1918 - 1999
Pioneer In Commercial Aviation
Inducted in 1997
Tom Davis was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He fell in love with aviation at an early age when his father took him to see barnstorming pilots fly. By the time he entered high school, Davis was spending his allowance on flying lessons. Davis spent one summer working for his former flight instructor who owned the Camel City Flying Service, which sold and leased planes, performed maintenance and trained pilots.
Early in his senior year at the University of Arizona, Davis quit school and returned home to help his struggling former employer whose company faced overdue loan payments. He helped repay the loan and reorganize the company a few months later. In 1940 he changed the company's name to Piedmont Aviation, Inc., the holding company for Piedmont Airlines. During World War II, the company trained military pilots.
On February 20, 1948, Piedmont Airlines made its first commercial flight. A DC-3 departed Wilmington, North Carolina, bound for Cincinnati, Ohio, making six stops on a five-hour and 15-minute flight. Piedmont became a successful regional carrier and by the late 1970s was strong, well managed and well positioned to take advantage of the airline industry deregulation in 1978. The company added cities to expand its routes rapidly, from Florida to the west coast. In 1981, Piedmont established its first hub in Charlotte, North Carolina. US Air purchased Piedmont Airlines in 1987, following which Davis was named director emeritus of US Airways.