Historic Airline Group

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Posted by David Reed on 05/07/2022

World News

Weekend Trip Assignment













O'Hare International Airport

     Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (KORD) began life as Orchard Field, a small airport built by the Douglas Aircraft Company for the purpose of building C-54 aircraft in World War 2. Captured enemy aircraft, destined for examination by the Air Force, were stored here. After the war, Douglas considered building commercial airliners here, but decided to focus on their Santa Monica CA plant. The FAA gave Orchard Field it's official identification, ORD. 

When the war started, Chicago officials knew that Midway Airport needed expanding. Over the next few years, some planning took place, but there just wasn't enough real estate around Midway to allow for proper expansion. After the war, In 1945 Mayor Kelly selected Orchard Field as the new airport's location, for it already had runways and infrastructure in place. It took five years to build the new terminal and other facilities. When the new airport opened in 1949, it was named O'Hare Airport after the Navy war hero Edward "Butch" O'Hare. Years dragged by, but the airlines weren't interested. Midway was closer to downtown and was quite busy, making money and serving the community well. O'Hare's airline business was barely 10% of what Midway was experiencing.

Then suddenly jets were on the horizon, and preliminary data showed that they would need much more real etate to operate from, and Midway just didn't have any available. Airlines didn't want to split their operations between two airports, so when jets arrived in 1959, airlines began quickly moving to O'Hare. In 1962 the last scheduled airline flight departed Midway. It wouldn't be until the mid-1960's when the smaller DC9/727 jets were introduced that the airlines began returning to Midway. 

Suddenly, O'Hare International was the world's busiest airport. Business boomed despite carriers like TWA, Northwest and Delta dropping ORD as a hub. The runway layout proved to be an issue, leading to extensive delays in bad weather. A modernization program was begun in 2001, extending several runways and adding an eighth runway. The plan was completed last year, but of course there are still more plans for continuing upgrades and improvements. Today the Historic Airline Group has 265 daily departures from O'Hare International.


Capital Airlines

  Capital Airlines began in 1926 with one airplane flying between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It was called Clifford Ball Airlines, a local car dealership owner. In 1930 he sold the airline to a group looking to create a larger airline. Now called Pennsylvania Airlines, they competed head to head with Central Airlines. Central Airlines is famous for hiring Helen Richey, the first female commercial pilot. Six years later, Pennsylvania and Central merged, forming  Pennsylvania Central Airlines (PCA), flying Stinson A's and Boeing 247's. One of PCA's 247's is now displayed in the Boeing Museum of Flight.

Soon, PCA moved into DC-3's and continued expanding. In 1938 they were the fifth largest airline in the country. In the late 1940's PCA ran into financial problems, like most other airlines had after the war. Drastic measures were taken, including laying off 1/3 of their employees, but their plan worked. With newer used aircraft like the Constellation 749, PCA was ready to soar again with a new name, Capital Airlines. They bought British Viscounts in 1955, the first US airline to do so. Business boomed, with loads in 1957 88% higher than in 1955. In 1961 Captial Airlines leases a few Boeing 720's from United. 

However all was not as well as it appeared. Financial troubles with the expensive Viscount loans eventually put Capital deep into the red. Vickers foreclosed on all the Viscounts in May 1960. Bankruptcy seemed only days away. In July though, Capital announced a deal had been reached to merge with United Airlines. As a result of the merger, United found itself with three DC-3's from Capital, and operated them for one year before they became the last DC-3's to fly for a major US airline. The Historic Airline Group has 196 flights with Captial Airlines, using the L749, Viscount and DC6; plus 16 DC3 flights for Pensylvania Central Airlines.

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