A History of Commercial Airliners

IGOR SIKORSKY

From 1913 a young Russian designer, Igor Sikorsky, set his mind to develop large aircraft. Sikorsky invented a giant airplane (the Grand) with four engines and a wingspan of 88ft 7in. Naysayers said it would never fly, but fly it did, with eight passengers on board.

Sikorsky outdid himself with the "Il'ya Muromets." 77ft long, with a wingspan 105ft, it weighed over 12,000lbs fully loaded and could carry sixteen passengers. Passengers could relax in a heated cabin with electric lights, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a balcony for viewing the spectacular sights from aloft. In 1914, it flew eight hours non-stop on its way to completing a 1,600 mile, 26 hour roundtrip flight between St. Petersburg and Kiev. In this plane, Sikorsky had invented the forerunner of passenger airliners and heavy bombers.

Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972) was born in Kiev, Ukraine. As a boy he was fascinated by Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci. In 1918, he escaped the Bolshevik Communists and moved to America, where he was to pioneer the mass production of helicopters in 1939.

CURTISS CONDOR, FIRST SOUNDPROOF AIRLINER
CURTISS CONDOR, FIRST SOUNDPROOF AIRLINER
LOCKHEED ELECTRA MODEL 10
LOCKHEED ELECTRA MODEL 10
BOEING 80 PASSENGER COMPARTMENT, 1930s
BOEING 80 PASSENGER COMPARTMENT, 1930s

PASSENGER AIRLINE SERVICE

Daily scheduled airline service began between London and Paris in 1919—with passengers braving the open cockpit through freezing cold, bone-shaking vibrations, deafening noise, and sickening turbulence.   The main attraction was the thrill of soaring into the heavens and looking down at the earth below. 

The 1919 Convention of Paris dashed the hopes of early aviators that the skies above the earth would have no boundaries—a "free and universal thoroughfare."  Instead it was decreed that each country had "complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory." 

Germany emerged as the world leader of passenger air transport in the 1920s, with the most advanced technology.  In 1926, the German government formed a national airline, Lufthansa.  The governments of France (Air France, 1933) and Britain (BOAC, 1939) followed suit. 

The earliest national airline had been founded by the Netherlands in 1919, KLM.  By 1929, KLM was regularly flying the longest scheduled route in the world—an eight-day trip from the Netherlands to Jakarta, Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies). 

The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited—thankfully shortened to Qantas—was founded in 1920 as a private company by a pair of pilots. 

Lufthansa pioneered the in-flight movie in 1925.  The fact it was a silent movie was just as well since one could not have heard the sound above the deafening roar of the engines anyway.  

The Curtiss Condor was the first aircraft to offer a soundproof cabin.  It was so quiet inside that people could carry on a conversation or listen to the radio. This seemed a miracle to passengers.  In addition, the wide fuselage allowed for 12 sleeping berths.  By 1938, a Lufthansa Condor airliner was conducting nonstop flights from Berlin to New York in 25 hours.  

The Lockheed Model 10 Electra was unveiled in 1934, the most stylish and fastest of the first generation airliners.  It would cruise at 190mph with a full load of ten passengers plus mail and freight.  149 of the Model 10s were built before the Model 14 Super Electra took its place in 1937—one of which Howard Hughes flew around the world in less than four days.  

ELLEN CHURCH, FIRST AIRLINE STEWARDESS
ELLEN CHURCH, FIRST AIRLINE STEWARDESS

STEWARDESSES

In 1930, a young nurse from Iowa named Ellen Church, who was a flying enthusiast, persuaded Boeing Air Transport to hire her and seven other nurses as stewardesses.  Church made the case that since virtually all of the pilots and passengers were men, the presence of females on board—particularly licensed nurses—would encourage people to regard flying as safe.  The idea of women looking after the needs of air passengers, and their comfort, quickly spread throughout the industry. 

The first stewardesses worked on the Boeing 80s, which had passenger cabins similar to a luxury Pullman railroad car.  The passengers sat in plushly upholstered seats surrounded by gorgeous wood paneling and exquisite lighting fixtures.  Stewardesses would point out landmarks along the way to the mostly earplug-wearing passengers. 

The landmarks were easy to see because airplanes flew much slower and far lower than they do today.  Back then, they could not fly above bad weather and bumpy rides were the norm.  The stewardesses stood ready with "burp cups" for those who got airsick.  

DONALD DOUGLAS
DONALD DOUGLAS
DC-3 AIRLINER INTERIOR
DC-3 AIRLINER INTERIOR
DC-3
DC-3

DONALD DOUGLAS

Donald Douglas (1892-1981) was a Scots-American born in Brooklyn. After spending two years at the US Naval Academy, he graduated from MIT with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

At the age of 23, Donald Douglas designed the first American bomber as chief engineer for the Martin Company. Five years later, he quit his high-profile job and moved to California to start his own aircraft manufacturing company.

In the 1930s, the Douglas Company created some of the finest aircraft in the world. The DC-1 (Douglas Commercial aircraft # 1) was developed for TWA after the terrible crash that killed football coach Knute Rockne in 1931. The crash happened because the Fokker F-10 Trimotor had a serious airframe design flaw that ended its life and nearly that of TWA, too.

Only one DC-1 was built before a modified version came out as the DC-2 in 1934, which quickly set 19 speed and distance records.

The 21 passenger DC-3 debuted one year later and by the late 1930s had proved that a profit could be made in aviation by transporting civilians.

The DC-3 was a fabulous aircraft and virtually indestructible. It was reliable and easy to service. An entire engine could be replaced in two hours. The DC-3 could land and take off on nearly any flat surface.

In World War Two, the DC-3 was the workhorse of the Allied forces. Before production stopped, more than 10,000 DC-3s had been built.

WILLIAM BOEING
WILLIAM BOEING
BOEING 307 STRATOLINER
BOEING 307 STRATOLINER

WILLIAM BOEING

Bill Boeing (1881-1956) was born in Detroit, Michigan. He studied engineering at Yale, and then joined his father's lumber business that soon purchased extensive holdings of timberlands around Seattle, Washington. Bill Boeing decided to move to Seattle to run that part of the business.

Boeing bought a seaplane for fun in 1914 but as an engineer found serious fault with its design. So he designed one himself and formed the Boeing Company to manufacture it.

Only ten Boeing 307 Stratoliners were made, but they changed commercial aviation forever. Introduced in 1940, the 307 was the first airliner to feature a pressurized cabin—it could fly above bad weather.

The Boeing 307 Stratoliner cruised at 20,000ft, with turbocharged engines. This gave passengers the smoothest ride in history at the time.

The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser came on line in 1949, but it was so expensive to purchase and had such exorbitant operating costs that it fizzled out after only 55 were sold.

LOCKHEED CONSTELLATION
LOCKHEED CONSTELLATION

HOWARD HUGHES

Trans World Airlines (TWA) was founded in 1930 and operated airline service until 2001. Howard Hughes became the majority stockholder in the 1940s. Hughes pushed Lockheed to develop a 40-seat, 3,500 mile-range transcontinental airliner. Lockheed did so, and Hughes helped Kelly Johnson design the finished product: the graceful, elegant, stylish, comfortable Constellation ("Connie") with the extraordinary triple tail. After 1946, TWA challenged Pan American Airlines for global supremacy.

Howard Hughes was wrong in his belief that plywood not metal represented the future of aircraft construction. He did build the largest airplane ever made—before or since—the Spruce Goose. It had a wingspan of 320ft and eight engines. On its only flight in 1947, it made it almost a mile and reached an altitude of 70ft.

THE REDBULL DC-6
THE REDBULL DC-6
PASSENGER AIRLINE SERVICE, 1960, BOAC
PASSENGER AIRLINE SERVICE, 1960, BOAC

COMMERCIAL AIRLINERS AFTER WWII

World War Two produced enormous advances in aviation navigation, radar, and communications. The four-engine DC-6 was a major success for Douglas Aircraft. 700 were manufactured between 1946 and 1958. A few are still flying freight today.

The DC-7 came on line in 1953. It proved to be a superb flying machine as well. 338 were sold by the time production stopped in 1958.

In the 1950s, Qantas and Swissair surprised most with their great success. Between 1945 and 1955, three hours were lopped off the coast-to-coast travel time over the United States. Some planes were now built with bunk beds, or a lounge at the end of spiral staircase.

The British de Havilland Comet was the world's first jet airliner, making its maiden voyage in 1949. Tragically, many of them crashed due to metal fatigue primarily caused by its square windows. All pressurized aircraft have had oval windows ever since. The de Havilland Comet was grounded in 1954.

For the next four years, the only jet airliner operating in the world was the Soviet Tupolev Tu-104.

By 1957, more people crossed the Atlantic Ocean by plane than by ship for the first time. This required fuel stops at Gander, Newfoundland and Shannon, Ireland—places well embedded in aviation folklore. From California and the West Coast, airliners would fly over the North Pole on the way to Europe, cutting the flying time from London to Los Angeles to 19 hours.

VICKERS VISCOUNT TURBOPROP AIRLINER
VICKERS VISCOUNT TURBOPROP AIRLINER

TURBOPROP

A turboprop uses the hot gas inside a turbine engine to drive propellers.  This produces far greater power and speed than a piston engine, while achieving better fuel economy than a pure jet engine. 

The Vickers Viscount was the first turboprop airliner, and became extremely popular for its smooth, quiet ride.  It debuted in 1950 with a 50-passenger configuration.  A quarter of all European passenger flights in the 1950s were booked on the Vickers Viscount. 

Not to be outdone, the Soviets unveiled the largest airliner in the world in 1957, the turboprop Tupolev Tu-114.  It carried 170 passengers with a range of 5,500 miles, and had a cruise speed of 480mph.   

BOEING 707
BOEING 707
BOEING 737
BOEING 737
DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT DC-9
DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT DC-9

THE BOEING 707

The era of the passenger jet arrived to stay with the introduction of the Boeing 707 in 1958. The 707 was a huge gamble by Boeing, which invested half the value of the company in its development. Boeing would eventually surpass Douglas as the world's leading airline manufacturer.

The Boeing 707 featured four jet engines and immediately began flying transatlantic routes. It was fairly quiet inside but monstrously loud for people who lived near airports. The 707 cruised at 600mph, nearly cutting long-distance travel times in half. By 1962, its range was up to 4,500 miles.

In the 1960s, Boeing followed up with the enormously successful three-engine 727 and two-engine 737. The Boeing 727 appeared in 1963 as a short-range jet for smaller airports. 1,831 727s were sold by the time they quit making them in 1984, making the 727 an incredible success story.

The 737 is a short, fat jet that debuted in 1967. It is the best-selling jet airliner in the history of the world. 6,638 737s have been delivered and more than 2,000 are on currently on order.

Douglas Aircraft countered with the twin-jet DC-9. After Douglas was sold to McDonnell, a modified DC-9 came out as the MD-80 and then MD-90 and finally as the Boeing 717. 2,400 of the DC-9 and its descendants have been sold.

EASTERN AIRLINES BOEING 727
EASTERN AIRLINES BOEING 727
STEWARDESSES WERE GLAMOROUS IN THE 1960s
STEWARDESSES WERE GLAMOROUS IN THE 1960s

COMMERCIAL AIRLINERS IN THE 1960S

In the decade of the 1960s, passenger miles flown on airliners more than quadrupled.  This produced a massive amount of construction activity at airports to handle the increasing number of passengers.  Air Traffic Control also had huge adjustments to make as the hitherto empty skies began to fill up with aircraft. 

The term "jet set" was invented by some newspaper men to describe the starlets, pop stars, and their more wealthy followers for whom jet airliners were the "in" thing.  They were catered to by glamorous stewardesses, who were purposefully all young, gorgeous women with great bodies.   

