Ozark's 20th year of continuous operation, 1970, was a bit of a come down. A one week strike and some overexpansion contributed to a $2.27 million loss. However a new computer reservations system was introduced which would help sustain Ozark's growth. In 1971 a new advertising slogan 'Up There With the Biggest' was introduced to highlight the carriers growing size and confidence. By that year 62 cities in 15 states were served with a fleet of 17 DC-9s and 21 FH-227s carrying over 2.5 million passengers. By the end of the year the airline was back in profit also to the tune of $4.35 million.
Thomas L. Grace had guided the airline through this period of major change with great success but sadly he died in his office on July 21st 1971. He wasn't the only loss that year as the airline's first President Laddie Hamilton also passed away.
The new President (only the 4th and the last) was one of Hamilton's proteges Edward J. Crane. He saw the carrier through its biggest period of growth and in 1972 a new $3 million headquarters building was opened near Lambert Field in St Louis. 1973 was a testing year with a 3 month mechanics strike, an attempted hijacking and the first fatal crash but generally Ozark did well in the 1970s posting a record profit in 1976 of $7.1 million despite high fuel prices.
As the deregulation era dawned Ozark began expanding it services opening PHL, ATL , Fort Lauderdale, MIA, MCO and TPA in 1978. To help service these routes orders were placed for 8 DC-9s and 2 727-200s - the latter were for anticipated routes to the Bahamas and West Coast. The 727s were built, painted (in a new colour scheme still based on the 3 swallows) and delivered but never put into service. Instead they were almost immediately sold on to Pan Am at a profit.
Shorter routes were gradually dropped so that the FH-227s were becoming surplus to requirements and by the end of 1980 the last was gone making Ozark and all jet airline increasingly operating a hub system out of St Louis. The first transcontinental route was added in late 1982 to San Diego though there was growing dis-satisfaction about the airline's abandonment of its traditional markets. Some of these gained service again via Air Midwest (operating as Ozark Midwest) in 1986.
The early 1980s saw a capacity shortage and the airline purchased second-hand DC-9s including 3 DC-9-40s from Ozark. Aeroclassics have made a very nice model of one of these:
Ozark was doing well for itself and made a huge $12.7 million profit in 1984 however this success led to it being seen as a useful acquisition and when Carl Icahn tookover TWA his eyes swiftly flitted to his St Louis neighbour - Ozark. The merger made sense for TWa as 80% of the routes overlapped however God knows how it was passed from a competition standpoint! Icahn's $224 million dollar offer was accepted and the last Ozark service was flown in October 1986. TWA took over 4,000 employees and 50 DC-9s of various marks (including a few MD-80s).
In the end Ozark was a well run if conservative airline which served its passengers well. It could have perhaps expanded more and diversified away from St Louis in the hope of avoiding TWA but I doubt that would have stopped it from beign swallowed up and may have led to bankruptcy as it did for soo many others. TWA was lucky to gain such a well run airline - its just a shame it wasn't as well run itself!
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: