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New documentary looks at locally based, now defunct Ozark Air Lines

Ozark Air Lines began operating in 1950, with commercial flights between St. Louis and Chicago and enroute stops at Springfield, Decatur, and Champaign Illinois. But in 1986, Trans World Airlines (TWA) took over the airline, its routes and aircraft, leaving behind memories of the regional airline.

At 5p.m. on July 21, the Tivoli Theatre will screen “The Swallows’ Tale: The Story of Ozark Air Lines,” a short documentary about the St. Louis-based airline. The film will air as part of Cinema St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase.

Jim Dreyer, owner of Big Sky Media and director/editor for “The Swallows’ Tale,” became interested in the film because of its local ties. For him, the documentary captures a different aspect of traveling.

“I was so intrigued because I’m used to a different era of flying,” Dreyer said.

Dreyer explained that traveling on an airplane was once considered an “event,” one less crowded and less stressful than today. Patrons would dress up to travel and meals were served to every person.

“I’m more from the era of sweatpants and peanuts,” Dreyer said. “So, just to see these photos was amazing.”

Jerry Castellano, writer and producer of “The Swallows’ Tale,” said the film also highlights how airline travel has changed over the years. Castellano, who was a flight attendant for Ozark Air Lines for 11 years, explained that working with the airline turned out to be a significant period of his life.

“Most people don’t think of their work as being anything historic,” Castellano said. “What this [documentary] is about is a world that no longer exists. These are unique stories, but there’s kind of a universalness to that. Everyone you know who’s been through a different era has something important and interesting.”

Dreyer explained that deregulation of the airline in the late 1970s allowed carriers to lower their prices, increasing the amount of people who fly per year. Other changes include multiple fee charges for extra incentives, such as seat changes.

“I’ve heard a lot of people describe it as the ‘bus crowd,’” Dreyer said. “So now, rates are cheaper, you could get more people, and it’s more available. And then the other incident was 9/11, which really changed the airline industry.”

Related Event

Cinema St. Louis Filmmaker's Showcase Presents "The Swallows’ Tale: The Story of Ozark Air Lines"

  • When: Tuesday, July 21; 5:00 p.m.
  • Where: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63130
  • More information

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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