The last installment in this series detailed the threat posed by inadequate facilities, mining subsidence and the lack of funding for necessary capital improvements. This post will analyze air service changes.
Peoria’s municipal airport experienced major air service changes in 1950. When the year started, air carriers numbered just two – American and TWA. Lets review happenings by each.
This carrier operated a daily flight in each direction between Chicago, Peoria, Springfield and St. Louis with a 40-seat Convair 240. No known major changes occurred during the year, but Peoria did see an emergency landing in the early morning hours of December 26. The Peoria Star reported that day that American Airlines’ Californian, operating from Chicago to Los Angeles, made an emergency landing here due to a heating unit fire. The aircraft, probably a DC-6, had 57 passengers.
TRANS WORLD AIRLINES
On March 15, 1950, a TWA flight was the first to receive landing instructions from the airport’s new control tower. The long-delayed structure took one and one half years to build at a cost of $42,000. Air traffic controllers worked from 8:00am to midnight each day.
Transcontinental & Western Air, owned by business tycoon and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, officially changed its name to “Trans World Airlines” on May 17, 1950. Interestingly, the Peoria Star reported on February 10 that TWA considered using four-engine Lockheed Constellations at Peoria, but rejected the idea due to inadequate runways due to length and the threat of cave-ins.
Perhaps the peak in TWA service levels was reached in September 1950 with six flights daily. Flight 521 arrived from Chicago at 1:40pm and departed back to Chicago as Flight 260 at 3:50pm. Flight 394 operated Chicago-Peoria-Quincy-Kansas City, arriving and departing at 10:20am and 10:30am, respectively. Flight 405 operated Chicago-Peoria-Kansas City, arriving here at 8:15pm for a 10-minute stop. Flight 591, added to the schedule on September 1, operate Chicago-Peoria-Quincy-Kansas City-Topeka-Wichita, and arrived here for a 10-minute stop at 4:55pm. All flights were operated with Douglas DC-3s.
TWA SkyFreighter Flight 792 operated Los Angeles-Phoenix-Albuquerque-Amarillo-Wichita-Kansas City-Peoria-Chicago-Dayton-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-New York (LaGuardia), making a 15-minute stop here at 2:25pm. TWA used a C-47 (DC-3) for this cargo flight. Interestingly, TWA dropped this flight on November 1 only to resume it November 21 using a larger C-54 (DC-4), which tripled capacity.
PASSENGER NUMBERS, NEW AIRLINE
Peoria’s municipal airport handled 23,976 passengers in 1949. The withdrawal of Chicago & Southern Airlines the day after Christmas most certainly contributed to the decline to 22,903 passengers in 1950. Fortunately, Peoria was set for a significant boost in passengers when St. Louis-based Ozark Air Lines began flights here on November 6, 1950.
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) awarded Ozark route authority previously given to Parks Airlines, which had failed to begin service. In August 1950, Ozark announced plans to start service here. The next month, it acquired Parks’ assets.
Ozark operated two flights daily in each direction on a Moline-Peoria-Bloomington-Champaign-Danville-Indianapolis routing with 28-seat DC-3s. Westbound flights stopped here at 8:35am and 3:35pm while eastbound flights stopped here at 10:31am and 5:16pm. Presumably, each stop lasted five minutes.
Just before service began, Ozark announced the addition of more service. At least 60 after initial service, Ozark would add a St. Louis-Rockford route, with Peoria among several stops.
As 1950 ended, it looked as if Peoria’s air service was poised for exponential growth. We will cover this in the next installment.
– David P. Jordan