TWA became known as the ‘Airline of the Stars’ thanks to owner Howard Hughes connection with the film world. The airline frequently served as an outlet for both his ego and love of flying. Know to employees as “our father who art in Hollywood” Hughes often acted as travel agent for his entertainment friends. Leaving nothing to chance, he personally relayed VIP special request to TWA’s president for execution. On occasion these special arrangements went awry.
One of the kingpins of Hollywood’s studio system, Darryl Zanuck, called Hughes requesting that a sleeper flight from New York to Paris be parked at the gate, ready for him to board several hours before scheduled departure. Once on board Zanuck took a sleeping pill and settled in for the night. When mechanical problems canceled the flight the operations department called then TWA president Carter Burgess.
“What do we do with Mr. Zanuck? He is sound asleep”
“Roll him in the hanger with the plane” suggested Burgess.
When Zanuck awoke the next morning he was still in New York. After complaining to Hughes Zanuck boarded the next flight to Paris.
“God Almighty” recalled Burgess, Hughes ate me alive”
Carter Burgess reign as president lasted eleven months and nine days.
From Howard Hughes’ Airline, an informal history of TWA by Robert Serling