These rare black-and-white images chart the history of one of America’s most short-lived airlines.
They show the fleet and passengers of National Parks Airways (NPA), which operated for a mere 10 years, between 1927 and 1937, in Utah, Idaho and Montana.
It would eventually capitalise on the boom in Yellowstone National Park tourism and ferry passengers to towns nearby – but it started off operating airmail and passenger services on one route from Salt Lake City to Great Falls.
A hangar in Utah in 1928 with one of National Parks Airways’ three Fokker Super Universal planes pictured. NPA operated between 1927 and 1937
NPA’s original fleet included two Stearman C3MB aircraft with open cockpits. These were used to carry airmail
This charming vintage image shows passengers and crew ready to board a Fokker Super Universal for NPA’s inaugural flight to Idaho Falls in September 1934
NPA was founded by Alfred Frank, but despite its name, it wasn’t officially aligned with the national parks system.
Rather, it opted for this branding because it was marketable and reflected the fact that Great Falls was, after all, near Glacier National Park.
The mail planes were extremely rudimentary – Stearman C3MB aircraft with open cockpits.
The passenger fleet consisted of three Fokker Super Universals. Top speed – 118mph.
The Fokker Super Universal was considered a luxury plane in the 20s – because it had a closed cabin.
As NPA’s business grew, it added Boeing 247s to its fleet. One is pictured here in West Yellowstone in southern Montana
NPA’s Boeing 247s were faster and deemed to be safer and more comfortable than its previous aircraft
The new Boeing 247 planes boasted reclining seats, a two-way radio and a heated cabin. One is pictured here at West Yellowstone
Renting Boeing 247s in 1934 meant that NPA was able to expand its passenger carrying business to towns near Yellowstone Park
A poster dating back to 1934 advertising NPA flights from Salt Lake City on board a twin-engine Boeing 247
In 1936, NPA teamed up with Western Air Express (later Western Airways) to offer vacations in the western US
One early picture shows one of NPA’s Fokker Super Universals standing outside a hangar in Utah in 1928.
By 1934, the airline upgraded its fleet by leasing two Boeing 247s, which were faster, safer and more comfortable.
The new planes boasted reclining seats and a heated cabin.
Other planes used on a lease basis by NPA included Boeing Model 80s and Boeing 40Bs.
The new additions meant NPA was able to expand its passenger-carrying business.
The popularity of Yellowstone National Park hadn’t gone unnoticed, so NPA began offering flights to nearby Idaho Falls and West Yellowstone – and sightseeing excursions over the park itself.
One of the charming vintage images shows the passengers and crew on the inaugural flight to Idaho Falls in September 1934 while others show Boeing 247s after landing at West Yellowstone, in southern Montana.
As the tourism part of the business took off, however, the airmail side had a bumpy landing.
In late 1934 the airmail contracts were cancelled, resulting in NPA’s profits dwindling.
But the carrier still had some life left in it.
By 1936, it had teamed up with Western Air Express to offer vacations in San Diego, Los Angeles, Yellowstone and Montana.
An image from the time shows the trip being advertised in a Sky Tours brochure and described as ‘America’s greatest vacation by air’.
But by 1937 a separate existence no longer made business sense and the decision was made to sell NPA to Western Air Express, which later became known as Western Airlines.
Fifty years later Western Airlines ceased to exist when it merged with Delta Air Lines.
These vintage images and other memorabilia from NPA are in the care of the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, which celebrates the history of Delta Air Lines and aviation.
During the summer of 1936, National Parks Airways took a Boeing Model 80, pictured, on a short lease. It flew sightseeing flights over Yellowstone National Park
Another picture showing NPA’s Boeing Model 80 aircraft. NPA ran sightseeing flights over Yellowstone National Park in the summers of 1935, 1936 and 1937
Another model of aircraft NPA took on a lease was the Boeing 40B. The aircraft, pictured, was used for mail flights and had skis fitted for snowy take-offs and landings
Yellowstone National Park, pictured, is extremely popular with tourists and was America’s first National Park