Great Moments in Travel History – January 2017

By Jesse Sokolow on 1 January 2017
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On January 18, 1905, the Wright Brothers began negotiations with the United States government over whether to sell it an airplane. They eventually acquiesced.

The National Geographic Society was founded on January 27, 1888, by a group that included explorers, geographers, cartographers, teachers, and scientists.  It was organized as “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”

On January 20, 1908, what is now the Fairmont Empress opened in Victoria, British Columbia.  The 108-year-old property, originally opened as the Empress, has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada and was last renovated in 1989.

The first scheduled commercial airline flight took place on January 1, 1914, for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line when pilot Tony Jannus flew the former mayor of St. Petersburg in a Benoist XIV biplane over Tampa Bay.  The flight lasted 23 minutes, cruising 50 feet (15 meters) above sea level.

The first ever airline uniforms, worn by Instone Air Line’s pilots and staff, were introduced on January 1, 1922.

The Biltmore Hotel opened its doors on January 14, 1926, in Coral Gables, Florida.  At the time, it was the tallest building in Florida, and at one time had the world’s largest pool.

American Airlines was founded on January 25, 1930, as American Airways.

Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly solo between Hawaii and the United States on January 11, 1935, when she flew her Lockheed Vega from Wheeler Field in Honolulu across the eastern Pacific to Oakland, California, in 18 hours and 15 minutes.

On January 9, 1945, a C-97 Stratofreighter set a transcontinental record when it flew 2,323 miles (3,738 km) from Seattle to Washington, D.C., in six hours and four minutes. The aircraft covered the distance at an average speed of 383 mph (616 km/h).

The first commercial flight to depart London’s Heathrow Airport took place on January 1, 1946, when a British South American Airlines Lancastrian ‘Star Light’ flew to Buenos Aires

On January 30, 1948, aviation pioneer Orville Wright died at the age of 76 after a second heart attack.

The BSAA Star Tiger, an Avro Tudor IV passenger aircraft, disappeared without a trace over the Atlantic Ocean on January 30, 1948.  The disappearance remains unsolved to this day and helped fuel speculation and theories of the Bermuda Triangle.

The first commercial non-stop flight from Tokyo to Honolulu was made by a Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser on January 3, 1950.

The Boeing 747, the world’s first wide-body aircraft, made its inaugural commercial flight from New York to London for Pan American on January 22, 1970. The flight had been planned for January 21, but was delayed due to engine overheating.

One hundred and seventy six people perished on January 22, 1973, when a Nigeria Airways Boeing 707 crashed while attempting to land at Kano International Airport in Nigeria.

Air India Flight 855, a Boeing 747, crashed in the Arabian Sea on January 1, 1978, killing all 213 onboard.

A fire broke out at the Coates House Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri on January 28, 1978, killing 20. The hotel had first opened its doors in 1867. Among its notable guests were William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, and Theodor Roosevelt. The property was repurposed as an apartment building.

On January 26, 1989, the first Boeing 747-400 aircraft was delivered to launch customer Northwest Airlines. The 747-400’s innovations included a two-pilot glass cockpit, which made the flight engineer’s position redundant, more fuel-efficient engines, and an all-new interior. Northwest later merged with Delta, and in 2014, Delta announced that it would begin retiring the former Northwest 747s.

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