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Wild iconic flying legend set to return to the skies

January 12, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

One of the wildest and most controversial airlines in American history, a carrier that once loaded 268 passengers on a plane designed to carry 150 and then took off with the boarding ramp still attached to the aircraft, has announced a return to the skies using an all-Dreamliner fleet.

But first, a word of explanation. The famous take-off on that overloaded aircraft, with the loading stairs still attached to the plane and people clinging to it, was not an act of insane carelessness but an act of mercy and heroism.

The airline is World Airways and the celebrated flight of its B727-100 happened during the Vietnam War and was a rescue mission – the last airlift out of Da Nang in 1975 before North Vietnamese troops stormed the city. The unreal scene, which included World Airways’ president Ed Daly fending off passengers from the rear air-stairs as the plane took off under gunfire and grenade attack, was broadcast on the CBS Evening News.

Filmed from inside the plane, it makes for incredible viewing!

World Airways (an airline on which I’ve flown, incidentally) is now set to return to full operations – as a low-cost carrier running international services with an all-B787 Dreamliner fleet.

The larger-than-life Daly, its founder and chief, was a former semi-professional boxer who once described himself as the Wyatt Earp of the airline industry. Eyebrow-raising stories circulated about him, some true and others perhaps apocryphal. He was once said to have got everyone’s attention at a board meeting by riding into the boardroom on the back of a tame hog and firing a revolver into the ceiling.

In the 1970s, Daly triggered a fare war across the US by offering a one-way cross-country ticket for USD 99.

From its base in the delightfully named Peachtree City, Georgia, World Airways used to run a lot of secretive military charters. In the 1980s it also ran scheduled air services, cooperating with Continental Airlines to take Australians to the US and London, interlining in Honolulu. World’s DC-10s were a bit cramped and they visited offbeat airports like Baltimore and Kansas City, but they got me to London. The journey, Sydney to London, took three days.

The former World Airways. A B747 at Miami Airport in 1974 wearing the early red livery. The new incarnation of World Airways will have an all B787 Dreamliner fleet.

World Airways began operations on 29 March 1948 and closed down on 27 March 2014.

Daly said in 1980: “I own 82% of this airline. For every USD 100 million we lose, it costs me over USD 82 million. But I’m a man of wealth. It doesn’t bother me a damn bit.”

The airline is now gearing up to fly again in a new incarnation as the first long-haul low-cost carrier based in the US. World will operate B787 Dreamliners on routes from the US to Asia and Latin America. It plans to be based at Miami International Airport with initial operating hubs at MIA and LAX.

In confirming it had acquired the intellectual property of World Airways, Inc, US based investment firm 777 Partners described World as “the iconic US airline known for its worldwide operational capabilities”. World has begun discussions with Boeing for an initial order for up to 10 B787-aircraft.

USA Today, examining three new carriers on the US horizon, said it considered World Airways “would likely be the most significant for consumers” of the three.

“Low-fare service to southern parts of South America – notably Buenos Aires, Rio, Santiago and Sao Paulo – would fill a gap,” it said.

Ed Wegel, founding chief executive of World commented, “World has a rich and storied history dating back to 1948. It was once the world’s largest independent charter airline, and served the US military and other clients with great distinction for many years.

“Today, we are proud to begin preparations to launch scheduled operations from the US to Asia and Latin America. We will be partnering with low-cost, short-haul carriers in the US and in the regions we serve to provide connecting traffic to and from our initial planned gateways.”

Managing partner of 777 Partners, Josh Wander, said “777 Partners is humbled by the opportunity to participate in the relaunch of World, a seminal brand in the history of US commercial aviation. We are determined to pay proper homage to World’s rich heritage by delivering a transformative flying experience rooted in safety, technology and service, to the large segment of the travelling public historically priced out of international travel.”

Written by Peter Needham

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