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Early TWA History from original TWA documents.

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"The Spirit of TWA"...A Flying Legend
The Oldest Flying TWA Aircraft
1937 Lockheed Electra 12A Jr. NC18137
"The Spirit of TWA" Latest Adventure Grand Champion & Peoples Choice Winner, WAAAM, Hood River Fly-In September 2012 Here

Lockheed 12 NC18137, 1940
Lockheed 12 NC18137 over Avila Beach

A Magical, Mystical Story of a Magnificent
Flying Machine! "The Spirit Of TWA"

By Ruth Richter

In July 2005, my friend, American Eagle Captain Curt Walters and I flew a new-old airplane from Georgia to California. I purchased her sight unseen...and I'm in love. I wasn't looking for her, just as you can't look for love...L.E. (short for Lockheed Electra) found me! How did this happen? Not, by the mind or hand of man! The "Valhalla Flyers" have been mighty busy, their spirits soaring.

I received a message on the Paul Richter TWA Web site from Connie Bowlin wanting to know the history of a plane she was selling... owned by TWA from 1940-1945.

At the time I was too busy to respond. A couple weeks later we spoke on the phone. Suddenly I said, "I can't help you sell this airplane; I have to buy it! I know my dad flew her, he tested every TWA airplane. I think I flew in this plane with him as a child."

I said, to be honest, " I don't have any money but can I call you back?" Three hours later I called Connie...told her I had mortgaged my house, sold my first born and was going to let the county bury me. I had to buy the plane!

While digging thru old papers, what appeared but a "Texaco" ad, (see below) from 1940 with Jack Frye and Paul E. Richter in front of the Lockheed. Surprise! the aircraft in the ad was the same airplane!
Lockheed 12 NC 18137 over Pismo dunes
Late one night I found Paul's TWA flight case with perfectly sharpened pencils and a side pocket with a piece of paper titled: "TWA Lockheed Electra 12A, #240, Payload Computation, i.e., weight and balance, loading and fuel information." At the ages of 8 and 10, I flew in this plane with my Dad. I have found documentation of dozens of flights that he made. From test flights to hunting trips, to flying buddies to "Conquistadores del Cielo" meetings at dude ranches in the west to Board of Directors meetings and war conferences in the East. Numerous flights were made by him to inspect "Eagles Nest," TWA's training base for the military.

The whole thing is super-serendipity. The so-called coincidences are incredible in numberand continue on a daily basis. The odds of this find are probably greater than winning the lottery.

Lockheed made only 130 Lockheed 12As, and perhaps less than ten are still flying in the world. She's the sister-ship to Amelia Earhart's 10E. Built in July 1937, nearly 75 years old, she's beautiful, solid and flies awesome aeroplane. Flying "Ellie" from Georgia to SLO was living a dream in a flying legend.

It's 'the circle of life', L.E.'s return to California and my new venture with PER's activities of 1925. Lockheed N18137 is a flying museum...a tribute to Lockheed quality, to TWA's glorious history and the people who made that great airline the greatest. The Spirit of TWA, N18137 belongs to all and especially TWAers... I'm only the guardian as you can't own history. TWA was my family and a great heritage. Awed, amazed, elated, I'm living proof that you are never to old to live your dream. RRH
Ruth Richter in front of NC18137 in Reno
"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward...
for there you have been and there you long to return."
Leonardo Da Vinci

"The Spirit of TWA"...A Brief History

Lockheed 12 NC18137, 1937

NC18137 was built in July 1937. Electras were considered the "Cadillacs" of the aircraft world. Bob Six, of Continental Airlines' fame, wanted an all Lockheed fleet. Continental, former Varney Air, bought three electras. CAL was the first owner of this plane. NC18137 was used for passenger service for three years.

