Florida ideal secondary maintenance location

Veterans Air glistening DC-3, props turning awaits approaching company founder on ramp at Sebring, FL

Three telegrams in three days kick off 1946 operations base in Florida.

Based on their growth plans, Florida does seem an ideal location for the company to have considered opening a secondary location.  A Veterans Air Express operations base for maintenance and major repair.   By mid-January 1946, they were already running ads in The New York Times for passenger flights in a DC-3 between Newark & Miami.(1) (Marilyn Gries, our first unofficial ground hostess, can tell you all about that!!! Read it here.) Plus, they were lining up business for fruit and other perishable cargo from Florida to northern and mid-western states.(2)

Hendricks Field military base to become civilian Sebring Air Terminal?

In early February 1946, the City of Sebring (FL) had been granted “interim,” “revocable” permission by the War Assets Administration to transition the well-known military training base, Hendricks Field, to civilian use. They operated initially under a government “right-of-entry” permit to Hendricks Field and in early June, 1946, were still doing so.(3)

So, when these telegrams put Saunie and Allen C. Altvater together, (he was the future civilian Sebring Airport Manager), the creation of the future Sebring Air Terminal as a municipal airport was already in the works…but still in question. The telegrams were exchanged between March 28, 1946 and March 30th.(4)  [If you click or expand the first telegram, you can page through (and actually read!) all three, plus the other images in this Post.]

Meet and greet grandson, Allen C. Altvater, III

Two months ago (August 2015), I spent several hours with Allen C. Altvater, IIIgrandson of the man that my Dad did, indeed, meet with several times over the next months of 1946.  Small world when you explore it! 

Allen III was a fabulous host and huge help.  We walked the airport, and he took me to The Sebring Historical Society where we spread out and dug through some documents.  The three telegrams were part of our booty.  Allen sent me home with enough materials that Delta considered recalculating the aircraft weight & balance.  (For readers who haven’t a clue about that reference — it’s just a little aviation humor. Gaye Lyn)

Back to May, 1946. Veterans and The Eighth to be first tenants

Now it’s May. The first sentence in a 2 May 1946 reporter’s coverage of a city council special meeting sums up the indications and expectations. “The City of Sebring is on the final lap in the taking over and operating of Hendricks Field as a municipal airport…” Veterans and a second company, The Eighth Air Depot, figured substantially in the City of Sebring’s calculations and plans for their airfield start up.(5) However, the timing and staggered approvals of permanent licensing by the Army for the air field cross-over from military to civilian greatly restricted the activities of both companies.  Ultimately, the delay caused unintended outcomes for both – most especially Veterans.  But I’m getting ahead of my story.

Details, details:  Hangars.  Cold storage.  Personnel.  Equipment.

Setting up operations required a number of flights to Florida and lining up personnel both locally and back in Newark. 

Saunie Gravely (wearing sunglass) flys company DC-3 to Hendricks Field to arrange Veterans Air Operations center.
Saunie Gravely, in sun glasses (center), flew into Sebring to discuss Veterans Air Express operations base.
PHOTO SOURCE: The Sebring American, Sebring, FL, 5/16/1946.

By May 16, 1946 when this photo in front of Veterans Air DC-3 was published, my Dad had flown in for another meeting.  Key personnel were ready for Sebring action.  R. B. Collins, Veterans Air Line Manger.  J. R. Taylor, Assistant Superintendent of Maintenance.  Robert (Bob) Krohm, District Manager. All names found in press coverage of the day (5) and/or confirmed in the AIR TRANSPORT article oft mentioned on this site.(6)

However, it took a couple months before Veterans began any work. The Sebring saga continues here.


“FLY TO…FLORIDA.” The New York Times TRAVEL Classified and Display Sections [advertisements] 18th and 27th January 1946.

”Veterans Air Line to Carry Highlands Truck.” The American 27 June 1946.

“Airport Companies Start Active Work.” The Highlands County News 7 June 1946.

Altvater, Sr. A.C. (December 2005) Sebring Air Terminal, Book One. Chapter 5. Garage Print Shop.

“City Starts Airfield Operations: Eight Air Depot and Veterans’ Airlines Expected to Begin Operation.” The Highlands County News 2 May 1946.

“Air Depot Starts Work at Hendricks: Veterans’ Airlines Heads to Arrive Tomorrow to Start Operations.” The Highlands County News 9 May 1946.

Herrick, George. “Veterans Air Line. Flies…Anything. Any Place. Any Time.” Air Transport July 1946: 36-38.

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