Travel Air 5000

We have been talking about the Travel Air 5000 that belonged to National Air Transport and Amon Carter, Sr. for over three years now. The background of the airplane invented, designed, and built by Clyde Cessna, Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech is becoming better known as is the story of Amon Carter, Sr.’s role in the development of aviation here in North Texas. What isn’t well known, is how this iconic airplane left Fort Worth and has now returned, and the people who have been involved in this journey.4822053073_e8c8e6c473_o

Travel Air 5000 circa 1931

The return of the Travel Air started in 2010 when one of our museum historians was working on a story about Amon Carter and his relationship with the City of Dallas. While researching his story, Don Pyeatt came across the story of National Air Transport, the Travel Air, and Amon Cater and pictures of the airplane at Shady Oaks Farm. On a whim, Don looked up the registration number of the airplane, C3002 and realized the airplane had a current registration with a person in Hamilton, Texas. With a little more research, Don located the owner of the airplane, Harry Hansen, and learned that Mr. Hansen had been restoring it for nearly 50 years.

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Travel Air 5000 1963 @ Shady Oak Farm

In the summer of 2010 Don arranged a visit, and Don, Bill Guy and myself flew to Hamilton to meet Harry. This would turn out to be only the first of many visits to Hamilton.

On that first visit we learned that Harry had acquired the airplane from the Carter family in 1963, after observing it on flights in and out of Meacham Airport. He moved the airplane to Hamilton and began a long slow process of restoring the aircraft over the next 50 years.

As it turned out, Harry and I are both retired Continental Airlines Captains. Over the next year or so, my wife and I would stop in to visit Harry and his wife Jackie when we traveled back and forth to Austin to visit our son. We would always talk about the Travel Air and the interest many people had to return it to Fort Worth. During that year Harry decided to downsize his restoration efforts and told us what he thought the airplane was worth.

The return of the Travel Air started in 2010 when one of our museum historians was working on a story about Amon Carter and his relationship with the City of Dallas. While researching his story, Don Pyeatt came across the story of National Air Transport, the Travel Air, and Amon Cater and pictures of the airplane at Shady Oaks Farm. On a whim, Don looked up the registration number of the airplane, C3002 and realized the airplane had a current registration with a person in Hamilton, Texas. With a little more research, Don located the owner of the airplane, Harry Hansen, and learned that Mr. Hansen had been restoring it for nearly 50 years.

HHanson_Travel Air 5000

Travel Air 5000 2010 @ Hamilton

Here in Fort Worth at the museum, Bill Morris, Ben Guttery and Don Pyeatt began putting together the saga of the Travel Air. Meanwhile, we also started to formulate a campaign to acquire the 5000 and return it to Fort Worth. With the help of some marketing people in California, we developed a brochure and began telling the story of the Travel Air and Mr. Carter to anyone who would listen. We also began a campaign to raise funds to acquire the airplane.

Last summer members of Morning Star Partners approached us about the airplane and its connection to Mr. Carter. They were involved in the restoration of the former Star-Telegram building and establishing a new museum there to pay tribute to Mr. Carter. MorningStar eventually purchased the airplane from Captain Hansen, chose Cowtown Aerocrafters for the restoration, and moved the airplane to Justin, Texas.

Since last summer, the small group of dedicated and talented people of Cowtown Aerocrafters has painstakingly restored the Travel Air to near airworthy condition. Every step of the restoration process was researched in minute detail and faithfully and skillfully accomplished. This was not just another project for them, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and they took it seriously, spending over 3,000 hours in the restoration process. DSC_5309

Travel Air 5000 @ Justin, August 2, 2014

After restoration the aircraft was carefully delivered to its current location in the former Star-Telegram building and returned to Fort Worth, successfully completing a fifty year round trip journey, after leaving for Hamilton in 1963. There is at least a hundred hours of video and hundreds of photos of the aircraft and the restoration process. There has even been some talk of a documentary but for now, we want to just take this opportunity on Labor Day, to thank the following people for bringing this treasure back home.

Hamilton, Texas

  • Harry Hansen
  • Jackie Hansen

MorningStar Partners Group

  • Bob Simpson
  • Joy Webster
  • Cliff Wallum
  • Dusty Roberts
  • Kevin Hunkler
  • Luther Adkins
  • Morris Matson

Cowtown Aerocrafters

  • Lanny Parcell
  • Kerrie Bourland
  • Doug Fulk
  • Bob Parcell
  • Tom Swindle
  • Gerry Asher
  • David Ozee
  • Trevor Parcell
  • David Stahl

Fort Worth Aviation Museum

  • Don Pyeatt
  • Bill Guy
  • Jim Hodgson
  • Donna Hodgson
  • Bill Morris
  • Ben Guttery
  • Tom Kemp
  • Jim Fabris
  • Bob Adams
  • Chris Emory

Below is the original story of our appeal to save the Travel Air 5000 and bring it back to Fort Worth.

 

Aviation group launches drive to rescue iconic airplaned owned by Amon G. Carter

History lost, history found

By Bill Morris

In 2011, the Fort Worth Aviation Museum at Meacham International Airport initiated efforts to rescue and display an iconic aircraft of our aviation heritage.  Local support was considered crucial to the success of acquiring and preserving Amon G. Carter’s 1927 National Air Transport Travel Air 5000.

