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The airline was founded in 1945 as Robinson Airlines by aerial photographer C. S. Robinson as a business of Robinson Aviation, completing its first passenger flight on April 6. The operation was based out of Ithaca Municipal Airport near Ithaca, New York, flying single-engine, three-passenger Fairchild F-24s. After the end of World War II, the Fairchilds were supplemented with two Cessna T-50s, and in 1946 the entire fleet was replaced with Beechcraft Model 18s.
To keep the airline flying, Robinson secured investments from a variety of local sources, notably Ithaca Enterprises, a nonprofit organization responsible for bringing new businesses to Ithaca; the Cooperative Grange League Federation Exchange (now part of Agway), a farmers cooperative that had been organized by members of The Grange, and Cornell University. Most significant was the involvement of Edwin Albert Link, creator of the Link Trainer. Link lent the airline $75,000 to purchase three used Douglas DC-3s-- but also removed control of the company from Robinson, making pilot Robert Peach its general manager. In 1948 the Civil Aeronautics Board certified the airline as a local service carrier, awarding a variety of routes in the Mohawk Valley region. The airline adopted the slogan Route of the Air Chiefs, and painted a blue and red logo of an Indian chief on its tails.
In 1952 Robert Peach purchased a controlling share of the airline, and Robinson removed himself from day-to-day operations. The board adopted the name Mohawk Airlines; in 1953 it carried 2 million passengers between 15 airports and had revenue of $24.3 million. The following summer it experimented briefly with helicopter service, connecting Newark, New Jersey and Grossinger's Resort in the Catskill Mountains with a Sikorsky S-55. (The July 1954 OAG shows 13 flights a week each way between Newark and Liberty Airport 41°48?N74°42?W / 41.80°N 74.70°W / 41.80; -74.70; fare $18 one way plus tax.) More successfully, the airline introduced Convair 240s on 1 July 1955, becoming the first local service carrier with pressurized aircraft. In 1956, having outgrown its facilities in Ithaca, it moved its corporate offices to Utica.
When hired by Mohawk Airlines in December 1957, Ruth Carol Taylor became the first African-American flight attendant in the United States. Six months after breaking one historic barrier, Ruth Taylor's career ended due to another barrier: the airline's marriage ban, a common practice among airlines of the day. Airlines often dismissed flight attendants who married or became pregnant.
In 1961 Mohawk was the first airline to use a centralized computer-based reservation service, and in 1965 the first regional airline to use flight simulators. Mohawk upgraded its fleet with the BAC One-Eleven in 1965, becoming the first regional airline to fly jets.
Mohawk's golden age was the late 1950s and early 1960s; it acquired the Convair 440 in 1958, and Martin 4-0-4s were added in 1960. The last DC-3 flights were in 1962; Mohawk ended Convair piston flights in 1969 and mainly flew the BAC One-Eleven and the Fairchild Hiller FH-227. Like other local service airlines, Mohawk was subsidized; in 1962 operating "revenues" totaled $23.3 million including $4.6 million "federal subsidy".
In May 1968, Mohawk served 38 airports, from Boston and Washington, D.C. to Detroit. From 1968 to 1971, labor and economic issues bled Mohawk financially. Unable to pay creditors at the end of that period, Mohawk began merger discussions with Allegheny Airlines, and merged into Allegheny on 12 April 1972. Allegheny changed its name to USAir in 1979, and later to US Airways. Following bankruptcies and a later merger with America West Airlines in 2005, US Airways purchased American Airlines in 2015 and assumed operations under the American Airlines name and logo.
Mohawk Airlines Flight 452 from Albany to LaGuardia Airport in New York City was hijacked and diverted to Westchester County Airport. The hijacker permitted the 42 passengers aboard to disembark there while he negotiated his demand for $200,000 cash. After several hours on the ground with the hijacker holding a flight attendant at gunpoint, Mohawk met his demands and the crew then flew the FH-227 airplane with the hijacker to Dutchess County Airport, landing after 3 a.m.. As the 45-year old hijacker attempted to flee the airport in a getaway car, he was killed instantly by a shotgun blast from an FBI agent .
3 March 1972
Mohawk Airlines Flight 405 (another FH-227) crashed into a house in Albany, New York on approach to Albany County Airport. The crew had difficulty getting the cruise lock to disengage in one of the engines. While the crew attempted to deal with the problem, the aircraft crashed short of the airfield, killing 16 of the 48 people in the aircraft and one person on the ground. The lone surviving crew member was a stewardess, Sandra Quinn.
In popular culture
On Chicago's album, Chicago III (1971), the group recorded the song "Flight 602." Later that year, on the live album, Chicago at Carnegie Hall, the group announced that the title referred to a Mohawk flight from New York to Toronto.
The photo on the back cover of the supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys', first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988), depicts five guitar cases with old-fashioned travel stickers. At the bottom of the guitar case on the right is a travel sticker that says "Fly Mohawk."
During the eighth season of Bewitched, in season 8, episode 12, "The Eight Year Itch Witch" (1971), a woman telephones Darrin's Albany hotel room posing as a Mohawk Airlines reservation agent and tells him the 11 o'clock flight is cancelled because of fog.
Mohawk has been a recurring plot point in the AMC series Mad Men. In season 2, episode 1, "For Those Who Think Young" (2008) the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency worked on a campaign for Mohawk Airlines. In season 2, episode 2, "Flight 1" (2008), Sterling Cooper resigns the account in order to pursue an account with American Airlines, which is considering changing agencies in the aftermath of the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 in New York. Mohawk Airlines returns to the agency in season 5, episode 3, "Tea Leaves" (2012) and in season 6/episode 7, "Man With a Plan".
In the animated sitcom F is for Family, taking place in the early 1970s, the principal character, Frank, works for a parody of the airline, called Mohican Airways.
^ abLewis, Walter David, ed. (2000), Airline Executives and Federal Regulation: Case Studies in American Enterprise from the Airmail Era to the Dawn of the Jet Age, The Ohio State University, ISBN0-8142-0833-9CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)