Sky Talk

Throwback Thursday: American Airlines’ Flagship Texas in 1947

The Flagship Texas, christened at Fort Worth Municipal Airport in July, 1947.
The Flagship Texas, christened at Fort Worth Municipal Airport in July, 1947. Star-Telegram Archives

It was a who’s who of Fort Worth society in attendance when American Airlines christened its new Flagship Texas DC-4 on July 7, 1947.

The airplane flew the inaugural flight between Fort Worth and San Francisco with stops in Dallas, El Paso, Phoenix and Oakland. The caption to the photo said it was taken minutes before the take-off of the flight from Fort Worth Municipal Airport.

The caption on the photo said “The Flagship Texas, christened at Fort Worth Municipal Airport Monday morning after speeches by civic leaders and airlines officials, inaugurated American Airlines service to San Francisco and Oakland. Melvin J. Miller, president of the Chamber of Commerce, was speaking when this picture was made, minutes before the take-off.”

Here’s the text of the article that appeared on July 8, 1947 in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Another first flight, of which there have been a steady stream linking Fort Worth to all parts of the hemisphere since a handful of business leaders sent the first transport plane off to Chicago from Municipal Airport 16 years ago, started here Monday when American Airlines inaugurated service to San Francisco and Oakland.

Aboard the Flagship Texas, christened with California champagne by Mrs. Edgar Deen, wife of Fort Worth’s mayor, were 90-year-old Mrs. F. K. Campbell of Ada, Okla., Shady Oak hats for Mayor Roger Lapham of San Francisco and Mayor Joseph B. Smith of Oakland and the first American Airlines passengers ever flown into the Bay Cities.

Airlines officials and civic leaders, introduced by Amon Carter, who acted as master of ceremonies, spoke briefly from a flag-draped platform before the airport administration building. Then Mrs. Dean cracked the bottle across the nose of the huge DC-4 and promptly at 8:15 a.m. Capt. Ray Fortner lifted the plane from the runway and started the first one-plane flight to Dallas, El Paso, Phoenix, Oakland and San Francisco.

Carter recalled for the crowd witnessing the ceremonies similar occasions celebrating inaugural flights to California, to Galveston-Houston and to Brownsville, and exhibited a picture showing the late Will Rogers, himself and other Fort Worth men standing before the first transport plane - an ancient J-5 powered Travelair in which four passengers sat in cane-bottom chairs and rode behind a pilot in an open cockpit - which left here for Chicago on Feb. 1, 1931.

The aviation pioneers that occasion sent to Paul Henderson, president of National Air Transport Inc., which opened air service here, a letter from Walter B. Scott, then president of the Chamber of Commerce, reading:

“Fort Worth extends congratulations to you and your association on the inauguration of your first air passenger ship from Fort Worth to Chicago.

“The aviation committee of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce is particularly happy to have the opportunity and occasion to sponsor the dedication ceremonies at our Municipal Airport on this date. We extend our full cooperation in making this line a huge success from every standpoint.”

At Resting Place

The plane later was given to Amon Carter, and on his guarantee that it “never more take the air in pursuit of pleasure, profit, or diversion of any kind,” was allowed to keep its “NC” (Civil Aeronautics Authority Number) at its resting place at Shady Oaks Farm. “It’s continued airworthiness is not in question, and its existing license number may remain in place until old age and remorse have taken their toll,” ruled Clarence M. Young, then Assistant Secretary of Commerce.

Mayor Deen said service between San Francisco and Fort Worth will mean a “greater exchange of passengers, mail and cargo” between the two cities, and for making this and other air progress here possible he paid tribute to two men. He said:

“One is C.R. Smith, who went to work for Texas Air Transport in Fort Worth and helped it to expand to the far-flung American Airlines system of which he has been the head for so many years. Another is Amon Carter, who has constantly and aggressively aided in the development of the great system. His leadership has helped to make this great event we celebrate here today develop from a dream to a reality.”

Guests Welcomed

Harry J. Wiseman, Fort Worth sales manager for American, welcomed the guests to the ceremony, and M.D. Miller of Dallas, American vice president, introduced Carter, Melvin J. Miller, president of the Chamber of Commerce, spoke briefly about the city’s’ development as an air center.

Mrs. Deen presented the huge bouquet of roses she received from the airlines to Mrs. Campbell, who has been visiting her daughter-in-law, Mrs. E.D. Campbell of Jacksboro, for her flight to Oakland to see three of her children. Mrs. Deen will receive from the airlines the broken champagne bottle with which she christened the plane mounted in a plastic container bearing a plaque commemorating the occasion.