What Happened To US Carrier World Airways?
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What Happened To US Carrier World Airways?

At one point, World Airways was one of the largest and most diverse airlines on the planet. Yet,…

At one point, World Airways was one of the largest and most diverse airlines on the planet. Yet, suddenly in March of 2014, it ceased to exist. Today, we will take a look at World Airways and see what went so wrong. During its existence, World Airways performed just about every role there is in the aviation industry, and while this helped make it successful, it is also why it ultimately failed.

World Airways DC-10
World Airways concentrated on air freight. Photo: Brorsson via Wikimedia

When the United States joined the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of men needed to be sent to Europe to help Britain fight the Axis powers. To help accomplish this, the United States government requisitioned planes belonging to private companies. Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper flying boats thus entered military service to transport newly trained troops from America to the United Kingdom. One of the pilots of these flying boats was a young man named Benjamin Pepper.

World Airways was founded in 1948

When the war ended, Pepper continued flying the planes for Pan Am. However, now getting a bit long in the tooth and with land runways were available, Pan Am decided to retire its flying boats. Pepper entered into negotiations to buy the flying boats from Pan Am and founded World Airways on March 29, 1948.

Initially, his plan to use the aircraft to deliver mail and carry passengers worked but dropped off in the 1950s due to airports opening near large cities. Fortunately for Pepper, the Great Lakes, Beroviche Steamship Company was looking to expand into aviation and purchased his fledgling airline. Despite retiring the Clippers for newer aircraft, the shipping company was out of its depths and decided to sell the airline and concentrate on what it did best.

Ed Daly buys World Airways for $50,000

A 26-year-old entrepreneur named Ed Daly buys World Airways for $50,000 and immediately acquires Douglas DC-4 airliners for the airline. World Airways expanded further in the next two decades, mainly flying on government contracts, entering the jet age with Boeing 707 and 727 aircraft. When the Vietnam war started in the 1960s, the US needed to transport troops to Saigon and used World Airways as its main contractor. From 1963 until the war ended in 1975, World Airways flew millions of tons of equipment and thousands of men from the United States to Vietnam.

World_Airways_Boeing_747-4H6(BDSF)_N740WA_(6405362963)
World Airways invested in Boeing 747s. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia

Following the airline industry’s deregulation in 1978, World Airways decided that it did not want to compete with other airlines for passengers and just become a cargo operator. During the 1980s, business was brisk leading World Airways to retire its Boeing 707s and 727s and invest in Boeing 747-200s and Douglas DC-10 trijets.

Because things were going so well for World Airways, Daly decided to expand into other areas and not just concentrate on air freight despite his early thoughts on the matter. As the airline started offering passenger flights, Daly’s earlier fears materialized with the commercial aviation industry proving too competitive. Daly now began to look at other ways to bring in revenue to make up the money the airline had lost.

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The Gulf War was World Airways savior

Thinking that they could increase revenue during peak travel periods, World Airways started to offer high-volume charter flights from large US cities to destinations in Europe. Once more, military contracts proved to be World Airways’ savior, with the first Gulf War proving to be very lucrative for the airline. At the same time, as it was growing wealthy again on government contracts, World Airways expanded by wet leasing several of its planes. By the 2000s, military agreements and wet leasing accounted for all of World Airways’ revenue.

World Airways DC-10
Military contracts were World Airways’ specialty. Photo: Don Teft via Military Service Digital Photographic Files

In 2006 World Airways was sold to a holding company called World Air Holdings to streamline the operations. It failed, and World Air Holdings was sold to ATA Holdings for $315 million despite their best efforts. Having lost its military contracts and the onset of the Great Recession, the airline struggled by staying in business. However, once things stabilized, mismanagement reared its ugly head again, forcing the airline to cease all operations and enter liquidation on March 27, 2014.

Did you ever fly on World Airways? If so, please tell us what it was like in the comments.

Source: https://simpleflying.com/world-airways-what-happened/

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