Airtravel in the 1960’s and 70’s


In this series, I like to talk about travel experiences, which are going back over the last 50+ years. Flying, the dream of man and often the cause of nightmares. But always fascinating. I am sure everyone of you has to add to this story and your own experiences to talk about. I would love to hear them

Air travel back than was certainly something different from modern time. In the 1960’s it was still possible to see than Queens of the sky, like to Lockheed Constellation and Super Constellation. Even so, the queens were dethroned quickly, with the Connie’s of Lufthansa being denigrated from international routes, to fly the air bridge, Hamburg – Frankfurt.
In some ways, air travel was somehow easier, but also much more expensive and certaily slower.

Though I think that many of us, after one year or longer grounded, would take the slow seaplane or noisy and vibrating prop plane, just to get away. To see the ground from lofty heights again and feel the rumble of the turbulence on the wings.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s times, one could still get printed timetables and even published airfares, which were fixed for at least six month. I do remember that a return flight from Hamburg to Sydney would cost at those times, close to 10,000 Deutschmark. Probably the equivalent of $ 5000. today. Economy class mind you.

The flights were much longer, with many stop over in far away, exotic locations, such as Bahrain, Delhi, Calcutta, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Dakkar, Rangun, Djakarta, etc..
Locations which seemed to be as far away as the moon and were certainly not as common in peoples mind as today.

But air travel was easier. No security controls. No terrorist worries, at least not on the European side of the Atlantic. Some hi-jackings maybe, but nothing really to worry about. With the jet age that changed of course, remembering some very spectacular hijacks to the middle east, etc..

Flying was simpler and stricter. Since engine power was much more restricted, 20 kg of luggage was very much adhered to. In the cabin the overhead luggage storage was open, not closed as today and anything in there would easily fly around in turbulence.

Talking turbulence. I think we experienced more. Fearing for the worst every time they hit. It was the time, when airplanes were more easily torn apart by these forces of nature. Sophisticated radar, weather forecast and more flexible airframe came later. In the last 20 years, I feel, that we experienced fewer turbulences and the once, we rode out smoother. Not to say that there have been some really bad cases and even casulties. But some of these were more related to passenger foolishness, rather the aircraft. Larger aircraft of today have more flexible wings, which swing out the rough air. Take a 15 hour flight in an A380 and will know what I mean.

Flying was maybe more boring, unless you enjoyed looking out of the windows and watch the countries passing by below, study the clouds or enjoy the light scenes. The ex. Lufthansa Captain, Rudolf Braunburg, who wrote a number of interesting books, taught me with his writing to really appreciate what the sky has to offer. Take some time and just look at the clouds and the light. Amazing what nature has to offer. The subtle change at duskm when the light changes into bands of dark blue, purple, pink, etc..

In-flight entertainment was basic. A movie projector under the cabin ceiling, a pull down projection screen and piped audio.
The projectors were not that powerful, so in-flight movies only run at night anyway, if they worked. More often than not the film would jam and a hole be burned into it or the film would jam and everything stopped. The poor aircrew had to try to repair without disturbing sleeping passengers.

The sound quality was endurable, but not comparable with today. The end pieces of the headphones had to be pushed into your ear and were not to be used for a long time, since they hurt. The sound came through plastic tubes.

And of course smoking. Smoking was permitted. In the beginning all over the plane. Later on, restricted to one side or the back of the aircraft, depending on the airflow with in the aircraft type.
But there was always the risk of being seated next to a smoker on a 6, 8 or 12 hour flight.

So much has changed. Sophisticated in-flight entertainment with computer stored content, noise cancelling headphones and even in eco, vastly improved sound quality. Selection of movies, TV series, education and often hundred of hours of music.
In flight Wifi was still very far on the horizon.

But this all happened in the last 20 years. I remember in the 90’s, after settled in Australia, my company supplied fibreglass cases to Qantas, which held the small video cassettes which were loaded into the playback machines prior to every flight. Today all this uploaded wirelessly and played from on-board server.

So remember nect time you cue at security that these inconveniences may offset what modern airtravel has to offer nowadays.

That is, once we are allowed to fly again.

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