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9-06-2015, 17:23

MODERN AIR TRANSPORT (MAT): United States (1946-1975)

MAT is incorporated as an irregular carrier at Hempstead, Long Island, in mid-1946 to fly domestic charter and cargo flights. Revenue operations duly commence employing Douglas DC-3s and beginning in 1953, two Curtiss C-46 Commandos. Two more Curtiss transports arrive in 1956. Several Martin 2-0-2s join the fleet later in the decade and the four C-46s have all been withdrawn by 1962.

Little more is heard from this “quiet” Douglas and Martin operator until 1964. During that year, the carrier’s workforce totals 70 employees and its fleet includes 5 aircraft, all Lockheed L-049 Constellations purchased from the assets of Capital Airlines back in 1961. Revenues are $1.06 million.

In 1965, Modern is one of 10 supplemental carriers receiving permanent certification from the CAB. Its domestic authorization will allow services to be operated anywhere between Canada and Mexico.

Revenues climb to $2.16 million and expenses are $1.8 million, leaving a net profit of $254,811.

An attractive acquisition target, MAT is acquired by Gulf American Land Corporation in 1966 and its headquarters are transferred to Miami, Florida. GALC has plans to use the company’s aircraft to transport prospective customers to its land development areas in Florida and Arizona.

On September 30, the supplemental receives CAB authority to operate to both Mexico and Canada.

Revenues for the year total $4.4 million and a $30,597 profit is announced.

On January 1, 1967, Modern purchases five Convair CV-990A Coronados from American Airlines, three of which are delivered during the year and placed into service. Various types of charter and tour long-haul flights are now undertaken as the workforce grows to 213.

On April 10, a CV-990A is leased to Air France for the summer. The cost of operating the new jetliners is so high that Modern attempts — unsuccessfully, as it turns out—to cancel the delivery of the last two aircraft.

A total of 362,540 passengers are carried during the year. Revenues jump to $9,579,239, but losses are heavy: $2,987,128 (operating) and $3,616,796 (net).

Two more CV-990s arrive from American Airlines in the spring of 1968 at which time the employee population numbers 275. A complete operations and maintenance base is established at West Berlin’s Tegel Airport and from that German city charter flights are inaugurated to 17 Mediterranean and European destinations.

The year’s highlight is completion of the world’s first commercial transpolar flight, including the first commercial landing, by the CV-990A Polar Zyrd I, on the ice runway at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The same aircraft is the first from a U. S. charter airline to visit the Soviet Union; unhappily, Moscow’s airport does not have a ground power unit capable of handling a Coronado and the return flight is delayed three days while a unit is brought in from Tegel Airport.

In addition, employing two CV-990As wet-leased to the Canadian airline, transatlantic flights are started between Canada and Europe on behalf of Nordair, Ltd.

Despite all of this activity, customer bookings slide to 295,185. Revenues jump 20% to $11,514,020 and the losses shrink, down to minus $1,273,000 (operating) and $2,405,000 (net).

In early 1969, the company passes to the holding company, General Acceptance Corporation. A CV-990A is sold to the Spanish cargo charter airline Spantax, S. A. while, in December, another is purchased from Alaska Airlines.

Enplanements are 329,168. Revenues total $14,121,713. Losses are significant: $983,100 (operating) and $1,847,896 (net).

The employee population in 1970 numbers 307. The Canadian government revokes the company’s Canada-Europe rights operated for two years on behalf of Nordair, Ltd. This apparent disaster is averted by initiation of new charters to Mexico and additional military CAM operations.

Although a second pole-to-pole charter is flown, it is overshadowed by a single Father’s Day flight in June. Officially marketed as a “Get Away from Miami Flight,” the Coronado departure features three West German showgirls dressed in slight costumes with transparent bodices. Although the flight quite naturally garners worldwide press attention, this Busenvogel (Bosombird) service will not be repeated.

A CV-990A with eight crew and chartered by Asti Mexican Tours, overshoots the runway while landing at Acapulco on August 8; there are no fatalities, but all aboard are injured to one degree or another.

A replacement aircraft is acquired from American Airlines and the Miami-based overhaul facility, American Airmotive, is purchased.

The year’s passenger boardings increase a slight 1.37% to 338,810 and revenues, due largely to the Canadian cancellation, are down by $323,000 to $13,799,007. Losses are again taken, but are down somewhat: $664,098 (operating) and $879,544 (net).

Two CV-990As are purchased from VARIG Brazilian Airlines (Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandense, S. A.) in January and February 1971. In March, Modern becomes the first U. S. supplemental to operate scheduled services when it opens twice-daily frequencies from West Berlin to Saarbrucken. Indeed, a change in the General Acceptance Corporation board of directors leads to a transfer of all flight operations to Tegel Airport.

Enplanements for the year are not reported, nor are losses; however, both now head downward from black to red.

In 1972, the employee population numbers 297. U. S. markets are now abandoned almost entirely as major concentration is placed on expanding European operations from an enlarged West Berlin base.

The sixth largest U. S. supplemental boards a total of 399,000 passengers on the year. Revenues are $15.6 million, but expenses swell to $18.08 million. Consequently, deficits continue to be posted: $2.42 million (operating) and $4.14 million (net).

In 1973, markets are again realigned as Modern becomes the smallest supplemental. Five of the company’s DC-8s continue to operate in Europe; however, three are soon shifted back to America as the company reinstates limited U. S. operations. At the end of the year, General Acceptance Corporation files for Chapter XI bankruptcy protection and the land development charters, long a source of guaranteed income for the airline, end.

Customer bookings incline upward by 23.1% to 491,000 and cargo is carried for the first time, a total of 13,000 FTKs are flown. Expenses remain out of hand, climbing to $26.93 million on total revenues of $25.06 million. The operating loss is $1.86 million and the net loss, while improved, is still $3.22 million.

The indecisive and bankrupt owners close down the carrier’s German operations at the end of the year. Modern’s enplanements drop 17.3% in 1974 to 406,000, while freight is off by 46.2% as only 7,000 FTKs are flown. Income declines again, down to $24.61 million; expenses, however, shoot up again, to $28.79 million. The operating loss is $4.17 million while a net loss of $8.98 million is the highest in the industry and will prove fatal.

Unable to maintain its viability, Modern begins to fade. In July 1975, a CV-990A is sold to the Denver travel club Ports of Call. The carrier’s pilots strike on September 1 in a contract dispute that sees two aircraft abandoned by them, one each at New York (JFK) and Chicago (ORD).

At this point, the General Acceptance Corporation board of directors publicly announces that it can offer Modern no further support and thus the airline suspends services. The CAB grounds Modern on October 6 and it surrenders its operating authority the same day.

Seattle investor Eugene Horbach receives CAB permission to purchase the company’s assets in March 1977. Later in the year, these are transferred into a new Modern Airways, which does not become operational.