TWA main focus of KC airline museums

IMG_3914 Kansas City was once home to a major American Airline. Trans World Air called KC home from 1925 until 2002, when it merged with American Airlines. TWA played such a major role in Kansas City history that two museums cover it. One is a dedicated TWA Museum, while the second is the Airline History Museum (which includes other airline history). Both museums are located on the grounds of the downtown airport. The airport, which was once the main airport in Kansas City, is surrounded by the Missouri River on three  sides. The downtown airport was replaced by Kansas City International northwest of the city. The downtown airport is now home to privately-owned aircraft.

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The TWA Museum is located in the Signature Building. The museum is small, but full of airline history. Models of several airplanes flown by TWA are on display.

IMG_3745 - Copy In addition, uniforms worn by both pilots and airline attendants are on display. The attendants’ uniforms changed throughout the almost eight decades the airline was in service. IMG_3768 - Copy At one point, attendants wore paper outfits. Yes, I said paper. They were designed to “honor” some of the countries that TWA flew to. A gold dress recognized France. IMG_3759 - Copy Apparently, the paper uniforms required a lot of maintenance; i.e., tape. Tape was used to take care of any rips in the dress, according to our guide. If they ran out of tape, attendants resorted to using tape that sealed containers, such as the alcohol boxes. The 1960s and 70s brought a lot of color to the attendants’ wardrobe. Brightly colored dresses were worn by the crew. IMG_3806 - Copy As the airline came into more “modern” times and men started working as attendants, a more conservative uniform was designed. TWA sought to improve airline travel in the early days. The company was the first to promote the “two-day” transcontinental flight. Can you imagine being happy with a flight across country taking “only” two days? The flight would take off from Glendale, Arizona. It included multiple flights and two train rides. IMG_3833 - Copy TWA was also a major player in the airliner “wars.” Be it the DC 1, DC2 or DC3, TWA sought to out fly its competitors. IMG_3763 - Copy The Lockheed Constellation was the primary focus of civilian airlines following World War II. The Constellation was built for military use originally. TWA was the first airline to own a Constellation, nicknamed “Connie.” It was the first civilian airliner to fly across the Atlantic when TWA completed a Washington DC to Paris trip Dec. 3-4, 1945. IMG_3801 - Copy TWA endured a major loss when Flight 800 crashed following take-off in New York in 1996. All 230 souls were lost. For more information on the museum, visit its website at

Following our visit at the TWA Museum, we made our way to the National Airline History Museum, which was about a quarter-mile away. The Airline Museum has a lot of TWA memorabilia, as well. However, it does have other exhibits. IMG_3861 - Copy The museum’s lobby looks like a small airport waiting area. A mannequin dressed in a ground crew uniform stands nearby. The museum has a cool theater. The seats are from an old airplane. In checking out the small exhibit area, we checked out an old airmail pilot exhibit. In an attempt to have non-stop airmail (can you believe we once had that? It did cost extra), mail planes tried using a hardened canister. It would hang from a hook. The pilot would fly low to the ground, drop the canister and then use the hook to pick up a new canister from the ground. I had a personal flashback to my first international flight. April 1979, from Charleston SC to Frankfurt, West Germany. Yep, Germany was divided in half back in the day. I was assigned to Spangdahlem Air Base for my first Air Force station. IMG_3847 - Copy We flew Braniff Airlines. The museum had a picture of a Braniff jet. It also had a pilot and attendant uniform on display. Ah, the memories. IMG_3845 - Copy In the hangar sat three old TWA planes. They are currently in states of refurbishment. The museum has a kick starter fund campaign to help restore “Douglas,” a former TWA DC3. IMG_3866 - Copy The plan is to restore the plane and have it available for flights. People who donate $250 or more will get a museum membership and a flight on the plane around the Kansas City area, according to John Roper, who was kind enough to give us a tour of the museum. The restoration is time and resource involved. The fuselage was found on a ranch in New Mexico. They obtained the wings elsewhere. IMG_3880 - Copy A second plane on display is a DC3 “Connie.” The plane offers a glimpse into the history of flying, when it was a luxury than a necessity. People dressed up for such flights. The plane had an overhead area for men to put coats and hang their hats, John told us. IMG_3917 Seats had ashtrays. Huh? Yep, back when this plane flew, smoking was allowed on planes. They also had non-smoking areas, but really, how did that prevent secondhand smoke? The Airline Museum is working on another special project for 2015. The staff is planning special events to honor the B-25, which was built across the river in Kansas. Next year will mark the 85th anniversary of the first of the bombers. About 6,800 were built in the Kansas City area. For more information on the Airline Museum, visit its website at IMG_3940 In the end, we had a fun time visiting both airline museums. They had interesting information and they were both quick trips. So, when in Kansas City, maybe take a drive along Highway 169 to the downtown airport and check out both museums. You’ll enjoy the nostalgia.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Kansas City Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Airline Museum for the complimentary visit. All opinions and views are mine.