For as long as I have been with Southwest, winter has also been the “season” for Messages to the Field (where our CEO delivers a "state of the airline," talks about the priorities for the year, and fields questions from Employees). One of the traditional announcements at the Messages that affects all of our Employees is the amount of the Company’s contribution to our ProfitSharing plan. (The proper name for our plan is spelled that way: one word, capital P and S.) This year, our annual profit was $417 million, excluding special items, and Southwest will contribute about $121 million to our ProfitSharing plan. Fortunately, for the 18 Messages during my time at Southwest, we have turned a profit and have received the Company contribution to ProfitSharing.
Actually, our string of profitable years began in 1973, when we earned a whopping $174,756 profit. That doesn’t seem much today, but during 1972, we had lost $1.5 million. So, that year’s annual report proudly proclaimed that we had “turned the corner in 1973.” Besides turning the corner, Southwest took another important step in 1973, by announcing the creation of a profit sharing plan at the beginning of the year. However, in spite of the modest profit, no contributions were made to ProfitSharing for 1973. Why? Well, the plan rules allowed the Board of Directors to allocate 15 percent of the pretax profit for earnings in excess of $1.5 million, and 1973’s profit fell well below that level.
In fact, it wouldn’t be until 1975 when a contribution was made for 1974’s earnings that ProfitSharing finally became funded. In 1974, Southwest had earned $1.93 million, and ProfitSharing received a contribution of $175,000, which was paid in 1975. (Coincidentally, the amount contributed to ProfitSharing from 1974 was equal to our entire 1973 profit.) In 1975, Southwest earned $3.4 million, and Employees received $445,000 in ProfitSharing. So, while Southwest has recorded 40 straight years of profitability with the 2012 financial results, 2013 will be the 39 th straight year of ProfitSharing contributions.
Interestingly, the minimum qualifying profit level would rise through the 70s and 80s. In 1978, it was raised to $2.1 million and just two years later to $4.8 million. By 1982, the first $9.6 million of profit was exempted from ProfitSharing, and the next year the exemption level was set at ten percent of the net income. Thanks to Colleen Barrett for helping me research this issue (but the conclusions are all mine). Although in the materials Colleen shared with me, the reason for having a minimum earnings level isn’t spelled out, it would appear that we were making sure that Shareholders got a decent return for their investments by having a minimum profit level before the ProfitSharing plan was funded.
In 1990, Southwest made a $47 million annual profit in an economy decimated by the run up to the first Gulf War, including sharply higher fuel costs. Yet, the Board eliminated the minimum earnings requirement for ProfitSharing contributions that year. However, in order to meet unusual conditions that might arise, the Board did keep the ability to “increase, decrease, or eliminate the Company contribution for such year.” Nearing our 20 th Anniversary, Southwest had reached a level of maturity and stability, although the challenges we would face during the next 22 years would prove just as daunting, and maybe even more threatening, than those faced during our first 20 years. ProfitSharing has been a part of our Employee’s lives for 39 years, but it still comes with a catch, and it is a big one. You have to make a profit, to earn ProfitSharing.
... View more
All of the original concourses will be razed, in fact, only the West Concourse that we are using now is still standing, and it had a later model of a moving sidewalk that was installed when American double decked it in the late 1960s. The office tower and the main lobby will remain, although the lobby is being extensively updated. However, it will retain the iconic mosaic floor map of the world, and the Texas Ranger statue will be moved back into it. A small portion of the Braniff terminal (where the walkway from the ticketing wing joined the concourse will remain for some airport offices. Until the new concourse is completed United and Delta are using two of the former Braniff gates.
... View more
We’ve covered the landmark day of January 13, 1974, before in previous editions of Flashback Fridays. Those earlier posts have shared pictures of the abandoned Dallas Love Field lobby after the other airlines packed up and moved to the DFW Airport. Just as the other airlines shifted airports overnight, Southwest consolidated our operations into the old baggage claim wing and what was American’s “West Concourse” over the night of January 12/13. This week, we have photos and an advertisement that were made shortly after the “big move.”
I’ll admit that this photo has puzzled me for a while because it is across the street from the baggage claim wing, looking back toward the main lobby entrance. Up until recently, I thought it was the inside of a rental car shuttle bus because there is a rack holding National Car Rental folders. Reinforcing that thought is the condensation on the window where someone has drawn that they “heart S.W.” However, upon a closer look, I realized it was a building, but I didn’t remember any building being across the street from the terminal.
This slightly later aerial view (above) has the answer. The little building across the street from the terminal and to the right of the white crosswalk in the center of the photo has to be the location of the previous photo. My guess is that this was the booth where folks picked up the keys for their rental cars. All of the sight angles and landmarks in the two photos match. This photo is also interesting because it shows how the lobby is shaped around the building's three-story office section.
In a form of self-disclosure, let me say here that I am a longtime freak for anything featuring a “cutaway” display. Ant farms provided endless fascination as a kid, and I built plastic models showing the insides of a nuclear submarine and a P-51 Mustang. I especially love those big travel agency style airliner models that show the interiors of the “bestest and latest” airliner of the time, like an Electra, a DC-8 or a 747. Flight and Air International magazines from the UK would feature cutaway drawings of significant historical aircraft, and I would pour over every inch of each drawing. That’s why this Southwest ad from February or March 1974 immediately caught my attention. Besides the cutaway, there is the “double entendre” headline based on the “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” slogan of the hugely popular 1970 film, Love Story. In Southwest’s case, “Love (as in Love Field) means never having to expose yourself (to the elements).” But even though I love a play on words, the cutaway drawing is the highlight of the ad.
In this portion of the drawing, only the Texas Ranger statue is shown in the lobby. This area would later become the LLove Entertainment Center (which included an ice rink) for a few years before the main lobby reopened to passengers in the 1980s.
Here we see the lower level of the parking garage (before the current multi-deck facility was built). In 1974, there was a tunnel that connected the old parking garage with the baggage/ticketing wing.
Next, we see the Southwest ticket counter, where the ad points out that you can “Check your bags and pick-up your ticket from one of our smiling Hostesses. Smile back!” The ad continually sells the fact that you are keeping warm by staying inside. That’s the tip-off that this is winter. The last thing you would be selling in a North Texas summer (or spring or fall, for that matter) is “keeping warm.”
On the concourse, we have a cutaway of Gate 2. And again, the ad talks about boarding “our warm, comfortable LoveJet.” The covered second-floor walkway between the ticketing/baggage claim area and the concourse is still in use as the exit from the concourse.
The closing copy brags about the fact that you will never have to “stand in line or inch through traffic or park in the rain, either.” (Obviously, the copywriter had never tried to navigate Mockingbird Lane through the Park Cities to Love—it even was a traffic nightmare back then.) You can “step on an escalator that takes you to the new Southwest Airlines departure gates and there you are. Already half way to Houston or San Antonio and still feeling 100%.” Keep in mind that the new DFW Airport allowed a Customer to virtually park in front of their aircraft and walk across the street and board--although this would quickly change when individual gate security checkpoints gave way to central access through two or three locations in a terminal. Many area airline customers remembered lengthy walks through crowded concourses at Love before DFW opened. Even Southwest's Customers who stopped at the ticket counter in the middle of the old ticketing wing had to walk all the way across the main lobby and then well out onto the North Concourse before January 13, 1974. The first sentence above recognizes that "getting to us was a battle." So, you have to put this ad into that context, and it really takes on two messages: One is that Southwest is a better choice than the other airlines, and the other is that Love Field is the better airport choice because travel at Love had gotten a lot easier and quicker once everyone moved to DFW.
The current Love Field terminal has gone through many major changes since it was completed in 1958, and this advertisement really celebrates the facility at its lowest level of usage. After this 1974 facility contraction, the terminal would return to a pattern of growth. Harlingen flights would be added in 1975, followed by other cities across Texas and the surrounding states. Today, the 1958 Love Field building is being rebuilt into a modern terminal that will serve the air travel needs of the future when the Wright Amendment finally “goes away” in the fall of 2014. The new ticketing wing opened on November 1 of last year, and part of the new concourse will open in a month or so. Final construction will be completed early next year. This ad and these pictures are historical records of what air travel from Love used to be like.
... View more
It’s no secret that Southwest LUVs to celebrate holidays, especially Valentine’s Day and Halloween. It’s a longtime tradition, but just how deep are those roots? As these documents and photos from the archives show, our association with Valentine’s Day goes all the way back to our very beginnings. I recently found documents recapping both our very first Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1972, and outlining the events planned (many of them the same as in 1972) for Valentine’s Day in 1973. The cover document proclaims the plan to be “Valentine’s at the Love Airline,” and it is subtitled “Kisses from ‘The Somebody Else Up There Who Loves You’.” Note that the word “Love” and not “LUV” is used—a definite play on Love Field.
The plan consists of the ten steps outlined above, and we have some photos that will help illustrate some of these steps.
For example, step one for 1973 calls for “on the street awareness.” This part of the plan called for Flight Attendants in hot pants to give our candy kisses “to passersby from a red square container decorated with Southwest hearts” in downtown Dallas. Judging from the 1972 picture, the plan appears to have been modified from when a model of a Southwest aircraft was displayed in a store window as our Employee handed out candy on the street. The 1973 plan also called for Flight Attendants to visit local media outlets to distribute candy.
For the 1972 event, Southwest teamed up with Joske’s Department Store in San Antonio. Maybe even more so than the airline industry, the department store industry has undergone major consolidation. This San Antonio-based retailer became a part of Dillard’s in 1987. Southwest sponsored a contest that gave away roundtrip tickets to either Dallas or Houston for two. In addition, as the 1972 newspaper ad (above) points out, people could pick up a free Valentine “Sweetheart” fare card good for a $5 discount “when your best girl flies Southwest with you.” The brand new Town East Mall in Mesquite would replace Joske's for 1973.
This was the signup desk located inside Joske’s downtown San Antonio store, and it appears to have been a popular place. The desk was staffed by San Antonio Ticket Agents, and if you didn’t know the photo was taken in 1972, the iconic, early 1970s sideburns and leather fringe jacket would identify the date just as surely as a calendar. On the table next to the man’s hands is a Valentine’s heart with our original three stripes superimposed on it.
Not all of the Valentine’s Day festivities were based in Texas. For 1973, Southwest wanted to get a big national “splash” by having two of our Flight Attendants appear on ABC’s The Dating Game. For those of you who don’t know, the premise of the show was that a bachelor or “bachelorette” would interview three potential dates sitting on stage but out of view behind a screen. Once the date was selected, the two “losers” would come around the partition to reveal themselves, and then the lucky “winner” would get to meet his or her date. The show would send the winners to a Los Angeles "hot spot" on a chaperoned date, and after that, the individuals were on their own if they wanted to continue seeing each other. Ironically, as the document above outlines, neither the show nor our Employees could mention Southwest’s name during the episode. The plan to generate what we now call “brand awareness” about our Employees' role in the show was based on feature stories about their participation.
The two lucky Flight Attendants were Deborah Franklin, to the left of host Jim Lange, and C.J. Bostic, to the right. They joined the list of other previous and future Dating Game participants that included Farah Fawcett, Steve Martin, Burt Reynolds, Phil Hartman, Michael Jackson, Sally Field, Ron Howard, and yes, even Paul Lynde.
Southwest also sponsored a Valentine’s dance at the Press Club of Dallas, which is outlined in the club’s newsletter for 1972’s event. In addition, on Valentine’s Day, Flight Attendants decorated the cabins of the aircraft with hearts, and they also visited the city councils of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio; the local television and radio stations; and the main newspapers.
The two other components of the 1973 celebration involved holding a contest on Dallas radio station KIXL, and giving the secretaries in the “Southwest Sweethearts Club” a heart-shaped candy dish filled with candy to thank them for booking their bosses travel. (Business travel was very different back then.) It was exciting to find these landmark documents that outline our earliest plans to have Southwest Employees celebrate holidays with our Customers, and the birth of this longtime Southwest tradition is outlined in these documents and photos.
... View more
The first AirTran city conversion to Southwest Airlines in 2013 is just a few weeks away when Branson, Missouri, becomes a Southwest city on March 9. It’s also going to be the first time since we began service to Little Rock on February 27, 1984, that a new Southwest city will open with nonstop flights to Dallas Love Field, thanks to the Wright Amendment. (Missouri is one of the nine states we can currently serve nonstop from Dallas until the fall of 2014, when the final Wright restrictions expire.) In this week’s Flashback, we look at May 11, 2009, the day AirTran began service to Branson, the entertainment center of the Ozarks, with two daily flights—one to Atlanta and one to Milwaukee. On top of that, it is also the date the airport opened for operations, and AirTran’s arrival from Milwaukee was the second flight to arrive at the brand new facility. An airshow from May 8 to May 10 preceded the start of airline service.
These photos of AirTran’s first Branson service were in the archival material we inherited from AirTran. Although the photos aren’t especially old by Flashback Fridays’ standards, they are rare, and most Southwest folks will never have seen them and are probably unfamiliar with this unique airport. Branson is one of the few, if not the only, privately owned, privately operated commercial airports in the United States. It also carries two different airport codes: For Pilots, the FAA airport code is BBG, but for the public and reservations systems, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) code, BKG, is used. (BBG was already assigned by IATA to Kiribati in the South Pacific.) The terminal building (above) resembles a giant mountain lodge. The portico down there on the right of the photo is the departure wing with the ticket counters. The rustic landscaping with the split-rail fences makes this seem like anything but an airport.
This may be the most rustic baggage claim area you have ever seen in a modern airport. The use of wood in the interior reinforces that mountain lodge feeling.
Even on the ramp side, the feeling of a lodge is very evident. AirTran 717, ship 793 (N915AT), had the honor of operating the first flight. There are no jetbridges at Branson, but that doesn’t mean Customers will be exposed to rain or snow. Take a look at that telescoping covered awning underneath the “Welcome to the Ozarks” sign. In wet weather, the awning extends to the aircraft loading ramp (more below) to provide a covered path into the building.
AirTran had a special guest onboard for the first flight into Branson. That’s country music legend Lee Greenwood deplaning down the loading ramp. Note the movable connector across the threshold of the cabin door that covers the gap between the aircraft’s floor and the loading ramp. Mr. Greenwood, a frequent performer in Branson, flashes a thumb’s up to the camera after his flight.
Above is a side view of the covered loading ramp at the aircraft. It provides a gentle slope down to the pavement. The telescoping awning that was depicted a few photos above would extend out to cover the lowest level of the loading ramp.
During the formal part of the inaugural festivities, Lee Greenwood sang for the crowd. I couldn’t find any record of whether he sang his mega hit, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” but it looks like he was putting his all into the performance.
As part of those festivities, AirTran gave him the “key to the fleet,” but I don’t think that oversized skeleton key on the plaque would open the doors to any aircraft.
Lee sits in the cockpit of Ship 793 holding his award. One of the things that these photos show is that AirTran approached station openings as “big deals,” in much the same spirit as Southwest uses. As we move forward with additional conversions, I will try to share some more of these archive photos because I think they are great introductions to the new cities that will be appearing on our route map.
... View more
As I go through the archives, I find interesting photos that I want to share, but sometimes there aren’t enough photos on a specific subject to which an entire Flashback Fridays can be devoted. So, I save these “onsies” and “twosies” to present in periodic grab-bag posts, and that is what we have this week.
Regular readers know how much I treasure “slice of life” photos that show our early Employees going about their work days, and I have a great example in this first photo. It was taken inside our original hangar up on the north side of Love Field close to Bachman Lake. We see the Mechanic positioning a jack underneath the left wing of one of our original 737s. Because he’s pretty well bundled up in non-uniform jeans and a woolen shirt, we can surmise it is winter, and the old hangar was pretty drafty on those cold nights. Another clue to the season is that the hangar doors are closed. Look to the upper left of the photo, and you can see the cutout in the hangar door that fits around the fuselage because an entire 737-200 wouldn’t fit into the hangar. Consequently, the tail had to stick out into the elements. Behind the Mechanic, the cowling on the JT-8D engine is open.
Another familiar story to Employees and fans of Southwest Airlines is the 1973 $13 Fare War, when Southwest gave Customers the choice of paying the discounted fare of $13 that Braniff was charging between Dallas and Houston Hobby (which was priced way below our breakeven point), or of paying the regular full fare of $26 and receiving a bottle of premium liquor. This story has always reminded me of the scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, where George Bailey has to parse out just enough money to the savings and loan members to keep them going until Mr. Potter reopens the bank, at the same time his is protecting the stability of the savings and loan. If everyone had paid $13, Southwest would have quickly gone broke and out of business. If Southwest only offered a $26 fare, we would have lost most of our Customers to Braniff’s lower fare, and Southwest would also have gone out of business. Either way, Braniff would have won. As it turned out, we came up with a third alternative, and Southwest became the number one liquor distributor in Texas during the sale. The $13 Fare War was really a turning point that helped move Customer support in favor of Southwest, and we have turned a profit every year since. Above, we see Dallas Ticket Agent Georgeann Harris holding a bottle of Chivas Regal in front of a poster of Lamar Muse’s, “Nobody’s going to Shoot Southwest” ad.
But have you ever seen anything pertaining to this pivotal event from the Braniff perspective? Well, this is the Braniff ad proclaiming the start of their $13 “Get Acquainted Sale” between Houston Hobby and Dallas, and it represents the trigger for the battle. Braniff was not only offering a coach fare that could put us out of business, but we forget that they were offering first class for $17, which was $9 less than our coach fare. If that wasn’t enough, there was another component to their attack. As the ad shows, they were offering the $13/$17 fares on eight Dallas-Houston flights and seven return flights. With that kind of flight frequency and those fares, this clearly was an attack on Southwest’s key route. But wait, there is still more: You probably can’t read it, but the ad proclaims that you will be flying on “big 727 Wide-Body jets.” This rather far-fetched claim no doubt references the new wide-body style overhead bins that Braniff had installed on its 727s (and which we were installing on our 737s), but it conveniently ignores the fact that the 727 and the 737 have the exact same cabin width—and neither are considered to be a wide-body.
Another miscellaneous photo that I uncovered is this photo from the Austin Station that was probably taken close to the time we began service there in 1977. The photo evidently documents an important occasion in the life of the young station as both women are wearing a corsage. Harry Young is on the right, Rhonda Krafka is next to him, then Steve Foster, and Suzi Marcella is on the left.
We close with this late 1970s ramp shot of a quick turn. The aircraft is the second N20SW, which was delivered to us in 1977. The first N20SW was the airplane we had to sell to the original Frontier in 1972 when we were prohibited from flying out of state charters, and it flew its entire Southwest life carrying the word “airlines” on the fuselage. On the other hand, the aircraft in the photo joined our fleet in 1977. But notice how the original slanted titling on the baggage carts continues in use on ground equipment long after it disappeared off our aircraft.
So maybe there is an overall theme to this post after all. It shows how we worked, how we marketed ourselves, and how we battled to stay in business during the early days. Although the specifics have changed over the years, these are still hugely important parts of “who” we are as a Company.
... View more
This week, we take a different approach to Southwest’s history by tracking some measurements of our growth over our first 40 years. Upfront, I have to admit that I am intimidated by numbers, especially those used to express economic terms. I just squeaked by my college Economics class (although I do remember we played a neat board game). However, while doing research in our past annual reports for another project, I found some numbers that illustrate how far we have come as a Company. While doing my research, I was also reminded again that the annual report is a wonderful document, filled with interesting information. For the purpose of my research, I used the “landmark” anniversary years of the fifth, tenth, 15 th , etc. publications. Don’t worry, I still have included some photos representing some of the covers of these reports.
We start with just two numbers, the amount of fuel we used during our first year, 1971, and the fuel used during our 40 th year, 2011. That first year, we burned about five million gallons of jet fuel, but contrast that with the approximately 1.8 billion gallons used in 2011. Of course in that time, we had expanded from an airline with three airplanes serving three cities in Texas to a coast-to-coast carrier. And speaking of aircraft, take a look at these numbers:
Aircraft at year-end
2011: 698 (includes AirTran)
Let’s compare that with the number of Employees across the years:
2011: 45,392 (includes AirTran)
To me, it’s illuminating that both the number of aircraft and the number of Employees in 1971 are .05 percent of the 2011 both numbers. Again, I’m no economist, but that represents a pretty balanced growth in these two categories. The two categories below also have a relationship, although not a direct correlation with each other..
Fuel cost Average Fare
1971: $0.11 per gallon 1971: $19.62
1976: $0.33 per gallon 1976: $19.80
1981: $1.01 per gallon 1981: $38.07
1986: $0.51 per gallon 1986: $54.43
1991: $0.66 per gallon 1991: $55.93
1996: $0.66 per gallon 1996: $65.88
2001: $0.71 per gallon 2001: $83.46
2006: $1.53 per gallon 2006: $104.40
2011: $3.19 per gallon 2011: $141.72
The obvious connection is that our fares go up when the cost of fuel goes up. And, during our first 40 years, the biggest fuel cost increase occurred between 2006 and 2011, when fuel rose by $1.66 per gallon. In fact, in the first 40 years after we took to the sky, the cost of jet fuel in 1971 represents three percent of 2011's price. In contrast, our average fare in 1971 was a more robust 13 percent of 2011's number. Compare this with the 30-year period ending in 2001, when the 9/11 attacks changed the industry overnight. For those first 30 years, 1971's fuel price was 16 percent of 2001's and the average fare in 1971 was 24 percent of 2011's prices, both at appreciably lower rates than those recorded in 2011. If you need an example of the volatility of the industry since 2011, let’s look at the first 25 years. Comparing 1996 to 1971, the fuel price in 1971 was 83 percent of the price in 1996, but our average ticket price in 1971 was 30 percent of 1996's. All it takes is a look at the charts to see the rapid changes since 2001 and to compare those numbers with the relative stability of the first 30 years. (In case you are wondering why 1981’s fuel prices were so high, it was because of the Iran-Iraq war which isolated prime oil supplies from the rest of the world.) Don't worry, Flashback Fridays aren't going to turn into a numbers series, but I thought this research really told an interesting story that I wanted to share with you.
... View more
Back before the holidays, I shared some photos in a book my best friend from childhood had sent me. The book, Transport Aircraft of the World by Lester Ott, was published in 1944, a climactic year during World War II. In the first installment, I shared some American-built/designed aircraft that were unusual and that wound up either never being built or relegated to the scrap heap after just a few examples were completed. At the time, I asked if you all wanted to see some of the European designs in the book, and the answer was affirmative, including a request from Southwest Airlines’ Chairman Emeritus, Herb Kelleher, so here we go.
