malley - TWA, Richard De Campo - TWA, Millicent Anderson - WAC.
Image #5,
Officials of the Civil Aeronautic Administration, C. Edward Leasure, Francis Reilly - Assistant to Chairman, CAB, Harlie Branch - CAB, Jesse Lankford - Director of Safety Bar, CAB, Charles Donaldson - Director of Airports, CAA, Harvey Law - Director Washington National Airport, F.M. Lanter - Director of Safety Regs, Oswald Ryan - CAB, Howard Hughes, Clarence Fleming - TWA V.P, Oswald Slattery - Jr. Chief of Pubs, Charles Stanton - Admin. of CAA.
Image #6,
Jack Frye - TWA Pres, Maj. Gen. Harold George, Howard Hughes, Maj. H.T. Myers - Aid to General George, Col. James H. Douglas, Col. S.S. Lewis, Col. Paul Gilland, Capt. R.M. Davis, Capt. E.F. Smith, Col. R.C. Kristoffuson, Maj. James Rutledge, Col. Grant Mason Jr, Maj. S.G. Nordlonger, Col. F.G. Atkinson, Lt. Col. Henry Taylor.
Image #7,
Howard Hughes, Henry L. Sutton - Secretary of War.
Image #8,
Jack Frye - TWA Pres, Rear Admiral Emery S. Land, Rear Admiral Howard L. Vickery.
Above is a post dated envelope mailed the day of the historic flight with the signatures of Jack Frye and Howard Hughes. Can you pick them out? Also note the inaugural Constellation flight stamp.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jack Frye on Facebook


We are pleased to announce the new and official Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer Facebook page is launched for viewers around the world who frequent that medium.
Join in and share this page with your friends as we continue promoting Jacks incredible aviation career that pioneered airline travel around the world and as TWA's first and only 'Flying President'.
As an important side note, the 70th anniversary of the Flight of the Connie will become a reality April 17, 2014 which the National Airline History Museum will be endeavoring further promoting Jack Frye's and Howard Hughes historic flight from Burbank to DC. The Washington Post has already published a press release of this historic recreation as well as other news and television outlets begin to join in.
You can view the new FB page by clicking this link.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Historic Constellation Flight, April 17, 1944

The Constellation makes History
“She Flew Like a Dream”
(Jack Frye headline quote after landing)

Around 3:00am, a tall husky man walked up among the watchers. It was Jack Frye, wearing the same tan jacket and trousers he had all week as he and Howard Hughes put the Connie through her final pre-flight trials. He shook hands, glanced at his watch and started up the ladder to the cockpit. As he reached the top, a photographer called to him and snapped a picture. With a wave, he disappeared in the inner darkness of the plane.”

In what would change Transcontinental and International air travel forever, Jack Frye and Howard Hughes devised a secret plan to shock the world by allowing a first glimpse of the new super airliner, the Constellation via a record flight across the United States. Adorned in full blown TWA colors with the words - ‘The TRANSCONTINENTAL Line’ painted and displayed above the passenger windows in bright TWA red, the secret plan was set. The first commercial flight of the Connie did indeed produce shock and awe. The Army Air Corps had already taken possession of the new fleet of aircraft on paper for the war effort and quite frankly were expecting this #2 plane to arrive at National Airport DC, in Army drab colors and markings. Much to their surprise (furious!), Connie #2 appeared gleaming in all its polished glory on the tarmac as Jack Frye taxied her to the terminal among a large crowd of dignitaries, civilians, military reps and the press. The damaged ego’s didn’t last long for soon after the landing and greetings, the Army boys were all smiles greeting and congratulating Frye and Hughes profusely.

Caption above reads:
This was a big moment in the life chart of the Constellation. Shrouded at Burbank in the darkness of the night, the photo was shot at the moment her wheels left the black runway and she rose into the air for her first trip across the continent. On she went following the Great Circle route across America. Six hours and 58 minutes later she was reflecting the bright sunshine along the Potomac. Howard Hughes and Jack Frye, co captains were the first to leave the ship at the National Airport in Washington.

Actual video of the historic flight courtesy AIRBOYD

Jack Frye lands and taxi’s Constellation #2 at Washington D.C.,
April 17, 1944, The Historic record flight of the ‘CONNIE’

The record flight was completely successful with co-captains Howard Hughes on the stick the first leg and Jack Frye the second to DC. Lifting off the runway at 3:56am Monday morning, April 17th, the record time to DCA was 6 hours 58 minutes nonstop. The flight crew was Bolton, Glover, Proctor, Chiappino and De Campo. R.C. Loomis was the radioman. Passengers were Olson, Minsor, Baron and Spruill. Lockheed observers were Stanton, Thoren and Watkins. Government personnel aboard were Lt. Col. Shoop and Mr. Solomon of the Air Transport Authority.  The flight route first passed over Kingman, AZ, then onto Taos, NM headed to Wichita, KS. Then onto St. Louis, MO, to Cincinnati, OH through to Washington DC. Average speed of the historic flight was 332 mph. Jack Frye in the anticipation of demonstration flights and for photographic publicity purposes had Ida Staggers and eight other hostesses at National Airport to greet the plane.

