This company was started by Robert William Prescott. It was headquartered on the grounds of Los Angeles International Airport in Westchester, Los Angeles, California.
The airline was named after the Flying Tigers fighter unit of World War II, officially the 1st American Volunteer Group. Ten former AVG pilots formed the Flying Tiger Line (originally called National Skyway Freight) after returning to the United States in 1945, using a small fleet of Budd Company C-93 Conestoga freighters purchased as war surplus from the United States Navy. The pilots and two ground crew provided half of the initial investment, with the balance coming from California oil tycoon Samuel B. Mosher. For the next four years, Flying Tiger Line carried air freight on contract throughout the U.S. and, as the airline expanded, carrying supplies to U.S. troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the occupation of Japan.
In 1949, the Civil Aeronautics Board awarded Flying Tiger Line the first commercial air cargo route in the U.S., a transcontinental route from Los Angeles and San Francisco, California to Boston, Massachusetts. Shortly afterward, the company began chartering passenger aircraft for group travel as well; its Lockheed Super Constellation, Douglas DC-4 and DC-6 fleet comprised the largest trans-Atlantic charter operation through the 1950s.
Tiger's Ad Hoc Charter livestock flights provided airlift for exotic animals. Two examples were thoroughbred racehorses and show animals from Stansted, England to the Melbourne Cup, as well as breeding stock cattle (milk supply) to nations such as Japan and Thailand. They became known for carrying a number of unique cargoes, including Shamu the SeaWorld killer whale and the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
On November 15, 1965, a modified Flying Tigers Boeing 707-349C made the first ever aerial circumnavigation of the Earth via the poles, in 62 hours 27 minutes. The aircraft carried additional fuel in two additional tanks installed in the main cabin.
Charter and scheduled passenger operations were flown by their subsidiary, Metro International Airlines, which was formed in January 1981, and ceased operations in 1983, when it was sold to Tower Air.
After airline deregulation, however, stiff competition buffeted profits and, with some unsuccessful diversification attempts by parent Tiger International, the airline began sustaining losses in 1981. Then-CEO Stephen Wolf sold Flying Tigers to Federal Express in December 1988. On August 7, 1989 Federal Express merged Flying Tigers into its operations, and the Flying Tigers name passed into history.