El Paso Express

C&M Airways DC-9

A rare sight nowadays, this DC-9-15MC (msn: 47055) was built in the fall of 1967 for Trans-Texas Airways (TTA) and delivered on November 22 of that year, just a few months after the McDonnell-Douglas merger. The smallest of the DC-9/MD-80 family, the original DC-9 variant was developed in the early 1960s as a short-haul companion to the larger DC-8. The DC-9 entered service on December 8, 1965, with Delta.

After developing the DC-9-30, stretched nearly 15 feet and with a more advanced wing, the small DC-9-10 quickly fell out of vogue and just 137 were built, with the last examples delivered in 1968.

Prior to the rise of express carriers and integrators, there was more of a need for quick-change and convertible aircraft, so Douglas/MD added the option of a factory main deck cargo door on the DC-9-15 and the DC-9-30. While the DC-9-15’s were meant to be rapid-change models – with either detachable folding seats (MC) or palletized seats (RC), the -30 could be ordered as a full freighter if the customer so desired.

Trans-Texas Airways graduated to jet equipment with its purchase of the DC-9-10 in 1967, and changed its name to Texas International two years later. Texas International flew mostly short routes in the lower midwest and intra-Texas, but faced stiff competition from Southwest and, on interstate routes, Braniff and Ozark. In 1972, the airline came under the control of Frank Lorenzo, who later leveraged the company into Texas Air, a holding corporation, and was merged into newly-purchased Continental Airlines in 1982.

This DC-9 served with TTA and Texas International until that year and eventually found its way into the fleet of Purolator Courier when it was under United States ownership (prior to returning to Canadian ownership in 1987). The registration, N563PC, dates from this era. It later flew for Emery Worldwide and then, from 1995-2001, for Kitty Hawk, who’s basic color scheme is still in place.

Coming full circle, N563PC is now part of the fleet of C&M Airways, a small cargo charter operator based in El Paso, Texas, where this plane no doubt shuttled passengers back in the 1960s.

C&M, callsign “Red Wing,” also owns two Convair 640 prop freighters, though the operational status of these aircraft is unknown, and operates usually on behalf of automotive industry clients. Fewer than 25 DC-9-10’s still have current registrations, and even fewer are actually airworthy. Other U.S. operators include USA Jet Airlines and Ameristar, both offer charter passenger and freight services.

©Photographer: Alex Kwanten

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