The Era Of The Propeller Plane

Gökçen Ata October 2013


Pervaneli Yıllar
Pervaneli Yıllar

It was the 1930’s. A time when long journeys in Turkey were made by train and ship. But the young Turkish Republic had decided to seek its future in the skies. The State Airlines Administration was formed in 1933 and the first Turkish passenger planes began to appear overhead. There was a total of five planes of three types in that original fleet: two Junkers F 13’s, two King-Birds and a Tupolev ATN-9. Among them, the Junkers was the world’s first plane made entirely of metal. It could carry four passengers and two pilots and fly at a speed of 150 km/h. The King-Birds, which had been bought from the U.S.A., could carry five passengers. The biggest plane in the fleet was the ten-seat Tupolov ATN-9, which had come to Turkey as a gift from the Soviet Union on the 10th anniversary of the Republic. The first flight took place between Eskişehir and Ankara on February 3, 1933. One of the King-birds started its engines, the propellers began to turn, and the plane slowly became airborne. What the passengers on this plane taking off from Eskişehir and bound for Ankara with the Turkish flag on its tail or those waving down below felt, who knows? Although people at the time had traveled by train, ship and car, planes were still a rarity. But it was on that day, and with that flight, that this exciting adventure commenced, which would become such a source of pride for the country. The first scheduled flights were on the Ankara-Eskişehir-Istanbul route. And they were made with these planes.
The first de Havillands were purchased in 1936, and over time their Express, Domini and Dragon versions also joined the fleet. Biplanes with landing gear like bell-bottom trousers, these planes were quite beautiful to behold. These planes’ wings and bodies were metallic in color with only red stripes. The words “State Airlines” appeared originally on the nose of the Havilland DH89’s.
The Junkers 52’s joined the fleet in 1944. Seat capacity eventually rose to 185 in these originally 17-passenger planes with one propeller on each wing and another on the nose. But the real leap forward occurred in 1945 when 30 Douglas DC-3’s were purchased, bringing the total number of aircraft to 52 and the number of seats to 845. Flights, too, which until then had been made to only three cities, were upped now to 19. Like their predecessors, the DC-3’s were also metallic in color, but they were decorated with thin red stripes and the words “State Airlines” on the fuselage in both Turkish and English.
In 1955 seven Heron H2’s arrived. This was a four-engine plane with 14 seats. On May 21 of that year, the national airline was renamed Turkish Airlines (Türk Hava Yolları), and the name would now be inscribed on the plane’s fuselage. Then, in 1958, the fleet was further expanded with the purchase of five Viscount 794’s. Used on international flights especially, the Viscounts not only marked the transition from the piston engine to the jet engine but also ushered in the period of the legendary ‘pajama’ stripe design on the fuselage. Since the airline had no logo to begin with, only a Turkish flag was painted on the tail of the aircraft.
Passengers made the acquaintance of the Fokker F-27 in 1960, when it was decided to expand the domestic routes and to do so with planes fitted with the latest innovations. The F-27 was chosen following careful market research. A high-wing plane, these 40-seaters gave passengers with window seats a much better view of the earth below.
Taken on lease when a jet failed to be delivered on time, the DC-7B was another plane that joined the fleet in 1967, and passengers flew on this 70-seater hulk of an aircraft for three months.
Turning exclusively to jet aircraft in 1967, Turkish Airlines purchased no more propeller planes after the F-27’s. When the last F-27’s were retired from the fleet in 1973, the path was cleared for jets for the next ten years. The 50-seater Dash 7’s leased in 1983 served for three years, and when the contract expired Turkish Airlines closed the propeller plane chapter of its history. People who are old enough remember those planes. They boarded a nd flew on them. Those who did not saw them in the sky and heard their roar. Perhaps they weren’t as fast and comfortable as the planes
of today, but today’s pleasant flights
would never have been possible,
without them.