1 March 1962: Los Angeles Airways inaugurated scheduled passenger service utilizing twin-engine, turbine-powered helicopters.
Shown in the photograph above is LAA’s Sikorsky S-61L, FAA registration N300Y, at the Disneyland Heliport, Anaheim, California. LAA was the first civil operator of the S-61, purchasing them at a cost of $650,000, each. N300Y was the prototype S-61L, serial number 61031. On 14 August 1968, N300Y suffered a catastrophic main rotor spindle failure and crashed at Leuders Park, Compton, California. All 21 persons aboard were killed.
Los Angeles Airways began operations in 1947 and continued until 1971. It flew Sikorsky S-51, S-55 and S-61L helicopters.
The Sikorsky S-61L was a civil variant of the United States Navy HSS-2 Sea King and was the first helicopter specifically built for airline use. The prototype, N300Y, first flew 2 November 1961. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. Although HSS-2 fuselage is designed to allow landing on water, the S-61L is not amphibious, having standard landing gear rather than the sponsons of the HSS-2 (and civil S-61N).
The S-61L fuselage is 4 feet, 2 inches (1.270 meters) longer than that of the HSS-2. The S-61L is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 16 feet, 10 inches (5.131 meters) high, with rotors turning. The fully-articulated main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The tail rotor also has five blades and a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.149 meters). They each have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). At 100% NR, the main rotor turns 203 r.p.m. and the tail rotor, 1,244 r.p.m.
The S-61L was powered by two General Electric CT58-110 turboshaft engines, each of which had a continuous power rating of 1,050 shaft horsepower and maximum power of 1,250 shaft horsepower. The main transmission was rated for 2,300 horsepower, maximum.
The S-61 has a cruise speed of 166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). Its maximum takeoff weight is 20,500 pounds (9,298.6 kilograms).
Between 1958 and 1980, Sikorsky built 794 S-61-series helicopters. 13 were S-61Ls.
1 March 1925: Ryan Airlines Incorporated, founded by Tubal Claude Ryan and Frank Mahoney, began a regularly-scheduled passenger airline service, the Los Angeles–San Diego Air Line. The airline connected San Diego and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in southern California.
One of the airplanes used the Douglas Aircraft Company’s first airplane, a Davis-Douglas Cloudster, which was modified to carry as many as ten passengers, and three Standard Aero Corporation J-1 trainers, each modified to carry four passengers.
Scheduled flights departed Los Angeles for San Diego at 9:00 a.m., daily, and from San Diego to Los Angeles at 4:00 p.m., daily. The fare for a one-way flight was $14.50, and a round trip was $22.50.
The photograph below (from the collection of the San Diego Air and Space Museum) shows opening day activities at Dutch Flats, near the current intersection of Midway Drive and Barnett Avenue, in the city of San Diego.
The Davis-Douglas Cloudster was the first airplane built by the Douglas Airplane Company in Santa Monica, California. Donald Douglas’s investor, David R. Davis, had asked for an airplane to attempt a non-stop cross country flight.
The Cloudster was built by the Davis-Douglas Company at Santa Monica, California. It was a two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane. It was 36 feet, 9 inches (11.201 meters) long, with a wingspan 55 feet, 11 inches (17.043 meters), and height 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters). Its gross weight was 9,600 pounds (4,355 kilograms).
The Cloudster was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty 12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine, which produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller.
The Cloudster had a cruise speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour), and maximum of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometer per hour). Its normal range was 550 miles (885 kilometers), but when equipped for the transcontinental flight, its range was increased to 2,700 miles (4,345 kilometers).
The Cloudster first flew on 24 February 1921. It was the first airplane capable of lifting a payload greater than its own weight. The airplane was flew 785 miles (1,263 kilometers) in 8 hours, 45 minutes, when a timing gear failed, forcing a landing in Texas. The airplane was shipped back to Santa Monica for repairs. Before another attempt could be made, Lieutenant John Arthur Macready and Lieutenant Oakley George Kelly, United States Army, made a successful non-stop flight with a Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker T-2, 2–3 May 1923.
After this, Davis pulled out of the company. The Cloudster was sold to Ryan for $6,000.
During Prohibition,¹ the Cloudster was used to fly contraband alcoholic beverages into the United States from Mexico. In December 1926, it made a crash landing on a beach near Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, and was damaged beyond repair.
¹ Prohibition was an era between 1920 and 1933, when the production, sale and importation of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the United States. This gave rise to organized crime, tax evasion, “boot leggers,” “rum runners,” “speak easys” and “bathtub gin.”