was an airline
that operated in the Mid-Atlantic region
of the United States
, primarily the states of New York
from the mid-1940s until its acquisition by Allegheny Airlines
in 1972. At its height, it employed over 2,200 personnel and pioneered several technical and social aspects of regional airline operations, including being the first airline in the United States to hire an African American flight attendant
The airline began operations in 1945 as Robinson Airlines
out of Ithaca Municipal Airport
near Ithaca, New York
, flying single engined, three passenger Fairchild F-24
As it grew in the 1950s, the Douglas DC-3 became its primary aircraft; the Convair CV-240, CV-440's and Martin 4-0-4's were integrated into its fleet later. The airline also experimented with helicopter service between New York and Catskill Mountains resorts with limited success. In 1952, Robinson was purchased by Robert Peach and the name changed to Mohawk Airlines to reflect the Mohawk Valley of New York where the airline originated service. In 1958, the airline moved its headquarters to Utica, NY, in the heart of the Mohawk Valley.
On February 11, 1958, Ruth Carol Taylor was hired by Mohawk Airlines, becoming the first African-American flight attendant in the United States.
In 1961, it became the first airline to use a centralized computer based reservation service. And in 1965, it became the first regional airline to utilize flight simulators.
Mohawk upgraded its fleet with the British Aerospace Corporation BAC 1-11 in 1965, becoming the first regional airline to inaugurate jet aircraft service.
By 1969, all piston engined aircraft had been retired from its fleet and Mohawk flew mainly BAC 1-11 and Fairchild Hiller FH-227 aircraft.
1970s and acquisition
By 1971, labor issues and several strikes had caused Mohawk to enter merger discussions with Allegheny Airlines.
It was purchased by Allegheny Airlines in 1972, which eventually became USAir in the late 1970s and then changing its name to US Airways in the late 1990s.
Those airports marked with an asterisk (*) are not currently served by any commercial air service.
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Accidents and incidents
Mohawk Airlines had four accidents that involved fatalities.
- On July 2, 1963, at Rochester, New York, a Mohawk Airlines Martin 4-0-4 attempted to take-off into a thunderstorm. Its wing-tip hit the ground and the aircraft cart-wheeled. Seven people were killed. See Mohawk Airlines Flight 121
- A bizarre accident occurred on June 23, 1967, when a BAC 1-11 flying from Elmira, New York, to Washington, D.C., had a fire in the rear of the aircraft which eventually destroyed the vertical tail causing all loss of pitch control. The cause was a non-return valve failing in the APU unit causing hydraulic fluid to ignite. The aircraft crashed near Blossburg, Pennsylvania, killing all 34 people on board. See Mohawk Airlines Flight 40.
- On November 19, 1969, a Mohawk Airlines Fairchild Hiller FH-227B crashed into Pilot Knob (mountain) on the east shore of Lake George, New York, on approach to Warren County Airport, Glens Falls, New York, killing all 14 on-board. The pilot had become disoriented in heavy rain and flew into a lee-side mountain downdraft. See Mohawk Airlines Flight 411
- On March 3, 1972, another FH-227 crashed into a house in Albany, New York, on approach to Albany County Airport. The crew had difficulty getting the cruise lock to disengage in one of the engines. While the crew attempted to deal with the problem, the aircraft crashed short of the airfield killing 16 of 48 in the aircraft and one person on the ground. The lone surviving crewmember was a stewardess, Sandra Quinn. The cause of the crash has never been discovered. See Mohawk Airlines Flight 405
Mohawk Airlines in Popular Culture
On Chicago’s 1971 album, Chicago III, the group recorded a song called “Flight 602”. Later that year, on the live album, Chicago at Carnegie Hall, the group announced that the title referred to a Mohawk flight from New York to Toronto.
The photo on the back cover of the supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys’ first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, depicts five guitar cases with old-fashioned travel stickers. At the bottom of the guitar case on the right is a travel sticker that says, “Fly Mohawk”.
In the season 2 episode "For Those Who Think Young" of the AMC series Mad Men, the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency worked on a campaign for Mohawk Airlines. In the following episode, "Flight 1", Sterling Cooper cancels their account with Mohawk in order to pursue an account with American Airlines who are considering changing agencies in the aftermath of the Flight 1 disaster.