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Keys enlisted the help of Charles Lindbergh to design a transcontinental network to get government airmail contracts. Lindbergh was to establish numerous airports across the country in this effort.
On July 7, 1929, it began the first transcontinental trips. It initially offered a 48-hour train/plane trip with the first leg being on the Pennsylvania Railroad overnight from New York City to Columbus, Ohio, where passengers boarded a plane at Port Columbus International Airport that included stops in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, and finally Waynoka, Oklahoma. There, passengers caught the Santa Fe Railroad for an overnight trip to Clovis, New Mexico, where they would take a flight to Albuquerque, Winslow, Az., Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Its slogan was "Harnessing the Plane and the Iron Horse."
Cynics of the implementation of the plane/train concept were to deride its TAT abbreviation as "Take A Train."
The plane used the Ford Trimotor and was one of the first to offer meals en route. It was also one of the first to be geared to passenger service (while most airlines at the time had focused on air mail).
In 1929 it merged with Maddux Air Lines and in 1930, during what was to become the Air Mail scandal, it merged with Western Air Express to form Transcontinental & Western Air (T & WA) that was to become TWA.
On September 3, 1929, a westbound TAT flight crashed on Mt. Taylor in New Mexico, with loss of all persons aboard. The Associated Press said it was the first plane crash on a regular commercial land route. The September crash was first of three serious accidents for TAT over the next five months.