Ozark Air Lines operated in the United States from 1950 until 1986 when it was purchased by Trans World Airlines (TWA). A smaller regional airline which used the Ozark name (and whose operating certificate was purchased by Great Plains Airlines) operated in 2000–2001. From 1950 until 1986 Ozark's headquarters was at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport in St. Louis County, Missouri.
On 1 September 1943 Ozark Air Lines was founded to fly services from Springfield, Missouri, and in January 1945 it began flights between Springfield and St. Louis on Beech 17 Staggerwings, replaced by Cessna AT-17 Bobcat in the late 1940s. The required license from the Civil Aeronautics Board was not forthcoming and operations had to stop.
In July 1950 Ozark was granted a certificate to operate Parks Air Transport routes not previously activated. Services were started on 26 September 1950 using Douglas DC-3s from St. Louis to Chicago, Tulsa and Memphis. In 1955 the airline had 13 DC-3s flying to 35 cities between Sioux City, Indianapolis, Wichita and Nashville. Ozark's main hub was Lambert–St. Louis International Airport. Like other Local Service airlines it was subsidized; in 1962 its operating "revenues" of $14.0 million included $4.5 million of federal subsidy.
|Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles (scheduled flights only)|
In 1961 Ozark's network reached from Minneapolis to Nashville and from Kansas City to Indianapolis and Louisville. Denver was added in 1966 and in 1969 the network sprouted eastward: Ozark was awarded nonstops from Champaign and Peoria to Washington Dulles, continuing to New York LaGuardia. Atlanta was added in 1978 and four Florida cities in winter 1978-79.
By 1967 the Martins and F-27s were replaced with Fairchild Hiller FH-227s, a stretched F-27; the last DC-3 flight was October 1968. Ozark's first jets were Douglas DC-9-10s in July 1966. The DC-9-10s were augmented with McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 (DC-9-31/32) and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-40 jets. The airline also ordered two Boeing 727-200 jetliners but never took delivery of or operated the 727. Ozark went all-DC-9 in October 197 and in 1984 McDonnell Douglas MD-80s were added. The three swallows on Ozark fins represented on-time flights, referring to the legend of the swallows that return to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, in California, each year on the 19th of March.
In the mid-1980s Ozark and TWA had a de facto duopoly at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, a hub for both. Ozark accounted for 26.3 percent of boardings at STL in 1985, while TWA accounted for 56.6 percent. On March 1, 1986 the two airlines announced plans to merge: TWA would buy Ozark for $242 million in cash. Shareholders of both airlines approved the merger by late summer, and the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval on September 12, 1986.
Ozark ceased to exist as an independent company on October 27, 1986. The Ozark DC-9s were gradually painted with a modified paint scheme with "TWA" in the tail. Over the next couple of years the fifty Ozark airplanes were repainted in the TWA livery.
In 1998 rights to the airline's name were purchased by William E. Stricker of Columbia, Missouri. The reformed Ozark Air Lines received its operating certificate on February 11, 2000, and began service 10 days later, from Columbia Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Chicago Midway Airport, using two Fairchild Dornier 328JET aircraft.
From the 1960s through the late 1980s, Ozark Air Lines' reservations department used a special toll-free WX telephone prefix in New Jersey which could be reached only in certain areas of the state by dialing 0 and asking the New Jersey Bell operator to connect to Ozark's WX number: WX-8300. The number could not be dialed directly by the customer and was only available to certain telephone exchanges where WX was available. (Direct-dial toll-free service made WX numbers obsolete, and they have been largely phased out.)
1986 – Ozark was an all-jet airline by this time:
March 27, 1968: At about 6 p.m., an Ozark DC-9 and an Interstate Airmotive Cessna 150F collided in flight approximately 1.5 miles north of Lambert Field. Both aircraft were in the landing pattern for Runway 17 when the accident occurred. The Cessna was demolished by the collision and ground impact, and both occupants were fatally injured. The DC-9 sustained light damage and was able to effect a safe landing. None of its 44 passengers or five crewmembers were injured.
Dec. 27, 1968: An Ozark DC-9-10 crashed upon takeoff in Sioux City, Iowa, injuring three. Although there was excessive ice buildup on the airplane, the pilot nevertheless attempted takeoff, and went off the end of the runway before becoming airborne. The right side of the cockpit collided with a tree that also removed the right wing.
On July 23, 1973, Ozark Air Lines Flight 809, a Fairchild Hiller FH-227B, crashed while on approach to Lambert–St. Louis International Airport. Of the 45 passengers and crew on board, only seven survived. Microburst-induced windshear and the captain's decision to land in a thunderstorm were cited as the cause.
On December 20, 1983, Ozark Air Lines Flight 650, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31, struck a snow plow while landing at Sioux Falls Regional Airport. The driver of the snow plow was killed but no passenger injuries were suffered.
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