It was as if Ken Atwell, who I’ve
never even met, had read my mind.
Without me having to ask, Ken Atwell, who lives in Vernon, read a column I
had written and then sent me information about airplanes that once flew the
black and gold colors of Mohawk, a great regional airline long ago
headquartered at Oneida County’s official airport in Oriskany, a designation
that will soon go to Griffiss Business and Technology Park.
In its early years, before it got BAC 1-11 jets and Fairchild Hiller
turboprops, Mohawk was flying Convairs, a twin engine piston-airplane which
came into passenger service after WWII. It was an elegant looking airplane
and had a classic look. It really was a beautiful airplane.
Once I got to sit up front in the left seat of a Mohawk Convair and fly.
Life doesn’t get any better.
Mohawk’s Convairs were named after Indian tribes. There was the Air Chief
Cayuga, Air Chief Erie, Air Chief Iroquois, Air Chief Mohican and, of
course, Air Chief Oneida. The names were painted on both sides of each
Convair’s nose. And next to the name was the airline’s logo, a chief’s head.
Ken Atwell worked for Mohawk in its glory years. He helped overhaul Mohawk’s
airplanes, including those aforementioned Convairs.
He is a member of a group called “The Hawks,” retired Mohawk employees who
gather weekly in Vernon for coffee and what is known as “hangar flying.”
Talking about flying is the next best thing to actually flying.
Ken Atwell has become Mohawk’s unofficial historian. He was smart enough to
hang onto stuff, mostly pictures and articles, pertaining to Mohawk. And he
is nice enough to share things. Most recently he sent me an article about
those beautiful Mohawk Convairs.
I’ve been wondering what happened to that fleet of Air Chiefs. As I said,
Ken Atwell read my mind. The article he sent me from a publication called
“Airliners” answered my question.
According to the article, eight of Mohawk’s Convairs were found at the
Montgomery County Airport in Texas in 1974. The article shows a picture of
the Convairs lined up one after another in an airport storage area. They
were never to fly again. In 1976, the Convairs went into a furnace, got
melted down and recycled. Very sad.
There were other Mohawk Air Chiefs, however, that didn’t go into that Texas
furnace. There was, for example, the Air Chief Tuscarora and Air Chief
Naragensett. I don’t know what happened to Tuscarora.
I do know something about Air Chief Naragensett, which went into service in
1949 with American Airlines and was named “Scranton.” Mohawk got her on Nov.
1, 1959 and changed her name to Air Chief Naragensett.
During an amazing 47 years of service, the “Scranton,” or as I prefer, Air
Chief Naragensett, went through more than a dozen owners, the last being
Air Chief Naragensett had been headed to the scrap heap, but a volunteer
group in Daytona Beach got hold of her first and is now restoring the
Convair. The plan is to get her flying again. We can only hope.