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By Lou Washington

Lou Jesse HallThis past week the Boeing 707 reached its 60th birthday. The 707 was not the first pure jet passenger transport in the air. But, it was such a huge commercial success that it attained a kind of iconic status among the flying public.

For many of us, the 707 would be the first jet aircraft we would fly. It was a ground breaking airplane. Boeing had not spent much time building or designing passenger transport aircraft after the war. The military kept them busy developing the B-47 and B-52 long range strategic bombers. Both of these aircraft featured technology and design elements incorporated in the non-military 707.

During my young life, I had occasion to fly now and then. Prior to the 707, I had flown in DC-3s, DC-7s and perhaps a Convair of some sort, but the model number was not of any significance to me at the time.

Air travel in these larger prop powered aircraft was pleasant enough. Yes, they were loud and there was a lot more vibration then you typically feel in a modern jet. But the big deal about the 707 was the speed. The 707 cruised at a rate in the neighborhood of 600 mph. That my friend, was very fast to most of the flying public.

By comparison, a Connie or a DC-7 cruised around 350 mph. A little better than half the speed of the four engine 707.

The effect of this was to shrink the world by about half. What used to be a ten hour cross country flight meant you could now fly five hours west in the morning, conduct your business in the afternoon and 707 st louistake the red-eye back east in time for work the next day. Flying the same route in a prop job, would require a day out, a day onsite and a day back.For business and sales folks, this was huge.

I remember vividly my first flight in a jet and it was, of course a Boeing 707. I was about 13 years old and I was lucky enough to be included on a class trip to Washington DC and New York City. I was just thrilled.

Standing on the tarmac at St Louis Lambert Field, The huge TWA 707 seemed to stretch out across my entire field of view. Flying was markedly different in those days. Upon entering the airplane the flight attendant took us to our seats. Once I was buckled in, I inspected the content of the seat pocket in front of me. In addition to the magazine and emergency procedure card, each passenger was provided with a 5 pack of Winston cigarettes! Of course, I was too young to partake.

My memories of the flight are vague, but I do remember that there was a pronounced feeling of acceleration that lasted somewhat longer than the acceleration phase in a prop. The other big difference was altitude. The 707 flew miles above the Earth, while the prop transports had a considerably lower operational ceiling.

This made most of the ground features all but invisible in the jet. But the ride was was sublime! Flying in the 707 after riding in a big prop transport was like riding in a Lincoln Towncar after spending days riding in a poorly maintained buckboard pulled by an ornery mule.

I have included a couple oScan 11f snapshots from my first jet voyage. I always enjoyed flying the 707 during my road warrior days in the ’80s. It was not my favorite, but part of the reason for that was it became increasingly rare as the ’80s moved on toward the nineties.

Boeing built the last 707 in 1979. A 21 year production run for a commercial airplane was phenomenal in those days. After starting production in 1958, Boeing turned out about 1,000 of the four engine 707s. According to Wikipedia, there were ten 707s still in commercial service as of 2013.

The plane figured prominently in the book and original “Airport” movie. If you have a chance to watch the original “Airport” (Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy) you will get an idea of just how fond people were of the 707.

The 707 also stared in an episode of The Twilight Zone. The speed of the aircraft inspired the author to write about a 707 that inadvertently traveled in time. Upon arrival at Idelwild (now known as New York JFK) on Long Island, they find a jungle full of dinosaurs rather than a nice modern airport.

The big Boeing was featured in popular music of the time as well. Gordon Lightfoot’s song, Early Morning Rain, uses the 707 as an image of escape from the cruel realities of life, “stuck here on the ground”  His lyrics tell us of the “big 707 set to go”.    He completes this image with, “Hear the mighty engines roar, see the silver bird on high, she’s away and westward bound, far above the clouds she’ll fly.”

The 707 was quite a show off in real life too. During a meeting of airline executives in Seattle, Boeing arranged to have their demo 707 do a fly by for the executive’s benefit. The test pilot at the controls, put the plane in a full roll during the fly by.

The You Tube link is well worth the time not only to watch the big plane perform this, but to hear the pilot’s son describe the event is very cool.

Boeing 707 Barrel Roll

So, here’s to Boeing! Here’s to the 707! What a great airplane!

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on the importance of words in the context of delivering a message. The main thrust of the piece was my dislike of certain code words that are meant to dress up a negative message and portray it as a positive event. Marketing and public relations folks are likely the most frequent abusers of this strategy. I was talking about words like “right-sizing” or “right-sourcing”.

The fact is people, consumers or customers or employees, see through this activity and know they are being scammed. There are almost inevitably two reactions.

1)      People feel insulted that the message bearer would think they are stupid enough to believe the message.

2)      People get mad because they know they are going to pay a very dear price for whatever adventure the company is about to embark upon.

This type of intentional deception is not limited to words. Companies also practice deceptive behavior. As marketing professionals, we must not allow ourselves to be co-opted into these schemes.

A friend of mine sent me an article today related to an accident involving Thai Airlines.  As airline accidents go, this was not a disaster. A few folks were injured, there were no fatalities. The airplane skidded off the runway. There were fourteen injuries. One of the landing gear collapsed during the event.

Sometime, shortly after the accident, someone was dispatched to black out or paint over, the airline logo and name displayed on the vertical stabilizer at the aft end of the airframe. You really have to wonder what marketing genius green lighted this strategy. I guess the site of the hobbled aircraft, with emergency slides deployed, was just too much for the image consultants to bear.

Even though the color scheme on the airframe identifies the airline just as effectively as the logo or the name painted on the tail, someone decided that blacking out the name would surely fool some of the people!

My first thought is these guys care far more about damage control then damage prevention or investigation. That is not a confidence inspiring realization. That would affect my selection of one carrier over another much more than the fact that the carrier had had a recent accident.

I’m far more interested in how a company reacts to a crisis then knowing if they have experienced a crisis. There are very few airlines flying today that can claim an accident free history.

An airline that reacts quickly to help the customers involved in the accident, to learn what caused the accident and to take steps to avoid a repeat of the accident is far more inspiring than one that seeks to hide the fact that an accident even occurred.

When I’m flying along at 90% of the speed of sound, through a -70⁰ vacuum, stuffed into a metal tube along with several hundred other folks and a couple of thousand gallons of high-grade kerosene, I want to know that the folks upfront driving the plane and their bosses back home, value honesty over deception.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

The recent crash on landing of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco brought back a memory from my flying days back in the ‘80s.

Airframe manufacturers are obviously building safer products than in past years. More and more people seem to be walking away from downed airplanes than ever before.  So, I certainly tip my hat to those guys for doing their part in making flying an even safer alternative than in past years.

There is one thing that still disturbs me greatly. Let me briefly tell my story and then you can draw your own conclusions.

One evening back in 1987 I was returning home to the Bay Area after a business trip. I was changing planes in Denver to pick up a flight into San Jose.  Everything went smoothly; I made the connection on time and was seated toward the back of the coach cabin on a DC-8 stretch.

The DC-8 was a single aisle four engine aircraft. It was, even in the mid ‘80s, kind of “long in the tooth” for commercial service by a tier one airline. But, many had been retrofitted with the new generation of jet engines so you saw 8’s with some frequency in those days.

The plane was full that evening and people boarding were bringing with them the usual assortment of carry on stuff.  Laptops were just becoming common but people also still carried boxes of slide carousels and presentation transparencies.  Then there was the usual collection of shopping bags, overnight garment bags and brief cases.

Everyone was seated, the door had been closed and the jet-way had just been pulled back.  I was sitting in a port side window seat, so I could see the ground crew clearly. Inside, I noticed the AC outlets above the overhead compartments were venting something. Anyone who has flown on a humid day has probably seen this and it is invariably condensate, water vapor, cast off by cooling hot humid air.

On that particular evening, it wasn’t condensate, it was smoke.

Within a couple of seconds there were shouts of, “smoke!” and “something’s burning”. The cabin filled with a smell of burning oil.

The DC-8 cabin was a long narrow tube with frequent bulkheads to separate it into a series of smaller cabins. This meant that you could not see the front of the cabin from the rear of the airplane. You could see maybe ten rows before your vision was interrupted by a bulkhead.

The people sitting on the aisles almost immediately were on their feet, flooding the aisle and essentially blocking any view the seated passengers had beyond their immediate vicinity in the cabin. A little bit of panic began to grip the crowed plane as passengers exhorted those seated over the wings to open the emergency exits. Behind me, two flight attendants watched and said nothing.

After the fact, I found out that the DC-8 did not have any communication links from the flight deck or other flight attendant stations  to the aft end of the plane. In other words our flight attendants knew as much about what was happening as I did.

