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Airport Ground Service Jeeps


 

Baggage Loaders

Convair CV-240When airplanes paused for servicing at airports during the "golden age of air travel" in the 1960s, there were likely to be Universal Jeeps at work. One of the jobs they frequently handled was carrying and powering the conveyor belts for lifting luggage and supplies onto the aircraft.

See the larger version (80K JPEG) of this beautiful late afternoon shot of the ground crew using a CJ-3B to load freight onto a Mohawk Airlines Convair CV-240 at LaGuardia Airport in New York, taken in August 1966 by John F. Ciesla.
 

DC-6A conveyor belt CJ-3B appears with a United Airlines Vickers Viscount in Atlanta in this May 1966 photo from John F. Ciesla. See the full version (70K JPEG).This Jeep has its door openings intact, while the 3B in the above photo had its body sides cut down to the floor for easier access. The same modification is seen on a Jeep pulling baggage carts to a Continental Airlines Viscount at Love Field in Dallas in 1962 (50K JPEG, photo by Mel Lawrence).
 

DC-6The other Jeep most commonly seen in airport photos from the period, appears to be the DJ-3A Dispatcher, although it can't always be distinguished from the earlier CJ-2A and CJ-3A, since the windshields were often removed and other bodywork modified. John F. Ciesla photographed this action at Chicago's O'Hare International in June 1967. See also the full version of the photo (90K JPEG), and another view (70K JPEG) with the Jeep moved to the rear door of the North Central Airlines Convair CV-580.
 

By 1968, newfangled Jeeps like the DJ-5 were converted as conveyors, as seen in this photo of a Trans Texas Airlines Convair CV-600 in New Orleans, by John F. Ciesla.

As far as I know, all these loaders were built at the Phelps Manufacturing plant in South Bend, Indiana, and known as the Hogan Conveyor or "Hoveyor". See Building Conveyor Belt CJ-3Bs for more details and photos.
 

Other Jobs

San JuanA quarter-ton Universal Jeep could be turned into a gasoline tanker at a smaller airfield. This looks like a CJ-2A, owned by US Flying Service, a flight school in St. Petersburg, Florida. This mobile gas station also has a compressed air tank on the front bumper, and bottles of oil in the cab. The little carbon tet fire extinguisher doesn't inspire much confidence, but there seems to also be a larger CO2 extinguisher on the far side.
 

San JuanA Jeep hardtop could serve as a handy platform for maintenance work, as seen here in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1965, with a Caribair DC-3 in the background. Photographer Billy Sierra recalls, "I was a very young teenager when I first drove that Jeep that is pictured. It shook and vibrated like a tambourine. I don't think you could go faster than 50 MPH as you felt it coming apart. There is also a steel platform on the hood of the Jeep that the mechanics used to work on the airplanes."
 

DC-3The mixture of jets and propeller aircraft on the tarmac at major airports is one of the things that made the 1960s an exciting period in air travel. This 1960 photo by John F. Ciesla shows a classic DC-3 at Idlewild (JFK) Airport in New York, with a couple of brand new Delta jets in the background. Somebody in the ground crew rides in a classic too. I thought it might be the mechanics' Jeep, but Karl Russell, whose father flew DC-3's for Northeast, comments, "I'd be willing to bet that CJ-3B is for handling baggage since it is backed up to the baggage compartment. While the guys in coveralls could certainly be mechanics, I know for a fact the ramp crew gets very testy if a mechanic parks in their way." See the full version of the photo (60K JPEG).
 

TWA CJ-3BThis 1956 CJ-3B was originally used by by Trans World Airlines to pull baggage at the Tulsa Municipal Airport. It was moved to the Tulsa International Airport in 1961 where it was in service until 1979. When sold online in 2016 it still had its original red paint with "TWA" showing on the hood.

See also an Air Canada CJ-3B baggage tug.
 

DJ-3AThis 1960 DJ-3A was used for the pulling luggage wagons as recently as 1990 by Continental Airlines in Denver. Owned by Steve Mehls, the Dispatcher has now been repainted in its original Continental red and white (35K JPEG) which had been covered up by later re-paints as the Continental colors changed.
 

Idlewild, 1960Another shot with propellers and jets side-by-side is John F. Ciesla's nice photo of a Braniff luggage train pulled by a Dispatcher, waiting for the passengers to disembark from a Boeing 707-227 at Idlewild in July 1960, with a Capital Airlines DC-6B in the background.
 

Jeeps in Public ServiceSeveral airport Jeeps including a foam-equipped CJ-3B crash wagon are shown on pages 14-15 of a mid-1950s Willys booklet promoting Jeep Vehicles in Public Service.

See also more examples in the Willys publication Jeeps for Aircraft Ground Support.
 

FC-170The booklets listed above probably date from before 1957, since they don't include any Forward Control trucks. Once the FCs were introduced, Willys Motors did promote them as airport service vehicles, including the always important lavatory truck. Willys apparently had a good relationship with United Airlines, because many of the advertising photos taken at the Toledo Airport featured United's Convair Mainliner fleet.
 

FC-150Convair CV-340-31 "Fort Wayne" was in service with United from 1953-1960 according to a fleet list, so that places this photo of an FC-150 prior to 1960. Another interesting detail in this photo is the emblem on the door of the Jeep, which is not the United Airlines shield, but rather a US foreign aid sticker (110K PNG), placed on vehicles destined for export as government aid.

FC photos courtesy of the Toledo Library Collection.
 

CJ-2ALittle fire trucks are not uncommon at airports. This CJ-2A, now at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada in Winnipeg, was converted as a crash truck for the airport at Dafoe, Saskatchewan in 1946/47. Later used at Yorkton and at St. Andrews Airport near Winnipeg, it was donated to the museum in 1990. Photo by AdolfGalland on Flickr, under CC.

Also well worth seeing at the museum is the cavernous Bristol 170 Freighter behind the Jeep (180K JPEG, photo by Cesamos for tripadvisor.ca.) Built in the UK in 1955 for the RCAF, it was later sold to Wardair and then Norcanair to carry freight in northern Canada, and was donated to the museum in 1983.
 

AtlantaThis CJ-6 loaded with CO2 at the Atlanta Airport Fire Station made good use of its extra rear capacity compared to shorter-wheelbase Jeeps such as the CJ-5 Crash Wagon.

See some CJ-3B crash trucks in Fire Jeep in the Movies and Ansul Chemical Crash Trucks on CJ3B.info. And even a CJ-3B baggage loader helping out at a 1958 Airport Fire!
 

Willys Jeeps at airfields in North America have likely all retired long ago, but you will still see more recent Jeeps at work, and here's an interesting one in Sacramento CA. In addition to hitches front and rear, this YJ is sporting aftermarket fenders, rocker panel armor and front bumper from MetalCloak, in nearby Rancho Cordova CA. Great way to keep a working Jeep looking good, even after a couple of decades of service.
 

Bob Christy took these photos in early 2017 when he was taking a charter flight through the Jet Center private terminal at Sacramento International, and said, "I was pleased to find this Wrangler serving airport duty, moving steps, hauling baggage carts and such around the jet port."

The YJ, and the Patriot providing personnel and utility transport, make a nice Jeep ground crew team.
 

Thanks to Karl Russell, Bob Christy, Billy Sierra, Mike Perry, and Steve Mehls. Aircraft photos courtesy of the photographers and Airliners.net. -- Derek Redmond


See also Airport Jeeps Around the World.

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Last updated 5 April 2017 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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