Nostalgia, travel, USA

Flying in 1973

As a 17-yr-old in 1973 I flew from Jo’burg to Rio de Janeiro, then on to New York. This in an SAA Boeing 707 (‘a narrow-body, four-engined jet airliner built from 1958 to 1979, the first jet to be commercially successful. Dominating passenger air transport in the 1960s and remaining common through the 1970s, the 707 is generally credited with ushering in the jet age’ ). Wikipedia also says that 10 of them were still flying in 2013! Here’s one:

SAA 1973 Boeing 707

I flew on to Oklahoma City via Chicago, where I was met by Apache Rotarian Robert L Crews III.

I knew very little about flying and maybe that’s just as well. I now know this:

January 1973 in FLYING

  1. January 2 – Attempting to land in Edmonton, Canada in blowing snow, a Pacific Western Airlines Boeing 707 carrying 86 head of cattle and a crew of five, crashed and caught fire. The entire crew was killed. The cattle? Who knows.

  2. January 2 – Released from a psychiatric hospital days earlier, 37yr-old Charles Wenige hid in a lavatory aboard a Piedmont Airlines plane after it arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. When all the passengers had disembarked, he emerged and pointed a .45-calibre pistol at a crew member, demanding access to the liquor cabinet and to be flown to Canada. After two hours of negotiations, he agreed to release the stewardesses in exchange for a meeting with a psychiatrist and a priest. An FBI agent advised Wenige to tuck his pistol away in the priest’s presence. When Wenige did that, the agent overpowered and arrested him.

  3. January 4 – As a Pacific Western airliner prepared to take off from Vancouver, Canada with 18 people on board, a passenger, 26yr-old Christopher Nielson, drew a gun and demanded $2 million in cash and to be flown to North Vietnam, threatening to blow up the airliner if his demands were not met. During negotiations he allowed most people to disembark, leaving three crew members aboard the plane with him. Police then stormed the plane and arrested him, finding that he was armed only with two toy guns.  

  4. January 5 – The mandatory security screening of all airline passengers began at all airports in the USA.

  5. January 12 – The 197th and final American air-to-air victory of the Vietnam War.

  6. January 15 – President Richard Nixon ordered a halt to all bombing, shelling and mining of North Vietnam.

  7. A Boeing 707 chartered by Nigeria Airways crashed after the right main landing gear collapsed while the plane was landing in high winds in Nigeria. It was the deadliest aviation accident in history at the time.

  8. January 27 – A U.S. Navy plane was shot down over South Vietnam – the last American fixed-wing aircraft lost in the Vietnam War.

  9. January 27 – Frontier Airlines hired the first female pilot for any modern-day U.S. airline, Emily Warner. On the same day, the airline also hired its first African-American pilot, Bob Ashby.

    ===================

Air India!

On the way back at the end of that year, I flew in an Air India 747 – a jumbo jet! – from New York to London. On the plane I read in an abandoned newspaper that Air India had been voted World’s Worst Airline – again.

I have since learned this: ‘The years 1971-1973 were very bad for Indian Airlines. The 1971-1972 Pakistan War didn’t help. The airline reported a 45 million rupee loss in 1973, the carrier’s largest to that point. Exacerbating the aforementioned crises was the continual strike being waged by labor. Management, concerned by growing labor costs and inefficiency, eventually locked out many of its workers, operating only a skeleton schedule with a non-union workforce’.

I notice groping is a problem on Air India and they now keep plastic handcuffs to bopha the culprits. I feel I have to report with some regret that none of those sari-clad hostesses groped me, despite their promises:

==========================

World Trade Centre

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan were opened in April 1973. I didn’t see – or consciously notice – them. How unobservant is that!? And I must have seen them – I went up the Empire State building and looked around. Maybe I was staring at Central Park and the river?

Manhattan


bopha – isiZulu for bind, tie up (pronounce “bawpah”)

Advertisements
Nostalgia, travel, USA

Playing in the Snow

Jessie called out tonight: “Dad why are these people playing in the snow?”
Playing what, Jess?
“I dunno, running around in the snow”. So I go and look: Rugby. London Wasps playing Northhampton Saints. The pinkish poms don’t seem to notice there’s a blizzard swirling around their short-pants knees, but I see there’s a Wentzel playing and he’s probably feeling it.

Which reminds me:
1973, on my way back from the States, I fly to New York on a Monday in December and ask for a flight to Johannesburg via London.
‘Sorry you can’t. Your ticket is non-transferable, and the next SAA flight is via Rio on Friday’. The old man had paid for my ticket on his shiny new Barclaycard and had put it over 12 months, so one last payment was still outstanding.
Ooh shit, four days in NY with no money. Well, about $25. I got $25 a month ‘allowance’ in Apache from the Rotary club. Seventeen South African Diederiks Ront it was back then. And sixty cents. (R1 = $1.42)

I put my suitcase in a locker, put a quarter in the slot and take the key. Hop on a bus to Grand Central Station ($2) in Manhattan to look for the SAA offices. ‘Sorry, can’t help’. Hey asseblief man! ‘OK, we’ll try’.
Back to JFK airport and sleep on the floor (damn benches spitefully have armrests for each seat so you can’t lie down on them). Fitful sleep broken by a huge sit-on vacuum and polish machine that roars up to me at 3am. ‘Move along there’, says the cleaner.

Tuesday I do the same locker-bus-SAA office run, but now I’m rather peckish so I stroll around Manhattan looking for something cheap to eat. I find a burger for $3. Not cheap in ’73, but includes as much beer as you can drink, so I think OK. Big glasses, though, so I could only drink two. Wander the Manhattan streets with a nice beer buzz going.

Wednesday I do the same locker-bus-SAA-hamburger-with-beers run but this time when I go into SAA at the end of the day they tell me Good News, you’re free to go! To celebrate I book into the YMCA without my suitcase so I can have a shower. $11 for the smallest room I have ever slept in.

Thursday I’m squeaky clean on the bus back to JFK and I take the first plane to London: Air India. I grab a discarded newspaper lying on a bench as I board. Settling into my seat I read:  – “Air India has just been voted ‘Worst Airline in the World’. Again”.

A much older lass I meet on the plane (she was probably only thirty) feels sorry for me so buys me a cold pork pie on the way out of Heathrow. I’m on my way to meet an acquaintance Don who once lived in Harrismith and is now in London for a year, so he knows the place. Turns out he has a rugby match (playing for some Saffer team against the London Irish) so we scurry around Buck House circle and somewhere else where someone lived or died or married someone, and head off to (I think) Wimbledon for the game in his little Austin something – with five rugby okes squeezed into it. At the ground the players huddle in a cold shed to change and notice they’re a couple of boerkies short can I play? Sure, I say, but only half the first half, then I have to catch a tube to Heathrow. Thank goodness (it’s sleeting outside) Don says rather don’t risk missing your flight. So they run out onto the mud with one blade of grass every ten yards without me and start puffing out steam and shoving some fat Irish blokes around. Between scrums Don shouts out which tubes and busses I should catch and I leave before the halftime whistle to head South after a year in foreign climes. I’m very much looking forward to getting home now.

Once in the air the SAA koffie poppie gives me lip when I order a third beer so I’m feeling at home while still thousands of kays away.

So what I wanted to say is I haven’t played rugby in the snow. The u/11B’s played first thing in the morning in Harrismith, so I have played on frosty white fields, kaalvoet – but not in an actual blizzard.