Mohawk Airlines

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Mohawk Airlines
Mohawk air.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1945; 78 years ago (1945)
as Robinson Airlines
Ceased operations1972; 51 years ago (1972)
Fleet sizeSee fleet About 42 aircraft in service at acquisition by Allegheny Airlines in 1972 [1]
DestinationsAlbany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Erie, Glens Falls, Ithaca, New York, Newark, Hartford, Harrisburg, Montreal, Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto, Utica, Washington
HeadquartersIthaca, New York
After 1958, Utica, New York
Key peopleCecil Robinson
Robert Peach
Postcard showing the 1960s BAC 1-11 livery
Postcard showing the 1970s BAC 1-11 livery

Mohawk Airlines was a regional passenger airline operating in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, mainly in New York and Pennsylvania, from the mid-1940s until its acquisition by Allegheny Airlines in 1972. At its height, it employed over 2,200 personnel and pioneered several aspects of regional airline operations,[2] including being the first airline in the United States to hire an African American flight attendant in 1958. The airline was based at Ithaca Municipal Airport near Ithaca, New York, until 1958, when it moved to Oneida County Airport in Whitestown, New York.[3][4]


The airline was founded in 1945 as Robinson Airlines by aerial photographer C. S. Robinson as a unit of Robinson Aviation, completing its first passenger flight on 6 April. The operation was based out of Ithaca Municipal Airport near Ithaca, New York, flying single-engine, three-passenger Fairchild F-24s. After the end of World War II, the Fairchilds were supplemented with two Cessna T-50s, and in 1946, the entire fleet was replaced with Beechcraft Model 18s.[1]

To keep the airline flying, Robinson secured investments from a variety of local sources, notably Ithaca Enterprises, a nonprofit organization responsible for bringing new businesses to Ithaca, and the Cooperative Grange League Federation Exchange (now part of Agway), a farmers cooperative that had been organized by members of The Grange, and Cornell University. Most significant was the involvement of Edwin Albert Link, creator of the Link Trainer. Link lent the airline $75,000 to purchase three used Douglas DC-3s— but also removed control of the company from Robinson, making pilot Robert Peach its general manager.[5] In 1948, the Civil Aeronautics Board certified the airline as a local service carrier, awarding a variety of routes in the Mohawk Valley region. The airline adopted the slogan Route of the Air Chiefs, and painted a blue and red logo of an Indian chief on its tails.[1]

In 1952 Robert Peach purchased a controlling share of the airline, and Robinson removed himself from day-to-day operations. The board adopted the name Mohawk Airlines; in 1953 it carried 2 million passengers between 15 airports and had revenue of $24.3 million.[5] The following summer it experimented briefly with helicopter service, connecting Newark, New Jersey, and Grossinger's Resort in the Catskill Mountains with a Sikorsky S-55. (The July 1954 OAG shows 13 flights a week each way between Newark and Liberty Airport 41°48′N 74°42′W / 41.80°N 74.70°W / 41.80; -74.70; fare $18 one way plus tax.) More successfully, the airline introduced Convair 240s on 1 July 1955, becoming the first local service carrier with pressurized aircraft.[1] In 1956, having outgrown its facilities in Ithaca, it moved its corporate offices to Utica.[1]

When hired by Mohawk Airlines in December 1957, Ruth Carol Taylor became the first African-American flight attendant in the United States.[6] Six months after breaking one historic barrier, Ruth Taylor's career ended due to another barrier: the airline's marriage ban, a common practice among airlines of the day. Airlines often dismissed flight attendants who married or became pregnant.[7]

Mohawk's golden age was the late 1950s and early 1960s; it acquired the Convair 440 in 1958, and Martin 4-0-4s in 1960. In 1961, Mohawk was the first airline to use a centralized computer-based reservation service, and in 1965, the first regional airline to use flight simulators.[2] Mohawk upgraded its fleet with the BAC One-Eleven in 1965, becoming the first regional airline to fly jets.[citation needed]

Fairchild Hiller FH-227 at New York-JFK in September 1970

The last DC-3 flights were in 1962; Mohawk ended Convair piston flights in 1969 and mainly flew the BAC One-Eleven and the Fairchild Hiller FH-227 turboprop. Like other local service airlines, Mohawk was subsidized;[by whom?] in 1962 operating "revenues" totaled $23.3 million including $4.6 million "federal subsidy".[8]

In May 1968, Mohawk served 38 airports, from Boston and Washington, D.C. to Detroit. Between 1968 and 1971, labor and economic issues bled Mohawk financially. Unable to pay creditors at the end of that period, Mohawk began merger discussions with Allegheny Airlines,[9] and merged into Allegheny on 12 April 1972. Allegheny changed its name to USAir in 1979, and later to US Airways. Following bankruptcies and a later merger with America West Airlines in 2005, US Airways purchased American Airlines in 2015 and assumed operations under the American Airlines name and logo.[10]


Convair CV-240 "Air Chief Pasquat" circa 1959
BAC 1-11 "Quebec" circa 1972
FH-227B "The City of Glens Falls" circa 1970

Airports marked with an asterisk (*) are not now served by any scheduled airline.



From top to bottom:[12][unreliable source?]

Historical fleet[edit]

Mohawk Airlines historical fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Remark
BAC One-Eleven 200 24 1965 1972 [13]
Convair CV-240 21 1955 1967 [14]
Convair CV-440 Metropolitan 5 1959 1971 [15]
Convair CV-580 2 1964 1967 [15]
Convair CV-640 1 1958 1965 [15]
Douglas DC-3 7 1948 1963 [16]
Douglas C-47 Skytrain 6 1952 1963 [16]
Fairchild Hiller FH-227B 23 1966 1972 [17]
Martin 4-0-4 16 1961 1965 [18]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

2 July 1963
At Rochester, New York, Mohawk Airlines Flight 121 (a Martin 4-0-4) attempted to take off into a thunderstorm. Its wing-tip hit the ground and the aircraft cartwheeled; 7 died, 36 were injured.
23 June 1967
Mohawk Airlines Flight 40 (a BAC 1-11) flying from Elmira, New York, to Washington, D.C., suffered a fire in the rear of the aircraft that destroyed the vertical tail, causing all loss of pitch control. The cause was a non-return valve failure in the APU unit, resulting in hydraulic fluid igniting. The aircraft crashed near Blossburg, Pennsylvania; all 34 people on board died.
19 November 1969
Mohawk Airlines Flight 411 (a Fairchild-Hiller FH-227B) crashed into Pilot Knob on the east shore of Lake George, New York, on approach to Warren County Airport, Glens Falls, New York; all 14 on board died.
26 January 1972
Mohawk Airlines Flight 452 from Albany to LaGuardia Airport in New York City was hijacked and diverted to Westchester County Airport. The hijacker permitted the 42 passengers aboard to disembark there while he negotiated his demand for $200,000 cash. After several hours on the ground with the hijacker holding a flight attendant at gunpoint, Mohawk met his demands and the crew then flew the FH-227 airplane with the hijacker to Dutchess County Airport, landing after 3 a.m.[19][20] As the 45-year old hijacker attempted to flee the airport in a getaway car, he was killed instantly by a shotgun blast from an FBI agent.[21]
3 March 1972
Mohawk Airlines Flight 405 (another FH-227) crashed into a house in Albany, New York, on approach to Albany County Airport. The crew had difficulty getting the cruise lock to disengage in one of the engines. While the crew attempted to deal with the problem, the aircraft crashed short of the airfield; 16 of the 48 people in the aircraft, and one person on the ground, died. The lone surviving crew member was a stewardess, Sandra Quinn.

In popular culture[edit]

In music[edit]

  • On Chicago's album, Chicago III (1971), the group recorded the song "Flight 602." Later that year, on the live album, Chicago at Carnegie Hall, the group announced that the title referred to a Mohawk flight from New York to Toronto.
  • The photo on the back cover of the supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys', first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988), depicts five guitar cases with old-fashioned travel stickers. At the bottom of the guitar case on the right is a travel sticker that says "Fly Mohawk."

In television[edit]

  • During the eighth season of Bewitched, in season 8, episode 12, "The Eight Year Itch Witch" (1971), a woman telephones Darrin's Albany hotel room posing as a Mohawk Airlines reservation agent and tells him the 11 o'clock flight is cancelled because of fog.[22]
  • Mohawk has been a recurring plot point in the AMC series Mad Men. In season 2, episode 1, "For Those Who Think Young" (2008) the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency worked on a campaign for Mohawk Airlines. In season 2, episode 2, "Flight 1" (2008), Sterling Cooper resigns the account in order to pursue an account with American Airlines, which is considering changing agencies in the aftermath of the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 in New York. Mohawk Airlines returns to the agency in season 5, episode 3, "Tea Leaves" (2012) and in season 6/episode 7, "Man With a Plan".
  • In the animated sitcom F is for Family, taking place in the early 1970s, the principal character, Frank, works for a parody of the airline, called Mohican Airways.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lehman, William. "US Airways: A Heritage Story". US Airways. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Biographical History. "Mohawk Airlines records". Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse University Libraries. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  3. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. May 6, 1971. 637.
  4. ^ "Zoning Map." Town of Whitestown. Retrieved on January 21, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Lewis, Walter David, ed. (2000), Airline Executives and Federal Regulation: Case Studies in American Enterprise from the Airmail Era to the Dawn of the Jet Age, The Ohio State University, ISBN 0-8142-0833-9
  6. ^ Conrad, Don (November 16, 2005). "Alaska's World: "Promoting Diversity: Flight attendants reach out to black community during trip to Harlem"". Alaska Airlines. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  7. ^ Higgins, Michelle (March 17, 2012), "63 Years Flying, From Glamour to Days of Gray", New York Times
  8. ^ Moody's Transportation Manual 1964
  9. ^ "Merger of 2 airlines OK'd". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. November 14, 1971. p. 11,s.
  10. ^ Isidore, Chris (February 14, 2013). "US Airways-American Airlines to merge".
  11. ^ Sloan, Perry A (November 12, 2006). "Mohawk airlines". Airtimes. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  12. ^ Aeromoe. "Mohawk". Aeromoe's Flyin'and Rail Grindin' Website!. Geocities. Archived from the original on October 22, 2009. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  13. ^ "BAC 1-11". rzjets. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  14. ^ "Convair CV-240". rzjets. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c "Convair CV-440". rzjets. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Douglas DC-3". rzjets. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  17. ^ "Fairchild F-27". rzjets. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  18. ^ "Martin 404". rzjets. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  19. ^ Charlton, Laura (January 27, 1972). "Hijacker with 3 Flees, then Lands and is Shot Dead". New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  20. ^ Database, Aviation Safety Network, January 26, 1972. Retrieved September 17, 2019
  21. ^ Koerner, Brendan I. (2013). The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking. New York: Crown. p. 90. ISBN 978-0307886101.
  22. ^ "Season 8, Episode 12 The Eight Year Itch Witch". Bewitched. IMDb. December 8, 1971.


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