The aft emergency door was opened and by now escape shoots were deployed from the over wing exits and from the doors at the back.

People began to exit the airplane. From my seat (I couldn’t go anywhere because the aisle was filled with people) I could see a man walking along the wing with a garment bag over his shoulder. I remember thinking that he looked remarkably calm.

Almost every person in the aisle was digging through the stuff in the overhead bins trying to retrieve their belongings. Think about that and think about the time it takes to empty an airplane upon arrival at a gate.  We had every reason to believe that the plane was on fire and these guys were worried about their carry-on junk!

My only thought that evening was that I was going to burn to death because some jackass couldn’t get their carry-on bags out of an overhead bin.  That thought made me furious.

This morning, as I watched video shot in the aftermath of the Asiana crash I saw evidence of the same thing had happened there. People were walking around on the ground with their carry on bags! How selfish can people be? Is some souvenir from Korea more important than someone else’s life? Is that really how we think?

I know plenty of folks will hate this, but, the only way to fix this is to ban carry-on items on commercial flights. If all luggage was checked there would be no reason to stop for anything. When an airplane is on fire, time is of the essence. People have to move quickly and not be encumbered by bags, laptops, camera cases etc.

I could be persuaded to allow purses and briefcase size items. But I would remove the overhead bins altogether. Beyond those two items, I would ban it all.

I know people are clutching their chests at the prospect of having to go to baggage claim, but I just don’t see a better alternative.

With Asiana flight 214, we got lucky. We usually don’t get lucky in the world of airplane crashes.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

In the world of marketing we are tasked with presenting people, companies, products and concepts in a way that supports or reinforces an overarching message. Cynical people would call this “spin” while others might call it focusing language to align your message with a desired perception.

Regardless of your point of view about the value marketing provides, you would have to agree that conveyance of a message, any message, is dependent upon using the right words.

If you are in a hotel room and the bed is on fire, you are not going to call the front desk and tell them that you feel a little warm. You are going to yell “Fire!” and then you’re going to get out of the place.

Marketing is nothing more than a refinement of that concept.

Where marketing folks get into trouble is through the use of language to misrepresent truth by using confusing or approximating language.  An example of this would be “capacity optimization” used in reference to the seating arrangements on a commercial aircraft.

“Capacity Optimization” sounds innocuous enough. Who could possibly object to an airline optimizing passenger seating?

The answer is almost every passenger. That’s because in reality capacity optimization is achieved by pushing the seat rows closer together. This reduces the space between rows, meaning less leg room and knees scrunched up against the seat in front of you. For the airline it means five to seven more paying passengers onboard every flight. For the passengers it means discomfort, immobility and deep vein thrombosis.

Capacity optimized aircraft may appeal to stock holders but not to customers. Airlines know this but still they will compound the error by inflating the deception to include some perceived value delivered. They may advertise: Our planes are capacity optimized to assure your flight will feature the lowest fares in the business!  Yeah, right.

We see this in B2B marketing as well. This morning I read an article about the benefits of outsourcing. The writer was proudly throwing around a new word I gather of his own invention. The word was “Right-sourcing” which obviously has none of the negative baggage found with words like, outsourced, off-shored or plant closure.

The use of this type of word is beyond me. Does anyone really think these saccharine sounding terms signify anything other than deception?  Out sourcing is a fact of life. It is, on occasion, a business necessity. That does not mean workers; their families and whole towns don’t pay a terrible price when it comes to pass.

Let us not insult them by trying to dress that up as something that is actually good for them like finishing your vegetables or going to the dentist.

Losing a job sucks. A town losing a major employer is a tragedy. If you are in a position to make those kinds of decisions and affect people that profoundly, you should remember that.

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

Yesterday an unusual event took place. Boeing, specifically the Boeing 787 program VP Mike Sinnet and Test Pilot Heather Ross hosted a live interactive webcast.  I was lucky enough to catch about 45 minutes of the event.

I had received an invitation for the program the day before. It was an unrestricted log in and listen type format with Twitter serving as the medium for submitting questions. In a word, it was fascinating. It said a lot about the kind of company Boeing is.

Questions came from aeronautical engineers, business flyers, wannabe pilots and folks who were just curious about some aspect of the 787.  The subjects covered myriad topics from flying in general to specifics about the battery fix put into place by the folks at Boeing.

The 787 program is groundbreaking in so many ways; I guess it should not be a surprise that Boeing would turn to an event like this to open up the lines of communication between itself and the flying public. This is telling in that it supports the idea that Boeing knows who their customer really is. In case you are confused by that statement, let me clue you in. Boeing’s customer is the flying public far more so than the various airlines flying their equipment.

The airline/passenger relationship is totally different from the airframe manufacturer/passenger relationship is. This is not just some high level marketing concept, it is a very real dynamic that has profound effects on the actions all of us involved in the business of air travel.

Airlines select airplanes because they meet some performance criteria in terms of capacity, speed and fuel economy. They look at their mission as one of moving 50, 100 or 600 passengers between point A and point B. They will select and buy the aircraft that handles that job in the most economic fashion.

Airline passengers choose airlines because they offer flights to places they want to get to on a schedule that is convenient to them. Many times, passengers have a choice. That means the passenger will be comparing other factors in order to make a decision. One of those will be the equipment used for the flight.

As a business flyer, this factor is important to me. When I traveled frequently, it was very important to me. I was much less concerned about the paint scheme and logo on the skin of the airplane than I was about what type of airplane it was to begin with.

One of the things Boeing does very well is to bring the passenger into the concept development phase of a new airplane. Then, again and again at each design stage, throughout the development of that aircraft the passenger is consulted. The passenger is part of the design group.

Additionally, Boeing understands that all passengers are not alike, a great example of this is found in the design of the 777. The overhead compartments can be easily reached by persons of short stature.

When the plane is rolled out, takes to the air and finally enters into revenue generating service, everyone has a little stake in that airplane. People want it to do well because in part it is “their” airplane.

During the discussion yesterday, it was apparent that Boeing has earned a huge amount of respect and trust from the flying public. Both Mr. Sinnet and Ms. Ross were clearly excited about a chance to talk with people about their product. The Q&A was not all softball either. But, it was clear these guys knew their stuff. I had the feeling they had picked the right people to handle this event. Both of them made a point of stating how much they loved their jobs and being a part of Boeing.

When was the last time you heard a corporate apologist gush about how much they loved working for their company?

Hats off to Boeing for getting this right!

By Lou Washington

If you love airplanes, you probably have a personal favorite. For some, the love affair might be based on performance such as the Mach 3+ SR-71. For others, the attachment may be the result of a particularly successful war record like that of the P-51 Mustang or Spitfire.

One Beautiful Airplane

For pure beauty of design I have to go with the Lockheed Constellation, especially the stretched, Super G, variant. The plane looks like it’s in motion even when it is standing still. The fuselage has a stunning aerodynamically curved shape; the trademark triple tail gives this bird an unmistakable silhouette. The huge wings, typically equipped with wingtip mounted range extending fuel tanks gracefully offset the four huge 18 cylinder Wright R-335-DA3 radial compound supercharged engines.

Lockheed designed the Constellation in response to a concept and rough design from Howard Hughes. The design team for this fantastic aircraft included none other than the famed Kelly Johnson. Johnson was one of the driving forces behind Lockheed’s skunk-works. This was where the U2, the SR-71 and other highly classified aircraft were born. The vision for the Constellation was long range, high capacity and high speed.

It achieved all three objectives. At maximum capacity the Connie could accommodate 109 passengers. The plane had a cruising speed of 340 MPH and a top end of 377 MPH. The maximum range for the Constellation was 5,400 miles making it truly a transcontinental, transoceanic airliner. Lockheed produced these magnificent aircraft until 1958.

The Connie was the last of a breed. The long range airliners, powered by propeller driven engines, were being pushed out of the way by the much faster, more economical and smoother riding pure jets. The De Havilland Comet, the Boeing 707, the Douglas DC-8 and the Convair 880 captured the imagination of the flying public and ultimately made the prop driven birds obsolete. But, during most of the decade of the ‘50s, the Connie still reigned as queen of the sky.

Connie Comes to Columbia

I will always remember the first time I saw one these magnificent airplanes firsthand. I was only eight years old, but the experience left me with a lifelong love of airplanes and flying.

TWA Super G Constellation

At about 10:30 pm on the evening of Wednesday, April 22, 1959, TWA flight 265 lifted off from the airport in St Louis and headed west on the final leg of the Miami to Kansas City flight. Flight 265 was under the command of Captain Ernest Feazel. Initially, everything was working perfectly and the airplane experienced no problems.

