2/5/1946: TWA Operates its Maiden Transatlantic Flight

2/5/1946: TWA Operates its Maiden Transatlantic Flight

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, Transcontinental and Western Air, later Trans World Airlines (TWA), operated its maiden commercial transatlantic service in 1946. 

The flight departed New York’s La Guardia Airport (LGA) bound for Paris Orly (ORY). 

Howard Hughes ordered 40 Lockheed Constellations on July 10, 1940, then the largest aircraft order in history. Photo: Jon Proctor.

‘Star of Paris’

Operated by a Lockheed L-049 Constellation appropriately named ‘Star of Paris,’ the aircraft departed LGA at 2:21 p.m. EST. 

Captain Harold F. Blackburn was in charge of the airliner. Joining Blackburn in the flight deck were Captains Jack Hermann and John M. Calder, Navigator M. Chrisman, and Flight Engineers Art Ruhanen, Ray McBride, and Jack Rouge. Onboard were 36 passengers, attended to by Purser Don Shiemwell and Hostess Ruth Schmidt. 

Brief refueling stops were made at Gander, Newfoundland (YQX), and Shannon, Ireland (SNN). ‘Star of Paris’ eventually touched down at ORY at 3:57 p.m. after a flight time of 16 hours and 21 minutes. 

However, this wasn’t TWA’s first transatlantic sortie. Two days earlier, another Constellation’ Paris Sky Chief’ (NC86505), departed Washington National Airport (DCA) bound for ORY on a route proving trial. Captain Hal Blackburn was also at the controls of this historic flight which took 14 hours and 47 minutes. 

Howard Hughes, TWA’s flamboyant owner, was pivotal in the development of the Lockheed Constellation. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Captain Harold F. Blackburn

Captain Harold F. Blackburn had begun flying with TWA in 1934. He remained with the airline for over 25 years and operated Boeing 377s for TWA’s Intercontinental Division during the war years across the South Atlantic. Blackburn would also command the airline’s first Boeing 707 flight from New York to Paris in 1961. 

‘Star of Paris’ (NC86511) was delivered to TWA in December 1945. On November 18, 1950, it was involved in an emergency landing at Long Beach Airport (LGB), where the right gear collapsed. After being repaired, it returned to service, renamed ‘Star of Dublin.’

Tragically, on September 1, 1961, the aircraft was lost after being involved in a fatal crash shortly after takeoff from Chicago Midway Airport (MDW). All 78 souls on board were killed.

Featured Image: A TWA Lockheed L-049 Constellation in flight. Photo: Lockheed Martin

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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