I personally took my first flight in 1949 to and from Nanaimo BC. on a converted bomber from the war years. No pressured cabin, bucket seats, they asked for your fountain pens before we took off.
In the 50’s the National Ballet began flying. The favourite aeroplane was the Lockheed Electra. The plane had a terrible reputation for crashing. On one flight, the pilot began making jokes about the Electra–we were flying in one–until someone told him to SHUT UP!!
There was the flight into Florida, in an Electra. We were told to put on our seatbelts because some rough weather was expected. We discovered that we were flying into a cyclone. Water started to come in to the cabin. We knew we were in trouble. The landing was very rough, the pilot had trouble keeping us level. As we came in, we could see the fire trucks and the ambulances on the runway. They were expecting a crash. As we landed the wings were coming to within a few feet of touching the runway, we were rocking from side to side. I guess the pilot was an old bush pilot, for we landed safely. I believe we gave him a round of applause as we came to a halt.
The flight in to Edmonton was in winter. The descent was started, but we could see nothing but a white-out. Closer to the ground, still nothing. Finally, I saw a hanger, but we were headed straight for it. The pilot made a sharp turn to the right, and we were on the tarmac. All in a matter of seconds.
On those early planes, the seats were moveable. You could fly facing forward, or fly backwards — a strange feeling!
When meal time arrived, there were no little things on the back of the seat ahead of you to hold the tray, you held it on your lap.
On one flight, the seats had been arranged so four people were facing each other. First one must know that these were planes driven by propellers. On take off, and sometimes during the flight, you would hit an air pocket, and the planes would drop, sometimes as much as 200 feet.
So — four people sitting facing each other, with food trays on their laps. We hit an air pocket, George Crum (the conductor)lost grip on his tray and it flipped across to the person sitting opposite him. He stood up, apologising profusely and trying to help the victim. While standing, we hit another air-pocket. The tray of the person sitting beside George tilted and fell into his seat. George lost his balance and sat down on the tray. The was food everywhere, but fortunately, a sense of humour prevailed.
Flying in to New York in those early days was quite the experience. As you came in for the landing, you were convinced that you were going to end up in the sea. Even at ground zero there was no sign of the tarmac, then finally you heard the wheels touch. Why did they build the ocean so close to the runway??
Air France–with Festival Ballet of London. We are on our way to London. We are flying over Switzerland. We are tired after a long tour, we are glad to be on our way to London. The air hostess is kneeling on the floor talking to a group of us. The plane, took off like a fighter plane, banking to the right, and on that angle we increased speed and climbed. The air hostess froze and went white as a sheet. ìwhat was thatî After a pause, she replied ì we call that, a near missî Yes, there was another plane on the same flight path. Whether it was coming for us, or beside us, does not really matter, we did miss!
Festival Ballet in Israel. We have done a six week tour of Israel and we are going home. We board the Boeing 707, it does the usual turn to the end on the runway, then starts revving the engines. Flying as much as we did with that company we were used to the routine, except. The pilot was doing this longer and faster than we had ever experienced. We sat there convinced that we were going to blow up. Suddenly we shot down the runway like a rocket, and became airborne.
It was not until mid-flight that we discovered why the take-off had been so dramatic. As well as the full company, we had an enormous shipment of grapefruit on board, to help pay the way for the trip. Our impresario had made a deal with Israel. We were lucky to get off the ground.
We then fully understood why they weigh your luggage when you arrive at the airport.
With the Royal Ballet, a flight from London England to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil took quite a twist. The flight was scheduled to land in Freetown in Africa, then fly on to Rio.
We deplaned, walked around for a while in the intense heat, then were called back for take off. We boarded, but they did not shut the doors. It was announced that we would be having our meal before taking off. Instead of the meal we were given a pill and a small cup of water.
WHY? because we have to remain here for a time, the pill is for disease. You will be getting off the plane and we have arranged for accommodations so you can have a shower and freshen up. A meal will be served later on in the airport.
JUST — HOW LONG??
We have lost the thermostat on one of our engines. If we took off and had a fire in that engine we would be in trouble.
We will be here for approximately eight hours, the part has to be flown in from London on the next scheduled flight. The part has to be installed and the plane tested.
There we were, at the airport in Freetown, in Africa. It was hotter than Hades.
We walked, we had drinks, we had showers in the sort of cabins they had reserved for us. Some slept.
I went exploring.
I found that we were on the edge of the jungle, the African jungle. I also found a small village, with many inhabitants. Each house had a particular piece of equipment in front of it, for instance the tailor had his sewing machine in front of his house.
I discovered that I was being followed by some of the company members, but also by a group of young, very black natives.
My explorations finally took me to the sea. It was gorgeous. A wide beach, the waves pounding on the shore. A large group of the company by now had followed me to the beach. The locals were standing back, giggling.
I do not remember who took the initiative, but at any rate, we all stripped off and went skinny dipping. It was glorious.
At that point I noticed that we had another group of onlookers. About 25 Vultures were pacing back and forth, some distance from the shore. Fortunately or unfortunately, we had no cameras, they were back on the plane, so there is no pictorial evidence.
Eventually after walking some more, eating and having a rest, we got back on the plane and flew on to Rio.
The experience in Freetown had a profound effect upon all who were there.
We wrote home, telling the story, in glowing terms. Some time later, we got our replies, they were not glowing. Everyone at home was disgusted with us. We read with open mouths as the replies arrived. I guess as the old saying goes, you had to be there.