List by Brian of the PizzaSpotz staff
What does defunct really mean? In this list, it can be airlines that either changed their name, merged with another airline or dissolved their operations. And I’m not sure if serving pizza would have solved all of their money woes, but at least the passengers would have been more happy eating pizza. Here is our list of defunct airlines. Let us know if you have any memories of these carriers or tell us of others you would like to have seen on this list of defunct airlines.
10. North Central Airlines
North Central Airlines originated when Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, based in Clintonville, WI, started a flight department and traded one of their company trucks for a biplane. Five years later, the company decided to start an airline. In 1946, the airline began service between six Wisconsin cities, hence their original name Wisconsin Central Airlines. In 1979, the company made a move to purchase Atlanta based Southern Airways. Instead of buying them outright, North Central and Southern merged and formed Republic Airways. Northwest Airlines and Republic merged in 1986.
9. Allegheny Airlines
Allegheny Airlines operated out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1952 to 1979. I guess you could call it the ancestor of both USAir and today’s US Airways. Its HQ was located at Washington National Airport near Washington, D.C. It was founded by two of the du Pont brothers, Richard C. and Alexis Felix and was originally named All American Aviation Company in 1939 and when it switched over to passenger service from mail service in 1949, the brothers changed the name to All American Airways and finally to Allegheny Airlines in 1952. With airline deregulation arriving in 1979, Allegheny changed its name to USAir in October of that year. This was probably done to give the airline more of a national identity.
8. National AirlinesNational Airlines was founded in 1934 and operated until 1980. Its headquarters were located at Miami International Airport. National Airlines flew an international flight to Havana Cuba from 1946 until 1961. The end of National Airlines came in 1980 when the carrier was bought by Pan-Am International Airlines. It’s logo was later redesigned and used on a new airline called Southeast Airlines.
7. Southern AirwaysThere have been many regional airlines over the years and Southern Airways was one of the better regional carriers. It was founded by Frank Hulse in 1949. Southern Airways operated from 1949 to 1979. In 1979, at the time of airline deregulation, it merged with North Central Airlines and became Republic Airlines. That airline, in turn, was gobbled up by Northwest Airlines in October 1986. Northwest then became part of Delta in 2010. Southern Airways had its headquarters at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.
6. Northwest AirlinesNorthwest Airlines was founded in 1926 and was merged into Delta Air Lines in 2008. This merger made Delta the biggest airline in the world. As with most early airlines, Northwest began as a mail carrier for the United States post office. They were originally headquartered in Detroit, MI before moving to the Minneapolis area. For non-history buffs, the Northwest Territory was a moniker used for the Midwest U.S. back in the early 1800s and this is where Northwest Airlines took its name from.
5. Braniff International AirlinesBraniff International Airways was founded in 1930 and operated until 1982. High fuel prices, and other factors, helped bring about the demise of Braniff Airways. The airline was originally called the Tulsa-Oklahoma City Airways and was financed by Thomas Braniff in 1928. (side note: I often walk down Tom Braniff Drive near the former location of Texas Stadium in Irving, TX.) The original airline was sold to the Aviation Corporation but that didn’t keep the Braniff brothers out of the aviation business. In 1930 they began Braniff Airlines which expanded quickly throughout the midwest and southwest. During World War II, their facilities at Dallas Love Field and elsewhere were used to train new pilots and mechanics. In unfortunate circumstances, both Braniff brothers died in 1954, Thomas died in an airplane crash during a hunting trip to Louisiana and Paul died of cancer. Braniff Airlines prospered during the next couple decades under new president Charles Beard.
4. Trans World Airlines (TWA)Trans World Airlines was founded in 1925 and flew until 2001 when it was bought by American Airlines. TWA was the major competitor to Pan-Am in international flights from 1946 until airline deregulation in 1978. Wondering how they came up with the name TWA? It happened in 1930 when the U.S. Postmaster General suggested that two airlines, Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air Express merge. They then had a new name, Transcontinental & Western Air (T&WA).
3. Ozark Airlines
I used to fly on Ozark Air Lines and I loved it. I still miss Ozark. Founded in 1943 and operating until the late 1940s, Ozark was unable to get a license from the Civil Aeronautics Board and in 1950, Ozark took over Park Air Lines who did get a license. That is the official licensed beginning of Ozark Air Lines. The airline ceased operations in 1986. At that time, it was purchased by TWA. A new incarnation of Ozark Airlines operated in 2000-2001. After they ceased operation, their assets were sold to Great Plains Airlines, an airline that was eligible for our defunct airlines list but didn’t make the cut.
2. Eastern AirlinesEastern Air Lines was founded in 1926 and operated until 1991. As recent as 2008, there were plans to start up the airline once more. But a court battle about name and trademark ownership seems to have derailed or postponed those plans. Eastern Airlines had two CEOs in its storied history that were well known to the world, the first was its longtime CEO Eddie Rickenbacker, a World War I flying ace and medal of honor winner. He bought the airline in 1938 and was CEO until 1963. A later CEO was astronaut Frank Borman who was the commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to fly around the moon.
After declaring bankruptcy in 1989, some former Eastern Airlines pilots and managers helped form Kiwi International Air Lines which operated out of Newark, NJ from 1992-1996.
And finally, #1 on our top ten defunct airlines list is….
1. Pan American World Airways (Pan-Am)
Photo by Arthur Trees
Pan American World Airways was better known as Pan Am. Until their 1991 bankruptcy, Pan-Am Airways was the largest international air carrier in the United States. Originally, Pan-Am was founded as a mail carrier which also offered passenger service. Their initial route was from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba. Some of the historic figures who helped found Pan-Am were Air Corps Major Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and W. Averell Harriman.
Pan-Am is well known in pop culture, so much so, that in 2011, ABC premiered a one hour drama named after the airline. Unfortunately, even with some good reviews, the show was cancelled halfway through the season. To me, it seemed to be an airline version of Mad Men, taking place during basically the same era.
Pan-Am has had a few comebacks. The last was as a cargo service out of the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport. However…. the president of this last incarnation was jailed in July 2011 on child pornography charges and the fate of the airline was unknown.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our top ten defunct airlines list. I’m sure we missed some you’ve probably flown or maybe some a relative or yourself may have worked for. If so, please add to our defunct airlines list in the comment section below.
Brian from PizzaSpotz