Great Moments in Travel History – April 2018

By Anna Breuer on 1 April 2018
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April is the fourth month of the Gregorian calendar and the first month of the year to have 30 days. It is commonly associated with spring and rain, as in the saying April showers bring May flowers. Known in Latin as Aprilis, the derivation of which is uncertain, the month is also associated with two major religious holidays that result in one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, namely Passover and Easter, although either may occasionally show up in March as well.

James Sith McDonnell, founder of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, was born on April 9, 1899. The company he started later merged with the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas in order to better compete with arch-rival Boeing.

The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco was all set for opening day when, on April 18, 1906, the city suffered a devastating earthquake. Fires from the quake consumed much of the property and the hotel had to be largely rebuilt before opening exactly one year later. The Fairmont is still open today, and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

On April 24, 1909, Wilbur Wright brought along a photojournalist on a flight near Rome, Italy. The motion pictures taken in-flight were the first movies filmed on board an airplane aloft.

The Saint Paul Hotel, dubbed “St. Paul’s Million-Dollar Hotel,” opened on April 18, 1910, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The hotel is still in operation today and over the years has hosted such notable guests as Charles Lindbergh, Gene Autry, and John F. Kennedy.

The Loughead brothers flew their F-1 seaplane from Santa Barbara, California to San Diego on April 12, 1918. The brothers would later go on to found Lockheed Martin.

On April 7, 1922, the first mid-air collision of airliners in history occurred near Picardie, France. A Havilland DH.18A, operated by Daimler Hire Ltd, collided with a Farman F.60 Goliath, operated by Compagnie des Grandes Express Aériens, resulting in the death of all seven occupants on board both aircraft.

On April 6, 1924, four Douglas World Cruisers (named Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and Seattle) began the first flight around the world, departing from Sand Point near Seattle, Washington.  The Seattle crashed in Alaska on April 30, and the Boston was irreparably damaged while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The New Orleans and Chicago successfully completed the journey, arriving in Seattle on September 28, 1924.

Henry Ford started the first commercial flights to operate on a regular schedule on April 13, 1925, carrying airmail between Detroit and Chicago. Earlier that year, he formed the Ford Air Transport Service and was awarded the Chicago-Detroit and Cleveland-Detroit airmail routes.

Varney Air Lines, the predecessor of United Airlines, launched operations as an air mail carrier on April 6, 1926. Varney operated the first scheduled airline flight in the United States, linking Pasco, Washington and Elko Nevada via Boise, Idaho.

On April 12, 1928, Hermann Köhl, Günther von Hünefeld, and James Fitzmaurice successfully completed the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic from East to West in a Junkers W33. The trio flew from Baldonnel, Ireland to Greenly Island, Canada, a journey completed in approximately 36 hours.

The Sakuragichō train fire occurred on April 24, 1951, in Yokohama, Japan when a train hit a loose overhead wire on its approach to Sakuragichō Station. The accident resulted in a blaze that caused 92 injuries and the loss of 106 lives.

The McDonnell and Douglas companies merged on April 28, 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas Corp. with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. James S. McDonnell became chairman and chief executive officer, and David S. Lewis served as president, while Donald W. Douglas was named honorary chairman of the board and served as “Founder-Consultant.”

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