A TWA, featuring the Boeing 707, ad seen in The Saturday Event Post in 1959

A TWA, featuring the Boeing 707, ad seen in The Saturday Event Post in 1959 – Image: Jeremy’s Collection

I love looking back at old airline advertisements that promote a new type of aircraft that will soon become the flagship of the fleet. We are talking about the iconic birds of yesteryear; like the Lockheed Constellation, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and Lockheed L1011. However, there was one aircraft that let the world know that your airline has arrived (literally and figuratively): the 747 Jumbo Jet.

Before I continue, let’s make sure we are on the same page about the definition of “flagship.” I really hate it when people just say “well, Merriam-Webber defines <insert word here> as…” because it is just a super lazy way to get your point across. Whatever, it is really easy to do it that way…

flagship
noun
flag·​ship | \ ˈflag-ˌship  \
1: the ship that carries the commander of a fleet or subdivision of a fleet and flies the commander’s flag
2: the finest, largest, or most important one of a group of things (such as products, stores, etc.) —often used before another noun

In AvGeek terms, the flagship is often the coolest airplane that they have that will make passengers think “golly gee, that is a swell plane and I want to fly on it, I am going to take that airline” (I actually tried to make that sound sarcastic, but that is how I legit feel when I am looking for flights).

 

With so many airlines moving to smaller aircraft (B737, A320, E-Jet, and A220) and operating aging fleets (B767,B 757, A330ceo, etc), what aircraft do they see as their flagship today? I found some that were pretty obvious, and others that had me scratching my head. I am making my best guesses based on the information that airlines put out there to the public, so I might be wrong. With one or two, I am pretty sure that I am wrong. Let me break it down by airline, let you know what I found, and you tell me if you disagree.

Austrian Airlines DO&CO dining

Even at ground level cooking a fancy meal can be tricky. That’s why I’m so amazed by the delicious meals I’ve had while speeding at 600 miles per hour miles in the sky in a narrow metal tube. The fact that airlines can make restaurant-quality meals happen under those constraints — at least in premium cabins — is pretty awesome.

Probably the best food I’ve had in the skies was aboard Turkish Airlines, which relies on an Austria-based company named DO&CO to deliver its “gourmet entertainment” in the skies. So of course Austrian Airlines, which also uses DO&CO for premium cabin catering, has been high on my list ever since. I finally got the chance to fly ’em and try ’em. What did I think? Read on to find out!

Austrian Airlines 767 business class cabin

An Alaska Airlines 737 arrives behind a Cessna Skywagon. Fairbanks is one of the very few major airports where you'll find a water runway immediately adjacent to a paved one. Sharp-eyed enthusiasts may have also noticed the nose of a DC-6 below the 737 - it's mounted atop Pike's Aviator Greenhouse &amp; Sweets, and is one of several you'll encounter exploring the area.

An Alaska Airlines 737 arrives behind a Cessna Skywagon. Fairbanks is one of the very few major airports where you’ll find a water runway immediately adjacent to a paved one. Sharp-eyed enthusiasts may have also noticed the nose of a DC-6 below the 737 – it’s mounted atop Pike’s Aviator Greenhouse & Sweets, and is one of several you’ll encounter exploring the area.

When you chat about Alaska with aviation enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of things to talk about; perhaps the mind-boggling volume of east-west cargo flowing through ANC, or the the world’s largest floatplane base next door at Lake Hood. Military buffs will know about the goodies at Eielson and Elmendorf, and civil aviation folks will lament the recent demise of Alaska Airline’s combis on the fabled milk run.

An Everts Air Fuel DC-6A getting loaded at Fairbanks. N7780B was built in 1957 and spent its early career hauling oil drilling components for the Hughes (yes, <em>that</em> Hughes) Tool Company. 63 years later, it spends its days hauling fuels, mostly diesel, to rural communities in Alaska.

An Everts Air Fuel DC-6A getting loaded at Fairbanks. N7780B was built in 1957 and spent its early career hauling oil drilling components for the Hughes (yes, that Hughes) Tool Company. 63 years later, it spends its days hauling fuels, mostly diesel, to rural communities in Alaska.

What if you’d like to get a little farther off the beaten path? What if you’d like to see dozens of DC-6s in America’s northernmost boneyard? What if you’d like to spot seaplanes operating alongside commercial airliners? Well, you’d need to visit Fairbanks, of course! If you can’t make it up yourself, follow along as I share my recent journey.

The coronavirus and airline reporter

We are all currently dealing with the coronavirus, which will have devastating consequences for the airline business that we love. Since there are many great folks covering the impact, we have opted to keep publishing our typical content. Our thoughts are with the many lives that this will change forever and as always, we appreciate your support. Feel free to keep reading for additional aviation coronavirus related resources.