Iowa Interstate Gets DOTX 225 (Track Geometry Boxcar)

Monday evening, Iowa Interstate ran a PEDAV (PEoria IL to DAVenport IA) train,
which typically handles potash empties to Canadian Pacific.

What is so special about this one? Track Geometry Car DOT 225 makes an appearance as well, right behind the locomotive. Recall that the Keokuk Junction Railway delivered this equipped boxcar to the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad August 19. It then made a trip on the Illinois & Midland Railroad on the rear of a coal train before returning to East Peoria.

Two still scenes are at Wesley, video scenes are at the 1967 Rock Island depot at Morton Street, NE Adams St. McDonalds’s and San Koty. Train was either too slow or there wasn’t sufficient light to capture the whole consist, but I can tell you that UP 4206 led 104 cars.

– David P. Jordan

Early Boeing 747 Domestic Routes: Continental Airlines

Continental Airlines was fifth to begin scheduled Boeing 747 services in the United States. The Los Angeles-based carrier ordered three (and optioned a fourth) Giant Jets in October 1966. It was the first strictly domestic U.S. carrier to do so.

BEGINNINGS
Continental’s 747s, originally ordered as convertible cargo-passenger versions, were to be used on routes linking Los Angeles with Chicago (O’Hare), Houston and Kansas City. The last two are curious since 747 service required new airports then under construction. Houston Intercontinental Airport opened in time (1969), but Kansas City International Airport opened too late for introductory service.

As with many other carriers, Continental was a party to the Civil Aeronautics Board’s TransPacific Route Case, and won routes from Los Angeles to Honolulu and Hilo, which began in 1969. Probably for this reason, the airline converted its fourth 747 into a firm order, for delivery in 1971. The first service with the 306-seat 747 began June 26, 1970 between Los Angeles and Honolulu. On July 3, the airline added a second roundtrip, and a third on August 1 when service was extended to Chicago.

GIANT JETS FOR THE MILE-HIGH CITY
Denver’s Stapleton Municipal Airport had long been an important stop for Continental Airlines routes between Chicago, Kansas City and Los Angeles, and a terminus for short-haul routes in the Great Plains and Southwest. In March 1964, Continental scheduled 25 weekday departures, ten on Boeing 707s. Later that year, a new terminal and an 11,499′ x 150′ north-south runway opened, and the airfield was renamed Stapleton International Airport.

In 2016, Greater Denver is home to about 2.8 million people, but in 1970 it had only 1.1 million. A big city, but not that big. Yet by 1971 Continental had doubled service there. When CEO Robert Six, other airline officials and press representatives flew a 747 to Denver in November 1970 to help dedicate a new operations center, it was only a matter of time before scheduled service was offered there on the Giant Jet. In fact, a daily roundtrip to Chicago (O’Hare) began March 1, 1971. Then on July 1, 1971 Continental put a 747 on a daily Chicago (O’Hare)-Denver-Los Angeles-Honolulu routing.

A curious incident occurred February 24 at Denver during a promotional flight for 300 VIP’s. As a taxiing 747 prepared to turn onto a runway at the west end of the airfield, the left main landing gear became stuck as asphalt collapsed under the big jet’s weight. There was no damage, except for the airline’s pride before all those VIP’s!

As of October 1 that year, Continental used Giant Jets on the following route segments:

Chicago (O’Hare)-Denver (2 daily)
Los Angeles-Chicago (O’Hare) (2 daily)
Los Angeles-Denver (1 daily)
Los Angeles-Honolulu (2 daily)

THE DC-10 CAN HANDLE IT
It didn’t take long for Continental to realize that the 747 was simply too big for medium-haul routes out of Denver. Early in 1972, the airline announced it would confine its 747s to Mainland-Hawaii routes. On June 1, 1972 DC-10s replaced 747s on the Denver-Chicago (O’Hare)/Los Angeles routes. Saturday-only 747 service returned on December 16, 1972, but probably on a winter-only basis. Meanwhile, Continental began 747 service to Hilo’s General Lyman Field as an extension of a daily Los Angeles-Honolulu roundtrip.

ARAB OIL EMBARGO ENDS GIANT JET SERVICE
In September 1973, Continental Airlines operated up to four Los Angeles-Honolulu roundtrips on 747s most days. One of these flew a Honolulu-Hilo tag, with nonstop service from Los Angeles to Hilo on Saturdays. The big jets also flew one daily roundtrip each on the Los Angeles-Chicago (O’Hare)/Denver routes.

The Arab Oil Embargo and consequential fuel shortages prompted Continental to ground its 747 fleet in December 1973. One had already been withdrawn when demand for troop transportation to and from South Vietnam declined. The planes were put up for sale: one went to Wardair in 1974, the other three to Boeing or the Government of Iran in 1975.

CONTINENTAL 747 FLEET PART 2
Amazingly, the first U.S. carrier to dispose of its 747s for economical reasons would inherit eight through merger in 1987, and operate them for another decade!

PeoplExpress began service April 30, 1981 with a fleet of 737-100s out of Newark International Airport’s old North Terminal. Purchase of more 737-100/200s and ex-Braniff 727-200s enabled rapid expansion over the next two years. On April 26, 1983 the airline launched daily Newark-London (Gatwick) service with a leased Braniff 747-200. A second 747 joined the fleet that year. Three more were added in 1984, four in 1985 and two in 1986.

PeoplExpress began daily Newark-Los Angeles service with a two-class, 490-seat 747 on June 16, 1984. Nine days later, service increased to twice-daily. Daily service between Newark and Oakland began September 28. Like with Los Angeles, a second roundtrip came a short time later.

Metropolitan Oakland International Airport always played second tier to San Francisco International Airport, but it could serve the needs of the populus East Bay. The existing North Airport adopted its present name in 1953, and a new South Airport terminal and 10,000′ x 150′ runway opened in 1962, enabling intercontinental flights. Oakland-based supplemental carrier World Airways operated a small fleet of 747s in 1973-1975, so PeoplExpress only introduced scheduled Giant Jet service there.

In early September 1985, PeoplExpress began Newark-Brussels nonstops daily with 747s. Bay Area service soon switched to San Francisco International Airport, probably on or shortly before November 20, 1985 when it started weekly nonstop service from there to Brussels.

Newark International Airport opened two of three modern terminals in 1973. Work on the third, Terminal C, stopped in 1974 for economic reasons. The old North Terminal had been remodeled and reopened for international and charter traffic in 1975, but PeoplExpress used a completed section of Terminal C for its international flights. In early 1985, PeoplExpress signed a 25-year lease for Terminal C and began construction of two new concourses which would provide 41 gates.

Thr future looked bright for PeoplExpress, but that is when things began going downhill as the airline moved away from its strategy of serving secondary airports. Initiating direct competition with major carriers such as American Airlines and United Air Lines invited prompt retaliation, which lured away passengers. But this didn’t stop PeoplExpress from expanding further through acquisition of other carriers!

In October 1985, PeoplExpress bought Denver-based Frontier Airlines. The two airlines remained separate yet on May 1, 1986 the airline began twice-daily daily 747 service to connect Newark with Frontier’s Denver hub. It even acquired two commuters, Britt Airways in February 1986 and bankrupt Provincetown-Boston Airline in May 1986.

The Frontier acquisition was foolish in that it drained PeoplExpress’ cash reserves to win control (over Continental) of a high-cost, money-losing carrier. Buying the two commuters didn’t help either. Frontier’s situation proved irreversable and it shutdown operations August 24, 1986 then filed for bankruptcy. Schedules show PeoplExpress ending 747 service to Denver on September 14, though this may have occurred earlier thanks to Frontier’s failure. A single roundtrip with a 727-200 was all that remained.

PeoplExpress’ own bankrupty was inevitable if not for acquisition by Continental Airlines, which was agreed to in September. Interestingly, the airline deployed a 747 to one more domestic route, Los Angeles-Honolulu, on December 19, 1986.

Continential Airlines had expanded on October 31, 1982 through its merger with Texas International Airlines, but contracted following a September 1983 court-supervised reorganization. But it was now on a growth binge. Acquisition of PeoplExpress on October 24, 1986 included subsidiaries Frontier Airlines and the two commuters. Almost immediately, Continental worked to restore service lost as a consequence of Frontier’s shutdown, hiring the de-funct carrier’s employees and using its fleet to expand the Denver hub and add 25 new cities to its network. Then on February 1, 1987, New York Air (a sister airline founded in 1980) and PeoplExpress merged into Continental. This consolidation made Continental the nation’s third-largest carrier, so those eight 747s it inherited were a better fit in the late 1980s than the original four had been in the early 1970s.

These are domestic routes on which Continental Airlines used 747s as of February 1, 1987.

Los Angeles-Honolulu (1 daily)
Newark-Los Angeles (2 daily)
Newark-San Francisco (1 daily)

In time, Continental Airlines found better routes for its 747s, and only Los Angeles-Honolulu (two roundtrips) was being flown with the big jets domestically. In 1983, before Pan Am sold its Pacific routes to United Air Lines, it transferred its Seattle-Tokyo route to that carrier. But in 1987, USDOT declared the Seattle-Tokyo route open and entertained bids from the incumbent and also American and Continental. In January 1989, Continental won the route and began daily 747 service on May 31 that year. On July 2, 1990 Continental began daily Houston-Honolulu-Tokyo service, also with a 747. In the early 1990s, 747s were used on the Los Angeles-Honolulu-Auckland-Sydney-Honolulu-Los Angeles route, and during peak travel season, Tokyo-Guam.

ANOTHER FUEL CRISIS?
As a consequence of Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, fuel prices surged. Continental Airlines’ rapid expansion just a few years earlier had accummulated a large debt load. Sudden losses drained cash and the carrier was unable to meet interest payments. In December 1990, it began its second court-protected reorganization in seven years. Just prior, a deal had been made to sell the Seattle-Tokyo route American Airlines for $150 million, but transfer did not take place until October 1991.

Continental Airlines emerged from Chapter 11 in April 1993. In the fall of 1994, 747s were flying Newark-Frankfurt, Newark-London (Gatwick)-Amsterdam, Honolulu-Tokyo and Houston-London (Gatwick)-Amsterdam. The last 747 service operated the Los Angeles-Honolulu-Tokyo route in 1997.

– David P. Jordan

BNSF’s New Chicago-Mexico Intermodal Service

Last June, BNSF Railway and Ferromex inaugurated a new intermodal service between Cicero (Chicago), Illinois and Silao, Guanajato, Mexico via the El Paso, Texas gateway.

It seems that the two railroads attempted to begin this service two years ago, but actually began June 14 this year. Silao is strategically located between Mexico’s two largest cities – Guadalajara and Mexico City. It is in the country’s Bajio region, a growing manufacturing center, particularly for the automotive sector.

This BNSF brochure explains that southbound traffic is shipped in bond to destination where it is cleared by Mexican customs. Northbound shipments are pre-cleared before crossing the border at El Paso.

I happened to see this new train during Galesburg Railroad Days, Saturday June 25. BNSF 6566 & BNSF 5876 pulled 19 cars (52 platforms), which is said to be typical for the train. It carries symbol Q-FXECHC6 (Intermodal Guaranteed Service, Ferromex@El Paso TX to Cicero IL). The “6” indicates the train’s priority between 1 and 10. The train’s southbound counterpart is Q-CHCFXE6.

One is not likely to see the Mexico-bound train in daylight as it is scheduled to leave Cicero at 0200 hours Wednesday thru Sunday. Best bet is the northbound counterpart, which is scheduled to arrive Cicero at 1300 hours Thursday thru Monday, putting the train in Galesburg (including a crew change) in late morning. That is when I saw it.

Main customer for the new service is J. B. Hunt, but CH Robinson and Prime Intermodal equipment can be seen as well.

Lower fuel prices and a collapse in commodity prices have caused a significant decline traffic on American railroads, so it is good to see new business being developed. BNSF and Ferromex should be commended for their efforts. Hopefully, traffic grows sufficiently to ensure a long future for this new service.

– David P. Jordan

Early Boeing 747 Domestic Routes: Northwest Orient Airlines

Northwest Orient Airlines was the fourth to begin Boeing 747 operations on the US Mainland. The Minnesota-based carrier served the nation’s northern tier, plus Atlanta and Florida routes, Alaska, Hawaii and Canada, plus Japan, Hong Kong, The Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. It was also a party to the Civil Aeronautics Board’s TransPacific Route Case, winning Honolulu-Tokyo/Los Angeles/San Francisco authority in 1969.

Ten 747s were ordered in November 1966 for delivery in 1970. Five longer-range models were ordered in March 1969 for 1971 delivery. Northwest Orient received its first 362-seat 747 in April 1970, but engine issues postponed the planned start of service June 8 between Minneapolis/St. Paul and New York (JFK). Flights actually began June 22 with one daily roundtrip (quickly increased to two, probably on July 1).

Deployments of the Giant Jets proceeded rapidly through 1970. On July 1, 747s began operating the New York (JFK)-Chicago (O’Hare)-Seattle-Tokyo route. Just four days later, it began Saturday-only Chicago (O’Hare)-Honolulu nonstops. On August 1, Northwest Orient deployed 747s to its Minneapolis/St. Paul-Los Angeles-Honolulu-Tokyo and Minneapolis/St. Paul-San Francisco-Honolulu-Tokyo routes three days a week, increasing to daily September 1. On September 16, 747s began flying between Chicago (O’Hare) and Miami (at least according to newspaper ads). Eventually, 747s were deployed to Seattle-Honolulu/Anchorage routes.

As of October 1, 1971 Northwest Orient Airlines operated 747s on the following domestic route segments.

Chicago (O’Hare)-Honolulu (Saturday-only)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Minneapolis/St. Paul (2-weekly)
Chicago (O’Hare)-New York (JFK) (1 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Seattle (1 daily)
Honolulu-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Honolulu-San Francisco (1 daily)
Honolulu-Seattle (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-New York (JFK) (2 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Minneapoilis/St. Paul-San Francisco (1 daily)
Seattle-Anchorage (1 daily)

Northwest Orient put 747s on its Minneapolis/St. Paul-Chicago (O’Hare)-Tampa and Chicago (O’Hare)-Miami routes for the winter season on December 15, 1971. Seasonal, twice-daily, single-plane Minneapolis/St. Paul-Miami 747 service began February 1, 1972 via Chicago (O’Hare). Giant Jet service to Tampa International Airport was made possible when a large and modern terminal complex opened there on April 15, 1971 though runway length (the longest being 8,700′ x 150′) limited their use to medium-hauls.

In March 1972, a 747 operating a daily Minneapolis/St. Paul-New York (JFK) roundtrip began stopping at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Field in each direction. Although the Beer City’s metropolitan area numbered only 1.4 million residents at this time, it was the airline’s fifth-largest station with 27 weekday departures in October 1971. This service tended to be seasonal, as neither my December 1972 nor September 1973 Official Airline Guides show 747s being used at Milwaukee. But Giant Jet service is known to have been offered there in spring (and probably summer) 1974 and also in the winter of 1975-1976.

Northwest Orient introduced Giant Jet service to one more US mainland point on December 13, 1972. A quad-weekly routing linking Seattle/Tacoma, Portland, Honolulu and Hilo gave the Oregon city its first scheduled 747 service. Although boasting a metro poplulation of just 1.1 million at this time, Portland benefited greatly from its position as the region’s second-largest city.

LONG-RANGE TRI-JET
Northwest Orient ordered the long-haul version of the DC-10 (Series 40), and placed the first one into service December 13, 1972 on a Minneapolis/St. Paul-Milwaukee-Tampa route. On February 1, 1973 the tri-jet was deployed on a Minneapolis/St. Paul-Chicago (O’Hare)-Ft. Lauderdale route.

As with other carriers, Northwest Orient found wide-body tri-jets more appropriate for some routes than the larger 747s. No surprise then that they were deployed on routes serving almost all of the carrier’s large destinations but also to Billings, Great Falls and Spokane!

Due to its long-range capabilities, Northwest Orient used DC-10-40s on US-Asia routes. On June 1, 1973 the tri-jet inaugurated a daily Washington, DC (Dulles)-Cleveland-Chicago (O’Hare)-Anchorage-Tokyo route. Strangely, Northwest Orient lacked local traffic rights on this route between Chicago (O’Hare) and Washington, DC (Dulles)! This date also marked the start of all-widebody service across the Pacific.

GIANT JETS FOR THE MOTOR CITY
In April 1973, Northwest Orient began 747 operations at Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport linking it daily with New York (JFK) in the east and to Chicago (O’Hare) and Seattle in the west. Past Seattle, less-than-daily service was split between routings to Portland and Honolulu, and to Portland and Hilo. In September 1973, Detroit was the airline’s third-largest station, still at 38 weekday departures.

FUEL SHORTAGE, NO PROBLEM?
The 1973-1974 fuel crisis no doubt affected Northwest Orient Airlines, but perhaps not as much as other carriers. There was no reduction in the carrier’s 747 fleet. In fact, the airline increased its emphasis on the Giant Jet. As of June 1, 1974 all TransPacific routes were operated with 747s, including the Washington, DC (Dulles)-Chicago (O’Hare)-Anchorage-Tokyo service (Cleveland was no longer a stop, and the it returned to Washington, DC via New York). It is likely that Seattle-Anchorage 747 service ended around this time, but three daily roundtrips on DC-10s sufficed. The 747 fleet increased when National Airlines’ two unwanted planes were purchased in May 1976.

As of June 1, 1976 Northwest Orient operated 747s on the following domestic route segments.

Chicago (O’Hare)-Anchorage (1 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Detroit (1 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Honolulu (Saturday-only)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Minneapolis/St. Paul (2 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-New York (JFK)-Washington, DC (Dulles)-Chicago (O’Hare) (1 daily)
Honolulu-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Honolulu-San Francisco-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Honolulu-Seattle (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Detroit (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Milwaukee (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Detroit (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Milwaukee (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Seattle (1 daily)

Noticeably absent is Portland, but July 1977 schedules again show 747 service west to either Hilo (twice-weekly) or Honolulu (five-days-a-week), and daily service east to Seattle, Chicago (O’Hare) and Detroit. Northwest Orient apparently dropped Portland-Hawaii service by 1979, and with it the last reason to serve that city with the Giant Jet.

EUROPEAN EXPANSION
Although this post focuses on domestic service, 747 deployments shifted as Northwest Orient opened up a number of Transatlantic services in 1979 and 1980. The first of these new services, Minneapolis/St. Paul-New York (JFK)-Copenhagen-Stockholm, began March 31, 1979 on a tri-weekly basis then went daily on April 29. A Minneapolis/St. Paul-Boston-Glasgow-Copenhagen route began daily operation on March 31, 1979. Schedule changes added Oslo and Shannon as destinations and DC-10s on one of the routes.

On June 1, 1980 Minneapolis/St. Paul-London (Gatwick) service began using a 747. Six days later, service was extended to Hamburg, Germany three days a week. Thus, within a short period, Northwest Orient was linking Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York (JFK) and Boston with six European Cities, mostly on 747s.

By the early 1980s, Northwest Orient had plenty of intercontinental routes on which to deploy its 747s, and domestic deployments declined. The fleet consisted of twenty-four passenger (and five freighter) models in 1981. In October 1985, Northwest Orient ordered three 747-200s and ten 747-400s, a new model which could boast a range of 7,000 miles at maximum payload.

By the mid-1980s, the U.S. airline industry began a period of consolidation. On January 23, 1986 Northwest Orient Airlines announced a deal to acquire Republic Airlines for $884 million. Both carriers were based in the Minneapolis area, and both maintained hubs there. The U. S. Justice Department approved the acquisition on July 31 and the carriers combined operations on October 1. Although the surviving carrier, Northwest dropped “Orient” from its name at the time of the merger.

As of July 1, 1986 Northwest operated 747s on the following domestic route segments.

Minneapolis/St. Paul-Chicago (O’Hare) (10-weekly)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-New York (JFK) (6-weekly)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-San Francisco (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Seattle/Tacoma (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Tampa-Miami (3-weekly)

All but the last were tag-ons to international routes, but domestic accommodations were made available to fill seats. Through its integration with Republic Airlines, Northwest not only strengthened its Minneapolis/St. Paul hub, but also gained large hubs at Detroit and Memphis, a city not served previously. By early 1987, domestic 747 service had increased substantially (no doubt helped by the three jets ordered in 1985).

In April 1987, Northwest operated 747s on the following domestic route segments.

Detroit-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Honolulu-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Honolulu-Seattle/Tacoma (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Chicago (O’Hare) (10-weekly)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Honolulu (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Memphis (1 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Phoenix (2 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-San Francisco (2 daily)
Minneapolis/St. Paul-Seattle/Tacoma (2 daily)

Some of these were seasonal services and frequencies, such as those to Phoenix (for winter residents). Northwest put a 747 on its Detroit-Los Angeles route during the Holidays in late 1986/early 1987. The service resumed by February 1 and was extended to Honolulu in April.

THE QUEEN COMES TO MEMPHIS
One curious addition to Northwest domestic 747 routes was the Minneapolis/St. Paul-Memphis route begun February 1, 1987. With a metro population of just less than 1 million residents, Greater Memphis didn’t attract the Giant Jet in the early 1970s. But its airport did attract air service levels far greater than many cities its size. In fact, it adopted its present name, Memphis International Airport, in 1969. Republic Airlines predecessor Southern Airways began emphasizing the city as a hub in 1973 after having added Chicago (1969) and St. Louis (1970) routes.

The July 1, 1979 North Central Airlines-Southern Airways merger led to significant growth over the next seven years. A massive terminal expansion completed in 1976 increased the number of gates from 22 to 54. By spring 1983, Republic had 25 of these. Until 1986, Delta Air Lines maintained a small hub here dating to Chicago & Southern Air Lines days. Braniff International Airways and United Air Lines even maintained mini-hub operations there briefly in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In April 1987, Northwest scheduled 205 weekday departures from Memphis, its Northwest Airlink partner 82. So it did not lack feeder traffic for routes flown with Giant Jets. In fact, Northwest flew DC-10s out of Memphis as well to Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Orlando. Unfortunately, 747 service was short-lived, lasting only a matter of months.

SHIFT TO THE 747-400
Northwest Airlines was first to place the longer-range, 404-seat Boeing 747-400 into service, on February 9, 1989 making proving runs between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Phoenix. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the 20th anniversary of the 747s first flight! Intercontinental service, for which the -400 was specifically designed, began June 1 between New York (JFK) and Tokyo. As Northwest took delivery of its 747-400s, it retired older “classic” 747s. Six more -400s joined the fleet between 1999 and 2002.

By 2000, domestic 747 service was mostly a thing of the past for Northwest. Airbus A330-200/300 deliveries enabled retirement of the last “classic” 747 in 2007. Delta Air Lines acquired Northwest Airlines in October 2008 and combined operations with the carrier on January 31, 2010. Northwest’s 16 747-400s continued service with Delta Air Lines. More on that in a future post.

– David P. Jordan

Union Pacific Coal & Rock Trains Meet!

I had a bit of luck this afternoon the brief time I was trackside at Edelstein. First, I shot BNSF’s eastbound local (L-CHI101) a little after 3:00pm, and it had a Warbonnet (BNSF 539) leading, but also BN 12581, a cupola caboose, bringing up the rear!

Just before the 101’s passage, I heard the horn of a UP southbound, which provided a near over-and-under opportunity. I’m glad I didn’t take it though. After the BNSF local cleared, I chased the UP coalie to Pioneer Station where a loaded rock conveyor train led by UP 4727 was waiting for it to clear. That is where I shot this video.

UP3969 & UP 6544 led the unit coal train with UP 5874 bringing up the rear as DPU. The conveyor train had UP 4727 & UP 5651 for power.

– David P. Jordan

A Warbonnet and a Caboose!

Despite the clouds, I decided to go trackside this afternoon for some action on BNSF’s Chillicothe Subdivision. I arrived in time to miss a westbound intermodal train, but not long afterward, the eastbound local, L-CHI101, showed up.

The lead unit, BNSF 539, is a B40-8W which began life with the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in October 1990, hence its classic red-and-silver “Warbonnet” paint scheme. Trailing unit, BNSF 515, is also a former Santa Fe B40-8W, but now wears the carrier’s “Heritage 2” scheme.

I thought it was a treat to see the Warbonnet leading on Santa Fe rails. Then I noticed ex-Burlington Northern cupola caboose BN 12581 bringing up the rear of the 51-car train! The switching platform just ahead of it functions as a caboose, so seeing an actual caboose was a double treat!

This train, btw, runs from Galesburg to GM Yard at Hodgkins (near Chicago) on weekdays. It usually shows up around Edelstein in mid-afternoon. Its westbound counterpart, L-CHI102, runs during the evening, and may appear in the Peoria area only after sunset. The train switches one area customer, Seneca Foods Corp., at Princeville. It also works at Luckey Trucking at Streator.

– David P. Jordan

Early Boeing 747 Domestic Routes: American Airlines

In the 1960s, American Airlines’ route network was confined to the U.S. Mainland with some international service to Canada (Toronto) and Mexico (Acapulco and Mexico City). Long-haul service was limited to Transcons and Midwest-California routes.

But American Airlines anticipated new routes to Tokyo and Hawaii as part of the Civil Aeronautics Board’s long-running TransPacific Route Case. So it ordered ten 747s in November 1966, adding six more in 1969. In the end, Tokyo rights were denied, but American did get Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa, and some Hawaii routes. Service to Hawaii and the South Pacifc began in 1970, but routes to the latter were traded to Pan Am in 1975 in exchange for U.S.-Caribbean and Bermuda routes.

SERVICE BEGINS
Despite the denial of Tokyo authority, American had plenty of Transcon and Midwest-California routes routes suitable for 747s. Delivery of its first Giant Jets wasn’t scheduled until June 1970, so the airline leased two from Pan Am. The third carrier to place the type into service, American began flying the 747 between New York and Los Angeles on March 2. On April 19, a leased Pan Am 747 started New York-San Francisco service. American’s own 366-seat 747 took over the former route in July (one 747 would continue to be leased from Pan Am until May 1971). By early summer 1970, 747s were deployed to Chicago-Los Angeles/San Francisco routings. Service from Los Angeles to Washington, DC began September 14.

Despite its short runways (8,800′ x 150′ 13R-31L being the longest), Dallas-Love Field gained American Airlines 747 service to Los Angeles on October 25, 1970. At maximum take-off weight, a 747 requires a take off length of 10,000 feet (less to land, mainly due to being lighter after most fuel has been burned). But the city’s central position and deployment of the 747 to medium-haul routes meant lighter fuel loads, and it seems unlikely all seats were filled. Limited service had been planned at some point, but Delta Air Lines selected that date to start its own 747 service out of Dallas, and American desired to match its competitor. Sometime in 1971, 747 service was added to both San Francisco and New York.

Phoenix became American’s seventh 747-served point on December 1, 1970 with a daily flight from Chicago. Arizona Republic noted in its Dec. 2 issue that Phoenix beat out Detroit and Philadelphia (which probably never had AA 747 service). Although the Arizona city is huge in 2016 (4.6 million metro population), it was not so much in 1970, when its metro population numbered just over one million. But heavy wintertime traffic likely justified use of the Giant Jet.

Having gained White House approval the last day of 1970 to purchase Trans Caribbean Airways, American Airlines obtained a lucrative and heavily-trafficked long-haul market, New York-San Juan. On March 2, 1971 American began operating 747s on two daily roundtrips. As an aside, Trans Caribbean had planned to lease 747s from Irish International Airlines that winter, but couldn’t meet a contract stipulation that the aircraft be US-registered. American’s JFK-San Juan service would be one of its most profitable routes, and 747s operated as many as four roundtrips daily during the peak season. In 1973-1974, American Airlines also used a 747 on its daily New York (JFK)-Washington, DC (Dulles)-San Juan route.

American Airlines scheduled a 747 on a daily roundtrip between Detroit and Los Angeles on April 25, 1971. Boston’s Logan International Airport got the big jet on a daily Los Angeles nonstop starting June 4, and later the same year, a 747 began operating Boston-Chicago-Phoenix daily.

American Airlines deployed 747s on these route segments as of October 1, 1971.

Chicago (O’Hare)-Boston (1 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-Phoenix (1 daily)
Chicago (O’Hare)-San Francisco (1 daily)
Dallas-Los Angeles (1 daily)
Dallas-New York (JFK) (1 daily)
Dallas-San Francisco (1 daily)
Los Angeles-Boston (1 daily)
Los Angeles-Detroit (1 daily)
Los Angeles-Washington, DC (Dulles) (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Los Angeles (2 daily)
New York (JFK)-San Francisco (2 daily)
New York (JFK)-San Juan (4 daily)

ENTER THE DC-10
McDonnell Douglas offered its wide-body tri-jet DC-10 as an alternative to the 747. It was smaller, but could fly between New York and Los Angeles fully-loaded with fuel and passengers. In February 1968, American Airlines ordered 25 (and optioned 25 more) 206-seat planes for delivery starting in 1971. An important aspect of the DC-10’s performance was that at maximum takeoff weight, it only required 8,600′ of runway, enabling operations at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, and many others not equipped for 747s.

American Airlines inaugurated DC-10 service August 5, 1971 between Chicago (O’Hare) and Los Angeles, replacing a 747, which went to the New York-San Juan route. On October 3, DC-10 service was extended to the Chicago (O’Hare)-New York (LaGuardia) route. On December 1, this route was extended to Tucson, Arizona, which had a small metro population of just 351,666 in 1970, but was popular with winter residents.

A DC-10 replaced a 747 on the Dallas-New York (JFK) route on December 17, 1971 but this only lasted until January 10, 1972 when the 747 returned from a brief stint on the San Juan route. The same day, American Airlines began using a DC-10 between Chicago (O’Hare) and Dallas. In some cases, American Airlines scheduled DC-10s alongside 747s (Chicago-Los Angeles/Phoenix/San Francisco) on at least a seasonal basis, but not Dallas. Various source indicate that 747 service to that city was replaced with DC-10s in Spring 1972.

It is interesting that DC-10 service was extended to a handful of medium-sized cities as well. On April 30, 1972, El Paso, TX and Rochester and Syracuse, NY got the big jet.

FUEL SHORTAGE, RECESSION
As mentioned in the Pan Am and TWA posts, an Arab Oil Embargo (retaliation for continued U.S. support for Israel during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War) caused severe fuel shortages, a spike in prices and led to ill-advised price controls. If half-empty 747s were only breaking even before this crisis, they were bleeding money for their owners during and after. Thus, American Airlines decided to reduce its fleet, but not before starting a new service with the Giant Jet – New York (JFK) to Aruba and Curacao on November 17, 1973.

Ten of sixteen 747s were removed from service on January 7, 1974. Two of these jets were sold to Boeing for conversion to freighters, and all but one of the other eight were returned to service for the summer travel season. One of American’s 747s was rented to for use in the 1974 disaster film, Airport ’75. Another was sold to NASA and modified to serve as the space shuttle carrier aircraft.

On January 13, 1974, Dallas/Ft. Worth Regional Airport hosted its first airline operations. Limited service continued at the old Dallas-Love Field, but DFW was now the Metroplex’s primary commercial airline facility. Parallel 11,387′ x 200 runways could handle 747s at maximum takeoff weight. It was the world’s largest airport, yet served a metro area of only about 2.5 million residents, then the nation’s 11th largest. But American Airlines had a major presence, so it was no surprise that on August 1, 1974 it began 747 service to DFW with daily flights to both Los Angeles and New York (JFK).

REDUCING THE PASSENGER FLEET
Permanently higher fuel prices, thanks to rising inflation, led American Airlines to significantly reduce its fleet of Giant Jets. Smaller DC-10s could handle all of the routes operated by 747s, so the Giant Jets would be used where they were needed and where they were most profitable. By January 1975, the fleet had been reduced to twelve, two of which had been converted to dedicated freighters for the airline. Two more 747s would be converted during the year, but for sale to another carrier. American sold a third freighter in 1975 and bought it back in late 1976.

American Airlines operated the following route segments with 747s as of August 1, 1975…

New York (JFK)-Los Angeles (2 daily)
New York (JFK)-Phoenix (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-San Juan (up to 5 most days)
Phoenix-Los Angeles (1 daily)

…and these as of September 6, 1978.

Chicago-O’Hare-Los Angeles (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Los Angeles (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-San Francisco (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-San Juan (3 daily)

DALLAS/FT. WORTH 747 REVIVAL
In 1981, American Airlines still had eight passenger 747s in its fleet. Passage of the Airline Deregulation Act on October 24, 1978 phased out regulations on pricing and market entry (and exit). Quicker than most carriers, American shifted its route network away from a multi-stop, linear system of multi-stop routes into one based primarily around a hub-and-spoke system. Chicago (O’Hare) and Dallas/Ft. Worth had been developed as “de-facto” hubs during the 1970s, and were strengthened in the years after deregulation. In fact, the airline moved its headquarters from New York to Fort Worth in 1979. On December 17, 1980 American began a Dallas/Ft. Worth-Los Angeles-Honolulu route using a DC-10. But on June 1, it eliminated the Los Angeles stop and switched to a 747. It should be noted that American extended its New York-Los Angeles roundtrips to Honolulu the prior December. The DFW became an “official” hub on June 11, 1981.

Longtime DFW-based Braniff International Airways struggled with over-expansion, labor issues and increased competition, causing it to cease operations May 12, 1982 and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Braniff had begun nonstop service to London (Gatwick) from DFW in early 1978, and American Airlines took over this route after Braniff’s shutdown. Service started five days a week, and expanded to daily by summer. A 747 was used on this route. Around June 1982, AA doubled its Honolulu nonstops and began daily 747 service to Los Angeles, giving DFW four daily 747 departures on its largest carrier.

TWILIGHT FOR AMERICAN’S GIANT JET FLEET (AND A REPRIEVE)
Unfortunately, American Airlines’ 747 fleet would soon belong to another. In the fall of 1983, a deal was reached in which Pan Am would get eight American 747s and American would get the fifteen DC-10s Pan Am inherited in its merger with National Airlines. The exchange was completed by the fall of 1984. The 747 freighter fleet was retired that year as well.

Ironically, perhaps, American Airlines soon won nonstop Dallas/Ft. Worth-Tokyo authority, but lacked an aircraft that could operate it. As a stop-gap, it purchased two, 187-seat “shorty” 747SPs from TWA for the service which began May 22, 1987. These were replaced by 247-seat MD-11s (a long-range stretch of the DC-10) in 1991, which proved unsatisfactory due to range limitations and avionics. The 747SPs were redeployed to New York (JFK)-London (Heathrow)/Brussels routes before being retired in 1992. The MD-11s were replaced with Boeing 777-200ERs between 1999 and 2002. Too bad American Airlines did not order the 747-400 when they first became available in the late 1980s.

I’ll conclude with this 1981 commercial which features the 747.

– David P. Jordan

Early Boeing 747 Domestic Routes: Trans World Airlines (TWA)

Trans World Airlines, or TWA, was the second carrier to introduce the Boeing 747 into scheduled service. In fact, it inaugurated the first domestic mainland US service.

