A Tribute to TWA..."The Airline Run by Flyers"
Early TWA History from original TWA documents.
1930s and 40s
"The Airline Run by flyers"...Transcontinental & Western Air...Inspiration, Innovation, Growth"...
"From Aero Corp of California 1926, Standard Air Lines 1927, Transcontinental & Western Air 1930 to
Trans World Airlines, Frye, Richter and Hamilton created a global airline and contributed to the world of aviation."RRH
Western Air Express Acquires Standard Air Lines, 1930
"For sometime Harris "Pop" Hanshue, President of Western Air Express had been eyeing Standard Air Lines. He liked it's promising growth and perfect safety record." RRH
On May 1, 1930 WEA acquired Standard Air Lines and on July 16, due to a government forced merger, T.A.T. and Western Air Express became Transcontinental & Western Air with Harris 'Pop' Hanshue as President.
On Oct. 1, T&WA was awarded a mail contract and Oct 25, inaugurated 36 hour coast to coast all-air service with overnight in Kansas City. In 1931, with Richard Robbins as President, T&WA relocated from N.Y. to Kansas City, Mo. Thanks to Harold Hyne, 1946 to 1986 , TWA historian for great facts...he served TWA from 1946 to 1986.
Read letters written by Paul Richter to his parents in 1929 Here and 1930 Here
Left, the "Three musketeers of Aviation" in 1928 with Navy Air Ace, Captain D. W. 'Tommy' Tomlinson, 2nd from left, the leader in high altitude, over-weather research, TWA V.P. of Engineering and NATS Operations Officer. Tommy Tomlinson is a TWA Pioneer. Read more about his life. Here
TWA and the 1st "Douglas Transport" DC1
'Old 300' NC223Y, TWA's first and only DC1.
In 1931, following the crash of a Fokker F -10A (NC999E) that killed the famous Knute Rockne, the Fokker was grounded. TWA Pres. Robbins requested that Frye write to the industry with specifications for a new aircraft... "The need for a faster, larger and more comfortable plane was apparent. TWA took the lead, with Frye, Richter, Colonel Lindbergh and D.W. "Tommy" Tomlinson, Vice Pres. of Engineering for TWA, drawing up specifications for a plane that would meet current requirements. Donald Douglas accepted the assignment and the result was the DC-1." Wings for Your Work, A Handbook for TWA personnel.
In his book "The Grand Old Lady," Douglas said of TWA's request, "It was the most important letter I ever received." The DC-1 was designed in 5 days.
TWA was the "the pioneer in high altitude or 'over-weather' flying" an industry 1st and propelled the airline industry far into the future. Richter flew and tested all TWA aircraft, including the "Northrop Alpha" & "Gamma." Pictured right.
TWA Northtrop Gamma.
On Sept. 20, 1932, TWA signed a contract with Douglas for the DC-1. In Dec. of 1933, the 1st DC-1 was delivered to TWA. "After the airplane was delivered to TWA, (Richter and Frye flew it L.A. to K.C.), it was used for testing, flight training, publicity flights, and evaluation tests."RRH
On Feb. 9, 1934, FDR cancelled all mail contacts nearly destroying the airlines and bringing death to inexperienced Army Air Corpsmen designated to fly the mail. To prove to the government that the airline could do it better, on Feb. 18, 1934, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and Jack Frye with a team of TWA pilots, left Union Air Terminal and set a record of 13 hours 4 min from Palmdale, CA to Newark NJ. The usual reports say L.A. to N.Y. but due to fog in the L.A. basin, Tommy Tomlinson did a 'zero zero' take off and ferried the plane to Palmdale. Often disregarded is the fact that Fritz, Richter and others flew part of the flight - Si Morehouse and Paul Richter to Albuquerque NM, Harlan Hull and Richter to Kansas City, MO, Larry Fritz and John Collings to Columbus, OH where "Andy" Andrews and Fritz continued...arriving Newark 2 hours ahead of schedule.
TWA and the DC2
May 14, 1934, TWA took delivery of their DC-2s, the production model of the DC-1. TWA inaugurated service between Columbus-Pittsburg-Newark. June 1934 was the last Army Air Corps mail flights due to many airmen that lost their lives. They lacked the night flying skills of the civilians. TWA regained their mail contracts, but based on conflict of interest, the award was contingent on the resignation of the capable and well liked Pres. Richard Robbins.
The beautiful twin engine Douglas Commercial 2. On the far left, Jack Frye, fourth from the left, is Paul Richter, next to Mr. & Mrs. Donald Douglas.
Paul Richter and Tommy Tomlinson alternated between K.C. and L.A. with mail, testing the Douglas Transport DC-1, NC223Y, for several months in all weather conditions. Tommy said they nearly froze to death. Dec. 27, 1934, Jack Frye was named President and Paul Richter became Vice President. In 1935, Richter was elected an associate to the "Institute of Aeronautical Science" and had logged 3107 hrs. solo flight time, "an incredible number of hours for a 10 year period by an airline executive." RR. Also in 1935, "Tomlinson set 8 world records and 11 speed records in the TWA Gamma, NC223Y. His last of 40 tests was on April 30, 1935, a west to east Transcontinental record of 11 hours 5 min." Col. Fred Betts, TWA historian. In 1936 Richter was elected to the TWA board of directors.
Read TWA's 'Skyliner' publication from November, 1936. Here
See the DC2 owned by the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Here
TWA ...was the 1st domestic airline to take delivery of the superb Stratoliner and later the Constellation. As with the DC-1, DC-2, Boeing "Stratoliner" and DC-4, Paul Richter was instrumental in the development of the "Constellation," the forerunner of all modern airliners.
The Boeing 307B, 'Stratoliner'
"Richter headed a group to Boeing to design the model 307, the Stratoliner"...
"The flat-bellied "Stratoliner"rendered obsolete the Flying Boat."TWA 1936
In Jan. 1937, TWA signed the contract for 5 of the 4 engine Boeing 307B Stratoliners. June 27, 1940 Richter took the 1st flight BUR to NYC. July 8, 1940, TWA inaugurated service coast to coast in 13 hrs. 40 min. with pressurized cabins and an industry 1st, in-flight audio entertainment. It had only been 12 years earlier, with rave reviews, "Standard Air Lines" air-rail connection reduced the N.Y. to L.A. time from 81 to 70 hrs. Above facts contributed by Harold Hyne, TWA historian.
Read TWA's 'Skyliner' publication from April 30,1940 Here and July 15, 1940. Here
In 1939, Richter and Frye convinced Howard Hughes, a friend from the 1920s, to invest in TWA. At that time Richter and Frye owned 6% of the company. Together with Hughes they gained controlling interest due to TWA Board of Director Leland Hayward, LA movie producer/director. The remainder of stock was widely held. Hughes's initially acquired 12% and continued to accumulate shares during WWII unbeknownst to the TWA top men who went to war. To this point Hughes's involvement with TWA was the development of the "Constellation". Not until late 1946 with his controlling interest did Hughes decide to be active in TWA management for the first time.
"Some of the improvements pioneered while Richter held a key executive post are the Douglas Transports, Boeing Stratoliner, the "homing" radio direction finder and anti-range static radio antenna, deicers, the written flight plan and navigation log, air brakes or landing flaps, automatic pilots and many other revolutionary improvements. All the above were introduced while Richter was progressing from Sup. of Operations to Vice Pres. in charge of Operations to Executive Vice president in charge of all departments of the airline." Nov. 1940, TWA-Between Calls, by Johnny Graves.
Paul E. Richter Jr. is "known throughout the aviation industry for his passion for safety." Herb Preeg
Amazing insight from Paul Richter, TWA Executive Vice President,
named a "practical visionary," far ahead of his time in 1941.
"An Airline Executive Talks about the Tomorrow of Aviation" by J.D. Bowersock (The Kansas City Star's Aviation Editor) December 07, 1941
"What the human mind can conceive of we can eventually do, so the possibilities of the future in aviation are almost unlimited," ... "A mind conceived the steamboat and while everyone laughed at the idea they went down and watched it work and they were amazed. A mind conceived the railroad train, met the same public result at the start, but they came, they saw and they were amazed. "The Wright brothers conceived of the airplane and we happen to live in the generation fortunate enough to watch its remarkable progress from that day back in 1903 when the "most foolhardy" stunt of all took place. The public was amazed then and is being amazed today ... And so, with feet cocked up on a table, we listened to the careful thinking, far-seeing Paul Richter, as he talked of the "tomorrow in aviation"...
"Paul was one of TWA's "Million Mile" pilots, he maintained his currency throughout his life."
The Lockheed "Constellation" "They wanted to pioneer and aviation was the newest frontier."RRH
On April 16, 1944 TWA flew their first 'Lockheed Constellation' 049, and then promptly delivered it to the military. This airliner was the forerunner of all modern passenger planes. It enabled TWA to establish the world's 1st regularly scheduled Trans-Atlantic passenger service.
TWA contributed planes and trained the military at TWA's established "Eagle's Nest" prior to WWII.
Left, Walter Hamilton, Jack Frye and Paul Richter look at the new Lockheed Constellation...The Trans-Atlantic airliner that revolutionized the aviation world.
The beautiful TWA 'Connie' Lockheed 049
Richter was the first to fly the Lockheed Constellation in August 1943 according to Ona Gieschen, TWA historian. Ona's knowledge is only exceeded by her devotion and dedication to TWA. RRH
Left, Navy Captain Paul E. Richter, center on leave for the 1st "Connie" flight... Jack Frye, John Collings, Paul Richter, Capt. Joe Bartles, Lew Goss.
"A hand shake from Paul Richter was set in stone."
Clerance Fleming former TWA V.P.
Flying a TWA Lockheed Constellation in the 1950s
TWA's Million Mile Pilots, "A Gathering of Eagles"
Paul Richter with John A. Collings, early T.A.T. pilot and friend. Collings filled Paul's Executive Vice-President position when Paul was on leave from TWA with the N.A.T.S., Naval Air Transport Service, during WWII.
Many of TWA's finest went to war; Captain Paul E. Richter, Captain Walter A. Hamilton, Captian D.W. 'Tommy' Tomlinson to Naval Air Transport Service, General Lawrence G. 'Larry' Fritz as head of the Atlantic Division of ATC, and many more gave up family and fortune to serve their country.
Capt. Paul E. Richter was called to active duty to establish Naval and Military Air Transport Services... He served as the sole Navy representative to the 1st "International Civil Aviation Conference" in Chicago, November-December 1944 and received a citation from Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal.
"I'm sure the results will be beneficial not only to Aviation of the U.S. but to Aviation of the world; and you should have every reason to be satisfied with your contributions to that end." Adolf A. Berle, Department of State...Dec.7, 1944
From 1942 to 1945 Based in Washington DC and in Oakland, Ca., applying his air transport skills to the war effort, Richter was instrumental in the establishment and development of N.A.T.S., to transport troops and equipment throughout the world. While simultaneously establishing airbases, Richter was responsible for operations world wide, the Pacific, Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.
He returned to active duty in 1948, with C. R. Smith and Ralph Damon, Paul Richter helped establish and was considered a co-founder of M.A.T.S. Military Air Transport Service by Gen. Laurence Kuter,Commander of M.A.T.S.
By the end of the war, the Air Transport Command and the Naval Air Transport Service were operating the equivalent of the biggest airline in aviation history.
Paul Richter continued to manage TWA after Jack's resignation in February 1947. Only two aviation executives, Richter and Collings remained on the Hughes board. Paul was offered the Presidency by Howard Hughes and TWA Board of Directors but Richter resigned in April 1947.
Walter Hamilton also contributed his genius to the war effort. During WWII, Captain Walter A. Hamilton served in the Naval Air Transport Service, NATS. His expertise in engineering, engines and aircraft were invaluable to the military.
Walt returned to TWA after WWII where he remained until his untimely death in 1946 at age 44.
D.W. Tomlinson was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1914, and graduated on June 28, 1917. He became a Naval Aviator on August 11, 1921. He was an instructor in the Department of Marine Engineering, U.S. Naval Academy from 1923-1925. He returned to Naval Aviation from 1925-1929. By 1928-29, he was the leader of the "Three Sea Hawks", the Navy's first aerobatic team. The group was commonly referred to as the precursor of the "Blue Angels". On February 28, 1929, he resigned from the Navy and joined Maddux Airlines.
Maddux, after a series of mergers, became Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA) and kept Tomlinson as assistant to the president of TWA through 1934 and in 1935, was Assistant to Vice President of Operations. In 1936 Tommy was TWA's premier test pilot. He piloted many TWA aircraft in high altitude flights and set transcontinental speed records. In 1939 Tommy took a management position as Chief Engineer, and in 1940 as Vice President of Engineering.
