PIA – A History: Airline Service Grows (1945-1947)

The last installment of this series covered airport improvements which were made following the restoration of scheduled passenger flights and establishment of an Air National Guard base. Now it is time to cover growth in local passenger flights during 1946-1947.

TWA – INTERNATIONAL CARRIER
Most of you remember TWA, or Trans World Airlines. The carrier, created by a merger of Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air Express in 1930, began using the “Trans World Airline” moniker on January 1, 1946. The carrier officially renamed itself “Trans World Airlines” in 1950.

Before going on, we need to discuss regulation of the airline industry. The Civil Aeronautics Authority Act of 1938 created the Civil Aeronautics Authority, which absorbed non-military responsibilities of the Bureau of Air Commerce, created in 1926 as the Aeronautic Branch of the US Dept. Commerce. The CAA became the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) in 1940.

CAB was given the authority to regulate air fares and determine what routes airlines could operate.  It also handled safety issues, rules, accident investigations until such duties were transferred to the FAA (in 1958) and NTSB (1967). Since the agency could determine whether airlines could add or drop routes, it conducted hearings for the interested parties.

As early as 1943, commercial airlines planned for significant route expansion as fighting in Europe and Pacific theaters ended. On September 15 that year, TWA filed an application with the Civil Aeronautics Board for permission to add no fewer than 98 cities! One proposed route would operate Chicago-Joliet-LaSalle/Peru-Peoria-Quincy-Moberly-Kansas City.

Not until March 12, 1945 did CAB conduct hearings for TWA’s application to serve Peoria. Unfortunately, the Board’s Examiner determined in April 1946 that the airline couldn’t offer sufficient single-line service to points not already served from Peoria. Desiring not to lose the opportunity to gain an international airline, the City of Peoria filed a Petition to Intervene and recruited the Peoria Area Association of Commerce to support TWA service. A hearing was scheduled for May 6 that year. Local support must have made a difference because on the last day of 1946, CAB granted TWA the right to service Peoria on its Chicago-Kansas City route.

OTHER CARRIERS LOOK AT PEORIA
Meanwhile, several other carriers expressed interest in serving Peoria. Summary below.

HANNAFORD AIRLINES INC – In March 1945, this Winnetka, Illinois-based Hannaford Aircraft Co. proposed an 8,000-mile airline system called “Hannaford Airlines Inc.” which would be centered around a Chicago hub. Bloomington, Galesburg and Peoria were among planned stops for cargo, airmail and passenger flights. This company, which in a few years would start building single-seat, open cockpit biplanes called the “Hannaford Bee,” was owned by Foster Hannaford Jr. The airline apparently never materialized beyond the proposal stage and the owner died in 1971.

MID-CONTINENT AIRLINES – A month after Hannaford’s proposal made the newspapers, this Kansas City-based airline proposed a St. Louis-Springfield*-Peoria-Moline-Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Minneapolis/St. Paul route.

*A Springfield stop would be added at a later date, since the state capital lacked a commercial airport until late 1947

BURLINGTON TRANSPORTATION CO. – In May 1945, this carrier proposed a route between Peoria and Kansas City with two daily roundtrips and stops at Macomb, Quincy, Hannibal, Macon, Brookfield, Chillicothe, Cameron and St. Joseph. Another route would go to Galesburg,  Fairfield (IA) and Des Moines, also with two daily roundtrips. Newspaper articles say the carrier wanted to use helicopters and establish facilities close to the center of these cities. Thus, it isn’t clear if Peoria’s Municipal Airport would have been served as well. A PC&N hearing was scheduled for September 1. The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce announced its support for Burlington’s service in early November 1945. The local newspaper last mentioned the carrier in September 1946, and service never started.

COLUMBIAN AIRLINES – In late summer, this proposed carrier announced plans for a six-state freight, mail and passenger network which would include a route between Omaha and Cincinnati. Stops included Des Moines, Burlington, Galesburg*, Peoria, Bloomington*, Danville and Indianapolis. Peoria would also be a stop on a Chicago-Kansas City route. Each route would give Peoria four flights daily. Founded by Roger McCormick of Chicago, the airline got a Public Convenience & Necessity (PC&N) hearing at Indianapolis in October 1945.

Interestingly, by early 1946, Columbian had revealed plans to establish its principal headquarters and operational and maintenance facilities at the Peoria Municipal Airport. Flights were to start in early 1947. By then McCormick still planned a Peoria base and service to Des Moines and Indianapolis. But CAB ruled against the carrier in January 1947, and nothing further about them appeared in local newspapers.

*Flagstops

ILLINOIS AIRLINE INC. – Petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission for a Certificate of Oublic Convience & Necessity (PC&N) in October 1945. The carrier planned to operate intrastate routes linking Chicago, Rockford, Moline, Peoria, Springfield, E. St. Louis, Danville, Decatur and Cairo.

PARKS AIR TRANSPORT INC. – Also in October 1945, this proposed St. Louis-based carrier asked the Civil Aeronautics Board for a Chicago-St. Louis route with stops at Aurora, Ottawa, Kewanee, Peoria, Canton, Springfield and Jacksonville. Parks had begun intrastate Missouri flights in January 1945 using Beech Staggerwings, but service was dropped before the end of the year. Of all of the above carriers seeking to add Peoria to their route systems, only Parks’ application was approved. More on that in a future post.

MORE AIRLINES LOOK AT PEORIA IN 1946…AND 1947

SLICK AIRWAYS – In June 1946, San Antonio, Texas-based Slick Airways filed an application with CAB to provide cargo service to Peoria. The carrier began operations that month with ten Curtiss C-46Es. In March 1948, it received CAB recommendation for service, but not until May 1949 was a PC&N granted. Whether service actually started is unknown.

INTERNATIONAL AIR LINES INC.- Yet another carrier, Chicago-based International Air Lines, announced in July 1946 its plans to add Peoria.

CONSUMER AIR LINES INC. – This carrier, which listed its address as 414 W. Marietta Ave. in Peoria Heights, announced plans in February 1947 for service between Chicago and 24 downstate cities.

BELT AVIATION – Desired to provide intra-state flights in Illinois, including Peoria.

EASTERN AIR LINES – In September 1947, Eastern Air Lines announced plans to extend its multi-stop Miami-St. Louis route to Minneapolis/St. Paul via Peoria and other cities.

Obviously, not all of these carriers would be allowed to start service to Peoria, but two existing carriers added flights in 1946. American Airlines doubled service from one to two roundtrip flights to both Chicago and St. Louis on October 8. Chicago & Southern Air Lines put Peoria on a morning southbound flight a few weeks later.

TWA BECOMES PEORIA’S 3RD AIRLINE
Trans World Airline began Peoria service on March 1, 1947 with two flights daily in each direction between Chicago and Kansas City. As the other two carriers serving Peoria, TWA used Douglas DC-3s for its scheduled passenger flights.

One oddity in the regulated era was that intrastate air service had to be approved by the state’s commerce commission. Even though TWA flights operated daily between Chicago and Peoria beginning March 1, the carrier had to obtain permission from the Illinois Commerce Commission to handle passengers between the two points. Permission was granted on June 17, and local service began two days later.

AUGUST 1947 SCHEDULE COMPILATION
The following airline schedules were culled from the American Aviation Air Traffic Guide, August 1947 edition. Chicago & Southern Air Lines had dropped the southbound-only flight added in the fall of 1946, but between its three carriers, Peoria had ten arrivals and ten departures on weekdays, less on weekends.

PIA Schedules August 1947

This route map shows the significance of TWA’s Peoria routes. Many cities shown are on one-way routings, but Peoria travelers had same-plane service links with Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Wichita, Kansas City, Chicago, Fort Wayne, Dayton and Pittsburgh in both directions.

PIA Air Routes August 1947

– David P. Jordan

American Eagle Increases CIRA-O’Hare Service (Temporarily?) – Updated

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Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) is getting a fourth Chicago-O’Hare roundtrip.

WMBD Channel 31 is reporting that American Eagle is adding the service next month, but will suspend it in in December then restore it in January. The new flight will arrive CIRA from Chicago-O’Hare Int’l Airport weekdays at 4:15pm and depart 30 minutes later.

American Airlines’ online timetable, however, shows the new flight arriving at 4:13pm and departing at 4:59pm. Service runs from November 5-30 and but schedules through February 2016 do not show any more than three roundtrips (two on Saturdays). Schedules show no change in twice-daily Dallas/Ft. Worth service.

MY TAKE
So why is American Eagle increasing service…temporarily, it appears? Apparently, future reservations showed an increase in bookings, enough to prompt the airline to add a flight. And what about this discrepancy between WMBD’s report and the airline’s own timetable? Presumably, WMBD received its information from CIRA. One possibility is that the carrier does in fact intend to resume this fourth roundtrip in January and schedules have yet to be updated.

UPDATE (Oct. 23): The Pantagraph had this story Wednesday evening, though it still claims the flight begins November 1, is suspended for December and then returns in January and February 2016. Online schedules show something entirely different (see above).

– David P. Jordan

More PIA Photos!

Returning home to Peoria, Mike Fiedler took a number of photos while stepping off his Allegiant Air flight. These were made possible by the fact that Allegiant Air now schedules its Las Vegas turnaround (an MD83) to be here at the same time as its Phoenix-Mesa turnaround (an A319). The latter used Gate 10’s jetway, so the former had to use Gate 11 and a wheeled airstair.

Parking space for two aircraft on the ramp is one reason for construction of the additional terminal and gates at Peoria Int’l Airport.

Enjoy!

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– David P. Jordan

Area Sighting of Norfolk Southern “Illinois Terminal RR” Heritage Unit!

Sunday morning, October 18, 2015, BNSF Railway placed NS 1072 on the point of Train M-GALNSI.*

I waited for it at Monica, Illinois. Nine motors (NS 1072 – NS 9474 – NS 9483 – CBFX 6003 – CBFX 6017 – CBFX 6034 – CBFX 6026 – CBFX 6021 – NS 9444) had 90 cars in tow.

The “CBFX” units are owned by leaser CIT, and are being sent to Norfolk Southern for rebuilding/repainting. The train was handed off to Norfolk Southern at Streator, Illinois and will become “10R” for its journey to Conway, Pensylvania near Pittsburgh.

*Manifest, GALesburg, IL to Norfolk Southern Interchange.

– David P. Jordan

PIA – A History: Airport Improvements and the 169th ANG Fighter Squadron, 1946-1947

The last installment of this series covered the restoration of scheduled commercial airline service at the Peoria Municipal Airport. Now we’ll cover some subsequent airfield improvements.

Although touted as one of the most modern airfields in country when American Airlines and Chicago & Southern Air Lines resumed service on May 1, 1945, the airport was unable to handle night flights. This was rectified when flush contact and range lights were installed on all runways in the spring of 1946. Plans for a control tower to be built atop the airport’s weather bureau office also began to move forward at this time. Tower construction, however, would not begin until late-December 1947.

In addition, the Park Board desired “No. 4 Skyport” designation by the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA), which required extension and widening of runway 12-30 from 100′ to 150′ and extension from 4002′ to 5000′. The 3,603′ East-West runway, 8-26, was also widened from 100′ to 150′. These improvements would also help meet requirements for an Air National Guard squadron here.

The establishment of the 169th Air National Guard squadron was perhaps the airfield’s most significant development project at this time. In June 1947, construction had begun on a 147′ x 164′ temporary hangar, and two 20′ x 100′ quonset hut-type structures for office, operations, storage and maintenance shop facilities.

The 169th Airlift Squadron had been formed as the 304th Airlift Squadron on August 23, 1942 and operated out of the Pinellas County Airport in Florida until disbanded in 1944. The 304th was re-activated in 1946 as the 169th Fighter Squadron and part of the Air National Guard. After an inspection June 21, 1947, the unit received federal recognition.

Necessary runway extensions and widening had been completed in August 1947 so on September 12, four P-51 Mustangs and and two AT-6 Texans arrived PIA. A fifth P-51 developed engine trouble on the flight from Chicago and had to turn back. Also, a C-47 (military DC-3) arrived with ANG personnel then returned to Chicago. Additional P-51s would arrive in subsequent months.

In November 1947, 169th Commander Major Arthur Szold suggested that runways be extended to 6000′. This was to accommodate jet fighters like the P-80 Shooting Star, expected to replace the Mustangs in three or four years. Interestingly, the major predicted the use of 4-engine airliners at PIA in 1948! Although this proved overly optimistic, the airfield did attract the interest in a number of airlines. Between September 1943 and August 1947, no fewer than seven existing or proposed carriers petitioned regulators to add Peoria to their route systems.

Airline service expansion will be covered in the next installment.

– David P. Jordan

Another NS Heritage Unit Visits Peoria!

Thanks to a run-through agreement with Norfolk Southern, the Iowa Interstate has seen the following “Heritage Units” since January 2013:

Savannah & Atlanta RR (NS 1065)

Wabash Railway (NS 1070)

New York Central (NS 1066)

Conrail (NS 8098)

Monongahela (NS 8025)

Now, the Iowa Interstate Railroad has handled NS 8105, the Interstate Railroad, “Heritage Unit.” Appropriate, eh? The unit was the second of three units on an empty grain train that Norfolk Southern gave them at East Peoria Friday morning. Its position was unchanged when the grain train returned east loaded Tuesday morning.

It should be mentioned that one other NS heritage unit has visited East Peoria, though it didn’t run through on the IAIS. This was NS 8114, painted in the colors of the original Norfolk Southern Railway.

And last but not least, the NS “Veterans Unit” moved to and from the IAIS via Peoria this year.

East Peoria on NS

Putnam, Bureau and Tiskilwa on the IAIS

– David P. Jordan