Monday, March 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Consairway provides non-military support in Pacific

Consairways mechanics repair a damaged bomber. (USAF photo)

Consairways mechanics repair a damaged bomber. (USAF courtesy photo)

By
From page TRA12 | January 31, 2014 |

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — If the Navy needed to quickly get torpedo warheads to its ships fighting the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, the Navy called Consairway.

When first lady Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to tour the South Pacific to boost the troops’ morale, the White House called Consairway.

From 1943 to 1945, the civilian contract air transport firm flew out of Travis Air Force Base, then called the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base, to airfields scattered throughout every corner of the south and central Pacific to supply American forces.

“We were the only non-military airline to support American forces in the Pacific,” said Bob Keefer, a former Consairway flight engineer in a March 1993 Daily Republic interview.

Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft in San Diego created Consolidated Airways – or Consairway – in late 1941 as the company’s air transport division, delivering new aircraft to Army Air Force bases and overseas buyers, according to a history of Consairway.

Its first job was delivering aircraft to Allied nations such as the Netherlands and Great Britain.

Once the war broke out in the Pacific, Consairway provided American troops with a constant flow of war material flown across the Pacific.

Up to then, other air transport companies crossed the Pacific using flying boats. Consairway was the first one to use land-based aircraft.

Consairway moved from San Diego to two hangars at the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base in November 1943. Air Transport Command had taken over the base on Feb. 8, 1943, making it a major aerial supply jump-off point for the Pacific War Zone, nine months before Consairway entered the local picture.

Many of the Consairway aircrews flew up to the base, while the ground personnel and families who decided to move with the company had to drive 12 hours to get to their new home.

“The maintenance people alone doubled the population of Vacaville and Fairfield,” said Keefer. “The women had come up a week earlier to size up the two communities.”

“Waterman Park in Fairfield and another housing area in Vacaville was built by the government to house the people,” said former Consairway flier Bob Beeman, who later became a Vallejo lawyer.

The Waterman Park homes weren’t painted, although each had an icebox with ice delivered by Fairfield Mayor Bud Huck. Mud was everywhere when it rained. Waterman Park did have a cafeteria, dining hall and a nursing school, according to Consairway veteran Wes Hodgette in a Consairway history document.

Employees formed a private club called Hangar Five, based in a former stable near Willotta Oaks.

“The building was refurbished and decorated by Consairway personnel. Floors and walls were painted and a bar was built,” Hodgette wrote. “Beer was provided free. Stronger beverages were provided by members and stored behind the bar with their names on the bottles.”

A band made up of employees provided dance music. The club also offered craps tables and slot machines.

On one Fourth of July, a Consairway LB-30, an early transport version of the B-24 Liberator bomber, thundered low over Fairfield as part of a war bond drive, bombing the city with leaflets and $25 gift certificates, Hodgette wrote.

When Consairway set up shop at the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base, the base consisted of little more than hangars and a collection of hastily constructed tar paper buildings. The cold wind seldom stopped blowing, Beeman remembered.

With only 17 aircraft, Consairway still launched two flights daily. The Consairway work force grew to 1,00o people by 1944 and a hectic schedule didn’t allow aircrews much time on the ground, Beeman said.

Constantly busy maintenance shops and work stands were able to service two aircraft at a time.

“There was a line of others waiting outside constantly,” Keefer said. “There were already built-up engines ready to hang to replace the worn-out ones coming in.”

“Work went on night and day,” said the retired Consairway flight engineer in a 1993 Daily Republic interview. “It was amazing how much commitment there was.”

Consairway pilots took a dim view of the military weather forecasters’ skills at predicting conditions, taking off no matter what the conditions were. Consairway veterans proudly stated that none of their airplanes ever turned back due to bad weather, adding that the rugged construction of the LB-30 could take it. It also helped that while Consairway was subject to some military regulations, it was free of others, allowing the crews to fly for longer periods of time and in weather that would ground Army Air Force aircraft.

“They got better weather information from Consairway crews returning from the Pacific because they have to fly through the stuff coming back,” Beeman said.

The Consairway aircrews set several records, such as completing a round trip from Fairfield to Australia and back in three days, 23 hours and 20 minutes, as well as flying from Hawaii to San Francisco in eight hours and 55 minutes.

If the cargo could be fitted into an LB-30, Consairway could fly it anywhere the military wanted, even past the guns of Japanese-occupied islands. The LB-30s often got there faster than the military, Consairway veterans said.

Consairway pilots often had more experience than their military counterparts, because the Consairway fliers already had considerable military flying experience under their belts when they signed up for the airline.

Toward the end of the war, rumors started floating around that Consairway would become a commercial airline once the war ended, but maneuvering by a large international carrier eliminated that idea and it spelled the end of Consairway.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

2 drivers killed in same area, an hour apart

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

 
Easter activities, events abundant

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Christians begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday celebrations

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
My guide to dining out

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

Local governments post week’s meeting times

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Top young spellers to compete for Solano title

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

Police investigate shooting off North Texas Street

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Vallejo police seek leads in weekend homicide

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Biz Buzz: Wiseman officer names Perez to key post

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A10

 
Biz Buzz: Re/Max hires new Realtor

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Biz Buzz: PAL receives donation from glass company

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
.

US / World

Police ramp up rail-crossing citations after recent crashes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Analysis finds unequal pay for women on California Capitol

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Songwriter injured in California crash; motorcyclist killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Taylor Swift wins artist of the year at iHeartRadio Awards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Drownings along Rio Grande spike after enforcement surge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Grandma is a centerfold: Rest home bares all for calendar

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Police: 2 bodies found in NYC building explosion rubble

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Islamic State group beheads 8 Shiites in Syria’s Hama

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Waving fronds around the world, Christians mark Palm Sunday

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Air Canada plane makes hard landing short of Halifax runway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Small tsunami generated in Pacific after earthquake

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: March 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: March 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: March 30, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
Parenting: If a father is abusive, a mother must act

By The Washington Post | From Page: B8

 
Horoscopes: March 31, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B8

.

Entertainment

TVGrid March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

Michelle Obama declares ‘Black Girls Rock!’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

 
Spartans Final Four-bound after 76-70 OT win over Louisville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Duke back in Final Four after 66-52 win over Gonzaga

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Apology for wrong anthem for El Salvador before game in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Montoya holds off Power to give Penske 1-2 sweep at St. Pete

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Stanford’s Randle chases school scoring record, title at NIT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hamlin wins for 25th time, and fifth time at Martinsville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Hamlin wins for 25th time, and fifth time at Martinsville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jimmy Walker wins hometown Texas Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Oakland OF Josh Reddick won’t be ready for start of season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

California Chrome heads to Britain, to race at Royal Ascot

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vettel wins Malaysian GP to end Mercedes streak

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Joe Gibbs on son: most courageous person I’ve been around

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Chodounsky defends slalom title at US Alpine Championships

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

South Carolina earns 1st Final Four berth, beats FSU 80-74

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Turner says Saturday regional finals highest-rated in decade

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cain goes 4 innings in Giants win over LA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Graveman pitches into 7th inning as A’s beat Brewers 7-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Robert Roberts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janice Jewel Thompson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

B.C. March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Peanuts March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Blondie March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Pickles March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Baby Blues March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

B.C. March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Blondie March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Peanuts March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baldo March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Rose is Rose March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Beetle Bailey March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

For Better or Worse March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Dilbert March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Garfield March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Pickles March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Zits March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sally Forth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Get Fuzzy March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Word Sleuth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Bridge March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Sudoku March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Cryptoquote March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8