16 April 2006

"The Original Eight"

As I do research in the aviation industry in order to write my novel, I keep finding some interesting tidbits.

Early airlines sometimes hired male stewards to load/unload baggage and assist the pilots, but it took a while for women to enter the world of airlines. The first airline to hire women as flight attendants, or "air stewardesses," was Boeing Air Transport, and this happened on May 15, 1930. Ellen Church was the first to enter service, and there were seven others hired alongside her. The requirements were stringent; for starters, they had to be registered nurses - and single. Military salute was required whenever the pilots boarded and deplaned. Boeing Air Transport, of course, merged into United Airlines - Sarah's workplace starting in 1999. It's nice to know that I am making Sarah carry on the tradition of these very first flight attendants.

United Airlines website has more information on these early flight attendants. Being single was a requirement at United until 1968! It's nice to know that social norms have become more tolerant, to a point where transgender women are more than welcome to work as flight attendants. The rising tide of feminism, activism by the Association of Flight Attendants, and increased need for flight attendants to staff the ever-larger aircraft, all contributed to the welcome change.

And as I wondered why United didn't name its planes after flight attendants, I found that back in the 1970s-1980s, United did have a 747 that was named The Original Eight, honoring Boeing Air Transport's eight pioneering flight attendants. For the aviation buffs: its registration was N4712U.

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