Pride, Progress, Pie in the Sky
There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.
- Orson Welles
Motor cut. Forced landing. Hit cow. Cow died. Scared me.
- Dean Smith, telegraph to his chief, quoted by Amelia Earhart, The
Fun of It, 1932
by Bill Garvey and Elizabeth Kaye McCall
Lillian Kinkella Keil has earned a very special place in the annals of flight and the history of serving others. Widely considered to be the most decorated woman in U S military history, Keil was a pioneering flight nurse during World War II and the Korean War as well as one of United's first generation of stewardesses who set the model for today's flight attendants.
But back in 1938, when her mother suggested that Kinkella might like being a "stewardess," the young nurse didn't even know what the word meant - United had invented the profession less than a decade before. In fact, she'd never even seen an airplane. She ventured over to United Air Lines' Oakland base, just across San Francisco Bay from her home, and saw glistening planes gathered there. She was hooked. Within days, she was tending to passengers with the same care she had given her patients.
When the United States entered World War II, Kinkella and many other United stewardesses joined the war effort as flight nurses. By the summer of 1943, she was in England pulling wounded and frostbitten crewmen out of B-17s returning from bombing raids over Europe. It was a time she will never £orget. She scrambled for cover when the bombers roared overhead, witnessed the first buzz bomb attack on London, and in June 1944 climbed aboard a C-47 crammed full of gas, oil, rations, and medical supplies. D-Day had come, and she was heading for Normandy to collect the fallen.
Once the wounded were secured in the two dozen litters, the airplane took off. En route to England, Kinkella moved from one man to the next, stanching the flow of blood, bandaging wounds, checking IVs, giving medicine and comfort. After the patients were delivered to hospital units, the C-47 headed back to the front. Kinkella made 250 evacuation flights - 23 of them transatlantic - during the war.
At war's end, she returned to United as an assistant chief stewardess based in Los Angeles. A highlight of that posting came on 1 May 1947, when her DC-6 took off from Honolulu on the airline's first flight from Hawai'i to the mainland. Although happy to be back with United, Kinkella's return was short-lived. With the outbreak of war in Korea, there was a sudden need for experienced flight nurses. In 1950, Kinkella boarded another United flight, this one bound for Japan, and her uniform was that of a U S Air Force officer. Captain Lillian Kinkella was heading to the front again.
Over the next 16 months, she flew 175 air evacuations out of Korea, logging 1,400 hours of flight time. Her wartime service with the 801st Medical Air Evacuation Transportation Squadron was the basis for the 1953 film Flight Nurse, on which she consulted. In 1954 she married Walter Keil, a former Navy officer, and left the service for good. She devoted herself to raising her two daughters. In 1961, her appearance on the popular television program This Is Your Life garnered one of the 10 highest mail responses in the show's history - with many of the letters from wounded veterans she had helped.
Today, Keil retains the same spirit that took her into the air so many years ago. For her selflessness, she has been awarded 19 medals, including a European Theater medal with four battle stars, a Korean service medal with seven battle stars, and four air medals.
Source: Hemispheres Magazine
The most common phrases in airline aviation are "Was that for us?", "What'd he say?", and "Oh, shit!" Since computers are now involved in flying, a new one has been added: "What's it doing now?"
- Great Aviation Quotes
Safety led the list of corporate goals that United's early president, Pat Patterson, called his Rule of Five (safety, passenger comfort, dependability, honesty and sincerity). Patterson's United invested heavily in research that enhanced the entire aviation industry - a commitment that has made United a leader in aviation technology throughout its history.
One of the earliest efforts to increase safety was the establishment, in 1929, of the industry's only communications laboratory. The lab developed the first practical two-way radio that would permit pilots to speak with people on the ground.
An outgrowth of the communications lab was United's "flying laboratory" - the twin-engine Boeing 247-D, registration number NX13365, that contributed more to the technological development of commercial aviation than any other plane.
For almost a decade, the 365 was used by scientists and engineers to test an extraordinary variety of equipment intended to make flying safer and more comfortable. Engineers tested the first gyro-controlled automatic pilot in the 365. Other 365 assignments included the development of wing and propeller de-icers, variable-pitch propellers, radio direction finders, compasses and various kinds of communications antennas.
The radio altimeter was tested on the 365. It used the bounce-back time of radio waves to determine clearance above the ground rather than using air pressure to compute altitude above sea level - a key advance for flying over mountains. The "flight analyser", precursor to the "black box" or flight data recorder, was developed on the 365. The original flight analysers recorded aircraft heading, speed and altitude, and United was the first airline to install the devices on its entire fleet.
Boeing 247D Began service in 1934; wingspan 74'; Length 51' 4"; Cruise speed 161 mph
In 1942, the 365 was drafted into military service. United engineers were developing an automated instrument landing system, and that work continued throughout the war. The 365 made thousands of landings to test what became standard military equipment and was later installed at airfields around the world.
By the conclusion of the war, the 365 had logged tens of thousands of miles. The research performed on that airplane had saved more lives than anyone could then appreciate. In an appropriate irony, the technology the 365 helped perfect eventually made the plane obsolete.
Source: Hemispheres Magazine May 2001
It looked like Taco Bell after an earthquake.
- Karen Breslau, reporter for Newsweek,
Early airlines considered passengers a nuisance. Even after airmail carriers went into the passenger business, perks were usually limited to playing cards and a so-called "burp cup" for motion sickness.
Dinner on United Airlines in 1927 was a ham-and-cheese sandwich, an apple and coffee, or creamed chicken in a thermos, rolls and coffee - which the copilot handed to passengers when they boarded the airplane.
United revolutionised inflight service by hiring eight young female nurses to tend to passengers. In 1936 United opened the industry's first flight kitchen, complete with European chefs. Three days later, the first hot meal - a choice of fried chicken or scrambled eggs - was served aboard a DC-3 Mainliner. United's engineers had designed an electrically heated compartment to keep food hot. Meals were packed in a papier-mâché box that doubled as a lap tray.
In the late 1930s, United took a leading role in the design of the 4-engine DC-4 and moved the galley from its traditional location at the front of the plane to a spot near the rear doorway. The more spacious galley was easier to load and for the first time included equipment for warming food in flight.
By the middle 1950s, United chef-supervised flight kitchens had launched a culinary tradition. Mainliner meals were the best aloft. A monthly recipe from a United chef was a highlight of the inflight magazine. For "25¢ in coin" you could mail order "Favourite Recipes of Mainliner Chefs" whose resumes included the best U S restaurants.
Today, food preparation is done to specifications by caterers, but United chefs still create and test recipes in the airline's kitchens. The commitment to good food goes beyond the dozens of meals designed to fit an amazing array of special dietary needs.
Since 1994, dishes inspired by famous restaurants have brought culinary distinction to United routes. Since 1997, celebrity chefs have crafted regional meals with Asian, Hawaiian, Southwestern and other flavours, including specialties from participating eateries in the Chicago food fair. Also available are Mrs Fields cookies, Eli's cheesecake, and Starbucks coffee. United's commitment to cuisine would have made the Mainliner chefs proud.
Source: Hemispheres Magazine May 2001
To view other articles related to flying including history, unusual flying machines, hot air balloons, skydiving, gliding, problems,
airports, turbulence, pilots, crashes, the Paris Air Show, the future, blimps, space travel, solar sails and more, clicking the "Up" button
below takes you to the Table of Contents for this section on Flight.