30 January 2012

Sidetrack: Not about trains but about (vintage) airliners

Today, in this age of mass air travel, flying is an everyday experience. As the tag line of Asia’s leading budget airline Air Asia proclaims: “Now everyone can fly”. Back in the pre-jet days of  the 1950s, however, when flying was not yet as common as today, it still had a sense of adventure and glamour in it.

It was in those days, in October 1956, that I, for the first time ever, flew on an airplane. My mother, younger brother and I were travelling from Indonesia to the USA to join my father who had left earlier to study there. Our airplane, a KLM Royal Duch Airlines Lockheed Constellation, took off early in the morning from Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Lockheed Constellation, Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta, Indonesia

Our first stopover was at Paya Lebar Airport, Singapore. The next stop was Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok. Those, of course, were the days before Sukarno-Hatta, Changi and Suvarnabhumi airports. From Bangkok we flew to Karachi. At about midnight we arrived at Karachi. We were taken to Hotel Midway House, a hotel owned by KLM located near the airport, where we could freshen up and rest for a few hours. The name Midway comes from the fact that Karachi is approximately halfway between Amsterdam and Jakarta. Very early in the morning we were brought back to the airport, to continue our journey to Amsterdam via Beirut, Rome, and Geneva.

Hotel Midway House, Karachi, Pakistan

We arrived in Amsterdam early in the evening. There we stayed overnight before continuing our journey the next evening on a Pan American World Airways (PAA) Douglas DC7C “Seven Seas.” Before crossing the Atlantic our plane made a brief stop in London. After flying non-stop for about thirteen hours we arrived the next morning at Idlewild Airport in New York.

Pan American World Airways Douglas DC7C ‘Seven Seas”

From Idlewild we were transferred to La Guardia Airport, to catch the afternoon flight to Nashville. The plane we rode on the last leg of our journey was an American Airlines Douglas DC6. After about three hours aboard this plane we finally arrived at our final destination, Nashville, Tennessee.

American Airlines Douglas DC6

Together with my mother and brother I had flown over three continents (Asia, Europe, and North America) and across one ocean (the Atlantic), on three different types of aircrafts (Lockheed Constellation, Douglas DC7 and DC6). It was quite an experience, especially for a first-time air traveller.

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