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Trans World Airlines (TWA) was a major American airline which operated from 1930 until 2001. It was formed as Transcontinental & Western Air to operate a route from New York City to Los Angeles via St. Louis, Kansas City, and other stops, with Ford Trimotors. With American, United, and Eastern, it was one of the "Big Four" domestic airlines in the United States formed by the Spoils Conference of 1930.[3]

Howard Hughes acquired control of TWA in 1939, and after World War II led the expansion of the airline to serve Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, making TWA a second unofficial flag carrier of the United States after Pan Am.[4][5] Hughes gave up control in the 1960s, and the new management of TWA acquired Hilton International and Century 21 in an attempt to diversify the company's business.

As the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 led to a wave of airline failures, start-ups, and takeovers in the United States, TWA was spun off from its holding company in 1984. Carl Icahn acquired control of TWA and took the company private in a leveraged buyout in 1988. TWA became saddled with debt, sold its London routes, underwent Chapter 11 restructuring in 1992 and 1995, and was further stressed by the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

TWA was headquartered at one time in Kansas City, Missouri, and planned to make Kansas City International Airport its main domestic and international hub, but abandoned this plan in the 1970s.[6] The airline later developed its largest hub at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Its main transatlantic hub was the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, an architectural icon designed by Eero Saarinen, and completed in 1962.[7]

In January 2001, TWA filed for a third and final bankruptcy and was acquired by American Airlines. American laid off many former TWA employees in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. TWA continued to exist as an LLC under American Airlines until 1 July 2003.[8] American Airlines downsized the St. Louis hub later that year.[9]

History

1930s

Founding: TWA

Lindbergh Line DC-2

TWA's corporate history dates from July 16, 1930, and the forced merger of Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), Western Air Express (WAE), Maddux Air Lines, Standard, and Pittsburgh Aviation Industries Corporation (PAIC) to form Transcontinental & Western Air (T&WA) on 1 Oct. 1930.[10][11] The companies merged at the urging of Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown, who was looking for bigger airlines to give airmail contracts to.[12][13]

The airline brought high-profile aviation pioneers who would give the airline the panache of being called "The Airman's Airline". TAT had the marquee expertise of Charles Lindbergh and was already offering a 48-hour combination of plane and train trip across the United States. WAE had the expertise of Jack Frye. TWA became known as "The Lindbergh Line", with the "Shortest Route Coast to Coast".[13]:6–7,10,14,20

On October 25, 1930, the airline offered one of the first all-plane scheduled service from coast to coast. The route took 36 hours, which included an overnight stay in Kansas City. In summer 1931, TWA moved its headquarters from New York to Kansas City, Missouri.[13]:14–16

DC-1, DC-2 and DC-3

Howard Hughes acquired control of TWA in 1939, and after World War II led the expansion of the airline to serve Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, making TWA a second unofficial flag carrier of the United States after Pan Am.[4][5] Hughes gave up control in the 1960s, and the new management of TWA acquired Hilton International and Century 21 in an attempt to diversify the company's business.

As the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 led to a wave of airline failures, start-ups, and takeovers in the United States, TWA was spun off from its holding company in 1984. Carl Icahn acquired control of TWA and took the company private in a leveraged buyout in 1988. TWA became saddled with debt, sold its London routes, underwent Chapter 11 restructuring in 1992 and 1995, and was further stressed by the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

TWA was headquartered at one time in Kansas City, Missouri, and planned to make Kansas City International Airport its main domestic and international hub, but abandoned this plan in the 1970s.[6] The airline later developed its largest hub at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Its main transatlantic hub was the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, an architectural icon designed by Eero Saarinen, and completed in 1962.[7]

In January 2001, TWA filed for a third and final bankruptcy and was acquired by American Airlines. American laid off many former TWA employees in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. TWA continued to exist as an LLC under American Airlines until 1 July 2003.[8] American Airlines downsized the St. Louis hub later that year.[9]

TWA's corporate history dates from July 16, 1930, and the forced merger of Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), Western Air Express (WAE), Maddux Air Lines, Standard, and Pittsburgh Aviation Industries Corporation (PAIC) to form Transcontinental & Western Air (T&WA) on 1 Oct. 1930.[10][11] The companies merged at the urging of Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown, who was looking for bigger airlines to give airmail contracts to.[12][13]

The airline brought high-profile aviation pioneers who would give the airline the panache of being called "The Airman's Airline". TAT had the marquee expertise of Charles Lindbergh and was already offering a 48-hour combination of plane and train trip across the United States. WAE had the expertise of Jack Frye. TWA became known as "The Lindbergh Line", with the "Shortest Route Coast to Coast".[13]:6–7,10,14,20

On October 25, 1930, the airline offered one of the first all-plane scheduled service from coast to coast. The route took 36 hours, which included an overnight stay in Kansas City. In summer 1931, TWA moved its headquarters from New York to Kansas City, Missouri.[13]:14–16

