Florida ideal secondary maintenance location

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

Based on the Company’s growth plans, Florida did seem an ideal location for them to consider 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.12 (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.

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

In March 1946, the City of Sebring (FL) refused an offer by the US War Assets Administration to transfer Hendricks Field, a well-known military training base, to civilian use and to be operated initially by the City under a government revocable “right-of-entry” permit to the air base.3

When these telegrams [exchanged between March 28, 1946 and March 30th] put Saunie and Allen C. Altvater, Sr. together, (he was the future civilian Sebring Airport Manager), the creation of the future Sebring Air Terminal as a municipal airport was only in the works. 4

[If you click to expand any of the telegrams, you can page through all three and actually read them…well, more easily anyway! Gaye Lyn]

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 documents with assistance from Carole Goad, the Society’s Librarian and Archivist.  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. Hendricks Field to become civilian Sebring Air Terminal?

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…” However, the United States War Department had only issued a “revocable license” to Sebring for Hendrix Field.5 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. However, the timing and staggered approvals of permanent licensing by the Army for the air field cross-over to civilian greatly restricted the activities of both companies. 6 [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.

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 CREDIT: The Sebring American, 5/16/1946.7

Setting up operations required a number of flights to Florida and lining up personnel both locally and back in Newark. Key personnel ready for Sebring action were  R. B. Collins, Veterans Air Line Manger.  J. R. Taylor, Assistant Superintendent of Maintenance.  Robert (Bob) Krohm, District Manager. 8 (All persons named in this Post were identified in the Footnoted press coverage or in the AIR TRANSPORT article oft mentioned on this site.)9

On May 3, 1946, and also May 16 when this photo in front of Veterans Air DC-3 was published, Saunie flew to Sebring for status and operations meetings with Alan Altvater, Sr. 10  However, it took another month before Veterans could begin modifications to convert the company’s second, four-engine C-54 into their second DC-4, N57777. But that is a tail deserving of its own story.

The Sebring saga continues here.

1 “FLY TO…FLORIDA,” The New York Times, January 18, 1946, TRAVEL Classified Ad60, pg. 34.
2 “FLY TO…FLORIDA,”The New York Times, January 27, 1946, Display Ad 250, pg. X9.
3 “Council Refuses License. Declines to Accept Temporary License As Presented By Government..” The Highlands County News,14 March 1946. Quoted in Allen C. Altvater, Sebring Air Terminal, Sebring, Florida, Book One pg 25
4 Allen C. Altvater, Sebring Air Terminal, Sebring, Florida, Book One. (Re-published Sebring, Florida, December 2005. Forward by: Allen C. Altvater, III). The Book, Sebring Air Terminal, was gifted to Veterans Air Express Founder's daughter, Gaye Lyn, whilst visiting The Sebring Historical Society Archives. Sincerest thanks to Allen III and Carole Goad, Librarian/Archivist, for their time, valuable help, gracious hospitality, a copy of the book written by his grandfather and copies of the 1946 telegrams between A. C. Altvater and Saunie B. Gravely.
5 “City Starts Airfield Operations: Eight Air Depot and Veterans’ Airlines Expected to Begin Operation.” The Highlands County News, 2 May 1946.
6 “Air Depot Starts Work at Hendricks: Veterans’ Airlines Heads to Arrive Tomorrow to Start Operations.” The Highlands County News, 9 May 1946.
7 "Two Companies Begin Work At Hendricks Field." The Sebring American, Sebring, FL. May 16, 1946.
8 “Air Depot Starts Work," 9 May 1946.
9 Herrick, George V. "Contract Carrier. Flies Anything, Any Place, Any Time." AIR TRANSPORT, July 1946, pg 36.
10 "Two Companies Begin." May 16, 1946.

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