Eastern Airlines operated from 1926 to 1991.  It was once owned by General Motors, which sold it to famous flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker in 1938. 

Eastern Airlines, based in Miami, became the most prominent air carrier on the east coast in the 1960s.  It was the first airline to put into service the Boeing 727 and the Airbus A300.  

COME FLY ME
COME FLY ME
COFFEE, TEA, OR ME?
COFFEE, TEA, OR ME?
KLM AIRLINES BOEING 747 JUMBO JET
KLM AIRLINES BOEING 747 JUMBO JET

THE BOEING 747 JUMBO JET

The Boeing 747 was introduced in 1970. This airplane was so big; it carried three or four times as many passengers as any airliner before the debut of the Airbus A380 in 2007. The 747 is 210ft long and the tail stands six stories high. Most people are still amazed that it can leave the ground.

The Boeing 747 came to be because of two visionaries: Boeing CEO Bill Allen and the legendary Pan Am boss Juan Trippe. Both bet the future of their companies by investing in the creation of the largest, heaviest, most powerful airliner known to man. The 747—nicknamed Jumbo Jet— has a maximum capacity of 490 passengers. With around 1,500 of them sold, the 747 is an incredible success story.

DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT DC-10
DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT DC-10
AIRBUS A300
AIRBUS A300
AIRBUS A380
AIRBUS A380

THE WIDE BODIES COMETH

Airports had to reinforce runways to accommodate the huge new jets. In addition, they had to enlarge their capabilities of handling passengers and baggage from a single flight. Food preparation crews were not prepared to make so many meals at one time.

To answer the Boeing 747, Douglas Aircraft designed its final commercial aircraft, the DC-10. The DC-10 could hold 380 passengers and land on shorter runways—and therefore more airports—than the 747. 446 were built from 1971-1986, including 60 for the US Military. After Douglas Aircraft was sold to McDonnell, 200 more airliners were built as the modified MD-11. In 1997, McDonnell Douglas was taken over by Boeing.

Lockheed countered with the L-1011, but its sales were very disappointing (250), and Lockheed never built another airliner again.

Airbus of France entered the fray with the introduction of the 266-seat A300 in 1974. The Airbus A300 sold well. By the time production ceased in 2007, 561 had been put into service. Since the 1980s, Airbus has mounted an aggressive challenge to Boeing's worldwide dominance, and in recent years the two companies have run neck-in-neck.

The Airbus A380 is the world's first Super Jumbo, with half again the floor space of a Boeing 747, and a maximum capacity of 853 people. The A380 is by far the largest airliner ever made and began commercial flights in 2007.

THE CONCORDE
THE CONCORDE
CONCORDE INTERIOR
CONCORDE INTERIOR

CONCORDE

The Concorde may be the most remarkable aircraft ever built. 100 passengers could soar 11 miles high, moving faster than a rifle bullet. Some call it a miracle.

The Concorde was a long-term joint project between the governments of France and Britain. Conceived in 1962, the prototype flew in 1969, the first production aircraft in 1973, and scheduled service began in 1976 by both Air France and British Airways.

The Concorde was born of the belief that airliners would continue to go faster and faster, as had been their history. Unfortunately, the Concorde was extremely loud and thus banned from most of the airports in the world. It also got pitiful gas mileage and was therefore horribly expensive to operate. The only way to turn a profit was to charge $9,000 per seat. Only 16 were ever put into service.

For those who could afford it, the Concorde offered a once-in-a lifetime experience in a beautiful machine that is an engineering marvel still unmatched. The Concorde would take you from Europe to New York in 3 1/2 hours.

The Concorde had an impeccable safety record until the Paris crash of 2000, which killed all aboard. Commercial service came to an end in 2003. The reason jets do not continue to get faster is the sound barrier. They may never go faster than they do today because when a jet breaks the sound barrier is creates a great disturbance on the ground—thunderous sonic booms and shattered windows.

BOEING 757
BOEING 757

MORE BOEINGS

The Boeing 757—that's the skinny one—entered service in 1983 with the late, great Eastern Airlines. It was the replacement for the 727. Production ended in 2005. By that time, well over 1,000 757s had been sold. They hold a couple hundred people comfortably.

The wide-bodied Boeing 767 entered service in 1981. About 1,000 of them have been built, and it is still in production. The 767 can be configured to hold about 300 souls. It was primarily designed to replace the aging fleet of 707s.

BOEING 767 PASSENGER COMPARTMENT
BOEING 767 PASSENGER COMPARTMENT
AIRBUS A320
AIRBUS A320
BOEING 777 GLASS COCKPIT
BOEING 777 GLASS COCKPIT

THE 21ST CENTURY


The Airbus A320 was the first airliner to replace all those old dials and gauges in the cockpit with color displays—called the "glass cockpit"—and to feature a fly-by-wire flight control system. The modern pilot is now the manager of the autopilot and other computers.

The A320 was launched in 1987, the first airliner with a fully computerized cockpit. This 150 seat Airbus product set a new standard by which all future airline designs would be judged.

In 1995, Boeing debuted its first comparable cockpit in the new 777. It was the first digitally designed airliner and the world's largest twinjet, with room for 400 passengers. The 777 (nickname "triple seven") boasts the longest range of any airliner and holds the world record for flight distance by a commercial aircraft—13,422 miles (halfway around the world nonstop).

The design of engines has advanced to make them more fuel efficient and much quieter. Operating range continues to increase; the 747 can now fly 7,000 miles with 400 passengers on board.

Four million people are in the air each day around the globe. People are going to places they never dreamed they would see in person.

My primary source of information used to research this article is Flight: The Complete History by R.G. Grant.  This article is a companion piece to my article published last week entitled: A History of Aviation.  

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Comments 64 comments

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting hub on commercial airliners James, very well written and informative. And I'm sure that any of your male readers will enjoy the air hostess pics! You always seem to come up with unusual and interesting topics to write about


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 5 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

Well done James! a totally absorbing history of the airliner- I can remember being at school when Concorde was being tested in Bristol and yes there was a bit of a bang!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Beautiful Hub for us aviation enthusiasts!

A few months ago, I heard the unmistakable growl of radial engines and raced outside in time to see a Ford Tri-Motor gracefully and slowly make its way toward downtown Phoenix. I learned later that it was carrying paying passengers on sight-seeing trips.


FaithDream profile image

FaithDream 5 years ago from (Midwest) USA

I really appreciate history when I read your articles. Always fascinating and very interesting.

Personally I hate to fly but I still love to watch them fly over and take off, especially touring those old aircrafts.

Great article!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

I really enjoyed this fascinating Hub. Flying the friendly skies has really come a long way. I've travelled extensively though prefer to be grounded these days. Thanks for the interesting read as always.


ESTAN FULLER 5 years ago

James; This is a great hub I flew many of the aircraft you feature like the DC-7,DC-10,DC-9 B-727 and the A-300 Airbus D Was at SUN-FUN TODAY One of EAL'S DC-7'S that I flew in the late 50's and early 60's it is the only flying one in the world today in passenger configuration.


eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

I love airplanes.

Thanks for the history lesson.


Wooded 5 years ago

This is a very interesting article. I just love the older photos, they truly show how far we've come! Thanks


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Enjoyed this one. I still think Concord(e) was the most beautiful aircraft ever built, though by all reports not the most comfortable inside. Saw it flying a few times but never had the (expensive) pleasure.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I loved this; my son is a pilot, so I am forwarding this on to him as well. Well done!


chspublish profile image

chspublish 5 years ago from Ireland

Hi James, As usual you hub is full of interesting items, detailed, well laid out and presented in an easy to read fashion. Very informative and educational. Thanks for a good informative read.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Hi James, your hubs are always so informative. Where do you get your info? So much history. Can I call you when I start school again?


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

What a fascinating and informative account of commercial airlines, James. You did yourself proud with this one - as usual.

I had a particular vested interest since I ran a government-funded center in Miami to assist Eastern Airlines workers when the airline 'sunk into the sea.' The government's appellation for such workers was 'dislocated' workers - a particularly hateful term. We served more than 17,000 dislocated folks from Eastern, National, Midway and Pan Am airlines.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CMHypno-- Thank you for being my first visitor! I was only going to include one picture of the air hostesses but got a bit carried away. :-)

I sincerely appreciate your kind compliments. I am glad you enjoyed this Hub.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CASE1WORKER-- I never got to hear the Concorde or see it in person. I would have loved to have ridden across the pond on it. What a thrill that must have been. Thank you very much for your kind comments. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

WillStarr-- Ah yes, those radial engines have an unmistakable growl alright. I had a charter service, FBO, flight school, and maintenance shop for many years and we'd get the occasional radial engine stopping by.

I am pleased to meet another aviation enthusiast. Thanks for coming by!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

FaithDream-- I very much appreciate your accolades. Fear of flying is widespread in the world but flying is safer than any mode of transportation except the elevator. Even walking, swimming, and bicycling are more dangerous. Welcome again to the Hub Pages Community!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

suziecat7-- You are most welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read my work here. Yes, aviation has come a long, long way. It's amazing. :-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CAPTAIN ESTAN FULLER-- It was for you that I published this Hub and the companion piece about the history of general aviation. You are one of my heroes, Captain Fuller.

I forgot Sun N Fun was going on this week. I'm sure you are having a great time, brother.

I miss you. I hope I can see you one of these days. I threw the Eastern Airlines bits in there especially for you, my friend.


lefseriver profile image

lefseriver 5 years ago from Northern Minnesota

Wow!! great article..... I think Boeing actually lived in Duluth for a short time. We got to tour the Spruce Goose in LA a while ago. One of my favorite places is the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Hope to go there again soon. Thanks again.


no body profile image

no body 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

Jim, I am always amazed at the size of these machines and that they still laugh at gravity. I guess I have to keep in mind that what keeps them up there is the same laws of nature and physics that God created. So they do what God says they can do according to the laws that God put in place. Great article.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

I enjoyed reading this hub....my favorite part was the part about the Concorde....only $9000 a seat....that would seem to be in everybody's budget....great hub as always....voted up and useful.....we need an entertaining button


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 5 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

James, fantastic research on airplane history. I like the info on how the stewardesses got started.

voted up

Tina


swb64 profile image

swb64 5 years ago from Addingham, UK.

Coffee, tea or me! Very good. I so think Concorde should have been developed into the 21st - loved it. Fab Hub...


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Gosh James...fabulous pictures and writing as always. I love the 60s stewardesses. It makes me laugh as I was set to start up with Continental Airlines in San Diego in my early 20s and then the gas shortage hit so I reconsidered. Probably a good thing as it turns out I'm horribly afraid to fly....can you imagine ME as a stewardess? I'm sure it would be funny as all get out but probably not for the passengers. Voted up!


RevLady profile image

RevLady 5 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Fascinating hub James. Thank you.

Forever His


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

Howdy James - Another high-flying article that carried many welcome memories with the words and photos. Thanks.

Gus :-)))


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

eovery— That makes two of us, my friend. Thank you for your comments. And you are welcome.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Wooded— You are welcome. I appreciate this visitation from you. Thank you for your remarks as well. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Paraglider— I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you about the Concorde. I never got to see it in person. Truly a modern marvel. Thank you for coming by to visit. Always good to hear from you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Genna East— I am well pleased at your expression of joy over this article. I appreciate you sending it to your son. I hope he enjoys it. Thanks for coming! :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

chspublish— You are quite welcome. I appreciate your recognition of my layout. Thank you very much for the laudations. I am gratified to receive your kind comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Cardisa— Thank you for saying so. My primary source of information used to research this article is "Flight: The Complete History" by R.G. Grant.

Let me know when school starts. Meanwhile, Welcome to the Hub Pages Community! :-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

drbj— How interesting that you worked with the Eastern Airlines employees. The commenter a few spots above you, Estan Fuller, was chief pilot for that fine organization and later worked with my charter company flying Learjets.

