Great Moments in Travel History – December 2012

By Jesse Sokolow on 1 December 2012
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A Pan Am 747-100 at JFK

On December 27, 1919, the Boeing Airplane Co. B-1 mail plane, the first Boeing-designed commercial aircraft, made its first flight.

North American Aviation Inc. (NAA) was formed as a holding company in Delaware on December 6, 1928.  Although originally part of Rockwell International, NAA was sold to Boeing in December of 1996.

On December 7, 1946, the deadliest hotel fire in United States history occurred at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.  119 people lost their lives from smoke inhalation, jumping from windows, and being consumed by the flames.  26-year-old graduate student Arnold Hardy won a Pulitzer Prize in photography for his picture of a woman in mid-air after having jumped from the 11th floor.  The woman, Daisy B. McCumber, miraculously survived the jump, and lived to be 86 years old.   In 1951, the hotel reopened as the Peachtree Hotel on Peachtree. It was converted to housing for the elderly in the 1960s and, on October 1, 2007 reopened as the Ellis Hotel.

The first post-war inauguration of a new aircraft took place on December 23, 1946, when the first production-model Boeing Stratofreighter was rolled out.

The predecessor of the famous DC-3 aircraft, the Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST), made its first flight on December 17, 1935.

On December 29, 1963, 22 people died in what was the highest one-day death toll in Jacksonville, Florida history.  The Hotel Roosevelt, one of two luxury hotels in the downtown area, ,went up in flames after faulty wiring ignited the hotel’s ballroom ceiling, which had previously  been deemed a fire hazard.  One of the survivors, 21-year-old Donna Axum, went on to become Miss America 1964.

The Brink Hotel in Saigon was bombed by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War on December 24, 1964.

The Douglas DC-9, a twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner designed for short and frequent flights, made its first in-service airline flight for Delta Airlines on December 8, 1965.

On December 31, 1966, Boeing won the competition to design an American supersonic transport (SST).  However, due to rising costs and a lack of demand for the aircraft, government funding was withdrawn, and production was cancelled in 1971.

In the early morning of December 20, 1970, a fire ravaged the Pioneer Hotel in Tucson, Arizona.  Among the 29 victims were Harold and Margaret Steinfeld, the inhabitants of the building’s penthouse, and owners of a large department store in downtown Tucson.

Concorde, the British Airways supersonic transport aircraft, set a new record when it flew from New York to London in 2 hours, 59 minutes, and 36 seconds on December 16, 1979, at an average speed of 1,172 mph.

After a dispute with hotel management over medical care and salaries, three disgruntled employees set a fire in the Hotel Dupont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico on December 31, 1986.  It was the worst hotel fire in Puerto Rican history: 97 people perished in the New Year’s Eve blaze.

Click here to continue to Page 2TWA, Pan Am, Boeing 747s, Classic 737s, and Dreamliner Firsts

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