Robert W. Prescott, 64, founder and president of Flying Tiger Line Inc., a worldwide air cargo firm, died of cancer Friday at his home in Palm Springs, Calif.
Mr. Prescott enlisted in the Navy as an aviation cadet in 1939, served as a flight instructor at Pensacola, and then resigned his Navy commission in September 1941, to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG) serving under Gen. Claire Chennault in Asia, a group known as the "Flying Tigers."
He was a fighter pilot with the Flying Tigers until they were disbanded in July 1942. During that time he took part in five campaigns against the Japanese, became a flight leader, and shot down six enemy aircraft.
Mr. Prescott was copilot of the Trans World Airlines plane that took Ambassador Joseph E. Davies on his famous "Mission to Moscow" in 1942.
Later in 1942, Mr. Prescott returned to China and flew more than 300 "Hump" crossings as a captain for China National Aviation Corp., which flew military supplies from India over Tibet, to the Chinese forces.
Mr. Prescott started what became Flying Tiger Line Inc., the world's largest air freight carrier, out of a room in the Mayflower Hotel in June 1945. From this room he wrote letters and telephoned old flying buddies, pleading for funds to help get his idea off the ground.
One pal of Navy prewar days and five years of combat and transport flying over the rice paddies of Burma and the Hump of India, wired a promise of $10,000.
Another hesitantly put up $9,000 - and offered his services as a pilot. In all, Mr. Prescott found 12 friends ready to invest modest sums, and to fly or maintain airplanes.
He than called Samuel B. Mosher, who was president of Signal Oil and Gas Co. of Los Angeles. Upon being told that Mr. Prescott had raised $89,000, Mosher said that he and a few associates would match the figure and asked, "Now, when do you plan to start."
"Right now," was Mr. Prescott's answer. And an airline consisting of four airplanes and 16 employes, and a willingness to "fly anything anywhere at any time" was born, with Mosher as board chairman and Mr. Prescott as president. Later Mr. Prescott also became chairman of the holding company, Tiger International Inc.
Mr. Prescott was born in Fort Worth, Tex., and moved to California at the age of 21.
He attended law school at Loyola College in Los Angeles before entering the Nacy.
He is survived by his wife, Anne Marie, and two daughters, Mrs. French Reill and Kirsten Smith, of Los Angeles.