The classic Little Golden Book Gordon’s Jet Flight, by Naomi Glasson and Mel Crawford, was first published in 1961. I read it when I was old enough to read Little Golden Books.
In my memory, it was about a little boy’s first flight on a Boeing 747 Jumbo, but as the cover shows, it was about the B707, which was still a mighty plane in its day.
In any case, reading that book marked the beginning of my passion for flight — even though it’d be a long time before I actually boarded a plane. I was 21 when that happened, but I’ve certainly made up for lost time.
I was reminded of the book when I read that Boeing is considering retiring the 747. That made me a little sad, even though my most recent experiences of the aircraft have been on old planes that were at the end of their individual lifescycles and made me appreciate the comforts of more modern aircraft such as the B787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A330-900.
But it seems I’m not the only one with a tinge of nostalgia. My Twitter feed has seen several links to stories about the Boeing decision, along with some nostalgic pictures like this one, which purports to show the original interior of a jumbo’s economy-class cabin:
Both the children’s book and the picture illustrate a kind of “golden age” of aviation, where little boys and coach customers could fly to exotic places in unparalleled comfort.
The reality is less glamorous, of course, Commercial flight cost more than the average family could afford in the 1960s, and it’s only by eliminating many of the comforts described in the book and illustrated above that it came within the reach of, well, the likes of me.
It’s interesting to note that my first flight to London — on a Qantas 747, back in 1986 — cost about the same as it does today (although the aircraft is probably an A380). And, as a result of efficiencies in the commercial aviation industry, more people are flying than ever before, and (hopefully) learning a bit more about their own countries and the rest of the world.
That, to my mind, is the true miracle of flight.