Air Transport World

1964-1984: commuter-regionals blossomed as short-haul carriers; as was the case with the U.S. local service carriers, a strong Washington voice was a key element in development of commuter-regional industry.

The scheduled/local air taxi industry was in a state of flux in 1964 when Air Transport World's initial appearance was made in May. The local service carriers were restless to upgrade to jets and scheduled air taxes, then known as feeders and third level carriers, were eager to fill the gaps.

By way of perspective on the times, ATW editorial pages announced that Bonanza Air Lines, one of the 17 local carriers and three helicopter lines frnachised by the Civil Aeronautics Board, would spend $11.5 million on new McDonnell Douglas DC-9s to replace Fairchild F27s.... The CAB was paying $68 million in subsidy.... There were rumblings that Boeing and Fokker would get together on a common medium transport project (such as the F28). ... Fairchild decided to build 15 additional F27s and to proceed with design work on the F-227 54-passenger version.

Overall, the local service airlines (later known as regionals) were then comparable to the short-haul commuter/regional operators today. They reported revenues of $226 million, a profit of $4.1 million and an average load factor of 44% for the year.

Other memory refreshers for the veterans and late-commers of the industry: The Concorde program was gathering steam and the U.S. supersonic proposal was running into flack from Congress and environmentalists.... the Rolls-Royce Dart-powered Convair, later known as the Convair 600, was ordered by Trans Texas and Central Airlines.... Frontier Airlines was receiving the Allison powered 580 transport which featured use-time chrages on the engines.... Twelve of the 17 locals joined in a cooperative materials procurement plan for group purchase of parts. It was called the Consolidated Airline Purchasing Corporation and was headed by Marion Maxfield, a former sales executive for Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation.... In September of 64 Lake Central Airlines, headquartered at Indianapolis, announced the purchase of the French-built Nord 262, which was designed and built from a local short-haul airliner design competition staged by the industry and FAA in 1953.

It is interesting to note that the average stage length for Bonanza Air Lines of Las Vegas was 148.7 miles. It was 79.1 miles for Lake Central, which was considered ideal for the Nord 262.

During the following two years, local airlines were unhappy with the "Local Airlines" label and wanted to "graduate" to regional status. At the same time there was strong movement within the budding scheduled air taxi operations to ditch the name "Third Level Carrier" for "Commuter Airlines." The latter was deemed ideally descriptive of the new industry's product while "Third Level and Feeder" names were considered meaningless to the marketplace.

Disturbing reports

It should be noted that the strong motivation to replace the scheduled air taxi label came from a series of disturbing accident and fatality reports by the National Transportation Safety Board. …

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