Turner Fleet in 1950 at Indianapolis           

In the Beginning

 

If predecessors count, then perhaps Nevada Airlines should be included in this story. Nevada began service on a Los Angeles, Reno and Las Vegas route on 15 April 1929.  There were 4 Lockheed Vegas in the Nevada fleet.  The Chief Pilot was famous air racer Col. Roscoe Turner. Roscoe was trying to capitalize on the loose marriage and divorce laws of Nevada which only required three days notice for marriage and 3 months for a divorce. A 22 hour train trip was reduced to a three hour flight by air. When Roscoe became Manager of Operations, he tightened up the time schedule so that Nevada could be called the “fastest in the world”. 

It was also 1929 when Roscoe Turner acquired the rank of Colonel with the Nevada National Guard.  The title was retained as in the custom of British Officers, but for Roscoe, it was another ego trip. The record of Nevada Airlines was enviable. Although it operated for just short of a year, it flew 1000 miles a day, never had a forced landing and never injured a passenger.  It was the stock market crash of ‘29 which caused the airline to fold and Lockheed repossessed the Vegas.

Col. Turner had quite a reputation in the Air race business. He didn't win a lot, but he was flamboyant individual.  He was never seen in sloppily dressed.  He was always dressed in highly polished trooper boots, riding pants, and Sam Brown belt over his tunic along with his military style flight cap and waxed moustache.

Roscoe Turner left no doubt that he was an egotist.  One of these fast Lockheed Vegas was Wiley Post’s “Winnie Mae”.  It was souped up to be a showpiece and record setter. Roscoe added big wheel pants, an engine cowling and spinner.  He renamed the Vega “Sirius”. Colonel Turner flew “Sirius” from Los Angeles to New York City in 19 hours, 53 minutes with four passengers aboard. He refueled 4 times enroute. In the 1929 National Air Races at Cleveland, he flew the Vega in a 50 mile pylon race and came in third behind Doug Davis’ Travel Air Mystery S monoplane and an Army P-3A.

Colonel Turner went on with his racing exploits and moved to the Midwest.  In 1947, he was responsible for starting another airline named after himself.  It was called Roscoe Turner Aeronautical Corporation.  The Corporation was born out of his personal enthusiasm  starting out as a fixed base operator.

A Certificate to carry passengers was issued 3 September 1947 by the CAB, but was reissued on 8 February 1948. Service still had not begun when the name was changed to Turner Airlines on 31 May 1949.  The first flight took place on 12 November 1949 with a Beech Bonanza.  They operated two Douglas DC-3’s and two Beech Bonanza’s in the beginning. They had 25 employees and were certificated to serve eleven Midwestern cities. The routes radiated from Indianapolis to Lafayette, Kankakee, Chicago, South Bend, Kokomo, Connersville, Cincinnati, Louisville, Bedford and Bloomington, Indiana, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Total route mileage was 655 miles.

Turner had been known as ”The Lake Central Route” in the beginning and the name was changed in December 1950 to Lake Central Airlines.  By the end of the first complete year of service, they also served Richmond, Indiana. They had acquired an additional DC-3 in this first year and a fourth by the end of 1951. Early 1953 was the greatest early route expansion certificated by the CAR.  Many new flight crews, station personnel and office employees were hired within one 45 day period.

Three more DC-3’s were added and Lake Central added new service to Dayton, Columbus, Mansfield, Marion, Zanesville, Dover/New Philadelphia, Youngstown, and Cleveland, Ohio.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Gary, Indiana were added to the route map also.  This made a total of 21 cities served by the Lake Central line. Service was begun to Lima, Ohio, Terre Haute, Indiana and Danville, Illinois in 1954 and on June 1, 1955, the eighth DC-3 was purchased.  By this time, the airline had been purchased by the employees after much in-fighting with Henry and Richard Weesner who had purchased the airline from Col. Turner in 1952.  162 employees bought 971/2% of the stock in January 1955.  During the first six months of 1955, the world’s only employee owned airline showed the first profit in the airline’s history for any six month period.

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