Longest-lived American all-cargo airline of the postwar boom and (as measured by FTKs operated) the largest air freight operator in the free world prior to its acquisition by Federal Express, The Flying Tiger Line presents one of the most illustrious stories in the history of commercial air freight. With the backing of Samuel B. Mosher of the Signal Oil Company and the hope of providing transcontinental all-cargo service, Robert W. Prescott, a former wartime “Hump” ferry pilot, organizes his National Skyway Freight Corporation (NSFC) in California on June 25, 1945.
Mosher becomes board chairman with Prescott as president/CEO. With an initial $90,000 raised partly by his wartime buddies of the American Volunteer Group (the AVG or “Flying Tigers”), Prescott is able to put a down payment on 14 Budd RB-1 Conestoga transports. The following month, he flies one of the Budds loaded with grapes to Georgia on his first revenue run and on August 21, launches coast-to-coast
Budd service with a flight of flowers to Detroit-only to suffer a crash three days later.
Meanwhile, following V-J Day, a large number of independent non-scheduled airlines are formed to provide all sorts of air service—cargo, charter, passenger, and mixed. These soon find themselves in a hotly contested rate war with the scheduled airlines.
A Conestoga is chartered by the Philadelphia Eagles in September to transport the pro football team from Philadelphia to Buffalo for an exhibition game with the Detroit Lions.
In the first flight of thoroughbred horses between U. S. race tracks, a Budd transports El Lobo and Featherfoot from Long Beach to Bay Meadows in October; within days, the former wins $10,000 in its first post-flight race.
Also in October, the infant carrier ventures into passenger charter when, under contract to the U. S. Navy, five Budds fly 117 sailors from California to New York. Still, at year’s end, Prescott and Mosher are able to raise $2.5 million from a Wall Street brokerage firm.
A Budd crash-lands on a Bluefield, West Virginia, golf course during a blizzard on January 1, 1946; it is soon repaired and flown out.
In February, a Budd transports one of the famous Tucker automobiles designed by entrepreneur Preston Tucker.
During the spring, the first of 16 Douglas C-47s (military DC-3s) are acquired; the Budds are withdrawn and sold, including four to Asiatic Petroleum Company for $198,000 and another to Preston Tucker. Weekly New York to Los Angeles overnight service is inaugurated for Sears, Roebuck & Co. on April 7.
To supplement cargo revenues, the carrier now begins to haul passengers on a nonscheduled basis. Advertising of this service is very informal; pilots simply roam airports where they land offering cut-rate flights to passengers waiting for scheduled flights.
On August 4, NSFC applies to the CAB for certification. The “nonskeds” now appeal to the CAB for help against the rate-war being waged by the trunk lines.
Late in the year, NSFC is successful in its bid for a six-month, $500,000 Army Air Transport Command contract to provide cargo service from the U. S. West Coast to bases in East Asia. The company begins 28-per-week transpacific flights with the first of 32 Douglas C-54s (military DC-3s) which will be provided by the military. Start-up and other costs bring a first year net loss of $199,595.
In February 1947, Prescott moves company headquarters to Burbank and, responding to the demand of his associates and ex-AVG colleagues, changes the corporate identity to The Flying Tiger Line. The following month, the last of 16 Douglas C-47s (military DC-3s complete with sharks’ teeth painted on their noses) comes on line. At this point, the last of the Budd RB-1s are retired.
On May 5, the CAB grants all of the charter operators, including Prescott’s company, temporary certificates to provide regularly scheduled service pending an outcome of its investigation (the famous Air Rate Case).
The ATC contract is renewed in May for an additional six months.
The first purchased C-54 is acquired and placed in service on contract service flights in July from New York to Rome.
Buoyed by its military contract (terminated on November 20) and a $500,000 profit during the first half of the year, the Flying Tigers are able to survive the high mortality rate of the internecine freight war and even score a few points by lowering tariffs.
Meanwhile, the C-47s are followed in October by 5 ex-Army C-54s that are immediately assigned to a 13-hour Sky Tiger cargo run from Burbank to New York (Newark Airport).
During the year, the Borden Company charters a Douglas transport for a one-month promotional tour for “Elsie the Cow.”
The rate war with the scheduled carriers ends in April 1948. By year’s end, Prescott’s company is one of only six remaining all-cargo airlines in the U. S. Operations continue apace with freight bringing in revenues of $1.17 million. A number of aircraft and their crews are chartered to irregular passenger airlines and help the company earn an additional $350,000.
The CAB reaches a final decision in the Air Rate Case on April 24, 1949, and thereafter awards experimental five-year scheduled all-freight certificates to the remaining cargo carriers, among them The Flying Tiger Line. The route allowed, Air Freight No. 100, stretches from the Pacific to the North Atlantic coast via the Midwest.
A C-54 and its crew are chartered by Near East Air Transport to fly the majority of the 35,000 Jewish refugees transported from Yemen to Israel.
Late in the year, Robert Prescott purchases 18 Curtiss C-46A Commandos from the USAF, outbidding both American Airlines and Slick Airways for the $509,000 purchase. The company also signs its first contract to fly military personnel.
A profit is recorded for the year, the first for any major unsubsidized freight line.
Traffic increases a startling 70% in January 1950. Stations are now opened at the following destinations along the company’s new transcontinental route: San Diego, Burbank, San Francisco, Oakland, Denver, Chicago, Milwaukee, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Buffalo, Rochester, Philadelphia, New York (Newark Airport), Hartford, Providence, and Boston.
Several of the C-54s are equipped with passenger seats and offer charters from California to New York. Others are employed to undertake inclusive-tour flights to Europe for student and religious groups.
The Venezuelan subsidiary Aerovias Venezuela Europa, S. A. is established at Caracas and with two C-54s, flies pilgrims to Spain for the Holy Year and returns with immigrants. Toward the end of a 25-flight contract with a Chicago agency, the contractor goes broke, leaving 4 planeloads of students in Europe. Despite being $45,000 short of the contract fee, Prescott agrees to return the first group free and take promissory notes from members of the latter three.
On June 26, Flying Tiger is the first civilian operator to make aircraft available to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS); the C-54 is en-route from California to Japan via Hawaii only 24 hours after the Communist invasion of South Korea.
On July 9, the final C-46A is reconditioned; purchase and refurbishment brings the cost of the 18-ship fleet to $990,000.
A C-46F with four crew is lost in a crash landing at Denver on July 30; although the aircraft must be written off, there are no fatalities.
The 7 Douglas and Curtiss transports which President Prescott can commit to the Korean Airlift by mid-August represents 10% of all the commercial lines’ contribution.
In late summer, 2 C-54s are employed on a 3-month animal charter to Bogota; flown are 250 cows and bulls, 35 horses, 1,000 pigs, 110 goats, 4,000 chickens and turkeys, one 1,600 sheep, and 50 sheep dogs.
