Exploring the former world headquarters of Trans-World Airlines and the legacy of the fallen giant at the TWA Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. 

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Before TWA was Tran-World Airlines, they were merely Trans-Continental Airlines. Aeronautics hadn’t advanced far enough to have non-stop Coast to Coast service.  Kansas City was selected as the overnight stopover on all intercoastal service for the airlines. Including the overnight stay, transcontinental flights from NYC to LA  had a total flight time of 36hrs.  Here is a photograph of the original Kansas City Airport.  

TWA was established in 1930 with the merger of Trans-Continental and Western Airlines, so before they were Transworld, the TWA stood for the names of the two airlines. When the airlines were first established their emphasis was on mail and parcel service.  Transporting people was expensive and not very comfortable for the passenger.  Transcontinental was the first airlines to really focus on overtaking trains as the dominant form of mass transportation. TWA was the first airline to feature over weather flying and of much importance to the passengers, cabin pressurization, which made the flight experience much more enjoyable. In 1931 the Airlines moved it’s headquarters from NYC to Kansas City where the company would remain for almost 35yrs,

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Millionaire financier and aircraft enthusiast Howard Hughes bought the airline in 1939. After WWII, he placed his attention of turning TWA into an international airline. The name was officially changed to Trans_World Airlines and routes were open to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Eventually, service to over sixty countries was made available. 

 

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A domestic destination chart from the 1940’s

 

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First class service was initiated in the back of the plane on the propeller planes since the front of the cabin was very noisy.

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Having Kansas City as the World Headquarters of one of the world’s largest airlines had a particular cache to locals. You could get anywhere in the world from KC easily. The airlines also trained their pilots’, engineers, and flight attendants locally which was a real boon to the local economy.

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A recruiting posterboard for flight attendants from the 1960’s 

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The above three panels: Flight attendant uniforms from the 1940’s, 60’s and 80’s 

 

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The above three panels: In the 1960’s and 70’s the airline tried to go modern on the flight attendant uniforms. The outfits were impractical, not popular with the stewardesses and were discontinued relatively quick. 

 

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First class table service from the 1960’s.  Notice the complimentary cigarettes on the right-hand side. 

 

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A world map from the 1960’s showing all the international destinations

 

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The flags of the nations where the airlines had international hubs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An advertising poster from the 1960’s

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By the end of the 1960’s advancements in engineering allowed for larger jets that could move faster and accommodate more passengers. The airport in Kansas City had limited runway space that could not provide enough space for a safe landing. The airport was also less than a mile away from the city center’. Pilots would need to make a sharp ascent to avoid flying in the buildings. A new was required. 

The city government of KC and TWA worked together on plans build to build a new airport. Kansas City was to be TWA’s world hub with non-stop international flights throughout the world. Design disputes were to arise between the city and the airlines that eventually led to TWA canceling their plans for the airport and moving their offices to St. Louis.  TWA would remain in St. Louis until 2001 when the airlines dissolved a victim to poor management and the acquisition craze of the 1990’s.

 

TWA’s glory days live on at the TWA Museum. The Museum is staffed entirely by retired TWA workers, and the tour is extensive and enjoyable. A couple of the planes are housed on the runway and hangar area. Admission is $10.

 

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