Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Trans World Airlines
Trans World Airlines, commonly known as TWA, was an American airline which was acquired by American Airlines in April 2001. For many years it was headquartered at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. At the time of its demise, it was headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and used the airport nearby, Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport, as its major hub.
Howard Hughes purchased T&WA in 1939. The airline expanded dramatically under the leadership of Hughes and CEO Jack Frye , beginning transatlantic service in 1946 using new Lockheed Constellation aircraft. T&WA was a major helper in the foundation of Saudi Arabian Airlines. In 1950, the airline changed its name to Trans World Airlines (TWA).
From the mid-1940s to the early 1970s, TWA was one of only two U.S. airlines that flew to Europe (the other was Pan American World Airways). It established routes from Europe to Asia during the 1950s and 1960s, flying its aircraft as far east as Hong Kong. In the Transpacific Route Case of 1969, TWA was given authority to extend its route network across the Pacific Ocean as well.
Hughes' growing eccentricities caused TWA to sue for his removal as chairman in 1961. Under new corporate management, the TWA Corporation expanded to purchase the overseas operations of Hilton Hotels. By 1969, TWA's transatlantic operation was larger than Pan Am's.
TWA's landmark Terminal 5 at New York City's JFK Airport, designed by Eero Saarinen, is one of the world's most famous buildings: a lyrical expression of the unified sculptural forms that could be created in reinforced concrete, before the age of computers.
However, airline deregulation hit TWA hard. The holding company, Trans World Corporation, spun off the airline. The airline briefly considered selling itself to corporate raider Frank Lorenzo in the 1980s, but ended up selling to Carl Icahn in 1985. Later, in 1992, the airline filed for bankruptcy.
On July 17, 1996 TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island, killing all aboard. The cause is debated, but one effect was heavy media coverage concerning the fact that TWA's airline fleet was among the oldest in service.
By 1998, TWA reorganized as a primarily domestic carrier, with routes centered around hubs at St. Louis and New York. Partly in response to TWA Flight 800 and the age of its fleet, TWA announced a major fleet renewal, ordering 125 new aircraft.
However, financial problems began to resurface shortly afterward, and TWA was acquired by American Airlines in April of 2001 after declaring bankruptcy for a third time. Trans World Airlines flew its last flight on December 1, 2001. The ceremonial last flight was Flight 220 from Kansas City, Missouri to St. Louis, Missouri with CEO Captain William Compton at the controls. However, the final flight before TWA officially became part of American Airlines was completed between St. Louis, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada, also on December 1st, 2001. At 10:00 PM CST on December 1st, 2001, employees began removing all TWA signs and placards from airports around the country, replacing them with American Airlines signs. At midnight, all TWA flights officially became listed as American Airlines flights. Some aircraft carried hybrid American/TWA livery during the transition, with American's tricolor stripe on the fuselage and TWA's name on the tail.
Post 9/11, American has decimated TWA's bases, replacing TWA's St. Louis mainline hub with regional jet service (going from over 800 operations a day to less than 100) and downsizing TWA's maintenance base in Kansas City. Furloughs and layoffs have left less than 1,500 of 24,000 TWA employees with American Airlines jobs.
In retrospect, although American acquired over 200 aircraft from TWA (DC9's, MD80's, 757's and 767's), many analysts believe the TWA assets were not worth the additional debt inherited from TWA.
TWA used the IATA designator code TW.
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