Air France Golden Parisian Bedroom

Air France introduced its “Golden Parisian” service in 1953, using a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation (F-BGNI) that could fly nonstop between New York and Paris in just 12 hours.

The Golden Parisian carried only 32 passengers (instead of the usual 56) and was equipped with sleeper seats, private cabins with beds, and a lounge.  The flight from Paris to New York was called “Parisien Spécial.”

Passengers dined on gourmet fare including lobster medallion, duckling à l’orange, and foie gras with truffles, and were offered free champagne, wines, liqueurs, and American cigarettes during the flight.

The flight cost an extra $25 above the regular $415 first-class fare, for passengers traveling a sleeper-seat; the private cabins were available for an additional $125.

Air France Flight 045 left Paris-Orly at 11:00 PM and landed in New York at 7:40 AM; the return, Air France Flight 044, left New York at 7:00 PM and arrived at Paris-Orly at 12:35.

Air France created a wonderful website about its transatlantic history which includes a video featuring the Golden Parisian and other Air France flights.

Air France transatlantic flight history

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Fw 200 Condor in Brooklyn, NY

Fw 200 Condor in New York

On August 10-11, 1938, a Lufthansa Focke-Wulf 200 Condor airliner made a record-breaking nonstop flight across the Atlantic from Berlin to Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn, New York.

The aircraft was a Fw 200 VI, registered as D-ACON and named “Brandenburg.”

The 4,075 miles flight (6,437 km) took 24 hours and 57 minutes against strong headwinds, at an average speed of 164 MPH (263 km/h).  The return flight to Germany took 19 hours and 47 minutes at an average speed of 205 MPH (330 km/h) on August 13, 1938.

In November, 1938 the same aircraft flew to Basra, Karachi, Hanoi, and Tokyo in only 46 hours 18 minutes, but on the return flight D-ACON ran out of fuel and ditched in the ocean near Manila.

The 26-passenger Condor was designed, for both commercial and propaganda purposes, to be the first airliner capable of nonstop transatlantic flight. The aircraft was created under the leadership of Kurt Tank, technical director of Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau of Bremen, and the propotype made its first flight on July 27, 1937.

Fw 200 Condor in New York, 1938

Fw 200 Condor in New York, 1938

Although originally built as a civilian airliner, the Fw 200 primarily saw service as a long-range maritime bomber and reconnaissance aircraft during World War II.  In 1939, a specially-configured Fw-200 named “Immelmann III” (D-2600) became Adolf Hitler’s primary personal aircraft.

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The Boeing 24 might be called the first modern airliner.  It was the first all-metal airliner in America and featured many airliner firsts, including retractable landing gear, supercharged engines, de-icing boots, trim tabs, soundproofing, and cowled engines streamlined into nacelles in the wing.

And the sleek 247 was fast; on its first scheduled flight on May 22, 1933, a Boeing Air Transport 247 set a speed record by crossing the United States from San Francisco to New York in just 19½ hours, almost 8 hours faster than any previous airliner.

The main limitation to the airplane’s success was its small size; the 247 carried only ten passengers, and when the 28-passenger Douglas DC-3 became available in 1935, the 247 simply couldn’t compete.  The DC-3 also had a much greater range, and could cross the United States with only three stops.  Only 75 Boeing 247′s were ever built, compared to more than 10,000 DC-3′s.

Boeing 247D specifications:

  • Wing span:    74 feet
  • Length:    51 feet 7 inches
  • Top speed:    200 mph
  • Cruising speed:    189 mph
  • Range:    745 miles
  • Service ceiling:    25,400 feet
  • Gross weight:    13,650 pounds
  • Powerplants:    Two 550-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasps (R-1340-S1H1G)
  • Crew:    2 pilots, 1 steward/stewardess
  • Payload: 10 passengers, 400 pounds of mail
  • First flight:    Feb. 8, 1933

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hindenburg-outline
The first airliner to make scheduled passenger flights between Europe and the America was not an airplane but the German zeppelin Hindenburg, which made 34 scheduled trips across the Atlantic in 1936.

hindenburg-brochure-cover-web

Hindenburg crossed the Atlantic in 2-1/2 days, which was half the time required by the fastest ocean liners of the day, and the zeppelin’s fastest trip across the Atlantic took just 43 hours and 2 minutes.   The airship crossed the north and south Atlantic 34 times during 1936, carrying more than 3500 passengers as well as large quantities of mail and valuable freight.

The first airplanes to carry passengers on that route were the Pan Am clipper flying boats, which did not begin service across the Atlantic until three years later, in May, 1939.

The Hindenburg had accommodations for 72 passengers, who slept in private cabins, took their meals in an elegant dining room, relaxed in a lounge and a writing room, observed the ocean from the large windows of two promenades, and could even smoke in a smoking room which was pressurized against leaks from the ship’s flammable hydrogen lifting gas.

While the Hindenburg’s great size provided spacious and comfortable accommodations for passengers, ultimately it could not have competed economically with the flying boats of the era:  The Hindenburg required a flight crew of 40 (and hundreds of men on the ground to assist in landing operations); by 1939, Pan Am’s Boeing Clippers were crossing the Atlantic in about the same amount of time but with a flight crew of only 10.

hindenburg-dining-room

Dining Room of the Hindenburg

The age of the passenger zeppelin did not end because of economics, however, but because of tragedy.  The Hindenburg was on the first of eighteen scheduled round-trip flights between Germany and the United States which had been planned for 1937 when the ship burst into flames and crashed on landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Although a sister ship, the LZ-130 Graf Zeppelin, made numerous flights without passengers in 1938 and 1939, the Hindenburg disaster of May 6, 1937 marked the end of the rigid airship.

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Heinrich Kubis

Heinrich Kubis

In March, 1912, Heinrich Kubis became the first flight attendant in history when he began taking care of passengers and serving meals on the German airline DELAG.

Kubis began working as an air steward one month before the sinking of the Titanic, and more than 18 years before Ellen Church became the world’s first stewardess on May 15, 1930.

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