Sunday, November 6, 2011

Flying in 1950s style

I wrote about Pan Am (the airline) in a recent blog, which prompted my brother to send me some great pics of old planes that he found on the website of Motat, Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology. I love this one, showing the dining set-up in a Solent flying boat. The aircraft - currently under restoration at Motat and the only surviving Mark IV Solent in the world - represented "the pinnacle of luxury flying boat airliners".
We all aspire to fly business Class today but back in the 1950s when the Solent took tourists over the Tasman to Australia and on the Coral Route to Tahiti, the whole plane was business class.
Check out the decor in soft lemon and dove grey, the tables spread with white linen, fine china and glassware. Look closely and you can see the TEAL logo on the glasses (TEAL being the forerunner of Air New Zealand - short for Tasman Empire Airways Ltd).
Elaborate meals were apparently cooked on board and it all looks like the 45 passengers enjoyed an elegance that's hard to find today.
Mind you, you'd have needed something to pass the time. There was, after all, no inflight entertainment, so if you forgot to take a good book there was nothing to do but wait to get there. They weren't quick, cruising at around 400kmh; the Auckland-Sydney flight took five and a half hours. And the planes could go no higher than 17,000 feet which must have meant they had to batter their way through some hefty weather systems. There must, at times, have been a whole lotta rattling of that china going on.
When I was a kid I lived at the foot of Upland Road in Remuera, quite a long way from Auckland harbour but still close enough to be able to hear the flying boats on their lumbering take-off runs, those four 2000 horsepower engines roaring like fury as the pilots pushed them to maximum power to lift the plane off the water. I can still hear them now.

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