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.[1]


On 1 September 1943 Ozark Air Lines was founded to fly services from Springfield, Missouri,[2] 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.[2] 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.[3]

In 1960 turboprop Fairchild F-27s were introduced, with piston-engine Martin 4-0-4s added to the fleet in 1964.


Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles (scheduled flights only)[4]
Year Pax-Miles
1951 8
1955 36
1960 99
1965 229
1970 653
1975 936

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.

Ozark Douglas DC-9-31 at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 1975

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.

Merger with TWA

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.[5] On March 1, 1986 the two airlines announced plans to merge: TWA would buy Ozark for $242 million in cash.[6] Shareholders of both airlines approved the merger by late summer, and the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval on September 12, 1986.[7]

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.

Second Ozark Air Lines (2000–2001)

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,[8] from Columbia Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Chicago Midway Airport, using two Fairchild Dornier 328JET aircraft.

A year later the company ceased operations and sold its assets to the now-bankrupt Great Plains Airlines, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[9]

Sales and marketing


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.)


In the late 1960s comedian George Carlin appeared in Ozark advertising.[10]

Destinations in 1986

Note: Regional destinations were served by Ozark Midwest

Fleet history








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.[11]

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.


  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 105.
  2. ^ a b Endres, Gunter G (1982). World Airline Fleets 1983. Feltham: The Aviation Data Centre. p. 327. ISBN 0946141029. 
  3. ^ Moody's Transportation Manual 1964
  4. ^ Handbook of Airline Statistics (biannual CAB publication)
  5. ^ "RCED-88-217BR Airline Competition: Fare and Service Changes at St. Louis Since the TWA–Ozark Merger". United States General Accounting Office. 1988-09-21. Archived from the original on 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  6. ^ "Ozark and T.W.A. Sign Pact". UPI, via The New York Times. 1986-03-02. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  7. ^ "Case Nos. R-5684, R-5685, and File No. CR-5908". National Mediation Board, U.S. Department of Labor. 1987-04-10. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  8. ^ Chase, Nan (2001-01-01). "Home Grown: Once swallowed whole by TWA, local Missouri favorite Ozark Air Lines flies again". Air and Space Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  9. ^ "Flying Tigers to offer more airport services". Columbia (Missouri) Tribune. 2005-10-06. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  10. ^ George Carlin (actor) (2008-04-22). Living St. Louis – Ozark Air Lines (Television production). St. Louis, Missouri, USA: KETC-TV. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  11. ^ "AirDisaster.Com » Accident Database » Accident Synopsis » 07231973". 

External links