We begin in England, where the war had all but eliminated any commercial airline service, (as was the case in the rest of Europe). In spite of German air attacks, the U.K. had an important aircraft industry, but it was decided by the Allies, that England would devote all its manufacturing capacity toward bombers and fighters, and that the U.S. would develop and produce all transport aircraft during the war. This must have been particularly galling to the British because they had developed some amazing airliners before the war, and the state airline, Imperial Airways—forerunner of BOAC and British Airways—had developed long haul routes to South Africa, Australia, and Hong Kong at service and comfort levels far exceeding carriers on this side of the Atlantic. One of the most beautiful airplanes ever built was Imperial Airways’ de Havilland Albatross, shown above at London’s original airport, Croydon. Because Croydon had short runways and was located in a built up area, Heathrow replaced it as London’s primary airport after the war. However, Croydon’s landmark terminal still stands in the southern London suburb of the same name.
The Albatrosses’ sleek lines were especially evident during flight (above). Interestingly, the Albatross was built of plywood, and it was fast for its day, cruising at 210 miles per hour. During the war, de Havilland would use wood to build the famous Mosquito fighter-bomber.
As the war moved toward a positive end, the British converted some bomber types into transports. One of the best examples of this was the Avro York, which was a transport version of the famous Lancaster bomber. The York used the bomber’s wings, landing gear, and engines, with a new deeper fuselage. (Some civilianized Lancaster’s were also used as airliners by Air Canada to begin transatlantic service.) After the war, BOAC used the York on some of its longhaul flights to South Africa until more suitable airliners could be acquired and by British South American Airways Corporation (merged into BOAC in 1949) who used them for flights from the U.K. to South America.
Across the English Channel, Air France had operated a unique fleet of graceful French aircraft prior to the war. During the war, some of these aircraft were used by the occupying German forces for military transports. In happier times (above), we see an Air France 16-passenger Bloch 220 being serviced in front of the Art Deco terminal building at Le Bourget. Today, this building houses the impressive Musée de l’Air (Air Museum), and the building can also be seen in photos of the biannual Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. The Bloch 220 was similar in size to the Douglas DC-2.
At the other end of the size spectrum was the six-engine Sud-Est S.E. 200. While work on the aircraft had begun before 1939, construction continued during the German occupation. This massive flying boat was another six-engine design like we saw with Boeing’s “Super Clipper” design in the first installment, and the French aircraft could carry 40 passengers and a crew of eight. Only four aircraft were completed: One was flown to Germany and destroyed by Allied bombing, but one of the surviving aircraft did fly after the war with the French Navy for three years before a landing accident grounded it. As we saw with the American designs, land planes killed the flying boats because they were more flexible, cheaper to operate, and provided greater safety in operation. Still, you have to admit that the S.E. 200 was an extremely good looking airplane.
Nazi Germany had a very aggressive prewar airliner building program, but much of this commercial aviation activity was a subterfuge. Treaty limitations after World War I prohibited Germany from building combat aircraft, so it designed airliners that could be quickly turned into bomber designs. These “transports” that would become bombers include the HE-111 and the Do-17. However, one of the most impressive German airliner designs, the Focke Wulf Condor, was actually designed as an airliner for Luft Hansa (it was two words originally). This modern four-engine airplane was the first landplane to fly nonstop from Berlin to New York prior to the start of World War II in 1939, and one example served as Hitler’s personal airplane. In spite of their civil origins, during the war, Condors served as a long-range maritime bomber for the Luftwaffe. Winston Churchill called the Condor “the scourge of the Atlantic,” due to the damage inflicted on British convoys. Ironically, in the early days of the war, the British seized a Danish Airlines Condor, and it was used by BOAC for wartime service until 1941. The other landmark German transport/airliner of this period was the tri-motor Junkers Ju-52 that served airlines all over the world, in addition to the Luftwaffe.
Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, this prewar giant (above) was one of the largest airplanes in the world. The L-760 required six engines and had a massive wing span of 210 feet, and it was 25 feet high. Check out those huge wheel covers on the nonretractable main landing gear, and take note that the passenger cabin extended in front of the cockpit. Soviet airliners of this period were oversized, lumbering, and not very advanced in design. During the war, the Soviets began manufacturing the Li-2, which was a licensed version of the Douglas DC-3.
The other European airliner manufacturing country was Italy. In 1933, Italy’s Secretary of State for Air in Mussolini’s Fascist government, Italo Balbo, flew 24 Savoia-Marchetti S.55 flying boats from Rome to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair. The formation landed on Lake Michigan. The SM. 83 (above) from the same manufacturer was a tri-motor ten-passenger land plane. Aside from the Italian airline Ala Littoria, examples of the SM. 83 served with the Belgium airline Sabena from Brussels to what was then the Belgian Congo.
After World War II, commercial aviation would never seem so quaint. Within just 14 years after the war’s end, de Havilland Comets, Boeing 707s, and Douglas DC-8s would be circling the globe many times a day. Air travel, spurred on by pioneers like Southwest, would cease to become a luxury enjoyed by a few, and travel by air would become a necessity for the masses.
... View more
This time of year could be called “list season.” I have to admit that I am a list junkie, and I devour any “best of” (or better yet, “worst of”) list relating to a subject in which I am interested, and I don’t think I’m alone. Why are we so interested in lists? My take is that they give us a chance to compare our judgment with those of others. So here’s your opportunity to match wits with me, and I am sharing my five favorite photos from the last year’s Flashback Fridays. I tried to pick photos that showcase some long forgotten, but important, milestones that either show an early important aspect of, or had a profound effect on, our operation and our Culture. The choices and rankings are my own, so if you agree, you are a genius, and if you disagree, I’m sure you will let me know.
Number five: As far as having a lasting effect on our Company, the subject of this photo isn’t that significant. However, the photo from the August 17 Flashback Fridays is a great illustration of our early corporate Warrior Spirit, and it shows the creativity and spunk that were required to fight not only the other airlines, but the new DFW Regional Airport. (It’s called DFW International now.) In its early days, DFW charged folks a quarter to ride the automated trains between terminals. Coin changers were installed in each terminal’s two or three stations, but the changers only returned 95 cents in change. The airport claimed the fee offset the cost of the changers. Admittedly, the need for change was less at Love Field, but sensing the opportunity to make a point in the long-running battle over the continued use of Love, Southwest installed some coin changers of their own. In my original post, I had written that the Southwest changers returned a full dollar, but I later found out that our changers actually paid out $1.05 in change. The sign above the machine reveals the reason for paying our Customers to use the machine: “Because we love you.”
Number four: Photos of our operation on the old North Concourse at Love Field are as rare as hen’s teeth, especially photos from inside the gate areas. After all, the North Concourse was literally where Southwest began operation on the morning of June 18, 1971, so there is a definite historical importance. A few photos have been published of the checkin podiums, primarily in conjunction with the “Great $13 Fare War,” but I hadn’t found any photos of the actual gate areas (Gates 23 and 25, subleased from Delta). That was true until the June 1 Flashback Fridays. This photo is one of the very few I have ever seen inside the gate area at the old concourse, and we see the North Concourse’s characteristic narrow vertical windows and the Delta gate furnishings, including the railing separating the jetbridge entrance from the room. The irony is that, while these early views are so rare, thousands of Southwest Employees would later attend University for People classes in this very same room.
Number three: When Southwest began service to Los Angeles on September 18, 1982 (30 years to the day after I was born), we operated out of TWA’s Terminal Three, until our current facility, Terminal One, opened two years later. Photos of our Terminal Three operation may be even rarer than those from Love Field’s North Concourse. For the February 10 Flashback, I found some photos taken inside the Terminal Three satellite. This photo shows passengers checking in at the Gate 30 podium. Other than the rarity of the photo, I’ll admit that I included it on the list for some arbitrary personal reasons: This was the terminal used for the filming of the classic movie Airplane; LAX was one of my two childhood airports; and we began service there on my birthday. Most lists always seem to contain an item that makes you want to scratch your head, and this one may be mine.
Number two: One of our earliest and longest-lived Culture events is the annual Chili Cookoff. In the April 27 Flashback Fridays, I published a photo of the very first cookoff from 1973. This was officially the “First and Last Chili Cookoff” because the Company’s financial situation was so “iffy,” and it was far from certain that Southwest would be around for a second cookoff. That tradition has carried over to each successive cookoff, and the one held in 2012 was the “39 th and Last Annual Chili Cookoff.” In that original post, I wrote: “Southwest Cofounder Rollin King was one of the judges, and he is in the middle with the white hat and dark jacket. To his left sharing the winning trophy are Provisioning Employees Ken Hargrove (our current Amarillo Station Leader) and Steve Spurrier (no, not the head football coach at South Carolina) to Ken’s left. On the far left is another judge, Hondo Crouch, the “Ambassador from Luckenbach, Texas.” Hondo, who passed away in 1976, was a Texas legend, and he also went by the self-proclaimed titles of “Mayor of Luckenbach” and the “Crown Prince of Luckenbach.” To Rollin’s right are two more judges, Charlie and Gordon Fowler, sons of Texas chili legend, Wick Fowler. Take a look at the case of long necked Lone Star beer on the table. I doubt if those bottles in the carton will still be full when the night is done.” Because of its importance to our Culture, this photo earns the penultimate position on the list.
And, my most favorite Flashback Friday’s photo from 2012: This photo from the January 10 Flashback earns the top ranking. In fact, it may be the very first Southwest Airlines photo, and I am proud of the detective work it took to discover the story behind the photo. Knowing that Rollin King flew the line as a Pilot during Southwest’s earliest days, I thought at first that this was a photo taken during that period. However, the fact that he is in a suit and not a uniform got me to wondering. I blew up the image of the instrument panel (at the top of the page) to see if I could find the registration placard, and it was N737Q—not a Southwest airplane. I did some research and found that this was a Boeing demonstrator, but what were the circumstances of the flight? Mike Lombardi, Boeing’s Corporate Historian, filled in the gaps. The photo was taken on a June 17, 1968, demonstration flight between Dallas and San Antonio. This was only 15 months after Air Southwest was incorporated and three years and one day before Southwest’s first flight on June 18, 1971. It was also just seven months after the first 737 was delivered to Lufthansa. This photo represents the founding of Southwest, the start of a long, mutually rewarding and exclusive relationship with Boeing, and the birth of one of the most successful airliner programs in aviation history. In my book, three excellent qualifications for the number one spot on my top five list.
... View more
This week’s Flashback gives you the opportunity to look at the details of how we have celebrated a few of the past 42 Holiday Seasons, and the photos run the gamut from early Southwest to early AirTran holiday costumes and celebrations.
The first photo features a trio of Flight Attendants from the the earliest of the years that Southwest was in operation. Our characters are wearing an elf’s outfit, a holiday T-shirt with the greeting “Happy Holidays With Love,” and a pajama-like outfit with a Santa cap. This and some of the other photos are from a time before security regulations prohibited Flight Attendants from wearing costumes. Note the open overheads and that the only items stowed there are coats. Judging from the pattern on the sidewalls, I am guessing this was probably either N21SW or N23SW.
From about the same timeperiod, the next photo also displays a Flight Attendant in a Santa hat. The Flight Attendant in the middle has a holiday-themed dress, while the rear Flight Attendant sports a reindeer hat with antlers. Another cabin interior note: The passenger service units (PSUs) forward of the mid-cabin bulkhead all have “No Smoking” placards, but those aft of the bulkhead don’t. This is because the aft portion of the cabin was the smoking section. Also, take a look at the expressions on the two folks seated in front of the bulkhead; they both seem highly suspicious of the photographer.
