Seaboard and Western was started on September 11, 1946 by Arthur and Raymond Norden as just another of the hundreds of non-scheduled startup airlines (popularly known as non-skeds), that sprung up in a postwar environment full of cheap aircraft and fresh out of the air force pilots, it prospered, unlike so many of its kin. It built a reputation for on time and excellent service whilst getting involved in military charters and both the Berlin airlift and the transportation of Jews to Israel.
Refinancing got the carrier back on its feet and on April 4, 1961 the airline changed its name to the more impressive sounding Seaboard World Airlines. Along with the name change came a new black and gold livery. This would also be the period when Seaboard World began pioneering work as the launch customer for multiple new freighter types pushing the envelope in freight as one of the world's two scheduled all freight airlines. Flying Tigers may have had the Pacific but Seaboard World owned the Atlantic.
The first brave leap into a new age was provided by the Canadair CL-44D-4 a major Canadian development of the Bristol Britannia, which was fitted with an innovative hinged swing tail. This enabled bulky loads up to 26m long to be fitted. Compared to the Connie the CL-44 could carry 13 tonnes more freight (28:15) and offered over twice the internal capacity (204:90 cubic metres).
Seaboard ordered eight of the type and the first CL-44 was delivered on July 7, 1961. The new CL-44s proved an immediate success and by 1962 the airline was firmly profitable again. It refurbished its New York headquarters and built a new cargo terminal and operations centre.
The CL-44s also allowed Seaboard to introduce a new 'block space agreement', which meant that non-freighter airlines could buy a permanent allocation of space aboard the aircraft. This gave them the flexibility they needed in an age when limited payload/range characteristics meant that cargo capacity could not always be relied upon. BOAC for example leased an entire CL-44 for a two year period flying three times weekly between Heathrow and New York via Prestwick. Other airlines that took advantage of this kind of arrangement included Lufthansa, Swissair and Air Canada.
By April 1963 the fleet consisted of 7 CL-44s. Eight Super Connies were still technically on charge but seven were leased to Capitol. The smallest aircraft in the fleet was a single C-46 Commando. The CL-44 was an excellent aircraft but Seaboard was keen to speed up the air cargo business and the future was clearly to be pure jets. As early as 1961 Douglas was touting the DC-8F Jet Trader and as the leader in the transatlantic cargo field it was no surprise that Seaboard chose the DC-8-55JT (more commonly known as DC-8F-55s).
The first DC-8, N801SW, joined the fleet on June 21, 1964 on a lease from Douglas. Again the new type provided a major capacity boost over the type it was replacing. The DC-8s could carry over 40,800kg. The DC-8 proved a success and the fleet grew to 5 units by mid-1967. The CL-44s gradually left Seaboard's colours but not its ownership as they were wet-leased to other operators such as the Lebanese TMA, the UK's Transglobe Airways and also Cyprus Airways. The CL-44s left the fleet officially by May 1969.
The success of Seaboard's block space cargo work, ACMI operations plus wet-lease cargo and passenger services demanded even larger freighters as the 1960s came to a close. Further as the war in Vietnam hotted up Seaboard gained its share of military charter work. This led the airline back to Douglas' door and an order for 12 new stretch DC-8-63CFs. Deliveries began in June 1968 and the new huge aircraft allowed the gradual replacement of the smaller DC-8s.
Seaboard couldn't wait for the the new type however and interestingly went to Boeing and in the interim leased a pair of new 707-345Cs from VARIG. The aircraft joined the fleet as N7321S and N7322S in February and March 1968. They gained full Seaboard colours but remained in the fleet only until February and March 1969 respectively.
The growth of the airfreight market meant that Seaboard's own fleet was constantly changing during this period. The new DC-8-63s would provide some stability but even bigger things would come to pass during the 1970s.
2003, Dec. Seaboard & Western. Airliner World
Woodley, C & Woods-Turner, B. 2013, June. Seaboard World: Global Freight Mover. Airliner World
Waddington, T. Great Airliners Series Volume 2: Douglas DC-8
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: