Walter Hamilton (airline executive)

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Walter A. Hamilton
Born(1901-06-09)June 9, 1901
DiedMarch 28, 1946(1946-03-28) (aged 44)
OccupationCo-founder of Standard Airlines
TWA Executive
Known forAirline pioneer
Military career
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Department of the Navy Seal.svg US Navy
Years of service1942-1944
Battles/warsWorld War II
Spouse(s)Wilma Sutton
Harriet Fairchild
Children2 step-children

Walter Andrew Hamilton (June 9, 1901 - March 28, 1946) was a pioneer in the airline industry. Hamilton was a co-founder of Standard Air Lines and through a series of airline mergers became one of the "Three Musketeers" running Trans World Airlines.

Early life[edit]

Hamilton was born to Wilbur and Martha (Stellmacher) Hamilton on June 9, 1901 in Los Angeles, California.[1] He became a mechanic for the Duesenberg Motors Company.[2]

Aviation career[edit]

Hamilton learned to fly at Burdett Field in Los Angeles by instructor Burdett Fuller. Hamilton became good friends with two other pilots he met there, Jack Frye and Paul E. Richter. Hamilton, Frye, and Richter pooled their money together in 1925 and formed Aero Corporation of California (Aero Corp).[2] Aero Corp bought Burdett Fuller's flight school and did everything from flight instruction, banner towing, crop dusting, charter flights, to supporting local high school aviation clubs. [3] Hamilton ran the aircraft maintenance division of Aero Corp, while Frye and Richter focused on the flying.[2] Hamilton's ability to tune aircraft engines allowed Frye and Richter to set multiple aircraft speed and altitude records, such as the 1926 Reginald Denny Trophy, 1927 Western Flying Trophy, and a 1926 18,000ft altitude record. [4] In preparation for extending their business into Arizona, the trio earned their Arizona State Commercial Pilot Certificates on the same day with Frye getting certificate #1, Hamilton #2, and Richter #3.[5]

On February 3, 1926, Standard Air Lines was formed as a subsidiary of Aero Corp, but didn't start flight operations until November 28, 1927.[2] Standard Air Lines ran scheduled passenger service from Los Angeles to Phoenix to Tucson and return. Within a year they extended the route to El Paso, Texas. Standard started with single engine Fokker F-7[3] aircraft, but soon upgraded to the Fokker F-10 tri-motor aircraft. As in Aero Corp, Hamilton ran the aircraft maintenance for Standard, while Frye and Richter focused on the flying.[2]

In early 1930, Western Air Express bought controlling interest of Standard Air Lines, but continued to run it as a separate entity and made Hamilton, Frye, and Richter vice presidents of the Standard Division.[2] In July 1930, Western Air Express merged with Transcontinental Air Transport to form Transcontinental and Western Air (T&WA). Because of Standard's southern route from Los Angeles to El Paso, the government forced the sale of Standard Air Lines to American Airlines as part of the deal. Hamilton, Frye, and Richter elected to stay with the newly formed T&WA. Transcontinental and Western Airlines eventually changed their name to Trans World Airlines (TWA) where Hamilton was Superintendent of Maintenance, Frye became President, and Richter Executive Vice President.[2] The trio became known at TWA as the "Three Musketeers"[6][4] and was the inspiration for the TWA slogan "The airline run by flyers."[7]

In 1939, Hamilton left TWA for a position at the Douglas Aircraft Company.[6]

World War II[edit]

Hamilton was called to service in the US Navy in 1942.[2] He worked in the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics and was released from active duty in 1944 at the rank of captain.[6] Hamilton returned to work for TWA after the war.

Personal life[edit]

Hamilton married Wilma Sutton in Los Angeles on July 6, 1920.[8] He later married Harriet Fairchild and became the step-father to Juanita and Warren.[9]


Hamilton died of a kidney infection on March 28, 1946 at the Research Hospital in Kansas City.[6] He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.


  1. ^ "Supplemental Report of Birth". Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Serling, Robert J. (1983). Howard Hughes' Airline (2nd ed.). St. Martins. pp. 38–44, 143. ISBN 9781542575201.
  3. ^ a b McReynolds, Charles (April 6, 1929). "Your Aviation Frenzy Gives Way to Transport and Scenic Touring ... California, 1929". Aviation Magazine. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b Chandler, Kaye. "TWA-The Building of an Airline, as revealed in the private collection of Paul Ernest Richter Jr" (PDF). Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  5. ^ Smith, Wesley R. "August 2014 Mystery Plane: M-14 Thunderbird". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d "Walter Hamilton's Death Breaks Up TWA's "Big Three"". The Skyliner. 10 (2): 1, 16. March–April 1946. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Advertisement "The Airline Run by Flyers."". Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Marriage License". Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  9. ^ "1930 Census". Retrieved 9 May 2020.

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