Modern Air Transport
|Hubs||Miami International Airport
|Fleet size||8 aircraft
(8 Convair CV-990A)
as of March 1974
|Parent company||Gulf American Corp
Miami International Airport (1967—1975)
|Key people||Warren Ashley
John B. Becker
Thomas M. Ferguson
William W. Fitzpatrick
Edwin A. Leiser
Vincent M. de Ceasare
John D. MacDonald
William P. Malloy
Harold Neff Sr
Julius J. Rosen
Alex K. Rozawick
John Smith Jr
Anthony G. Viglass
Modern Air Transport, Inc. (originally Modern Air Transport/MAT, subsequently Modern Air) was a United States-based non-scheduled and supplemental carrier[nb 1] founded in 1946. At different stages in its history it was headquartered in Newark and Trenton, New Jersey, Baltimore, and Miami. In addition to Miami, New York used to be a base for Modern Air. In 1968, the airline established an overseas base at Berlin Tegel Airport in what used to be West Berlin prior to German reunification. Between 1968 and 1974, operations increasingly focused on Berlin Tegel. Modern Air ceased trading in 1975.
- 1 History
- 1.1 The early years
- 1.2 Gulf American era
- 2 Aircraft operated
- 3 Fleet details
- 4 Accidents and incidents
- 5 Notes and Citations
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The early years
Five ex-Capital Airlines Lockheed L-049 Constellation piston airliners joined the fleet during summer 1962. Only two of these entered actual airline service; the remaining three were used for spares. In addition, the airline leased a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.
The grant of an interim certificate by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) in October 1962 to operate domestic military contract flights, intrastate and overseas charters from 1 April 1963 was followed by further fleet expansion, including the lease of another L-1049 and the purchase of an L-749A in 1964.
Gulf American era
In 1966, Modern Air became a wholly owned subsidiary of Gulf American Corporation, a Florida-based property developer. The change in ownership resulted in a move of the airline's headquarters to Miami International Airport and the withdrawal of the company's last Constellation the following year. In 1969, Gulf American Corp transferred its holding in the airline to GAC Corporation, Gulf American's holding company.[nb 2]
Transition to an all-jet fleet
The award of a five-year licence by the CAB in October 1966 to engage in cargo and passenger charter operations including all-expense tour charters between the US and points in Canada and Mexico enhanced Modern Air's new status as a permanently certificated US supplemental carrier. Following the award of these new foreign charter rights, the airline concluded a US$17.5 million purchase agreement with American Airlines to acquire five of the latter's Convair CV-990A Coronado jetliners between January 1967 and February/March 1968, in anticipation of major growth for low-cost overseas travel by US tour groups. The first two examples sported a new natural metal "Silver Palace" livery, which replaced the Modern Air Transport/MAT fuselage titles used in previous schemes with Modern Air titles. Initially, both were based in Miami and contracted by sister company Gulf American Land Corporation to operate charter flights for prospective investors in its real estate development projects in Florida and Arizona. Modern Air's Coronados were configured in a spacious 139-seat, single-class seating arrangement.
Diversification into new business areas and overseas expansion
Further work to increase the growing jet fleet's utilisation was secured when the Federal Government awarded Modern Air a contract to carry military personnel between camps in the US. However, this was insufficient to justify continuing expansion of the fleet and workforce. By the time Modern's third 990 was delivered, it experienced financial difficulties. This resulted in layoffs and management changes. Initially, the airline attempted to renegotiate its aircraft purchase agreement with American, requesting a release from contractual obligations regarding the two remaining deliveries. American's refusal to agree to Modern's request compelled the latter to begin looking for additional business opportunities to keep the expanding fleet fully employed. Ensuing successful negotiations with two West German package tour companies to operate a $3.5 million, West Berlin based programme,[nb 3] as well as a $1.5 million, seven months wet lease of an aircraft to Canadian charter carrier Nordair, enabled Modern Air to profitably utilise its spare aircraft capacity. The two German tour companies that had contracted Modern Air to operate their flying programmes from West Berlin were Berliner Flugring and Flug-Union Berlin. The former had begun as a consortium of local travel agents arranging IT flights from West Berlin to holiday resorts in Europe. By the time the American supplemental assumed its flying programme, it had become the city's foremost package tour operator. The latter had been the first tour operator with a West Berlin flying programme.[nb 4] The decision to supply whole-plane charter airline seats to both of West Berlin's leading package tour operators also enabled Modern Air to take advantage of the fact that all airlines other than those headquartered in the United States, the United Kingdom and France — the airlines of the three Western victorious powers of World War II — were banned from West Berlin.
By 1968, Modern Air operated an all-jet fleet comprising five CV-990s. (Modern Air eventually operated a ten-strong CV-990 fleet, following the acquisition of a second batch of five sourced from American Airlines and VARIG between March 1968 and July 1971. As a result, the airline became the world's largest contemporary CV-990 operator. The expanded all-jet fleet facilitated the introduction of regular tour group charters carrying American tourists from the Miami and New York areas to popular holiday resorts in North and Central America, as well as the launch in May 1968 of a Canadian-based Caribbean and transatlantic charter programme,[nb 5] in addition to operating a large German charter programme.)
The operation of a round-the-world transpolar luxury charter flight in 1968[nb 6] arguably ranks as Modern Air's greatest achievement. On 22 November 1968, this saw CV-990A N5612 Polar Byrd I, which had a special Polar Path Compass (PPC) system fitted for the polar trip,[nb 7] become the first commercial jetliner to land on and take off from the 10,000 feet (3,000 m) ice runway at the McMurdo Station airfield at Williams Field, McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. It also made Modern Air the first US charter airline to fly to the erstwhile Soviet Union. This flight commemorated the 40th anniversary of Admiral Richard Byrd's South Pole flight. It carried 60 US businessmen who had paid $10,000 each to fly on a round-the-world trip over both Poles that left Boston on 8 November 1968. Cdr F.G. Dustin, who had accompanied [then Cdr] Byrd on his second Antarctic expedition in 1934, was among the passengers. The flight routed over the North Pole via Japan, Australia and New Zealand to Antarctica and over the South Pole, before crossing the International Date Line a second time and proceeding northwards to Chile, Africa and Europe. Rome was the first European stop, from where the flight continued to Moscow, before night-stopping in London and returning to Boston the following day, 2 December 1968. Profits from that trip were used to establish The Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, a polar research centre in Boston.
Establishment and growth of West Berlin operation
In March 1968, two newly acquired jets were stationed at West Berlin's Tegel Airport. These were the airline's fourth and fifth example of the original batch of five ex-American Airlines CV-990s that had initially been surplus to the airline's requirements. They were also the biggest and fastest aircraft based at any Berlin airport at that time.
Modern Air carried over 135,000 passengers during its first year of operations from Tegel.
The successful conclusion of Modern Air's first year in West Berlin resulted in the airline signing a five-year contract with Berliner Flugring worth $20 million (£8.3 million). The contract ran from the beginning of the 1969 summer season until the end of the 1974 summer season.
Following the signing of the five-year contract with Berliner Flugring, Modern Air's Tegel-based European operations manager John MacDonald assumed additional responsibilities as the airline's vice president.
As the company's flying programme from Berlin gradually expanded, additional aircraft joined the Berlin-based fleet. By the early 1970s, a minimum of five Coronados were stationed at Tegel Airport year-round along with most of the airline's 400 employees. In addition to handling all of its own flights at Tegel, the firm provided third-party ground handling services at that airport as well.
The operation of a special, one-off Busenvogel[nb 8] charter excursion from Tegel to Paris on Father's Day 1970, during which topless showgirls entertained a group of 110 passengers (107 male, three female), gained Modern Air notoriety. It was said to be the idea of Morten S. Beyer, who ran Modern Air at the time. Despite protests from women's rights groups, Mort Beyer was unapologetic, opining that the free publicity it gained the company was worth the public outrcy.
Another change in management at Modern Air's parent company during 1971 resulted in the adoption of a new strategy for the airline. This entailed focusing all commercial activities on West Berlin. Poor financial results followed by a spell under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection necessitated a partial reversal of this strategy and resulted in the resumption of limited charter services from bases in the US the following year.
Entering West Berlin executive charter and scheduled markets
At its Berlin base, Modern Air also experimented with executive charter and scheduled services.
Following a steady increase in passenger loads, Modern Air applied to the Allied Air Attachés in Bonn for permission to operate two daily rotations with larger Coronados. However, the Allied Air Attachés refused this under pressure from both Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) and British European Airways (BEA), West Berlin's leading contemporary scheduled airlines. Having had its application to introduce larger equipment on this route turned down, Modern Air withdrew all Tegel—Saarbrücken flights in November 1971. Pan Am's takeover of Modern Air's Saarbrücken route in February 1972, which entailed serving it from the former's base at the rival Tempelhof Airport with 128-seat Boeing 727-100s, was followed by the airline's unexpected suspension of Tempelhof—Saarbrücken services after less than a year's operation, citing insufficient demand. This turn of events resulted in Modern Air applying for permission to re-enter the Berlin—Saarbrücken scheduled market with two daily return flights using Coronados. Permission for Modern Air to resume its Tegel—Saarbrücken route was granted in time for a summer 1973 re-launch. As a result, the CV-990A Coronado became the largest contemporary aircraft type to operate a scheduled service into Saarbrücken's small airport.
Several fare increases and the recession following in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis resulted in much reduced demand for air travel in the Berlin—Saarbrücken market. This in turn necessitated a major reduction in frequency to just two round-trips per week.
These events as well as the fact that the Coronado was far too big and consumed too much fuel to serve a regional scheduled route economically ultimately put paid to the firm's scheduled ambitions.
Deteriorating business environment
Steeply rising jet fuel prices in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis and Modern Air's reliance on the fuel-thirsty Coronado had caused a significant increase in its operating costs. This was of particular importance for its operations from and to West Berlin as under Allied air navigation rules aircraft were only permitted to fly at a height of 10,000 ft (3,000 m) while passing through the Allied air corridors over East Germany, a sub-optimal, fuel-inefficient cruising altitude for modern jet aircraft. Fuel conservation and revenue-enhancing measures Modern Air adopted to contain the sudden and unforeseen cost escalation included reducing the Coronado's speed limit to Mach .78 and squeezing in two additional seat rows. The former had the beneficial side effect of increasing the aircraft's range by 20%, permitting non-stop transatlantic flights from the eastern seaboard of the US to Central Europe with a full payload. The latter was achieved by installing a then new type of light-weight, UK-manufactured "slimline" seat, which increased capacity to 149 passengers per plane. To recoup its sharply higher fuel costs in the Berlin market, the airline imposed a fuel surcharge on all tour operators that had contracted their flying programme from Berlin to it. The operators passed on this fuel surcharge to their IT passengers. A major disagreement over the fuel surcharge between Modern Air's management and its counterpart at Berliner Flugring, its main overseas business partner, led to a reduction in the Berlin-based fleet from five to four aircraft for the 1974 summer season. There was a plan to replace the fuel-guzzling Coronados with more efficient, second-hand McDonnell Douglas DC-8s and DC-9s in time for the 1975 summer season. However, an attempt on Modern Air's part to pass on a further increase in its fuel surcharge to Berliner Flugring for the planned 1974/'75 winter flying programme resulted in the tour operator's refusal to renew its long-standing charter contract with the airline. This in turn resulted in the closure of Modern Air's Berlin Tegel base at the end of October 1974. The airline had carried over two million passengers during its seven-year presence in West Berlin, which roughly equated to the city's contemporary population.
Modern Air ceased operations in September 1975 and surrendered its operating permit the following month, as a consequence of the CAB's unhappiness over GAC's refusal to commit new funds to the airline. Its West Berlin traffic rights were acquired by Aeroamerica, another US charter and supplemental carrier.
In its 29-year existence Modern Air operated the following aircraft types:
Fleet in 1967
In November 1967, Modern Air's fleet comprised 16 piston airliners.
|Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas||5|
|Lockheed L-049 Constellation||1|
Fleet in 1972
In May 1972, Modern Air's fleet comprised nine jet aircraft.
|Convair CV-990A Coronado||8|
|HFB-320 Hansa Jet||1|
300 people were employed.
Accidents and incidents
On 8 August 1970, a Convair CV-990A-30A-8 (registration N5630) undershot the runway at Acapulco's Álvarez International Airport during a VOR/ILS approach at the end of a ferry/positioning flight that had originated in New York. The aircraft collided with the airport's approach lights and caught fire. Although the aircraft was a complete write-off, there was only one fatality among the eight crew members on board.
On 28 May 1971, one of Modern Air's Berlin-based CV-990As with 45 passengers on board en route from Berlin Tegel to Bulgaria was unexpectedly denied permission to enter Bulgarian airspace, as a result of a new policy adopted by that country's then communist government to deny any aircraft whose flight had originated or was going to terminate at a West Berlin airport the right to take off and land at any of its airports. This resulted in the aircraft having to turn back to Berlin, where it landed safely at the city's Tegel Airport.
Notes and Citations
- holder of supplemental air carrier certificate authorised to operate non-scheduled passenger and cargo services to supplement the scheduled operations of certificated route air carriers; an airline holding a supplemental air carrier certificate is also known as a "nonsked" in the US
- the transfer of ownership became effective in 1970
- envisaging the carriage of 90,000 passengers on 670 short- and medium-haul inclusive tour (IT) charter flights to 16 destinations in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands
- this had originally been contracted to US supplemental Saturn Airways utilising that airline's Tempelhof-based Douglas DC-6A/C and Douglas DC-7C propliners
- involving the lease of an aircraft operated by Modern Air flightdeck crews and Nordair cabin staff in the latter's livery carrying 20,000 passengers from Montréal to 17 Caribbean and European destinations
- billed at the time as "the first commercial flight ever to cross both poles and touch down on all continents"
- by Modern's electronics department headed up by Vincent De Ceasare
- the German term for Busom Bird
- Modern Air President, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 21 January 1971, p. 80
- Airways (Mailbag, Morten S. Beyer, 1922—2010), Vol. 17, No. 12, p. 61, Airways International Inc., Sandpoint, February 2011
- Modern Air's New President, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 3 April 1969, p. 503
- World Airline Survey ..., Flight International, 2 April 1964, p. 520
- World Airline Survey ..., Flight International, 14 April 1966, p. 623
- World Airline Survey ..., Flight International, 13 April 1967, p. 580
- World Airline Directory, Flight International, 11 April 1968, p. 543
- World Airline Directory, Flight International, 10 April 1976, p. 945
- zoggavia — Modern Air Transport
- The World's Airlines ..., Flight International, 12 April 1962, p. 571
- Aeroplane - Commercial continued: Modern's cut back, Vol. 114, No. 2924, p. 12, Temple Press, London, 1 November 1967
- World Airline Directory, Flight International, 22 March 1973, p. 463
- Aeroplane - Commercial: ITs for Supplementals, Vol. 112, No. 2869, p. 11, Temple Press, London, 13 October 1966
- Aeroplane - Order Book: Modern's Coronado purchase, Vol. 112, No. 2873, p. 10, Temple Press, London, 10 November 1966
- Aeroplane - Late News: Modern branches out, Vol. 116, No. 2934, p. 38, Temple Press, London, 10 January 1968
- Another 990 for Modern, Flight International, 4 April 1968, p. 477
- Aircraft Profile - Convair 990, Air International, May 2008, p. 65
- zoggavia — Modern Air Transport Lockheed L-749 N103A displaying an older colour scheme incorporating "MAT" fuselage titles (drawing)
- Modern Air Transport Convair CV-990A N5609 displaying the bare metal "Silver Palace" scheme incorporating "Modern Air" fuselage titles at New York JFK, Flight International, 13 April 1967, p. 541 (photo)
- Airways (Weidmann, U., The Charismatic Coronado), Vol. 17, No. 11, p. 38, Airways International Inc., Sandpoint, January 2011
- Modern Air Convair CV-990A in Air France colours on stand at London Heathrow, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 27 April 1967, p. 656 (photo)
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5605 in Air France colours at Paris Le Bourget Airport during May 1967 (photo)
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5615 in Nordair colours at Philadelphia International Airport during October 1968 (photo)
- Modern Air Signs Up, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 28 August 1969, p. 311
- Modern/Nordair Agreement, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 25 April 1968, p. 606
- Modern Air Convair CV-990A N5615 in Nordair colours at Miami International, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 11 July 1968, pp. 42/3 (photo)
- Overseas Aviation (CI) in trouble, Flight International, 24 August 1961, p. 269
- Berlin Airport Company - Summary of 1974 Annual Report, February 1975 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1975 (German)
- Aeroplane - Commercial: Modern Air Transport has taken delivery of a fifth Convair 990A from American Airlines, Vol. 115, No. 2946, p. 11, Temple Press, London, 3 April 1968
- Commemorating Admiral Byrd, World News ..., Flight International, 5 December 1968, p. 921
- Trans-polar Charter, Air Transport ..., Flight International, 19 December 1968, p. 1019
- Bauman Rare Books — The story of a unique hand-painted airport sign commemorating the first commercial transpolar flight: Dustin Transpolar Flight, Dustin, F.G., Rio de Janeiro, 1968
- Modern in Europe, Air Transport, Flight International, 17 July 1969, p. 85
- Airways (Mailbag, Busenvogels), Vol. 17, No. 12, p. 59, Airways International Inc., Sandpoint, February 2011
- Hansa Jet for Berlin flights, Air Transport ... Light Commercial & Business, Flight International, 29 January 1970, p. 149
- N5602 Hamburger Flugzeugbau HFB-320 Hansa c/n 1045 — Modern Air Transport — Groningen Airport Eelde — 25/03/1970 (photo and brief history)
- Air Transport ... Light Commercial & Business, Flight International, 28 May 1970, p. 883
- Berlin Air Taxi Starts, Air Transport ... Light Commercial & Business, Flight International, 4 June 1970, p. 916
- Berlin Airport Company, June 1971 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1971 (German)
- Zoeller, M., aeroamerica, 2007, p. 12
- Pan American ..., Air Transport, Flight International, 9 March 1972, p. 347
- Modern Air to Saarbrucken, Air Transport, Flight International, 9 August 1973, p. 229
- Berlin Airport Company, January 1972 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1972 (German)
- Open Skies, Letters, Flight International, 13 January 1972, p. 58
- Open Skies ..., Letters ..., Flight International, 13 January 1972, p. 59
- Saarbrücken Airport website (> Airport > History — 80 years of Saarbrücken Airport > Picture gallery > 3/17 > First flight of Pan Am from Saarbrücken to Berlin in February 1972) (photo)
- Aeroplane - Pan Am and the IGS, Vol. 116, No. 2972, pp. 4, 8, Temple Press, London, 2 October 1968
- Berlin Airport Company, January 1973 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1973 (German)
- Berlin Airport Company, March 1973 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1973 (German)
- Berlin Airport Company, August 1973 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1973 (German)
- Saarbrücken Airport website (> Airport > History — 80 years of Saarbrücken Airport > Picture gallery > 3/17 > Inaugural CV-990 flight of Modern Air to Berlin in 1973) (photo)
- Berlin Airport Company, May 1974 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1974 (German)
- Berlin Airport Company, August 1974 Monthly Timetable Booklet for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports, Berlin Airport Company, West Berlin, 1974 (German)
- Airways (Weidmann, U., The Charismatic Coronado), Vol. 17, No. 11, pp. 38/9, Airways International Inc., Sandpoint, January 2011
- Air Transport, Flight International, 18 July 1974, p. 54
- Modern Air Transport, ..., Flight International, 29 August 1974, p. 233
- World airlines update, Flight International, 17 October 1974, p. 515
- Air Transport, Flight International, 7 November 1974, p. 628
- Airways (Zoeller, M., Aeroamerica – Deregulation Hopeful), pp. 45/6, HPC Publishing, St Leonards on Sea, November 2008
- World Airlines, Flight International, 18 May 1972, Supplement 33
- ASN Aircraft accident description Convair CV-990A-30A-8 N5630 Acapulco — Álvarez International Airport (ACA)
- Detour via Schönefeld (translated article title), Aviation (translated section title), Der Spiegel (German news magazine), vol. 29, 1971, 12 July 1971, p. 41 (German)
- Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880 & 990 (Great Airliners, Vol. 1). Miami, Florida: World Transport Press. ISBN 978-0-9626730-4-7.
- Berlin Airport Company - April 1971 to February 1975, various monthly timetable booklets for Berlin Tempelhof and Berlin Tegel Airports (German language edition only), 1971-1975 (in German). West Berlin, Germany: Berlin Airport Company.
- "Flight International". Sutton, UK: Reed Business Information. ISSN 0015-3710. (various backdated issues relating to Modern Air Transport, 1960–1975)
- Aviation Safety Network database - Modern Air Transport accidents/incidents
- Modern Air Transport Curtiss Super 46C Commando N3935C resting on the ramp at Greater Rochester International Airport in upstate New York during 1960.
- Modern Air Transport Lockheed L-049D Constellation N86531 resting on the ramp at Denver Stapleton during June 1965.
- Modern Air Transport Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas N381M resting on the ramp at Fort Lauderdale Executive during July 1968.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5617 Berliner Bär about to touch down at Berlin Tegel during August 1968.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5615 Polar Byrd I displaying Modern Air Transpolar Flight titles below the window cheatline coming in to land at Philadelphia International Airport during March 1969.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5617 Berliner Bär resting on the ramp at Palma de Mallorca between flights during July 1969.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5607 showing off its speed pods while taxiing at St. Louis Lambert during June 1970. This aircraft was subsequently re-registered N5624.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5614 resting on the apron at Berlin Tegel at night with an unidentified company CV-990 taxiing behind during May 1971.
- Passengers boarding Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5617 Berliner Bär at Berlin Tegel during August 1971.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-8 N5623 along with sister ship N5624 parked on adjacent remote stands presently occupied by the North Terminal at London Gatwick on 21 May 1972.
- Modern Air Convair CV-990-30A-5 N5614 resting in front of a hangar with sister ship N5605 parked behind at Miami International during February 1974.
- 1:400 Gemini Jets model of Convair CV-990A Coronado in Modern Air colours.