Hughes (L) and Frye (R) disembarking the Constellation after its historic flight.

Caption reads:
The Constellation, new queen of land planes, zoomed across the girth of the nation this month in 6 hours, 58 minutes, setting a new transport record on her maiden flight from Burbank, California to Washington D.C. Jack Frye, left, and Howard Hughes, right, co-captains of the trip are shown immediately after their arrival in Washington. Jesse Jones, center, secretary of Commerce, was the first to greet the two pilots of the record flight.

Caption reads:
Among the persons who congratulated Jack Frye upon arrival of the Constellation at the Washington National Airport were, left to right, Col. Frank H. Collins, Commanding Officer, ATC, Washington National Airport: Oswald Ryan, (Jack Frye) and Josh Lee. Ryan and Lee are members of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Letter from Frye and Hughes to TWA employees. It is this writer’s opinion Jack is the actual author of this letter. It just has that Jack Frye flavor we have read in other notes to his employees.

Some images courtesy WHMCKC

After this historic flight, the Constellation became the worlds star airliner. It was the biggest, the fastest and the most beautiful airliner ever built. It’s sleek and slippery shape ushered in a new understanding of what global air travel can become (Frye, Hughes & Johnson already knew this). The glamour of it, the speed in which one could travel from New York to Europe overnight in record time and comfort put into the minds of the public new horizons never before imagined. The plane literally threw a fast ball propelling air travel into the coming jet age we now enjoy. At this point in Jack Frye’s illustrious career the Connie had become his crowning achievement.

This magnificent feat and genius of Jack Frye and Howard Hughes remains one of those special moments in history that serves as a milestone marker in the world of aviation. From this writers opinion if it weren't for the Constellation’s conception, the vision from a single man, Jack Frye, the man who saw into the future more than any other airline executive of his time, its my opinion the airline industry would have looked different in some respects and probably less safe and secure until other men could have caught up to Frye’s unwavering dedication in this respect. By then and I wouldn’t wish it, many more airline accidents and the loss of life could have occurred. Remember, one of Jack Frye’s foundational treatises with determined focus since the 1920’s was ‘Safety’. He was the man who brought this commandment to the forefront of American airline aviation, and he forced the issue everyday he sat in the presidents seat. I can imagine him sitting with himself thousands of times in some office or cockpit seat alone thinking, “Did I do enough to ensure our passengers safety.”

I have served in the US Navy on carrier flight deck duty launching and retrieving jet aircraft, probably the most dangerous workspace in the world. And I am the safety coordinator in my business career of which I have witnessed some horrific accidents militarily and in the private sector. I know how important safety measures are to curtailing injury or worse. So in a sense I think I can relate to Jack’s genuine concern about safety. It had to be his top concern.

I hope you can appreciate by now on this blog through all of the notable firsts, articles and recollections of Jack Frye just how much he impacted the airline industry. I am in awe every week more and more as I learn about him and I find myself often attempting to get into his head to know the man more. This may be due to him being my cousins husband as there is a connection there that tends to inject a little more importance from my perspective of Jacks legacy, his career and his personal traits. Nevertheless, its easy to understand his drive and conviction to assuring everything was given great attention to detail on the Constellation project in all aspects of the design. It is true this great plane would not have happened without Jack Frye’s vision and Howard Hughes money.

Unlike Hughes, Jack Frye has not received the notoriety he deserves for his contribution to the airline industry and aviation at large, not even a tenth. This we know because he was a humble and gentile man with a big hearted personality beaming with confidence. He didn’t seek the limelight, he proved his worth and effectiveness in the cockpit and the board room. He is not a household name, he is a silent public figure that is begging to break out. His story has yet to be told to America in a big way, and for this reason he should now finally be put on the pedestal of greatness for all to see in the 21st century. This accolade he at least deserves, and the Constellation he conceived surely helps to place him in his proper historical seat.
He wasn’t superman but he came damn close!

To follow along with the 2014 Flight of the Connie re-creation, click this link.
Eric Johnson
Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog

Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Frye addresses War Effort, 1942

As the Constellation is being developed and produced, Jack Frye writes an editorial to TWA employees and board members about the job ahead during the war effort. His leadership shines here with encouragement and motivation for the company to continue doing what they do best. Along those lines he calls for the workforce to be dedicated to the war effort, willing to adjust to whatever circumstances helping the company to continue to grow with confidence given the great sacrifices at hand. It must have been really nice to hear from the boss that your job is secure during a nationally focused effort in defeating the enemy.
One of the new changes that came about through some creative ways to serving customers with so many TWA men off to the war was the training of women employees as passenger agents, the first time ever for the company.

Images courtesy WHMCKC

TWA & LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia has a long and storied history. The airport site was first occupied by the Gala Amusement Park, a popular destination owned by the Steinway family. In 1929, the park was transformed into a 105-acre private flying field and first named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport after aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss, and then re-named North Beach Airport.
In 1937, New York City took over the airport and enlarged the grounds with the purchase of adjoining land and by filling in 357 acres of waterfront along the east side. In 1939, it re-opened with a new name, New York Municipal Airport-LaGuardia Field. The airport was leased to the Port Authority in 1947.
Today, LaGuardia Airport is one of the busiest in the nation, handling more than 25 million passengers per year. Another destination Jack Frye had his visionary hand in during his tenure growing TWA.
LaGuardia today!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Maiden Flight of the Constellation

I am a radio control glider designer and flyer for some 25 years now. It has been and continues to be a great interest of mine being able to conceive, build and fly silently at some of the most beautiful sites in the country. You see, we have to launch our gliders off mountain tops or suitable slopes that face into the wind. It is called slope soaring. The glider size ranges from 1 to 4 meter wingspans and are controlled by sophisticated computer mixing radio systems that nearly duplicate what an Eagle or an Albatross performs naturally. Every flight control system on a real airliner is duplicated on these radios for sport. The only item missing is the propulsion system which is not required with a glider. Kinetic energy management is how we fly the models. It’s a very exciting sport that offers many types of competition formats or if one just enjoys leisurely slope soaring, that too fills one up with total satisfaction.
The most exciting aspect of slope soaring is the maiden flight, and more importantly, the maiden launch of a brand new glider. These models can run into thousands of dollars to make ready for the slope. Not having an engine to pull the airframe into the sky to a safe level on the first launch is quite harrowing to the inexperienced. In fact this often can be disastrous leaving one with a badly broken up glider. But as one climbs the ladder of experience, he begins to know exactly where the balance point is and how to trim the glider for a non eventful outcome meaning, a perfect maiden launch without incident. That is the goal and it takes years of trial and error. I just wanted to briefly share the excitement we have on maiden flights as I can easily imagine how the crew on the first Connie felt on her maiden flight. It must have been exhilarating and energy charged!
Finally after a three year period of near total secrecy, on January 9, 1943, the Constellation made its maiden flight. This occurred at the Lockheed Airport runway in Burbank California among a throng of company employees and spectators. This first Connie was supposed to be decked out in all of the interior luxurious appointments for passenger travel, but as we have already covered, the plane was outfitted and painted in Army camouflage colors ready for war service.
January 1943 issue of The Skyliner Magazine announcing the maiden
flight results that occurred on January 9, 1943

The prototype XC-69 before it was designated C-69.
Notice the P-38 Lightening’s in the background.
(Lockheed image)

First Constellation painted in Army drab designated C-69
ready for maiden flight.
(Lockheed image)
The first official flight test for the Constellation was re-designated C-69. It was a plane beautiful in form as well as function. The rounded and tapered shape of the fuselage resembled a wing airfoil for low drag. First flight went so well that five more flights were performed the first day. Below is the test crew that spent months at the Lockheed assembly plant getting familiar with the new super planes systems and all the required details during its production. After the maiden flight this crew spent weeks flying the plane on the West Coast.
The First Connie crew included – Captain Lawrence J. Chiappino with more than 2.25-million air miles to his credit. He was a line pilot for TWA since 1930 and graduated from the University of California in 1927. He went directly to Army flying school at Brooke and Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. He returned to California in 1928 and became a flying instructor at the Palo Alto School of Aviation and later was a pilot for Western Air Express. Captain Robert L. Loomis was the first officer, a TWA employee since 1940. Edward T. Bolton was the chief navigator who in his younger days circled the globe 8 times at sea. Once he came ashore he studied aerial navigation and eventually became assistant chief navigator in September, 1942, the same year he joined TWA. Orville R. Olson was the second officer. He joined TWA in 1937 and advanced to assistant chief clerk. He received his flight training under the CPT program and became second officer with the International Division in 1942. Chief Flight engineer Richard de Campo joined TWA in 1935 as a mechanic at Newark, NJ and also was a flight engineer on TWA’s fleet of Stratoliners. Flight engineer R.L. Proctor joined TWA in 1935 as a mechanic and also became flight engineer aboard Stratoliners during their commercial operations. Radio officer Charles L. Glover joined TWA in 1942. He had flown 250,000 miles aboard the Stratoliners during their operations for the Air Transport Command.

Above is a description of the flight from two TWA employees that were aboard from Burbank to Las Vegas. They were Kenneth R. Rearwin and Jay M. Jackson, both thrilled. Jackson states that after riding DC-3’s he felt he was in another world aboard the Connie with its smooth ride.


At the time, the new Constellation with its four 2000hp Wright engines could propel the big 80,000 pound plane over 340 mph at just 65% power at 19,000 feet, faster than any war bird of its time. And it could land on runways shorter in length down to 77 mph!
Jack Frye (left) and Paul Richter (center) are looking pretty happy about the new Constellations performance after landing in the #2 plane in Las Vegas. By the following Monday Jack will have piloted the Connie on its historic non-stop flight to National Airport in Washington DC.
Next up – The Historic first commercial Flight of the Connie

Images courtesy WHMCKC

Monday, May 20, 2013

TWA 10 Year Anniversary

October 1940 commemorated the first coast-to-coast service and Transcontinental & Western Air's 10th anniversary of their 36 hour flight under the new name - TWA. This article then describes the history of T&WA's birth and growth into the leading company in passenger travel to this point. In 1930 the company logged 4,800,000 revenue miles. By the first seven months of 1940 TWA had logged over 78,000,000 revenue miles!

Employee's with 10 years of service in 1940

Image courtesy WHMCKC

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Constellation secret no longer Secret

For months before the June 22nd meeting in which Hughes decided to buy 40 Constellations, he spoke with Jack Frye constantly about the build and design details of the aircraft. Things such as the interior d├ęcor, the seats, the cockpit layout and throttle levers all the way down to the curtain zippers being replaced with buttons!

Shown above is a Western Union telegram Hughes sent Jack regarding
his communication with Lockheed on the throttle levers.
There have been many accountings written that Howard Hughes ‘designed’ the Constellation. There is no support of this report. Hughes liked to argue the point taking credit for the basic design. When after all, it was Kelly Johnson who actually designed the airplane as I mentioned on another post. It was Jack Frye’s original concept in 1938 that Howard latched upon in 1939 for only its ‘conception’, not the design. Bob Gross did concede that HH had a lot to do with the cockpit layout, the hydraulic boost system on the flight controls and a number of interior details. Other than that the Connie was a brainstorm from all 3 genius aircraft men – Frye, Johnson and Hughes.
By 1940, Jack Frye had ordered another fifteen new DC-3’s with 24 passenger seats instead of 21. Frye was in a constant state of modernization of his flying fleet. This all the while the new Constellation’s were being manufactured in Burbank. Unfortunately in 1940, the governments new Priorities Board mandated restrictions on the delivery of commercial transports to all the airlines. By the end of 1940 only 4 of the 15 DC-3’s were released to TWA. Due to this new government direction of transport management, the secrecy around the Constellation was about to collapse!
During the secret building of the Constellation, Johnny Guy was the direct liaison to Jack Frye and Howard Hughes over all things Connie. At Paul Richter’s direction, he would interface with the key Lockheed employee’s after he promised not to quit TWA. He was then to go to Burbank and rent a house with no Lockheed employees in his vicinity so he wouldn’t be noticed at the plant. He couldn’t tell even his wife and family about the Constellation project, and he had to remove the word Lockheed from his vocabulary. He would work weekends and at night while performing DC-3 work at Douglas Aircraft some 20 miles away as his cover.
To the house Johnny Guy rented on 938 Cyprus Street, Lockheed would send him all the drawings and engineering documents addressed care of the Hughes Tool Company. He would remove any Mention of Lockheed on these documents should somebody break into his house and steal them. He also used only initials for names. ‘Dear H’ or ‘Dear F’, and signed his letters with ‘G’. He would then mail them to Hughes specified post office box for his review. The constant back and forth correspondence must have been overwhelming at times. And what did his wife think when he would come home late from a clandestine meeting with a Lockheed rep at Griffith Park or somewhere off the beaten path. Guy has been quoted as saying, “This was like working for the CIA".
Hall Hibbard broke new news to Johnny Guy that a military task force would be visiting all aircraft factories to access production capabilities! The secret was about to get out. Knowing he couldn’t keep the Constellation under cover from TWA’s competition via the military, Howard Hughes in advisement of Jack Frye made a deal with Bob Gross, president of Lockheed. He would allow Juan Trippe’s Pan-Am International airline into the Constellation project. In kind he would require Lockheed not to sell any Constellations to any east-west airline routes that competed with TWA. They agreed but the whole deal went awry when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred. Six months prior to the attack, Jack Frye literally enlisted TWA into the Army Air Corps. A brilliant move by Frye virtually solidifying a new TWA effort hired by the government training inexperienced Army Air Corp’s pilots and navigator’s to fly across the ocean. Within weeks, the new school was based in Albuquerque and named ‘Eagles Nest’ employing several TWA pilots off the line for instructors.
On December 24, 1941, Jack Frye signed one of the most important documents in airline history. DAW 535 ac-1062 which directed TWA to hire and train all personnel, procure necessary facilities, materials and supplies, and to secure necessary certificates of convenience of necessity, licenses and permits essential to providing air service on a worldwide basis for the United States Army. The contract was a direct result of meetings Frye had held as early as December 1940, when he saw both General Hap Arnold and Robert Lovett, Assistant secretary of war for air. In that first meeting, Frye had told them if war came, TWA’s Stratoliner’s would be available to the government.
     Robert Lovett                                       General Hap Arnold

On the same day the War Department contract was signed, Frye established the International Division (ICD) of TWA to operate the services required under DAW 535 ac-1062. Thus, under wartime pressures and the uncertainties of a global conflict yet to be fought and won, Jack Frye laid the foundation for his airlines future as an international carrier. Another Frye first in the long history of the airline business.

The Constellation secret was now broken. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the fuselage was completed and the wings and tail half finished. When the Air Corp ordered it for use as a military transport, it was designated C-69. Flight tests began early in 1943.

Connie gets underway in Secrecy

As early as 1938 before the Stratoliner was delivered, Jack Frye and his engineering group had conceived the idea on a new larger and faster transport plane that was longer-ranged than any other design flying or on the drawing board. He had also spoken sparsely with Howard about this new concept. With the Boeing Stratoliner being very strong, a Boeing trademark, yet too small and slow, Jack Frye knew he needed yet a larger and faster ship to propel his company into the forefront. Hughes the prime stockholder in 1939 began inputting his influence and design details into this new secret transport.

He and Jack Frye met with Lockheed’s Hall Hibbard (left), Bob Gross and Kelly Johnson at his building on 7000 Romaine, Los Angeles. The date was June 22, 1939. Kelly Johnson, the successful and talented Lockheed design engineer with the P-38 Lightning and the L-14 transport thought the Frye/Hughes specifications were too conservative and recommended the Wright 3350 engine be installed, the most powerful in the world at that time.
This according to Johnson (right) would double the payload and a passenger capacity up from 40 to 60. More meetings were held that convinced Lockheed to pressurize the cabin as well. The big question from Hughes finally came upon Bob Gross. “How much are these going to cost me?” Gross replied – “About $450,000 each.” Well TWA can’t pay for them Hughes pouted. They are darn near broke, and the bank won’t pick up the tab. Hell, I guess I’ll have to pay for them myself. Go ahead and build them Bob, send the bills to Hughes Tool Company.”
Hughes agreed to buy 40 planes and in turn Lockheed agreed to give TWA exclusive rights to the first forty planes off the assembly line. It was a $18-million dollar contract, the largest commercial aviation contract ever at that time!
Secrecy of this new project was paramount In Jack Frye’s thinking as well as Hughes in order to gain a new foothold in the commercial airline industry. TWA was about to lose all of their Stratoliner fleet (5 planes) and many of their DC aircraft to the War effort. This included almost 800 employees to support the newly designated airplanes ferrying our troops overseas. Jack was adamant United and American airlines be kept in the dark. They were ready to buy the Douglas DC-4. Jack in agreement with Hughes figured let them go ahead and buy them, then they would spring the Constellation on them and gain a couple years in equipment improvements and revenue.
According to Serling, so great was the desire for secrecy that Hughes refused to have the contract typed up by any Lockheed employee. The typist chosen was none other than Tommy Tomlinson’s wife, a court stenographer by profession. She had come to Los Angeles with Tommy and was summoned from the Biltmore to prepare the formal papers, which specified that Hughes Tool, not TWA was buying the planes.  He even went further and code named himself as “God” and Frye as “Jesus Christ.” Secret was the name of the plane designated as '0-49', later to be called the 'Constellation'.
Lockheed president, Bob Gross
As the new plane was being drawn up, only five people at Lockheed knew about the project. They were Bob Gross, Hal Hibbard, Kelly Johnson, Don Palmer and Paul Deprane. All were instructed not to divulge the secrecy of this program and to tell passer’s by who might have viewed the drawings that it was a concept plane for testing called the Excalibur.
Connie production line at Burbank plant

The photo above is a brand new Lockheed Constellation L-049 being constructed at the Burbank plant, circa 1941. I can’t help but wonder if the two men at the top of the platform are Jack Frye and Howard Hughes on one of their many secret visits to the plant. Could that be a lookout standing at the bottom?


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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Frye's TWA gets a shot in the Arm

Mr. John D. Hertz (Yellow Cab Company, Hertz-Rent a Car) was the prime shareholder of TWA in the 1930’s whom which Jack Frye and Paul Richter had to deal with in company business. This included the acquisition of new airplanes to support President Frye’s vision of a growing and successful airline. By 1939 Jack grew more and more suspicious that he was about to lose control of his airline over Hertz inexperienced ideals for how he thought things should progress. The following is quoted from Serling’s ‘TWA – Howard Hughes Airline’.

The key blowup came not because of Frye, but Richter. Early that year Frye and Richter attended a directors meeting at Hertz’s home in Chicago. By then, Paul was executive vice-president and remained one of the few supporters Frye had on the board. Another was the young lawyer, George Spater, who also was at the meeting and remembers how the volcano erupted.
On the agenda was Richter’s request to install full-feathering propellers on all TWA aircraft. When he brought up the matter, Hertz asked rather tartly, ‘Is it necessary?’
The short-tempered Richter took immediate offense and accused Hertz of impugning his technical expertise. A brief argument ensued, ending when Hertz adjourned the meeting so they could go out to the race track and see a couple of his horses run.
“It was probably a rather innocuous incident”, Spater adds. “I honestly don’t believe Hertz meant to raise a fuss. He actually knew nothing about propellers and probably was more interested in getting the meeting over quickly so they could go to the races. But it was the proverbial straw hat that broke the camel’s back. Richter and Frye were furious and Frye decided to do something about the situation”.
Next, what Jack Frye did was to shape TWA’s destiny for the next two decades. He flew to Los Angeles for a meeting with Howard Hughes.
Frye and Hughes had known each other for year’s prior though not personal friends. There is also some reports they knew each other as kids on the ranches in Texas. More on that in another post. Jack had flown a brief stint in Hughes movie Hells Angels. Partner Paul Richter had also flown in that movie on many sorties. Hughes had also purchased the DC1 from TWA in order to fly around the world but changed his mind for it being slower than the Lockheed 14 Super Electra. He eventually parked the One and Only DC-1 at Burbank airport. He sold the DC1 to the English Viscount, Forbes, who kept it for only four months until he sold it to a French aviation broker. The plane went to Spain’s government registered EC-AAE. Then it went to Iberia Airlines as ‘Negron’ and found itself in the Spanish Civil War. In 1940 the DC1 finally had its last flight as it lost power on take-off and landed wheels up in Malaga Spain never to be repaired or flown again.
Jack Frye had apparently shared his meeting with Hughes to a few trusted associates in later years. In late December 1938 or early January 1939, both Frye and Richter according to Otis Bryan, had met HH at his home. Frye it seems told Hughes that he and others just couldn’t get along with Hertz anymore. “I have an idea you might be interested in buying a airline business?”

They talked about a few different options and other airline offerings they would run for Hughes. The situation was so bad Jack Frye was willing to leave TWA in 1939! The next thing that came up in this meeting from Hughes was the question, “Does Hertz own TWA?” Jack told him he was the largest stockholder with Lehman Brothers. Then apparently with no hesitation Hughes said, “Why don’t we buy TWA, I’ve got the money”. He then instructed Frye to compile a stockholders list.
Why two different accountings of this meeting with HH exist is in question, but George Spaters version of what Jack Frye shared with him about this pivotal meeting with Howard Hughes is a little different. Spater is quoted as saying it was Jack Frye who insisted Hughes purchase TWA. It is said Hughes offered to buy a manufacturing company for Jack to run for him, maybe related to Hughes Tool? Jack must have rejected it because Spater reports the following response:
“I like the airline business” Frye retorted.
“I could by United,” Hughes offered.
“I like TWA, Frye stated.
At this point Howard Hughes must have liked Jack Frye’s determination and business savvy that he told Frye to gather the list of stockholders and send it over right away. By the end of January 1939, Howard Hughes had acquired about 12% stock in TWA, the same as Hertz and Lehman Brothers combined. Frye then approached Hertz with a proxy fight. Hertz with no love for the airline business succumbed and Howard Hughes ended up with 25% of TWA stock. This is when he told Jack to do the deal for the Boeing Stratoliner.
As Serling states, “For better or worse, and there were to be large portions of both, Howard Robard Hughes had become part of the TWA saga – bringing with him the blessing of apparently unlimited financial resources and the curse of unlimited power”.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jack Frye blog Coverage & Brazil

The Jack Frye blog is doing well covering many countries now, and I want to thank all of you who are reading along and for sharing the web address with others. We are continuing to bring you stories about our favorite airline president with historical facts and figures as well as other accountings that may not have been previously known.
Have a look at the global map below that currently represents the blog coverage. Darker color means more traffic. While reviewing the traffic sources and figures it’s interesting to note Brazil is a large factor in our viewership. Let me come back to this. Russia has much traffic but I’m not all that confident it is for being interested in Jack Frye. I’m sorry, I cannot trust the Russian arena for authentic searching to learn about Jack. Australia, New Zealand and surrounding islands have decent coverage but we would welcome some improvement. The UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Mediterranean seem to be on board with good numbers. And the US for obvious reasons. So, looking at the map we seem to be covering all four corners of the globe, and that's good news.

Jack Frye blog audience, 5/2013

Back to Brazil... My wife and I recently spent a full day at the Family Research Library in West Los Angeles obtaining family genealogy information to add to the family tree. So I decided to look into the Frye family a bit to see what I could come up with that might add to what I already know. Low and Behold I found Jack Frye’s 1947 Brazilian photo passport no. 31626 as shown below!
l almost fell of my comfortable chair and raised the eyebrows of my genealogy attendant helper when I let out a burst of laughter. After a few minutes of joyful noise of actually finding a document of Jacks in West LA, I began to put some things together. No doubt Jack flew all over the world and probably had passports for many countries of which I hope to find as well. But this passport from Brazil is quite interesting as it is dated March 19, 1947, no more than a month after he resigned from TWA and all that rigmarole with Hughes and the board.
Brazil? Why Brazil... Ah ha, this makes the connection with Jack’s later airplane designs, the Safari and his working with the Helio Corporation to bring the Courier and Stallion airplanes down to Tucson by developing new manufacturing plants for the aforementioned under ‘The Frye Corporation’ which he had already established in Fort Worth, Texas in 1954. This is well documented historically leading up to his tragic car accident. I now see that all along, Jack Frye back in the early 40’s or maybe 1938-39 was looking ahead to South America for TWA expansion utilizing new routes and wanting to develop new aircraft that would service that market in its jungle topography. Hence the Safari and Courier STOL (short take-off & landing) aircraft. Talk about a visionary. Who other than Jack Frye would have conceived this new territory? I am not aware of any other that would have had the vision for Brazil.
It’s really too bad Hughes didn’t have the guts and vision like Jack to invest and develop new world markets that would have propelled TWA as the leader then and even to today. There was nothing in aviation Jack Frye wasn’t capable of succeeding with.
If Jack had been able to live out a full life, I would venture to say he would have been the most prolific all time aviation pioneer of them all, no question about it. By 1970 he would have been only 65 years old, in the prime of his life propelling the Jet Age even further, safer and more economically than we see today. Not to mention new and innovative aircraft designs we don’t see in the air today. This is how influential and for the better Jack Frye would have contributed had he lived another 15 years.
Just thought I would share this new find about Jack Frye. The Brazilian passport that helped Jack see beyond smaller men’s dreams and horizons of aviation progress.
Now, back to the Constellation aircraft development and its launch into aviation history...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Flight of the CONNIE by the NAHM

I am pleased to announce a brand new website that fits right in with our current topic of interest - The Costellation. Mr. John Roper, National Airline History Museum VP of Operations has just forwarded to me the new site covering the restoration process of a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation aircraft registration number N6937C.

Website screenshot

This video is John Roper addressing the museum members and guests at the
2013 annual meeting covering past and present events at the museum.
You can follow along at by clicking on this link to witness the unfolding of the historic recreation of the inaugural 1944 flight Jack Frye and Howard Hughes piloted from Burbank to Washington DC in a record setting 6 hours, 58 minutes!

Be sure to register to receive updates on the 70th anniversary flight schedule of the Star of America slated for April 2014. This should be a spectacular event I cant wait for. Many thanks to the National Airline History Museum for all of the volunteers and personal donations that are making this historic event possible.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jack Frye and his 'CONNIE'

The Lockheed Constellation & Jack Frye

Walter Hamilton, Jack Frye, Paul Richter
The Lockheed Constellation was the greatest propeller-driven airliner ever conceived and flown around the globe. The plane was cutting-edge in its time during the frantic 40s & nifty 50s, ferrying over 60 passengers from LA to DC and beyond to the Orient at well over 300 mph. The plane opened the world up to new frontiers in passenger travel and changed the way we live. This was a grand time in passenger aviation that served its customers in a most luxurious and glamorous way and it was TWA that led the way. So who led TWA? Jack Frye! The 6’2” gentle, burley man had a keen sense of vision and bravado to trail blaze airline aviation by introducing new technology just as he had done the previous 25 years. Beginning with his first company, Aero Corporation of California during the 1920s, then with Standard Airlines, the two companies merged with a third, Western Air & Express and became Transcontinental & Western Air Inc. or T&WA. Headed by Jack Fry, the three companies would eventually be called Trans World Airlines (TWA).

Now for The Rest of the Story, as famous radio announcer Paul Harvey would lament before every one of his thought-provoking broadcasts. It is a little known fact or should I say, a large four engine fact, that Jack Frye was an integral part, if not the lead in the concept and thrust behind the Constellation. Yes, I said Jack Frye - not Howard Hughes who is often incorrectly attributed as being the lead conceiver of this great aircraft. It was Jack Frye at his best in thought about this new airliner that would serve the world in a whole new way. And this just as he had done with the Douglas DC-1 about ten years earlier, which by the way in its later variant, the DC-3, is still considered the greatest air cargo plane ever invented - a point which cannot be emphasized enough to Frye’s historical credit.

The Constellation was Jack’s airplane. It is well-known that Howard Hughes was an aviator who loved flying and designing. But as a new partner in the company when the Constellation hadn’t yet experienced birth pains, Hughes did not know much about transporting passengers or designing airliners. This was Jack Frye’s expertise. Jack knew years earlier before Howard that the company needed more larger airplanes which could generate more revenue miles with more routes. Jack had already secured bid proposals on the new airliner before Howard came on board as TWA’s prime shareholder. This was a global vision Jack had since conceiving the first transcontinental airline with the Fokker & Ford Tri-motor aircraft out west for his company, Standard Airlines in 1927. Yes, Jack Frye was in for the long haul with airline aviation and the new Constellation was in his sights before pencil hit paper. The globalization of air travel as a whole in 1942 was about to go big with our favorite airline president leading the way.

Some noted articles and notes of Jack Frye’s early influence on the L049 Constellation.

Here is the text of a respectful but pointed response from Jack Frye to the editor of LOOK magazine clarifying the facts of Howard Hughes role in the Constellation project.

"As a reader of LOOK, I have noted with personal interest the references made to me and TWA in your current series of articles - The Howard Hughes Story.

A number of my friends in the aviation field have called my attention to, and I have recognized as much myself, several gross errors appearing in the article which refers to Mr. Hughes's introduction to TWA and that part concerning me...

The references concerning that part Mr. Hughes performed in connection with the Boeing Stratoliner and Constellation are grossly exaggerated . . . TWA had already secured bids from one manufacturer on the airplane in question that ultimately evolved into the Constellation - before Mr. Hughes ever showed interest in TWA or became its principal stockholder.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Mr. Hughes deserves credit for having the courage to financially support the purchase of the Stratoliner and Constellation after he purchased a stock interest in TWA."

Well, this former TWA president pretty much settles any questions as to ‘who’ and how the Constellation came into being...

Flight Magazine announces the new Constellation, June 19, 1942
Though Lockheed’s Hall Hibbard and his team of engineers were given the task of designing the aircraft for manufacturing in the Burbank plant, Flight Magazine recognized Jack Frye and Howard Hughes being the ‘developers’ of the Constellation. A very important historical detail often glazed over in favor of Hughes and not Frye in many other write ups, websites and the like. We can thank Hughes for having the money to support the project and some detailed sub-assembly input but Frye had the overall vision and concept of the plane solid in his sights before Hughes joined TWA.

Announced March 1942 by the Skyliner Magazine, the new
Lockheed Constellation is ready for its maiden flight.

Caption reads:

'The Lockheed Constellation designed and built for TWA, will be test flown at the Lockheed plant in Burbank, Calif., this summer, it has been announced by Jack Frye (right inset), who with Howard Hughes (left inset) conceived the ultra-modern transport. Here are the first pictures of the airliner, built to fly from LA to NY in 8-1/2 hours at altitudes above 25,000 feet and at cruising speeds of nearly 300 miles an hour. The plane carries 57 passengers and a crew of seven. The above is a wind tunnel model'.

A point I want to reiterate that may seem petty, antagonizing or even disrespectful in some circles, is that Howard Hughes has been portrayed as the sole ‘ideas’ man behind the Constellation as some authors, TV shows and a certain movie have recorded. Frye at carried at least half the weight, if not more of TWA’s development with Lockheed on the Constellation before Howard came on board. This includes all of the behind the scenes company management on the project that is unseen in the public eye. Jack needs to be recognized for his contribution. Howard was the technical partner who later enjoyed the actual nuts and bolts of the build. As we know, Howard Hughes was a clinically-detailed, deep-thinking individual who wrapped himself up to the inth degree of cerebral gymnastics. He was perfectly suited for this share of the project, however haphazard he may have been. But he didn’t know airliners and neither did Lockheed for that matter. Jack Frye was a contributor to the entire concept of a large airliner which could provide the speed and comfort he desired for his customers. Jack knew what would sell tickets for which he and his engineering crew developed many aspects of the airplane based on comfort, safety and efficiency for the flight crew, the ground crew and the passengers. He knew what people needed and wanted and worked very hard without the need to be ‘out front’ in the limelight like the narcissistic Hughes. Jack Frye was the rock behind the project, the clear and solid thinking aviator who would define the meaning of ‘practicality’ when it came to designing the Constellation. I am sure Jack Frye had a great rapport with designer, Hall Hibbard and his team of engineers, fending off Hughes’s idiosyncrasies and indecisions which have been well-documented in all aspects of his bizarre life. To give Howard credit for the whole Constellation project is nauseating and simply not true.

Jack Frye (sitting) and the Lockheed Martin staff, 1945

On this blog space it is time for Jack Frye to be awarded full recognition and a job well done for developing one of the most advanced propeller driven airliners in history, the L049 Constellation. As stated earlier, this was Jack Frye’s airplane through and through and it’s time someone publically set the records straight.

As we unfold more Constellation stories and articles, Jack Frye is integral to all of the Constellation’s history-making travels at home and abroad during his time as President of TWA. So much so, he and his new airplane opened up the globe to travel routes never considered until he, yes Jack Frye, introduced another new first for his company and the airline aviation story that would change the world. Stay tuned.

Special Note: Hall L. Hibbard who built early fighters and commercial airplanes. Born in Fredonia, Kansas, he grew up in the Philippine Islands (where his father was a missionary) and studied at the College of Emporia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He began his career as a draftsman for the Stearman Aircraft Co. in Wichita, Kansas and three years later became a chief engineer. In 1932 he joined Lockheed, where he was quickly promoted to Vice President and Chief Engineer because of his work on the Electra, the world's first 200mph commercial plane. During World War II, Hibbard was responsible for designing and developing the Hudson bomber, P-38 Lightning fighter, P-80 Shooting Star fighter, C-69 Constellation transport and XR-60 Constitution. Later he helped develop several military versions of the Constellation. He rose to Senior Vice-President and director of Lockheed and was a trustee of the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

Eric Johnson,
Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog