Black & Decker’s Flying Showroom
By Al LaPorte
Photo/Historical data courtesy of Black & Decker
years between the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII witnessed the
emergence of aviation as a major factor in commercial transportation.
From the barnstorming pilots, to the pioneering air mail flights, to
Lindbergh’s daring solo Atlantic crossing, the nation’s
recognition of aviation’s potential was awakened.
The 1920’s saw the beginnings
of commercial air travel, shrinking travel times for both passengers
and cargo. A few enterprising companies envisioned the usefulness of
aircraft as a means of advancing their business interests. One such
organization was Maryland’s Black & Decker Manufacturing
Company, as it was then known. It was among the first companies to
employ aircraft for the purpose of expanding their sales horizons.
For many years Black & Decker had
employed a modified bus as a traveling showroom. The condition of
North America’s roads in those days was such that the bus would
be shipped by rail to various regions of the United States and Canada
and then travel through the area by road to display and sell power
tools. The acquisition of an aircraft to supplement and modernize
their sales operations was conceived as a logical extension of Black
& Decker’s established policy of bringing their product
directly to the customer’s site.
In 1929 Black & Decker placed an
order through Curtis Flying Service for a Model 6000B six passenger
Curtis-Wright Travel Air monoplane. Construction began at the
Curtis-Wright plant in Wichita, Kansas in August of that year and the
aircraft entered final assembly in October 1929. Upon completion it
was flown to Baltimore and delivered to Black & Decker by year’s
end. The delivery flight was piloted by Lieutenant W. L. Snowden, who
was to become the company’s salesman-pilot of the Travel Air.
Travel Air models of this type were
intended by Curtis-Wright to serve as regional airliners and
corporate aircraft. In 1927 an earlier version of this aircraft, a
Model 5000, flew from Oakland, California to Hawaii in 27 hours,
setting a record as the first civilian aircraft to do so.
In keeping with Black & Decker’s
intention to use the aircraft primarily as a flying showroom, the six
passenger seats were removed and replaced with an interior layout
suitable for tool storage and display.
The inaugural flight of the flying
showroom took place in January of 1930 when the Travel Air embarked
on a 38-day tour through 8 southeastern states. The primary target of
the flying showroom was the growing aircraft industry. Since the
major aircraft manufacturers and maintenance operations were all
located on or immediately adjacent to airfields the concept of using
aircraft to sell and deliver tools proved to be an innovative and
efficient means of reaching this market segment.
supported by a global manufacturing, sales, and distribution network,
Black & Decker no longer requires flying showrooms to sell their
products. Aircraft, however, remain an important corporate asset for
the tool and domestic product manufacturer. The corporation now
employs modern jet aircraft to assist in managing their worldwide
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