View Full Version : The Flying Tiger Line

15th Oct 2008, 16:55
I'm starting work for a 747 cargo firm and noticed one of the aircraft on the fleet was ex Flying Tiger Line which raised my curiosity. I'd also come across a small article about the Flying Tigers before the company was bought by Fed Ex in the 80s and got me interested to find out a bit more. Anyone here ever fly for them, remember them or know a bit more about the company etc? Just curious.

diesel addict
15th Oct 2008, 17:06
Back around 1960 - when I was interested in such things - they flew L-1049H Super Constellations ( convertibles, I think) and Canadair CL-44 swing-tail freighters. Not a common sight in UK.

15th Oct 2008, 17:39
Their 747s were common at Heathrow in the late 1970s and 1980s - don't ever recall seeing any DC-8s. Cracking scheme!

Also Seaboard World... didn't one absorb the other before FedEx took over?

15th Oct 2008, 18:11
I agree. I love the scheme they had. Polished Aluminium with the Tiger logo is very eye catching. They seemed like they were involved with some pretty interesting flying over the years. Slightly "Air America" without the CIA bit perhaps? Be very interesting if anyone here flew or worked for them too. Sure there are some folk who did.

Read in the early days they also flew Bud Contessa aircraft which were amazingly was constructed of steel! I know as much they were formed from the Flying Tiger Squadron, the American Volunteer Group during early WW2 flying P40s.

15th Oct 2008, 18:14
When you say Super Connie convertables, were they combi aircraft with removable pax seats?

15th Oct 2008, 18:51
Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association (http://www.flyingtigerline.org)

This is FTL Pilots Association site, all the info you need.:ok:

15th Oct 2008, 19:32
The Flying Tigers CL44 into Heathrow (North) was the only one we ever saw there.
Seabord and Western was the original name of Seabord World?
Used to import Pawnee Aircoupes that then sat on the tarmac at North, less wings?

15th Oct 2008, 22:45
If my memory is correct they were involved in an enterprise to buy ex. American Airlines BAC 111;s to convert to business jets.

16th Oct 2008, 00:24
Thanks for that Merlin. Thats got some interesting stuff on it

chris keeping
16th Oct 2008, 03:47
Wireless, your post brought back some memories, Flying Tigers, were a regular visitor to Kai Tak, seem to remember that that their main mount was the DC 8, and latterly the 747 classic.

16th Oct 2008, 06:25
I attended a lecture one evening which was given by the UK & Ireland General Manager of Flying Tigers. He started by putting up a picture of the Bud Conestoga and asked if we could identify it which nobody could. He said that the contract that really got them started was flying Hula Hoops around the USA and the rest of the world, such was the demand for them when they were first put on sale. It was a very attractive Livery I always thought.

16th Oct 2008, 06:36
This jogged a memory - I falsely remenbered that the aircraft had tiger mouths and fangs painted on the nose just like the wartime P-40s - but a quick looka at google images proves me wrong.

diesel addict
16th Oct 2008, 07:40
Wireless - I think they did have the removable seats. (faint memories of a contemporary magazine article )

FAL - Saeboard and Western was an American railroad, I do not know of a connection, but a Google might advise.

Dan Winterland
16th Oct 2008, 07:42
"Slightly "Air America" without the CIA bit perhaps?"

Most of the FT work was pretty kosher. It was the unit which the AVG boss Claire Chennault formed after WW2 which is perhaps what you are thinking of. Called Civil Air Transport, or CAT for short - it was formed in 1947 using ex USAAF C46 Curtis Commandos with UN cash. It was formed primarily to fly relief around China and get the local economy started. However, it had to be bankrolled by Chinese businessmen and during the Communist uprising, eventually became part of the Nationalist forces air wing. Eventually, it ended up in Taiwan with no routes left when the Korean war started.

Then the US governemnt got interested in them and awarded them lots of contracts in Korea, then in South east Asia (Vietnam) doing all sorts of clandestine stuff such as dropping spies in the Peoples republic of China to flying French Airforce C119s into the battle of Bien Dien Phu. It's pilots could be dropping paratroopers one day, flying first class passengers the next. They finally folded in the 60s, but elements became Air America and several other assets got passed onto other airlines. For example, China Airlines now owns Mandarin airlines and still uses the CAT callsign "Mandarin" for some of it's flights.

An interesting history of the most shot at airline in history can be read in Felix Smith's book, 'China Pilot' available on Amazon. It's a great read by an unusual animal - a pilot who can write well!

16th Oct 2008, 08:58
Seaboard and Western definitely was the original name of Seaboard World.

and Canadair CL-44 swing-tail freighters. Not a common sight in UK.

