Texas Air Transport, Inc.

By: Ray F. Lucas

Type: General Entry

Published: June 2, 2021

Updated: January 19, 2022

Texas Air Transport, Inc. (TAT or Texas Air Transport), an early Texas postal and passenger air carrier (see AVIATION), was incorporated on October 13, 1927, in Fort Worth and based at Meacham Field. Initial incorporators were R. C. Bowen, Temple Bowen, and F. G. Lippitt. Amon G. Carter, Sr., was also a financial backer of TAT. The first directors of the company were R. C. Bowen, Temple Bowen, F. G. Lippitt, John Hancock, and Seth Barwise. R. C. Bowen served as president, Temple Bowen served as vice president and general manager, and Lippitt served as a vice president and treasurer.  

On August 17, 1927, Seth Barwise of Fort Worth, one of TAT’s original directors, was awarded a contract by the Postal Department for the first two Texas airmail routes. Barwise contracted with the Postal Department as an individual, although he represented several Fort Worth investors, including H. C. Meacham, E. K. Williams, B. B. Buckeridge, C. A. Winder, and Temple and R. C. Bowen. Barwise’s original bid stated that he intended to form a corporation to execute the contract once it was awarded. Barwise was required to begin delivery of the mail within six months of his award, and the newly-formed TAT subcontracted with Barwise to fly the routes. TAT serviced the two airmail routes with twice daily flights over each route. The two routes were called routes No. 21 (Dallas to Houston to Galveston) and No. 22 (Dallas to Waco to Austin to San Antonio, and then Laredo).  

The company began with five pilots (Tom Hardin, Leland S. Andrews, Hugh Brewster, Charles Pedley, and Jerry Marshall), and two emergency pilots (V. W. Barnett and W. A. Moores) to fly the routes. Hardin served as the chief pilot. Originally from Waco, he flew for the U.S. Army in World War I. Andrews, the brother-in-law of famed flyer James “Jimmy” Doolittle, had also flown during World War I and managed the airfield in Waco.

The seven TAT flyers delivered the mail in two biplanes. Temple Bowen eventually purchased six planes with Wright Whirlwind engines for the service. Dallas was the southern terminus of the National Air Transport airmail route out of Chicago, and from there the mail moved south on TAT planes. TAT executives, pilots, and civic leaders held a large celebration at Meacham Field on February 5, 1928, and the following day pilot Hugh Brewster carried the first airmail over the Texas routes controlled by Texas Air Transport.

On June 1, 1928, TAT began regular air passenger service in addition to carrying the mail. The planes could carry two passengers. Air rates for passengers were two and one-half times more expensive than railroads, but time saved by flying could offset the hefty prices. Air passenger service was reported to be a great boon to a large state like Texas. TAT invited a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman to fly from Austin to Fort Worth and he reported the flight “quite commonplace.”

TAT sought to expand its business to more than intrastate mail and passenger service. TAT flew the first international airmail route in the western hemisphere. The international route began between the United States and Mexico on September 30, 1928. Four planes, one with mail and three with dignitaries, flew south from Fort Worth to Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Mail was then flown to Mexico City on the Mexican airmail line operated by the Mexican government. Mail moving north from Mexico and South Texas was loaded on National Air Transport planes to reach points outside of Texas.

The fast expansion of TAT in passenger traffic and domestic and international mail routes brought TAT to the notice of other air carriers. During its first year of operation, TAT carried 84,050 pounds of mail and flew more than 511,918 miles. The company expanded to sixteen aircraft and employed fifty-two people with a monthly payroll of $16,000 per month. In October 1928 A. P. Barrett, owner of the Texas-Louisiana Power Company and the St. Tammany Gulf Coast Air Ways, Inc., the company holding contracts for airmail routes No. 29 (New Orleans to Houston to Brownsville or Laredo) and No. 23 (Atlanta to Mobile to Birmingham to Atlanta), purchased TAT. Barrett hired Cyrus Rowlett Smith, one of his employees from the Texas-Louisiana Power Company, to be TAT’s secretary and treasurer. Tom Hardin, the chief pilot of TAT, stayed on and became the vice president and general manager. On February 18, 1929, Barrett formed Southern Air Transport (SAT) and later merged TAT with his new company. Smith became the secretary and treasurer of SAT. Later in 1929 SAT merged with Aviation Corporation (AVCO). In January 1930 AVCO became American Airways, Inc. Four years later, American Airways changed its name to American Airlines, Inc. The next month, C. R. Smith became American Airlines’s president. Today, American Airlines is part of the AMR Corporation, based in Fort Worth.

Austin American-Statesman, October 13, 1927; December 28, 29, 1927; February 4, 1928; May 28, 1928; June 3, 1928. Biography of C. R. Smith, American Airlines C R Smith Museum, Fort Worth, Texas (https://www.crsmithmuseum.org/visit-the-museum/about/biography-of-c-r-smith), May 26, 2021. Fort Worth Record-Telegram, October 21, 24, 1927; December 28, 1927; January 27, 1928; February 4, 6, 1928; October 1, 1928. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 13, 24, 1927; February 6, 8, 1929; June 29, 1937; April 16, 1961; June 13, 1984. United States Congress Serial Set 9509, Air Mail Contracts—Letter from the Postmaster General Transmitting in Response to Senate Resolution No. 53 Certain Information Relative to Air Mail Contracts (Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1932).

  • Aviation and Aerospace
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Company Founders
  • Transportation and Railroads
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ray F. Lucas, “Texas Air Transport, Inc.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-air-transport-inc.

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June 2, 2021
January 19, 2022

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