In May 1925, a group of investors in Chicago, New York, and Detroit founded National Air Transport (NAT) with the idea of connecting the three cities, and other towns along the route, with air mail service.  That same year, Amon Carter and other local businessmen became part of NAT to bring air mail service to Fort Worth.  In November, NAT was awarded a contract by the Post Office to carry mail on one of the newly-created Contract Air Mail (CAM) routes.  By transferring its airmail operations to private companies, the government effectively created the commercial aviation industry in the United States.  By 1930, a total of 34 CAM routes were in operation.

NAT’s CAM-3 route linked Chicago, Moline IL, St Joseph and Kansas City MO, Wichita KS, Ponca City and Oklahoma City OK and Fort Worth and Dallas TX.  The first air mail service on this route was flown on May 12, 1926.  By September 1927, NAT was also flying air mail on the CAM-17 route between Chicago and New York City.

NAT initially used a fleet of 10 Curtiss “Carrier Pigeon” aircraft, a robust, open-cockpit biplane specifically designed for air mail work, but they soon wanted to expand by offering passenger service as well.

NAT Carrier Pidgeon

To test the feasibility of providing passenger service, NAT bought eight single-engine Travel air 5000s which could carry four passengers in an enclosed cabin as well as the air mail.  In 1926 NAT began flying Travel Air 5000s (pictured below) to add passenger service to its Chicago to Fort Worth mail route.  The aircraft were placed in temporary service on the CAM-3 route, providing Fort Worth with its first scheduled interstate passenger airline service at Meacham Field.

NAT5000

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TA 5000 Color

The Travel Air Manufacturing Company was formed in January 1925 by three young aircraft designers who would each go on to leave their mark on aircraft design and production in the United States – Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Lloyd Stearman.  Only 14 Travel Air 5000s were built.

 

Gifting TA 5000
Presentation Ceremony, Meacham Field, February 1, 1931

 

One of the original airliners was given to Amon Carter by NAT in appreciation of Carter’s assistance.  Following the presentation ceremony, Mr. Carter trucked the Travel Air 5000 to Shady Oak Farm, his home on Lake Worth, and placed it on display in front of the farmhouse where it remained until 1961.

 

Shady Oak
NAT Travel Air 5000 NC 3002 at Amon Carter’s Shady Oak Farm

 

Over the next few years, Carter had a “running gun battle” with the Department of Commerce over his Travel Air 5000.  First, they wanted him to remove the national registration number, NC 3002, from the aircraft because it was no longer in the “inventory of flying aircraft.”  In a March 24, 1931 letter to Assistant Secretary of Commerce Clarence Young, Carter stated, “Paul Henderson has given me the old No. 17 which is now parked out in front of Shady Oak Farm as you will note from the enclosed clipping.  Of course, I am not going to use this ship – on the contrary I will store it at Shady Oak Farm as a souvenir which might be interesting within the next fifteen or twenty years.”

On June 9, 1931, Charles A. Rowe, the Supervising Aeronautical Inspector wrote a letter to the Chief of the Inspection Service in the Aeronautics Branch at the Department of Commerce stating, “Inspector DeLany states that Mr. Carter has staked this ship down on his estate, and that he does not intend to fly it any more.  Mr. Carter refuses to remove the ‘NC,’ and refused DeLany access to the airplane.  Delany reports that in the presence of several witnesses, Mr. Carter stated he had told the Department of Commerce that he was not going to remove the symbol ‘NC,’ and that DeLany could report he would be chased off the property with a shotgun if he attempted to get to the airplane.”

As Paul Harvey used to say on his radio program, “Now for the rest of the story.”

We recently learned that this same airplane has been in storage and undergoing restoration efforts for nearly 50 years.  The present owner has offered to sell it to us for $200,000 so we can bring it home where it belongs so that our entire community can see and learn from it. This airplane is an iconic artifact of Fort Worth’s aviation history, we believe it should return to Fort Worth to serve as the centerpiece to commemorate Amon G. Carter’s aviation legacy.  No other airplane typifies the diversity of our aviation heritage more than the National Air Transport Travel Air 5000 presented to Amon Carter.  He was responsible for so much of what we are today, and deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments.

 

TA5 1961
The Travel Air 5000 about 1965

 

TA5 Now

The Travel Air 5000 today

 

Amon G. Carter, often referred to as “Mister Aviation” in Fort Worth, was involved in all of Fort Worth’s early aviation endeavors, including the first flight demonstration in 1911, and locating three World War I US Army Air Service aviation training airfields here in 1917, (more than any other city in the United States).  Later, Carter served on the Board of Directors of American Airlines, became a driving force in moving American Airlines Southern Division operations to Meacham Field in 1933 (Fort Worth later became the corporate headquarters for American Airlines), a Lake Worth Navy seaplane base in 1940, the Consolidated Aircraft plant in 1941 (now Lockheed Martin), and Bell Helicopter in 1951. In many of these endeavors, he teamed with other like-minded business leaders such as Ben E. Keith and attorney Raymond S. Buck.  In 1950, Carter received the prestigious Frank M. Hawks Memorial Award as “a true American aviation pioneer.”

As a sidebar to history, National Air Transport went on to merge with three other airlines in 1931 to create United Air Lines.