As a seventeen-yr-old in January 1973 I flew from Jo’burg to Rio de Janeiro, then on to New York in an SAA Boeing 707 (‘a narrow-body, four-engined jet airliner built from 1958 to 1979. Boeing’s 707 was 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’ – that’s what wikipedia says. Also that 10 of them were still flying in 2013!!).
I flew on to Chicago and ended at Oklahoma City, 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 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.
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.
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.
January 5 – The mandatory security screening of all airline passengers began at all airports in the USA.
January 12 – The 197th and final American air-to-air victory of the Vietnam War.
January 15 – President Richard Nixon ordered a halt to all bombing, shelling and mining of North Vietnam.
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.
January 27 – A U.S. Navy plane was shot down over South Vietnam – the last American fixed-wing aircraft lost in the Vietnam War.
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.
On the way back I flew Air India from New York to London. On the plane I read in an abandoned newspaper I had picked up on the way to board, 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 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 observant 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?
bopha – isiZulu for bind, tie up (pronounce “bawpah”)