Museum History

Houston's Aviation History Timeline


The year is 1930. Houston now enjoys scheduled airmail service, thanks to men in leather jackets and helmets flying open cockpit biplanes through the night. The airmail pilots are beginning to learn how to utilize Howard Stark's 1-2-3 method of employing new gyroscopic instruments to fly for prolonged periods in clouds without a visual horizon for reference.

Just a few years earlier, anything more than a momentary brush through clouds meant a certain loss of control and frequently death. Although the instrument flying techniques are welcome, the only navigational aids are still strings of lighted airway beacons along the airmail routes. To use the beacons, pilots must still fly low enough to see the lights.

The contract air mail carriers are beginning to offer passenger flights during the day to a few brave souls. While most major American corporations have written policies specifically forbidding their executives from traveling by air, Houston oil companies use airplanes to traverse the distances between offices, refineries and oil fields.


Southern Air Transport is acquired by American Airways.

October 1, 1930:

Temple Bowen makes a second attempt at the aviation business by starting Bowen Air Lines, which inaugurates passenger-only service from Houston to Dallas and Fort Worth with Lockheed Vegas. Bowen's operation is unique at the time because it does not seek a subsidized airmail contract and instead attempts to survive solely by flying passengers. As a jibe at rival Long & Harmon's slogan "Fly with the Mail", Bowen's slogan is "Fly Past the Mail".

May 17, 1931:

Bowen Air Lines adds Lockheed Orions to its routes.

June 4, 1932:

American Airways inaugurates Trimotor service on Contract Air Mail Route 29, offering passenger service from Houston to Beaumont, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Montgomery and Atlanta.

April 29, 1933:

The Houston Combination Adcock Four Course Radio Range and Broadcast Station, providing navigational and weather information to aircraft in flight in the Houston area for the first time.

April 20, 1934:

New Orleans-based Weddell Williams Air Service is awarded Contract Air Mail Route 29 from New Orleans to Houston as a result of air mail contract re-bidding used to resolve "Spoils Conference" air mail scandal. Weddell-Williams employs Lockheed Vegas on this route.

Dallas-based Long & Harmon, Inc. AIR LINES is awarded Contract Air Mail Route 21 from Dallas to Houston and Galveston as a result of air mail contract re-bidding used to resolve "Spoils Conference" air mail scandal. Long & Harmon employ Ford Trimotors on this route.

January 1, 1935:

Braniff Airways purchases Long & Harmon, Inc. AIR LINES, to acquire Contract Air Mail Route 15 from Dallas to Fort Worth, Waco, Houston and Galveston.

April 17, 1935:

Braniff Airways adds Lockheed 10A Electras to its routes.

Late 1935:

Braniff Airways acquires Bowen Air Lines and its passenger routes.


Eastern Airlines purchases Weddell-Williams Air Service to acquire Contract Air Mail Route 29 from New Orleans to Houston.

June, 1937:

The City of Houston purchases W.T. Carter Field with a $500,000.00 bond issue and $150,000 in cash and renames it Houston Municipal Airport. Mr. Louis Hobbs is named airport manager.

June 12, 1937:

Braniff Airways adds Douglas DC-2s acquired from Transcontinental & Western (TWA) to its routes and hires its first stewardesses.

November 23, 1937:

Eastern Air Lines station manager Art Furchgott, Jr. and Braniff Airways station manager Charles Wolber formulate an agreed procedure for airliners to use when making instrument approaches to Houston.

July, 1938:

After setting a new speed record flying his Lockheed 14 Super Electra around the world, Howard Hughes visits Houston for a 3 day celebration. During a banquet at the Rice Hotel, the City announces that Houston Municipal Airport will be renamed Howard Hughes Municipal Airport.

A few months later, it is learned that the airport will be disqualified for Federal grant money if it is named after a living person and the name is changed back to Houston Municipal Airport.


America Airlines resumes, then discontinues service from Houston to Galveston, Beaumont, Brenham, Austin, Corpus Christi, Bryan, the Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville and Laredo.

January 1939:

Essair launches first experimental local service route from Houston to Abilene and Amarillo.

June 1939:

Essair's service is suspended because of Braniff Airways appeal to Civil Aeronautics Board.