Read the D.W. Tomlinson article in the TWA Skyliner, 1940 Here
In 1941 Tomlinson went back into the Navy and based at Pearl Harbor, he commanded the Pacific operations of the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS). He retired from the Navy on August 1, 1951.
'The Three Sea Hawks' Bill Davis, Tommy Tomlinson and Putt Storrs
On 24 April 1942: Captain L. G. Fritz USAACR, was granted leave by TWA to enter active service with the Army Air Force. He received a brevet to Lt. Colonel and assignment as Chief of Operations, Ferry Command, later the Air Transport Command.
In 1942 the war effort was in dire straits. Our vast production of war materials was subject to an unrelenting attack and destruction as submarines slaughtered our Merchant ships loaded with munitions and supplies of every kind.
Colonel L. G. Fritz made a number of flights along the existing and planned North Atlantic routes for transport aircraft and was instrumental in solving the problem of routes, maintenance, fuel, and rest facilities to get both men and materials flowing by new air routes. Commercial air routes across the Atlantic did not exist. The North Atlantic Great Circle route to England was the most difficult in the early days of WWII. Weather was a continuous factor across the uncharted wastes of the high arctic deserts. It is an understatement to say that formidable challenges confronted the men who flew this route. In late 1942, L. G. Fritz was promoted to full Colonel, and later Brigadier General, commanding the North Atlantic Division of the Air Transport Command. Military decorations include: Legion of Merit; Distinguished service medal; Distinguished flying cross; Air Medal; Theater of war medals.
General Fritz was released from active service in 1946 and made Vice President of Overseas Operations for American Airlines.
In April 1939, in an effort to gain greater control of the airline, Richter and Fyre convinced a friend from the 1920s, Howard Hughes, to buy into TWA.
Hughes's involvement was his interest in and financing of the Lockheed Constellation. On April 17, 1944, Hughes and Frye flew the Constellation (C-69 USAAF #43-10310) from Burbank to Washington, D.C. in an unofficial record 6 hours 58 minutes.
After breaking Pan American World Airways' legal designation as the United States' sole international carrier, T WA began trans-Atlantic service in 1946 using new elegant Lockheed Constellation (the "Connies") aircraft, changing its name to The Trans World Airline.
Not until late 1946 did Hughes take an active part in the administration of the airline. He had marginal knowledge of operating a business, much less an airline, but had acquired controlling interest during WWII. In 1946, one of the most difficult times for the entire airline industry, Howard Hughes, then controlling stockholder, offered $10 million to stem the tide for TWA. United reportedly needed $53 million to stay in business.Through his man, Noah Dietrick, Hughes dictated to management a 50% cut across the board as a solution to the financial problems. Earlier in 1946 Richter and Frye proposed issuing additional stock when the market was at $53 a share. That sale would have comfortably financed TWA through the tough times of a recession, the first pilots strike and grounding of the Constellation. Hughes refused to dilute his shares at the most advantageous time and by fall of 1946 the stock had fallen to $10. In December 1946, Hughes loaded the TWA Board of Directors with men from the Hughes Tool Co., and by January 1947 only two of the original TWA executives, Paul E. Richter and John A. Collings, remained.
Frye and Richter disagreed with the policies of Howard Hughes and his non-flying board. Jack Frye resigned in February 1947, leaving Paul Richter to operate the airline until his resignation from the Board of Directors and Exececutive Vice President in April 1947.
Thus ended the era of "The Airline Run by Flyers". Beginning in 1926 with their Aero Corp. of Ca. and Standard Airlines, a one-plane operation, Jack Frye and Paul E. Richter and Walter Hamilton pioneered Transcontinental & Western Air to a Trans World Airline. T WA had established routes from Europe to Asia during the late 1940s and 1950s, flying its aircraft as far east as Hong Kong.
Throughout the next two decades, T WA suffered constant short-term and short-sighted management, with the exception of the able and highly regarded Ralph Damon. T WA survived partly due to the airline's legal maneuvering of the 40's that eliminated a possible competitive threat from American Overseas Airlines, affiliated with American Airlines, relegating them to non-scheduled charter service only and eventually forcing them out of all European-U.S. service by 1950. As a result, T WA and Pan Am were the only U.S. airlines that served Europe until the 1970s.
In 1950, the airline officially changed its name to Trans World Airlines. At its peak, the airline was one of Kansas City's biggest employers with more than 20,000 employees.