Black Owned Airlines




Black Owned Airlines  

While African American pilots continued to pound on the doors of commercial aviation, there were Black entrepreneurs that started up and own their own company providing Airline, Air Charter service and flight schools.



Wheeler Flying Service: Warren Wheeler opened a flying service in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham Airport in 1969. At the time a modest business, it consisted of one airplane and one employee Wheeler. In the mid-'70s the Flying Service had grown into a prosperous company with 11 air- craft, 31 employees and total sales approaching $1 million. The airplanes were Cessna 402 and Aerostars. It flew commuters to six East Coast cities, including Charlotte and Norfolk, Virginia.

One of Wheeler's pilots went on to become the first Black female pilot (Jill Brown) for a major commercial airline. Wheeler's interest in flying began at the age of 15, By 18 he had a private pilot's license. His first commercial job was with Piedmont Airlines as a flight officer. That lasted only three years when he left to start his own aviation company. Wheeler financed the venture through the Small Business Administration and the Coastal Plains Regional Commission.


Air Atlanta: Billed as the "Airline Born to Serve Business" when it began in February of 1984, Air Atlanta was started not by an aviator, but by an attorney who saw a great opportunity. Michael Hollis was graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia School of Law, and a practicing lawyer when he set out in 1981 to establish an airline in Atlanta.

He received initial backing from the National Alliance of Federal and Postal Employees, a Black union whose pension fund committed $500,000 to invest as venture capital. After securing this funding, Hollis also was able to secure backing from the Equitable Life Assurance Society ($15 million) and the Aetna Life Insurance Company ($7.7 million). Air Atlanta had nearly $90 million in start-up funding by the time it took to the skies in 1984.

The airline started with fi0 pilots, many of whom were recruited from established carriers like Continental and Braniff, and 50 flight attendants, many of them solicited as raw recruits from newspaper ads, and mechanics and support staff. At one point during Air Atlanta, three year existence, its non-union employee staff numbered 400. Hollis purchased an initial aircraft fleet of five Boeing 727s. Normally able to hold over 100 passengers, the planes were outfitted with wider, roomier seats amounting to only 88. Gourmet meals were served on china accompanied by cloth napkins. Passengers waiting to board were offered courtesy editions of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Air Atlanta flew some three million passengers during its service life, most of which were business travelers. Its routes included New York, Memphis and Miami. Internal problems, corn- petition and lack of consistent cash flow helped bring the early demise of the first major commercial airline company owned by an African American.


Spectrum Airlines -

Air-Speed, Inc -

Caribbean Air Service, Inc. - Began operations out of Opa Locka Airport, Miami, Florida back in 1997 (C-50262) as a part 135 carrier flying Piper Navajo Chieftains. Its owner was Mr. Dana Murphy an Afro-American who was born and raised in Boston Massachusetts (read more).



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