Good things come in threes. This looks like it might have been shot at the Dallas Inflight Base (or possibly a holiday party) where a holiday costume contest was being held, and this Crew shows off their matching Santa costumes in front of the Christmas tree.
We shift our attention toward the east where we look in on a holiday celebration at Atlanta with AirTran Employees for December 1998. The costume of choice appears to have been either Santa hats or reindeer antlers made from balloons.
AirTran Employees went through the gate area giving balloon animals to children waiting for their flight, and these recipients look delighted. Out the window is an AirTran DC-9, with TWA and Delta MD-80s in the background. All in all, it looks like a miserable, wet day in Atlanta, so the holiday cheer must have been appreciated in the gate area.
My Christmas gift is the reception you all have given me for these Flashbacks to Southwest’s history. We will take December 28 off and will see you in the next year for more Southwest history. To close, we return to that long-ago costume contest for a Texas-style holiday greeting from another Southwest Inflight Crew. And to their wishes, I add my own: Happy Holidays Y’all!
... View more
In many ways, today may be the most important day on Southwest Airlines’ calendar because it marks the 109th anniversary of the date that humans took to the air in powered, controlled flight. After all, without airplanes, you can’t have airlines. While the problems of controlled flight would probably been solved sooner or later, the Wright Brothers did it first, and the aviation timeline begins on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville Wright became the world’s first airplane pilot that raw, brisk day along the North Carolina Coast as his brother Wilbur watched. Orville’s first flight covered 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds. In other words, it took him 12 seconds to fly the equivalent distance of a 737-800 fuselage. So as you go about your duties today, take a moment to stop and reflect on what a wonder the gift of flight really is and consider the progress we have made in such a relatively short time.
... View more
If you are lucky to know a World War II Veteran, and have an opportunity to ask them their recollections of December 7, 1941, most assuredly they will convey the shock and horror they felt when the Armed Forces of the United States of America were attacked. Although, the number of people who have firsthand memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor is dwindling, this shouldn’t diminish the importance of the events that happened in Hawaii that day. A few minutes on a beautiful morning would soon change that, just as a few minutes on another beautiful morning, half a world away and 60 years later on September 11 would change the way we look at the world. The attack on the huge naval base at Pearl Harbor and the Army Air Force bases scattered around Oahu would plunge the nation into a massive mobilized war effort that would circle the world and last four years. Prior to December 7, I bet most Americans would have had a hard time locating Hawaii on a map. We felt safe, protected by the two oceans along our coasts. After that, we would become a global nation. But that globalization would come at a cost of the lives of almost a half-million Americans and up to almost 78 million dead worldwide. Let us pause today and remember those Americans who served and fought at Pearl Harbor. Imagine being 19 years old, just having graduated from high school and making plans to attend college or possibly to marry your sweetheart. As the shock waves rocked our nation, these brave young men and women instead immediately enlisted to serve and protect our nation. Their service touched a nation 71 years ago, and it touches us today. Southwest Airlines is proud to be the official commercial airline of the Honor Flight Network and have the opportunity to send World War II Veterans like those who defended at Pearl Harbor to D.C. to visit their memorial. It almost seems loath to talk about any good coming out of such a horrible conflict, but the shrinking of the world perhaps has made it more difficult to have such large scale conflicts in the future. One tool helping to shrink the world is the airplane. Prior to the Pearl Harbor attacks, Pan American had begun commercial service between San Francisco and Honolulu with its Clipper flying boats. Often times, the westbound flights would reach their “point of no return” and would be lacking fuel to continue the trip, forcing a return to California. Long-range land-based transports developed during the war, would bring almost every point of the globe and the inhabitants of those locations in reach of each other. If you know a World War II Vet, thank him or her for their service. Those who followed their comrades in arms at Pearl Harbor would know desperate times because victory was far from assured, but even though their backs were against the wall, the tide of battle slowly, but unfailingly, began to turn. We owe them so much.
... View more
A week or so ago, I received an amazing book from a lifelong friend from my childhood. The book dates to 1944, and it is printed on pulp paper because higher quality “slick” paper was in short supply during World War II. I have to admit that the content of this book, Transport Aircraft of the World by Lester Ott, simply blew me away. I thought I had a pretty basic knowledge of most transport aircraft built here in the U.S., but this book proved me wrong, and I am excited to share some of these amazing airplanes with you.
The book covers the aircraft types you would expect to find like the DC-3 (above), the DC-4 and the Constellation. It also covers transports from the United Kingdom and, somewhat surprisingly, Nazi Germany, Italy, Occupied France, and the Soviet Union. For this post, let’s concentrate on the depiction of some exotic American aircraft, most of which never made it into production. (If you want to see some of those equally exotic foreign designs in a future post, let me know in the comments.) Case in point is the Boeing “Super Clipper” above. This six-engine flying boat was designed for Pan American as a followup to the successful Boeing 314 flying boat. The Super Clipper proposed to fly 100 passengers a distance of 5,000 miles at a speed of 300 miles per hour.
Another six-engine flying boat (see a pattern with the six engines?) design from the Martin Company was competing with the Boeing proposal. Like the Boeing, it would have carried 100 passengers between New York and London in 12 hours. You may not be able to see it, but the large room at the aft end of the upper deck houses a ping pong table, and the upper deck room just in front of the inboard engine has a chef in a white hat. These giant flying boat designs simply couldn’t compete with the more versatile, simpler, and more economical land planes like the DC-4 and Constellation.
Although it is less common now, folks used to call Southwest the “Greyhound of the sky.” Well, according to this book, Greyhound had plans to create their own air service. The helicopter design above was a joint venture of Greyhound, Igor Sikorsky, and the noted industrial designer, Raymond Lowey. This was to have been a 14-passenger helicopter to be used on what the book calls “local air routes.” After the war, the Santa Fe Railway and both the Matson and Waterman steamship lines operated their own airlines until the Civil Aeronautics Board ruled that surface transportation companies couldn’t operate or own airlines. (This is another example of the regulatory power that limited airlines like PSA and Southwest to intrastate operations.)
The aircraft above actually did fly. It is a Burnelli UB-14, and it is a cousin of flying wing designs. Somewhat uniquely, the fuselage and the closely mounted two engines acted as a lifting body. The cut-away drawing illustrates the passenger cabin. If the drawing is to be believed, there were forward looking windows under the cockpit, and those would have offered a unique view.
The photo above is proof the UB-14 really did fly. In the write-up about this aircraft, the book offers a tantalizing statement. It says: “The UB-14 is now going through tests as a passenger and cargo transport on South American air routes.” A look at some web sites reveals that several UB-14s were built by other companies in Canada and the United Kingdom, and that the Canadian example did airline tests in Latin America. This is probably the aircraft to which the book is referring.
Here is a photo of the passenger cabin of the UB-14 (above). To be honest, until I received this book, I had never heard of the UB-14 or Burnelli.
So other than the obvious avgeek interest in this subject, what do these old pictures mean to us as Southwest Employees? Let’s look at the book from a different perspective. It was published in 1944—that’s 41 years since the Wright Brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk, and Southwest has been in operation 41 years. The 41 years covered by the book reveal some airline industry truths that were becoming evident, even in 1944. One is the unpredictability of the industry: The biggest percentage of the author’s forecasts for the future never came to be--I certainly have never heard or seen an airplane with a table tennis room. If, 41 years ago, Herb Kelleher and Rollin King had written down their predictions for 2012, I’m guessing they probably would have been more accurate than the book, but they still would have made their share of faulty, though educated, predictions. Another airline truth the book illustrates is dynamic change. The Wright’s first flight was barely the length of a 747 fuselage. Yet the book points out (above) that 41 years later after that first flight, no spot in the world was more than 60 hours away. (Ironically, that figure hasn’t changed as much as you might expect.) Still another truth indirectly outlined by the book is that economics and practicality trump “luxurious and exotic.” The DC-4 and Constellation were economical and practical. The Super Clipper wasn’t. And the final take-away from the book is that today’s routines will become tomorrow’s history, and we are writing that future history every day.
... View more
When Southwest began flying on June 18, 1971, we operated out of Houston Intercontinental (IAH). Southwest reopened Hobby to commercial service a few months later on November 14, and we used the occasion to complete the “Texas Triangle" by beginning service between Hobby and San Antonio. (We operated from both Houston airports until May 14, 1972, when we we discontinued IAH service.) Dan Johnson in Dispatch sent me some candid photos (most of them in color) that were taken when he worked at Houston’s Hobby Airport. As an Original Employee, Dan was there at the birth of the ten-minute turn and for our early Hobby service. Let's use this earlier photo from the archives to set the stage for Dan's pictures. Rather than reopen the main terminal for a relatively small number of daily flights, we (and later Braniff) operated out of the old International Building that had been used by Pan American and KLM back when Hobby was the city’s main airport. The International Building was built to the left of the main terminal after this late 1950s photo was taken.
Dan’s first picture shows the flight-time confusion during a mid-week afternoon. We see arriving Customers, many of whom are waiting for their bags at the claim area against the far wall, where the bricks are tan color. Others are trying to negotiate the crowd to leave the building. Still others in the photo are greeting arriving Customers. Mixed in this group are outbound Customers waiting to check in and go through the security magnetometer. According to Dan, there could be double or triple this number of people in the room on a Thursday, Friday, or Sunday evening.
This slightly different view shows us the “goal” of the outbound Customers. The checkin desks were located under the Southwest sign hanging from the ceiling. The actual ticket counter was to the right out of the picture. Hopefully the air conditioning was working because the absence of coats tells us that this was probably summertime. We can only guess what this mass of people could do to the climate of the room.
The magnetometer for the gate hold area is visible just to the right of the “T” in Southwest. Once cleared through security, folks would wait to board in the room with the yellow walls.
Compare this archive view with Dan’s to see what the checkin area looked like without all the people and only inhabited by some scary characters from the Houston children’s store, Kid’s Kountry.
Dan gives us this black and white view of what the scene was like from rampside, once Customers negotiated the crowds inside the building and made it outside to board their aircraft. He tells me that the man in the tie watching the folks making their way to the aircraft is Dennis Lardon, the Assistant Station Manager at the time. Note the fire extinguisher being used as a door stop to hold the door open and the total lack of carryon luggage. The largest item I see is a briefcase carried by the man in front of Dennis. This temporary facility was rudimentary at best, and it was utilized until December 8, 1974, when we moved our operations into the main building.
The main terminal, shown above in another archives photo, gave us room to grow, in addition to separating the ticket counter, gates, and baggage claim into different areas. Starting in 2006, a massive rebuilding project began that would turn the Hobby Terminal into a functional, modern facility. We are about to come full circle in Southwest’s occupancy of the airport. We began Hobby service in the former International Building, and we are in the process of building a new modern international terminal that will allow us to add international destinations to the many domestic cities we serve from Hobby.
... View more
In a very real sense, Larry Hagman represents our hometown, Dallas. As J.R. Ewing he made Dallas an international destination, even if his character was a shady, conniving scoundrel. And as himself, he became a part of the city’s heart through his generosity. As these photos from our archives show, Mr. Hagman had an early relationship with Southwest. We see him passing through Houston Hobby in 1979, just as the television series was becoming a household name going into its second season.
During his stay at the airport, he shared his big smile with Customers and our Employees, and it’s hard to tell who was smiling the most. Our thoughts are with Mr. Hagman’s family.
... View more
This week, I raided my postcard collection to find some photos built around the general theme of the way airlines display their names on the outside of their aircraft. The other reason was that I just wanted a chance to share these interesting older images with you as an after-Thanksgiving treat.
We set the stage with this early Southwest image from the archives, and as regular readers know, Southwest’s first three airplanes carried the word “airlines” on the aircraft. Beginning with the delivery of the fourth airplane, N23SW, in late 1971, airlines was deleted from the exterior. The rest of this post will show that we weren’t the only carrier to omit the word airlines from our airplanes, and we weren’t the first to do so, either.
Let’s begin with this Lubbock Airport postcard from the late 1940’s. Like so many airlines back then, Pioneer (on the left) used two separate words, “air” and “lines” in their company name. The photo shows their first livery, and I find it interesting that Pioneer, Air, and Lines are presented in three different fonts. Some airlines were actually “airways” like Pan American, AirTran, and Braniff shown on the right. Their DC-3 makes sure you know it is flown by “Braniff International Airways.” Braniff would follow the trend in the industry and later drop airways off their airplanes. As for the terminal, the airport restaurant was located in the round portion on the second story, and it offered great ramp views. I stopped here as a baby on my first plane trip in 1954, but I would return many times. I remember the building’s musky aroma, and the restaurant seemed more like a roadside café than an airport dining room.
Delta is the only airline today to separate airlines into two words in their corporate name. The DC-8 61 above proudly proclaims the company’s full name in a postcard from the late 1960s.
However, by the time their DC-9-30s, TriStars, 747s, and 727s were delivered a few years later, only Delta was displayed on the fuselage and tail. Note that the postcard carries the full name in script.
Continental switched over to using airlines as one word in the 1950s, and this Boeing 720B (above), like all their aircraft at the time, carried the word airlines until a new livery was introduced the late 1960s.
This 707-320C shows that newer livery, and only Continental is displayed. This (and the Delta changeover) happened about the time Southwest began flying. When Texas International took over Continental in the early 1980s, they changed the color of the logo on the tail from black to red.
American has always had a bare metal look to its livery. This early 707-100 at the old terminal in Los Angeles wears the same basic markings as American’s DC-3s carried in the 1930s. Airlines disappeared from American aircraft with arrival of the current livery in the late 1960s that was created by noted industrial designer, Massimo Vignelli.
Some carriers had dumped airlines from their liveries right after World War II. United’s first postwar livery just said “United,” and their 1959 livery, as shown on this DC-7, carried that trend forward into the jet age.
While Northwest was also an early adopter of the simplified title, it added and later removed a different word, “Orient.” This mid 1950’s view of a Stratocruiser carries the bold Northwest titles, but few years later, Northwest aircraft would wear “Northwest Orient” titles. Still later, it would be back to just Northwest.
And we close with this Eastern 727-100. Eastern always looked at its airplanes as giant billboards, and all of their liveries urged onlookers to fly the carrier until the revolutionary “hockey stick” livery was introduced in the late 1960s. Eastern was one of the last carriers to use air and lines in their name, and prior to the introduction of the 727, Eastern covered the length of the fuselage with “Fly Eastern Air Lines.” (During the 1950s, Braniff also added “Fly” to the tail of most of its aircraft.) The 727-100’s shorter fuselage was probably the reason for the editing in titles.
This is just a brief look at the fascinating world of livery variations. Airlines were always tinkering with small things like titles and logos (Continental had airplanes flying with three different logos at the same time), even if they weren’t changing their overall livery. Conversely, it wasn’t unusual for a new type of aircraft to carry a new livery and fly alongside an older type with a different livery. If you wish more details about what I think is the most interesting visual period of the airline industry, you should read some great pictorial books like, Classic Early Jetliners 1958-1979 by Martin Bowman.
... View more
Is there a more iconic symbol of Thanksgiving than the turkey? No, we’re not talking about a big Tom as the centerpiece of the table surrounded by dressing, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. I’m talking about the magnificent wild turkey, which was the mainstay of the diets of Native Americans along the East Coast. Ben Franklin thought the bird was more deserving of being the symbol of the new United States than the bald eagle. He wrote to his daughter: For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
The Southwest species of Wild Turkey comes in a bottle, and like Founding Father Ben Franklin's estimation of the winged version, Southwest’s Founding Father, Herb Kelleher is a fan of the bottled and the feathered version. For years, a feature of his office was a smelly stuffed turkey that had seen better days. At least, the liquid version holds its age over the years, unlike the product of taxidermy. The dapper Herb doffs his hat (above), while holding a glass of his favorite drink.
Actually, Herb isn’t alone in his affection for both types of turkeys. An executive from a distillery owned by the Ripy Brothers took a case of unnamed Bourbon on a wild turkey hunting trip in 1940. His hunting partners would later ask for a bottle of that wild turkey whiskey, and a legend was born. For years, Wild Turkey was considered the drink of the people, just as Southwest Airlines was founded to allow all Americans to afford air travel. Because of that, it makes sense that Herb, as Southwest’s Founder and Chairman Emeritus, would make Wild Turkey his drink of choice. No doubt Herb and Willie Nelson are discussing the virtues of the libation in Herb’s glass.
Whether you’re carving or sipping Turkey, here’s hoping this is a great Thanksgiving.
... View more
Don’t touch that dial! This week’s Flashback Fridays is both a look at our relationship with some Dallas radio stations, and it’s a review of some of the methods we have used to build the Southwest Airlines brand. There are some cool photos too.
We begin with the above, and no, these aren’t 70s revolutionaries trying to take the airplane to Havana. The two “revolutionaries” are Kevin McCarthy (standing) and Dick Hitt, the morning drive-time hosts on Dallas radio station KNUS FM (pronounced KAY-news), which was located at 98.7 on the dial. (Keep that frequency in mind, it will pop up later.) The Corpus Christi poster on the bulkhead and the Flight Attendant uniform date this view to sometime between March 1, 1977, the day we began service to Corpus Christi, and May 15, 1977, the day the uniforms changed. The occasion for the trip was the KNUS-D Magazine “South Padre Island Sand Castle Building Competition, Margarita Drinking Exhibition, Beachfront Olympics, Dart Tournament, Mexican Shopping Excursion, and International Calgon Bathoil [sic] Beads Gulf Spill.” According to Southwest Airlines Magazine, over 190 people made the trip, and they must have used two flights to accommodate that many people. If you ever wanted a photo that sums up the 1970s, this would be it. Kevin is wearing a safari jacket and holding a cocktail and a cigarette while making an inflight announcement. Dick is also smoking and has a stash of cocktails by his side. Like Kevin’s, his outfit comes off the racks at “70s R’ Us.”
Meanwhile, Ron Chapman (above) was the morning drive guy for KVIL FM. KVIL topped competition like KNUS and became the area’s most popular radio station, and Ron became the area’s most recognizable voice. In 1980, Ron traveled to Lubbock with a giant chicken (I don’t know the reason this traveling companion was selected) to celebrate Southwest’s lack of advance-purchase fares.
After 31 years at KVIL, Ron left in 2000 for K-LUV FM, an “oldie” station that used the same frequency, 98.7, as the old KNUS. His many loyal users made the switch too.
K-LUV’s call letters made it a natural partner of the LUV Airline, and in a joint promotion with Southwest, the “LUV Bug” was born. This special Beetle became a common sight all over the Metroplex, and it kind of reminds you of the old Gremlins and Pacers from the 1970s that wore Southwest colors. When Ron retired in June 2005, Southwest surprised him on the air with the unveiling of N215WN that wore a Ron Chapman decal for the next month.
Southwest still partners with radio stations, and since 2006, we have participated in the annual Kidd’s Kids effort set up by locally based, nationally syndicated radio personality, Kidd Kraddick. Each year, Kidd flies a group of seriously ill children and their families to Orlando for a stay at DisneyWorld. Southwest Employees participate in the fund raising, and we provide an aircraft for the trip. (That’s Kidd, with the sunglasses, and the rest of the show’s personalities.) This year’s trip left yesterday (November 8).
On a less serious note, we also have a relationship with The Ticket, one of Dallas’s most popular stations. This past summer, their morning show, “The Musers,” broadcast from our Flight Operations Training Building, and they flew one of the simulators and went through evacuation training while on the air. Above, we see the show’s three personalities (left to right), Craig Miller, Gordon Keith, and George Dunham undergoing life vest training.
Our longterm association with Dallas radio stations has provided us a "Southwest" way to share our Fun-LUVing Attitude with the area’s folks, no matter if it was part of the “swinging 70s” or kidding around with The Musers this year. And our association with Kidd’s Kids has allowed us to share our Servant’s Hearts with a national audience. It speaks volumes that, throughout our history, the top local radio stations have wanted to be associated with the People of Southwest Airlines. That’s the power of the brand that our folks have built.
... View more
In the early days, Southwest Airlines created more iconic images than an upstart carrier with just three airplanes should have generated. I don’t think anyone ever said: “Today, we’re going to make an icon.” It just happened naturally. Some of those images include the early television advertisement where a model dressed in our first Flight Attendant uniform strolls down a runway as a 737-200 screams by just a few feet above her head. Another iconic photo shows our original Flight Attendants decked out in hot pants lined up on a 737’s air stairs, and my favorite is the 1972 photo (above) showing a line of Flight Attendants holding hands and running toward the camera. The last-mentioned photo was so popular that it has been recreated for almost every landmark Southwest anniversary.
However, it wasn’t the only early Southwest iconic photo to have a remake. I thought it would be fun to compare some of the more obscure “reshoots” with their better known originals. Let’s start with the photo above. Prior to beginning service on June 18, 1971, we took a series of publicity photos with our Flight Attendants walking behind all three of our original aircraft. Note that “Southwest” is written on the fuselage, and the word “airlines” is displayed on the aircrafts' tails. The location was our original hangar located near Bachman Lake.
Just a few years later in the same location, we took a newer version, only in black and white. There are a couple of clues that allow us to put an approximate date on the scene. “Southwest” has been moved to the tail and “airlines" has been deleted. This revision to the original livery began with the delivery of the fourth aircraft, N23SW, in November 1971, but the remaining original aircraft (N21SW and N22SW) kept their full titles at least until mid-1973. (The delivery of N23SW was the event that triggered the sale of N20SW and the establishment of the ten-minute turn.) Since we only had three aircraft at the time of this photo, one of these airplanes has to be an original with the modified livery. This means that the photo must be mid-1973 or later. And, because the original uniforms were worn until September 1974, the photo has to be earlier than that date. That puts it into the 1973/1974 timeframe.
The same day that the running Flight Attendant photo mentioned in the first paragraph was taken, the photographer used a cherry picker to take photos that included representatives of each Employee work group. The chosen image (above) had a wide distribution, and it is another favorite of mine because it shows Original Employees that normally didn’t get a lot of publicity. Note the hangars in the background.
The photo above recreates the 1972 scene. My guess is that this is from the early 1990s, and the location is the taxiway leading to our Dallas Maintenance Base. The hangar in the distance above the nose can also be seen in the 1972 version. Like some of the other photos in this post, we have clues that help us date it. Many of the Employees appear to be wearing their blue nautical style uniforms that were introduced in February 1990. At extreme enlargement, it appears that the airplane is 737-200, N54SW. This airplane left the Southwest fleet in September of 1990. Based on that and that there are so many folks wearing shorts in the photo, it was probably taken in the spring or summer of 1990. It’s even possible that the photo was taken after N54SW ended its Southwest service but before it left the property.
Yes, that’s Herb in the front row, and he appears to be wearing an Air Force flight suit.
And, remember that commercial with the airplane screaming over the actor portraying the Flight Attendant walking down the runway? The photo above pays homage to that ad as it shows a Flight Attendant in the original uniform walking down the runway (actually, it is a taxiway) next to an Employee wearing the uniform introduced in 1980. This may have been a publicity shot for our tenth anniversary in 1981.
Scroll back through these photos and you see confidence, energy, and a bit of swagger in the images. We see personification of the attitude that would later be described as Living the Southwest Way: a Warrior Spirit, a Fun-LUVing Attitude, and a Servant’s Heart. Considering our humble beginnings, Southwest could have labored in anonymity down in our little corner of the Texas sky. But thanks to these photos and the Employees illustrated in them, our national reputation grew to a dimension all out of proportion to our size. Frankly, it would be impossible to take (or retake) most of these photos today with the way airport security has changed. That’s one of the reasons these images are so unique and important. They are symbols of our beginnings and a reminder that our work is still not finished.
... View more
Maybe you’ve worked or flown on 737-700, N418WN, and you saw the words The Winning Spirit proudly displayed on the aircraft’s nose. The reasons behind the names some of our aircraft carry are self-evident, but what about N418WN? It is actually the latest of several aircraft to wear this title, and it and its predecessors are dedicated to our Original Employees. This week, we have some photos from the dedication of the original The Winning Spirit, N68SW, on our tenth birthday, June 18, 1981. I looked at this event briefly in an earlier post this year, but I think it deserves a second, more in depth look.
One of the things that make this event significant is that this was the last public event where our Original Employees were represented in such large numbers. With the exception of our first President, Lamar Muse, the photo above shows the original Southwest Leadership Team. Out of all the photos from the event, this is my favorite. It shows Co-Founders, Herb Kelleher (left) and Rollin King (center). And, we have the three members of the “Over the Hill Gang,” a group of senior former airline executives who were hired to provide the brand new Southwest with operating experience. Bill Franklin is between Herb and Rollin, and Don Ogden is to the right of Rollin, followed by Jack Vidal. As I wrote in May’s blog post: “Don Ogden had already retired as Vice President Flight Operations earlier in 1981, and while he remained on the Board until 2006, Rollin would step back from his day to day role with the Company. In 1985, Bill Franklin would head Southwest’s subsidiary TranStar as President. Jack Vidal, who received Employee #4 under our current system, retired in 1995. Herb, of course, would remain Chairman, CEO, and President until 2001 and as Chairman until 2008."
For the christening of the aircraft, there was a drawing to see which two Employees would have the honor. Scott Johnson (left), then Director of Flight Control, and Bill Abraham, Maintenance Line Forman won. The urn appears to have contained confetti instead of champagne, and as they were emptying the urn, the aircraft’s name was unveiled.
Writing on the back of the above photograph identifies the women on the stairs as Joy Bardo, Patty Alston, and Cathy Parson. The late Sam Cohn stands next to the aircraft.
The final photo is the one I really wanted to talk about. According to LUVLines (our Employee magazine), we had 66 Original Employees still on the payroll on the occasion of our tenth anniversary. Considering that our number of Employees for the first two years averaged around 190, 35 percent of the Employees who began Southwest were still working a decade later. The Employees in the photo created the foundation for what Southwest is today. Somewhat surprisingly, 41 years later, we still have about five percent of our Originals working with us. But let’s go beyond the numbers. From our vantage point 41 years after Southwest began service in 1971, I think a lot of current Employees tend to think of the Originals as some form of super human. Yes, they did amazing things that we will never have to do, but I think that making the Originals bigger than life is the wrong way to look at this group of Employees. Even though they created a special airline and a rewarding work place, it lessens our own efforts and relieves of us of our own responsibility to excel if we deify them. It’s like saying, “I could never do what they did,” and that simply isn’t true. Don’t you think that there were days that the Originals would rather have been someplace else than work; that there were days filled with upset Customers and irregular operations (it rained and snowed back then) that ruined their personal plans; and that they probably didn’t like the constant change and the never finished nature of an airline career? One of the Originals’ greatest accomplishments was the ten-minute turn, but some of them have confessed to me that they weren’t happy having to change. No one likes extra work, but they didn’t have the option of the ten-minute turn or keeping “business as usual.” And, you know what? Some of them didn’t always like their immediate boss, either. Does that detract from their accomplishments? Absolutely not. What makes their actions special is that they were ordinary people with an extraordinary Spirit. They came to work, they smiled, and they made Customers feel welcome with genuine gratitude and empathy, even if they wanted to be elsewhere. When irregular operations messed up their days, they made the best of the situation. When economic, competitive, or legal pressures required change, sometimes overnight, they met the challenge because they didn’t want to fail. They knew their survival depended upon each other. This is the Winning Spirit of real people that we celebrate and dedicate with this aircraft.
... View more
In the beginning, there were flights. Those Southwest Airlines flights served Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Flight Attendants and Ticket Agents in hot pants and big smiles served our Customers, but American Airlines served as the initial point of contact for most of those Customers. For the first year and a half (up until March 1973) of Southwest’s existence, American’s Reservations Office near the old Greater Southwest International Airport in Fort Worth handled Southwest’s reservations calls. At the end of the day, American would forward the next day’s flight booking information to Southwest. With just a handful of daily flights the system was simple and worked well.
As loads grew, especially after the $13 Fare War in early 1973, Southwest opened our own Reservations Center on North Watson Road in Arlington with leased space in an office building. The Dallas Reservations Center (DRC) opened with 17 Reservations Agents filling 15 phone positions. Original Employee Karen Ordner (above), who had begun with Southwest on June 1, 1971, in Revenue Accounting, was DRC’s first Manager. Karen recently donated materials dating back to these earliest days to the Southwest Archives, and we are fortunate to share some of them with you here.
Among Karen’s items are several seating diagrams for DRC. The one above shows the layout of the office in its initial 1973 incarnation. A small conveyer ran down between the facing tables, and it carried the reservations cards from the Agent making the reservation to the Agent maintaining the flight inventories. The telephone room housed the center’s only technology, the phone equipment.
This photo illustrates the two center rows of sales position, and the phones are multi-line rotary units. At least the Agents have headsets, and the blackboards on the wall display current flight and fare information... Note the thick 70s style shag carpeting on the floor and the solitary plant on the top shelf. The Agent at in the middle of the photo has her sack lunch on the floor next to her.
Next we have the entrance to the Manager’s office. Compare the sparsely decorated walls with any current Southwest facility. The solitary wall hanging, a framed poster, was one of a series of posters featuring our Flight Attendants that were displayed at our facilities. The woman on the right of the other two Employees is Geri Campbell.
Fortunately, our loads continued to grow, and by mid-1974, DRC was expanded to 60 sales positions with a staff of 160 Reservations Sales Agents. The diagram above illustrates how the center expanded to the right of the original facility (which is at the far left). DRC would expand one more time to occupy the entire first floor before moving to a new facility off of I-30 in Grand Prairie.
By the time of that third expansion, our Reservations Employees were using a computerized reservations system that utilized Bunker-Ramo computers. (Karen donated some training materials for these computers, so stay tuned.) But rather than explore that this week, let’s close with this artifact of the manual reservations era. Above is part of a “Control Chart” for a day’s flights. The column on the left has the flight numbers and city pairs. (RGV is Rio Grande Valley, or Harlingen, so we can date the chart from after February 11, 1975.) As a seat was booked, the next available number was crossed off the page, and when all the numbers were crossed out, the flight was full. The system was extremely simple, and since there were no flight manifests, it relied a lot upon the honor system. Although the reservations cards (the equivalent to today’s Passenger Name Record), contained Customer names, Karen told me that the only time a name was referenced was in the case of an oversold flight.
Today, Reservations has become Customer Support and Services (CS&S), a name that more accurately reflects our CS&S Employees roles in the online age, but one thing hasn’t changed: You can still “hear” our Employees' smiles coming through the phone anytime you have the occasion to call Southwest Airlines.
... View more
Every Southwest Employee knows (or should know) the story of how we began with three aircraft, and when we added a fourth one to help fly a charter schedule, we had to sell an airplane to meet a legal mandate that prevented the charter flying. This led to the creation of the ten-minute turn to operate a schedule designed for three and a half airplanes (charters were the other “half airplane”) with only three aircraft. Keep in mind that, while we acquired those four original aircraft brand new, they were orphans originally built for other airlines who couldn’t take delivery. The first three, N20SW, N21SW, and N22SW, were basic 737-200s that had been built for PSA, Aloha, and Air California respectively. The fourth airplane, N23SW, had also been “laid down” for Aloha, and it had a large main deck cargo door.
The cycle of new “hand-me-down” airplanes ended with the delivery of this airplane, N24SW (serial number 20925), shown above taking off from Seattle’s Boeing Field. N24SW was “all Southwest” from the beginning, and it is an important landmark for several reasons. One is that it is the first aircraft for which we went to Boeing and said, “build it” for us, and we took delivery on September 18, 1974. That date is significant because it came after the big $13 Fare War in early 1973 and the departure of the other airlines to the DFW Airport earlier in 1974. We would add a fourth city, Harlingen (HRL), a few months later in early 1975. N24SW’s purchase showed that we had reached a level of stability where we could go to Boeing and order a brand new airplane from scratch, just like United, Delta, or Pan American.
Another landmark reached with N24SW is that it was our first 737-200 Advanced aircraft. The Advanced version of the -200 quickly became the standard production model, and it offered improved aerodynamics, greater range, and more powerful versions of the JT-8D engines that eliminated the need for the “blow-in” doors around the front part of the engine cowlings. The landscape below N24SW appears to be the foothills on the eastern (or “dry” side) of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
As Southwest continued to grow across Texas, we became a steady Boeing Customer. In August 1976, N27SW (serial number 21262) was delivered. At the time we were still flying to just the three original cities, plus HRL, and N27SW’s delivery is proof that we had become successful enough in competing with both the other airlines and the automobile between those destinations that we required additional aircraft. I especially like this photo because it illustrates the unique terrain of eastern Washington. Southwest wouldn’t fly over this area on a regular basis until the mid-90s, so the Boeing camera provides us with unique visuals from an earlier time period.
Closing out this story of landmark airplanes, we take a look at one of the original three original 737s during what probably was its final days with Southwest. Of the three originals, N21SW (serial number 20345), above, was the airframe originally intended for Aloha. We sold it back to Boeing in July 1978, who sold to a leasing company who ironically leased it to Aloha, so it did finally make it to Hawaii. It would also serve with Nordair in Canada and Air California. It went to the scrap yard in 1991. The location of this photo appears to be Midland/Odessa (MAF) —that’s a set of Continental air stairs in front of the nose.
Our final view of N21SW is this somewhat battered print. I can’t place the airport or the date, but to me it symbolizes the final flight of N21SW as it taxies out for takeoff. While N21SW and its two original siblings had the “glamour” of beginning Southwest service, N24SW marked the beginning of almost 600 brand new Southwest 737s delivered from Boeing. N24SW, the original made-for-Southwest aircraft, eventually led to Southwest being the launch customer of the 737-300, 737-500, 737-700, and the upcoming 737MAX.
