The Heyday of Propeller Airliners(1941-1958)

"The local service carrier stands in a very special personal relationship with the community it serves..."

- Sir George Edwards, managing director of British Aircraft Corporation

Regional Service

Local Airlines Regional Service Map
National Air and Space Museum Archives

United, American, Eastern, and TWA dominated the major transcontinental routes, while smaller airlines served specific areas of the country.

Beyond the "big four" major carriers, a few other large airlines-Delta, Braniff, Western, Continental, and Northwest-provided service to particular regions. Federal regulators limited competition between them by preventing their territories from overlapping, except on heavily traveled routes.

After 1955 a new category of smaller airlines providing local service gained official recognition. These so-called regional airlines brought airline service to hundreds of small cities.


Aircraft for Regional Airlines

American Airlines Convair 240
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Regional airlines operated the same large aircraft as the "big four" airlines. But for short- to medium-length routes, they used smaller aircraft as well.

After World War II, the major airlines began looking for a replacement for the venerable DC-3. American Airlines led the way by cooperating in the development of the Convair 240. The Martin 2-0-2, which first flew with Northwest, was designed to compete with the 240.

Improved models followed and helped fill the need for smaller airliners flying shorter routes.

Western Air Lines Convair 240
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The pressurized, 40-seat Convair 240 brought a new level of comfort and productivity to American Airlines' secondary routes. The 240 and its stretched 340 and 440 versions proved popular among major, secondary, and local-service airlines.

Martin Model 4-0-4, Eastern Airlines
Lockheed Martin

The Martin 2-0-2 debuted in 1947. However, serious technical flaws in the wing structure limited its usefulness. Redesigned with an improved wing and a pressurized fuselage, the Martin 4-0-4 served with distinction with TWA, Eastern, and other airlines.