Above, Continental Airlines NC-18137, being serviced by Continental fleet mechanics before the sale to Transcontinental and Western Air.
Underside of the wing is NC18137

TWA 1940 to 1945
NC18137 in 1940
NC18137 in 1940

"Officials for TWA in Los Angeles are always at a loss when it comes to prophesizing how Paul E. Richter (Exec. Vice Pres.) will arrive. No one seems to know whether he will be in the uniform of a Captain of a big transport, or whether he will be traveling as a passenger in business clothes. Recently, TWA purchased a Lockheed transport for use as a flying research laboratory, and it was this man who took the controls for the first long flight of this plane."
The TWA "Between Calls" Nov. 1940, [Volume 1 Number 6] front page

NC18137 was a "Flight Research Laboratory" used in TWA's historic development of 'upper-altitude flight' and 'over weather flying'. This 12A tested static discharge and de-icing equipment used on today's modern aircraft. Other TWA planes identified as "Overweather Experimental Laboratory," the Northrop Alpha, the Northrop Gamma NX13158, and DC-1 piloted by Captain "Tommy" Tomlinson, TWA's most famous test pilot.

"It is said that other aircraft were evolutionary in design... Lockheed was and is revolutionary.
From the 12A, the 1st U-2, to the F-22...innovative aircraft icons."

Transcontinental & Western Air...TWA "The Airline of the Stars"
Bette Davis exiting NC18137 Paul Richter, actor Wallace Berry and Jack Frye

From the 1920s, Aero Corporation of California and it's Standard Air Lines were frequented by the Hollywood stars.  Aero Corp pilots taught them to fly and flew in movies; and Standard carried them to winter warmth of Arizona and the cool  Coastal summers of California.  In the 1930's and 40s Transcontinental & Western Air became known as the 'Airline of the Stars', many appearing in ads for TWA.
Above Left, Warner Bros. movie star Miss Bette Davis exits N18137, after a flight with the Executive Vice-President of T.W.A., Paul E. Richter from Kansas City to Minnesota.

Above Right, Paul Richter, actor Wallace Berry and Larry Fritz, Then TWA Vice President of Operations.

Right, Paul Richter with Bette beside NC-18137.
Paul Richter and Bette Davis standing next to NC18137

During WWII, TWA reserved all seats on the line for service men. TWA's Lockheed 12A, NC18137, #240 and Lockheed Lodestar, #241 were used for management and employees. Richter's logs show trips in both planes even while he was serving in the Navy as Operations Chief of Staff for Naval Air Transport Service. Many of TWA's finest went to war; Captain Paul E. Richter, Captain Walter A. Hamilton, Captian D.W. 'Tommy' Tomlinson to Naval Air Transport Service, General Lawrence G. 'Larry' Fritz as head of the Atlantic Division of ATC, Colonel Fred Betts, Colonel Clarence Fleming and many more gave up family and fortune to serve their country.

Texaco ad
Left - This Texaco ad, randomly picked out of a barn treasure trove of hundreds of papers, on a June day in 2005, reunited TWA NC18137 with her TWA family. Jack Frye and Paul E. Richter Jr., review performance data ... all instruments lubricants and fuel of the TWA "Flight Research Laboratory," NX18137.

TWA and TEXACO partnered in progressive research for many years, largely due to Paul's great friendship with Aubrey Keif, V.P of the aviation division of The Texas Co. Texaco was at the fore-front in developement of aviation petroleum products.
De-icing research in N18137 led to a B. F. Goodrich ad which states, "Wings that tell ice where to get off "... "TWA-- Pioneer Air Line-- was one of the earliest sponsors of the B.F. Goodrich De-Icer."
The Lockheed 12A, in New Mexico in the early 1940's, a "Conquistadores del Cielo" gathering.

Right - The Lockheed 12A, in New Mexico in the early 1940's, a "Conquistadores del Cielo" gathering. The gentleman in the middle, with fedora, is John E. Miles, Governor of New Mexico (1939-1943.) On the far right is Robert Wadlow along with members or guest of Conquistadores del Cielo. Richter and Frye were co-founders of Conquistadores del Cielo... still existing today for the top 150 of the aerospace world. More on the Conquistadoes del Cielo Here

"Famous flyers of N18137 include her original owner Bob Six and Fred Gray of Continental, Howard Hughes, (as documented by a most renown aviation historian, John Underwood), Aubrey Keif of Texaco,Jack Fyre and Paul Richter. And in recent years Gen. Chuck Yeager, Col. Bud Anderson, Bob Hoover and ret.TWA Captain Barry Schiff...his #300th aircraft." RRH

'The Spirit of TWA' Recent History
Brian Silcox picture of NC18137 EAA Chapter 170 news letter, Guest Profile Ruth Holden
Above - Lockheed Electra Junior, N18137, was acquired by Ruth Holden the summer of 2005 from Connie and Ed Bowlin, retired Delta Captains. Great shot by famous aviation photographer, Brian Silcox.
Please note the image is copyrighted, and the exclusive property of Brian Silcox.
Dave Chivens, President, EAA 170, wrote one of the best articles about the Lockheed 12A ... With great heart, he really gets the soul of the story. Dave is now a 'Famous Flyer' of the "Spirit of TWA" ... his smooth soaring over the Sierras with Capt. Walters from Reno in Sept. 2006....Read it Here

Love Story cover Page
Mike Fizer picture of NC18137
Capt. Barry Schiff's... article "Love Story" The memory of TWA is Alive and Well...Read Here

Barry's Web site Here
Above, Mike Fizer, master photographer, captured The Spirit of TWA, N18137 with Ret. TWA Capt. Barry Schiff and Capt. Curt Walters flying. Enjoy more of his truly magnificent photo art ...Here

Oshkosh AirVenture, 2006
Bronze Lindy "Antique Transport Champion"
This grand photo of the TWA Lockheed 12A, N18137 was taken by Bruce Leibowitz on her arrival at OSH.
Above - This grand photo of the TWA Lockheed 12A, N18137 was taken by Bruce Leibowitz on her arrival at OSH. Please note the copyright

Bruce Leibowitz's Web site Here

A world of thanks to Connie and Ed Bowlin, the famous ace aviators and airplane collectors for the oportunity to speak to the "Warbirds of America" at Oshkosh "AirVenture" 2006. It was truly an honor to tell of TWA's enormous contribution of men and planes to WWII. See their Web site Here

Thanks to all at EAA "AirVenture" 2006 who present an indescribable experience for "flyers" from all over the world. Thanks to Adam Smith, my favorite 'Black Cat" RRH

See a super shot of the "Spirit of TWA" by Paul Chandler and other photos at "Airventure 2006" Here

Reno Air Races 2006,
"National Aviation Heritage Invitational"
Lockheed 12 NC18137 at National Aviation Heritage Invitational, 2006 Lockheed 12 NC18137 at National Aviation Heritage Invitational, 2006
Above - NC18137 is honored to participate in the event sponsored by Rolls Royce, The National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame Web site Here

"That's one small step for a man, One giant leap for mankind..."

Neil Armstrong
The late Neil Armstrong sitting in NC18137 Ruth Holden and Neil Armstrong posing next to NC18137
Above Left - The late Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, sitting in the pilot seat of NC18137.

Above Right - Neil Armstrong posing with Ruth Holden.

Read a short Biography on Niel Armstrong Here
Ruth Holden sittin in Frank Schelling's 1918 Curtiss JN-4H "Jenny"
Above - Frank Schelling's 1918 Curtiss JN-4H "Jenny" was the awesome worthy Grand Champion of the "National Aviation Heritage Invitational."

Gen. Lawrence G. 'Uncle Larry' Fritz and Paul Richter must be smilin' about their 1st airplane, 1st love, "Jenny." Jim Fritz, Larry's grandson, is now an airline pilot with Boeing. He named his plane "Jenny" after grandfather's old fliver-flyer.

Larry Fritz, a remarkable life; from WWI fighter, 1st Airmail pilot, to V.P. TWA, Commanding General ATC in WWII to Vice Pres. of American Airlines. Thanks to Jim and Barbara Read about Larry Fritz Here

Watsonville Ca.Fly-In, 2006
" Best Cabin Monoplane" Classic Age

Watsonville Fly-In 2006 Postcard

Right - Watch NC18137 in Watsonville as she starts, taxies to the runway and takes off.


Merced, Ca. Fly-In, 2006
" Best Cabin Monoplane" Classic Age
Merced 2006 Fly-In Postcard

Thanks to Roger Cain for his always interesting articles and to "Pacific Flyers." TWA's Carl Barley can't begin to know our deep appreciation for his amazing graphic expertise on the "Spirit of TWA" and all of TWA's aircraft.
See Marc Bracy's Web site TWA Seniors Club Here

Below - The new TWA fleet, Lockheed Electra 12A, N18137 and Boeing's TWA DC-2 in new TWA livery together in Santa Maria, California.

Lockheed Electra 12A, N18137 and Boeing's, TWA DC-2 in new TWA livery together in Santa Maria, California
DC-2 Background, owned by the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington
Aviation luminary Clay Lacy, was a driving force behind the airplane's restoration
Painted in the classic TWA red and gray scheme of "The Lindbergh Line," it is one of only two airworthy airframes left in the world.

Brian Lockett's Goleta Air and Space Museum Here

NWEAA Arlington, Wa. July 15, 2007
"Grand Champion Antique"
Pictures to come soon.

Today's Pilot magazine article "Keeping it in the Family" by Steve Bridgewater cover page
Read Today's Pilot magazine article "Keeping it in the Family" by Steve Bridgewater Here

Daughter of TWA Co-Founder To Honor Aviation History With Coast to Coast Legacy Flight of The 1937 Lockheed Electra 12A Once Owned By TWA
By Susan Holden Walsh

JetBlue CEO David Barger talks about TWA
Produced by Kaye Chandler

Ruth Holden with David Barger and Corporate people in front of NC18137.
Ruth Holden with David Barger and Corporate people in front of NC18137. The first arrival at JetBlues new terminal 5 JFK.
SANTA MARIA, CA, SEPTEMBER 17, 2008… Beginning September 18, 2008, Ruth Richter-Holden, the daughter of TWA co-founder Paul E. Richter, Jr., will begin a 3-day journey bridging aviation history with its future.  She and her crew will fly a 1937 Lockheed Electra 12A, one of TWA’s first executive aircraft, from California to New York City, culminating in the celebration of JetBlue’s new Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport on September 22, 2008.

”We’re so thankful to JetBlue for the opportunity to share in their festivities.  It’s an honor to take part as JetBlue has the same positive management energy and mission of caring for its people and passengers, that helped build TWA’s legacy,” stated Richter-Holden.  “We’ll proudly be there to toast them as they make their own history.” “JetBlue’s new Terminal 5 at JFK will literally connect to our aviation history, via the famous ‘flight wings’ of Eero Saarinen’s landmark TWA Flight Center,” said Todd Burke, Vice President, JetBlue Corporate Communications. “We stand on the shoulders of the pioneers of our great industry, and our celebration would not be complete without Ms. Richter-Holden and her crew representing the great people of TWA”.

Aircraft NC18137
The aircraft was owned by TWA in the 1940s, when Richter-Holden’s father was Executive Vice President, and was used for high-altitude research and executive transport. In 2005, through a twist of fate, Ruth Richter-Holden was introduced to the plane when the owner contacted her looking for historic details in order to sell it.  Driven by a faint memory and gut feeling, Richter-Holden purchased the 12A sight unseen and as she exclaims, “brought her back to TWA.”
Lockheed 12 NC18137 on JetBlue's ramp, JFK
“No one can own history. We are only the guardians of NC18137,” Richter-Holden said. Her father’s log books confirmed what she had suspected: Richter-Holden had flown in the plane as a child with her dad, Paul Richter and his lifelong business partner Jack Frye.  “This airplane represents the accomplishments of the entire U.S. airline industry; the birth and progress of commercial aviation; the safety innovations for which the industry is known today. The Lockheed 12A is the first all-metal, all-electric twin engine. Richter-Holden’s 12A, NC18137, was instrumental in high altitude research, deicing equipment and static discharge. This Lockheed is a tribute to the aviation pioneers of aircraft and airlines. Our dedication is to share this American aviation heritage icon of ingenuity, innovations and ideals with the public.” TWA was founded by commercial aviation pioneers, known as ”Aviation’s Three Musketeers” - Jack Frye, Paul Richter and Walt Hamilton. In 20 short years they grew their 1926 Aero Corp. of California and its regional passenger line, Standard Airlines, into Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) and subsequently the international line, Trans World Airlines. 

The return flight: 2008 Coast-to-Coast Legacy Tour

On its return, the flight plan for the 12A will pay homage to its beginnings and follow TWA’s original Coast to Coast passenger service routes from the 30s, through Kansas City - TWA’s headquarters for 40+ years. Flight plans mirror TWA’s “Sun Chaser Flight 1” from New York to Burbank, California, with stops in Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Albuquerque and Winslow, AZ. TWA was one of the first airlines to offer coast-to-coast service. “We’re hoping that old TWAers can come out and meet us as a kind of historic reunion along the way,” encourages Richter-Holden. “The grand name of TWA once again will soar. Up, Up and Away!”

The Crew

Veteran commercial pilot and co-guardian of the 12A, Captain Curt Walters will command the 12A, with Richter-Holden as co-pilot. Also on hand will be Kaye Chandler, retired TWA flight attendant turned film documentary producer, who will accompany the team to document this historic event through video and on a live webcast on Former TWA VP Corporate Communications, Jerry Cosley is assisting in the Kansas City stop over as well as communications for the trip. Aviation writer and retired TWA Captain Barry Schiff has been invited to join the crew.

See more JFK pictures and articles, also Jerry Cosley's Kansas City photos. Here

Read an article from the 'TWA Senior Skyliner', "Coast to Coast TWA Soars Again" by Carl Barley. Here

Read an article from 'Aviation History' magazine, "Spirit of TWA Transcontinental." Here

NC18137 Makes the cover of Pilot Getaways Magazine.
Above - NC18137 Makes the cover of Pilot Getaways Magazine.


Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Mueseum Fly-In
September 7th, 8th & 9th, 2012
Hood River, Oregon
Grand Champion & Peoples Choice Awards
WAAAM PostcardHood River Fly-In Poster
WAAAM — Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. Where people are preserving the past with a passion. WAAAM opened their doors to the public for the first time on September 7th, 2007. Their collections are housed in two giant hangars — which together total 95,000 square feet and has one of the largest collections of flying antique aircraft and drivable antique automobiles in the country. In addition to their antique collections, these facilities house a reference library, classroom, meeting rooms, and a community events area. Three additional hangars, totaling 37,000 square feet, are set aside for restorations. The dedication the museum directors and volunteers have put into this facility is truly impressive and well worth a fly-in visit.
See WAAAM on Facebook Here
Go to the WAAAM website Here

Lockheed low pass over Hood River Airport
The 'Spirit of TWA', Grand Champion and Peoples Choice,
performing a low pass over Hood River Airport.
Picture by Paul Carter, planephotoman
See more of his pictures

Ken Olsson, WAAAM coordinator, presents Curt Walters and Ruth Holden with both the Grand Champion and Peoples Choice Awards.
Ken Olsson, WAAAM coordinator, presents Curt Walters and Ruth Holden with both the Grand Champion and Peoples Choice Awards.

Lockheed 12 NC18137 at Hood River Fly-In Aerial shot of Ken Jernstedt Airfield, Hood River Oregon.
The public loved her retro look. Aerial shot of Ken Jernstedt Airfield, Hood River Oregon.

Lockheed 12 and United pilot Scott Naumann with wife Sandy. A nice shot of Mt. Hood as we departed Hood River for home.
Lockheed 12 and United pilot Scott Naumann with wife Sandy. A nice shot of Mt. Hood as we departed Hood River for home.

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