Ozark Air Lines – Airline of the Month – OPShots.net

Ozark Air Lines Operated in the United States from 1950 until 1986, when it was purchased by Trans World Airlines. A second, smaller airline by that same name operated in 2000-2001. The Ozark from 1950 until 1986 had its headquarters at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in St. Louis County, Missouri.


Ozark Air Lines’ origins date back to September 1943 when it was founded in Springfield, Missouri, and it began operations in January 1945 with service between Springfield and St. Louis using Beech 17 Staggerwing aircraft. Those were replaced by Cessna AT-17 Bobcat in the late 1940s. But because a license by the Civil Aeronautics Board was not forthcoming, operations had to be stopped

Ozark FH-227 just about to touch down at ORD. Photographer NwFedEx 757 OPShots.net

Another airline, Parks Air Lines, got an operating license so in 1950 Ozark took over Parks Air Lines, to include some Douglas DC-3s. Flights from St. Louis to Chicago soon followed, and by 1955 the airline had 13 DC-3s flying to over 25 destinations between Milwaukee, Wichita,Nashville and Indianapolis.

Ozark’s main hub was Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

In 1960, the fleet was upgraded to turboprops with the introduction of the Fokker F27 Friendship, and to increase capacity the Martin 4-0-4 was introduced in 1964.

Jet service

The pure jet age came to Ozark in 1966 with the introduction of the Douglas DC-9-10 and with them the network was expanded to include: Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami, Tampa and Orlando. Soon the DC-3s and F27s were replaced by the Fairchild Hiller FH-227 until October 1978, when the fleet was composed of DC-9s only.

Over the years, Ozark’s DC-9-10s were augmented with DC-9-31/32 and DC-9-40s until 1984 when the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 was introduced. The livery of the airline had three swallows painted on the vertical stabilizer of its airplanes. The swallows represented on-time performance. The symbolism was based on the legend of the swallows that return to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, in California, each year precisely on the 19th of March.

Ozark Airlines DC-9 KCLE Observation deck. Photographer: Douglas Condon – OPShots.net

This DC9 sports Ozarks new and last paint scheme. Photographer: NwFedEx757 – OPShots.net

Ozark DC-9 takes to the skies after a 23L departure from KCLE. Photographer: NWFedEx757 – OPShots.net

Merger with TWA

In the mid-1980s, Ozark and TWA had a de facto duopoly at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, a hub for both. Ozark accounted for 26.3 percent of emplanements at STL in 1985, while TWA accounted for another 56.6 percent. On March 1, 1986, the two airlines announced plans to merge: TWA would buy Ozark for $242 million in cash.  Shareholders of both airlines approved the merger by late summer, and the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval on September 12, 1986.

Ozark ceased to exist as an independent company on October 27, 1986. The Ozark DC-9s were gradually painted with a modified paint scheme to reflect the name “TWA” in the tail. Eventually, over the next couple of years, the fifty airplanes of the Ozark fleet were freshly repainted in the TWA livery.

Ozark Airlines Dornier 328JET N430Z is seen at ATL. Photographer: N960DL OPShots.net

Second Ozark Air Lines (2000-2001)

In 1998, the rights to the airline’s name were purchased by William E. Stricker of Columbia, Missouri. The reformed Ozark Air Lines received its operating certificate on February 11, 2000, and began service 10 days later,  from Columbia Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Chicago Midway Airport, using two Fairchild Dornier 328JET aircraft.

A year later the company ceased operations and sold its assets to the now-bankrupt Great Plains Airlines, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.



Ozark Air Lines is gone but not forgotten. Please make sure to check out Ozark Airlines History – This site is dedicated to preserving the history of a very unique company – Ozark Air Lines – which began operation Sep. 1950 and and flew it’s last flight Oct. 1986.

Ozark Silver Swallows Alumni – Perpetuating the History and Commemorating the former employees of Ozark Air Lines.

Ozark Virtual Airlines – takes you back to the glory days of Ozark. If you fly using Microsoft Flight Simulator, we sincerely hope you’ll consider joining us. We fly the aircraft and the routes the actual Ozark flew. We welcome new pilots and are here to help you achieve your goals.

About the author

Mark Plumley

I have always looked to the sky at the wonderful aluminum tubes darting through the sky. My love for aviation has taken me to many airports and air shows and I hope to be able to experience many more in the years to come and to share my experience along the way.


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  1. Chuck

    Nice job Mark!

  2. RampBoss

    That’s some good reading and I like the idea of a featured airline. Great job! I flew on Ozark DC-9’s and FH-227’s back in the 80’s when in the USAF. Wish I took pictures!!! 🙁

  3. George

    Excellent idea and article……….Nice to go down memory lane with the old airlines that were around…..I remember Ozark Airlines well………seen alot of Ozark planes at OHare back in the day! George……… NwFedEx757

    1. Anonymous

      Glad you like the idea. We will feature one each week.

  4. nwfedex757

    Excellent idea and article. This is a great trip down memory lane.Its hard to believe all the airlines that few the U.S skies that are no longer around.I remember Ozark Airlines well!

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