On Schedule

by "Vista"

Just a month ago at this writing the United States entered the second World War; the repercussions of the happenings on the fateful December 8th on the remaining international airlines has been so profound that it is worth while to look into the situation further.

It has now become apparent that Pan American Airways was very thoroughly prepared for any such event — a clipper which was on its way to Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor received one word by radio, and promptly proceeded under wartime restrictions, landing at an emergency port instead of its usual destination. The preparedness of this company was further emphasized when another clipper arrived in New York after an epic flight around the globe — from New Zealand via India and Africa to North America. It is perhaps a pity that this flight had to be made under such conditions of absolute secrecy; the course followed more or less completed the last link in Pan American's round-the-world route, and if this country had not been busier with its victory program, more notice would undoubtedly have been given to the special trip. As it is, the safe homecoming of this clipper is a credit to the company, which, apart from the loss of an old Sikorsky S-42a at Hong Kong, does not appear to have lost any other equipment. For the time being the routes across the Pacific have been suspended, though it is expected that the connection with New Zealand will be reopened shortly to simplify travel to Java, where the high command for the Pacific will be located. All the other routes have either been increased or expanded, thanks to the happy fact that the last traces of Axis airlines in Latin America have been wiped off the map.

Only two companies were still operating under Axis auspices in South America, the Condor Lines, flying some 8500 miles of routes, and the Italian LATI, which maintained the last connection with Europe. The LATI suspended all operations some days before America entered the war; the Condor line tried desperately to continue services, but lack of fuel and oil, even though Condor offered Air France $20 per gallon of aviation gas, ended its life. The latest news about the Condor line appears to be that it has been taken over by the Brazilian Government, and will be completely controlled and operated by Brazilian interests.

Of the other airlines of the United Nations. those of the Australians, British, Netherlands and Netherlands Indies are still in operation, and the connection from Australia to the Near East and Egypt still seems to be possible, avoiding Malaya of course. Little actual news has been received about British Overseas Airways operations, but the Far East situation cannot have made too much impression, and services are probably operated from Rangoon direct to Sumatra and thence on to Singapore. The Netherlands airlines and the Australian Quantas each suffered a casualty — the KNILM lost a plane taking off at Medan by a Jap bomb; the KLM lost a DC-3, shot down by Japs between Singapore and Rangoon, and a Quantas' flying boat sank in an East Indian harbor with the loss of four lives due to causes unknown.

Going back to Europe — a general decrease in civil air lines has become very apparent there during the past months. Only the Swedish ABA and perhaps the Swissair are operating what might be called regular services, all other lines have become purely military and diplomatic connections, flown only when and if there is a need for their services. Apparently the German Lufthansa never got over the absolute cancellation order of last summer during the German invasion attempt of Russia — its manager has been placed at the head of an organization for transportation to the eastern front and most aircraft are in military use. About the same situation exists for the Finnish OY, the Hungarian Malert and the Rumanian Lares, while such local services as are being flown on Vichy orders can be discounted completely. The only lines which have still a semblance of commercial service are those connecting Germany and Italy with Lisbon, last neutral outlet from Europe.

This "On Schedule" column was published as a sidebar to the "Aviation Abroad" column in the February, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 2, p 294.