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The History of Capitol Air
Due to US airline deregulation, Capitol Air was one of the few carriers that experienced temporary success after switching from charter operations to scheduled operations.
Jesse F. on June 11, 1946 as Capitol Airways. Founded by Stallings, Richmond McGuinness, and Army Air Corps pilots Francis Roach, it was founded in Delaware but headquartered in Smyrna, Tennessee, initially operating twin-engine Douglas DC-3s and two engines. Curtiss C-46 teams. Military service was an important part of his early history.
For example, in 1954 it was engaged in priority cargo transport for the US Air Force and two years later was contracted to carry passengers for the Logistic Air Support (LOGAIR) program.
The Douglas DC-4 and the Lockheed L-749A Constellation, its first four-engine piston airliners, fueled international charter expansion.
According to MJ Hardy in The Lockheed Constellation (Arco Publishing Company, 1973, p. 51): “One (BOAC 749As) served Capitol Airways, which had three other 749As, the first being purchased from Avianca in 1957.” “Later, the capital built a fleet of dozens of super-constellations.”
By the end of the decade, its US operations had moved from Tennessee to Wilmington, Delaware’s New Castle Airport.
The Constellation fleet continued to grow with the purchase of the first Super, or stretched-fuselage L-1049G, built for Howard Hughes in January 1960 and first delivered to him four years earlier on February 24th. the head of a considerable number of them.
“In the summer of 1962, Seaboard World Airways leased seven of its Super Constellations (three L-1049Ds and four L-1049Hs) to Capitol Airways, who exercised the option to purchase and eventually purchased two L-1049Ds and an L-1049H. ,” according to Hardy (ibid., p. 73).
Caribbean/Mexico and transatlantic operating authorizations obtained on September 30, 1965 and April 5, 1966 allowed it to expand its charter service, with its low fares, low operating costs, high aircraft utilization between 12 and 15 hours per day, low overheads, high density , single-class accommodation and guarantee load factors provided mainly by bookings from tour operators.
Nevertheless, it still provided the service to the military, with one of its main contracts being a transatlantic route from Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Frankfurt to Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, with an intermediate stop at Bradley National Guard Base in Windsor Locks. , Connecticut.
Although its airframe fleet of 17 standard and extended fuselages constituted its long-term work force during the 14 years from 1955 to 1968, they began to be replaced by the JT4A turbojet-powered Douglas DC-8-33 in the 1960s. One of them, the N900CL, was originally operated by Pan Am. These are supplemented by the JT8D turbofan powered DC-8-54JT Jet Traders, which have cargo doors that open forward, left, up, allowing airlines to carry all cargo, all passengers, or a mix of both on the main deck. .
According to Terry Waddington, “Douglas DC-8” (World Transport Press, 1996, p. 52). “The first order was placed by military charter specialist Trans International Airlines (TIA)…”
1967 was an important year in the history of the Capitol. On March 21, it became a public company, and the next day it added “international” to its name, thus becoming Capitol International Airways.
Acquired from Eastern Airlines, the DC-8-61’s stretched fuselage, configured with three-by-three single-aisle seating for 252 single-class passengers, soon complemented the standard-length DC-8-33s and -54s, facilitating lower seating. miles cost military and civilian charter operations.
In the early 1970s, he moved to Smyrna, Tennessee.
There was a limit to scheduled service. Having received such authority in September 1978, it began passenger transport operations from New York to Brussels on May 5 of the following year and to Chicago and Boston on June 19.
Like other international add-on carriers such as Trans International (later Transamerica) and World Airways, it achieved low seat-mile cost, high load factor profitability by using a low-cost, single-class charter formula for scheduled ground. and complicates current carriers.
Branded as Sky Saver Service, it regularly attracts capacity that exceeds demand and has generated rapid growth. The number of annual passengers increased gradually – from 611,400 people in 1980 to 1,150,000 people in 1981 and 1,824,000 people in 1982.
Passengers unaware of the deregulated carrier, which can only make a profit with low-fare used aircraft, high-density seating and low-wage non-union employees, frequently criticized Capitol Air’s interline policies and refused meals and hotel rooms at mealtimes. missed, delays and compensation for connections with other airlines. However, its rates in the New York-Los Angeles market ranged from $149 unlimited to $189 one-way, based on round-trip purchases, while the market’s primary unlimited rates were at $450. As a result, Capitol Air’s load factor exceeded 90 percent.
Originally located in Delta’s Northwest Terminal, its ground operations at JFK were largely manual, with stamped boarding passes, old-fashioned tabbed seating charts—the selection itself moved from the main check-in desk to a central location. to the terminal service center and finally to the departure gate – baggage assignment tags, handwritten tickets, completed weight balance sheets, containerless baggage and cargo loading. However, the reservation system was computerized (Gabriel I), its call center was located in Garden City, Long Island, and air and hotel packages were offered through the Sky Saver Tour division.
In 1981, a significant change in the carrier’s image occurred when Capitol International acquired its two widebody DC-10-10s, registrations N904WA and N905WA, from Western. Configured for 345 single-class passengers in two-five-two forward and three-four-three middle and aft cabin layouts, they are deployed on transcontinental and Caribbean cruises, offering audio-visual combat entertainment.
The purchase of the 360-seat DC-10 offered ten uniform configurations worldwide.
1982 marked several improvements: a simplified name change to Capitol Air, a move to the British Airways terminal at JFK, an expanded system schedule with other carriers’ flight connections, and an upgrade to the more automated Braniff’s Cowboy computerized reservation system. functions.
Two other aircraft types broke the monopoly of the Douglas/McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-61, DC-8-63 and DC-10-10 – a single Boeing 727-200 registered N590CA and a single, 315-passenger Airbus A300B4-103. registered D-AHLZ.
Capitol Air advertised itself as “Capitol Air, Lowest Fare” on its schedule from December 1, 1982 to March 15, 1983. “He served the people for 36 years,” he noted.
He explained his “Capito Ideas” as follows: “The best service at the lowest possible fares is the Super DC-8 and wide-body DC-10 jet fleet; complimentary meals, snacks and beverages; full bar service; movies and stereo in all. DC-10 and some DC-8 flights (especially to Zurich to compete with Swissair); duty-free shopping on international flights; modern airport terminals; and a reduced baggage service.
He considered his achievement “the starry sky of the Capitol” and declared that “There are now 13 Capitol cities in the world – with many more to come”: Aguadilla, Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Miami. , New York, Philadelphia, Puerto Plata, San Francisco, San Juan and Zurich. “Best of all,” he noted, “Capitol’s stellar service includes sky-high prices wherever we go.”
It offered daily non-stop flights from JFK to the US cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco with two departures to Los Angeles (flights CL 211 and CL 209) and one stop via Chicago (flight CL 219); Aguadilla and San Juan in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, San Juan Eastern sectors operate as CL 215 and CL 217); and Brussels, Frankfurt and Zurich in Europe. Other segments that bypass JFK include Chicago-Miami-San Juan, Chicago-Los Angeles, Chicago-San Francisco, and Boston-Philadelphia-San Juan.
He explained its fares as follows: “We started it all. Capitol created the concept of one-class, low-fare, unlimited flights. No advance purchase, no minimum stay, no hassle. We refuse to be undersold for this type of service.
“As such, we keep an eye on the competition to make sure our fares are always the lowest. We also keep fares low without cutting back on our Star-Spangled service, which we always expect on higher-priced airlines.
“How low are Capitol rates?” he asked. “Our daily unlimited fares often save you up to 50% compared to economy class on other airlines. That’s right, we said economy, not first class. No wonder Capitol is the best place to buy in the sky wherever we fly! Take us . he.”
Capitol’s successful low-cost, full-service challenge to major airlines such as American, TWA, and United in the United States, as well as Lufthansa, Sabena, and Swissair across the Atlantic, was short-lived because they temporarily lowered their fares. Fares to maintain or regain market share force it to serve niche destinations with no competition, such as Aguadilla and Puerto Plata. But entry into these markets was ultimately made by established operators.
Capitol Air’s last owner, George Batchelor, gradually transferred assets to Arrow Air, which itself was transitioning from charter to scheduled service and was also under his financial control, leaving Capitol Air employees without pay for several weeks.
Eventually, now broken up and in debt, it was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and went out of business on November 23, 1984, ending a 38-year career as a charter and scheduled passenger carrier.
Capitol Air System Schedule, December 1, 1982 – March 15, 1983.
Hardy, MJ “The Lockheed Constellations.” New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc., 1973.
Waddington, Terry. “Douglas DC-8”. Miami: World Transportation Press, 1996.
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