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Central Airlines was established in 1944 by Oklahoma City aerospace writer and aviation entrepreneur Keith Hayes Kahle. Due to financing difficulties the airline did not begin scheduled operations until September 1949, when it put into service eleven single-engine Beechcraft Bonanzas providing service to small Oklahoma cities, such as Ardmore, Ada, Muskogee, Bartlesville, Stillwater, Ponca City, Enid, and Woodward. Backers of the venture included oilman F. Kirk Johnson and actor Jimmy Stewart.

Purchasing more sophisticated equipment, including DC-3s, Convair CV240s, and, eventually, turbo-prop aircraft, the regional airline expanded service to include forty-one cities in six southwestern and Midwest states. In 1961 headquarters was moved to Fort Worth, and in October 1967 Central was merged with Frontier Airlines.

By the time of the merger Central was carrying more than four hundred thousand passengers per year and posted annual operating revenues of $10 million. Throughout its years of operation it held the enviable record of never having had a fatal accident, while consistently having the lowest operating costs of any other local service airline. While Central was in operation, its founder and president, Keith Kahle, was instrumental in establishing the Consolidated Airline Purchasing Corporation, which pooled purchasing power of local airlines in an effort to reduce costs.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Central Airlines Links Small, Large Cities," The Beech Log (September-October 1949). "Central Airlines," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Keith Tolman

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