The Daring Young Men
Of Transocean Airlines

In 1952, the Saturday Evening Post ran a three-series-article on Transocean Airlines, titled, "The Daring Young Men of Transocean Airlines." (Adobe PDF)

Transocean Airlines was the world's largest supplemental airline operating from 1946 to 1962 and one of the originators of discount airlines. It was forced into bankruptcy by action of the political Civil Aeronautics Board responsive to big bucks from the major airlines.

Transocean Airlines pilots flew over much of the world, being given cash to cover expenses and then on their own handle the endless variety of events that occurred. The pilots had to be resourceful.

Pilots could be flying Muslim pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina during the Hajj, next month flying plane-loads of monkeys (1600) from India to the United States for the Salk polio vaccine program, and the following month flying loads of tourists to Hawaii.

Transocean Airlines started up Japan Airlines after World War II, furnishing pilots and aircraft.

Ernie Gann, the writer of numerous books, including Island in the Sky and thee High and the Mighty, was one of the pilots for Transocean Airlines.

Transocean airlines and its pilots, including Rodney Stich, operated many different type of aircraft, including for instance:

Endless Types of Pioneering Flights

The airline flew all over the world under conditions that would be primitive today. Pilots flew into places where there were no company handlers, encountering conditions requiring the pilots to be extremely resourceful. The captains were sometimes given a wad of money to pay for expenses where credit cards were not accepted. In 1952, the Saturday Evening Post ran three articles about the airline with the title, “The Daring Young Men of Transocean Airlines.”

All Types of Flights Throughout the World

Among the various types of flights that I flew were the following:

·   Military charters throughout the United States using C-46, Martin 202, and DC-4 aircraft.

·   Military cargo and passenger flights to and from Tokyo from Travis Air Force Base in California.

·   Monkey flights to and from Manila and New Delhi, flying monkeys to the United States to be used in the Salk polio vaccine program.

·   Navy cargo flights from the West to the East Coast, landing at various navy bases enroute.

·   Army and air force cargo flights from the West to the East Coast, landing at various army and air force bases enroute.

·   Regular passenger runs from California to Hawaii and Guam.

·   Regular passenger flights from New York to Washington, D.C. and Chicago with Lockheed Constellations and Boeing Stratocruisers. Because of CAB restrictions, the supplemental air carriers, like Transocean Airlines, were limited in the number of flights that they could schedule a month between any two places.

·   Regular passenger flights from New York to various places in Europe during the busy summer travel season using DC-4, Lockheed Constellation, and Stratocruiser aircraft.

·   Flying Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, from various locations in the Middle East during the holy period known as the Hajj.

·   Providing pilot crews to start up Philippine Airlines after World War II.

·   Providing pilot crews and aircraft to start up Japan Airlines in 1950.

TAL Starting Up Japan Airlines

In 1951, Transocean Airlines contracted to start up Japan Airlines, furnishing captains that would be training mostly former Japanese military pilots who would be serving as copilots to the American captains.

This had a certain amount of irony. Most of the captains for Transocean Airlines, like Rodney Stich, were former military pilots in World War II. Stich was a former Naval Aviator and Navy Patrol Plane Commander (PPC) in the Pacific during World War II. He now shared the cockpit of a Japan Airlines aircraft, with a former Japanese military pilot, and flying an aircraft that at that time had a red meatball on the tail.

Captain Rodney Stich hard at work on a Japan Airlines flight over Japan.

Captain Rodney Stich, Tokyo

Engine failure, Japan Airlines, over Japan


Japan Airlines mechanics working on the failed engine

 Boeing 377 double-deck Stratocruiser at JFK Airport.
(Obtained from BOAC through Boeing)

 Cockpit of Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

Monkey Flights from India

In the mid-1950s, Transocean Airlines flew many flights from India and the Philippines with 1600 to 2,000 monkeys each. The monkeys were used for making the Salk polio vaccines.

Additional pictures.

Unusual Boeing 377 Checkout

Transocean Airlines acquired the fleet of Boeing 377 aircraft from British Overseas Airlines in 1959 and the airline had a full schedule of flights from JFK Airport in New York City to Europe. Among the first pilots to be schedule for the first flight to Europe was Rodney Stich. Due to tight scheduling, none of the pilots had been type-rated by the FAA in the aircraft. Interesting checkout of Captain Rodney Stich on the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. This resulted in Captain Stich being scheduled to fly a Boeing 377 from the airline's east coast base at Bradley Field, Connecticut to New York's JFK Airport, and then depart for Europe that evening. There was one problem: Stich had not yet flown the type-rating flight for the FAA to receive certification to take the flight, and there were no other rated pilots available.

The three and a half hour type-rating flight was scheduled for the morning of the flight to Europe. Compounding the problem, a thick overcast covered the entire area, and type-rating flights are never conducted on instruments. A cooperating FAA inspector, Wurtley Rudd, accommodated the airline and agreed to conduct the rating flight.

Fortunately, Stich passed, arriving back around noon time. The crew then had to ferry the plane to New York's JFK Airport, prepare the flight plan and routing, and be ready for the 6 P.M. takeoff. But that was only the beginning.

The flight to the Frankfurt, Germany, destination was in three legs. The first leg was to Gander, Newfoundland, landing there near Midnight. The plane was refueled and another flight plan made out. The next stop was  Shannon, Ireland, where the aircraft was scheduled to arrive around noon time. Again, refuel and another flight plan. The aircraft finally arrived in Frankfort in the early evening.

Varied Experiences of TAL Pilots

In the early days of aviation after the end of World War II, Transocean Airlines was an unusual operation. The pilots flew all over the world, flying all types of aircraft and all types of cargo and passengers. Pilots would be given a wad of cash and then the pilots were often on their own, having to arrange for maintenance, determine a totally different route of flight without any flight dispatch help.

The experience of one of Transocean's pilots, Rodney Stich, may provide an insight:

Interesting Experiences of Captain Rodney Stich, Transocean Airlines

For a sampling of interesting experiences by one of the Transocean Airlines crewmembers, Rodney Stich, click here (MS Word) (Adobe PDF)

Miscellaneous pictures Of
Transocean Airlines crewmembers


After the airline's demise, one of its pilots, Rodney Stich, sought to obtain information from the various crewmembers on their fascinating experiences. Unfortunately, none cooperated, so much of the rich history has been lost. This site contains the pictures and information gathered by former Transocean Airlines captain Rodney Stich. Some of his unusual experiences are described in the book, David vs. Goliath: 9/11 and Other Tragedies.)

Pictures Involving One of TAL's Pilots

Battle Encounters by Navy Patrol Bomber Squadron VPB-108

Prior to flying for Transocean Airlines, the prior flying was as a Navy Patrol Plane Commander (PPC) assigned to Patrol Plane squadron VPB-108, arriving there just as the war was coming to an end. Unpublished description of some of their last enemy encounters was described by a report  of the squadron historian.


Miscellaneous TAL Pictures

 Cockpit of Curtis C-46 in flight over Middle East.

Interesting Experiences of Airline-Military
Aviation Crewmembers of the Last 60 Years

Random interesting experiences of airline or military aviation crewmembers, from the start of World War II to the present date. Or even general aviation pilots. Click here.


To order a DVD video download, click on the following amazon link:


Cell phone and service deal from, with 30-day return if not satisfied.





Return to: