Airline service to … Muskogee?

In our line of work, we acquire a lot of books. Some of them quite old and well used. One of the joys of getting a used book is exploring for clues left behind by pervious owners. Who might have owned it? Why did they have it? Dedications, names, dates, and sometimes even address and personal notes are always fun to see. Not to mention the endless parade of oddities people jam between pages as bookmarks.


The jewels you see here came from a business ledger I acquired in a local junk store recently. It’s a flyer for Central Airlines, a regional airline service that operated from 1949 until it was acquired by Frontier Airlines in 1967. The notes, tucked in the book along with the flyer, appear to be from a secretary making flight arrangements for her boss, apparently based in Muskogee.


Interesting to note that not only could you fly direct from small cities like Muskogee, McAlester, and Ada, but that in many cases the flight time wasn’t that much faster than driving is today. Of course, back then driving took much longer because we had yet to develop our modern network of limited access highways. Flying from Muskogee to Oklahoma City on a Central Airlines piston-powered DC3 took about an hour and twenty-five minutes. The same drive in the mid-1950s took about three and a half hours. With modern highways, the drive time today is about two hours.


How about the cost? According to the secretary’s notes, a round trip from Muskogee to OKC would set her boss back $23.15. That’s in 1954 dollars. Run it through an inflation calculator and it comes to a whopping $213.15 today. Service from Muskogee to Huston was $67.17 which works out roughly $515.53 for the round trip today. Flying from Muskogee to Huston in the old DC3 took over four hours. Today’s jet service will get you from Tulsa to Houston in about an hour and a half. But, it might take half the DC3’s four-hour flight time just to get through security and navigate the airports—not to mention the additional hour of added drive from Muskogee to catch a flight in Tulsa. Back in 1954, all you had to do was show up with a ticket and on walk on the plane.

It’s fun to see how much life in Oklahoma has changed over the past 63 years. It is now almost impossible to imagine even little cities having a bustling airline service. That would be a fun thing to see come back, even if it was really expensive.