Welcome to the first Flashback Fridays of 2011, and as most of you may know, this year marks Southwest Airlines’ 40th Anniversary. From time to time throughout the year, I will be sharing information and photos from 1971, and we start that off today. But, before we do, I have an extra credit question that won’t win you anything other than pride in having a correct answer: What other major domestic transportation company was born in 1971? (answer below, but don’t cheat)
For that first year, our airplanes wore a unique livery and carried the word, “Airlines,” on the tail. From what I can tell, that practice was done by mid 1972, and with the exception of the two batches of 727s, all of our aircraft have worn “Southwest” by itself on the tail ever since. With that being true, the photo above probably dates from 1971, and I am guessing it was taken either before we started flying or in the first month of flying. Why do I say that? The 737-200 was notorious about having stained skin on the fuselage behind the engines because of its thrust reverser system. Big clamshell doors would throw dirt and engine exhaust onto the fuselage, and the area behind the wing always looked dirty. Since the aft fuselage is still relatively untouched on the aircraft, it is a new airframe. Also the three Flight Attendants (Hostesses back then) are wearing the original uniforms with hot pants and go-go boots. The location appears to be in front of our original hangar on the north side of Love Field. It looks as though the Flight Attendant is pointing to the sky, so this raises the question: Was the photo taken before the courts okayed our operation, and is she saying “one day, we will be up there?”
The next photo was taken sometime before 1974 because it shows our operation on the North Concourse, our home until the DFW Airport opened in January 1974. This photo has more questions than answers. First off, the guy to the right is wearing what looks like a cap worn by the French Foreign Legion. What is he doing in the photo? He appears to be talking to the man in the jumpsuit coming around the front of the aircraft. Then there is the Flight Attendant talking to the man with the dress shirt and tie in front of the cargo bin. Could this have been an early mechanical, since the aircraft is parked away from the concourse? My best guess is that the aircraft was parked remotely due to our two gates being full and the guy with the Legion cap is a fueler, with the man in the jumpsuit being a Mechanic. When I played with the contrast, it looks as though a grounding cable for fueling is attached to the gear door cover.
And speaking of questions, the answer to my quiz in the first paragraph is Amtrak. The quasi-government organization took over the operation of the nation’s passenger trains on May 1, 1971.