Aviation Historian 15
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T.Jones - Air International Affair
A rare colour photograph of AlA Sky master N88939, probably at Blackbushe, in a classic taxying pose with outer engines stopped and the steerable nosewheel fully deflected to port. Although AIA passenger services did provide cabin staff, mainly locally-employed stewardesses, luxury was not a priority for the young airline.
Douglas C-54A N75415 (c/n 10359) in AIA colours at San Francisco in February 1960, just as the airline was being wound up. It would be operating with Swiss airline Balair as HB-ILB by the end of the year.
A rare photograph of AIA Skymaster N88894 at Essendon Airport, Melbourne, in 1959, during one of the airline’s few visits to Australia. This aircraft was originally built with the military serial 42-72391 and was delivered to the USAAF on December 18, 1944. In June 1946 it was acquired by Pan American to serve as Clipper Eureka.
The well-travelled N88894 at Singapore during 1959. Like its sister Skymaster N88939, this aircraft was acquired by Eastern Air Lines in 1950 after service with Pan American, the pair joining Slick in July 1955. The first of the two to be acquired by AIA was N88939 in August 1958, with N88894 joining the AIA fleet in November the same year.
Skymaster N88939 is prepared for another flight, probably at Prestwick. Built at Santa Monica as C-54B 43-17197, the aircraft was very briefly put on the Brazilian civil register as PP-PCD before joining Pan American as N88939 in 1946. By the time AlA acquired its fleet of Skymasters, all had already been worked extremely hard.
The other of AlA’s first two Skymasters, N88939, taxies in at Blackbushe with the outer engines stopped. Originally operated by Pan American as Clipper Hornet from June 1946, this aircraft went on to serve with Eastern during 1950-55, before joining Slick in July 1955. It was acquired by AIA at the end of August 1958.
“All aboard’’ - N88894 awaits its next cabinful of intrepid passengers at Prestwick in 1959. After the collapse of AlA this aircraft operated with Loftleidir and World Airways during 1960-61. On May 9, 1962, while operating with Slick, it suffered double engine failure in bad weather and belly-landed at Ackerly, Texas, causing substantial damage.
Skymaster N88939 at Blackbushe. By the beginning of 1960 AlA had attracted the attention of the authorities in America. The March 18, 1960 issue of Flight reported that “American International Airways has been refused renewal of its first year’s operating certificate by the FAA. Violations are said to have covered ‘just about everything in the book’, including general level of aircraft maintenance, pilot qualification and flight-time limitations. This is the first such action to be taken by the FAA".
As part of AIA’s expansion during the winter of 1958-59, more Skymasters were added to the fleet, including N75415, a somewhat weary C-54A that had previously operated with Eastern, Seaboard & Western, Meteor Air Transport and General Airways among others. It is seen here in the UK after the demise of AIA.
Skymaster N30042 (c/n 18342) at Newcastle in April 1960. At the time the aircraft was being operated by the US Transport Corporation in association with Intercontinental Airways, to which most of the former AlA employees migrated when the latter collapsed in early 1960. It was later converted into ATL-98 Carvair G-AXAI.
As with all small independent operators, thriftiness was essential for success and AIA simply adopted the feathered-wing logo of Slick Airways, from which it leased its first Skymasters, replaced Slick’s titles with its own and repainted the fin white. Seen here is N88894, one of AlA’s first two leased C-54Bs, in Slick colours at Newark.