2011 / 2012 / 2013 /
Column for 1.25.12
One of the good things about the Internet is that people living in, say, Austin, Texas can read what you write just as easily as someone living in Boonville, Rome, Lowville or Utica.
Take, for example, the following email, which I got earlier this month:
“My name is Jack Barber and I live in Austin, Texas. I found your 2005 article on the Internet regarding the Mohawk Airlines Air Chiefs. This is of great interest to me as I was gifted Air Chief Erie when I was a young man. These Chiefs were flown to the Montgomery County, Texas airport in the early 70’s.
“The reason I’m writing is that you made reference to a (magazine) article sent to you by a Ken Atwell, Vernon, NY...now deceased. I would greatly like to have a copy of this “Airliners” article if you still have it.”
Yes, I still have it. Yes, I’m going to send it to him.
Jack Barber’s email continued:
“Now, back to the Chiefs. These aircraft were flown into Texas in the early 1970’s. I heard of them being at the Montgomery County Airport and drove there one cold, Sunday afternoon. I found out who owned the planes, contacted the gentleman and he told me I was welcome to any one of the Chiefs. I chose Air Chief Erie. I made arrangements to have it brought to my hometown, Huntsville, Texas. Upon returning to the Montgomery County Airport I found all of the Chiefs destroyed by a demolition ball swinging from the end of a large crane. I cannot tell you how sick this made me at the time. The operator of the crane thought he was supposed to destroy them all.
“Anyway, I would sure appreciate a copy of this article if you still have it. Also, I am attaching copies of the photos I took of the planes. I hope you find these of interest.”
To say that I found Jack Barber’s photographs interesting would be an understatement. As regular readers of this column know, I am more than a little interested in airplanes in general and Mohawk Airline airplanes in particular.
For the record, the Mohawk Airline fleet back in the 1960’s included 14 Convair 240s, including Air Chief Erie, five Convair 440s and 17 Martin 404s. Mohawk was called “Route of the Air Chiefs” and all its airplanes were named after Indian tribes or Indian chiefs in the northeast.
In fact, Mohawk’s Convair 240s were all named after Indian tribes in New York State, including Air Chief Seneca, Air Chief Onondaga, Air Chief Tuscarora, Air Chief Algonquin, Air Chief Cayuga, Air Chief Oneida and the aforementioned Air Chief Erie.
Convair 240s carried 40 passengers and a crew of three. In the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Mohawk was doing great business, competing directly with the giant American Airlines. But the much smaller Mohawk held its own, continued to build market share and take passengers from American. To increase capacity on the Convair 240s, Mohawk had maintenance personnel install six additional seats by removing a galley and main deck cargo bin, bringing the total capacity to forty six passengers.
Anyway, I got Jack Barber on the telephone this past week and thanked him for sending the photographs and told him I still had the Airliners magazine and would send him a copy.
I explained to Jack Barber that I’m interested in airplanes, have a pilot’s license and flew often as a Mohawk Airlines passenger. Mohawk, once a major local employer, was headquartered at the old Oneida County Airport in Oriskany close to where I grew up. As a kid I’d hang around the county airport just to see Mohawk’s black and gold painted airplanes landing and taking off. When I got older, I wrote about Mohawk and once I even got to fly a Mohawk Convair 440.
That explains my interest. But why is someone in Austin, Texas interested? A former Mohawk employee, perhaps? A pilot? Someone from Oneida County, now living in Texas?
Nope to all that, said Barber, an elementary school counselor. “But I’ve always had a love and passion for aircraft.”
Especially for classic airplanes, he said, especially for Convair 240s, especially Air Chief Erie, which, had it not been for a stupid misunderstanding, would have survived and would be owned and put on display by Jack Barber of Austin, Texas.
“I don’t know what I was going to do with it, but I would have done something. It was a beautiful airplane.”