Friday, September 28, 2007

Powel Crosley's Airline

Powel Crosley, Jr. and Junky Fleischmann (aka Julius Fleischmann, Jr., of the yeast and whiskey family) were members of the same Cincinnati polo team, headquartered in the rural area northeast of the city, known as Indian Hill. They played regularly in the mid-1920s, and Powel kept his horses at Junky's Camargo stables, conveniently adjacent to the polo field and Junky's new country estate. They got to know one another well enough to decide to get involved in a couple of businesses.

First was the Metal Aircraft Company. Powel and Junky each put up more than $100,000 to become vice-presidents of the company, which would manufacture the "Flamingo" series of all-metal aircraft. (The designer was a veteran of Stout, the company that created the Ford Tri-Motor.) They set up a factory at Lunken Airport (same place as Aeronca) and started taking orders. Perhaps the orders weren't coming in quickly enough, or the guys were just really into aviation (Powel already had an airport to the north, where he was designing and building airplanes), but they decided to create a market for the Flamingo. They started an airline.

Specifically, it was the Mason & Dixon Air Lines (two words, with an ess at the end). The airline was incorporated on June 19, 1929, and soon began daily service to Detroit, and was all set to expand into the Southeast and create an aviation network into South America. In support of this, they bought an aircraft service company and a large field near Dayton.

But in October, 1929--just days before the stock market crash, they sold the whole enterprise--airline, airplane factory, everything. Did they have some sense of the coming disaster? It's difficult to say. Fleischmann went off with his family to sail around the world on his yacht, the Camargo, and Powel went back to broadcasting, radio manufacturing, and refigeration. He remained an aviation enthusiast and continued his work on Moonbeams, but it wasn't long before that enterpise faded away. Powel operated private aircraft up through the early 1950s, and was an early investor in Pan Am and later a major stockholder in TWA, but never again did he get into aircraft as a business. Through a series of merges, the company that bought the Mason & Dixon Air Lines went on to become American Airlines.
(For more info on Mason & Dixon, Crosley aircraft, Lunken Airport, and Aeronca. check out the Aerofiles Web site.)
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks


JimBo said...

That's one I never heard. Yet another connection between Crosley and what became a successful business.

Thanks Mike.


Michael A. Banks said...

I believe Powel sas an early investor in Pan Am, as he knew Juan Tripp. In the 1950s, he was a major shareholder in TWA.

I neglected to say why Fleischmann was called "Junky." It was because he collected nearly anything. When he returned from his year-long trip around the world in the 200-ft. yacht Camargo, it was loaded with anthropological and other specifmens. He also mapped certain areas of the South Pacific in which the U.S. Navy was interested.