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Safeway

April 2024
1min read


Many airlines flourished in the shadow of Transcontinental Air Transport during the rather chaotic days of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. William Voigt, Jr., of Blackshear, Georgia, worked for one of them, and was reminded of his experiences by the article on TAT in our December issue: My line was SAFE way, our nickname for Southwest Air Fast Express, Inc., with headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I, as a reporter for the Oklahoma City Times , was chosen as station agent for SAFE way at Oklahoma City, a position I held until October of 1930, when the line was sold to Universal, predecessor of American Airlines, and abandoned. I went in hoping to become public-relations chief of the line but functioned instead as station agent.

As soon as word got around the industry that TAT would furnish what we called air-rail transportation, SAFE way had to do the same to stay in business, and cooperative arrangements were made with the railroads. Our route would be New York to St. Louis overnight by rail, via SAFE way next day to Sweetwater, Texas, and thence to Los Angeles overnight via Texas Pacific Railroad.

Like TAT , we used Ford Trimotors, flying a fleet of twelve, powered first with Pratt & Whitney Wasps of 44o horsepower and later by P&W Hornets of higher power.

Our old airfield was not paved; we had a graveled north-south runway. Our office was at the northeast end of the field, where we got the heavy dust from the eternal south winds during spring, summer, and fall. And all winter long we got the aromatic breezes from the Oklahoma City stockyards. We called it our downwind office.

In our eighteen months of operation—April, 1929, to October, 1930— SAFE way carried a grand total of fortyeight thousand passengers. The great Oklahoma City oil field was in its heyday then, and sixteen thousand of the passengers originated their flights at my station. We never had a casualty, but there were some close calls. In one instance an outboard engine fell into a cornfield near Springfield, Missouri, necessitating an emergency landing at a small airfield there. Another time a pilot out of Wichita Falls, Texas, bound for my station, ran into trouble. He was flying an experimental plane in which 24-gauge aluminum alloy was being used instead of the heavier 22-gauge that had been standard. As the pilot gained altitude over Burkburnett the skin began peeling back over the cockpit. The copilot—whom we called “Mate” to the pilot’s “Captain”—herded the eight passengers back into the tail of the plane with the baggage, for stability, and the pilot brought the plane down safely in a watermelon patch.

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