Airlines Remembered

Flying Tiger Line

Photos © R.Leeuw

Ceased operations: 1989 (taken over by Fedex)
Homebase: Los Angeles-LAX
Founded: 25Jun1945
ICAO callsign: Tiger
IATA / ICAO prefix: FT / FTL
Operations: cargo and passengers

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.

Boston-Logan Int'l
This photo was taken from the Boston-Logan Airport Hilton, in May 1988.
In 1977 the circle-T tail logo was changed to the 'FLYING TIGERS' lettering but the circle-T logo was reinstated in 1987 on 747s (prior to the company being acquired by Federal Express).

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 by Larry Partridge
Having my leg in plaster and being mostly restricted to the couch, enables me to tackle that pile of unread books...

At the end of WW2 a number of former American pilots formed the "Flying Tiger Line", which soon became the world's leading air freight company.
In 1975 the Flying Tigers took part in relief efforts for cambodians who were surrounded by Khmer Rouge forces. The 'Ricelift' exposed the Tiger pilots to enormous risk. Though they were technically 'non-combatants', all this really meant was that they couldn't shoot back...

This is the memoir of Larry Partridge who, in a plane nicknamed 'Nancy' (which also became the callsign into Phnom Penh), after his wife, flew 52 missions into PNH during 1975, delivering rice and other supplies in hostile conditions (a noticable difference with the Berlin Airlift).
Published by McFarland & Company Inc., 2001.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7864-0768-2

Besides describing 'flight- & ground operations Saigon - Phnom Penh, against a background of advancing NVA troops in Vietnam, it describes the relations among the crew and their motivation and features a pet cockroach named Hiram and a 'mother' to the crew aged 13...

The Douglas DC-8-63AF N783FT (msn 46003) they flew is, remarkably, still around.
Its career took it, besides to Flying Tigers, also to Lufthansa Cargo, Air India and is currently listed with Air Transport Int'l.

Another excellent book to read about the Flying Tiger Line, from start to finish is 'Tiger Tales' by Tiger captain LaVerne Moldrem. Recommended reading!
Another book I have is 'The Mighty Tiger', by Joe Brenner (Trafford Publishing, 2003).

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'.

Links: Wikipedia Vietnam War and Wikipedia Flying Tiger Line
Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association


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Created: 02-09-05
Last updated 6.4.2010