... View more
During the 1970s, our Flight Attendants were the stars of our publicity efforts. In our archives, we have publicity files on each Flight Attendant who was hired up until the late 1970s. In many of the files—especially the earliest ones, there is biographical information for each Employee, including the name of her hometown paper. Many of the early Flight Attendants were from small Texas towns, and a press release announcing their hiring would be sent to their paper. For more than ten years, in each monthly edition of our inflight magazine, the Southwest Airlines Magazine, there was a “Hostess of the Month” feature that showed a Flight Attendant visiting an important Texas landmark. This week, we look at one of those monthly features from 1978 that showcases Linda Hildebrand (her last name at the time).
Usually, the Hostess feature filled two pages at the back of the magazine. One page (above) had black and white photos of the Employees in “civilian” clothes taken at a Texas landmark location, with a short write up about the site and biographical information about the Employee, and the other page on the magazine’s inside back cover had a color, full-page photo of the Flight Attendant in her uniform. For Linda’s shoot, the venue was the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.
While the guard at the entrance gate seems glad to see Linda, the guard inside the building is keeping a wary eye on the photographer. The Corpus Christi Air Station has an interesting history. By 1944, it was the largest naval air training facility in the world. In 1943, the first President Bush graduated from the third class at the base, and he was the youngest aviator ever to graduate. The Blue Angels were based there for three years in the early 1950s, and the base was a tracking station for NASA’s Project Mercury.
Making her way over to one of the base hangars, Linda meets up with a group of Navy Mechanics working on a TA-4 Skyhawk, the trainer version of the famous fighter-bomber from the Vietnam conflict. The aft section of the fuselage has been pulled off to allow access to the engine. Linda looks befuddled by the socket wrench she is holding.
This UH-1 Huey helicopter has some unusual markings. Given the time period of when the article was published, it may still be wearing special Bicentennial colors. In spite of her “thumbs up” signal, Linda will want to get her head back in the cabin before the engines start.
The next two pictures have Linda in the simulator for the Beech T-44A trainers. Above, she is in the Captain’s seat, but this simulator doesn’t allow for projected (this was before computer generated visuals) images in the windows.
Next, we see Linda after she moved to the instructor’s seat of the simulator. Just below her right hand are the controls to simulate icing conditions, and the “Effects” control pad is to the left of the icing panel.
Finally, Linda gets out to the “real” airplanes, and this is her inside back cover color photo wearing her uniform among a lineup of T-44A trainers. The Air Station is still using the “A” model, along with the newer T-44C. The T-44 is based on the Beechcraft King Air, and the Corpus Christi facility also flies the newer TC-12B, which is based on Beechcraft Super King Air.
The “Hostess of the Month” feature received a prime location in our inflight magazine for roughly the first decade of our operation. While the concept of featuring a pretty woman was definitely a “sign of the times,” the prominence it gave to our Employees represents a longer lasting basic principle of Southwest. These early magazine layouts are one of Southwest’s first proclamations that our People set us apart and are our most important asset. That was true in 1978, it’s true today, and hopefully, it will be true throughout our future.
... View more
Throughout the history of Southwest Airlines, most of our aircraft have come to us directly from the Boeing factory, but there have been times when “previously owned” aircraft have worn Southwest Airlines colors. This has happened either during periods of rapid expansion when we acquired additional aircraft through leases or through the acquisition of another carrier like we did with Morris Air and are currently doing with AirTran. It's been awhile since I "geeked out," and as a Flashback Fridays change of pace, I am concentrating on “hardware” this week to show what some of those leased and merger aircraft looked like before they joined Southwest. These “before” photographs were taken by our Maintenance & Engineering folks as part of their inspections to determine these airplanes' suitability for our needs. As we will see, some of these airplanes have a long (and to an avgeek, an exotic) list of previous users.
Let’s order this brief review based on each airplane’s registration (sometimes called “N” number) that was worn in Southwest service. Our first example is N662SW, shown at the end of its time with US Air as N227US. This aircraft, serial number 23255, is a 737-3Q8, and it began life with the Las Vegas-based Sunworld Airlines on lease from ILFC (a major aircraft leasing company) as N841L. After two years, it went to Piedmont as N399P. When US Air acquired Piedmont in 1989, it received the registration shown in the photo.
Our next example wears N664WN with Southwest, and it really has an exotic history. Built as a 737-3Y0, serial number 23495, it alternated between Europe and Canada during the first three years of its life. The Boeing customer code of "Y0" was assigned to the Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) leasing company in Ireland. Beginning service as G-DHSW with the British charter airline, Monarch, it would fly Brits to the Mediterranean in the winter, and it served Canadians during the summer on a sublease to Pacific Western and then its successor, Canadian Airlines, as C-FPWD. In the summer of 1989, a sublease took it to Central America instead of Canada for Guatemala’s Aviateca (with its British registration). In 1990, another sublease placed it for a short period with Euroberlin. When the Monarch lease expired in 1994, this airplane served for a few months as EC-FVT with the Spanish charter airline, Futura, as shown above, before coming to Southwest.
N665WN is a sister ship to the previous example. Also a 737-3Y0, this aircraft (serial number 23497) led an almost identical early life to N664WN. It carried the British registration of G-MONF while with Monarch and on sublease to some other European airlines, and it operated as C-FPWE while on sublease in Canada. The only difference is that N665WN spent three years with Euroberlin (as G-MONF), in whose livery it is shown above, on lease after its Monarch lease expired. The man with the camera around his neck at the top of the stairs may be one of our Maintenance & Engineering Employees. The photo above and the two below were taken on August 17, 2004 in the evening.
We have two interior views of N665WN with the basic Monarch/Euroberlin interior. This is a view looking aft from the front of the main cabin. The curtain looks as though it is movable.
Next is a view of the aft galley and lavatories. This aircraft has two aft lavs (Southwest -300s have one aft lav), but the galley sits farther forward to compensate for the extra lav.
N673AA has met its fate at the scrapyard. This aircraft, a 737-3A4 (serial number 23251), was delivered new to Air Cal as N307AC in 1984. When that former intrastate carrier merged with American in 1987, the aircraft assumed a transition livery before receiving American’s bare-metal livery and the registration, N673AA. Southwest acquired the aircraft on lease in 1992, and somewhat surprisingly, continued to use the “AA” registration until the lease expired.
Like N662SW, N685SW is also a 737-3Q8 (serial number 23401), which indicates it was built for the giant leasing firm, ILFC. ("Y8" is Boeing's customer code for ILFC.) Air Belgium was the first operator and used the registration OO-ILF. After a couple of years, the aircraft moved across the English Channel as G-BOWR to serve with Orion Airways, Britannia Airways, and Dan-Air London. When British Airways acquired Dan-Air, they applied their titles to the basic Dan-Air livery above. The aircraft came back home to its country of birth to serve with Southwest as N662SW.
We close with this interior shot of N699SW, and like many of the other examples we have looked at, this airplane also had a varied early career. Built as a 737-3Y0 (serial number 23826) for GPA, it began its career in South America with the Brazilian airline, VASP. It also served time in Europe with Air Europa. In 1993, it went to Morris Air, while wearing the Irish registration EI-CHE. In the merger with Southwest, it was reregistered as N699SW. This view of the Morris Air interior looking forward toward the cockpit shows that the aircraft lacked a wind screen separating the cabin from the forward entry way. This aircraft was been returned to the leasing company.
All of these aircraft received the standard Southwest livery and interiors, and given that most of these previous operators have ceased to exist, it is virtually impossible to recreate these shots today. These unremarked photos from Maintenance and Engineering not only document the pre-Southwest history of these aircraft, they document a period when small charter operators sprang up all across the world. I know this installment might have been too “geeky” for some of you, and I hope you will return next week for some unique publicity photos.
... View more
If you are thinking that the guy wearing the airplane suit and the leather helmet looks familiar, you are right. That’s Southwest Chairman Emeritus Herb Kelleher, and he’s wearing a Pac Man T-shirt. Why, you might ask, was a respected airline executive dressed like this in public?
In late 1981, Herb agreed to a Pac Man “battle” with Southwest Captain Bob Landa, and the venue was the Love Field watering hole, the Cockpit. The bridge in the background behind Herb and Bob is the bridge carrying Webb Chapel Boulevard from Shorecrest to Northwest Highway over the east end of Bachman Lake. Evidently, the Cockpit was located close to the position where Whataburger is now. According to LUVLines (our Employee magazine), Herb convinced Bob to “spot him 150,000 points.” With this nice handicap, Herb won by a few points, and by winning, he was able to bid Bob’s December schedule for him. Although the article has no information about what would have happened, should Herb have lost, it does tell us that Herb chose a lot of late evening Amarillo layovers for Bob.
With his newly won Pac Man title intact, Herb celebrates with his supporters in the bar. From a scholarly angle, I think the “Great Pac Man Incident of 1981” is noteworthy for two reasons: One is that Herb demonstrated an early interest (and apparently, a little mastery) in electronic technology, which may amaze his current colleagues—no word if the game survived its encounter with the “hands of Kelleher.” And two, it shows that the Malice in Dallas arm-wrestling contest, almost 15 years later, wasn’t the first time that Herb willingly took on an a worthy opponent in a public display of ability and cunning.
And, now for something completely different (to borrow a line from Monty Python): Houston Intercontinental (IAH), renamed George Bush Intercontinental, was one of Southwest’s three original airports. On November 14, 1971, we moved some Houston flights to Hobby Airport, and closed IAH on May 14, 1972.
On September 8, 1980, we returned to Terminal A (above) at Houston’s north side airport with flights between IAH and DAL.
This view gives us a good look at the original configuration of IAH’s Terminal A, from where Southwest operated until April 2, 2005, when we concentrated all our Houston service at Hobby. Terminal A has since been remodeled.
At the left gate area, we see a Braniff 727.
Over on the right side are two Delta 727s.
We go downstairs to look at some of the ramp equipment on opening day, but the scratches on the front of the pushback tug are a good indication the equipment isn’t fresh from the factory. Behind the man in the sports coat is a lavatory cart, and a bag tug is parked next to the stairway. Incidentally, the similar Terminal B is the only IAH terminal not to have seen major changes over the years.
Like our post in last week’s Flashback Fridays, this post has a tie-in with Dallas radio station, KVIL. The station made an early morning offer for folks to come to the airport to take the first flight to IAH for free, and LUVLines reports that early arrivals at the terminal were pleading with their coworkers to play hooky from work for a free flight to Houston. In the gate area, Customers received corsages and commemorative belt buckles. The Flight Attendants wore special T-shirts that proclaimed: “Love Is Not A Freebie”—no doubt a reference to the radio station’s free tickets. From left to right, we have Flight Attendant Debbie Watkins, First Officer Randy Henderson, Captain Doug Nitsch, and Flight Attendant Dawn Powell.
So, is there anything else other than the era during which they occurred to tie these two seemingly unrelated events together? Actually, there is. Both Herb’s epic Pac Man “battles” and the IAH inaugural illustrate a basic Southwest tenet of not taking yourself too seriously. Working hard and having fun really are longtime Southwest traditions. Like opening a new station today, reopening IAH took a lot of hard work and planning. Yet we celebrated it with a lot of fun (and a few double entendre T-shirts and hopefully, not too great of decline in the city’s work force productivity). These two isolated but related events weren’t the first examples of our folks having fun with their jobs, and thankfully, they aren’t the last.
... View more
Taking delivery of a new aircraft is a “big deal.” I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to Seattle to pick up two new aircraft, and for an avgeek like me, it is an exciting time. Even if the aircraft is “just another 737-700,” that aircraft will remain “yours” as long as it is flying—my two are N436WN and N215WN. For this edition of “Flashback Fridays,” we are going to turn the clock back to look at some delivery celebrations that took place during a time when we were taking delivery of new 737-200s.
In early 1980, Southwest had three 737-2H4s moving together down Boeing’s production line at the Renton plant. These “triplets” would become N62SW, N63SW, and N64SW. In the photo above that should be N62SW in front, since it had production line number 638, followed by N63SW (line number 639), and N64SW (line number 640). If you will compare these production line photos with those we published as our first -800 moved down the production line earlier this year, you will notice that painting the rudders prior to painting the rest of the aircraft is a longtime manufacturing tradition.
On March 27, 1980, there was a big celebration at Boeing Field as we took delivery of all three aircraft that day. According to LUVLines (our Employee magazine), this was the first time in the history of the 737 program that Boeing had a triple delivery of 737s. (The “delivery time” for the paperwork to be completed on all three aircraft was clocked at 20 minutes.) Even today, for airlines with large order books like Southwest, it is rare to take delivery of two aircraft on the same day, much less three. I count 58 Southwest Employees in the photo, including three Flight Attendants. (Then President and CEO Howard Putnam is the fifth person from the right on the front row.) The presence of three Flight Attendants in uniform indicates that all of the Employees probably flew on just one aircraft. These aircraft quickly went to work for us when they operated our first service to Oklahoma City on April 1, Tulsa on April 2, and Albuquerque on April 3 of that year. The photo presents a couple of other points of interest to aviation enthusiasts: The airplane in the middle appears to be N62SW or N63SW, but my guess it’s N63SW, which would keep the symmetry intact. (On a personal note, I flew on both N62SW and N63SW in the late 90s.). Immediately behind the last Southwest 737 is a brand new TWA 727-231, N84357. And, just behind the TWA 727 is the very first 747, N7470, City of Everett. (For the middle part of its life, N7470 wore the ten windows in the upper deck lounge, as seen here. It is now on display at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field with its original three-window upper deck.) The decal between the lounge windows and the cockpit is a stylized “one,” signifying the first. Just behind the hump of the 747’s lounge appears to be the tail of a British Airways 747.
A couple of years later in 1982, the delivery flight of N91SW was part of a joint promotion between Southwest and Dallas radio station KVIL. Claire Putnicki was the winner of KVIL’s “Captain for a Day” promotion. As part of her prize, she and her husband toured the Boeing production line.
Then at the delivery center at Boeing Field, Claire poses next to “her airplane” before the delivery flight on December 13, 1982. Incidentally, this airplane served with Southwest until September 13, 2005, when it went to the Mexican airline, Aerotropical, which used it for three years until it finally went to Mojave for storage in 2008. Reportedly, the airframe is still intact.
Claire then went upstairs into the cabin, and we see her in front of the aft galley. Note that the airplane still has the original style seats with the spotted fabric that required paper headrests, but the enclosed overhead bins are now delivered from the factory. In this seating configuration, the last two rows of seats are in the lounge configuration. (I think the very last row only had two seats.)
After the cabin tour, Claire walks down the front air stairs. Even though aircraft numbers began showing up on the nose gear doors in late 1973, this photo and the earlier one of the triplets' delivery show that these numbers were applied once the aircraft joined our fleet.
The final photo shows Claire posing in the First Officer’s seat before departure from Boeing Field. Other brand new 737s are visible on the ramp outside the cockpit window, but I can’t make out their identity. There really is nothing like that new airplane smell, and a delivery flight is a special time for both the aircraft and the Employees involved. Update: Michael Lombardi, the Boeing Corporate Historian tells me that the first 747 always had just three lounge windows to a side. The extra "windows" were paint.
... View more
Another college football season starts this weekend in earnest, and in my browsing through still more black and white negatives, I found some photos that involve my favorite school getting together with my favorite airline. I should note that Southwest recently became the Official Airline of the Athletic Department of the University of Texas, but before we begin, I must make full disclosure that I am biased because I am a Mustang of Southern Methodist University (SMU), here in Dallas. So I hope you Longhorns (including Gary Kelly, our top guy), Sooners, Tigers, Trojans, Buckeyes, Ducks, Gators, Frogs with horns, Crimson Tide elephants, and other assorted collegiate flora and fauna won’t hold that against me and that you will keep reading to look at some interesting early Southwest photos.
Regular readers will know that a couple of weeks ago, I shared photos of our Headquarters offices that were housed in the now demolished, former Braniff concourse at Dallas Love Field. The end of the concourse was capped with a rotunda, whose interior featured appointments from the noted artist, Alexander Calder. During Southwest's occupancy, the rotunda was used for Company events, and as these photos will show, at least one commercial (or a promotional video) was filmed there. The man wearing the T-shirt (above) is Roy Spence, the “S” of the advertising agency GSD&M. Behind Roy and the man with a mustache, we see the opening to the hallway leading to the rest of the old concourse.
The shoot featured the cheerleaders from SMU. Judging by the dates of other photos in this binder of negatives, I am guessing these images were taken around 1982 or 1983. If so, that places them right in the middle of SMU’s Pony Express years with Eric Dickerson and Craig James. (We won’t talk about SMU’s fortunes a few years after these photos.) At some point in the day, the SMU Cheerleaders take a lunch break (above).
Next, we see a technician preparing the central area in the concourse rotunda for the taping. It looks like this part of the shoot involves a set of gate chairs, and a rack full of Southwest materials has been placed in the background. Here’s where things get interesting because obviously, this area would be too small for all of the cheerleaders. So what’s the story?
The answer may lie with the man and the guide dog next to Herb. It’s a good guess that the chairs in the previous photo were meant for him. I have looked through the back issues of our Employee magazine, LUVLines, hoping to find the story behind these photos, but I came up empty. What we do know is that all of the photos were on the same roll, and the shots of the man and dog are interspersed with the photos of the SMU students. What his relationship to Southwest and to SMU remains unknown.
My first exposure to the SMU Cheerleaders came during my freshman year and the 1970 football season. The head cheerleader (I can’t remember his name) was more standup comedian than cheerleader. Each game was like a comedy club. (We went five and six that season, but we won all five home games.) Here’s a more formal shot of this version of the cheerleaders. The chairs in the earlier photo have been removed, and the area opened up. The “swoosh” on their shoes reveals that, even 30 years ago, Nike was the shoe of choice. Outside the window to the left, the former Braniff hangar at Love Field is faintly visible.
It’s probably a good thing that the cheerleaders didn’t bring along the school’s mascot, Peruna. The feisty pony is known for less than stellar manners, and he also would have complicated the cleanup process, as he did here during an earlier visit to the Southwest Headquarters. That’s former CEO and President Howard Putnam with the shovel duty. (This is Peruna VI, the longest serving Peruna and the one from my own SMU time.)
These photos present one of those frustrating but interesting mysteries that archives sometimes offer. On the one hand, it is great that events like this have been preserved for future history, but it is sad that the details seem to have been lost over the years. Even though our Company’s history is relatively recent at 41 years, combing through its unwritten pages is a long voyage of discovery, and for some of the ports along that voyage, there aren’t any navigation charts. If anyone remembers this particular shoot, let me know and I will share the findings. Here’s hoping your favorite team does well this year.
... View more
This week, we have photos that take us back to the start of a longtime Southwest Airlines tradition, and as a bonus, they also show us the interior of one of our three original aircraft. Like so many other of the recent Flashback Fridays installments, this week’s post uses uncut roles of negatives that I recently found.
We’ve heard hundreds of stories of couples who found love on the LUV Airline. Meeting a future mate is an overlooked but significant (if you are one of the couples involved) byproduct of our open-seating boarding method. I don’t know where the couple in these photographs met, but it is obvious that they have a close relationship and that Southwest plays a role in that relationship. Unfortunately, the details of this scene have been long lost to history, so we can only guess at what is happening. Our Captain, Roger Benjamin, (fondly known as “Captain Ben” to our Flight Attendants) has presented the couple with roses. From the smug look on Captain Ben’s face, he has said something that “hit home” with the man and woman. The couple's expressions are priceless, and if the photo was in color, no doubt we would be looking at faces red with good-natured kidding. Scenes like this have been repeated frequently on Southwest over the years.
Not only do these photos illustrate the beginnings of one of our traditions, they take us inside one of our original three aircraft, in this case, N22SW (C/N 20336). How can we tell which specific aircraft? Fortunately, the distinctive side wall panels with California scenes help the identification process. Two of our three original aircraft were intended for the two California intrastate airlines, PSA and Air California. (The third was for Aloha.) The ex-PSA aircraft was N20SW (C/N 20369), and it was the aircraft we had to sell after we had acquired a fourth aircraft (N23SW) in late 1971. Since almost all of the other negatives in the box were from 1973, that would seem to eliminate this being a photo of N20SW. Even though both N20SW and N22SW (the ex-Air California aircraft) had California-themed sidewalls, the designs were different. The sidewall in the picture above features the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco cable cars, and the California Capitol Building in Sacramento, and along with the darker background on the walls, this identifies it as N22SW, the Air California airplane. The PSA aircraft’s sidewalls were lighter, and they included views of the landmark Theme Building at Los Angeles International and a movie set representing Burbank—Air California flew to neither location at the time. So, based on the date of the photo and the illustrations, we can say this is N22SW.
Next, we have a view of the forward cabin of N22SW during flight (above). Fortunately, our load factors are a lot better these days. Note the clear glass wind screen on the left that kept the wind from blowing through the open door into the cabin. To say that the design of the forward bulkhead is “busy” would be an understatement. The Flight Attendant poster on the wall further dates this as 1973 or 1974 because it was during this time frame that these posters were featured at our ticket counters. (Still another clue that the aircraft is N22SW.)
Although the photo above of television personality Art Linkletter, who was on his way to Houston to address the American Motivational Association, and Captains Raul Cabeza and Sam Cohn is from a different roll of negatives, I include it here because it was also taken onboard N22SW during late 1973. Mr. Linkletter and Captain Cabeza are sitting in a row at the mid-cabin lounge (a favorite spot for photos like these). Note that the backs of their chairs are a lot shorter than the rest of the seats. This view also gives us a good look at the original Boeing style of passenger service units (PSUs) that dated to the 707 and the open overhead shelf. Only hats and coats could be placed in the overhead space on these aircraft. In a way it’s ironic that two of our three first airplanes had interiors that reflected California. I like to think this was an omen that we would eventually be the top carrier within the Golden State.
Like so many other frozen moments in time, these photos help define our past, and they shape our future. In the stories of Southwest’s past, we see the development of Southwest’s present, and the framework of Southwest’s future. If there’s one thing I hope this series of posts can accomplish, it is to raise the awareness that, 40 years from now, a new generation will be looking at us, hopefully with the same respect that we show those who came before. We write our history every day with what we do.
... View more
Sorry the approval process has been slow, the moderators were at the event in Denver. Your question doesn't really apply. Southwest doesn't have any relationship with regional carriers. This is a Southwest Airlines aircraft and is subject to the same maintenance program as all of our other approximately 550 aircraft.
... View more