DC-1, DC-2 and DC-3

TWA coast-to-coast schedules and route map, September, 1933

On March 31, 1931, the airline suffered after the 1931 Transcontinental & Western Air Fokker F-10 crash near Matfield Green, Kansas. The crash killed all eight on board, including University of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. The cause of the crash was linked to the wooden wings, one of which failed in flight. As a consequence, all of the airline's Fokker F.10s were grounded and later scrapped. TWA needed a replacement aircraft, but the first sixty modern all-metal Boeing 247s were promised to Boeing's sister company United Airlines (both were subsidiaries of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation). TWA was forced to sponsor the development of a new airplane design. Specifications included the ability to fly the high altitude route between Winslow, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico with one engine inoperative. Other specifications included the capacity to carry 12 passengers and a range of 1,080 miles.[13]:22–23[12]:34–36

Experimental TWA test aircraft

On September 20, 1932, the development contract was signed with Douglas Aircraft Company and the Douglas DC-1 was delivered to TWA in December 1933, the sole example of its type. On February 18, 1934, Frye (pilot) and Eastern Air Lines' head Eddie Rickenbacker (co-pilot), flew the DC-1 from Glendale, California, to Newark, New Jersey, setting a transcontinental record of 13 hours and 4 minutes. On April 17, Frye was elected president of TWA.[12]:43 Throughout 1934, Tommy Tomlinson set further load and distance records with the DC-1. At the same time, TWA used its Northrop Gamma as an "experimental Overweather Laboratory", in a desire to fly at altitudes above the weather.[12]:45–46

The DC-1 was followed by the delivery of 32 Douglas DC-2s that started operations in May 1934 on TWA's Columbus-Pittsburgh-Newark route. Most were phased out by 1937 as the Douglas DC-3 started service, but several DC-2s would be operational through the early years of World War II.[12]:38–42[14] TWA started using the DC-3 on June 1, 1937. The fleet included ten DST sleeper aircraft and eight standard DC-3 day versions.[12]:50

Airmail and Hughes

A TWA Douglas DC-3 is prepared for takeoff from Columbus, Ohio, in 1940.

I

The airline brought high-profile aviation pioneers who would give the airline the panache of being called "The Airman's Airline". TAT had the marquee expertise of Charles Lindbergh and was already offering a 48-hour combination of plane and train trip across the United States. WAE had the expertise of Jack Frye. TWA became known as "The Lindbergh Line", with the "Shortest Route Coast to Coast".[13]:6–7,10,14,20

On October 25, 1930, the airline offered one of the first all-plane scheduled service from coast to coast. The route took 36 hours, which included an overnight stay in Kansas City. In summer 1931, TWA moved its headquarters from New York to Kansas City, Missouri.[13]:14–16

On March 31, 1931, the airline suffered after the 1931 Transcontinental & Western Air Fokker F-10 crash near Matfield Green, Kansas. The crash killed all eight on board, including University of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. The cause of the crash was linked to the wooden wings, one of which failed in flight. As a consequence, all of the airline's Fokker F.10s were grounded and later scrapped. TWA needed a replacement aircraft, but the first sixty modern all-metal Boeing 247s were promised to Boeing's sister company United Airlines (both were subsidiaries of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation). TWA was forced to sponsor the development of a new airplane design. Specifications included the ability to fly the high altitude route between Winslow, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico with one engine inoperative. Other specifications included the capacity to carry 12 passengers and a range of 1,080 miles.[13]:22–23[12]:34–36

Experimental TWA test aircraft

On September 20, 1932, the development contract was signed with Douglas Aircraft Company and the Douglas DC-1 was delivered to TWA in December 1933, the sole example of its type. On February 18, 1934, Frye (pilot) and Eastern Air Lines' head Eddie Rickenba

On September 20, 1932, the development contract was signed with Douglas Aircraft Company and the Douglas DC-1 was delivered to TWA in December 1933, the sole example of its type. On February 18, 1934, Frye (pilot) and Eastern Air Lines' head Eddie Rickenbacker (co-pilot), flew the DC-1 from Glendale, California, to Newark, New Jersey, setting a transcontinental record of 13 hours and 4 minutes. On April 17, Frye was elected president of TWA.[12]:43 Throughout 1934, Tommy Tomlinson set further load and distance records with the DC-1. At the same time, TWA used its Northrop Gamma as an "experimental Overweather Laboratory", in a desire to fly at altitudes above the weather.[12]:45–46

The DC-1 was followed by the delivery of 32 Douglas DC-2s that started operations in May 1934 on TWA's Columbus-Pittsburgh-Newark route. Most were phased out by 1937 as the Douglas DC-3 started service, but several DC-2s would be operational through the early years of World War II.[12]:38–42[14] TWA started using the DC-3 on June 1, 1937. The fleet included ten DST sleeper aircraft and eight standard DC-3 day versions.Douglas DC-2s that started operations in May 1934 on TWA's Columbus-Pittsburgh-Newark route. Most were phased out by 1937 as the Douglas DC-3 started service, but several DC-2s would be operational through the early years of World War II.[12]:38–42[14] TWA started using the DC-3 on June 1, 1937. The fleet included ten DST sleeper aircraft and eight standard DC-3 day versions.[12]:50

