Maintaining TWA’s Jetliners

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January 20, 2016

We recently featured an ad for Boeing’s 707 “Intercontinental” painted by legendary American artist, Bob McCall. The next one in his series depicted TWA’s vast maintenance base in Kansas City. Impressive back in the day, but totally different than the way airliners are maintained, repaired, and overhauled today. 

In this ad published in 1961, the reassuring point was made to the traveling public that airliners receive top-notch attention in general, but TWA’s airliners receive the best maintenance possible on a regular basis. Ad copy states: “Each jet is stripped down, X-rayed, tested, and tuned by hundreds of technicians using the world’s most advanced facilities and equipment.” 

Furthermore, “Latest technical improvements…are built into each jet so that when the overhaul is completed, the aircraft is better than new.” But here’s the clincher: “Wherever you fly TWA, nationwide or worldwide, you know Trans World Airlines maintains your jet this meticulous U. S. way.” So what’s wrong with this statement today?

Well, for one thing, “The Airline of the Stars” no longer exists. Once owned by billionaire industrialist Howard Hughes, TWA was the only U. S. flag carrier besides Pan American to serve major international destinations. Unlike Pan Am, however, TWA had a domestic U.S. route network to feed its major international hubs. TWA ceased operations in 2001, having been taken over by American Airlines, which just last year merged with USAirways. Such is the airline game.

But what about those “vast U.S. overhaul bases?” Some still exist while others have gone by the wayside. Today, many U.S. airlines now contract-out for these imperative services literally all over the world. According to a recent forecast in Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine, nearly 15,000 commercial airliners are maintained worldwide with only one-quarter of them now being serviced in the United States.

Incidentally, although the new “world globes” logo is shown at the bottom of this ad, all the jetliners in the illustration have the original Raymond-Lowey-designed “red arrowhead” color scheme with “bare-letter” TWA tail insignia, introduced in 1959. This offers a good example of just how fast things were changing during the early years of the commercial Jet Age.