Japan Air Lines (JAL), c. 1955.

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"City of Tokyo" DC-6B (JAL), Honolulu, 1954.

“City of Tokyo” DC-6B (JAL), c. 1955, the first JAL aircraft to fly the Tokyo-San Francisco international route, via Wake Island and Honolulu, loading passengers at Honolulu.

Japan Air Lines Opens Pacific Service

“TOKYO, JAPAN – On February 2 Japan Air Lines, ‘Wings of the New Japan,’ started trans-Pacific Air Service connecting this city with San Francisco, via Wake Island and Honolulu.

“The inaugural flight, the beginning of twice-weekly schedules across the Pacific by JAL, represented the start of an ambitious expansion of Japan’s domestic airline into world-wide air routes. Before the year is out JAL hopes to extend its San Francisco terminal southward to Sao Paulo, Brazil, via Los Angeles, Mexico City, Panama, Lima and Rio de Janeiro. It also plans on flights from the southwest of Japan to Seoul (Korea), Bangkok, Karachi, and Taipei (Formosa) during the year.

“All of these operations are being conducted with Douglas DC-6B aircraft, of which JAL has three plus two on order for later 1954 delivery. By April, 1955, Japan Air Lines hopes to have two de Havilland Comet II’s and hopes late that year to expand its routes from Karachi to London via Cairo, Rome, and Paris.

“… The scale of these proposed operations is no less impressive than the general operational feat JAL has undertaken. The inaugural flight represented the first scheduled international flight by a Japanese airline since the start of the war in 1941. At that time Dai Nippon Aviation Company was conducting air service between Tokyo and Bangkok with 11-passenger Mitsubishi MC-20’s and from Palau to Portuguese Timor in Kawanishi flying boats.

“Operation of three Douglas DC-6B’s over one of the world’s longest overwater routes, some 6600 miles, was a radical innovation for a country that had been forbidden any form of aviation activity for many years and thus missed many of the major technological developments of the postwar years. Japan’s real aviation leaders had been purged by the postwar agreements of the Occupation forces, effectively eliminating all past experience.”

American Aviation Magazine, February 15, 1954

JAL DC-6, Haneda Airport, Tokyo, c. 1960.

Passengers disembarking from a JAL DC-6, Haneda Airport, Tokyo, c. 1960, while other DC-6 await loading.

“[Japan Air Lines], which will hold various activities throughout the year to commemorate its 60th anniversary [in 2014], introduced its first route from Tokyo to Honolulu on Feb. 2, 1954, with a refueling stop in Wake Island. From Honolulu, the service continued on to San Francisco. This twice-weekly roundtrip service utilized a DC-6B aircraft named the ‘City of Tokyo’. The flighttime [from Tokyo to San Francisco] took 31 hours.

“… After experiencing healthy growth over the years with both international and domestic route expansion, and upgrading with the latest aircraft, from DC-7C, DC-8 to Boeing 747, JAL became one of the world’s largest carriers.”

Honolulu Star Advertiser, January 29, 2014

JAL DC-4, c. 1955.

JAL DC-4 “Tokachi”, c. 1955.

JAL DC-6Bs at Haneda Airport, c. 1960. Tokyo Tower rises from the horizon in the distance (left).

From the wiki: “Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. was established on 1 August 1951, with the government of Japan recognizing the need for a reliable air transportation system to help Japan grow in the aftermath of the World War II. On 25 October 1951, Japan’s first post-war domestic airline service was inaugurated, using a Martin 2-0-2 aircraft, named Mokusei, and crew leased from Northwest Airlines. By 1953 the JAL network extended northward from Tokyo to Sapporo and Misawa, and westward to Nagoya, Osaka, Iwakuni and Fukuoka.

“On 2 February 1954 the airline began international flights, carrying 18 passengers from Tokyo to San Francisco on a Douglas DC-6B City of Tokyo via Wake Island and Honolulu. (The early flights were advertised as being operated by American crews and serviced by United Air Lines in San Francisco.) The airline, in addition to the Douglas DC-3, Douglas DC-6B and Martin 2-0-2s, operated Douglas DC-4s and Douglas DC-7Cs during the 1950s.”

JAL DC-6, c. 1960, at Haneda Airport.

JAL DC-6, c. 1960, at Haneda Airport.

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