Tuesday, March 19, 2013

T&WA Fokker at Glendale

Note the lack of "Grand Central Air Terminal" lettering above the arches.
The history of Glendale, California's Grand Central Air Terminal to the Golden Age of Aviation is a particular passion of mine, and thus whenever I have an opportunity to add a Glendale photo to the archive, I jump at the chance. Such was the case with today's photo, an official 8x10 glossy stamped on the back "Courtesy of Transcontinental & Western Airlines".

The Fokker F.10, a 12-passenger outgrowth of the successful eight-passenger F.VII, was the first Fokker to be built in the US (from components imported from Holland by Fokker subsidiary Atlantic Aircraft Corporation).

It was the airplane of choice of Western Air Express for its new first-class service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and WAE had ordered sixteen of them; NC4458, the plane shown here, was the first of these to be delivered, on April 24, 1928. The type stayed in service after WAE merged with Transcontinental Air Transport-Maddux Airlines to become Transcontinental & Western Air (and later Transworld Airlines) on July 24, 1930. Interestingly, the plane carries the company's titles in three different ways...TWA (instead of T&WA) under the wing, "Transcontinental / Western Air Inc" under the Indian head logo, and "Transcontinental Air Transport - Maddux Airlines And Western Air Lines" under the passenger windows (below).

Evidently, ownership of this plane was transferred to T&WA on March 24, 1931. Only a week later, the usefulness of the F.10 as an airliner was cut short by the tragic crash of sister ship NC999E, flying as TWA Flight 599 on March 31, 1931. Unlike the Ford Trimotor, which was all-metal in construction, the Fokker used wood as the main material in the F.10 wings, and delamination of crucial components was identified as the cause of the crash. All the F.10s were temporarily grounded, and only allowed to fly after significant inspections and preventative maintenance had been accomplished. Even this didn't last long, as one of the key results of the crash was regulation that prohibited airliners from using wooden construction. NC4458 was reportedly retired on April 30, 1931.

A detailed technical article from 1928 describing the F.10 can be found here.

The Ed Coates Collection includes a similar photo of the same plane, possibly taken just a few seconds later as the Fokker taxied past.

A big tip o' the hat to Luc Winance for some of the dates and details!

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