1941 - 1950

Challenger began life as Summit Airways, a Wyoming corporation, organized on December 31, 1941. Summit limited its activities to flight instruction, buying and selling airplanes, and non-scheduled air carrier service.

The founders and owners of Summit were Charles W. Hirsig II, President until his death January 15, 1945, Fred M. Manning, George J. Forbes, and Fred O. Rice. George J. Forbes was the second President from January, 1945 until January 7, 1947 when George W. Snyder, Jr. took over. Donald A. Duff became Challenger's fourth and final President in Feb. 1948 and served until the merger June 1, 1950 when he became a Vice President at Frontier Airlines.

The CAB granted a certificate on March 28, 1946 to operate air carrier service from Billings to Denver to Salt Lake City with intermediate stops. The name of the company was changed to Challenger Airlines on January 7, 1947.

On February 8th a down payment of $25,000 was made to Capital Airlines for two DC3s (NC65135 and NC65385) and air service started on May 3, 1947 from its base of Salt Lake City. The first route was to Denver with stops in Kemmerer, Rock Springs, Rawlings, Laramie, and Cheyenne.

That summer another route to Billings was started with stops at the Big Horn Basin. A third route started the same time linked Billings and Riverton to the system. By then ten Wyoming communities had air service to Denver, Billings, and Salt Lake City.

By 1948 their headquarters had been moved to Denver and they had started sharing various functions such as maintenance and sales with Monarch Airlines.

Challenger's service was a godsend in the blizzard of February, 1949 when they flew thousands of passengers and tons of food and supplies throughout their route system.

Monarch Airlines bought controlling interest in Challenger in December, 1949 and the merger became effective June 1, 1950. Arizona Airways was also included and the three-way merger formed Frontier Airlines.

The airline had four DC3s at the time of the merger: NC65135, NC65385, NC53376, and NC65276. They became Frontier Sunliners Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota.


This is the only known photo of the three airlines' aircraft.

The suicidal DC3
While with Challenger this aircraft overshot a runway at Salt Lake City, hit a car & injured four people in it.
At Frontier, it had several accidents. See the Frontier website for the whole story.
Sketch of a DC3
by Leroy A. Skidmore
DC3 in flight
DC3 on the ground in DEN, 1948
Summit hangar at Laramie in early 1940s
The hangar is still in use today
Summit hangar at Laramie with employees featured
Photo about 1945. Summit became Challenger in 1947.
Charlie Hirsig, President of Summit in 1941, at Laramie
He died in a plane crash near Laramie in January, 1945
A DC-3 unloads in Riverton, Wyoming in 1949
This photo from a brochure boasting that Riverton had 4 flights a day
A letter from Frontier Vice President Ed Gerhardt in 1979
Ed was researching a history of Frontier Airlines which, to my knowledge, was never written
Short history of Challenger's mail service
It shows that air mail service started one week after Challenger's first scheduled flight on May 3, 1947.
Letter carried on Challenger's first scheduled mail flight on May 10, 1947
Back of the envelope
Insert in the envelope
It was carried from Salt Lake City to Denver with intermediate stops.
First day air mail letter from Billings, Montana
Dated on June 10, 1947
Another first day air mail letter from Billings
Both denote start of Challenger service at to Salt Lake City
First mail envelope dated June 16, 1947
Celebrates the start of air mail service from Worland, Wyoming to Billings, Montana
First day air mail letter from Powell, Montana
Marks the first flight on June 5, 1947
Air mail label from 1948
More info on Challenger's air mail service
DC3 graphic at top
Formatted for wallpaper
Challenger's terminal at Casper, Wyoming
Taken February, 1949
Challenger's first stewardess class in 1948
Challenger was the first of Frontier's predecessor airlines to have stewardesses
A group of Challenger stewardesses
Taken in 1948
Another photo of early Challenger stewardesses
Also from 1948
Pilot E. P. Lietz (L) and maintenance superintendent R. H. Allen in about 1949
A businessman poses with a Challenger stewardess around 1948 - neither identified


Ken Schultz' history of Challenger Airlines
Route map from 1948
Charles W. Hirsig II
One of the founders and first president of Summit Airways, the predecessor of Challenger, from Dec. 1941 til Jan. 1945
Background report from Ed Gerhardt
Ed, the Frontier Airlines historian, wrote this report in 1979 on Challenger's origins
George Snyder
President of Challenger from Feb. 1946 until Feb. 1948
Donald A. Duff
Challengers' President from Feb. 1948 until the merger with Monarch Airlines and Arizona Airways to form Frontier Airlines on June 1, 1950
Miscellaneous Information
Challenger stories
by Captain E.P. Lietz, pilot at Challenger & Frontier Airlines, 1947-1980, and others
Notes from the prospectus
Dated August 4, 1948
The story of the "Suicide 3"
Detective work done at the FL Online Club
More Challenger stories
Thanks again to Capt. Lietz
Statistical sheet
From the first year of operations; May 1947 - April 1948


Jul 15, 1948 Employees Directory
Jul 15, 1948 Employees Directory, edited and condensed
Nov 29, 1948 Passes List
Mar 25, 1949 Pilots Seniority List


Front of the May 1, 1947 timetable
Inside the timetable
Front of July 10, 1947 timetable
Inside the timetable
Close-up of the flight schedule
The Sep 1, 1947 timetable
Front of June 1, 1948 timetable
Front of April 1, 1949 timetable
Front of February 1, 1950 timetable
Inside the timetable
Back of the timetable

Jake Lamkins

Special thanks to Ken Schultz, Billy Walker, Jack Schade, Jim Hirsig and E.P. Lietz for their assistance.
Thanks to Craig Hansen who created the nameplate & DC3 graphic at the top.

Frontier Airlines websites

Jake LAMKINS, Webmaster
Established Sep 28, 2000