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Location: Stratford, CT.
Occupation: Police Officer (retired)
|#41152 02-06-2012 GMT-5 hours|
Families getting back together is always nice to see. In the airline business it doesn't happen often but in 1988, Thai Airways and Thai International were reunited. The only drawback, as far as airline enthusiasts were concerned, was the virtual overnight disappearance of the (2) beautiful Thai Airways Corporation "Lotus" A310's!
Thai Airways Corporation was born out of the 1951 merger of Siamese Airways and Pacific Overseas Airlines (Siam) Ltd. POAS had been 49% owned by U.S. investor William D. Davis and had routes to Singapore, Hong Kong and Toyko using (2) DC-4's. With Bangkok's position as the gateway into Southeast Asia, the timing for the new Thai Airways couldn't have been better. By 1953, the DC-4's had extended TAC's primary Hong Kong route onto Taipei and Tokyo.
In 1953, Thai Airways placed an order for their 1st new A/C, when (2) L-1049G's were ordered but due to their financial situation, the Super 'G's were sold to KLM prior to delivery. In 1956, with the help of the U.S. International Co-operation Administration's $2 million grant, TAC again placed an order with Lockheed for (3) Super 'G's.
Final assembly of the Thai Super 'G's was being completed as the initial L-1649A 'Starliner' production was beginning.
(I can only imagine what an incredible time it must have been in the 1956-58 period as both California-based Douglas and Lockheed were producing numerous A/C types; DC-6A/B, DC-7/B & 'Seven-Seas', while Lockheed was assembling Super 'G's, L-1049H's and the new 'Starliners'!)
By the spring of 1957, the TAC Super 'G's were moved outside for the final work.
While the Thai L-1049G's were finishing up their flight testing, trouble with the contract was beginning.
The U.S. ICA grant specified that Pan American was to handle the technical assistance and operations and it turned out the the Thai government felt the fees to P.A.A. were too high and Thai officials began negotiations with Northwest Orient to take over the assistance part of the contract. The U.S. CAB blocked NWO from getting involved and the (3) Super 'G's would remain parked in Bangkok. It was at this time that SAS joined the dispute. Looking to expand into Asian markets, SAS came up with a solution that seemed to benefit everyone. SAS paid off the $2 million to the U.S. ICA, the Super 'G's were leased to Aerovias Guest S.A. and SAS would take over TAC's international routes, leasing (3) DC-6B's to it's newly formed Thai International, with the Thai government taking a 70% ownership. Though Thai Airways lost a family member, the relationship would remain close as TAC would remain a critical 'feeder' for Thai International flights. The TAC fleet would consist of (1) DC-4 and (7) DC-3's until 1964 when their 1st 'new' A/C was ordered and actually enter service!
The initial HS 748 order was for (3) and these arrived in 1964. The '748's would become so popular that an additional (3) would arrive in '68 and the final (3) in '71. The new color scheme would consist of a Blue stripe, edged in a 2nd thin Blue stripe. The now 'classic' "Thai Airways" script would continue to be used. For those boarding Thai's domestic flights in the 1960's, the attractive Thai Stewardess's, definitely didn't detract from the experience!
The 1967 route map shows the Thai domestic network with the only outside route being in Malaysia.
The period between the (2) OPEC-oil crisis's (1974-78) was a time when financial credit was at it's peak. It would be during this period that most of the prop-liner airlines that wanted to go to Jets had their best chance. Thai Airways took the opportunity in 1976, when they turned to Boeing and ordered (2) 737's.
Though it was great to see the 1951 "Thai" script on a 737 airbrush, it was probably time for a new look and the airline followed the path of it's now former BIG-brother Thai International, turning to the Landor Group for an airline re-branding. The Pink-Gold-Red 'Lotus' scheme was created as a companion to Thai International's 'Orchid'!
What was delivered in October 1977, was dramatic to say the least! Load factors on the new 737-2P5 (HS-TBA) were high right from the beginning ( the 2nd -2P5 arrived in'79). A typical early 737 flight was from Don Muang (Bangkok) to the growing city of Chiang (55 min). This route was flown (4) times a day.
By 1979, the 'Asian Boom' was beginning to take hold. Between increased travel and the discovery of onshore and offshore Oil and Natural Gas deposits, Thai needed a larger A/C than the long-serving HS 748's.
(most of the  748's would remain in the O/C's)
The problem was the A/C was too small for the airline to maintain profitability as a 'feeder' aircraft. The solution would be found in the ungainly but profitable Shorts 330!
(no color scheme could make this A/C look attractive but the 'lotus' did it's best!)
(4) Shorts 330's arrived in 1982-83, allowing Thai to say goodbye to the DC-3 and some of the HS 748's. There was a dramatic increase during the 1983-85 period. By this time there were (4) 737-2P5's in service, the 5th and final (HS-TBE) was delivered in '84. This particular 737 seems to have been painted in slightly different tones, compared to the others. Was able to find other photos of -TBE and they all show this difference but it appears this was a 'one-off' paint job. Sadly, (2) of the 737's would be lost in landing accidents with the loss of life being (16 crew - 78 passengers....1985/87.)
By 1985, Thai began the search for a larger A/C than the 737. Initially looking at the 757 "too narrow", then turning to Airbus. The A310 seemed to be best choice, as Thai's pilots (about 50 in 1985) could use the soon-to-be purchased Thai International A300-600 simulator for their new A310 crews.
On March 29, 1985, the order for (2) A310-200's was placed. If you thought the 'Lotus' looked great on a 737, it would really be impressive on the A310! Speaking of looking great, the 'Pink Ladies' of Thai Airways were a welcome addition on TAC flights!
As with most modern airliners, the tail gets painted and balanced early on.
(this part of the Airbus facility always looked like the A/C were being built in an alleyway between apartment buildings!)
On April 29, 1986, the 1st (HS-TIA) arrived in Thailand. Thai's A310's were one of the first to be outfitted with wing-tip fences.
The (2) A310-204's (the 2nd arrived in November '86) took over the Bangkok-Chiang Mai 737 route in the North and the Phuket-Hat Yai in the South.
By 1988, Thai Airways (Thai government) had enough money and clout to buy back the 30% of SAS ownership, making one the the rare times when a domestic carrier bought an international airline! The seemless family reunification took place on April 1, 1988.
Based on the few in service Thai Airways 'Lotus' A310 photos, these A/C rank right up there with the mythical Unicorn sightings!
Though it was nice to see the Thai family get back together, the short-lived TAC A310 will be remembered by those who had a 'fleeting glance'.........John3 (Thanks to Airliners.net, FlightInternational.com 'archives', Bill Demarest/Airline Postcard Database.com, Bjorn Larsson/Timetableimages.com, www-Thai-Aviation.net, Zoggavia.com, www.Airport-Data.com, gconnex.com, Air-Britain Photogrphic Images.com Photographers: Mel Lawrence, Hank Geerlings, Tony McGhee, Robbie Shaw & 'Propfreak').
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|#41155 02-06-2012 GMT-5 hours|
What amazing research... I love those 737-200's
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