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Sidebar...First Grumman Goose arrive at Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn 1939
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American - Export - Lines

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American Export Lines - New York, was the biggest US-flag shipping company between the US east coast and the Mediterranean from 1919 to 1977, offering both cargo ship and passenger service. It started as Export Steamship Corporation but a reorganization in 1934 brought the new name and leadership. Before the reorganization, Henry Herbermann, the then president, started renaming all the ships with a name beginning EX (for EXport).

It was 1940 when Charles F. Blair arrived at AEL to take the lead pilots position and assist with developing the new American Export Airline. 

Read more of the history...

NC18997 "Transatlantic"

photo credit J.H. Horwath
June 6, 1939

American Export Airlines startup needed a seaplane ramp close by its headquarters in lower Manhattan. The new U.S. Coast Guard seaplane ramp was made available for the intial survey and training flights with PBY "Transatantic"

photo credit J.H. Horwath

It was a change for Charlie Blair, to be sitting behind a desk, on the ninth floor, of 25 Broadway in Manhattan, instead of the left seat of an aircraft but this was the beginning of his new chapter in flying.

Seaplanes became an important part of his life.  

The PBY "Transatlantic" was the airplane that would allow for training and survey flights as the 3 Sikorsky

VS-44 "Flying Aces" aircraft were being developed . Blair and his new hand 

picked pilots set out to give Pan American Airways some real competition. Blair's "Red Ball in the Sky" Chapter 2, Aldebaran's Warning tells the story of the beginning of American Export Airlines. 

Below are a few crew manifests of various flights taken with NC18997 "Transatlantic".

The manifest dated November 21, 1940 was the return of the very first survey flight. 


Read more about The American Export Line / Airline and its incredible history.


Charlie Blair in an American Overseas Airline uniform in 1945, after the merger with AEA.
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November 21, 1940


From Cristobal, Belize to New Orleans

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The Crew

United Air Lines in 1933 was loosely the uniting of four airlines: National Air Transport, Boeing Air Transport, Pacific Air Transport and Varney Air Lines. Captains Charlie Blair, Richard McMokin, Richard Mitchell came from the United group. Thomas Terrill was the  First Officer and Navigator . Mike Doyle was the Chief Flight Engineer (died in Excalibur accident 10/3/1942) . Mike MacFarlane was the Chief Radio Operator. Hugh Fitzgerald and Hugh Carlson were also in training. The only non crew member was Wayne Thomis, who was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune

(see article that proceeded the above trip)

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January 13, 1941


From Havana, Cuba to New Orleans

Capt. Charles F. Blair (31 years old)

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January 20, 1941


From Belize, to New Orleans

Capt. Charles F. Blair (31 years old)

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photo credit Rudy Arnold / Smithsonian Institue
Article from Aero Digest - May 1939

American Export Airlines stories can be found in

"Red Ball in the Sky" by Charles F. Blair, "

A Reckless Grace" by Margaret Taliaferre,

and "Sikorsky VS-44 Flying Boat" by Harry E. Pember. 

AEA Flight Crew
Charles F. Blair             Richard Mitchel
Richard A. McMokin     Bob Hickson
Emory Martin               Robbie" Robinson
Champe Taliaferro        Eddie Stewart
Charlie Thompson         Peter Wright
Robert Layer                 H. Geselbracht
G. Burgard                  J. Hennesst
J. Cross                       W. Fish
Robert Neale               R. Keeton
E. Beville                     F. Ricketts
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25 Broadway - New York
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American Export Lines - Lines/Airlines
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I found it incredible how many ships were lost to hostile attack and then rebuilt. The "4 Aces" below show each were lost and then rebuilt.
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The Flying Ace's

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post card of SS Excambion in Naples
Antilles Air Boats'"Excambian" in St Croix 1968.

Excambian's final stop...retsored, centerpiece at the New England Air Museum at Hartford, CT.
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photo credit Frtz Henle
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     SS "Exeter" - July 23, 1936  being readied in the harbor of Marseille,   France, to dash to Barcelona to rescue Americans in that revolt-torn region. 
Thank you to Anthony Gagliani for his assistance with PBY-4 "Transatlantic" crew manifests and various photos.
photo from International News / Tom Anusewicz Collection
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