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.
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.”
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.
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