Ozark Air Lines History

Ozark Air Lines of the 50’s

ozdc3stl 300x225 Ozark Air Lines History

The fifty’s marked the first decade for Ozark Air Lines. Service started Sept. 26th, 1950 when the first flight departed St. Louis for Chicago via Decatur with only one passenger. As of Christmas, 1959, Ozark served ten states and 52 cities and towns in America’s breadbasket while operating 26,930 scheduled route miles daily. Ozark Airlines had truly come of age- and the best was yet to come.

     The Ozark Airlines title familiar to most of us has actually been used by three airlines. In 1932 the first outfit called Ozark conducted operations from Kansas City to Springfield, MO with Stinson aircraft. The short lived line ceased flights by March, 1933 as depression gripped the country.

     During World War II another, apparently unrelated organization was formed in Springfield, Missouri to provide transportation from the Ozark region to other points in the Show-Me state. The second Ozark Airlines began on 1 September, 1943 and initially provided service to St Louis, Kansas City, Clinton and Columbia with Beech Staggerwings and at least one Cessna Crane. With the end of the second world war, the airline’s operations were suspended as the federal government tried to get a regulatory handle on the booming commercial aviation sector. This Ozark ceased scheduled flights on 3 Nov, 1945, while its owners tried to gain a federal certificate to resume business as an inter-state operation.

     The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), as the controlling Federal agency for the industry, issued certificates to a number of “local service” airlines in the late forties to provide short-range service to the establishing a relationship with twin-engined Douglas transports that would last throughout the route’s history. More DC-3s followed the original quartet, all second-hand and most ex military.

     In 1947 the CAB awarded Parks Airlines, of St Louis, a certificate to fly 3000 miles of local routes radiating from its home city. Two years later, Parks had still not started operations, and the CAB stripped the line of its authority while awarding the routes to Mid-Continent Airlines (merged into Braniff in 1952) and the dormant Ozark. The airline that would become the “Route of the Swallows” was in back business.

     The reborn airline’s first flight departed St. Louis for Chicago via Decatur on 26 September,1950 with only one passenger. To cover the routes assigned, Ozark had assumed four Parks Airlines DC-3s, Ozark had assumed four Parks Airlines DC-3s, establishing a relationship with twin-engined Douglas transports that would last throughout the route’s history. More DC-3s followed the original quartet, all second-hand and most ex military.

     Ozark had “inherited” local routes that served 42 cities in nine states. (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois) The line’s first president was Laddie Hamilton, and the route had a bright future in the booming ‘fifties. Competition with the trunk lines was never an issue, as while Ozark and American might both have St.Louis to Chicago flights, the major carrier could fly non-stop, while Ozark’s certificate mandated several stops enroute, at towns like Alton, Springfield and Bloomington..many small towns and cities throughout the country, while the “trunk” airlines, such as United, Braniff and Continental carried out long-distance service.

     Although the line rapidly expanded its area of service, some routes proved more lucrative than others. While St. Louis to Chicago would prove the Ozark’s “main-line’ for years, service to Tulsa, Oklahoma was ended in 1954, as well as the intermediate stops in the Sooner metropolises of Miami and Bartlesville. Tennessee and Arkansas were also dropped from the timetable, although all three states would return to the company’s fold in time. The company made money too, although not a tremendous amount. In 1954 the company reported a profit of $48,000, ranking it 12th of 13 local service airlines in the nation. As with all of the local service lines, Ozark depended on federal subsidies and mail contracts to survive

     New states were added to the timetable throughout the decade as Milwaukee, Wisconsin was added in 1953, Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1957, and Omaha, Nebraska in 1959. By the end of the fifties, Ozark had grown to be the primary local service carrier in the Missouri-Iowa-Illinois region.

     From the mid-fifties, most of Ozark’s workhorse green-stripped DC-3s had been modified with “high-performance” kits that included full gear doors and other drag-reducing enhancements that increased the aircraft’s top speed by over 20 mph. Late in the decade the line procured its first turbine powered aircraft, as three Fokker/Fairchild F-27 “Friendships” were ordered. Turbo-prop service was initiated on 27 Sep. 1959 on the line’s two most important routes, Chicago-St Louis-Joplin, and St Louis to Minneapolis, both with the required intermediate stops. Not only would the new aircraft feature a cruise speed almost 100kts over the DC-3s, but the 40 seat, high-winged F-27 would also introduce the new Ozark “Swallow” image, a logo that would last to the end of the airline, over a quarter century later.

     As of Christmas, 1959, Ozark served ten states and 52 cities and towns in America’s breadbasket while operating 26,930 scheduled route miles daily. Ozark Airlines had truly come of age- and the best was yet to come.

Ozark Statistics of the Fifties: (as reported to the “Aviation Week”)

Total A/C Fleet DC-3 F-27
1951 8 8
1959 27 24 3
1951 traffic: 8,130,000 revenue passenger miles, 49,507 passengers carried.
1959 traffic: 93,860,000 revenue passenger miles, 547,883 passengers carried.


Go Getter Bird Note: A special Thank You and tip of the Ozark hatgogehat9 Ozark Air Lines History to Rich Morgan who has taken an interest in the history of Ozark Air Lines and the writer of this article on Ozark History from the ’50.
Rich, provided the following information about himself and how he became interested in our airline.
“I’ve been writing at the amateur level for over 20 years, and have over 15 articles printed so far in railroad historical and professional Navy journals. Most of my work has appeared in the Navy historical/professional journal “The Hook”, which is published by the Tailhook Assoc. (yes, THAT Tailhook Association…).
I’m not from the region originally, but went to Mizzou 1974-78, met my wife there, and have taken the Kansas City area as my adopted home since then. OZ was the “home line” at Columbia, so that’s why it still interests me. I only wish I’d spent a lot more time shooting pictures down there! I spent 16 years in the Navy flying EA-6B Prowlers, and have lived in the Northern Virginia area since 1995 only because that’s where the job is. I work in the Pentagon, where I have access to the library and back issues of “Aviation Week” and “Wall Street Journal”, which has allowed me to develop a surprisingly large file on Ozark.

The Silver Swallows thank the www.ozarkairlines.com site for allowing us to reproduce the history of Ozark Air Lines.

Top of page