Thank you for the accolades. It is always a pleasure to read your remarks.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Wow, that is a complete job. I don't think you left anything out. Thank you for putting such grand hub out and very interesting pictures.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

lefseriver-- You are welcome, and thank you very much for your kind compliments. Your remarks are educative for me. I did not know one could see the Spruce Goose. And I didn't know about the Air Force Museum, either. One of my upcoming Hubs will be on military aviation.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

no body-- I totally agree with your assessment, my friend. The fact that the huge 747s fly still amazes me. No matter how many times I have seen one take off, I still stop and watch and root for it to lift off--as if it needs my help. :D

Thank you for visiting and commenting.


mdlawyer profile image

mdlawyer 5 years ago

Great writing, pics, James!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Cogerson-- I like your idea of an "entertaining" button. I appreciate your compliments, and the voted up and useful. $9000 a seat is a bit salty. Now I hear they are selling seats to ride into space for a mere $22,000,000 a seat. I'll take two. :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Granny's House-- Thank you, Tina, for the high praise indeed! I too thought the story of how stewardesses got started was fascinating. I appreciate the visit and the voted up!

James


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

swb64-- "Coffee, tea, or me" was an actual advertising slogan of one of the airlines back in the day. You wouldn't get by with that one today! I think a few outfits are working on subsonic flight aircraft right now. I'm glad you loved the Hub. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

akirchner-- The swinging stewardesses of the swinging sixties! And to think: you might have joined their ranks but for a twist of fate. :-)

I sure appreciate the laudations and the voted up! Thank you for taking the time to read my piece and leave your kind comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

RevLady-- You are welcome. It is a pleasure to hear from you again. I thought you might be mad at me for something. :)

Thank you for coming to see me.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

GusTheRedneck-- Howdy! I always look forward to hearing your thoughts on my work, Gus. Thank you for visiting and you are most welcome.

James :D


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota

Interesting article I was surprised that movies on flight were as early as 1925. Also Donald Douglas being only 23 years old when he designed the first American bomber.

The stewardess apparel in the "coffee tea or me" photo was rather interesting as well. I wonder if that is what Ellen Church had in mind.


Mimi721wis profile image

Mimi721wis 5 years ago

Nice history lesson on airliners. You always have such great info in your hubs. Loved the pictures.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Hello, hello,— You are welcome! Thank you for visiting and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the photo gallery. I appreciate your compliments. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

mdlawyer— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Tamarajo— I don't think the stewardess outfits of the swinging sixties were what Ellen Church had in mind, no. I too was surprised when, during my research, I came across the tidbits about early in-flight movies and the age of Donald Douglas when he achieved so much.

Thank you for reading my Hub. I enjoyed your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Mimi721wis— I'm glad you loved the pictures and I appreciate your kind compliments. Thank you for reading my article.


Cameron Dean profile image

Cameron Dean 5 years ago from New York

Love everything about airplanes, fascinating hub.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Cameron Dean— I am glad you enjoyed my Hub. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

A very interesting work on these magnificent airline jets. Great hub, and educational. God Bless You .


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

stars439— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D


Curiad profile image

Curiad 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

This is an awesome article! Well written and informative.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Curiad— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

WoW - What a magnificent presentation of commercial airlines! Great job pairing the exquisite photos. My Father worked for McDonald Douglas for years before switching to Lockeed. James, this is your finest work yet. And on a personal note: My older brother has been hospitalized for weeks now - I am sending this to him as he was a fine pilot and will be very interested in reading this. I know this hub will lift his spirits. I just want you to be aware of how your writing affects and reaches others outside of the hubpage family. You, dear James are a jewel! Not to mention how very handsome you are - a great photo. Bless you, my friend and thank you so very much for this brilliant hub. Rated up and pushed each button. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

vocalcoach— Thank you very much for that high praise indeed!! I appreciate your recognition of the photos.

I am sorry to hear of your brother's illness. I do hope this might lift his spirits just a bit.

I am grateful to you for hitting all the right buttons for me. :-)

Thanks again for reading my article, and for the gracious compliments. And you are most welcome.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Hi James Thanks for yet another great history lesson. I flew in a Comet long ago and I'm still here! I remember the 747 being test flown over the factory where I worked and every one rushing out to look as the test pilot's brother was a fellow worker. Aeroplanes are one of my loves!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Gypsy Willow— You flew in a Comet!? And lived to tell about it! God Bless You, my dear.

I am glad you enjoyed this article. Your comments are interesting. Thank you for checking out my Hub. And you are most welcome. :-)


rmichaelf profile image

rmichaelf 5 years ago from North Central West Virginia, where the green grass grows...

James,

A really nice piece. My Dad would have enjoyed it, and would have picked over every nit that might be there....( He considered himself a Master picker of nits lol)

TWA contracted him to go to the Middle East and fly/train new pilots for a really young, really small airlines. Which rapidly grew to over 35,000 employees in about 12 - 13 years)

This was 1963, I was 13, and it was the end of the "glory days" which came in the 80's (the end.) I refer to that because when we (my family) started flying (which we did a lot... I logged over 250,000 miles by the time I was 30...)Tourist class ate with silver ware, glass stemware, wine, drinks, all included with the ticket, beautiful stewardesses ( the girls hiring process included supplying "head shots", specific weight/height measurements, it was known that you were applying on your looks, and personality; the airlines would teach all else. If you gained weight at your monthly check ins you were on probation. Only girls 18 - 23 or so need apply. My sisters, both attractive, cute, pleasant, neither made it past the second cut...) free movies, would learn to call you by your name by the end of the flight, free headphones, catered to with pillows, smiles, and appreciation for letting them cater to you! Flirting!! Competition for best in class was fierce between airlines. This was Tourist class!

First Class was royalty... and there were exclusive clubs in the terminals for First Class as well as Tourist. When I flew on my first 747, the upstairs in First Class had a bar/night club, with bar stools and tables around a small dance floor, a stew to bartend and one to serve the tables. Can you imagine?

I am remembering this with enthusiasm, but I am exaggerating little I think. At the beginning it was truly an experience.

When I left the industry after 12 years as a dependent and five as an employee it was just about over. Now, its like riding a bus and the staff has little if any time to show you anything...

I have to say also, that traveling as an employee on free passes was even better as you were family... and it was such a SERVICE oriented business, not something you would have thought of as "transportation"... as a single dependent/employee on a pass, the "jet set" never had as much fun traveling as me!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

rmichaelf— I loved reading your extraordinary comments. You certainly had an insider's look at how the business has changed.

You are surely right that the stewardesses were a gorgeous bunch of gals back in the day. This was before political correctness took over nearly every aspect of our country. Now the ladies are not so hot. In fact, it is rare to get a beautiful flight attendant anymore. I suppose this is more "inclusive" and "diverse" and more "tolerant" of those who are attractiveness-challenged or whatever the politically correct term for the not so pretty would be.

It sounds as if you—and way more so your Dad—had some wonderful experiences. Yes, the industry really pampered the passengers back then and made it a really memorable trip. It is more like a cattle car today, or a city bus service. I suppose that is more egalitarian.

Thank you for coming by to check out this Hub. I very much appreciate your comments.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Ah, the days of pampering the passengers as Rmichaelf has described above. I remember the Boeing 747 Stateroom with its exclusive feel and the service. Oh yes! Real dishes and second coffees. Even Brandied cappuccino at no cost for those who wanted it.

James, this was truly a treasure trove of interesting information and I hope you won't mind me linking your article to mine about Braniff Flight Attendants. As always, it was a fabulous read!

Peg


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

PegCole17— I know you are quite familiar with those days from your experiences as a "stewardess." :-)

I am honored that you would link this article from one of your yours. Thank you very much!!

I am so glad you enjoyed my Hub. I appreciate the visit and your kind comments.

James

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