Splendor in the Air

As you look over the World War II planes at Camarillo Airport, you'll come across another vintage bird--albeit a post-war baby.

It's a 1952 Martin airliner that once carried 44 passengers for TWA. But when you step inside, you won't see rows of seats. Converted to a corporate luxury aircraft in the 1960s, it boasts seating for 16 including several comfy swivel chairs, mahogany liquor cabinet, office quarters, and a powder room. One section converts into a bed.

The airliner, now bearing a Pacific Air Lines logo, belongs to Jeff Whitesell of Camarillo, and it's open for tours the same days and hours that the Confederate Air Force displays its restored planes.

Whitesell, a pilot for Delta who has formed Airliners of America, hopes to acquire and display more of the aging "endangered" airliners flown by such carriers as Pacific Air Lines that no longer take to the skies.

It was an amazing coincidence that linked him to the old Martin, which he bought four years ago on his 40th birthday. When he went to look at it, he didn't know that it was the same plane in which his father had flown celebrities earlier when the family owned and operated a charter business.

It had carried the likes of boxer Muhammad Ali, and sportscasters Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford. Young Whitesell had served as steward on the charter flights.

"The outside was hideous," he said. Since then, he and a crew have spruced it up with paint, but the inside needed little work. He offers private group flights.

As his collection grows (he has another in pieces), he hopes to open a museum with a 1950s air terminal-style motif.

For information, call 388-8618.

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