The Flying Tiger Line

Second and biggest CL-44 operator

The Flying Tigers ordered 12 planes. In total did they operate 16 CL-44īs. The Tigers worked closely together with Seaboard which can be seen on the planes history. The Tiger specification number was CL-44D4-2.

Throughout most of the 1960s,Flying Tigers experienced extraordinary groth as the lone survivor of the 1949 Air Freight Case,and emerged as the formost all-cargo carrier. It received its permanent certification of U.S. Route 100 in 1962, and by 1969,had upgraded its propeller-driven piston-engine fleet to an entire pure jet freighter fleet.

In June,1958, the Tiger aircraft fleet was comprised of thirteen Super-Connies,and eleven C-46 Commandos. That year,the Company entertained thoughts of ordering the soon-to-be produced jet freighters, or,perhaps, the multi-functioned convertibles. However, during 1958, Tigers elected to order the less expensive turbo-props which they felt were better suited to thier medium-range operations and the company's budget. The cost of the CL-44 cargo aircraft produced by Canadair,Ltd., was about $3.8 millon at the time as compared with an estimated $7 millon projected for the upcoming Boeing 707 cargo jet. During the deceision-making process,FTL's Art Seymore, senior aviator,spent eight months test flying the CL-44D4 model before the acquisition, being that the Canadian manufacturer did not have available, at the time, any test pilots to perform the same.

The CL-44D4 aircraft had a load capacity of near 65,000 lbs. with a continental range, and used four Rolls-Royce Tyne engines. It was calculated to have a 40% operating cost advantage over the Super-Connies. With a prominent swing-tail design, the aircraft was an adaptation of the Brisol Britannia, and initally built to meet Royal Canadian Air Force(RCAF)requirement for long range troop and freight transport. Of twenty seven first produced,the first delivery of the CL-44D4s went to FTL starting May 31,1961, on an initial order of ten aircraft. Seaboard, the trans-Atlantic all-cargo carrier,ordered five CL-44D4s,and Slick Airways ordered four. Thus, all-cargo carriers were the predominant interested parties of the CL-44D4s.

For the cargo carriers, the CL-44Ds offered attractive features besides the price tag. The maxium payload was 63,272 lbs. as compared with the 42,500 lbs. maximum for the Super-Connie,and the cruise speed of 400 mph was about 100 mph faster. The CL-44D had a 3,100-mile range with full payload, or a 5,660-mile range with 37,300 lbs. using reserve fuel. In total, it was calculated to have a 40% operating cost advantage over the Super-Connie for the cargo operator. The structural advantages of the CL-44D for cargo operators was also readily apparent. The main cargo cabin was 98 ft. long,11 ft. wide,and almost 8 ft.high. The noticeable feature was the hinged tail section which could open and swing aside in a minute-and-a-half for direct(stright-in)loading,accommodating freight up to 84 ft. in length.

The first CL-44D arrived at Tigers Burbank terminal on june 2, 1961, from Montreal, Canada via New York. At this time, the old company insignia of the open-mouth tiger shark was formally changed to a giant encircled "T", which was painted on the tail sections. On July 16,FTL made its first trans-Pacific flight from Travis AFB to the far East.

Flying Tiger Line essentially followed a leap-frog strategy in cargo aircraft acquisition. By acquiring the relatively inexpensive four-engine turbo-prop freighter,it secured a competitive cost advantage over the piston engine freighters flown by the combination carriers. But when the combination airlines finally introduced the Boeing 707 and DC-8 freighters after 1963,the Tiger's cost advantage vanished.

At the end of 1965,FTL had a mixed fleet of sixteen CL-44D's, eight Super-Connies and two B707-349Cs. The Vietnam crisis was growing and Tigers ordered 10 DC-8-63s in 1967.

By George Gewehr president of Flying Tiger Line pilot association

For more information on The Flying Tiger Line please visit The Flying Tiger Line Pilots Assosiation: