The Old Days in the Airlines

Oops! I should have published this last Tuesday, but made the mistake of not pressing the correct button on the blog control panel…  So for your enjoyment today… 


Monday, I wrote about celebrating the near-end of working on our latest book. It was a great time to celebrate, even if it was a little premature—we actually finished the book tonight, but we were close enough to the end yesterday to justify a Cuban sandwich at the Columbia.

Tonight over dinner, we really had the chance to talk about the book. I am looking forward to this title coming out. Written by one of my colleagues at the university, Jamie Baldwin titled his book, Pan American World Airways, Images of a Great Airline. He did a great job compiling a lot of information about one of the best airline companies in our national history. In many ways, Pan Am was America’s airline.

In the course of aviation history, there have been some very fine companies engaged in carrying the traveling public. There was Eastern Airlines, National Airlines, Pan American of course, and TWA. One of my personal favorites was PBA, only because they were one of the last lines flying DC-3s.

Throughout the latter half of the last century, Americans knew these carriers would always be flying. Indeed, when Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, after the scene switches from pre-historic times to 2001, Kubrick treats the audience to the sight of a space vehicle leaving a space station. The livery on the craft was that of Pan American World Airways, It seemed perfectly normal. Of course, everyone knew Pan Am would make the transition from Airline Company to Space Line Company.

In processing all of the images for the book, and going through the memorabilia Jamie had collected over this lifetime, I thought about how air travel used to be in this country. And how much it has changed.

It was a time before Homeland Security and the TSA. When people flew, they got all dressed up. When you went out to board the airplane, you did just that, you went out and walked up stairs to the airplane, on the ramp. You could smell the oil and the aviation fuel; you could see the rivets on the side of the airplane. It was all so very exciting.

It was a very big deal to fly somewhere in the middle of the last century. If you were flying to some destination, you were someone special and treated accordingly. This was a time when the airlines served meals.  

I miss those days. I miss the round engines, the smell of the aviation fuel, the old round dials in the cockpit. I miss the times where there were people up in the front office handling the airplane—the pilot, his second-officer, a flight engineer, a navigator, and a radio operator.

Over the course of editing Jamie’s book, it was a really great trip down memory lane.


©2011 J. Clark

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1 Response to The Old Days in the Airlines

  1. Harrison says:

    Can’t wait to read the book.

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