This Week in Business Travel History – 8 April 2012
In 1860, the first Pony Express trip reached San Francisco, California. The mail service only lasted until October 1861, when it closed as a result of the Civil War and the advent of the transcontinental telegraph.
Pierre Prier made the first ever non-stop passenger flight between London and Paris in 1911. Today, multiple airlines still fly this route every day.
In 1918, the Loughead brothers flew their F-1 seaplane from Santa Barbara to San Diego, a distance of 211 miles (340 kilometers), in 181 minutes. They would later found the Lockheed Corporation (after changing their names), which would go on to merge with the Martin Marietta Corporation to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.
Charles Lindbergh became the Chief Pilot for Robertson Aircraft Corporation in 1926, flying a mail route between Saint Louis and Chicago. This same week in 1971, Lindbergh and a group of scientists were evacuated by the U.S. Air Force’s 31st Aerospace Rescue Squadron from Mindanao Island, Philippines, after their helicopter had crashed. Lindbergh died three years later, at age 72, in Hawaii.
In 1937, Sir Frank Whittle conducted ground tests of the world’s first jet engine that was specifically designed to power an aircraft.
Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, in 1961, flying a Russian Vostok 3KA space capsule into orbit on mission Vostok 1. Gagarin orbited the planet once, spending about 89 minutes in space before he returned to Earth.
In 1966, Boeing announced that Pan Am had placed a $525 million order for 25 747 jumbo jets. Pan Am was the launch customer for the 747 (pictured), which went on to become one of the most recognizable planes in the world.
Concorde 002 made its first successful flight in England in 1969. The supersonic aircrat flew from Filton, Bristol to RAF Fairford. The Concorde fleet was finally retired in November 2003, a result of low passenger numbers following a crash in 2000.
In 1970, Apollo 13 was launched on a mission to the Moon, but was famously unable to land, and returned to Earth six days later. The mission later became the subject of a movie that was released in 1995 and which won nine Academy Awards.
Nine American table tennis players, four officials, and two spouses arrived in China, heralding the start of “Ping-Pong diplomacy” between the two nations. Five American journalists also traveled to China to cover the visit, which ended the information blockade that the People’s Republic had in place since 1949. These were the first Americans allowed into China since the Communist takeover in 1949, and paved the way for future business travelers.
In 1981, the U.S. Space Shuttle program began with the first launch of Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-1. The two-man flight crew (Commander John W. Young and Pilot Robert Crippen) spent 54 and a half hours in orbit. Thirteen years later, in 1994, STS-59 Endeavour launched into orbit on a mission to gather information about global environmental changes.
Finally, in 1992, American Airlines announced that it was scrapping its old, complicated fare system for a new system with only four kinds of fares. The fare system revamp led to an average of 38% reduction of coach fares, 20-50% reduction on first-class flights, and other airlines soon followed suit. Hopefully American Airlines decides that after 20 years, a new revamp may be in order…
(Photo: Eduard Marmet)