1. Archive

Quirky air carrier tries comeback

Chalk's International Airlines, the quirky carrier that flew movie stars and mobsters around the Caribbean in its heyday, is trying a comeback with a new owner.

Jim Confalone, a Miami businessman and former Eastern Airlines pilot, acquired the Fort Lauderdale-based business Aug. 2, purchasing it out of bankruptcy for $925,000.

"We're going to try to bring Chalk's back to its old glory," Confalone, 56, told the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale. "This is an airline that's been around since Woodrow Wilson, since the first World War. It's an icon."

Chalk's, a tiny seaplane airline, was founded by the late Arthur Burns "Pappy" Chalk, a self-taught mechanic, 80 years ago. Confalone said he wants to return it to its colorful past, when it carried the likes of Al Capone, Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner.

Seven months of insolvency have reduced Chalk's to just two leased seaplanes and 35 employees _ far below its peak of seven planes and 100 workers, and far short of what it needs to be profitable, analysts say.

So Confalone bought five Grumman Mallard seaplanes with 17 seats each. He also has a contract to buy 14 larger Grumman G-111 seaplanes, with 30 seats each. The white-and-blue seaplanes will fly routes between Fort Lauderdale, Miami and the Bahamas.