Trans International Airlines

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Trans International Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded Pre-1947 (as Los Angeles Air Service)
Ceased operations September 30, 1986
Parent company Transamerica Corporation
Headquarters Oakland, California
Key people

Trans International Airlines (TIA) was an airline that offered charter service from and within the United States. It offered scheduled service operating as Transamerica Airlines in its last decade. Its headquarters were on the grounds of Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California.[1]


The first production Douglas DC-8 in service with TIA at London Gatwick Airport in 1966
TIA DC-10-30CF convertible passenger/cargo airliner at Frankfurt Airport in 1977

Future travel and entertainment mogul Kirk Kerkorian purchased Los Angeles Air Service, a small charter operator, in 1947 for $60,000. As tourism to Las Vegas, Nevada, boomed, so did the fortunes of the airline. From a single Douglas DC-3, the company expanded rapidly, adding Douglas DC-6s and Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellations, and it became the first charter airline to operate jet aircraft with the introduction of the Douglas DC-8 on trans-Pacific routes and Boeing 727 (later adding the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 747).

To better reflect its growing route structure, the airline was renamed Trans International Airlines in 1960. Between 1966 and 1986 TIA operated regular charter flights to Europe. Destinations were Paris Orly, London Gatwick, Brussels Zaventem and Frankfurt. TIA contributed to cheap transatlantic flights which did not exist at the time.

Boeing 747 of Transamerica at Zurich Airport

In 1962 the Studebaker Corporation quixotically purchased the airline, retaining Kerkorian as president. Financial circumstances forced it to sell TIA back to him in 1964. Kerkorian took the company public in 1965, then sold his interests in 1968 to insurance conglomerate Transamerica Corporation, profiting an estimated $85 million. He reinvested proceeds from the sale in Las Vegas property, notably the International Hotel.

Transamerica later purchased Universal Airlines and in December 1976, Saturn Airways, and merged their operations into TIA. The airline remained focused on charter and cargo operations until the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which gave it the opportunity to offer scheduled passenger service. In 1979 the airline was renamed Transamerica Airlines and on November 2 of that year it commenced scheduled transatlantic passenger flights to Shannon and Amsterdam.

Following the popular Alex Haley book Roots, Transamerica flew charter flights between New York and Africa known as the "Roots" program. Other popular programs were to the Caribbean, South America, and Hong Kong. The airline also flew more than a hundred flights for the Jeddah hajj pilgrimage wet leased on behalf of Union des Transports Aériens and Air Afrique.

During this time, the airline was under U.S. military contract and it operated a number of military charters. Most notable of these was the route that connected Clark Air Base, Philippines and Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to Travis Air Force Base, California during the late 1970s, using DC-8s. TIA was heavily involved in the transport of troops during the Vietnam, Angola, and Middle East conflicts and the relocation of refugees.

In the early 1980s, Transamerica Corporation (per stockholder reports) announced its intention to divest all holdings that were not financial in nature. Transamerica Airlines, among the top five profitable holdings, was divested in 1986. Although there were potential buyers, it was more profitable to sell the airline in pieces and parts. The airline was dissolved and ceased operations on September 30, 1986.

Following the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and the ensuing proliferation of new low-cost airlines, Transamerica Corporation incorporated a second airline, and re-activated the Trans International Airlines (TIA) name. The new TIA, flying DC-8-61 aircraft, was led by Robert R. Lindberg as Chairman and CEO, and William A. Hardenstine as President (the latter formerly of World Airways). TIA operated in the mid-1980s, and was based at Orlando International Airport (MCO), Florida. TIA was sold as a going concern at approximately the same time as the larger Transamerica Airlines divested its aircraft.


TIA was involved in a single fatal accident, involving a Douglas DC-8 N8963T ferry flight, with eight flight attendants and three cockpit crewmembers on board, en route from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Washington Dulles International Airport. On September 8, 1970 a foreign object became wedged between the right elevator and horizontal stabilizer, blown there by backwash from the aircraft preceding it on the taxiway. The problem was not detected, and the aircraft crashed upon takeoff with the loss of all 11 on board.

Following this incident, the FAA instituted new minimums between aircraft in line-up for take-off.

On June 24, 1968, two Frankfurt newspapers reported that a TIA flight between JFK and FRA on June 23, 1968, left shards of tire on the New York runway and caused an incident in Frankfurt whereby emergency vehicles were scrambled in anticipation of landing a DC-8 with one blown tire (outside tire of the right-side main gear). Ground personnel at JFK discovered pieces of rubber shortly after the DC-8 took off, after which the flight crew and authorities in Frankfurt were notified of the potential problem. The captain declined to inform passengers of the situation and landed the airliner in Frankfurt without incident. Mechanics replaced the destroyed tire and the aircraft was able to depart for New York at 4:00 pm the same day.[2][3]



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