Airport Jeeps of the 1960s


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).

See more details and photos of Building Conveyor Belt CJ-3Bs.

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).

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.

Other Jobs

Jeeps in Public ServiceA baggage-loading CJ-3B is only one of several airport Jeeps shown on pages 14-15 of a late-1950s Willys booklet promoting Jeep Vehicles in Public Service. Also included are a snow blower, a mobile generator, and a foam-equipped CJ-3B crash wagon.

See another airport crash truck in Fire Jeep in the Movies on CJ3B.info.

San JuanA Jeep hardtop can 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."

DJ-3APulling trains of luggage wagons was another task often taken on by Jeeps. This 1960 DJ-3A was used for the purpose as recently as 1990 by Continental Airlines in Denver. Owned by Steve Mehls, the Jeep 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.

See also 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 (80K JPEG).
Although Mitsubishi and Mahindra flatfenders may still play important roles at airports in some parts of the world (see Airport Jeeps Around the World), Willys Jeeps at airfields in North America are likely all retired; photos of any remaining examples are welcome. There are of course more recent Jeeps at work. Even by 1968, newfangled Jeeps like the DJ-5 were showing up, as in the photo of a Trans Texas Airlines Convair CV-600 in New Orleans, by John F. Ciesla (60K JPEG).

Aircraft photos courtesy of the photographers and Airliners.net, the largest searchable online database of aviation photos.

Thanks to Karl Russell, who is equally at home fixing Jeeps or airplanes, for tipping me off to Airliners.net. Additional thanks to Billy Sierra, Mike Perry, and Steve Mehls. -- Derek Redmond

See also the Willys publication Jeeps for Aircraft Ground Support.

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Last updated 15 November 2001 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond