Airport History

Griffin-Spalding Airport History

Oldest Douglas DC-3 departs Griffin!

Phoenix Rises From the Kudzu?

A Phoenix rose from the ashes or should I say from the kudzu of Central Georgia. The oldest Douglas DC -3 in existence returned to the skies this past month, departing Griffin, Georgia heading for its new home in Punta Gorda, Florida .

The aircraft, eventually designated N133D, (c/n #1499) was the sixth DC-3 off the Douglas DST line. It was delivered to American Airlines in 1936. It served during World War II as a cargo and transport aircraft for the Army Air Corps / Air Force and after the war it returned home to American Airlines.

In 1950 American sold the aircraft to Ozark Airlines where it transported freight and passengers until 1968 when it logged its final Ozark mission, Flight 311, ferrying passengers between Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta, Georgia. Ozark sold its DC-3s to Airline Aviation Academy to make way for the jet aircraft that were quickly replacing propeller piston aircraft, like the DC-3, as the preferred vehicle for passenger transport. In 1972 Mr. Bob McSwiggan purchased Airline Aviation Academy and its DC-3s, renaming it Academy Airlines. He operated the DC-3s including N133D from their new home base in Griffin, Georgia.

During its life with Academy Airlines it served primarily as a freighter, making flights hauling anything from newspapers to auto parts to computers from anywhere in the southeast including, Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Orlando and Atlanta. It even landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida transporting the auxiliary power units for the Space Shuttle Challenger back to the manufacturer for overhaul.

Unfortunately, in the 90’s it wound up on the ground in Griffin, where it hasn’t moved since. It has stood watch over old the grass field at the Griffin-Spalding County Airport for many years where the sun, wind, rain, even ice and snow have taken their toll. Occasionally, DC-3 enthusiasts and historians have ventured here to Griffin to pay their respects, ask questions and take pictures of the weathered hull sitting motionless amongst the waiving grass.

Luckily, this past year Mr. Frank Moss purchased the old girl, (formerly known as the American Airlines Flagship “Tennessee”). He and his family have made numerous trips from their home in Florida up here to Griffin bringing with them parts, including new engines, propellers, cable, wiring and control surfaces where they strove to get her in good enough flying shape so that they may fly her to Florida where she will undergo a complete restoration.

It was sad to see her go but I think an even greater tragedy would have been to watch as the kudzu eventually claimed her.

  • Charlotte Fogg Frye
    Enshrined 1991

    Born in Wichita, Kansas, Charlotte Barbara Fogg moved to Atlanta in 1898. She married Augustus Frye, M.D. in 1916 and lived in Griffin until her death in 1983. With instructions from Beeler Blevins and Wesley Raymond at Candler Field, Atlanta, she learned to fly in 1931, after discovering that her physician husband had been taking flight lessons. At the time there were six licensed women pilots in Georgia. Mrs. Frye became a charter member and vice president of the Georgia chapter of the Ninety-Nine's and served as governor of the Southeastern Section in 1941. She was a member of the Atlanta Aero Club, the Georgia chapter of the. National Aeronautical Association, USA, and the Carolina Aero Club. Frye flew in air shows and took leading roles in promoting aviation in Georgia in the 1930s--"the best years and happiest years--when we were flying." Charlotte Frye was the only woman pilot sworn in during the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of airmail service in May 1938. She flew the mail from Griffin to Atlanta and became one of the first female airmail pilots. Mrs. Frye's husband, and her son Augustus Frye Jr., Chattanooga surgeon, were fliers, her daughter a flying enthusiast. A second son, Warren, worked with Lockheed. She relinquished her license when the United States entered WWII and all private pilot licenses were revoked. Charlotte Frye was enshrined May 18, 1991, as one of Georgia's pioneer women pilots and one who actively promoted aviation in her state during the 1930s.

  • Janet Harmon Bragg
    Enshrined 2000

    Janet Harmon Bragg was born in Griffin, Georgia and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She became a Registered Nurse in the early 1930s. In 1933, at the age of 21, Janet Harmon Bragg started flying lessons and soon earned a Private Pilot License. She then persuaded the Village of Robins, Illinois to provide land for an airport and helped to found the Challenger Flying Club based at Robins Airport. Bragg encouraged other women to take flying lessons. The Challenger Flying Club grew. When not working or flying, Janet Harmon Bragg was active in politics. When our nation began to prepare for WWII, Janet was very actively promoting both black men and women for active roles in military aviation. Janet Bragg was instrumental in the U.S. Army Air Corps' opening flight training for black pilots at five locations, including Tuskegee Institute. Janet Harmon Bragg spent the major part of her life encouraging blacks to become active in aviation. She was an active pilot for over 35 years, earned a Commercial Pilot License and logged over 2,000 flying hours. In 1984, Bragg was honored by the University of Arizona Black Alumni Association as the first black woman to receive a commercial pilot's license in the USA. She was also presented the Certificate of Appreciation by the FAA and awarded the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for her contributions to aviation by the U.S. Department of Transportation.