With great difficulty, a now-scarce DC-4 is purchased from a Mexican source in the fall. A total of 28.12 million ton-miles of freight are flown during the year.
In February 1951, new regional overnight services commence from the New York (Newark Airport) and Chicago hubs.
A record is established on March 20-21 when 11 planes crisscross the U. S. with a total of 71 tons of cargo. The company has become sophisticated enough to simultaneously operate 8 separate charters, the 6 flights of the regular transcontinental service, and the Korean Airlift.
The fleet totals 35 aircraft. During the summer, the carrier begins, under a two-year contract from the U. S. Immigration & Naturalization Service, to return illegal Mexican entrants from a base at Brownsville, Texas, to the cities of San Luis Potosi, Durango, and Guadalajara; 6 roundtrip C-47 trips are made daily. At the same time, the company also airlifts in seasonal workers from both Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In Operation Moo, C-46As fly calves from Oklahoma to California and from Idaho to Wisconsin.
On August 25, new daily service is introduced from New York to Oakland via Milwaukee.
In late fall, 7 DC-6A freighters are ordered at $1 million each. Direct service is opened on November 21 to Binghampton, Endicott, and Johnson City, New York.
On December 25, two C-46As arrive at West Berlin to begin a three-month “Baby Berlin Airlift” contract (actually a subcontract from the first Pan American World Airways).
Cargo ton-miles flown on the year jump to 31.78 million.
When citizen protests shut down Newark Airport in February 1952, the local station is moved to a rented circus tent on an old taxi runway at Idlewild (Long Island); the base will operate in this location until November.
In June, a company aircraft flies veterans to the first annual reunion of the wartime American Volunteer Group, “The Flying Tigers.” The Mexican repatriation flights continue during the summer.
At the same time, Flying Tiger C-47s are under contract from growers to fly legally documented braceros to worksites in Montana, Washington, California, Colorado and other western states. Simultaneously, the carrier undertakes 153 C-46A flights that deliver 11,000 Puerto Rican laborers to work the farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and elsewhere in the east. An application is filed with the CAB for a low-fare, regularly scheduled service to Puerto Rico, but it is denied.
When the C-46s belonging to General Claire L. Chennault’s former Nationalist Chinese airline Civil Air Transport are finally legally available, they are sent to Prescott’s Burbank base for modification. Thirteen are purchased by Flying Tiger, which sells them to other freight operators for a $350,000 profit.
The company’s skill in diversification holds it aloft as the scheduled carriers, led by American Airlines, now take aim at running the allcargo companies out of the picture. The plain economic fact is that in the face of concentrated competition from the larger, scheduled trunk lines during the early 1950s, the freight rates offered by the nondiversified, all-cargo airlines cannot be maintained. For most of its first 7 years, The Flying Tiger Line has been overshadowed by the larger, nondiversified, all-cargo carrier Slick Airways. Faced with head-on competition from the passenger airlines after 1949, Slick begins to fade and is eventually forced to seek a merger in order to survive.
Flight 841, a C-54B with four crew and three passengers is lost 3 km. S of Issaquah, Washington, on January 7, 1953; there are no survivors. Later in the month, a leased L-049 is destroyed by fire after its pilot, on a training flight, is forced to make a wheels-up landing at Burbank.
In February, DC-6As fly food and medical supplies to assist in Dutch flood relief operations.
On March 26, Slick Airways and Prescott agree to join forces and file a merger petition with the CAB; the document has an escape clause permitting its withdrawal if it is not approved by October 1.
In midsummer, Flying Tiger earns $1.45 million when it sells two of its undelivered DC-6As to Japan Air Lines Company, Ltd. (2) and $9 million more when it leases four others to Northwest Airlines for four years.
The Korean Airlift ends in July, the same month the CAB opens hearings on the Tiger-Slick merger. Opposition is significant. In addition to protest from the passenger carriers concerning potential monopoly to be created by such an amalgamation, the CAB’s own lower-level lawyers join the protest, echoing the same sentiments.
With the Korean Airlift over, requirements for cargo capacity shrink, business falls off, layoffs are imminent, and labor problems for Slick Airways and Flying Tiger become serious. Between September 1 and 13, three DC-6As are leased to Northwest Airlines.
Cargo traffic advances to 51.32 million ton-miles, while revenues for the year exceed $25 million.
The CAB approves the Tiger-Slick merger on January 7, 1954. The regulators, seeking a way out of the nasty political spot they are in, elect to delay issuing its permanent certificate until the cargo companies have resolved their labor difficulties.
On January 24, a fourth DC-6A is chartered to Northwest Airlines.
On May 5, the presidents of Slick Airways and The Flying Tiger Line formally merge through the tying of a knot in a cord stretched between two C-46As. It will not stay tied, even though joint schedules are issued and an earnest effort is made at the first joint board meeting on May 17 to set a collective goal.
On June 1, fast Daybreaker Los Angeles to New York via Chicago allcargo service is inaugurated employing the six DC-6As brought into the merger by Slick.
As the year wears on, the labor problems worsen instead of better, and the costs of this maneuvering mount for both Slick and Prescott. The end of the Korean Airlift has meant a decline in business and by midsummer, a total of 909 employees from both carriers are laid off. As late as August, the CAB still withholds permanent certification. Reluctantly (from a management perspective), on September 20, the merger arrangement is abandoned.
Although Slick Airways will close its doors four years later, The Flying Tiger Line is able to weather this crisis and grow. The next day, the Flying Tiger board decides to turn the company into an aircraft leasing company, but employee appeals led by President Prescott encourage the board to reverse this plan on September 27.
The Slick Airways divorce is finalized in November when new Tiger freight schedules are issued.
Voluntary wage cuts take effect in December. The number of revenue ton-miles flown during the year slides to 45.15 million.
On February 13, 1955, the carrier inaugurates overnight transcontinental cargo service using newly purchased DC-6A freighters.
In February, the company begins to provide support in the construction of the Canadian DEW line. Eleven C-46As are dispatched to operate subcontracts on behalf of Queen Charlotte Airlines, Ltd. and seven fly to Churchill, Newfoundland, to fly for Maritime Central Airways, Ltd.
Beginning in April, and at any given point during the year, 20 Tigers aircraft are on contract work in the Orient, Europe, and the Caribbean. Eight others are flying domestic Army troop movements in a Civilian Army Movement (CAM) program. With these and other new domestic freight services very successful, the wage cuts are ended on May 1 and restored over the next five months.
The next day, Flying Tiger becomes, by specific CAB exemption, the first all-cargo carrier allowed to transport the U. S. Mail under an experimental, space-available airmail scheme.
On June 19, company members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) begin a 114-day strike.
The company’s tenth birthday is celebrated on June 25 with a luncheon for 200 civic leaders at Long Beach Airport.
During three summer weeks, the airline transports over 250 tons of fans and air conditioning equipment from Milwaukee to New York to help allay a prolonged heat wave.
Also during the summer, following a CAB ruling on “right of first refusal,” it enters the passenger group charter business; 50 groups are booked through August.
In September, Tiger places a $20-million order for 10 (later 12) Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellations freighters.
During the same month, a Tiger aircraft lands at New York with the first 30 of 1,000 Italian and Yugoslav tailors imported to meet a labor shortage in the garment industry.
En route from Hawaii to Wake, Flight 7413-23, a C-54A freighter with five crew is forced to ditch in the Pacific Ocean 1,600 km. W of Honolulu on September 24 (three dead). It is later determined that the accident had been caused by incorrect fuel system management, which had caused three engines to stop and faulty restarting methods that resulted in a ditching.
The machinists’ strike ends on October 5.
En route to Tokyo from Honolulu via Wake Island on November 14, another DC-4 crashes at sea between Hawaii and Johnston Island; before rescue by the freighter S. S. Steel Advocate 30 hr. later, one crewman is lost.
Cargo falls again, down to 36.89 million ton-miles flown.
The company’s importance and stature are reaffirmed on March 12, 1956, when the CAB again renews its operating certificate.
Meanwhile, as the Super Constellations come on line, Prescott initiates an orderly disposal plan for the older freighters in his fleet.
A C-46F, with two crew and a passenger, is lost at Pelly Bay, Canada, on March 18; although the aircraft must be written off, there are no fatalities.
On April 6, a C-54 flying for Maritime Central Airways, Ltd.
Crashes at DEW Line Site 30, but will be repaired in a long process.
In late spring, as the result of a contract with World Vision and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Holt, a Tiger C-54 brings the first of 3,500 unwanted children from Korea to the U. S. for adoption. The “baby airlift” will continue for eight years.
The first mail flights are started on May 28 while the first air express flights are made in mid-June.
Having flown from Vienna via Munich, a Tiger C-54 arrives at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, on November 21 with the first planeload of Hungarian refugees allowed into the U. S. The second Hungarian Airlift C-54 arrives at Milwaukee two days later. Hungarian refugees will also be flown from Munich to Istanbul and on to Australia.
Work in support of DEW Line construction continues during the year.
By November, 7 Tiger aircraft are disabled.
The company also becomes the first cargo carrier to join the Air Transport Association of America (ATA).
The carrier is now the largest independent operating across the North Atlantic; 20,000 tour passengers are flown during the year, while freight ton-miles leap to 49.64 million.
A DC-6A leased to Northeast Airlines crashes at Rikers Island, New York City, on February 1, 1957 (22 dead).
A record commercial air freight load of 41,746-lbs. of general cargo is flown by an L-1049H on March 11 from Newark to Burbank.
A Flying Tiger passenger agency opens in Geneva, Switzerland, in the spring and an L-1049H Super Constellation flies 114 passengers to London on May 1 in the year’s first charter flight.
Eleven of the 12 new Super Constellations are on hand by June 21 when the first inaugurates a new $18-million MATS charter from California to Tokyo.
Just after takeoff from New York (IDL) on the same day, a DC-6A with nine aboard loses all four engines; avoiding populated areas, it makes a nonfatal emergency crash landing into Jamaica Bay. The Douglas will later be loaded onto a barge and taken off for repairs.
The DEW Line support subcontracts with Queen Charlotte Airlines, Ltd. and Maritime Central Airways, Ltd. end in July.
New freight services are opened from Newark to the West Coast on October 4 and transcontinental Super Constellation 7 hr. 55 min. allcargo service is initiated 6 days later.
The number of revenue ton-miles flown on the year reaches 53.52 million.
Other airlifts conducted during the year and in 1958 include: the transfer of Greek brides to Australia; the return of Antarctic seamen to Norway; flights of Chinese seamen from Singapore to Marseilles; the transport of the deported from Australia; the carriage of immigrants from England and France to Canada; the reunion of Chinese war brides from Hong Kong with husbands in San Francisco; the reunion of 500 British wives with former GIs waiting for them in New York; and the continuing airlift of Korean War orphans to adoptive families in the U. S.
A chartered L-1049H with six crew and two passengers is lost on Mount Oyama, Japan, on September 9; there are no survivors.
For the first time in the airline industry, the 100-million ton-mile air freight figure is broken by Flying Tiger; the fleet now comprises 13 L-1049H Super Constellations and 9 C-46As. North Atlantic bookings for the year total 70,000, while freight traffic rises slightly to 54.74 million ton-miles operated.
In May 1959, President Prescott places an order for the revolutionary swing-tail Canadair CL-44D freighter, a modified version of the Bristol Britannia.
During the summer, the sets of the Broadway musicals Marriage-Go Round and Pink Jungle are transported.
In three days, a 380,000-pound dredge-head is delivered from Seattle to Dover, Maryland, for the Army Corps of Engineers; broken down into four components, the shipment is made by Super Constellation and flatbed truck.
Since the previous year, the Flying Tigers find themselves engaged in a rate war with a new group of independents. These nonscheduled carriers, equipped with airline-surplus, piston-engine aircraft disposed of at the dawn of the jet age, seek military contracts in direct competition with Prescott and at rock-bottom rates. When the Flying Tigers do not reduce tariffs, they lose significant revenue, having only the satisfaction of watching some of the newcomers fold after miscalculating costs.
In September, the company is underbid and loses the MATS contract won in 1957.
With its nose ballasted with 65,000-pounds of weights, an L-1049H flies a 34,000-pound ship’s propeller shaft from Newark to Palermo; the item is the single largest piece of air freight transported to that time.
Since the previous year, company aircraft have transported 340 Korean babies to the U. S. The number of revenue ton-miles flown advances to 76.17 million, but the rate war costs the company its annual profit.
Between January 16 and February 19, 1960, the carrier is struck by its pilots.
Meanwhile, on February 17, one R. I. Lewis is taken into custody in Rye, New York, and charged with flying the company’s transports with a forged pilot’s license.
One of the L-1049As withdrawn by Trans World Airlines (TWA) is quickly leased and an L-1049H is chartered to Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G.
New York to San Francisco all-cargo services are unveiled on August 8 and on October 1 the CAB steps into the freight picture once more and establishes minimum rates for military contracts.
Over 300 roundtrip charters open new vacation opportunities for more than 30,000 passengers during the year.
On November 14, two L-1049Hs are leased to Trans-International Airlines.
Revenue ton-mile statistics show the year’s total to be 85.31 million. Although the rate war has been ended by the CAB decree, its savagery during the first 10 months causes the Tigers to again lose any profit.
On February 8, 1961, the carrier is one of seven majors struck by the Flight Engineers International Association (FEIA). The job action lasts six days until President John F. Kennedy appoints a special commission to examine the situation.
In the spring, roundtrip $99 fares are introduced for European tourists from London, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam to New York and Boston.
The first Canadair CL-44D is delivered on June 2. Simultaneously, the corporate image is changed when the only company insignia of an open-mouth tiger shark is replaced by a giant encircled “T.”
Armed with CAB authority, the MATS negotiates new charters, giving preference to those carriers with the most modern equipment. With its 10 CL-44Ds, The Flying Tiger Line is at the top of the list and is given a new 3-year arrangement on July 1, allowing the company to launch transpacific military flights from Travis AFB on July 16.
Three of the four DC-6As leased to Northwest Airlines are returned between August 24 and September 19.
New freight rates are unveiled on October 17, based on cargo density, and an L-1049H is damaged in a ramp accident at Grand Island, Nebraska, on December 1.
The final Northwest Airlines-leased DC-6A is returned on January 2, 1962. Also in January, the CAB grants The Flying Tiger Line permanent certification for its Air Freight Route No. 100.
An engine of a CL-44D fails at Burbank on February 27; 4 of the 10 persons in the crew are slightly hurt.
An L-1049H with a seven-man crew is destroyed as the result of a March 7 crash at Adak, Alaska (one dead).
A new “See America” program is initiated for European tourists during the early spring.
En route from Travis AFB to Tokyo on March 15, an L-1049H with 11 crew and 96 passengers disappears into the Pacific Ocean between
Guam and Manila; no trace is found before the search is given up on March 25. The loss marks the first fatal passenger flight of a Tiger aircraft.
The same day, another L-1049H with seven crew and carrying a secret cargo, overshoots the runway while landing at Adak, Alaska, and crashes (one dead).
Also in March, a new $ 1.5-million freight terminal is opened at Chicago.
A new $17-million contract for the overseas transport of DOD personnel and cargo is received on May 18.
During the summer, a CL-44D transports a 35,200-lb. turbine rotor and 26,000 lbs. of freight from Newark to Burbank, breaking the L-1049H record set with the Palermo flight in 1958.
During the same period, the airline becomes the first to join the Pacific Steamship Conference. It also inaugurates Skyroad, an air-truck service reaching 1,500 communities.
En route from Gander to Frankfurt on a continuing leg of a September 28 MATS charter that has begun at McGuire AFB, an L-1049H with 8 crew and 68 passengers begins to lose its engines 3 hours out from Ireland. The No. 3 engine catches fire and is shut down and the No. 1 engine overspeeds 5 minutes later, causing it to be shut down. The crew seeks to turn back to Shannon, but when the No. 4 engine fails, the aircraft must be ditched 560 mi. W of Ireland. As the plane goes in, the left wing breaks off. The cabin of the intact fuselage quickly fills with water and the aircraft sinks within 10 min. (28 dead). A USAF C-118 en route from Prestwick to New York, circles the scene, bringing the merchantman SS Celerina to the scene where it rescues survivors.
On December 14, the pilot of an L-1049H, with two other crew and two passengers and on final approach to Burbank Airport, has a heart attack. His copilot is unable to prevent its crash into a North Hollywood, California, residential area; there are no survivors on the aircraft and three people are killed on the ground.
During the year, the last two C-46s are retired and revenue ton-miles flown slides to 75.19 million.
The Korean “baby airlift,” begun in 1956, ends in 1963.
An air-sea cargo service, in cooperation with Pacific Far East Lines, is opened on March 1 and joint air-rail freight service is later launched in cooperation with the New York Central Railroad.
A record 64,917-pound cargo flight is reported on July 6 and two L-1049Hs are leased from World Airways in July.
During the year, two other L-1049H Super Constellations are placed into service; the planes had been built by mating the fuselages of two surplus USAF YC-121Fs and the wings, power plants, and tails of two L-1049Gs. The cost of creating these two “new” aircraft from the remnants of four Super Constellations is less than the price of one new L-1049H. One of these is leased to Air America, the proprietary airline of the CIA, at the year’s end for use in Laos. Revenue ton-miles flown advance slightly to 78.3 million, while a net loss of $204,134 is suffered.
Airline employment in 1964 stands at 1,359 and the fleet includes 21 aircraft.
Another L-1049H chartered from World Airways will be added to replace one of the L-1049Hs out on charter to Trans-International Airlines, which now purchases it.
On May 1, an L-1049H, which had first flown as the Star of Edinburgh for Trans World Airlines (TWA) , is leased for a year from its final owner, Bill Murphy Buick, Inc.
In August, the CAB votes to allow guaranteed block-space discount fares to shippers and carriers. In September, the regulators agree to limit the amount of off-route charter service that the scheduled passenger airlines can perform, thereby opening yet another line of business for the cargo and supplemental carriers.
The main landing gear of a CL-44D collapses following the plane’s November 12 landing at Detroit. There are no injuries.
An L-1049H freighter with three crew crashes in the San Bruno Mountains following takeoff from San Francisco on December 24; there are no survivors.
Freight ton-miles operated are 99.48 million. Revenues advance 7.7% to $45.5 million, allowing a net profit of $1.3 million.
In January 1965, The Flying Tiger Line acquires two more CL-44Ds, leases two Boeing 707-349Cs, moves its general offices and maintenance facilities from Burbank to a new $4.5- million base at Los Angeles (LAX), and joins the charter business in a big way.
Its workforce now totals 1,666 and the fleet includes 26 aircraft: 2 B-707-349Cs, 15 CL-44Ds, and 9 L-1049Hs.
A new around-the-world distance and speed record by a commercial airliner is established on November 15-17 by the B-707-349C Pole Cat; the Stratofreighter circles the globe in 62 hrs. 27 mins. 35 secs. The mark will stand until broken by the Pan American World Airways (1) B-747SP-21 Clipper Liberty Bell on May 1-3, 1976.
An L-1049H freighter with three crew is lost 50 km. NE of Alamosa, Colorado, on December 15; there are no survivors.
Charter enplanements total 62,023 and a total of 127.61-million freight ton-miles are flown. Revenues advance to $56.15 million, providing a $4.64-million net profit.
In 1966, Prescott places a $206-million order for 10 (later 17) Douglas DC-8-63F jet freighters. Slated to be purchased back two years later, one of the two composite L-1049Hs is sold to Fairbanks-based Interior Airways for lease-back on January 21.
Flight 6303, a CL-44D with six crew, is destroyed as the result of a bad landing at Norfolk Naval Air Station on March 21; there are no fatalities.
Several of the Constellations are now retired and on April 14 one is chartered to Korean National Airlines. The two L-1049Hs chartered from World Airways three years earlier are purchased in April and the former TWA L-1049A is acquired for transfer to Paramount Airlines, Ltd.
The carrier formally begins its Pacific Airlift Operation on July 1 in support of the Vietnam crisis, dedicating seven CL-44Ds and four L-1049Hs. A hub is established at Yokota AFB, Japan and flights are undertaken to Udon and Khorat AFB in Thailand, Clark AFB Philippines, and the South Vietnamese air bases of Da Nang, Cam Ranh Bay, Tan Son Nhut, and Bien Hoa. To help handle traffic to these facilities, the L-1049H sold to Trans International Airlines two years earlier is repurchased on September 30.
On October 24, an L-1049H is chartered to China Airlines, Ltd. (CAL).
Flown by Flying Tiger pilots under contract, the Super Connie is employed to launch twice-weekly Taipei-Saigon roundtrips on December 2.
Arriving from Japan, an MATS-chartered CL-44D with four crew, crashes at Da Nang on December 24; all aboard are killed, along with 107 Vietnamese civilians on the ground.
A total of 423,795,000 freight ton-miles are flown. The operating profit is $20 million.
The employee population in 1967 is 2,096 and the fleet includes 20 aircraft: 6 B-707-349Cs and 14 CL-44Ds.
The concept of equipment trust financing is pioneered, as the company prepares to undertake a $25-million expansion program.
On December 4, the L-1049H chartered to Korean National Airlines is returned.
At year’s end, Wayne M. Hoffman becomes the new board chairman, sharing CEO duties with President Prescott.
On the year, a total of 21,019 military charter passengers are originated. Freight ton mileage operated increases to 472,636,582, two-thirds of which comes from international services. Net income declines to $6,785,029 on record revenues of $87,031,494.
The $25-million facilities and equipment expansion and modernization program gets under way in 1968. In the first phase, eight domestic stations are affected, including Newark, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. All are provided with fully mechanized freight handling equipment.
The Interior Airways L-1049H is bought back on January 1 while a B-707-349C is wet-leased to El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. for four months, beginning on April 1.
The carrier asks the CAB to approve flights into 12 additional communities.
Meanwhile, a six-month delay in the delivery of the DC-8-63F fleet ordered in 1966 causes a significant drop in traffic and income as the Tigers are forced to operate turboprops in competition with jetliners. Due to prior commitments, the airline had leased its six B-707-349Cs to other carriers and cannot get them back.
In early September, an L-1049H is leased to a group of U. S. and Indonesian businessmen who have set up Nusantara Airlines to operate domestic and limited international services in the former Dutch East Indies. When the new entrant runs into financial problems, the Connie is impounded at Singapore on September 21 and operations never begin.
Meanwhile, on the jet front, four of the Douglas cargo jets finally arrive and begin operations during the year’s final quarter.
The employee population numbers 2,475 and the fleet reaches a 24-plane total. On the year, 191,799 charter passengers are boarded and 342.32 million freight ton-miles are flown. Revenues are $76,699,000.
The last two DC-8-63Fs arrive early in 1969.
At the close of the decade, Flying Tiger, like several other air transport concerns, elects to reorganize in order to pursue even larger business opportunities.
On January 28, a B-707-349C is leased to Universal Studios. It will be transformed into a plane of the fictional Trans Global Airlines in the motion picture Airport to portray a bomb-damaged airliner as well as a jetliner mired in mud and snow off a runway.
On May 28, the CAB certifies the carrier for operations over transpacific cargo International Route 163 and in July the carrier deploys its first DC-8-63F on the Vietnam airlift.
The holding company Flying Tiger Corporation is incorporated in Delaware in August with the airline becoming its subsidiary. Also in August, the much-traveled composite L-1049Hs are sold to the North Slope Supply Company.
International Route 163 is inaugurated in September from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Okinawa, and Manila.
Freight ton-miles flown equal 331.61 million, while revenues are $97 million and the profit is $4.3 million.
The employee population in 1970 numbers 2,782 and the fleet includes 17 aircraft. On June 30, pursuant to its announced plan of corporate reorganization and merger, the carrier is merged into a corporation subsidiary, FTL Air Freight Corporation, which then changes its name to The Flying Tiger Line, Inc.
While on final approach to Naha AFB, Okinawa, on July 27, Flight 45, a DC-8-63AF with four crew, descends below its glide slope and crashes into the sea, hitting a coral reef 1,200-ft. short of the runway; there are no survivors.
Despite this transport tragedy, the new Pacific cargo route pays off handsomely during its first full year. These services help the company to boost its commercial operations 99% over the previous year. Military charter enplanements rise 16.6% to 211,641. Freight ton-miles flown increase to 390.21 million while revenues advance 27% to $123 million. Net earnings climb 144% to $10.5 million on revenues of $125.5 million.
With Indochinese charter contracts shrinking yearly, the company’s military boardings are 122,450 in 1971. A total of 599.74 million freight-ton miles are flown and revenues increase to $209.6 million. Profits total $82.92 million (operating) and $20.38 million (net).
The workforce in 1972 is 3,195 and the number of charters declines a full 55% to 79,000.
Scheduled service is inaugurated to Manila.
Permission is sought from the CAB for authority to fly regularly to Anchorage, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Djakarta.
Construction is begun on new facilities at the Los Angeles (LAX) headquarters and at New York (JFK). Another DC-8-63F joins the fleet.
The loss of military business is offset by an increase in commercial business as the world’s largest all-cargo carrier increases its freight ton-miles flown by 18% to 881.34 million. In an industry record, the carrier has a claims payout of 3/10 of a cent per dollar, the lowest claims ratio ever. The big profitmaker among aerial cargomovers, the carrier shows revenues of $161.94 million and expenses of $131.87 million. Consequently, the net profit is $18.86 million.
The workforce in 1973 is 3,550. Joseph J. Healy is named vice president operations and an order is placed for two B-747Fs.
Scheduled service is started to Bangkok as Asian service is expanded to 20 flights per week. A fully automated cargo information system comes on line.
Freight ton-miles flown grow by 3.8% to 1.14 billion. Passenger charters are down by 20.3% as 63,000 passengers are transported. Income jumps to $174.5 million while expenses are $30 million less. The operating profit is $29.7 million and net gain reaches $20.2 million.
Only one employee is released in 1974 and Joseph Healy is named executive vice president.
Two B-747-123SFs, formerly operated by American Airlines, are purchased early in the year and ground is broken for a new Seattle cargo terminal.
On July 1, Flying Tiger Corporation adopts the name of Tiger International, Inc. After the reorganization, Tiger International diversifies further and acquires a number of other transport subsidiaries besides The Flying Tiger Line, including automobile, insurance, equipment rental firms, and the Colorado Air Center.
The first ex-AA Jumbojet arrives on August 28 and beginning in September is employed on a route from New York to Taipei via Anchorage and Tokyo. It is joined by a second B-747-123SF on September 28.
As the year closes, a huge air freight terminal is occupied at New York (JFK).
Freight traffic declines 5.3% as 1,291,474,000 FTKs are flown. Although revenues of $186.95 million are generated, expenses climb to $189.25 million. The operating profit is off by $2.29 million, but income from other subsidiaries helps the corporation to post a $3.78-million net profit.
The workforce at the beginning of 1975 is 3,439 and the fleet comprises 18 DC-8-63CFs and 2 B-747-123Fs.
The company’s thirtieth anniversary is celebrated.
The entry into service of the third Jumbojet freighter allows the carrier to devote one DC-8-63CF exclusively to passenger charter and the decision will pay off handsomely. Meanwhile, a new charter program department is created to handle the booking of both military and civilian passenger flights.
Beginning in late February, until the airport is overrun by the Khmer Rouge on April 12, Tiger’s DC-8-63CFs from Saigon land 176 times at Phnom Penh’s Pochentong Airport to deliver 16,687,265 pounds of rice in the Cambodian Rice Lift. The carrier now joins World Airways in participating in Operation Frequent Wind, supporting the evacuation from Saigon by transporting cargo, troops, and passengers. Following Saigon’s fall in late April, service is suspended to South Vietnam.
A ground pickup and delivery services department is created, new marketing programs are designed, and two new terminals are opened, one each at Anchorage and Seattle.
During July, a third former American Airlines B-747-123SF joins the fleet while flights to Bangkok end in December.
largely to the designation of just one airplane, passenger boardings for the year jump 62.9% to 101,903. A total of 1.17 billion FTKs are flown for a modest 4.3% increase. With expenses of $211.98 million neutralized within overall income of $216.74 million, the carrier enjoys an operating profit of $4.76 million and a significant $11.05-million net gain.
Employment is increased by 0.5% in 1976 to 3,457.
In January, the company receives the 1975 “Cargo Development Award” from Air Transport World magazine.
During the spring, a DC-8-63CF is chartered to fly 122 wild animals from Los Angeles to Fukuoka for the new Koizumi African Safari Park at Beppu.
The Tigers seek route authority from the CAB to operate domestic services to Miami, Baltimore (BWI), Houston, Atlanta, San Juan, San
Diego, and Dallas (DFW). Additionally, permanent certification is sought on transpacific routes.
A new European Interline service is initiated, which provides confirmed space on Asian and U. S. flights for cargo shipped via European carriers to New York and Chicago. Another new marketing approach is International Skyroad, a combination air-truck service, as well as allocation of space within B-747Fs for garment-on-hanger service.
During the summer, a chimpanzee named Oliver is transported in the passenger section of a New York to Tokyo Jumbojet flight.
When Vice President Duke Hedman retires on December 17 after 31 years service, he is the last active pilot to have commercially flown every type of aircraft in the company’s inventory since the company began.
Freight increases 11.1% to 1.27 billion FTKs. Operating income is $249.43 million and expenses are $235.14 million. This balance allows an operating profit of $14.29 million and record net income of $61.39 million.
The most famous passenger of 1977 is transported roundtrip between New York and Los Angeles during the spring when Triple-Crown winner Seattle Slew makes a public appearance at Longacres Race Track.
Meanwhile, between February 11 and May 24, three B-747-123SFs are purchased from Delta Air Lines. On June 18, the Japanese transport ministry bars the carrier from making off-route charter flights to Tokyo (HAD) in retaliation against the CAB’s ban on Japan Air Lines Company, Ltd. (2) off-route charters made from Tokyo (HAD) to the U. S.
New authority is received in July for services to Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
On August 15, the company services 27 new domestic destinations, bringing the U. S. route network to 53 destinations and adding 3 DC-8-63Fs to handle the new service. The CAB deregulates the air freight industry in November.
Enplanements for the year total 68,670 and a total of 1,314,397,000 FTKs are operated. Revenues total $515.3 million and the net profit is $20.74 million.
Airline employment is increased by 21.7% in 1978 to 4,865. Chairman Hoffman and President Prescott operate their worldwide certified all-cargo flights with a fleet of 4 B-747-123Fs, 14 DC-8-63CFs, and DC-8-61s.
Founder Prescott dies of cancer on March 3 at age 64.
In the spring, the company begins a yearlong cargo service from Seattle to Doha, Qatar, known as the Safeway Charter; weekly, 100,000 pounds of fresh and frozen meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods, dairy products, and household goods are transported for the Doha Center, a supermarket location.
On July 1, a B-747-124SF is chartered from World Airways.
On August 14, the 10-story headquarters building at Los Angeles (LAX) is dedicated in memory of Flying Tiger’s founder, Robert Prescott, who is now succeeded as president by Executive Vice President Healy.
Primarily through the start-up of the new Southeast Asian routes, the route network is increased by 72.1% to 39,753 unduplicated miles.
During the year, a DC-8-63CF makes two flights to transport camera equipment, explosives, a helicopter, and a tiger named Gombi from Los Angeles to Manila for use in the making of the Francis Ford Coppola (1979) film Apocalypse Now.
Revision of the corporate image and livery begun the year before is completed; the encircled “T” on aircraft tails is replaced with the script words “Flying Tigers.” Also, Diana Nichols becomes the first woman A & P with the maintenance division; she will rise to become a senior aircraft maintenance planner with successor Federal Express.
Airline employment is increased 0.4% in 1979 to 4,501 and the fleet includes 30 aircraft. In January, Flying Tiger receives the 1978 “Cargo Development Award” from Air Transport World magazine.
On February 16, just after landing at Chicago (ORD), a B-747F is forced to run into a snowbank to avoid a Delta Air Lines B-727-232 that taxis into its path across the runway; the near-collision costs $17 million in Jumbojet repairs.
In the first phase of its most important air freight merger, Tiger International purchases 99.9% interest (600,000 shares) in an old rival, Seaboard World Airlines, also in February. In August, Thomas Gro-jean becomes president and the boards of Flying Tiger and Seaboard announce the approval of a merger agreement.
Mechanics and ramp service personnel, members of the lAM, go out on strike on August 25. The job action is settled by mediated agreement on September 12.
The company’s first new Jumbojet, a Dash-249F, is delivered on October 31 and, in elaborate ceremonies, is named Robert W. Prescott, the company founder. The second new B-747-249F is named Thomas Haywood in honor of another ex-“Flying Tiger” and longtime company employee on December 11.
A total of 130,000 charter passengers are hauled during the year, a 23.8% rise, while 1.95 billion FTKs are operated, a modest 3.8% boost. Higher fuel costs and expansion lead to an operating loss of $8.86 million; however, net gain swells to $23.46 million.
The third B-747-249F arrives on July 3, 1980, and is named William E. Bartling; its receipt allows return of the World Airways Jumbojet leased two years earlier. A fourth B-747-249F, the Clifford G. Groh, is delivered on September 12.
At a cost of $450 million, the takeover of Seaboard World Airlines is completed on October 1, following receipt of company stockholders approval on September 8.
Having obtained four B-747-245SF freighters in the deal, including the Houston Rehrig, Tigers International is able to sell three of its older B-747Fs and some spare parts for $90 million. As a corollary to the Seaboard takeover, the enlarged airline receives scheduled passenger authority from New York to Europe and the Middle East. Two more B-747-249Fs arrive, on October 3 and 14 respectively, the W. Henry Renninger and the Henry L. Heguy.
To take advantage of the merger’s aircraft windfall, a new charter subsidiary, Metro International Airways, is formed in December; it will fly passengers with leased Tiger aircraft painted in a Metro livery.
Meanwhile during the year, James A. Cronin, the company’s future president/CEO, arrives as a senior planner.
Passenger charters jump 66.6% to 223,000 and cargo immodestly rises 26.8% to 2.99 billion FTKs. Revenues accelerate 14.14% to $689.29 million, but expenses (caused by expansion) jump 13.22% to $693.91 million. As a result, a $4.61-million operating loss is suffered. The aircraft sale allows a $10.4-million net profit to be claimed. As Flying Tiger enters the era of deregulation, they do so as the undisputed giant of the American air freight industry.
The workforce is reduced by 9.2% in 1981 to 6,614. On the domestic front, scheduled Chicago to Denver service begins in January, along with a national door-to-door delivery plan. Overseas, Flying Tiger inaugurates charter cargo service to Mexico, opens a new terminal at Frankfurt, and establishes London (LHR) as its European hub.
Employing two (later three) of the leased ex-Singapore Airlines, Ltd. B-747-212Bs, Metro International Airways launches passenger charters in March to Israel, Greece, Portugal, and other points in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Mediterranean; DC-8-63s will also be employed.
Three B-747-123SFs are sold to American Airlines—their original owner—between March and September.
In cooperation with Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines), direct B-747F service is inaugurated between the U. S. and Saudi Arabia on October 13.
Mail, express, and other cargo traffic increases 19.7% to 2.94 billion FTKs, while the number of charter passengers skyrockets 69.8% to 377,000. Revenues advance 22.7% to $845.6 million, including $112 million from military charters. Unhappily, expenses involved with expansion, commercial passenger charters, fuel price increases, and problems caused by the U. S. recession rise 26.8% to $879.62 million. Thus the carrier is forced to record an operating loss of $34.01 million, up significantly, and a $10.6-million net loss.
The payroll is cut another 3.2% in 1982 to 6,400. The last DC-8-63 Metro International Airways service is flown on February 23 while, in
March, Metro International Airways inaugurates scheduled Jumbojet passenger service from New York to Brussels.
Cargo service is inaugurated to South America on routes to Brazil and Argentina, as well as to Mexico City from Houston. Pacific and Atlantic operations are increased and a domestic door-to-door delivery service is begun.
Still, the world’s largest cargo airline faces a need to reduce its capacity and as a result, sells four DC-8-63CFs to UPS (United Parcel Service) for $74 million.
Unfortunately, recession, excess capacity, slumping passenger charters, and intense Atlantic and North American competition from such former air freight forwarders-turned-airlines as Emery Worldwide and UPS (United Parcel Service), cause the pioneer’s freight traffic to fall
1.2% to 2.8 billion FTKs. Even though revenues, including $114.9 million from military contracts and that from the UPS sale, advance 3.8% to $877.74 million, expenses climb faster, rising 5.3% to $926.03 million. The Flying Tigers lose $48.28 million (operating) and $43.78 million (net) and must request of its creditors a moratorium on its loan payments.
The general resurgence in air cargo during 1983 brings new traffic gains. John E. Flynn now succeeds President Grojean.
During the year, officials of the 6,000-employee company elect to end the commercial passenger charters and scheduled services that have been offered for two years under the name of Metro International Airways. Once these operations are terminated in February, the company swaps its three Boeing 747-212Bs to Pan American World Airways (1) for four B-747-121Fs and a B-747-123F. In addition, a B-747-273C is chartered from National Airlines.
On the freight front, scheduled service is inaugurated to Australia, but scheduled flights to the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Italy are discontinued.
Flight 2468, a DC-8-63CF, is lost in a crash at Chambers Field Naval Air Station on October 25.
FTKs operated jump 7.6% to 3.4 billion. These maneuvers and figures have little impact on the company’s ledgers. Despite a 15.4% rise in revenue to $1.01 billion, including $84 million from military charters (a decline of $30 million from 1982), costs rise 8.7% to $1 billion. Although a $6.23-million operating gain is generated, a $67.5-million pretax net loss appears on the corporation’s balance sheet.
The payroll grows 11.8% in 1984 to 6,100.
On April 19, Chips, a 350-lb. White Bengal tiger, who has been on loan to the Miami Metrozoo since the previous September, is returned aboard a company aircraft to its permanent home at the Cincinnati Zoo. The 1 1/2-year-old cat is replaced by a permanent pair of young White Bengal cubs.
After three lean years, the world’s largest freight airline records a dramatic turnaround. Much of this return can be traced to the 1983 decision to slow European service and return to and expand the long-time favorite company markets in the Far East. Consequently, transpacific traffic increases 23.7%, with much of the load being ferried by aircraft freed from Atlantic operations.
A total of eight charters are flown into the People’s Republic of China, transporting primarily electronics and cattle. Elsewhere, the Tigers experience a 99.98% jump in South American traffic, becoming the largest U. S. cargo carrier south of the border.
On September 6, a $60.8-million USAF Military Airlift Command (MAC) contract is received for cargo and passenger services.
On October 10, a B-747-273C is chartered from Evergreen International Airlines and, late in the year, an interline agreement is signed with Air Lanka, Ltd.
Overall FTKs operated rise 13.8% to 3.72 billion. As a result of this upswing, the corporation’s total revenues jump 15% to $1.17 billion as costs ascend only 5.8% to $1.06 billion. A $109-million operating profit-twelfth largest in the world airline industry—is achieved and a net profit of $60.5 million is celebrated.
The payroll stands at 6,449 in 1985 and the fleet consists of 11 DC-8-63s, 6 DC-8-61s, 7 B-747-100Fs, 10 B-747-200Fs, 1 B-747-273C, and 4 B-727-100s.
The first of two company-sponsored Operation Lifelift famine relief flights from New York (JFK) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is undertaken by a B-747F on January 29.
New scheduled service is started to Trinidad, Caracas, and Saudi Arabia and the year’s major domestic initiative is the launch of a door-to-door delivery service using trucks.
A second National Airlines B-747-273C is chartered on March 16, allowing return of the first in April.
Flying from Los Angeles to Addis Ababa via New York, Brussels, and Khartoum, a B-747F delivers 231,463 pounds of relief supplies for USA for Africa in June.
A $74.4-million MAC award is received in September, a company record, and the most awarded to any civilian carrier this year for transatlantic and transpacific passenger and cargo services.
A B-747-133 is leased from Guinness Peat on September 22; the aircraft, formerly flown by Air Canada, Ltd., is assigned to passenger charter.
An interline agreement is signed with Viking Airfreight on October 1 to promote marketing in Africa and Asia.
In November, Robert P. Jensen is named president/CEO of the parent firm and Lewis Jordan, airline president/CEO for a month, also becomes chief operating officer.
A total of 42 flights are made to the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou; the charters to the first two destinations are interlined with CAAC (General Administration of Civil Aviation of China).
A traffic downturn prevents back-to-back fiscal victories as FTKs operated slip 0.5% to 3.7 billion. Interestingly enough, in a time of general renewal in industry passenger enplanements, a total of 102,000 charter passengers are flown, a 6.3% increase. Revenues drop 5.6% to $1.09 billion, expenses rise $1.7% to $1.07 billion, and operating profit plunges to $20.51 million. A net airline loss of $44.23 million is suffered. The parent, Tiger International, which also controls Warren Transport, loses a net of $53.6 million.
Early in March 1986, the 6,500-employee carrier transfers its overnight and second-day package delivery hub from Chicago to Colombus, Ohio, site of its trucking hub. The new hub is equipped with a 196,000-sq.-ft. sorting facility and has the capacity to simultaneously handle 4 B-747s, 16 B-727s, and 26 trucks; initial operations from it are flown by 5 B-747s and 10 B-727s.
Former Republic Airlines CEO Stephen Wolf arrives in August as Flying Tiger’s new president/CEO. In the fall, management warns company unions that, if substantial wage and work-rule concessions are not received during contract negotiations, the company will be broken up and sold. The unions agree to tendered terms and the carrier is able to begin restructuring its debt.
Following the agreement, the carrier leases six DC-8-73CFs, begins to reinstitute its old logo, and announces that it will sign an agreement with Canadian International Airlines, Ltd. for operation of a joint cargo service. The operation will feature around-the-world flights by Tiger’s aircraft hauling freight sold separately by both airlines. Meanwhile, the government chooses Flying Tiger to operate a charter cargo service to the Peoples’ Republic of China.
Tour and contract passenger boardings jump 61.2% to 166,000; however, cargo, the mainstay, falls 4% to 3.55 billion FTKs. In terms of FTKs, the Tigers are now second behind American Airlines. Revenues decline 4.02% to $1.04 billion, costs drop 73.2% to $991.6 million, and the operating profit climbs to $54.93 million. The net loss improves to $18.64 million.
Airline employment falls 6.2% in 1987 to 6,100.
Early in the year, Stephen Wolf becomes chairman, CEO, and president of the Tiger International holding company, while retaining his control of the airline subsidiary. Senior planner Cronin is appointed president/COO of the carrier. Cost-cutting measures are introduced and even the company yacht, the Sea Tiger, is sold. In January, however, a lease is signed for six Douglas jet freighters formerly owned by Transamerica Airlines.
Service to Bangkok is resumed on February 23.
In April, a joint-marketing agreement is signed with Canadian International Airlines, Ltd. for an around-the-world route that includes most major Canadian cities.
In September, the carrier signs an agreement with UPS (United Parcel Service) covering service between the U. S. and Japan and inaugurates daily flights from Columbus to Nashville. Also during the month, the headquarters of the Latin American division are moved from Miami to Sao Paulo, to take advantage of the fact that 70% of the Tiger’s business south of the border involves flights to Brazil and Argentina.
The company now begins to deploy six DC-8-73CFs.
On September 22, the 19th B-747, a Dash-2R7F formerly flown by Cargolux Airlines International, S. A. and chartered during the summer, is received. The introduction of the Douglas jets allows the transfer of a Jumbojet to the Pacific and the initiation of direct flights from the U. S. to Milan.
Daily Columbus to Richmond, Virginia, flights begin in November and, in December, Chairman Wolf is lured to United Airlines to replace its former leader, Richard Ferris. Upon Wolf’s departure, President Cronin takes over the departed chief’s role at the holding company.
A new corporate identity is introduced, including restoration of the noted circle logo painted off aircraft tails in 1976.
During the fourth quarter, two litigation matters are settled and agreement is reached that will allow the prepayment of $132 million in debt at a significant discount.
Building on labor and other achievements of 1986, the Tigers enjoy a good year, with freight regaining its upward momentum and climbing by 9.3% to 3.88 million FTKs. Passenger bookings decline 9.6% to 150,000. Revenues advance 12.29% to $1.17 billion, expenses rise 3.24% to $1.02 billion, and the operating profit is $151.41 million. The net profit of $81.71 million is a new record.
The workforce is reduced by 1.7% to 6,000 in 1988, the airline’s last independent year.
Scheduled frequencies from Los Angles to Auckland, New Zealand, commence on March 7 via Honolulu. Later in the month, Portland is added to the route network, with daily service to the Columbus, Ohio, hub via Seattle.
In May, B-747F Hong Kong to Europe via Taipei, Seoul, and Anchorage flights commence.
When the 20th B-747F is placed into service in September, the carrier now operates fully one-fourth of the world’s entire Jumbojet freighter fleet.
During the fall, Shannon is added to the westbound Frankfurt-New York Jumbojet service; the Irish city is already covered on the eastbound run out of Boston. Simultaneously, the company adds a fourth weekly B-747F flight between America and Australia and a second to New Zealand.
As the winter season begins, the company inaugurates four-times-per-week, over-the-pole frequencies from Europe to Asia via Anchorage, while the number of weekly Asia to Europe frequencies over the same route grows to six.
Unlike many carrier’s that are soon to be merged, The Flying Tiger Line closes out business with record traffic, revenues, and profits. It also goes out on a public relations high note. In mid-December, a B-747F flies a disaster relief team and supplies from New York to Yerevan, Armenia, via Frankfurt to assist in earthquake relief.
Cargo swells 16.2% to a record 4.51 billion FTKs; much of the increase comes from a doubling of traffic between Europe and Asia. Revenues jump 10.18% to $1.29 billion, costs ascend 12.12% to $1.14 billion, and operating income drops to $146.96 million. The net gain is $74.4 million. The parent corporation, Tiger International, reports earnings are up 55% to $89.5 million.
On January 31, 1989, the historic carrier is purchased for $880 million by Federal Express and Jeffrey Rodek is named interim president.
While on final approach to Kuala Lumpur after a February 19 service from Subang, Flight 66, the B-747-249F Thomas C. Haywood with four crew, flies below minimum altitude and crashes into a wooded hillside 7.5 mi. from the runway; the Jumbojet is destroyed and there are no survivors.
In March and April, weekly Asia to Europe service is increased from once per week to daily and Europe to Asia services are boosted to four per week.