BEGINNINGS
Like Pan Am, New York-based TWA had an extensive Transatlantic network. Unlike Pan Am, it also had extensive domestic network, which could feed its international flights. Since its Transatlantic competitor ordered the 747, TWA had to be competitive. So on September 1966, it made a deal for a dozen Giant Jets. More would be ordered in 1967.

TWA inaugurated 747 service between New York and Los Angeles on February 25, 1970. A daily flight was offered from the start, but as more Giant Jets entered the fleet, roundtrips increased to thrice daily.

The 747s range (6,100 miles) and capacity (360 seats in TWA models) made them most suitable for Transatlantic services. Naturally, on March 18, TWA 747s entered the competition for passengers between New York and London, and between New York and Paris on April 3. Routes out of New York to Rome, Madrid and Lisbon saw 747 service beginning June 5, June 15, and June 16, respectively. I haven’t found the dates, but TWA also put 747s on its London routes from Chicago and Washington, DC sometime in 1970.

A second domestic route, between New York and San Francisco, began April 6. TWA gave Chicago its first domestic 747 service with the first departure to Los Angeles on May 14. Boeing 747 service between Chicago and San Franciso apparently started sometime that summer.

OVERCAPACITY PROMPTS CHANGES
As I mentioned in the Pan Am post, airlines introduced 747s during an airline industry downturn. Increased capacity brought on by 747 deployments made TWA’s situation much worse. So in January and February 1971, the airline reduced 747 service on its Chicago-Los Angeles/San Francisco  and New York-Los Angeles routes. Likewise, British complaints about overcapacity prompted TWA to return a 707 to the Washington, DC-London route in the summer of 1971.

Despite making capacity cuts on Transatlantic service, 1971 saw new domestic deployments. In June, TWA put a 747 on its Washington, DC to San Francisco route. On October 1, TWA inaugurated St. Louis’ first Giant Jet service with a daily roundtrip to Los Angeles. Las Vegas got its first 747 service October 31 with a daily flight to Chicago.

Domestic 747 routes operated by TWA as of October 1, 1971 included the following

Chicago (O’Hare) – Los Angeles (2 roundtrips)
Chicago (O’Hare) – San Francisco (1 roundtrip)
New York (JFK) – Los Angeles (2 roundtrips)
New York (JFK) – San Francisco (1 roundtrip)
St. Louis – Los Angeles (1 roundtrip)
Washington (Dulles) – San Francisco (1 roundtrip)

A “LITTLE” SISTER FOR THE GIANT JET
In 1968, TWA ordered 44 L-1011 Tristars from Lockheed, though only 36 were delivered between 1972 and 1975. Equipped with 206 seats, the big trijets were more suitable for long-haul or heavily-traveled domestic routes than 747s. The first L-1011 service began June 15, 1972 on the St. Louis-Los Angeles route. Chicago to Los Angeles flights started two days later, also replacing a 747. Then on September 1, an L-1011 replaced the 747 on the Chicago-Las Vegas route. The 747s were needed for summer season Transatlantic services, but returned to St. Louis and Las Vegas in winter 1972-73.

Airline passenger traffic was booming again in 1972, and some markets deemed more suitable for the L-1011 continued to see at least seasonal 747 service. TWA put a 747 on a daily Boston-Los Angeles roundtrip during this period. New York-Las Vegas service began in 1972 and continued into 1975, up to twice daily then less depending on the time of year. September 1973 schedules show 747s returning to Chicago-Los Angeles/San Francisco routes. Also starting in 1973, TWA put a 747 on a daily San Francisco-Los Angeles-London (Heathrow)-Paris routing.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH KANSAS CITY?
Kansas City was an interesting exception to 747 service. Until 1964, TWA was headquartered in the city so it was an important station for many years. After the carrier’s maintenance facilities at Fairfax Airport flooded in 1951, it was decided to relocate to a new airport north of the city. Completed in 1956, Mid-Continent International Airport hosted TWA’s main overhaul facilities to the end. Commercial airline operations were based at cramped Kansas City Municipal Airport in the city’s downtown area. In 1966, funding was approved for construction of passenger airline terminals at Mid-Continent to replace the downtown facility and its short runways. The new facilities were dedicated in late-October 1972 at which time the airfield was renamed Kansas City International Airport.

As part of the new airport’s dedication, TWA offered for just $10, thirty-minute sightseeing trips in a 747 on October 21, 22 and 23, 1972. Actual airline operations at the new terminal complex started November 11. Unfortunately, the circle-shaped terminals, while convenient for passengers who could walk between curbside and plane in only 75 feet, proved inadequate for 747s. The Giant Jets only showed up at Kansas City when they needed an overhaul. TWA substituted them on regular flights, so some lucky passengers there got to fly 747s from time to time right into the 1990s.

Perhaps Kansas City would have seen regularly scheduled 747 service had its terminals been of a more conventional design. But by November 1972, when its new airport opened to passenger airlines, TWA had another large jet, the L-1011, which was more suited to the heavily-traveled air routes out of Kansas City.

FUEL CRISIS, CUTBACKS
Including four 747 delivery positions Eastern Air Lines sold to the carrier in 1970, TWA had built a fleet of 19 (some leased) Giant Jets by October 1971. The Arab Oil Embargo of late 1973 and early 1974 led to fuel shortages, spiraling costs and a severe recession which caused a huge drop off in passenger traffic. As a consequence, TWA sold nine 747s to Boeing in 1975, leaving a fleet of just ten. A year later, TWA admitted to having sold too many, but needed the cash.

TWA operated the following route segments (some combined) to and from US cities with 747s in May 1975:

Chicago (O’Hare)-London (Heathrow) (1 daily)
Chicago-San Francisco (1 daily)
Los Angeles-London (Heathrow) (1 daily)
Los Angeles-San Francisco (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Athens (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Lisbon (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Las Vegas (We & Su only)
New York (JFK)-London (Heathrow) (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Los Angeles (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Madrid (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Paris (DeGaulle) (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-Rome (1 daily)
New York (JFK)-San Francisco (1 daily)

TWA ordered three 747SP’s in 1978 for 1980 delivery. The aircraft would be used for Middle East routes, such as New York-Cairo nonstops. Four standard 747s were added to the fleet in 1980-81, and more would join (and leave) the fleet into the 1990s.

DEREGULATION, CONTRACTION AND EXPANSION
A significant change in the airline industry came October 24, 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act. At this time, TWA’s domestic route network was primarily a linear, multi-stop network stretching from coast-to-coast, serving the nation’s northeast quadrant, the Great Plains and the southwest, plus routes to Denver, Atlanta and Florida. After deregulation, which phased in freedom of pricing and market entry and exit without federal approval, airlines restructured their route networks away from point-to-point, linear routes to hub-and-spoke systems.

In 1978, TWA operated de facto hubs at both Chicago-O’Hare (105 weekday departures) and St. Louis (90 weekday departures) with something of a mini hub at Kansas City (45 weekday departures). Competitive pressures from two healthier carriers – American Airlines and United Air Lines  – forced TWA to reduce its Chicago operations. By June 1981, weekday TWA departures at Chicago-O’Hare had dropped to 63 and risen to 108 at St. Louis. Kansas City has only 34 weekday departures. By this time, domestic 747 service was limited to just a handful of routes

Los Angeles-Washington, DC (Dulles) (1 daily, 747SP)
New York (JFK)-Los Angeles (1 daily)
San Francisco-Washington, DC (Dulles) (1 daily, 747SP)

ALL OVER ST. LOUIS
Although Greater St. Louis’ 1980 population of 2,377,000 was much smaller than Chicago’s (7,870,000), it would become TWA’s largest domestic hub. Chicago and Kansas City faded into mere spokes by 1984. So it was only natural when in April 1984, TWA applied for nonstop St. Louis-London (Gatwick) authority.

From at least 1982, TWA offered single-plane, one-stop service between St. Louis and London. Schedules show that Flt #’s 770 & 771, the Chicago-London (Heathrow) flights, began to originate at St. Louis, which meant the restoration of 747 service for the time since 1973. TWA also operated Los Angeles-St. Louis-Philadelphia-London (Heathrow) and St. Louis-Boston-London (Heathrow) routes daily with L-1011s for a time. The March 1985 Official Airline Guide shows Flt #’s 770 & 771 operating Los Angeles-St. Louis-Chicago (O’Hare)-London (Heathrow), giving TWA’s domestic hub twice-daily 747 service.

TWA began nonstop service to London (Gatwick), and also Frankfurt and Paris, on April 28, 1985. London flights were operated with 747s, the others on smaller but newer 767s. Eventually, Frankfurt service was dropped and Paris flights were operated during the summer months before being eliminated altogether.

During the winter months, St. Louis-London nonstops were cut to four per week. This routine varied over the life of this flight, which lasted into the American Airlines era (eff. December 1, 2001) and continued through October 2003. TWA used 747s in the summer season until 1997.

TWA offered additional 747 service out of St. Louis over the years. On June 1, 1986, it began daily nonstop flights to Honolulu. On a variable number of days, depending on the time of year, flights originated and terminated at New York (JFK). Nonstops to San Juan, Puerto Rico operated with 747s on certain days, depending on the season.

TWA grew its St. Louis hub significantly with its acquisition of then merger with Ozark Air Lines on October 26, 1986. The additional feed provided more passengers to the Honolulu and London 747 flights, thus ensuring their presence in TWA’s largest hub for years to come.

TWA never could overcome its high costs. To raise cash, it sold London-Heathrow rights to American Airlines in 1991. This ended TWA 747 service to Chicago after 21 years. Selling assets failed to keep the carrier afloat so it filed for bankruptcy protection in 1992. Interestingly, it moved its headquarters to St. Louis (from Mt. Kisco, NY) by the time it reorganized in November 1993.

A pre-packaged bankruptcy occurred during the summer of 1995, but the loss in July 1996 of a 747 operating New York (JFK) to Paris ended whatever momentum was gained from the second reorganization. A fleet of 767-300s would prove adequate for long-haul and international flights. TWA retired its last L-1011 in 1997 and the 747 in early 1998. A loss of $120 million in 1998, when both the airline industry and the US economy were booming, proved a watershed.

In January 2001, TWA agreed to a buyout offer by American Airlines. The events of 9/11 accelerated integration, and a merger of the two carriers took place on December 1 that year. Sadly, the post-9/11 downturn in the airline industry led American Airlines to downsize its St. Louis hub on November 1, 2003. Remaining hub-like schedules were elliminated as a result of the 2008-2009 financial crisis and recession.

And nearly two decades have passed since one could watch red-and-white 747s arrive and depart New York and St. Louis.

– David P. Jordan

BNSF Geometry Train Visit!

Friday, August 19, 2016, BNSF Railway ran a track geometry train from Galesburg to Peoria and back. I caught it between Edwards and Peoria in both directions. The train “turned” on the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad at Bridge Junction.

BNSF 7600 is an ES44DC. BNSF 86 and 85 are track geometry cars.

– David P. Jordan

Early Boeing 747 Domestic Routes: Pan American World Airways

Pan American World Airways, usually just called “Pan Am,” was a New York-based flag carrier which linked the United States with all major regions of the world – Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Australia and Asia. In return for holding such a lucrative position, the carrier was forbidden to fly passengers within the Lower 48 until the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Pan Am was, however, permitted to link the Lower 48 with Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

EARLY HISTORY
I’ll detail Pan Am’s introduction of domestic 747 service, but first let’s first review how the big jet came to be. By the early 1960s, the United States Air Force recognized the need for a heavy jet transport to replace the turboprop C-133 Cargomaster. In 1964, the USAF requested and received proposals from Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed and Martin-Marietta. Lockheed’s design was selected due to lower cost and was awarded a contract in December 1965 for what would become the C-5 Galaxy.

Even before the USAF heavy jet transport competition, Pan Am had asked Seattle-based Boeing to design and build an airliner with twice the capacity of the 707. So Boeing took what it had learned from the air force program and developed a heavy jet transport for commercial airlines, the 747 (the 727 first flew in 1963 and the 737 would begin flight tests in 1967).

In April 1966, Pan Am ordered 25 747’s in a deal worth $525 million, but this was insufficient for Boeing to formally launch the project. By July enough orders had been placed to formally launch the 747 program. The plane was so big it required an entirely new factory, which went into operation at Paine Field in Everett, Washington in 1967. The prototype rolled out of the assembly building (the world’s largest under one roof) on September 30, 1968. First flight took place on February 9, 1969.

The 747’s size and weight required four high-bypass turbofan engines to get it airborne and keep it in flight. Unlike the loud roar of turbojet engines used on smaller and medium jetliners, high-bypass turbofans emitted a quieter “buzzsaw” sound. To aviation enthusiasts, this sound is nothing less than a symphony!

SERVICE BEGINS
As launch customer, Pan Am would be first to place the 747 into service, planned for late 1969, but weight and engine issues delayed the event. Finally, the first commercial passenger flight with the 360-seat jet was scheduled to depart New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for London’s Heathrow International Airport in late evening, January 21, 1970. But engine problems required substitution by another 747 and the departure took place shortly after midnight on January 22. The Jumbo Jet era had begun.

Pan Am’s second 747 route was a domestic one: New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Service began February 7, 1970 and at first operated daily except Tuesday and Wednesday (three or four daily would be common as more 747s entered the fleet). It should be mentioned that a 747 operating this route was the first of the type to be hijacked. On August 2, 1970, shortly after leaving New York, a passenger forced a diversion to Havana, Cuba. The plane’s captain and the hijacker were the only ones to deplane there. Interestingly, Cuban leader Fidel Castro showed up to meet the plane’s captain and the hijacker! Through an interpreter, he asked the captain many questions about the giant jet, and expressed concern over its ability to take off. After departing, the plane flew to Miami.

The next domestic route to which Pan Am deployed its 747s was between Los Angeles and Honolulu (and on to Tokyo). Service started March 10, 1970. Exactly one month later, Pan Am deployed a 747 on a Los Angeles-San Francisco-Tokyo route. The earlier route was extended to Hong Kong on April 11.

