Great Moments in Travel History – May 2022

By Jesse Sokolow on 1 May 2022
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May, the fifth month in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars is typically the epitome of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and of autumn in the Southern. May Day, typically celebrated on May 1, is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival that celebrates the season. It is also a public holiday in many countries, in most cases referred to as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day, and intended to commemorate the1886 Haymarket riot in Chicago.

May is unusual in that, in any given year, no month starts on and ends on the same day of the week as May. It is the only month with these properties.

In Germany and Austria, the maypole, or Maibaum – a decorated tree or tree trunk erected on the first day of the month – is a tradition that dates back to the 16th century.

Late May is the unofficial start of the summer travel season, which in the United States runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends.  The extent of the summer travel season in 2020 is somewhat up in the air, however, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened in Mays past.

On May 16, 1863, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst opened its doors in Cologne, Germany, directly across from the Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom. A regular guest for several decades in the latter part of the 20th century was FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira’s father, S. F. Spira, the founder and CEO of Spiratone. The hotel celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013.

Harriet Quimby, the first woman to receive a pilot’s license (on August 2, 1911) in the United States, was born on May 1, 1875.

The Chicago World’s Fair opened on May 1, 1893. The fair transformed the landscape of the city and introduced the now ubiquitous Ferris Wheel to the world.

The Palace Hotel Luzern in Luzerne, Switzerland, opened its doors on May 7, 1906. The hotel, which featured amenities rare at the time of its opening, such as en-suite bathrooms, is still in operation today.

On May 9, 1912, Lieutenant Charles Samson launched his seaplane from the deck of a moving battleship, thereby giving birth to the aircraft carrier.

Wilbur Wright died from typhoid fever at age 45 on May 30, 1912. His brother Orville lived to be 76, passing away on January 30, 1948.

The Regent Palace Hotel opened on May 16, 1915 in London, England. With 1,028 guestrooms, the hotel offered the largest number of rooms of any such establishment in Europe at the time of its opening. It was demolished in 2010.

On May 9, 1917, William Boeing changed the name of Pacific Aero Products to the Boeing Airplane Co.

Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey, became the first municipal airport in the U.S. on May 3, 1918.

Mills Field Municipal Airport opened on May 7, 1927. It became San Francisco International Airport in 1931.

Charles Lindberg completed the first solo transatlantic flight on May 21, 1927 in his Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. He flew from Roosevelt Field in New York to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers), in 33 hours and 29 minutes, making him the first person in history to be in New York one day and Paris the next.

Ellen Church, a registered nurse, joined the crew of Boeing Air Transport’s Model 80A headed to San Francisco on May 15, 1930. She was the first female flight attendant in history. Boeing Air Transport was the forerunner of United Airlines.

The Hindenburg disaster took place on May 6, 1937. Thirty-six people perished when the German airship LZ 129 Hindenburg was destroyed by fire while attempting to dock at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey.

Eastern Air Lines Flight 605 crashed near Bainbridge, Maryland, on May 30, 1947, en route from Newark, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida. At the time, it was the deadliest aviation disaster in United States history with all 53 passengers and crew onboard the plane perishing in the crash.

On May 4, 1949, a plane carrying players on Italy’s Torino A.C. football (soccer) team crashed near Turin, Italy. All 31 passengers, including 18 team members, were killed in what became known as the Superga air disaster.

A Douglas DC-7C took off from Long Beach Municipal Airport in California on May 21, 1957, for a record non-stop trans-continental and trans-Atlantic flight that retraced part of the route flown by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. The aircraft flew 6,148 miles (9,894 kilometers) to Paris in 21 hours and 52 minutes, 12 hours less than it took Lindbergh to fly nearly 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) across the Atlantic.

On May 30, 1958, the Douglas DC-8 made its maiden flight. The aircraft was the first of the DC line to be equipped with jet engines. The four-engine jet set world records in speed, altitude, distance, and payload.

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