A TWA Boeing 707 freighter on Runway 25R at LAX – Photo: Jon Proctor
Here’s a little background about a wonderful encounter I had with racing legend Andy Granatelli in the late 1970’s. At that time, I flew for Trans World Airlines on their Boeing 707 and 727 aircraft.
In April and May of 1978, my regular assignment (trips for the month) was to fly a 707 freighter from Los Angeles to Indianapolis. Typically, we would launch very late in the evening around midnight, and arrive in Indy at around 6:00 am local time. A day-and-a-half later, we’d fly a return flight to Los Angeles at 6 pm. That gave us a 36-hour layover in Indy. On our first trip of the month, I got to the airport quite early, as I had been on vacation the previous month and had lots of accumulated paperwork to attend to. At about nine in the evening, I bummed a ride with a TWA mechanic from the hangar to the TWA cargo facility on the other side of the airport – probably the most harrowing part of my three-day trip.
As we arrived at the air freight terminal, I noticed two large box vans – both painted with the legendary STP logo. The TWA mechanic and I walked over to the vans and looked inside… one was filled with tires, crated engines, tool boxes, and other motor racing equipment. The second van had two Indy 500 race cars inside!
The Star of America, seen at the Kansas City Downtown Airport preparing for engine runs – Photo: JL Johnson
This is the story of a Connie that no one wanted, a plane that was abandoned and mothballed numerous times throughout its history. While it has had a generally-tragic existence, with just a few bright spots sprinkled in, this is an adventure that continues to unfold. In fact, in 2014, this plane will begin a new chapter as it again returns to the skies.
In 1958, this Lockheed Constellation rolled off the assembly line in Burbank, California – destined straight for storage. It was the beginning of the jet age and suddenly airlines had little interest in these sleek, evolutionary, once record-setting birds. Indeed, even those like this 1049H model, which were built with the intent of easy conversion between freighter and passenger configurations, were a hard sell. The variant was canceled after just over 50 were built, this example being third from last. Prior to completion, the order for this plane was canceled, just the beginning of a tough existence for this elegant flying machine.
In September of 1959 after over a year in storage, it was converted to freighter, sold to Slick Airways, and assigned registration number N6937C (which it has carried ever since). For eleven years the plane ran freight with various carriers before being stored and later abandoned in Miami, FL. In June of 1971, it was seized by the airport for non-payment of fees. After being auctioned off it spent the next four years doing odd jobs, hauling military parts and even horses. Its last commercial use was as a sprayer in Mesa, Arizona, where it was equipped with chemical tanks and large spray booms.
This video is technically not a TWA commercial, but it does star one of their Boeing 707s. This is a classic milk commercial way before the whole “Got Milk” craze became popular. Two flight attendants banter about how they are trying to lose weight, but keep up their energy on long flights and milk is the perfect way to do that. “You know gals, like us, who have to keep our weight down and vitality up should always drink milk.”
In 2000, Trans World Airlines (TWA) was celebrating their 75th anniversary. It is too bad the airline would last only about a year longer before being merged with American Airlines at the end of 2001. I am not fully sure, but it appears this video was shown on the airline before taking off. The introduction from the manager of advertising is a little slow and dry, but work getting through to see the ten old advertisements from TWA. From “TWA’s the way” ad campaign from the 1960’s to the “one mission…yours” from the 1990’s, there’s a little bit of everything.