Great Moments in Travel History – January 2013

By Jesse Sokolow on 1 January 2013
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Pan Am Boeing 747-100

Pan Am Boeing 747-100

One of the first transatlantic business trips came to an end on January 15,1493: Christopher Columbus began his return trip to Spain, after crossing the Atlantic westward in 1492.

On January 7, 1785, the English Channel was traversed by air for the first time, when Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries flew across the English Channel from Dover, England, to a forest near Calais, France in their hydrogen filled balloon.  However, the balloon lost altitude over the channel, and the pair had to toss ballast and other items overboard to remain aloft.  Consequently, about two hours after takeoff, they crossed the French coast wearing only their underwear and the cork life jackets they brought in case of a water landing.

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

Wilbur Wright met with U.S. Representative. Robert M. Nevin on January 3, 1905, in an effort to interest the U.S. government in the use of airplanes for the military. The army later declined the proposal, even though the congressman submitted and endorsed a letter from Wright to President William Howard Taft and the secretary of war.

On January 20, 1908, what is now the Fairmont Empress opened in Victoria, British Colombia.  Built between 1904 and 1908, the property was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels as a hotel for Canadian Pacific steamship passengers. The property has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada and was last renovated in 1989.

The Astor House Hotel, which was the first western hotel in China, re-opened on January 16, 1911 in Shanghai, China, following an extensive restoration.  The hotel, which opened its doors in 1846 as Richard’s Hotel and Restaurant, described itself as “the most central, popular and modern hotel in Shanghai” in its advertising.

American Airlines, currently the world’s fourth largest airline (and the third largest in the U.S.), was founded on January 25, 1930, as American Airways.

Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly solo between Hawaii and the mainland 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.

Howard Hughes broke his own transcontinental speed record in the H-1 Racer on January 19, 1937.  He flew from Los Angeles to Newark in 7 hours 28 minutes.

The Civil Aeronautics Authority gave permission for the Boeing Model 314 Clipper to be used for commercial service by Pan American Airways on January 26, 1939.

On January 30, 1948, aviation pioneer Orville Wright died at the age of 76 after a second heart attack.  He was born in 1871, and lived to see the dawn of supersonic flight.  His brother Wilbur had died from typhoid fever in 1912, at the age of 46.

Click here to continue to Page 2707 and 747 Service Starts, Eastern Airlines Shuts Down, Ice Hotel Opens, and Miracle on the Hudson

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