Southwest Air Fast Express

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Southwest Air Fast Express
Founded 1928
Parent company American Airlines
Headquarters Tulsa, Oklahoma
Key people Erle P. Haliburton, Zero Haliburton

Southwest Air Fast Express (SAFE), also known as S.A.F.E.way (no connection with the grocery chain of the same name), was a United States airline. It was founded by Erle P. Halliburton, also connected with the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company (now known as Halliburton), and Zero Halliburton, a briefcase manufacturer.

Founded in 1928 with Oklahoma oilmen as stockholders, Halliburton as the company president and C E Fleming as General Traffic Manager with general offices located in Tulsa, Oklahoma., S.A.F.E.way began offering Ford Tri-Motor service between St. Louis and Dallas on April 2, 1929. In June 1929 service was expanded to include Los Angeles and New York City. Operating for a little more than a year, the airline was purchased by American Airlines for $1,400,000.00 through a complicated agreement primarily to obtain the Contract Air Mail (CAM) 33 mail services contract won by Halliburton and Southwest Air Fast Express. American renamed the airline Southern Transcontinental Airways and operated the CAM-33 route under that name until June 30, 1931 when American Airways took over.[1]

Ford Trimotor at Smithsonian

Equipment operated was Ford Tri-Motor 5-ATs[2]—identified with "S.A.F.E.WAY AIR LINES" on their sides—and, during the company's brief operational life there was no reported injuries to passengers or personnel. The airline's most enduring legacy is one of the original aircraft now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. NC9683, the thirty-ninth 5-AT built by Ford, was sold to Southwest Air Fast Express on April 12, 1929 for $55,475 in cash. When American Airlines bought out the airline they acquired the Tri-motor in the process and during 1931 NC9683 flew the routes of Colonial Air Transport, a division of American. Later, it flew on the transcontinental route between Cleveland and Los Angeles. In May 1934 it was transferred to the Chicago base until it was retired from American in 1935.

In 1936 the airplane was sold to TACA International Airlines, and operated in Nicaragua for several years. In 1946 NC9683 was sent to Mexico, where it was used for passenger and cargo hauling until 1954, When it was resold to a crop-dusting company in Montana, but also flew a cargo route in Alaska until it was resold in Mexico. It finally ended up beside a small airfield in Oaxaca in use as someone’s living quarters with a wood-burning stove installed and a chimney stuck through the aluminum roof.

American Airlines re-acquired NC9683 in 1960 and restored her using here for public relations tours promoting the airline and was even used for the first regular commercial flight from the new Dulles International Airport, Virginia, in November 1962. At the close of its public relations career, it was donated to National Air and Space Museum, where it now hangs in the Air Transportation gallery.


  1. ^ Paul Stephen Dempsey, Andrew R. Goetz. Airline deregulation and laissez-faire mythology. p. 54. 
  2. ^ Popular Aviation: 5. September 1930.  Missing or empty |title= (help)