During its first 20 years of operation Ozark had fulfilled exactly the promise that the local service airlines had been created for. It had started and proved a wide range of feeder services and grown demand to the point that it could sustain not just prop-jets but pure jets as well. Even better it had done so profitably and begun to wean itself off of subsidy and pick-up longer routes that the trunk airlines no longer wanted. All in all it found itself in good position to grow into the 1970s and face the challenges of deregulation to come.
Ozark was St Louis's hometown airline and as with many of the local service airlines was a true pioneer of service for the regional customer. A well run and well equipped airline that proudly wore its three swallows for forty years. Its story started in 1943 when four local businessmen (two bus line operators and two attorneys) from the Ozark region of mid-west America came together to try and acquire one of the new licenses being offered by the CAB for feeder airline services.
Nowadays if you are an airline operating within the US domestic market and you wish to serve a route pair you simply do just that, after relatively little fuss and bother, but prior to 1978, when the US market was regulated by the Civil Aeronautics Bureau (CAB), starting new routes was a marathon process. Indeed, most of the time getting permission to start a new route, especially if there was any competition involved, was a non-starter. Whence the regulated period threw up a selection of idiosyncratic practices that made sense then but look a bit weird today. One of these was the concept of interchange services.
The rise and fall of Harding Lawrence’s Braniff International is so well known that in aviation it has become something of a byword for mismanagement and a case study for the impact of deregulation. In many ways it was a harbinger of the bloodbath that the 1980s would become for US carriers however in others it was unique. Nonetheless back in 1978 everything seemed rosy at Braniff and the airline would celebrate its Golden anniversary with the introduction of a new look.
As the 1960s drew to a close the CAB in the USA was looking for ways to wean the local service airlines off of subsidies. This meant a gradual movement away from serving local communities and instead using economies of scale to serve wider regions. The result was mergers, including the unique tri-merger that created 'The airline that had to happen' - Air West!
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: