Saturday, October 16, 2010

Texas International Airlines Beech 99's

In the spring of 1970, Texas International Airlines began operating a small fleet of Beech 99's from Dallas and Houston to some of the carrier's stations in Eastern Texas.  By the summer, it appears 3 aircraft were operating a schedule that included service to Galveston, Longview/Kilgore/Gladewater, Lufkin, Tyler, and Victoria.

Texas International July 1, 1970 timetable

Beech 99 service from Houston, July 1, 1970 timetable (click to enlarge)

The July 1, 1970 issue shows a dramatic increase in service between Houston and Galveston, with 9 daily flights, 8 utilizing the Beeches.  This compares to 3 Convair 600 frequencies the previous Summer.

This service was rather short-lived, and the last timetable to show Beech 99 service was the April 30, 1972 issue, by which time all such flights to Houston had been terminated.  (Galveston was only being served by a single daily Convair flight.)  Dallas was seeing the 99's being used to several new destinations, namely College Station and Waco.

April 30, 1972 Texas International timetable

Beech 99 service from Dallas April 30, 1972 (click to enlarge)

By August, the Beeches were gone from the timetable.  In most cases, the former Beech 99 routes were being served by Convair 600's on reduced frequencies.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

West Coast Airlines Piper service

Another local service carrier to utilize smaller types was West Coast Airlines, which ordered 4 PA-31 Navajos from Piper for delivery in 1967 to provide service to small communities as the DC-3 fleet was phased out.  This aircraft was actually considered to be an executive type, and West Coast was reportedly the first to use it in airline service.

Prior to the Navajos entering service, West Coast operated Piper Aztecs, which I suspect may have been provided by Piper as an interim aircraft until the Navajos could be delivered.  In the January 16, 1967 timetable, it appears that 2 Aztecs were in use, one operating between Roseburg and Eugene, and the other connecting Sun Valley and Burley/Rupert to Twin Falls.

West Coast Airlines January 16, 1967 timetable

Aztec service in January 16, 1967 timetable (click to enlarge)

The Navajos, dubbed "Miniliners", operated with a single pilot and carried up to 7 passengers.  They entered service in the Spring of 1967, and by the end of the year, all 4 were in service, concentrated on the same areas served by the Aztecs, Southern Idaho and Western Oregon.  The December 1, 1967 issue shows that in Idaho, the Navajos connected the smaller communities to Boise and Salt Lake City, while in Oregon, Bend/Redmond and Roseburg both saw service to Eugene and Portland.  Additionally, the 2 service areas were connected by offering a daily Boise - Portland flight (via Payette/Ontario and Baker) that allowed the exchange of equipment.

West Coast Airlines December 1, 1967 timetable

Navajo "Miniliner" service in December 1, 1967 timetable (click to enlarge)

In 1968, West Coast Merged with Bonanza Air Lines and Pacific Air Lines to from Air West.  At first, Air West continued to utilize the Navajos in much the same way as West Coast, providing 3 daily flights on a number of those routes.

Air West February 1, 1969 timetable
Navajo Service to Sun Valley
Navajo Service to Roseburg, OR

But changes were in the air, and by the spring of 1970, Air West had simplified its fleet by getting rid of both the Navajos and the 727's that it inherited from Pacific Air Lines in the merger.  While service to Sun Valley and Burley/Rupert was eliminated (those stations having been consolidated with Twin Falls), in other communities, the carrier's offering was reduced to a single daily F27 frequency on each route. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lake Central Airlines Nord 262 service

Since the local service airlines were all created at about the same time, and performed the same mission (albiet in different parts of the country), it isn't surprising that their equipment choices were fairly similar.  They either started with a fleet of DC-3's (or upgraded to Threes from smaller types within their few years of operation), then began their search for larger equipment during the 1950's.

Most acquired second-hand Convair or Martin types, then added turbine power in the form of Fairchild's license-built F27's or Convair conversions, followed by a move into the pure jet arena.

But, for a variety of reasons, a number of these carriers operated equipment that seemed more at home with a commuter airline than a local service carrier.  The first (and the one to make the largest committment to one of these types) was Lake Central Airlines, which placed an order in 1964 for 12 French-built Nord 262's.

Lake Central Nord 262 in delivery colors

The Nords entered service with Lake Central in 1965 and shortly thereafter were found to have several "teething" problems, the most serious of which was the propensity of the Turbomeca Bastan engines to disintegrate in flight.  The airline suffered 3 of these catastrophic engine failures in the Summer of 1966 (at least one of which caused injuries to passengers), and was forced to ground the fleet.

This must have been a serious operational blow to the airline, as I find the Nords serving all but 4 (Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, South Bend and Zanesville) of Lake Central's 37 stations in the August 1, 1966 timetable, which I believe was the last one prior to the type being taken out of service.  Fortunately, a number of the DC-3's that had been pulled off the flight line had not been sold and were returned to active duty.

Lake Central August 1, 1966 timetable.  200-series flight operated by Nord 262's.

The Nords returned to service in early 1967, with a modified color scheme and new designation, as they were referred to as "Nord II's" in the timetable.  The April 1, 1967 timetable was the first to show them back in operation.  Their return enabled Lake Central to retire the DC-3's in October.

Lake Central April 1, 1967 timetable featuring "Nord II's"

In the Summer of 1968, Lake Central and its fleet of Convair 580's and Nord 262's was acquired by Allegheny Airlines.  The Convairs fit in well with Allegheny, as it was already well-represented in the airline's fleet.  However, the Nords were a new type to Allegheny, and to highlight the aircraft's French heritage, they were painted in a purple and gold scheme complete with fleur de lis.

Allegheny Nord 262 postcard
  Allegheny was apparently unimpressed with the aircraft, and removed them from service before the end of 1969.  The October 1, 1969 timetable shows the final Nord 262 services were from Chicago to the cities of Kokomo and Marion in Indiana.

Final Allegheny Nord 262 service, October 1, 1969 timetable

The fleet was subsequently sold with 5 ships going to Air Algerie, and 7 to Ransome (4 of which served with BC Airlines and Pacific Western in the interim).