PAN AM’S INTERNATIONAL NETWORK
It is difficult to analyze Pan Am’s 747 domestic deployments while omitting international service. International routes often marked an airport’s first service with the Giant Jet – Baltimore, Boston, Chicago-O’Hare, New York (JFK), San Juan and Washington, DC (Dulles) for example. Unfortunately, the 747’s service introduction coincided with a national recession (albeit a mild one) and a downturn in airline passenger traffic. That is because replacing a single 707 with a single 747 increases seating capacity 150%. This occurred, for example, on Pan Am’s Chicago-O’Hare to London route in 1970. The effect on existing services were feared so severe that the British government protested the significant increase in capacity between Chicago and London, and elsewhere. In July 1971, a pact with the U.S. was signed with Pan Am agreeing to switch back to a 707 year-round on its Chicago-O’Hare to London route (among other capacity cuts).

Pan Am also switched back to a 707 on its Washington, DC-Boston-London route for the winter 1970-1971 season. Then on April 25, 1971 it initiated nonstop Washington, DC to London 747 service. This flight actually originated at Atlanta, with Delta Air Lines crews flying the domestic segment. Then on June 7 that year, Pan Am assigned a 747 to its Baltimore-Boston-London route (for at least the summer season), giving the Maryland city its first service with the Giant Jet.

Pan Am had ordered eight more 747s in 1967, but the original order for 25 had been completed in 1971 (one of these was destroyed by hijackers at Cairo, Egypt in September 1970). Some were leased to American Airlines in the spring of 1970, and two or three to Eastern Air Lines from late 1970 to 1972. So the carrier had enough Giant Jets to fly them from most of its U. S. gateways to major world cities. Below is a list of early inaugural 747 routings (not all daily; some summer season-only) and their start dates (if known). A few did not last long, or were modified (routes via Amsterdam, for example).

New York (JFK)-London (Heathrow)-Frankfurt – Jan. 21/22, 1970
New York (JFK)-San Juan-Feb. 25, 1970
New York (JFK)-Paris (Orly) – March 1, 1970
Los Angeles-Honolulu-Tokyo (Haneda)-March 10, 1970 (extended to Hong Kong 4/11/70)
Los Angeles-San Francisco-Tokyo (Haneda) – April 10, 1970
Chicago (O’Hare)-London (Heathrow)-Frankfurt – April 26, 1970
Los Angeles-San Francisco-London (Heathrow)-Paris – May 15, 1970
New York (JFK)-Rome (Fiumicino) – June 1, 1970
Washington (Dulles)-Boston-London (Heathrow) – June 1, 1970
New York (JFK)-Lisbon-Barcelona – June 16, 1970
New York (JFK)-Bermuda – June 20, 1970
New York (JFK)-Amsterdam-Brussels – July 1, 1970
Los Angeles/San Francisco-Honolulu – July 1, 1970
Los Angeles-Honolulu-Nandi (Fiji)-Sydney – Oct. 2, 1970 (JFK, Melbourne added later?)
San Francisco-Honolulu-Guam-Manila-Saigon – Oct ?, 1970
New York (JFK)-Montego Bay – Nov. 1970
New York (JFK)-Frankfurt-Vienna – April 7, 1971
Atlanta-Washington (Dulles)-London (Heathrow) – April 25, 1971
Baltimore-Boston-London (Heathrow) – June 7, 1971
Tokyo (Haneda)-Guam – Sept. 20, 1971
New York (JFK)-Amsterdam-Munich – June 25, 1972

I should note that on October 31, 1971, Pan Am deployed 747s on its flagship round-the-world flights between Los Angeles and New York which featured stops at Honolulu, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New Delhi, Karachi, Tehran, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt and London (Heathrow). Most of the stops had daily service.

By early 1972, Pan Am had received 27 of 33 747s ordered. Aircraft leased to Eastern would be returned shortly. Plans were to equip up to 36 stations worldwide for 747 service within two years. The airline recession had ended and traffic was growing again. Pan Am replaced a 707 with a 747 on its Seattle/Tacoma-London (Heathrow) flight on May 20, 1973. Pan Am also introduced 747 service to Central America in 1973, operating Miami-Panama City and San Francisco-Los Angeles-Guatemala City-Panama City daily.

A growing fuel shortage by the summer of 1973, made worse by the Arab Oil Embargo for several months in 1973-1974, caused a severe downturn in passenger traffic, a worldwide recession and the grounding of some 747s. The downturn even threatened Pan Am’s financial viability. Fortunately, traffic would start growing again in time and the last of the stored 747s returned to the skies in 1975.

In 1976, Pan Am introduced the 747SP to its fleet. This “Special Performance” type had a shortened fuselage, which reduced weight and capacity (290 seats), but increased range. Nonstop, tri-weekly New York-Tokyo service began April 25, and increased to daily on August 1. In June, Pan Am added weekly New York-Rio de Janiero and twice-weekly Miami-Caracas service with the 747SP. Once-weekly New York-Bahrain service began December 6.

NORTH TO ALASKA
Perhaps the most unsual domestic 747 service operated by Pan Am (or any carrier) was that between Seattle and Fairbanks, Alaska! Financial problems brought on by the fuel crisis and subsequent recession prompted Pan Am to agree to sell the route to Western Airlines. But the airline’s fortunes recovered and the deal was terminated in July 1975. Had it been consumated, Pan Am would have dropped Fairbanks completely, as on April 9, 1975 the airline ended its daily New York (JFK)-Fairbanks-Tokyo route (though weekly service to New York continued into 1977). But a booming Alaska economy, specifically due to oil pipeline construction, generated sufficient cargo volume to justify a 747 on the Seattle route starting April 25, 1976. The Fairbanks service was an extension of a Honolulu-Seattle flight, already operated with a 747 from at least late 1975. Eventually, Pan Am included Portland, Oregon on this route. Unfortunately, the Alaska oil boom soon ended and Pan Am withdrew from both Portland and Fairbanks on October 29, 1978.

EXPANDED HONOLULU AUTHORITY
In February 1975, the Civil Aeronautics Board approved a route swap between American Airlines and Pan American World Airways. The deal gave the latter routes from Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Washington to Honolulu. Through weekly service between New York and Honolulu began that year with a stop at Dallas/Ft. Worth. An additional weekly roundtrip connected the Texas city with Honolulu. Service started with 707s, but the July 1977 Official Airline Guide shows 747s operating this route. It was discontinued by 1979.

DECLINE AND FALL
The Airline Deregulation Act of October 1978 finally allowed Pan Am to fly passengers within the Lower 48, and the carrier deployed 747s on such routes as New York (JFK)-Los Angeles/San Francisco/Miami and New York (JFK)-Houston (-Mexico City). Acquisition of National Airlines in 1980 was supposed to give Pan Am a ready domestic network, but a clash of corporate cultures and a severe recession in 1981-1982 forced cutbacks. Most of the former National route network was dismantled in a few years.

Sadly, Pan Am could never compete effectively in the deregulated environment, and was forced to sell valuable assets to stay afloat, especially after entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 1991. The carrier sold its Trans-Pacific network and London (Heathrow) routes to United Air Lines in February 1986 and April 1991, respectively. It sold its Trans-Atlantic network to Delta Air Lines in November of that year. Left with a Miami hub linking US markets primarily with Latin America, the carrier ran out of cash and ceased operations on December 4, 1991. The Latin American routes were sold to United Air Lines…and the original Pan American World Airways was no more.

– David P. Jordan