Air Travel and Airlines

Anthropometry of Airline Stewardesses

The research study "Anthropometry of Airline Stewardesses" consists of detailed body measurements of 423 stewardess trainees. It was paid for by the FAA and released in March 1975. The trainees were from the American Airlines Stewardess Training Academy in Fort Worth, Texas.

The justification for the study was that knowing the body measurements of stewardesses might help engineers design better seats and safety equipment for them. But what the study really seems to demonstrate is that in the early 1970s airline stewards were expected to be young, thin, female, and single. None were older than 28. None weighed more than 145 lb. Only 26 were divorced. The rest had never been married.

The study attracted the scorn of Senator William Proxmire. Details from a Reuters article in The Calgary Herald (Aug 21, 1975):

A $57,800 study has told the government that stewardesses all stack up differently — from nose widths to knee fits and various areas in between.

Senator William Proxmire says the disclosures neither enlighten nor amuse him.

The Wisconsin Democrat said today the report, with detailed measurements on 423 stewardess trainees for American Airlines, was another case of taxpayers' money spent on discovering the obvious. "It seems like a bust to me," he said...

Seventy-nine individual body measurements were taken as part of the study, and some, the senator said, seemed unnecessary or irrelevant.

"Detailed measurements were made of body features such as the skinfold of the upper arm and the posterior calf, the vertical height of the sphyrion, the popliteal length of the buttocks, the transverse distance between the centres of the anterior superior iliac spines, the knee-to-knee breadth while sitting, the maximum horizontal width of the jaw across the gonial angles, and the height of the nose," he said.

There were too many deviations among even general measurements of young trainees to help designers of airline equipment, he argued.

Their weights ranged from 94 to 145 pounds, heights from five feet one inch to six feet one inch, busts from 29 to 37.5 inches and waists from 21 to 28 inches.

The senator concluded: "About all that can be said to aircraft designers is that stewardesses are young women with the body measurements of young women."

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 30, 2022 - Comments (5)
Category: Body, Science, Air Travel and Airlines, 1970s

First Pig To Fly

In 1909, a pig (subsequently named Icarus) became the first pig to fly in an airplane.

However, as far as I know a pig has never gone beyond the atmosphere into space. I know this because I once briefly had the idea of writing a book titled Pigs in Space about the history of animals in space. But I abandoned the idea when I couldn't find any record of pigs in space. The closest I found was when, in 2005, the Chinese sent some pig sperm into space. I didn't think Pig Sperm in Space would work as a title.

More info about the flying pig:

image source:

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix - Nov 25, 1909

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 29, 2022 - Comments (5)
Category: Animals, Air Travel and Airlines, 1900s

Miss Celestial Airwaves of the Pacific

Dionne Wheeler won the title of "Miss Celestial Airwaves of the Pacific" sight unseen. She was selected by members of the Coast Guard weather patrol based "solely on descriptions of airline hostesses furnished by their pilot via radio".

Coast Guard Bulletin - Feb 1952

She also achieved minor fame in another way. The character of the stewardess named Spalding in Ernie Gann's 1953 bestseller The High and the Mighty (and subsequent 1954 film adaptation) was based on her.

The High and the Mighty was one of the first aviation disaster movies and served as one of the inspirations for 1980's Airplane!

Wheeler (right) on the set of The High and the Mighty
Left: actress Doe Avedon; middle: Director William Wellman

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 24, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests, Movies, Air Travel and Airlines, 1950s

Happy Thanksgiving 2021!

Posted By: Paul - Thu Nov 25, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Anthropomorphism, Food, Holidays, Air Travel and Airlines

Captain Yancey and His Fabulous Autogyro

Source of clipping: Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) 03 Jul 1931, Fri Page 1

Good article here.

The Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro was developed in 1931 and proved to be a reliable, unique aircraft. The rotor at its top was unpowered and it flew more like a fixed wing aircraft than a helicopter, based on the power from its radial engine on the nose. Once at speed, the rotor spun based on aerodynamic forces alone thus generating lift. It was an amazing sight and attracted crowds wherever it flew. By April of 1931, the autogyro had flown across the United States at the hands of John M. Miller, had landed on the White House lawn (by test pilot Jim Ray), and had soared to a new altitude record of 18,415 feet (this being Amelia Earhart’s record).

Seizing upon the press interest in the design, the Champion Spark Plug company purchased one and painted the sides with their logo and named it “Miss Champion”. It was the perfect flying billboard. After hiring Captain Lewis “Lew” Yancey, a former Naval Lieutenant and USCG officer who was a maritime captain, they directed that he fly the nation on an advertising tour. By the end of 1931, Captain Yancey had flown the autogyro 6,500 miles, transiting 21 states and touching down in 38 cities around the nation. Yet the Champion Spark Plugs company still wanted more attention — and thus they asked him to beat Amelia Earhart’s altitude record as well.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Sep 05, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Inventions, Publicity Stunts, World Records, Advertising, Air Travel and Airlines, 1930s

The Reid Flying Submarine

More pix and article here.

It wasn't a high-tech machine, despite its abilities. In the air it was powered by a 65 horsepower four-cylinder Lycoming engine. While underwater a 1-horsepower electric motor provided propulsion. Conversion from aircraft to submarine was a clumsy affair. The pilot first had to remove the propeller, and then cover the engine pylon with a rubber diving bell to keep the engine dry. The pilot used an aqualung to breathe. Maximum depth was roughly 10 to 12 ft (3.5 metres).

From THE SATURDAY EVENING POST for January 1, 1966.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 21, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Death, Disasters, Inventions, Oceans and Maritime Pursuits, Air Travel and Airlines, 1960s

Presenting the Losers

A 1967 ad campaign for Eastern Airlines.

Of course, I'm pretty sure all the women in the ad were actually models/actresses. So in their true profession they were winners of a spot in the campaign. Most notably, that's Ali MacGraw sitting in the front row.

Time - Sep 29, 1967

Some analysis by Kathleen Barry in Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants

Since the 1930s stewardesses had been ubiquitous in airline advertising. But by the 1960s they carried even more figurative weight as the embodiments of airlines' mass-marketed personalities. Gone were generic references to friendly staff alongside offers of specific services and amenities; in came promises of a hand-picked servant for every passenger. An advertisement for Eastern from 1967, for instance, titled "Presenting the Losers," pictured a group of nineteen applicants whom the carrier had rejected for stewardess positions. The attractive, slender, and well-groomed "losers" were distinguishable from "winners" only by their frowns and lack of airline univorms. The text explained that they "were probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want," but that because of its high standards of appearance, intelligence, and personality, Eastern turned down nineteen desirable candidates for every exemplary one hired. With mock defensiveness, the ad read, "Sure, we want her to be pretty... don't you? That's why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair." In addition, Eastern boasted, it screened each applicant for "her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina." With such an exhaustive list of qualifications, readers may have marveled (or doubted) that women so wondrous existed, let alone would serve them on Eastern.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 26, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Advertising, Air Travel and Airlines, 1960s

Balloonfest ‘86

From Wikipedia:

Balloonfest '86 was a 1986 event in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, in which the local chapter of United Way set a world record by releasing almost one-and-a-half million balloons.[2] The event was intended to be a harmless fundraising publicity stunt, but the balloons drifted back over the city, Lake Erie, and landed in the surrounding area, causing problems for traffic and a nearby airport. The event also interfered with a United States Coast Guard search for two boaters who were later found drowned.[1] In consequence, the organizers and the city faced lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages,[1] and cost overruns put the event at a net loss.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 18, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Charities and Philanthropy, Disasters, Noises and Other Public Disturbances of the Peace, Urban Life, Air Travel and Airlines, 1980s

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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