At 11:03pm, Captain Feazel notified the Columbia Missouri airport FAA facility that the airplane was experiencing some trouble. The aircraft had developed a condition known as runaway prop on the number one engine located on the outside position of the port or left wing.

The Constellation was powered by four 3,250 HP engines. These were probably the most complicated internal combustion engines ever developed. The propellers used on these engines featured variable pitch control which enabled each propeller blade to turn on its long axis to adjust the angle of attack between the blade and the air.

Imagine a canoe paddle; pulling the paddle through the water with the wide portion of the paddle facing the direction you pull it is considerably more effective then turning the paddle so it slices through the water like a knife. On the airliner, this effect is used to maximize power delivered by the engine and to facilitate acceleration, braking and even thrust reversal in some cases. It also allows the prop to self adjust its pitch to keep the aircraft in power trim.

The runaway prop condition essentially meant that the number one engine was running out of control with the propeller angle pitched in a manner that created significant drag and delivered no thrust. Normally, a pilot would “feather” the engine involved and continue on with three engines.

Captain Feazel attempted to complete this procedure but, the engine did not respond. There was a very real danger that the engine would overheat causing the propeller shaft to fail which in turn would likely result in the engine blowing apart.  The end result would have been catastrophic.

At 11:14pm Captain Feazel notified the airport that he would need to land the plane. He declared an emergency, requested fire equipment and emergency personnel be made ready. At 11:17pm the captain advised that he was making his final turn and would be landing from the north shortly.

Before we continue the story let me tell you a bit about the airport that served Columbia Missouri in 1959.

Columbia Municipal Airport had two runways. One ran north and south and the other east and west. The north/south runway was the longer of the two and it ran out to a little over 4,000 feet. The east/west runway was shorter, running about 3,300 feet and intersecting the north/south runway at the south end. The main hanger and “terminal” was located near the intersection.

The two runways were composed of an asphalt or macadam surface. They were rated to accommodate aircraft with maximum landing weights of 27,000 lbs. Typically the largest airplane you would see at this airport would be the DC-3 Ozark Airlines aircraft serving Columbia with flights to St Louis, Kansas City and other communities in the vicinity.

The Lockheed Super G Constellation on final approach to Columbia Municipal that evening carried a crew of six people and 35 passengers. Adding fuel, mail, freight and luggage brought the gross landing weight for the Connie up to about 100,000 pounds. Typically, this plane would comfortably use a 5,000 to 8,000 foot runway in regular service.

One has to imagine that Captain Feazel had a lot on his mind that evening as the Connie approached the north runway threshold at four times the designed landing weight and half the runway he needed.

Witnesses report that the landing was executed to perfection. The plane came in low and slow, the Connie has a 100 MPH stall speed so slow is a relative term in this context.

Once the plane touched down, the brakes on the main gear locked. The aircraft skidded down the runway; the right wheel truck momentarily skidded off the runway digging up ground before re-attaining the runway surface. The tires on the left wheel truck exploded and the wheels began to dig into the surface of the soft asphalt.

As the plane crossed the intersection of the east/west runway, it spun around a full 180 degrees where it finally came to a full halt facing the direction from which it landed. Flight 265 was safely on the ground with less than 300 feet of runway to spare.

Unfortunately, the shredded tires, the blown number one engine, the locked brakes all added up to a major repair headache for TWA. Initially, there was little to be done because the plane could not be moved. As it set in the middle of the two runways, it slowly sank into the asphalt. A team was dispatched by TWA to Columbia along with a new engine to install and to get the bird ready for a short flight to the TWA Maintenance facility in Kansas City.

The passengers were carried to Kansas City by bus along with the flight crew.

The next day, while the repairs were in process, my dad took me to the airport to see the big bird that had dropped in during the previous night. Naturally, this was big news in our little city and many citizens headed to the airport to see the huge airplane. I stood there with my dad looking across the tarmac at this beautiful airplane. It was simply spectacular. I remember thinking that I wanted the plane to “get well” so it could fly again. I’ve been a plane nut ever since.

The rest of the story of flight 265 is boring by comparison with the first act but no less remarkable. The engineers dispatched to fix the plane, under the management of TWA Maintenance Foreman, H. C. Herschel managed to install new brakes, wheels, tires and a new engine in a single day. That is a remarkable feat to accomplish “in the field” if you will. The scarred runway was patched up and people began to think about the departure.

A special flight crew was brought in with a “test pilot” in command. All freight, luggage, excess fuel and other unnecessary weight was removed from the Connie. Again, the short runway presented a challenge. Fully loaded, a Super G required about 6,000 feet of clear runway.

My understanding is the plane was literally backed up as far as possible onto the runway threshold to provide the pilot with as much room as possible for the take off roll. The engines were powered up, the brakes set, the flaps deployed and most likely a short prayer uttered as the throttles were advanced to maximum power.

Then, the brakes were released and the Connie bid Columbia a noisy farewell. She lifted off and banked to the west toward her home in Kansas City.

At that point I couldn’t wait for my first ride in an airplane. I was hooked.

A Few Closing Notes

Much of this story is told from my own personal memory.  I would like to cite a couple of sources for their contributions which were essential for much of the detail used in this piece.

The Missouri State Historical Society maintains digitized newspaper archives in the Ellis Library at the University of Missouri. I was able to gather many of the hard facts in the piece from the contemporary articles published by the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Columbia Missourian. One advantage to living in the shadow of the world’s first and oldest journalism school is the availability of abundant and accurate reporting of events.

I would like to thank both newspapers and the society for their hospitality during my research.

The Columbia Municipal Airport has long since closed and been replaced by a newer facility. The old airport site is now the home to a large public park. Portions of the old runway still remain intact and function as somewhat enormous parking lots for patrons using the various ball fields and shelter houses available in the park.

The following photos show the airport in it’s current state as a park.

Looking south on main runway

This photo shows some of the remaining pavement from the original main runway. This was taken from the north end, looking south, roughly where the runway threshold as located.

This round-a-bout marks the center of the intersection of the two runways

This round-a-bout is located where the Connie finally came to rest after her 4,000 foot skid on landing.

Restored airport beacon light from Columbia Municipal

This beacon is “original” airport equipment restored to “like new” condition. Growing up in Columbia in the 1950s and 60s, the light from this beacon was visible after dark all over the city. It would complete a 360 degree sweep roughly once per minute.

Columbia Municipal Airport Main Hanger

The city Parks and Recreation Department uses the remaining main hanger build for storage and as a maintenance shed. Faded airport lettering is still visible at the top of the building.

The photo of the Super G Constellation is courtesy of the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives. There are no known copyright restrictions on that photo.

By Lou Washington

Yesterday Delta Airlines announced that Comair, one of Delta’s regional feeder subsidiary airlines would cease operations on 29 September of this year.

Here in Cincinnati, Comair is something of a legend. When I moved to Cincinnati in the very early 1980’s, Comair was comprised of a handful of small twin engine prop aircraft. They flew to Cleveland and other nearby cities. Locally, those of us who flew frequently out of CVG knew that flying on Comair was not going to be like taking a wide-body to Hawaii. Flying Comair was for business folks who were getting business done here in the midwest.

Locally the primary carrier was Delta. Both airlines experienced great growth during the 80’s, both airlines upgraded their fleets and expanded their routes. Delta spent tons of money expanding their facilities here in Cincinnati and eventually made this one of their hubs with a wide array of international flights to Europe.

Comair built a new headquarters building and at a point was by some measures one of the largest airlines in the country. They partnered with Delta and began aligning their route structure with Delta to facilitate the classic hub and spoke operation that serves airlines today.

At a point, Delta purchased Comair and for many, I think this was indeed the beginning of the end for the airline.

This story has been repeated with slight variations now for decades.

TWA purchased Ozark Airlines to gain control of one of their primary feeders in St Louis. Soon after that occurred, the level of service extended to smaller markets well served by Ozark for many years began to deteriorate.

My own hometown of Columbia Missouri was a primary example. Ozark provided non-stop DC-9 (Boeing 717) service to St Louis, Denver, Kansas City and one stop service to Chicago, Washington DC and other destinations. After Ozark was swallowed up, local service to Columbia MO was reduced to a couple of daily flights to St Louis using De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft.

It did not take long for TWA to disappear from the scene with rapacious American Airlines gobbling them up a few years later. The details of that horrendous acquisition make for their own story.

50 Seat CRJ200

In the Delta announcement, the reason for the shut down was based on Comair’s use of 50 seat regional jets. Delta suggested these could not be operated profitably. Delta went on to explain that ridding themselves of Comair would allow them to concentrate on their major route structure served by their larger aircraft.

I’m sure TWA and later American had similar feelings about abandoning the small markets served by Ozark.

Some would say this is the fruit of deregulation. I’m not sure it’s that simple.

I do know this. Comair and Ozark operated profitably on their own, they served thousands of passengers in many smaller markets. They employed hundreds of pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, ticketing agents baggage handlers and others. In other words they did know what they were doing, they knew how to operate in an environment their larger siblings chose to ignore or avoid.

Then, they were bought up, integrated into the operations of much larger, more complex and diverse enterprises. When the management of those enterprises decided that flying into smaller markets was not profitable, they abandoned them.

They bought businesses they did not understand and after failing to learn from those businesses they listened to their finance guys and bailed.

Some will call this the free market at work. If that is true, then the free market is not working very well.

By Lou Washington

The Farnborough air show closed recently and we were once again treated to a daily box score of Boeing orders versus Airbus orders.  This year Boeing seemed to emerge as the overall winner.

I believe this ongoing competition is really of more interest to the media than it is to the trade professionals and industry analysts active in the aerospace arena. I think that portion of the plane riding public that actually cares about the kind of airplane they are riding on, tends to select aircraft equipment based on specific models more than the name of the manufacturer.

It is an interesting business study to watch how these two companies behave. There are few industries where there are only two dominant, worldwide vendors that square off against each other over virtually every selling opportunity that arises. As the light or regional jet market shows continued growth and an increasing number of players, the heavyweight division remains the undisputed territory of these two giants.

The flying public is doubtless better off with both of these guys operating in a perpetual dead heat. There is little doubt in my mind that Boeing is a better company because Airbus has forced them to be better via the marketplace.  On the other hand, Airbus has benefited from Boeing breaking ground and setting the bar in commercial aviation over the last 75 years or so. Competition is a beautiful thing when it works.

Consider the more recent past ten years. At the beginning of the century, both companies were considering potential new programs. Both had some form of fuel-efficient new design under consideration. Boeing also had the near mach Sonic Cruiser project. Airbus had the gargantuan A380 model under consideration.

It had to be a tough decision. It had to be a “bet the company” type decision that would doubtless be revisited many, many times over the initial years of development.

In the end, Boeing chose the Dreamliner fuel miser program and Airbus moved ahead with the A380. For consumers it was the best of all possible outcomes. For the two companies, I believe the selection was best of all as well.

Boeing opted for a completely new airplane, built-in a wholly new manner utilizing techniques never before used. Boeing developed a worldwide supply chain and outsourcing process that was far removed from anything they had done prior to the 787 program.

Airbus learned to build the biggest passenger transport aircraft ever flown.

Both companies took up a challenge that would at least teach them how to do something they didn’t already know how to do. This means they made an investment that would pay dividends well beyond the life of the program itself. Even if the programs were not successful, each would come out with a level of expertise in an area previously unknown by them.

For all the publicity about how much of a problem Boeing had with their world-wide supply chain and component manufacturing outsourced to companies half a world away, Boeing now has people successfully working on the 787 in countries all over the planet. All of those countries have national flag carriers and they all buy airplanes.

Additionally, Boeing has learned how to build with rivet-less composites.  This is a radical departure from the construction of traditional aluminum and titanium skinned airframes.  Doubtless the whole area of lightweight, high strength materials will be important to aerospace manufacturers for a long time.

When you look at the A380, you have to be impressed with the sheer size of the thing. I’ve seen the A380 here in Cincinnati. Airbus arranged a fly over at the GE Aircraft Engine plant a couple of years ago during a promotional tour of the new plane. Seeing it during the low-level fly by really gave you some perspective. This airplane is just huge.

Time will tell if Airbus made a smart decision in terms of the market for this plane, but meanwhile, the plane is doing a great job linking up Asia with Europe and North America. So we, the flying public, win because we have two ground breaking aircraft that are there to take us where we want to go.

By Lou Washington

Last Saturday I took a trip up to Dayton, Ohio and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Wright-Pat is the home of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. For a fellow like me, one who loves aircraft; this is the ultimate museum experience. If it ever flew, or even if it didn’t fly but was supposed to fly, there is a good chance they have it here at Wright-Pat.

The museum spans virtually the entire history of powered flight. Starting with the Wright Flyer and other examples of those fragile machines that first took people into the sky under the control of the occupant; the displays continue through the years of Worlds War 1 and 2 and finally move into the Cold War era and into present day.

For the most part, each machine is displayed within the context of the world in which it existed. For this reason, the museum offers a vivid history of the assorted conflicts that troubled our world over the last century. Yes, it was a bloody and horrifying century for humanity, but, it was also a century of incredible innovation and technological growth. At least, much of that war inspired innovation also drove vast improvements in the everyday lives of many people.

When you look at the time line that links aviation advancements and innovations together over the course of past 110 years, you can’t help but be amazed at the rapid and dramatic rate that this technology has developed. In less than twenty years, airplanes went from being constructed of wood and fabric to aluminum and sheet steel. It took less than fifty years for airplanes to raise their top speed from less than 10 MPH to exceeding the speed of sound.

Capacity and size also changed with equally dramatic increases.

The museum does not restrict its collection to US Air Force aircraft. You will find a fabulous assortment of aircraft from Germany, France, England, Russia, Japan, Canada and others. There are a few UAVs, missiles and historical spacecraft available for viewing as well.

A museum annex houses some of the more exotic pieces in the collection. One gallery houses aircraft that played an important role in R&D and experimental aircraft. An adjacent hanger house several presidential aircraft from the Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Nixon administrations.

The weight of history is a palpable force felt upon entering almost any of the seven galleries making up the museum. So many of these aircraft became icons associated with the most significant events of the twentieth century.

Viewing the Huey chopper or the F4 Phantom brings the Viet Nam era back to life. One can almost hear the rotors thropping and feel the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. A scarred project Apollo capsule makes you wonder incredulously at the thought that this device actually orbited around the Moon and brought three guys back to their families here on planet Earth.

For me, there are two aircraft that always stand out above the others. In the World War 2 Gallery, the B-29 dominates a substantial percentage of the display. Even more impressive from the stand point of sheer size is the humongous B-36 with its wing span the extends fully from one side of the hanger to the other.

The B-29 will of course forever be associated with the end of the war with Japan. The bomber served as the

B-29

The Boeing B-29

delivery vehicle for the only two atomic weapons ever used in war. In some ways that is too bad because this plane played a huge role in the development of aviation technology.

The B-29 program did not get off to a great start. In Warren Kozak’s excellent biography of Curtis Lemay, the magnitude of the program to develop this airplane is thoroughly examined.

Unlike other bombers, or heavy transports, the B-29 would feature a pressurized cabin. The size of this plane was magnitudes larger than anything currently in service. The plane was designed to operate at much higher altitudes than other aircraft of that era as well. All of that complexity, new technology and the politics of the time combined to make the B-29 program an ongoing, never-ending crisis.

Kozak quotes Army historian Irving Brinton Holley, Jr stating that there were nearly 1,200 engineering changes made to the design before the first plane rolled off the assembly line. The plane was supposed to have something on the order of 55,000 individual parts. All together, the cost of the B-29 program exceeded the cost of the Manhattan Project itself.

In building the B-29, Boeing laid the foundation for the modern airliner. Design elements and techniques developed for the B-29 are found in virtually all heavy transport aircraft flying today.

The other airplane that always takes my breath away is the Convair B-36. This airplane was developed as the first intercontinental bomber. It was deployed early in the cold war years, but, it was initially envisioned for use against Germany in the event that British airfields would not be available to stage bombing missions against the Nazi state.

Convair Vultee B-36

The B-36 was also unconventional. It was, like the B-29 much large than any previous aircraft. It employed six 28 cylinder Pratt & Whitney radial engines. These engines were reverse mounted on the trailing side of the wing in a pusher configuration. To provide additional power on take off and during bombing runs, the airplane boosted an additional four pure jet turbine engines from General Electric. All of that power gave the plane an incredible payload capability.

In its final production configuration, the B-36 was a cold war machine. An incredible cruising range, a ceiling making it nearly immune to the threat of fighters and surface to air missiles, a bomb bay capable of handling the huge nuclear age weaponry that was used in that era; the B-36 was truly the first strategic bomber.

There are, of course, other aircraft that are just as fascinating in their own right. These two are the ones I’m always drawn to when I visit.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Dayton, Ohio I hope you will take a day, at least a day, and drop in to this wonderful monument to flight. It is open to the public and admission is free. You really can’t beat that.

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