Great Moments in Travel History – June 2012

By Paul Riegler on 1 June 2012
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Motoring and aviation pioneer Charles Stewart Rolls made the first successful non-stop return flight over the English Channel on June 2, 1910.   Rolls co-founded Rolls-Royce with Sir Henry Royce in 1904.  He was also the first Briton to be killed in an aviation accident, an event which took place a month after the Channel flight.

On June 15, 1916, William Boeing took the Bluebill, the first B & W aircraft, on its maiden flight.  The B & W was named after Boeing and co-designer Navy Lt. Conrad Westervelt.

United Airlines predecessor Boeing Air Transport (BAT) was formed on June 30, 1927.  Its charter was to operate mail routes.

In the period June 27 through June 29, Captain Frank Hawks broke transcontinental speed records in both directions flying a Lockheed Air Express.  Starting at Roosevelt Field in New York, the non-stop trip to Los Angeles took 18 hours and 10 min.  After a little over seven hours of rest, he flew back, this time in 17 hours and 36 minutes.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Air Mail Act of 1934 on June 12 of that year.  The legislation created the Federal Aviation Commission, which came into existence in 1935, regulated the air mail business (which was contracted out to private airlines) and required aircraft manufacturers to divest themselves of airlines, such as the aforementioned BAT.  The so-called Air Mail scandal or fiasco was the result of an agreement between Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown and top airline executives in which the parties divided lucrative air mail routes amongst themselves.

58 people perished as fire swept through Chicago’s historic LaSalle Hotel on June 5, 1946.  200 additional people suffered injuries from smoke inhalation. The hotel had opened in 1909, advertising itself as the “largest, safest and most modern hotel west of New York City.”

On June 3, 1965, astronaut Ed White became the first American to walk in space. The walk took place during the Gemini 4 mission.  The Gemini space capsule had been built by McDonnell Aircraft, an aerospace company that merged with Douglas Aircraft two years later.

On June 11, 1995, the Boeing 777 flew from Seattle, Washington to the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget in the record time of nine hours and two minutes.   Later that month, on the 21st, the Boeing 767-300F, the freighter version of the 767 aircraft, made its first flight.  Closing out a busy month, on June 26, Boeing’s board of directors authorized production of the Boeing 777-300.  The first -300, a 33.3 ft. (10.1 m) stretch of the original 777-200, was delivered to Cathay Pacific in 1998.

Boeing unveiled the 737-800 on June 30, 1997.  The -800 is part of the second-generation 737 range (others include the -600, -700, and -900) and replaced the first-generation 737-400.  With a capacity of 162 passengers in a two-class configuration, it effectively also replaced the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 after Boeing decided to discontinue those models after the merger of the two aircraft makers.  In many fleets, it replaced the Boeing 727-200 trijet.

Boeing did, however, decide to continue with the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 after the merger, dubbing it the Boeing 717.  The first 717-200 was completed on June 10, 1998.  On May 22, 2012, Delta Air Lines announced plans to lease 88 of the 156 717 aircraft that were produced during its run, which ended in 2006.  The move will make Delta the largest 717 operator in the world.

(Pictured: A brand new Boeing 737-800 at an American Airlines’ maintenanc hangar at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  A Boeing 787 Dreamliner is visible in the background.)

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