Airline Radios

Model numbering schemes.
I'm going to quote here from the awesome Radiophile website.

All credit to John and the great work he has done over there.

Prior to 1939, Airline used purely numeric model numbers, like 62-320 for example.  I haven't been able to decipher this type of model number.  But starting in 1939, Airline model numbers started to mean something.  It was then that Airline radios began sporting model numbers of the form xxAA-yyy, like the radio on this page.

First, the 'xx' part:  It took me a while to notice, but there's a correlation between the xx digits and the year of the radio.  Turn this radio's 74 around and you get 47.  The pattern seems to hold at least into the early 1950s:  Reverse the first two digits of the Airline model number and get the year the radio was introduced.

Now for the 'AA' part of the model number:  This radio's BR means that it was made for Montgomery Ward by Belmont Radio, Other Airline radios will have WG in their model numbers, which means they were made by Wells-Gardner.  These were companies that manufactured radios for other retail sources. After WWII, other two- or three-letter combinations appear, no doubt indicating additional OEM sources for Airline radios.

Last, but not least, the 'yyy' part:  For a few model years in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the first digit appears to be the number of tubes the radio has.  Rectifiers, ballasts and eye tubes count, as usual.  I have not been able to decipher the last two digits.  Perhaps there's no code to them—they might have been assigned to the models in a random or sequential manner.

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ill titleAirline 74BR-1502B

Flying With A Budget Airline

ill_1Here comes another midget All American Five set.

Another Wards Airline branded radio in fact. The BR in its model number indicates it was manufactured by Belmont Radio to be sold in the Montgomery Wards Stores and Catalogues.

This one came to me by a circuitous route. A good friend of mine is working overseas and engaged to a beautiful American girl. Knowing that this lovely couple would be visiting Australia soon, when I won this one on eBay, rather than have it shipped here I arranged for the seller to send it to my friend's fiance in the States. (With prior permission of course.)

Darren and Mandi were very kind and obliging. They brought it over as delicate hand luggage and dropped it safely into my grateful arms. And they swear they didn't mind at all.

ill titleThanks Guys!


ill titleFirst Inspection

The 1502 Photographed after coming through customs.


A quick inspection and test run found the 50L6 output was shot. Producing very weak and "burbling" audio.

On top of that the 12SQ7 tube's locating key, or spigot as it is sometimes called, was broken off and the envelope was very loose in the base.

This made it wobbly and resulted in intermittent performance.

Both tubes were replaced but when it came to the 12SQ7 I didn't have a spare, so I used a 12SR7 which is an acceptable substitute, although the performance is not as good.


I replaced all the wax tubular capacitors and a number of resistors that looked dodgy. There was no hum in the output though and the filter caps looked good so I left them alone.

Some different technology.

The 74BR-1502B is a low cost set aimed at the cost conscious, budget end of the market. It has no tuning capacitor, instead opting for inductive tuning via metal slugs that slide through coils to tune the circuit.


Likewise it has no dial light, that must have saved them a few cents... and see that metal plate on the back? That's meant to be the antenna.

Yes, it works just like you'd expect... not at all.


You won't get much reception on this one unless you live within spitting distance of the transmitter, or, you clip a nice long wire to that little Fahnestock clip on the back.

Underneath all that icky cream paint was a nicely preserved bakelite cabinet that at first glance looks black. But once I got it out in the sunlight and looked really hard I could almost convince myself that it is actually the darkest shade of brown I have ever seen.

But really most of the time it just looks black.


Still. It's not as black as my Delco, which is a deep, rich, glossy black. Impossible to get across in the photos but it's almost obsidian, like black glass... anyway I digress.

Here she is, all black and white now, this one is a radio I'd actually consider repainting to replicate the original scheme. For now she can stay this way but if I do decide to repaint it, I'll let you know all about it.