On 25th June 1945 a company was founded by Robert W Prescott as NATIONAL SKYWAY FREIGHT CORPORATION, which began transport services with eight Budd RB-1 Conestogas. These were quickly replaced with Douglas DC-3s and Curtiss C-46s. In 1946 the name was changed to THE FLYING TIGER LINE.
In 1946 Douglas C-54s were introduced on routes crossing the Pacific Ocen. Many flights, if not most, were operated on behalf of the US Military Air Transport Service; routes such as Los Angeles to Tokyo, Okinawa and Manila. By 1947 a busy freight schedule was being operated.
Fifteen Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellations joined the fleet; destinations on both the West Coast as well as the East Coast were flown. Passenger charters were introduced.
A new type, the "Swing-tail" Canadair CL-44, was introduced from 1961; they were used for specialist freight work and ended the era of the L-1049 Super Constellation.
The introduction of the Boeing 707, from 1965, saw the changeover to an all-jet fleet. It's main focus was cargo and the routes were expanded; Flying Tiger Line opened schedules from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Osaka, Taipei, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. For these routes the Douglas DC-8 came into service, replacing the 707s from 1968 on account of its greater capacity.
A new chapter saw the purchase of SEABOARD WORLD AIRLINES in 1980; now the two largest US freight airlines were merged.
Flying Tiger received more Boeing 747s and built up routes to South America and Australia. At home, in the US, a dense freight network existed with direct and connecting services between business centres.
Boeing 727s entered the fleet; smaller companies flew feeder service to hubs in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Anchorage.
The 1980s saw the decline on the horizon. A passenger charter operation, doing business as Metro International Airways, was suspended in 1983. From now on the focus was on hauling cargo.
After the deregulation of air cargo flights in 1977, conditions were favourable to new companies such as Fedex and UPS; they had entered the market with their own aircraft and were successful.
In 1989 FEDEX took over the majority shareholding in Flying Tiger Line and swiftly integrated the whole fleet. A great history and well-known brand had come to an end.
JP Airline Fleets 1987 listed 14 Boeing 727s, 6 McDonnel-Douglas DC-8s and 19 Boeing 747s of which one was in passenger configuration (747-133 EI-BPH cn20013, leased from GPA).
Recommended reading: Tiger Tales, by LeVerne J.Moldrem, 1996. Published by Flying M Press, 2704-C South Drive, Clearwater, FL 34619.
The book is a personal account of Moldrem's career with Flying Tigers, starting with the vintage transports such as the DC-3 and DC-4, ending with DC-8 and Boeing 747.
See also me review below of Flying Tigers over Cambodia...
And I can recommend The Mighty Tiger, by Joe Brenner.
For more details see my bookshelf.
Airlines Remembered, by B.I. Hengi (Midland Publishing, 2000)
Flying Tigers on Airline History
JP Airline Fleets 87/88
From my BLOG, dated 06APR2010:
FLYING TIGERS OVER CAMBODIA | LARRY PARTRIDGE
The first chapter of 'Flying the Frontiers, Vol.3 by Shirlee Smith Matheson (subtitled 'Aviation Adventures Around the World') details the career of Cedric 'Ced' Mah, who really started his career as a Tiger pilot flying the 'Burma Hump'.