TWA – Veterans Get Together Forty Years After in FRA

Trans World Airlines - alongside PanAm, was the world’s leading airline in the 1960s and 1970s.
Both carriers, as others, have long since disappeared from the market.
All the more refreshing was a “Forty Years After” get together of many of the old veterans of TWA Germany. Almost 60 turned up last Sunday near FRA airport to celebrate the “up, up and away” days.

TWA offered an eastbound and westbound round-the-world service via FRA  /  source: archive
TWA offered an eastbound and westbound round-the-world service via FRA / source: archive

Nostalgia abounded!
Maintenance, Operations, Sales, Cargo, Ground Services - all departments were represented at this spontaneous, but happy get together.

It’s almost forty years ago that TWA ceased operations through FRA, due to a deal made those days with PanAm on a so called route swap.
Both carriers had realized that times were getting tough and agreed that TWA would give up operations through FRA and PanAm through Paris-CDG. This move was aimed at cutting out unnecessary cost and left both carriers still jointly operating to the main European hub - London Heathrow.
Carriers could talk to each other those days!

That was however not the end of the story.
It was not too long afterwards that both carriers ceased operations and the stations were closed down, staff released and forced to look elsewhere for employment.
They did, however, reappear on the scene for a short while afterwards before folding up.
Still! the spirit of TWA in FRA lived on and there were get togethers afterwards of the “old crew” in FRA, the last of which was held in 1990.
This was until Hermann Meyer and Christian Kolb, the two previous managers in FRA decided to try and get as many of the old staff back together to celebrate “the forty years since.”

Those were the days my friend … Part of TWA’s old FRA Cargo crew  /  source: GMD
Those were the days my friend … Part of TWA’s old FRA Cargo crew / source: GMD

It worked out well, although there are some of the crew now no more amongst us.
It was a small but effective TWA family that existed those days and FRA played an important role in the carrier’s network.
TW 740 and TW 741 were daily round-the-world flights operated by the venerable Boeing 707 aircraft until the introduction of the 747 in early 1970.
Some of the old maintenance crew who attended were with TWA for many years and started their careers maintaining the “Super Conies” which were before the B707 era, also a daily visitor at the old Frankfurt airport.

It was interesting to hear the guys looking back on the days when all was done “by the manual.” If that did not suffice, then improvisation was the order of the day.
It always worked, they said.

The routing was spectacular to say the least.
From FRA to Rome, Athens, Tel Aviv, Bombay, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, Okinawa, Guam, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and back to FRA, to start all over again.
Never seen another route like it since.
It was also great for TWA staff travel, as those days you could go space available for a ticket handling fee of around US$2,00 (two) to any destination or around the world.

The still young TWA ladies along with Christian Kolb  /  source: GMD
The still young TWA ladies along with Christian Kolb / source: GMD

Cargo started playing a more important role for TWA when the Boeing 747 was introduced on the North Atlantic.
Before that, bellies of the B707 were hand loaded, but the B747 heralded the new era of under floor pallets and containers.

They were exciting and pioneering times.
The “old gang” reminisced on how easy it was those days to get along as an airline family and where it was a matter of “all for one - and one for all.”
This past attitude could do some of today’s carrier some good.
TWA was also one of the carriers hijacked in the 70s along with Swissair and British Airways.
It was TW 741 which was then, along with the others, blown up in the Jordanian desert. Thankfully, with no loss of life.
What the hijackers did not know however, was that TW 741 was carrying a shipment of gold jewellery which had been loaded in Bombay and was destined for New York. Ironically, 10 cases of this high-val shipment were offloaded in Rome due to weight problems. The other five stayed on board only to be blown into the air in the desert.
Wonder who is wearing all those gold trinkets today!

Whether we’ll get a chance to celebrate 50 years in ten years time remains to be seen.
It was for me an emotional get together as I started my aviation career in the cargo and operations departments with this great old carrier back in 1969, met my wife there and we’ve been together now for a very happy 44 years.

Thanks for all of that - TWA.

John Mc Donagh

Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Clint Davis - retired TWA pilot (Friday, 01 August 2014 12:01)

    Thanks for your excellent presentation, John. My relationship with TWA FRA cargo began in 1971 with invaluable help from Johannes Dietz (now Skriwan-Dietz) in getting my car out of Germany and on its way to my residence in Greece. The acquaintance, including his wife, Kordula, and daughter, Anja, blossomed into a life-long friendship that continues even now. For me, they epitomize the quality of humanity found in all levels of non-corporate TWA.
    Thank you all for many, many fond memories.

  • #2

    Ian Woolley (Friday, 01 August 2014 15:28)

    It was a great afternoon John, a big thanks to Herman for organizing it.

  • #3

    Linda Zagaglia (Saturday, 02 August 2014 18:06)

    I worked at TWA for over 32 years. Started at JFK in late 60's. I appreciate your presentation john! Thanks for sharing and putting wonderful memories to the forefront! I remember when I would fly from JFK on tw740 to Frankfurt to see my cousin who was serving in the US Army in Wes Bardeen. What a joyous time.
    Certainly glad y'all were able to get together.
    Thanks again for the wonderful article!

  • #4

    Rafa Rivas (Sunday, 03 August 2014 08:31)

    Thxs John for this Report.It really was a beautiful afternoon.
    Great to meet the "old garde" with These fantastic " Young People" (specially the ladies).
    Nice to remember the old days we had with this unforgetable Company.
    Thxs again,

  • #5

    Shivadas S. Pattanath (Monday, 11 August 2014 16:39)

    To help the readers recollect I was known as PAT (short name for my family name (Pattanath) and was working as Customer Service Agent in the Flight Operations Department at the FRA airport. The get--together on 27th July after almost 40 years was indeed a very memorable event for me. I hope this will not be the last get-together and I wish that this could be repeated at least once a year.
    My wife Sabita joins me in conveying our best wishes and good health to all of you,
    Shivadas. S. Pattanath ( Shiva)