Starting as Clifford Ball Inc by 1929 it was known as Pennsylvania Air Lines. By 1930 its route stretched from Washington to Cleveland via Pittsburgh. By 1933 13,500 passengers were carried but the cancellation of the air-mail contracts in 1934 was a severe blow. Fortunately the company was able to re-establish itself as Pennsylvania Airlines and Transport Company in April and bid for its old route, but unfortunately it was not successful and the route was lost to a new start-up Central Airlines. PALTC operated Ford Trimotors regardless and competed against Central, with some acrimony, however during 1936 a merger was affected forming Pennsylvania-Central Airlines. By 1937 the fleet stood at 11 Boeing 247Ds. In 1938 PCA was rewarded when it growing route network was certified by the CAB and PCA was grandfathered into the new regulated era as a Trunk carrier. Its routes travelled from Norfolk to Milwaukee and Chicago (via Washington, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit) with off shoots to Baltimore, Buffalo and Sault St Marie.
New routes in the late 40s added Minneapolis, Toledo, Memphis, Richmond, Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta and Mobile to the network. In 1950 5 second-hand L-049 Constellations joined to compete against other carriers' DC-6s. Seven more (ex-KLM L-749s) examples arrived in 1951 and in 1950 another new type - the Super DC-3 entered service. The Super-DC-3 was a substantial redesign of the ordinary Dakota but wasn't successful and all 3 were sold in 1952.
By mid 52 the airline operated a fleet of 24 DC-3s, 25 DC-4s and 6 Connies. The network by then was a dense web of services across the Eastern USA including an interchange to Florida operated with National. In 1954 Capital reached a novel agreement with BOAC to swap Connies leaving Capital with an all L-049 fleet of 12 examples.
All timetable images above are from the collection of Bjorn Larson from http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/ca2.htm
1955 was to be the year that really made Capital's name when a huge 60 aircraft order for the turboprop Viscount was made. The first 3 arrived that year and provided a huge edge over the other trunks still using piston props. Capital became the first US prop-jet operator. The other 57 arrived between 55-57.
One year later the airline ordered 14 Comet 4s which if delivered would have made Capital one of the earliest true-jet operators. Then in 1958 Capital ordered 15 CV-880s. A year later the Convair order was reduced and 5 Electra's were ordered. Only the latter were ever painted into Capital's new 1960 scheme and even they were never delivered.
Unfortunately financial reality kicked in and between 1958 and 1960 Capital suffered from serious money troubles and much bad luck. In fact between 1958 and 1960 the airline suffered 5 fatal crashes - 2 on the same day - whilst in 1958 a mechanics strike grounded the carrier for 37 days. Added to this were large interest payments on the debt used to purchase the Viscounts which meant that losses were incurred for 57 and 59. These difficulties led to a foreclosure suit being filed by Vickers in May 1960.
It was a sad end for a great airline and one can only think what might have been if Capital had ordered a more manageable number of Viscounts. In 1:400 the airline has now had 3 releases but could really do with a DC-3 and a DC-6, Viscount and Electra in the 1960 colours.
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: