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Budd Conestoga Gen. -- Flying Tiger Line's first aircraft was the Budd Conestoga, an all -- stainless steel, rear--loading, twin--engine aircraft. Capable of lifting 7,000 pounds over a version of the famed DC-3. The C-47 could fly 7,500 pounds of cargo over a range of 600 miles at 150 miles per hour.
(1945 - 1947).
C-47-Flying Tiger relied heavily on the Douglas C-47, the cargo version of the famed DC-3. The C-47 could fly 7,500 pounds of cargo over a range of 600 miles at 150 miles per hour.
C-46 Gen. -- The Curtis C-46 "Commando" that Flying Tigers flew on supply missions over the Hump during World War II came home for civilian duty, joining Flying Tigers' fleet in 1949. It flew at 200 miles per hour, carried 13,000 pounds of cargo and had a range of 900 miles.
(1949 - 1961)
C-54 Gen. -- The C-54, first of the four--engine air freighters, was used by Flying Tigers in the largest, longest airlift ever flown by a private contractor -- supplying the American Occupation Forces in Japan. Flying at 210 miles per hour, the C-54 carried 20,000 pounds of cargo over a 2,000 -- mile range.
(1947 -- 1957)
The acquisition of seven DC-6s represented the largest single purchase the airline industry had ever seen. Carrying 32,000 pounds of cargo at 275 miles per hour with a 2,000 mile range, the DC-6A carried more, cheaper and faster than any other aircraft flying at the time. Carrying 50% more cargo than the DC-4 and carrying it 70 miles per hour faster, the company's gross revenues quickly reached the $25-million mark in 1953.
Constellation Gen. -- The Lockheed Super H Constellation, airlifting 43,000 pounds of freight at 300 miles per hour over a 2,500-miles range, helped Flying Tigers revolutionize the marketing map of the United States with the first nonstop, transcontinental airfreight schedules.
(1957 - 1967)
Flying Tigers acquired the first turbine-powered air-freighter placed in service when it purchased a $55-million fleet of Canadair CL-44s in 1961. With four Rolls Royce engines that developed 5,700 horsepower, it cruised at 375 miles per hour, carrying up to 60,000 pounds of cargo over a range of 3,000 miles. A true airfreighted with a unique swing-tail design, the CL-44 permitted the straight-in loading of freight no other plane could carry.
(1961 - 1969)
Flying Tigers met the challenge of the jet age with Boeing 707-349C intercontinental jets. Operated primarily on transpacific military contract routes, the planes carried 73,000 pounds of freight at 550 miles per hour over a 3,000 range. With the Boeing 707s supplemented by Canadair CL-44s, Flying Tigers supplied U.S. military forces and became the largest carrier of cargo in the Pacific. Specifically equipped with weather monitoring equipment and scientific instrumentation, one 707 (Aircraft N322FT), gained fame as the "Pole Cat." Flying around the world over the North and South Poles, the Pole Cat set eight speed and distance records.
The Douglas DC-8-63F was a new breed of aircraft that had a far reaching effect on the continuing growth for the airfreight industry. The first of the "stretched" airfreights, it carried a payload of 110,000 pounds at 550 miles per hour over a 3,000 mile range. With the DC-8, Flying Tigers was able to inaugurate daily international schedules on routes linking the major markets of the U.S. and Asia.
B-747-100 Flying Tigers was the first airline to operate Boeing 747 passenger aircraft converted into efficient air freighters. Each of the awesome giants flies more than 200,000 pounds of cargo at 575 miles per hour over a 3,500-mile range.
In the years during and after World War II, military veterans were given special preference to purchase or lease government surplus aircraft. A group of ex-AVG and CNAC pilots, some still flying in China, took advantage of this opportunity, and on June 25, 1945 started an airfreight company that in less than two years would formally adopt the name the Flying Tiger Line.
As the company grew and matured, founder and CEO Robert Prescott did also, both in his younger days as an AVG pilot and later in the role of President of the Flying Tiger Line. From the beginning, Prescott had a vision for the company: "We're unique, so let's not imitate. Imitation lets you catch up to the guy ahead, but never lets you pass." Although the fledgling Flying Tiger Line was in a precarious financial situation during its early years, it enjoyed extraordinary growth throughout most of the 60's, and eventually emerged as the industry's foremost all-cargo carrier. The airline had its humble beginnings in Long Beach California with the Budd Conestoga, but by 1969 had upgraded its propeller-driven, piston engine fleet to one consisting entirely of jet freighters. This allowed for more extensive geographic capability and cargo capacity.
Notable among the Tigers' achievements were their participation in both the Korean and Vietnam airlifts. During the Korean War, Tigers planes provided air transport services for personnel and cargo from the west coast of the US to various military bases throughout the Pacific area. In the Vietnam airlift, Flying Tigers provided strategic flights from the US to numerous military bases throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia geographic region. As in Korea, these flights carried both cargo as well as military personnel and their dependents. In one of its more dramatic moves, Tigers evacuated a number of Vietnamese "political refugees" and Vietnamese company employees and their families aboard departing aircraft during the "final hours" of US troop withdrawal, and impending Communist takeover in South Vietnam in 1975. During the Vietnam years the Flying Tiger Line also worked overtime for the US Postal Service. As one observer put it, "Nobody brings in mail like those Tiger birds".
The years after the Vietnam war saw continued growth for the Flying Tigers. After 1970, scheduled commercial service, much of which consisted of Asian imports, rapidly overtook military related contracts as the company's primary source of income. This represented a significant transition for the Flying Tigers, and paved the road to future success. By this time the airline's personnel had gained such expertise in shipping challenging pieces of freight that the attitude in the industry was, "if Tigers can't move it, nobody can." From 1979 to 1980 the Flying Tiger Line passed Pan Am to become the world's number one air cargo carrier.
In the 1980's, the B747-200F series was introduced to the fleet. With this plane's nose-loading capabilities, Flying Tigers accommodated even more challenging air freight combinations in size, shape and quantity. In this decade the company developed an extensive global network, directly servicing all continents except for Africa, which was served through interlining.
The motto in the beginning was "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere". That motto lasted until the airline was taken over by Federal Express in the late 1980's. With only six thousand employees around the world, the Flying Tiger Line carried cargo and people to all corners of the planet.
From 1945 to 1989 Flying Tigers management, mechanics, office staff, flight attendants, pilots and crew members worked together to build an airline that became a legend. This was the Tiger "Can-do" Spirit, may it never die.