In 1934, following charges of favoritism in the contracts, the Air Mail scandal erupted, leading to the Air Mail Act of 1934, which dissolved the forced Transcontinental/Western merger and ordered the United States Army Air Service to deliver the mail. However, Transcontinental opted to retain the T&WA name. With the company facing financial hardship, Lehman Brothers and John D. Hertz took over ownership of the company.[15] The Army fliers had a series of crashes, and it was decided to privatize the delivery with the provision that no former companies could bid on the contracts. T&WA added the suffix "Inc." to its name, thus qualifying it as a different company. It was awarded 60% of its old contracts back in May 1934, and won back the rest within a few years.[15]

TWA Air Mail & Express service. March, 1943

On January 29, 1937, TWA contracted with Boeing for five Boeing 307 Stratoliners, which included a pressurized cabin. However, the TWA board refused to authorize the expe

On January 29, 1937, TWA contracted with Boeing for five Boeing 307 Stratoliners, which included a pressurized cabin. However, the TWA board refused to authorize the expenditure. Frye then approached another flying enthusiast, Howard Hughes, along with Algur H. Meadows and his business partner Henry W. Peters, to buy stock in 1937.[citation needed] Hughes Tool Company purchased 99,293 shares at $8.25 a share, giving Hughes control, and Noah Dietrich was also placed on the board. Later, Hughes bought another $1,500,000 worth of stock.[16] Paul E. Richter became executive vice president in 1938. A new order for five Stratoliners was placed on September 23, 1939, the first Stratoliner was delivered on May 6, 1940, and TWA initiated coast-to-coast flights on July 8, 1940. The planes could carry 16-night passengers in berths, or 33-day passengers. The cabin was pressurized at 12,000 feet, enabling it to fly at an altitude of 20,000 feet, above much of the weather.[12]:33,51,54–55[13]:24

1940s

World War II

TWA contracted its five Stratoliners to the Army Air Force's Air Transport Command after Pearl Harbor. D

TWA contracted its five Stratoliners to the Army Air Force's Air Transport Command after Pearl Harbor. Designated as C-75s, they flew 3000 transatlantic flights to Africa and Europe. TWA also contracted to fly its C-54s and Lockheed C-69 Constellations. Hughes and TWA had developed the Constellation in secret with Lockheed, and Hughes purchased 40 for TWA's use in 1939, through his Hughes Tool Company. On April 17, 1944, Hughes and Frye flew the TWA Constellation from Burbank, California, to Washington, D.C., in 6 hours 58 minutes. By war's end, 20 Constellations had been built.[12]:59,62–63,67–69[13]:24

Post-war: The Trans World Airline

TWA had 10 Constellations by the end of 1945 and acquired international routes. TWA inaugurated its New York to Paris route on February 5, 1946, with the Star of Paris. The Italy route was initiated on 2 April and then extende

TWA had 10 Constellations by the end of 1945 and acquired international routes. TWA inaugurated its New York to Paris route on February 5, 1946, with the Star of Paris. The Italy route was initiated on 2 April and then extended to Cairo. Hughes flew the Star of California from Los Angeles to New York on February 15, 1946, in 8 hours and 38 minutes. Hollywood passengers included Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, William Powell, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon, Tyrone Power, Edward G. Robinson. Hence TWA's reputation as the "airline of the stars".[12]:103–104[13]:58

On October 21, 1946, TWA pilots went on strike. The strike finally ended when TWA and the pilots union agreed to binding arbitration on November 15, 1946. Additionally, TWA lost $1

On October 21, 1946, TWA pilots went on strike. The strike finally ended when TWA and the pilots union agreed to binding arbitration on November 15, 1946. Additionally, TWA lost $14.5 million in 1946, owed $4.34 million in short-term debt and $38.9 million in long-term debt. Yet, Hughes opposed Frye's financing proposals.[12]:119–121[13]:30–32

Frye and Hughes had a falling out in 1947. Hughes' financial advisor Noah Dietrich wrote that "Frye's inept handling of costs, his inefficient operations, his extravagance with new purchases of equipment-all these factors combined to nosedive the TWA stock from 71 at the war's end to 9 in 1947." The airline was losing $20,000,000 a year, was in danger of not being able to acquire fuel for its planes due to being deeply indebted to oil companies, and the pilot's union went on strike. Hughes provided $10,000,000 worth of financing, which was later converted to 1,039,000 shares, Frye was removed, and Hughes added 11 members to the board, giving him control. Thus ended the era of "The Airline Run by Flyers".[16]

Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles (scheduled flights only, domestic plus international)[17]

Crew bases

TWA had crew bases in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Frankfurt. International flight attendants' crew bases were located in Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, and, at one time, Cairo. Starting in 1996, TWA had a "West Coast Regional Domicile", in which pilots and flight attendants covered originating flights out of major West Coast U.S. airports from San Diego, California, north to San Francisco.[55]

Ambassadors Club

TWA operated Ambassadors Club locations in various airports. American Airlines acquired some clubs, and other clubs closed on December 2, 2001.[45] Before the closure of the clubs, TWA maintained clubs at:

Clubs in North America open on December 1, 2001

[45][56]