FT CL-44s were very common at Prestwick in the 1960's - almost daily.

The Flying Tigers CL44 into Heathrow (North) was the only one we ever saw there.

But BOAC leased Seaboard World CL-44s in the 60's, fully painted in BOAC colours. So they must have been pretty common at Heathrow.

16th Oct 2008, 09:41
Flying Tiger Line (name distinguishes the airline from the military group Flying Tigers) was one of the last survivors of carriers formed immediately after WW2 by those who had spent the war together and bought surplus aircraft to carry on flying commercially.

Based in Los Angeles, their main focus, like many large commercial freight carriers in the US, was contract work for the military. They did internal US operations and transpacific. The US military started requiring their operators to have a proportion of civilian work so they were not over-dependent on the military side, and FTL was one of the few who built up scheduled operations in addition to charter and contract work.

In the days of tightly regulated route licences FTL dominated cargo schedules across the Pacific, and Seaboard the Atlantic; the two had been allowed little overlap in their operations. In 1980 FTL bought out Seaboard and that's when they started appearing over here extensively as well. Federal Express bought out FTL in 1990; they had done a lot of contract work for FedEx in the years leading up to that, and it gave FedEx access to scheduled freight operations to Asia and Europe.

FTL ordered a large fleet of new DC8-63F freighters for rapid delivery in the late 1960s for the extensive work they were picking up to/from Vietnam. Douglas had over-committed on delivery to them, fell behind, and the resulting compensation etc was a significant part of Douglas's financial fall from grace and their acquisition by McDonnell.

The Budd Conestoga that FTL started with was built of stainess steel. Budd were a pioneer with this material, starting with auto bodies for Detroit manufacturers and moving on to railway vehicles. The widespread use of unpainted, polished stainless railway cars, even nowadays, in the US (little used elsewhere) is all down to Budd, from their factory in Philadelphia. They were more successful with railway vehicles than with aircraft.

16th Oct 2008, 12:30
The reason the Conestoga was build of stainless steel was that with Japanese domination of the Western Pacific after Pearl Harbour there was a fear that the supply of bauxite (the raw material for aluminium) from Australia might be cut off. Hence the experiment in building an aircraft from another, common metal.

Obviously aluminium did not end up in short supply and the economics of a steel aircraft were hideous.

BTW the name "Conestoga" is the correct name for the covered wagons of the Old West a la "Wagon Train", etc.

Also, Flying Tigers was NOT the original name of the airline. It was National Skyways Freight Corporation. It was the US press that picked up on the fact that the ailrine had been formed by a group of ex Flying Tigers pilots and started referering to the company as Flying Tigers. The name stuck and the company formally adopted it.

In the days of tightly regulated route licences FTL dominated cargo schedules across the Pacific, and Seaboard the Atlantic; the two had been allowed little overlap in their operations.

Although both Seaboard DC-8s and FTL CL-44s were common through Prestwick.

16th Oct 2008, 15:16
FTL in Europe in the 1960s would be on military charters, probably routing through Prestwick to Germany. They could go where they liked for the Air Force. It was the scheduled services which divided the areas up between operators.

16th Oct 2008, 15:56
Seaboard and Western was an American railroadNo it wasn't. There was a small branchline called the Virginia, Seaboard and Western but it has nothing to do with FTL. To add to the confusion there was a railroad called the Seaboard Air Line which has nothing to do with any airline :8

Seaboard & Western Airlines was formed in 1946 and changed its name to Seaboard World in 1961: Seaboard History (http://www.seaboardairlines.org/seabhist.htm)

diesel addict
16th Oct 2008, 17:38
Paper Tiger - Thank you for your post. It shows up my failing memory to perfection !!;)

16th Oct 2008, 20:08
The Seaboard Air Line was indeed a major US railway, and had nothing to do with airlines. They just happened to have the longest stretch of dead-straight railway track in the US, 79 miles, in North Carolina, and before aviation the expression "air line" meant the shortest, straightest distance between two points. Seaboard was, and to some extent still is, a common US expression for the East Coast.

16th Oct 2008, 21:48

17th Oct 2008, 09:08
Seaboard was, and to some extent still is, a common US expression for the East Coast.

Actually its an expression for ANY coast. In the US they talk about the Eastern Seaboard (the Atlantic coast) or the Western Seaboard (the Pacific coast).

17th Oct 2008, 11:40
You should not forget Transglobe/Tradewinds & Trans Meridian folks. Also Loftleider with the 44J & RCAF with the Yukons, all seen in the the UK. Had many happy hours on the Loftee J to JFK via KEF & return, legless all the way, as was the 'Fish Heads' way back then:E:ok: