Trans World Airlines (TWA) Records (KC0453)
dates to 1925, when United States Postal Service began to give airlines
contracts to carry mail. Founded by Harris Hanshue on July 13, 1925, Western Air
Express (WAE) was awarded the 650-mile long
Also in the spring of 1928 four men: Clement M. Keys, President of Curtis-Wright Corp., who had recently launched National Air Transport (NAT); Chester W. Cuthell, chairman of the Air Law Committee of the American Bar Association, counsel for several aeronautical firms; Paul Henderson, former assistant postmaster general and Vice President of NAT; and Charles Lindbergh, met at New York’s prestigious Engineers Club to form Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), combining airplane and train routes to span the continent in forty-eight hours. By 1929, William Atterbury and the Pennsylvania Railroad and William Benson Storey, President of the Santa Fe Railroad with its close ties to the Fred Harvey restaurant chain, were firmly committed to the air-rail experiment.
16, 1929 Transcontinental Air Transport merged with Maddux Air Lines, founded in
1927 by Jack L. Maddux, an owner of a Los Angeles Ford and Lincoln car
dealership, who became the new airline’s western head. Maddux Air Lines carried
passengers primarily in
With the 1930 merger of Western Air Express with Transcontinental Air Transport-Maddux, the new company became Transcontinental and Western Air (T&WA).
became the principal stockholder of T&WA in 1939, and expanded the
airline significantly under CEO Jack Frye leadership. Challenging Pan American
World Airways’ dominance as the
TWA played a
major role in the formation of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and a
revived Lufthansa. TWA for many years trained pilots from around the world and
also established the
In 1950, the
airline added an “s” to change its name to Trans World Airlines. During
the 1950s and 1960s, it established routes from Europe to Asia flying as far
TWA leadership sought Howard Hughes removal as chairman in 1961. Under new corporate management, the Trans World Corporation (TWA’s holding company) purchased the Hilton Hotels overseas operations.
On April 7, 1967, TWA became the world’s first all-jet airline with the retirement of their last Lockheed 749 Constellation aircraft. That morning throughout the TWA system, aircraft ground service personnel placed a booklet on every passenger seat titled “Props Are for Boats.”
By 1969, TWA
had surpassed Pan American World Airways as the dominant Atlantic carrier, and
in the Transpacific Route Case of 1969, TWA received authority to extend its
aggressively expanded European operations through the 1980s and by 1987 could
brag of an intercontinental network stretching from
Charles Tillinghast (TWA CEO 1961-1976), abandoned the trans-Pacific market and the dedicated air cargo market saying, “There’s no money in the Pacific and there’s no money in cargo. We’re gonna’ shrink this airline ‘til it’s profitable.” Deregulation also proved a problem because TWA had ignored domestic expansion at a time when the newly deregulated market was rapidly growing. When Trans World Corporation, starved for capital spun off the airline, it briefly considered selling itself to corporate raider Frank Lorenzo in the 1980s, but instead was purchased by another raider Carl Icahn in 1985—a move that some feel was the beginning of the end for TWA because under his direction, many of its most profitable assets were sold to competitors. The airline was forced into bankruptcy in 1992 and Icahn was eventually ousted in 1993.
Unscathed by the adventure, Carl Icahn had arranged for himself “The Karabu deal”—the right to purchase TWA tickets at a 45 percent discount for flights anywhere they flew, except those starting or ending in St. Louis. Icahn, using Karabu, could buy and then sell most of the airline’s available seats, leaving TWA to pay its cost from the sale of any remaining tickets. In other words, TWA was flying customers who were paying someone else. TWA lost an estimated $150 million a year to “The Karabu deal.”
events had occurred throughout its history, timing and public attention to TWA
Flight 800 exploding near
Faced with a declining market and challenging completion, by 1998 TWA had again reorganized to become primarily a domestic carrier, with routes though hubs at St. Louis and New York. The airline then announced a major fleet renewal and ordered 125 new aircraft, but growing financial problems instead resulted in its third bankruptcy and American Airlines acquiring TWA’s airline assets in April of 2001.
Airlines flew its last flight on December 1, 2001. The ceremonial last flight
was Flight 220 from
The Records were collected by the
270 cubic feet + oversize.
The TWA Skyliner, the airline company newspaper is in the process of being microfilmed and digitized, with some now available.
© WHMC-KC, University of Missouri
Monday, March 16, 2009
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu