Pan American,PAWA,varig

The History of Safety Cards, Part 3: The Jets Arrive (Turn of the decade 1950s/1960s)

By Fons Schaefers

Early attempts

One of aviation history’s most narrated events of failure is the false start of air transport by jets. I am referring to the years 1952 to 1954 and the operation of the first iteration of the British-built De Havilland Comet. Safety card-wise, this was a non-event as no leaflets specific to the type were carried. BOAC, at the time, used a generic leaflet focusing on surviving a ditching without identifying aircraft types. The other users of the first Comets were Air France, UAT, and Canadian Pacific which, as far as I know, neither used safety leaflets that showed the aircraft type.

Neither meant the introduction of the Tupolev 104 in the Soviet Union in 1956 jet-specific safety cards. Aeroflot was then far away from using safety leaflets at all. CSA, the Czech flag carrier and the only non-Soviet user of the type, did have Tupolev 104-specific safety leaflets but I doubt that was from the start (see 18 July 2017 contribution by Brian Barron under the ‘safety cards’ tile on this website for the CSA Tupolev 104 card and other cards relevant to this part).

Proper start

In the western world, jet airliners properly began in 1958. In Britain, De Havilland, now better understanding the phenomenon of metal fatigue, launched the Comet 4, which was put in service by BOAC in October 1958. The French Sud-Est Caravelle took off with Air France and SAS in May 1959. In the USA, the Boeing 707 was introduced by Pan American in October 1958 and by American Airlines and TWA in early 1959, while United and Delta started with the Douglas DC-8 in September 1959. The third US airframe contender was Convair with its 880 model (followed later by the 990 derivative), which started commercial service with Delta in 1960.

The arrival of jet airliners was generally welcomed as a major improvement in air travel. Some even considered it a quantum leap. The new propulsion method meant much shorter traveling times. This was entirely due to their higher speed, as their range was not better: the number of hops on the longest route at the time (the Kangaroo route from London to Sydney) remained about the same: typically eight. The jets also brought a capacity step. Pre-jet aircraft had maximum seating capacities of up to about 100; the first jets jumped to around 180, although initially, airlines employed luxury rather than high-density seating arrangements so typically installed around 110 to 140 seats.

Jet engines vibrate less than piston engines and are most economic at altitudes higher than where the props fly, where ‘weather’ and associated turbulence can be avoided. This brings a smoother and more comfortable ride. Yet, as air at altitude is thinner, it requires back-up oxygen for all occupants in case of a decompression. Here, there was a difference in policy between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In the US, automatic oxygen presentation capability to all passengers was required when flying above 30,000 ft. In Europe, that altitude was 35,000 ft. This meant that aircraft such as the Caravelle and most Comets did not need automatic oxygen as they stayed below 35,000 ft. Exemptions were the long-range Comet 4 which BOAC operated at higher altitudes and the Caravelle when operated under US rules, such as by United Airlines.

Jet’s effect on safety cards

Did the introduction of the jet mean a quantum leap in safety cards? The answer is both no and yes.

No: piecemeal changes

Most of the first airlines to fly jets were flag airlines. Many already had safety leaflets in use for their propliners covering their entire fleets (hence called fleet leaflets). The new jets were simply added to the existing leaflet designs with minimum changes. Good examples of this were BOAC, SAS, TCA and Pan American.

Comparing BOAC’s 1957 elaborative, ditching-oriented safety leaflet edition with that of 1958 shows only one change: the aircraft exit diagrams of three types (Stratocruiser, Argonaut, and Constellation) are replaced by that of the Comet 4 (the Britannia and DC-7C remained).

As BOAC flew their Comet 4 up to 40,000 ft it had oxygen provisions for all passengers, so a separate text only leaflet was made to explain those. Its use was no longer required when in 1960 the main leaflet was updated when the Boeing 707 was added to the fleet, and thus to the leaflet. A text plus an illustration on the oxygen equipment was added and, in true piecemeal change style, an illustration of how to open a window exit was added.

At SAS, we see something similar: in the 1959 edition of the leaflet, the Caravelle is added to the diagram page without any further changes to the leaflet. Even the front page still sports the DC-6B!

SAS, 1959
SAS, 1959: front page and exit diagrams panel. Note that entrance doors on the Caravelle (in the tail) and Metropolitan (left forward) are not rated as emergency exit.

But in the 1962 edition, which has both the DC-8 and Convair990 Coronado added, window exit pictures appear and, for these two types only, so not for the Caravelle as it had none, a page explaining the automatic oxygen system. (See Brian Barron’s contribution for the interim edition, which has the DC-8 added but not yet the 990). In 1962, SAS adds a caution against the use of portable radios on board, as they may affect navigation equipment.

TCA’s 1960 edition of its safety booklet (coded TCA-853) only adds a diagram of the DC-8 but without any exit operation or oxygen guidance. The latter, however, came in the form of a separate card (coded TCA 853-1), with both Trans-Canada Air Lines and Air Canada titles.

The early Pan American World Airways (PAWA) Boeing 707 folder sees automatic oxygen added to the traditional life jacket and life raft instructions (not shown) bu is otherwise very similar to the previous folder for the DC-7C. The latter’s handheld chute is replaced by an inflated slide and the window exit now depicts that of the Boeing.

In 1961, PAWA added a note about the dangers of using portable radios and other electronic devices as they may cause interference. Although labeled as important, this note was not translated into any of the other seven languages the folder had. So, perhaps it was added last minute.

PAWA, 1961

Yes: new concepts

Maybe calling them a quantum leap in safety card development goes too far, but several US airlines did use the new jets as an incentive for launching new concepts and ideas.

American Airlines (AA) was probably the first in safety information history to use a double-sided but unfolded heavy paper card. It is coded ‘T-352’ and is believed to be made for the introduction of the type in January 1959. Another AA innovation is to use graphics as the primary means of information, with text in a supportive role. That broke the industry standard of having text prevail with the occasional supporting graphic or photo. AA kept the information on the card to a minimum: an aircraft layout with all seats and exit locations/window exit operation/illustration of a deployed slide/an explanation of the passenger service unit and the automatic oxygen system. There were neither emergency preparation instructions nor brace positions. Also, there was nothing about life vests or rafts, but that matched the route pattern of AA which was then domestic-USA only. Only one language was needed: English.

Curiously, all exits are marked with arrows that point inwards. Only later became it custom to have arrows pointing outwards, in the direction of escape!

American Airlines, 1959

TWA, which introduced their first jet only two months after AA, also came with a double-sided, unfolded card for their 707. This was laminated, which would be a first. The presentation was similar to that of AA, minus the window exit, but with the supporting text appearing in four languages. The window exit and PSU/oxygen illustrations closely resemble those of AA, so was likely provided by Boeing.

United, already known for its very detailed safety information (see previous part), continued that policy for their new DC-8s and Boeing 720s. In its eight-page 1959 DC-8 folder, it uses a mix of illustrations and text, e.g. to explain how to use the seat-mounted oxygen masks.

United Airlines DC-8 overwater booklet, 1961

In 1953, United became the first airline to show how to open and use exits and continued as the first to do so for the jets. No other airline at the time showed how to open door exits (as opposed to window exits) and, in detail, how to attach and inflate the escape slides. In early DC-8s (and 707/720s) these were ceiling mounted and required quite a few actions before being operational. The illustrations shown are from the 1961 overwater DC-8 booklet edition, but the 1959 folder fielded the same.

United Airlines DC-8 overwater booklet, 1961

Qantas and Cathay

I’d like to share the details of two more leaflets. They are from two airlines deep in the eastern hemisphere: Qantas from Australia and Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong. Both do not fit the patterns described above as their leaflets are neither next iterations of a series, nor truly novel. Yet they are of interest as they have some features not seen elsewhere. They are from a Qantas 707 leaflet c. 1963 and from a Cathay Pacific fleet leaflet that dates from around 1966.

Both show emergency equipment locations, a practice not applied widely in those days. Cathay included the cockpit windows of their Convairs as emergency exits for passengers. This wasn’t something widely-practiced then, although some other Convair 880 operators did it as well, perhaps on instigation by Convair.

Qantas ordered the smallest 707 variant (which was even smaller than the 720), but I doubt whether their fuselage tapering was indeed as shown. Boeing was very keen on keeping constant diameter cabins, so perhaps Qantas’ artist was still a bit distracted by the curvatures of the 707’s predecessor, the Lockheed Super Constellation.

Qantas explained the use of the escape slides on their new jets by comparing them to, what looks to me, as a playground slide. Qantas explains that they “operate on the same principle as a slippery dip, or in the French translation: toboggan de plage, which, in turn, translates as beach slide.”

Cathay fleet leaflet 880/Electra, c. 1966
Qantas 707, c. 1963

Trends

The turn of the decade 1950s/1960s was not only marked by the introduction of the jets but also by increasing awareness that many accidents were survivable and passengers needed education on matters other than ditching. As a result, there were quite a few changes in what safety information was given to passengers and how it was presented. Let me summarize the main trends.

Less water, more land

As mentioned, in the 1950s it was realized that the ditching scenario was not unique in being survivable. Crash landings on land became more frequent and often turned out to be survived as well. The safety leaflets, booklets, and cards started to reflect this and the long lists of preparation for a ditching were replaced by information on opening window exits and using escape slides. Some major airlines that did not fly overwater and had never provided safety cards now started to do so. Life jacket and life raft information remained, but for overwater operations only.

Less reliance on crew, more self-help

Before, leaflets stated the crew would open exits and passengers had to obey their orders. An evacuation would be led by them and no further guidance was provided. This example is by Air India.

Air India 707 folder, c. 1960

In the new decade, passengers were called upon to take responsibility and help open exits. Opening instructions were given, especially for those exits near where they were seated. This was already recognized by TWA and United in the early 1940s (see previous part), but since then had faded away, perhaps overshadowed by the focus on ditching.

The new cards gave detailed floor plans (sometimes even showing all seats), evacuation routes, exit locations, and emergency exit operation. The jets brought automatic oxygen systems for which passenger education was considered essential. The cards were ideal for that, but as we have seen, not all airlines were ready for this so had to improvise by making impromptu cards.

Less text, more graphics

In the ditching years, text prevailed in the leaflets, often repeating the same message in many languages. PAWA and BOAC had up to eight different languages on their folders. This led to large folders with endless text in small print that even fond readers may have found hard to digest. The introduction of the jets coincided with illustrations replacing words. Text became of secondary purpose. This trend developed gradually into today’s graphics-only cards.

Fewer folders, more cards

More graphics and less text meant the large folders could be compressed on smaller but heavier paper. The term safety card started to become a reality.

Less fleets, more type-specific

A trend that was slightly less pronounced was that of single aircraft type leaflets/cards replacing entire fleet leaflets/cards. Many airlines still found it convenient to have a leaflet that would suit all the aircraft in their fleet. I estimate at the turn of the decade, about half of the airlines used fleet leaflets, sometimes showing up to five or six different aircraft types, such as BOAC and SAS as shown above. But how would passengers know which aircraft type they were on? Perhaps it was mentioned in their ticket folder or at the start of the flight, but would they remember that when consulting the card or worse, when they needed to heed its lessons?

Other airlines issued separate leaflets or cards per aircraft type, such as American Airlines and TWA. Interestingly, a hybrid form came into use, made possible by the fact that the trio of early US jets had the same exit pattern. American Airlines used one and the same card for the 707, 720, and 990, collectively called the Astrojet. The exit pair that did not exist on the 720 and 990 was dashed.

American Airlines, c. 1962

There was one airline that flew all three first-generation US jets: Varig from Brazil. This was not by careful fleet development choice, but rather by inheritance. Varig itself, in 1960, had bought the Boeing 707. When it took over REAL in 1961 it inherited its order for three Convair 990s. And when in 1965, Panair was amalgamated into Varig, its two DC-8s were added to Varig’s fleet. Varig used a single safety card for the three types. Only the asterisks on the aft pair of window exits, explained as ‘Boeing and DC-8 only,’ betray this was indeed the case. (see Brian Barron’s contribution for entire card).

VARIG, c. 1965

Survivability issues

As the decade unfolded, jets became involved in accidents, some of which raised survivability issues. These triggered a host of cabin safety improvements later in the decade, including that safety cards were mandated by law. More about that in the next part.


August 2022
Email: f.schaefers@planet.nl

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History of Safety Cards, Part 2: The Ditching Decade

By Fons Schaefers

Trammel Again

World War Two confirmed the United States (US) as the leader of world civil aviation. The war, which started in Europe and lasted the longest there, caused the European players to lose the dominant position they had gained in the pioneer years of the 1920s and 1930s. In the United States, civil aviation could develop fairly uninterrupted. The Douglas DC-3 became the norm in air travel from 1936 onwards and throughout the war years. It solidified the dominant position that the United States, by now, had reached in civil aviation not only in terms of technology and traffic volume but, also in terms of safety regulatory standards. A position that it has kept ever since.

In the first part of this series, we saw the very first signs of what we now know as cabin safety. An improvement in exit marking and lighting was made in response to the 1943 Trammel accident, but there was also the issue of the exit handles not being apparent to passengers. Coming back to the question about the first safety card in the US, it was brought to my attention that two airlines introduced specific printed instructions to passengers. Presumably, they were inspired by Trammel.

United Airlines added to its flight information folder an item on the location of the control of the ‘auxiliary exits’ in their DC-3s.

United Airlines, c. 1943
TWA, c. 1943

TWA went a step further and added in its “Welcome aboard” folder detailed cabin diagrams of the three DC-3 versions in their fleet indicating exits and equipment. I reproduce the model 277 which has the cabin door at the RH rear side. Instructions for operating the three auxiliary exits are given below the diagram. No instructions were given for opening the main door, however.

While not being true safety cards, these two publications can certainly be seen as forerunners.

Ditching Safety Leaflets

Proper leaflets dedicated entirely to passenger safety followed in the year immediately after the end of the war. Their subject invariably was passenger preparation for ditching. I am aware of leaflets first issued by Pan American World Airways (PAWA), American Overseas Airlines (AOA) and BOAC in 1946, Air France in 1947, SAS[1] and United Airlines in 1948 and TWA and Panagra in 1949. More airlines would follow in the 1950s, as we will see later. Here are some front pages. AOA was the international arm of American Airlines. It flew to Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and West Germany. The three languages (English, Dutch and Swedish) represent these countries, except for Germany. It may well be that the volume of German passengers in those years was too low to merit the extra translation. AOA was bought by PAWA in 1950. PAWA’s leaflet shown is the 1947 issue.

American Overseas Airlines
Pan American World Airways, c. 1947

[1]SAS called their ditching leaflets ‘Safety at Sea’ so as to alliterate with their own name.


British Overseas Airways Corporation
Air France
Pan American-Grace Airways (Panagra)

What caused this surge of safety leaflets and why were they all about ditching? The answer is threefold.

Still fresh in contemporary minds was a notable water accident that occurred just before the war. On its way from New York to Bermuda on January 21, 1939, an Imperial Airways Short Empire flying boat named Cavalier had to make a forced landing halfway along its oceanic journey. It broke up upon impact and sank shortly after. All 13 occupants had survived the impact, but three drowned. The flying boat had no life rafts on board and, for that matter, neither did it have seat belts. The only life-saving equipment on board was 22 ‘seat-type’ and six ‘crew-type’ ‘rubber life belts’ (life vests)[1]. Of these 28 life vests only eight were used, four of each. The survivors clung to them for 10 hours in the water, which was moderately warm, before rescue came. The British Air Ministry Inspector of Accidents made a list of recommendations for safety improvements on flying boats, including life rafts as standard equipment and instructing passengers on the fastening of seat belts on take-off and landings, the pointing out of emergency exits and how to fasten life-belts. It was noted that ‘an illustrated notice showing how life-belts should be put on was displayed in each cabin of the flying boat. This, I assume was a fixed message similar to those carried on ferry boats.


[1]Press summary of Report of the Investigation of the Accident to the Imperial Airways aircraft G-ADUU (Cavalier) on January 21, 1939, Office of the Air Attaché British Embassy, Washington D.C., March 25, 1939.


During the war considerable experience had been gained with transoceanic flying, albeit with military transport aircraft. In about 1 per 1,000 crossings[1] they had to make a water landing on the ocean, which became known as a ‘ditching’. The survivability rate was about 30%. This experience, together with that of Cavalier, may well have inspired the US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to issue a regulation for increasing the chances of surviving a ditching:

‘The crew of aircraft used in overwater flights shall be drilled periodically in “abandon ship” procedures. Passengers shall be acquainted with the location of emergency exits, with emergency equipment provided for individual use, and with the procedure to be followed in the case of an emergency landing on the water.’[2]

This regulation, which was part of a whole set of new regulations, applied from September 1945 but only to U.S. carriers flying ‘outside the continental limits of the United States.’ At the time, they were only PAWA, AOA and TWA. In 1947 they were joined by United Airlines which started to fly to Hawaii and Northwest Airlines which connected the US with Japan and China.


[1]Human Factors in Air Transport Design, Ross A. McFarland, 1946, p. 534

[2]U.S. Civil Air Regulations, 41.507 Use of emergency equipment, effective September 1, 1945


Thirdly, the Search and Rescue (SAR) division of the then still provisional International Civil Aviation Organization issued in December 1946 recommendations for the briefing of passengers: before take-off, on the use of safety belts and the location of emergency exits; after take-off, on life jackets and other emergency equipment. In the case of an in-flight emergency, passengers should be further briefed in anticipation of an impact that, more likely than not, would be on water.

Thus, the focus of the new requirement and recommendations for briefing passengers was on overwater flights and an emergency landing on water. There was no equivalent requirement for an emergency landing on land. Why not? To answer that question, we have to study accidents of the time. They typically occurred during the cruise portion of a flight. Even in the cases where the aircraft remained controllable, impact landings on land tended to be fatal to all. The 1943 Trammel case had been an exception, but only partial, with two survivors out of 20 occupants. The Cavalier accident and the military services however had demonstrated that a ditching could be well survivable.

So, now that the war was over and commercial air transport was to grow in size and span oceans, a ditching was recognized as the principal survivable accident scenario. They were therefore prone to regulatory support. The form chosen was to mandate that airlines ‘acquaint with’ or brief passengers about ditching procedures. Nowhere were leaflets or booklets mandated, but airlines found they served the purpose.

A Closer Look

Studying these instructions and keeping in mind current practices, a number of differences in tone and directions stand out. The key message was that of aviation being safe, the crew having been thoroughly trained and always in control in which its authority was never to be questioned (see PAWA illustrations above and below).

A ditching, it was believed at the time, would not come sudden but announced, with plenty of time to prepare for it. On the part of passengers, that meant loosening the tie, removing sharp objects, taking off spectacles and high-heeled shoes, putting on warm clothes and then a life vest, sit tightly strapped in and, when so ordered, brace for impact. There was no common opinion on what to do with seatbacks: some airlines said upright, others said recline as much as possible. For some airlines, the brace position for forward row passengers was to sit on the floor with the back against a bulkhead (see illustration Air France 1953).

Opening exits, if even mentioned at all, was to be left to the crew. The American airlines typically added a layout of the aircraft with exit and raft locations, while in Europe this was less common. PAWA included a detailed graph of the life raft and the survival pack contents on their leaflets (see illustration below).

PAWA and BOAC issued new versions of their safety leaflets almost every year. United, TWA and Northwest, on the other hand, stuck to their original designs for at least a decade, only changing them to match fleet updates. For the other airlines, changes were more random.

PAWA, c. 1947
PAWA, c. 1947
Air France, 1953

BOAC’s 1946 folder explained life jackets and rafts, called ‘dinghies,’ but did not have a layout of the aircraft, nor any explanation about where the exits were or how they opened. Yet, seat belts were explained. Contrary to the Americans, who only advised the use of seat belts in preparation for an emergency landing, BOAC advised that the seat belts ‘should be fastened when the aircraft is taxiing[1], taking off or landing’. Clearly, that stemmed from the Cavalier accident recommendations.


[1]The addition of taxiing is particularly noteworthy as that was many decades ahead of becoming common practice in the rest of the world, except that SAS also had this in their safety instructions.


BOAC seat belt instructions

For aircraft not equipped with pressurized cabins, oxygen masks were explained by BOAC.

BOAC oxygen mask instructions

In the 1947 BOAC folder exits were mentioned for the first time, but not depicted. It said, “there are ample emergency exits on all Speedbirds which will be pointed out to you by a member of the crew before take-off.” Also added was a single text line about desert packs ‘containing rations and water’ being carried, as well as ‘very comprehensive First-Aid Packs.’ The portion about the oxygen mask now cautioned ‘please don’t confuse this with a gas mask. It does not have to fit tight.’ With the war still fresh in people’s minds, passengers apparently had made this comparison when reading the earlier version.

Aircraft Diagrams

The summum bonum of 1950s luxury flying was the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. To give an impression of how cabin diagrams were rendered in safety leaflets, here are five of them, by as many different airlines, so you can compare. BOAC chose to only show the aircraft from outside, with the exits marked with arrows. Conversely Northwest did not point out any exit, but only emergency equipment, using an engineering drawing of the cabin. Yet, on a closer look, the escape ropes gave a hint as to where exits were, at least for those not over the wings. Over-wing exits needed no ropes. The other three airlines also used cabin plans, all in their own fashion, showing both the exits and emergency equipment. They were oriented with the front of the aircraft at the top, matching the compass of a forward-facing passenger. All Stratocruisers had the lower lobe lounge, but only one airline, PAWA, marked its exits, plus that of the storage area ahead of the wings. There are many other interesting features in these layouts such as the spacious, gender-specific washrooms. They are clearly identified in the AOA layout and can also be recognized in the United and Northwest samples.

United Airlines, 1949
AOA, 1949
PAWA, 1958
BOAC, 1958
Northwest Airlines, 1952

Cozy Rafts and Duck Landings

The texts in the safety leaflets were light-hearted so as not to put off passengers by emphasizing the dangers of flying. Phrases were used like:

life vests are fashionable in emergency landings. Yours is bright yellow and quite handsomely tailored

and

Brace for impact – careful the order is not embrace!’                                                       

Similarly, entertaining cartoons were used, often showing a life raft as a cozy place to be. Here is a collection. Click on each image to enlarge.

Other airlines preferred the analogy to ducks. Shown are Northwest, 1952, and Hawaiian, 1963.

Ditching experience

So, with all the focus on ditching, did they indeed occur, and were life rafts lifesavers? The first recorded use of a life raft, ironically, was not on water, but in a desert, giving shade and shelter. That was following the crash on June 18, 1947 of Clipper Eclipse, a PAWA Lockheed Constellation, in Syria. Star Trek aficionados will likely know this accident. Its creator, Eugene Roddenberry, was the third officer and took a leading role as the two pilots were killed upon impact. In this crash, out of 37 occupants, 22 survived and were rescued.

The first reported ditching was in 1949. Until about 1963, on average one ditching occurred per year, worldwide, making the 1950s the ditching decade. In all cases, it involved piston-engine airliners. Other than as initially predicted and thus advertised in the safety instructions, most were sudden with no time for preparation. On the positive side, many were close to shore rather than mid-ocean, facilitating quick rescue. The survival rate was high; in some cases even 100%.

A new accident scenario

But another accident scenario quickly overtook that of the ditching in terms of numbers and survivability issues and, thus, the need for cabin safety measures. That scenario is the survivable accident involving a fire, at or near an airport.

It first happened three weeks before the Syrian crash, on May 29, 1947. United Airlines flight 521, a DC-4, failed to lift off at New York-La Guardia. It crossed the airport perimeter and half bounced, half flew until it came to rest 800 ft beyond the runway. It caught fire immediately and many occupants perished as they were unable to escape. In a congressional hearing in February 1950, it was testified that ‘passengers were seen by witnesses drumming on the inside of cabin windows, burning to death.’[1] The formal accident investigation by the CAB did not go into any of the survivability issues. Its report, issued after many preventive measures had been taken, concluded that ‘all action that it seems sensible to take has already been taken’. In hindsight, this was quite a cynical comment, as no cabin safety measure had been taken at all, let alone even considered. It needed a second accident before the CAB realized that their focus should not only be on preventing accidents to happen in the first place, but also when they do occur, on survivability issues. In their report on the January 21, 1948, Eastern Constellation crash at Boston they said that ‘this accident forcibly points to the necessity for the development of more suitable passenger evacuation facilities’. In that accident, some passengers survived but, had to jump a distance of more than 15 feet from the airplane to the ground.


[1]Hearings before a subcommittee of the (U.S. Congress House) committee on interstate and foreign commerce, February 14, 1950.


Many similar accidents would follow and in numbers and dramatic impact soon eclipsed the forced ditchings. From two different angles, scientists recognized this serious trend and started tests to collect data to understand the mechanisms of fire spread and airliner evacuation respectively. The Medical Division of the Office of Aviation Safety of the US Civil Aeronautics Administration (now FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute) organized evacuation studies and live tests in 1951 and 1952, jointly with the George Washington University, the US Air Force and three airlines: American Airlines, PAWA and TWA. This gave insight into the limitations imposed by exit sizes, sill-to-ground distance and descent assist means as well as human performance and interaction during evacuations. A new regulatory formula was drafted for prescribing exit numbers, sizes and locations which in essence is still in use today.

In the same period, NACA (now NASA) conducted full-scale tests in which self-propelled Curtiss C-46 and Fairchild C-82 aircraft sped along a monorail into concrete obstacles to study fuel fire ignition and propagation patterns and their effect on survival time for occupants.

Although the two scientific programs were done in isolation from each other, their results were merged and ripened the idea of a maximum evacuation time. Even before that, already in December 1951, the CAB had proposed a 90-second evacuation time limit but, this met with resistance from operators. The scientific evidence, aggravated by many more accidents, was needed to overcome that. Eventually, more than one and a half-decade later, a firm evacuation demonstration time limit was introduced, with conditions tighter than those proposed in 1951. More about this in a later part.

The airlines did not pick up the new accident trend as quickly. Rather, over the decade more airlines issued ditching safety instructions. In North America, these were Braniff, Canadian Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Eastern Airlines and Trans-Canada Airlines. In Europe, Iberia (Spain), LAI (Italy), KLM (Netherlands), Olympic Airways (Greece), Sabena (Belgium) and TAI (France). In the rest of the world such major airlines as Avianca (Colombia), Cathay Pacific Airways (Hong Kong), Civil Air Transport (Taiwan), JAL (Japan) and TACA (El Salvador) educated their passengers on ditching preparations.

Three front pages of typical 1950s ditching leaflets are reproduced: Iberia, Eastern Air Lines and KLM.

Iberia
Eastern Airlines
KLM

United’s egress

There was one airline that did recognize at an early stage the land evacuation scenario as serious and dedicated a safety leaflet to it. Not surprisingly, this was United Airlines, the airline of the 1947 La Guardia accident. Its president since 1934, William Patterson was known to care about the happiness and welfare of others and, like others, must have been deeply touched by that accident. From a 1981 biography: ‘Concern for safety had always been a major deterrent to airline travel, and improved safety was one of “Pat” Patterson’s major goals. During his 36 years with United, he personally inspected close to 70 percent of United’s accidents in order to obtain a personal feel for the extent of loss and the hardships brought upon the persons involved[1].’

When the ‘coach’ class was introduced in 1952 under strict CAB regulations, this meant lower fares, which would reduce revenue. To compensate for that, aircraft passenger capacities had to be increased. US airlines were happy to do so, but one: United Airlines. Patterson used the ‘evacuation card’ (no pun intended) to try and reverse this trend which in his view was unsafe. He staged, with the help of Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory of Buffalo, New York, a series of full-scale evacuations of a 66-seat DC-4 (the normal seating on a United DC-4 was 44, so a 50% increase). Passengers were offered a scenic ride over Niagara Falls, then land back at Buffalo where a surprise evacuation was ordered. In one case, the aircraft actually did develop a major engine problem and reportedly landed at Syracuse![2] The results he would then use to try and convince the CAB that increasing capacities would be hazardous. This plan did not work out[3],[4]. Yet, possibly as a follow-on to those tests, United Airlines introduced in early 1953 a safety folder specific to the land evacuation scenario for its domestic, non-overwaterDC-4s and DC-6s. This leaflet, in style and appearance, was completely different from the ditching leaflet used for the overwater fleet. It was called ‘the egress’ and issued in both a yellow as well as a blue version. A later revision (c. 1956) is also known. Note that the main doors are equipped with an escape chute but others only have a rope.


[1]William A. Patterson of United Airlines, Richard E. Hattwick, Journal of Behavioral Economics, Volume 10, Issue 2, Winter 1981.

[2]transcript of Emergency Evacuation Technical Conference, Seattle, September 6, 1985, Volume IV, p. 622.

[3]Aviation Week December 8, 1952.

[4]Regulation of Air Coach Service Standards, Stanley Berge, Journal of Air Law and Commerce, Volume 20, Issue 1, 1953.


The Egress-United Airlines, c. 1953
The Egress-United Airlines, c. 1953

Chutes replace ropes

Towards the end of the decade airlines did add safety instructions for emergency landings on land in addition to, or instead of, those on water. At the same time, passengers were no longer briefed to wait for the crew to open exits, they were instructed how to open them themselves (see Sabena illustration below), or how to deploy and use escape chutes.

The chutes needed to be held taut by two ‘able bodied persons’ who had to jump down first. Still, they formed an improvement over the escape ropes and Jacob’s ladders that were the only descent assist means a few years before. A glance at the instructions for attaching floor straps to ensure that the chute would work will tell you that this would not be easy, especially for novices under stressful conditions. Yet, that was the state-of-the-art in 1957. Self-supporting, inflatable escape slides were about to be invented.

PAWA, c. 1958
BOAC, 1957
Sabena, 1957

Souvenir

How were the safety leaflets circulated? The pre-war practice of issuing flight information packets (‘kits’) to passengers with a host of promotional material was continued well into the 1950s. In a pocketed folder were stacked such items as postcards, route maps, timetables, suggestion forms, stationary, destination brochures and even small dictionaries. Somewhere inconspicuously hidden in between was the safety folder. All was for the passenger to keep as a souvenir. No ‘do not remove from aircraft’ caveats yet. That would come later, as we will see in a future edition of this series. But before that we will look in the next edition what the beginning of the jet age meant for safety cards.


Illustrations reproduced from author’s collection, except for United and TWA 1943 and United ‘s ‘The Egress.’

March 2022
Email: f.schaefers@planet.nl

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The History of Safety Cards, Part One: The Pioneer Years (1920s through 1945)

By Fons Schaefers

This new series of articles covers the development over the years of airliner safety cards and will span almost a century. Safety cards include all those pamphlets, cards and other paper material that an airline makes available on aircraft to inform passengers about safety features available to them. This ranges from do’s and dont’s for each flight, like donning the safety belt and switching off electronics, to equipment and procedures only to be used in an emergency such as an evacuation.


The first six articles chronologically review the development of safety cards whilst the next six (or so) deal with different themes. Currently, I am thinking about the following themes, but if readers have other suggestions, I am happy to adapt: appearance/artwork/contents catalog/efficacy/makers/ special user groups/spin-off cards/unique aircraft.


The history of safety cards parallels that of cabin safety. Its continuous changes are driven by technological improvements, accident lessons, associated regulatory developments and, overarching, the increasing social recognition of safety. In each article, I will sketch the evolution of cabin safety as background to the development of the cards.

1924 – 1934, EUROPE

Not long after passengers were first carried by airplanes, pamphlets addressing passenger safety features appeared. But what were those features? As compared to today’s, they were primitive and largely borrowed from the marine world. Fire extinguishers, first-aid kits and flare pistols were installed in airplanes because they were on ships and considered a token necessity. For overwater flights, life vests were added. Unique to airplanes were safety belts, but these, particularly in America, initially were only installed to prevent persons falling out of open cockpits and not necessarily to restrain them in case of heavy impacts. Emergency exits were prescribed in the very first of airplane design regulations, but this was limited to how many were needed: initially only two, and that included the passenger entrance door. Only later, the nascent regulations got more specific as to how large they needed to be, the ease of operation, marking, lighting, etc.

Although forerunners of today’s safety cards, early passenger safety pamphlets barely meet the definition of a safety card. Imperial Airways, the predecessor of BOAC and thus British Airways, issued them around 1930. I show two examples. The first, coded IA/F/30, so presumably from 1930, explains ‘the normal movements of an Aeroplane in flight,’ ‘how to travel with the greatest comfort’ and ‘the precautions which are taken against and the action to be taken in an emergency.’ In the latter category fall a no-smoking rule, a means of communication with the pilot (‘through the aperture in the front of the cabin’) and instructions how to wear the ‘lifebelt.’ For traveling with comfort, the pamphlet recommends passengers ‘to place cotton wool in their ears to deaden the noise caused by the engines’. Windows could be opened or shut as desired, it further says, without explaining why this was needed at times. Contemporary reports suggest it was to let in fresh air and to remove the stench created by passengers suffering from airsickness and perhaps using the cuspidors that the pamphlet says are provided.

The 1930 sample, reproduced below, has two penciled annotations: ‘The channel looks rough’ and
‘I think Lindberg was a wonder, don’t you?’ For those passengers not trained in sign language, writing on the pamphlet may well have been the only way to communicate during flight, as the engine noise made voices inaudible.

Imperial Airways – probably 1930

A 1931 edition of the Imperial pamphlet adds information about emergency exits (‘provided in the roof of the cabins,’ ‘clearly marked’). It is well possible that this pamphlet was not handed out on board but rather already available at sales offices as it also includes information on how to book, dress and obtain foreign money. Note the chauvinist message on the last page: ‘Imperial aircraft and engines are of British design and manufacture and are flown by British pilots.’

Imperial Airways – 1931

KLM, the Dutch flag airline that was the first in the world to celebrate its centennial (in 2019), in its pioneer years issued ‘travelers suggestions.’ I reproduce a German version, coded ’4-34 7500,’ presumably issued in April 1934 in a stock of 7500. Like the Imperial Airways sample, it starts with an explanation of how an aeroplane takes off, how high it flies (typically 400 meters, about 1,300 ft) and that engine power is reduced for landing. It mentions that windows can be opened but warns not to throw anything out. Airsickness, it continues in a propagandistic stance, is predominantly imaginary and can be prevented by ‘freeing oneself from nervous thoughts,’ using a map to follow the airplane’s track or reading a book or magazine. The life vest is explained but, unlike Imperial Airways, only by using text, not graphics. It mentions the emergency exit in the roof as an alternative to the entrance door. The door between cabin and cockpit can be used to communicate with the pilot in case of an emergency. Like with Imperial Airways, this was through a hole in the door. A feature that will amaze today’s passengers is that wires (‘Drahtberichte’) could be sent and received by
passengers via the radiotelegraphist. This service was introduced in June 1933, so still new when this leaflet was produced.

KLM 1934

The airplane pictured looks like the 3-engined Fokker F.VII/3m, a type already in use, albeit with a single engine, since 1924. The fuselage was made of a steel tubular framework covered with linen. The wings were of wood as was the interior furnishing.


There are indications that KLM issued similar instructions in its home language (Dutch) much earlier than 1934, possibly even as early as 1924. In 1969, at the occasion of their half-century existence, KLM published a celebration book1. In it is a small reproduction of a concise pamphlet, ranked as being from 1924, that sums up, in Dutch, the safety essentials of the day:

Smoking is dangerous, so not allowed


Do not throw anything out the window as that may
cause fatal accidents


To contact the pilot in case of an emergency, hand a
note through the door


Passengers are requested to use safety belts for take-off
off and landing


Do not open the door until the engine has stopped


Leave via emergency exit when door is blocked


It is dangerous to touch the emergency
exit during flight

It is not known whether this leaflet was permanently onboard or handed out to passengers before flight. I am not aware of any other contemporary safety pamphlets, but it may well be that other airlines issued them as well, particularly in Europe, where the advent of regular passenger air transport preceded that in America by almost a decade.


1 Vlucht KL-50, Leonard de Vries, 1969


1935, OXYGEN

In 1934, KLM replaced on the main routes the Fokkers with the aluminum, higher performance Douglas DC-2.
This type was able to climb well higher and thus cross the Alps on the route to Italy. And so it did, flying at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters (about 16,400 feet). It was equipped with neither a pressurized cabin nor supplemental oxygen.

One day in July, 1935, KLM’s DC-2 Gaai (Jay), originating from Milan-Taliedo on its way to Frankfurt, flew at 5,000 metres when it went into trouble, got trapped in a valley in the southern Alps and crashed.

It’s possible a contributing factor was the pilot suffering from lack of oxygen, though the accident report does not mention this. KLM stopped flying that route until it had installed supplemental oxygen provisions for both crew and passengers. By that time it employed stewardesses, whose tasks included handing out a leaflet to passengers when to use oxygen. It does not explain how to use oxygen. I assume that the how was explained at the time of boarding. The leaflet is in five languages (Dutch, German, Italian, English, French) and reproduced adjacently2. It may be the first subject-specific passenger safety pamphlet.

Worldwide, very few routes were being operated at the time with supplemental oxygen. Panagra’s trans-Andean route was probably the single exception before KLM introduced it. In the USA, the Rocky Mountains were negotiated without it. In those days the effects of oxygen at altitude were not well understood. Only towards the end of the decade, Ross McFarland and others published their scientific research, which led to the introduction of oxygen rules for US airlines in 19413. These only prescribed oxygen provisions for crew. Oxygen regulations for passengers came much later, as we will see in the next article.


2 source: Schiphol uitstappen!, Hilda Bongertman, 1935
3 CAB, Federal Register February 6, 1941


1943, MEMPHIS

The earliest mention of a US airline passenger safety pamphlet that I came across is in the 4 October 1943 edition of Aviation Week. It announces that Chicago and Southern Air Lines (which merged 10 years later with Delta) ponders about it, following a suggestion from a newspaper.

Based on that article, and searching for what likely triggered it, here is my version of the sequence of events.

1. In July 1943, an American DC-3 on its way from Louisville, KY to Memphis, TN via Nashville, TN, crashed in the dark near Trammel, KY. Of 20 occupants, only two survived. From their testimony, it appeared that the crash was survivable in the cabin, as opposed to the cockpit. The stewardess apparently had trouble opening the entrance door from the inside. She and most of the passengers were later found dead near that door. The culprit, it was determined, was a safety catch that had to be released before the door could be opened, although the door itself may have been distorted by the impact and therefore did not open. Only one passenger tried to open emergency exits (only the third attempt was successful) and survived. He stated that earlier in flight, he had explained the exit handle to another passenger, who was apparently unaware that he sat next to an emergency exit. That passenger did not survive. The other survivor could crawl out of the airplane via a hole in the front.


2. Late in October, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB, forerunner of the FAA) issued a rule that exits be marked as such and illuminated4. Such a rule did not exist at the time. In addition, it proposed a rule to ensure that exits could be opened by the operation of one handle only5.


3. Somewhat earlier, a Memphis newspaper ran an editorial ‘pointing out that passengers are not aware of the auxiliary exits and are unfamiliar with their operation.‘


4. Memphis-based Chicago and Southern Airlines picked this up and, according to the October 4 article, proposed exit marking and lighting improvements and ‘make further effort to tell passengers how to use them in event of emergency.’ The latter would include a pamphlet in the seat pocket.

I do not know whether Chicago and Southern actually did make such a pamphlet. Perhaps a reader knows? But if they did, it might well have been the first safety card by a US airline.


4CAB, Amendment 61-13, published in the Federal Register on October 28, 1943
5 CAB, Draft Release no. 43, issued November 8, 1943


1944, RAF

Toward the latter years of World War II, the British Royal Air Force had set up air transport services to ferry staff, mostly pilots, across the North Atlantic as well as to other destinations where they were needed for the war.

Equipment included the Dakota (the name that the British gave to the Douglas C-47) and the Consolidated Liberator. As most of these services went over water, the risk of a ditching was high. The RAF provided safety pamphlets to instruct passengers about the ditching and dinghy drill.

I reproduce leaflets for both types in full. The Dakota one is fairly large (36 * 72 cm/14.2 * 38.4 inch, unfolded), the Liberator’s is smaller (25 * 50 cm/ 10 * 20 inch, unfolded). Both show similar artwork, but the Dakota’s was made by ‘F.&C. LTD’ whereas the Liberator’s says ‘W.R.R. & Sons Ltd.’, so were made by different companies. Perhaps the artwork style was en vogue in those days. The codes on both pamphlets include the number 51, but I do not think that refers to the year they were made. Based on internet research about when there was a peak in military air transport using Dakotas and particularly Liberators, I conclude they stem from around 1944.

Both pamphlets have a lot of graphics, with text supporting it, rather than the opposite. The texts are identical, save for airplane type specific elements, so will have been specified by the Air Ministry that ordered the pamphlets. Both show the aircraft cabin with passengers. In the Liberator there are 18 males in a 2 abreast forward seating layout. The Dakota leaflet is less precise in number and has a mix of male and female passengers in a 2 abreast ‘armchair type’ forward facing seating layout, but it also shows the sideward facing ‘metal bucket’ seating.

The leaflets prescribe the ditching drill in quite some detail and in several steps. On the preparatory pages, the safety belt and the impact posture are shown, plus the flotation devices: the dinghy (life raft) and the individual life vest. The Royal Air Force called the latter a Mae West, after the full-bosomed American actress. According to a letter that she sent to the service, she was quite pleased that her name was used for this purpose.

It is a pleasure to study these nice pamphlets and see them as precursors to the many civilian safety cards that would follow.

In the next article in this series, I will focus on the period 1946 – 1950s, in which ditchings continue to be seen as a serious menace the effects of which can be mitigated, at least to some extent, by means of safety cards.






Photographs courtesy of the author’s collection.

November 2021
Email: f.schaefers@planet.nl

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seatback Pocket IV

Aircraft Safety Cards
Jet Aircraft – Part 2
Eastern

Written by Lester Anderson

Eastern

As I explained in a Propeller Aircraft Safety Card Article, Eastern was my favorite airline. Part of the reason was because when they first opened airline clubs to the general public for a fee, I was an early participant in being a member. That started with a one-year membership paid to upgrade to a 5-year membership and finally to a lifetime membership, all within a 12-month period. Business travel without a membership in an airline club to confirm and change flights (or rebook due to a flight cancellation) can be a nightmare. I paid considerably more (but it was worth it) for memberships in the Delta Crown Room Club and the United Red Carpet Club during my peak business travel years.  I am very grateful my Eastern Ionosphere Club membership evolved into a Continental Presidents Club membership, and now is a United Club membership.

But back to Eastern, the fact that I am in the NY metro area and my personal and business travel was often on the east coast, Eastern was a natural.

My collection probably had more Eastern safety cards, most all removed from aircraft on which I flew.

The Eastern 720 emergency card is a little unusual because it is more a “what to do in case of a water landing” card rather than a general “on land” emergency card. This card most probably came from a “gate visit” at Idlewild (Kennedy) airport.

I flew many an Eastern DC-9, mainly to and from Atlanta. I was one of the people who really enjoyed the 3-2 seating in economy.

 

This 727 card, dated 6/65 is an early version for Eastern. I flew on one about a year after the “Whisperjet” introduction, and I remember the mid-cabin galley. I also remember sitting across from it and being amazed that instead of the little bottles of liquor, there were full size bottles mounted on the cabin wall, with an automatic dispenser of one portion for each drink. That has nothing to do with flying directly, but one of those things that were of interest at the time and that I remember from my youth.

While I enjoyed the memories of these cards (and the many flights on which I flew), it also brought up some mysteries for me. My favorite Eastern aircraft was the L-1011, on which I flew many times. Yet I have no card.  Nor do I have one for the L-1011 on Delta on which I also frequently flew (alas, I flew neither TWA or Pan Am TriStars). I cannot believe I did not take at least one, but they are nowhere to be found. I also think of the many New York Air MD-80 flights I took, and the Delta DC-8 flights that have great memories, but no cards. Maybe there is a black hole that remotely collects cards that are marked “Please Do Not Remove This Card From The Aircraft” – which might explain it all.

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seatback Pocket III

Aircraft Safety Cards and Seating Diagrams
Propeller Aircraft – Part 2
Eastern; Continental; United; BOAC

Written by Lester Anderson

Jet Aircraft – Part 1
United; TWA; Mohawk; American

For those of you who have not yet seen the Prop Aircraft articles on safety cards, these images are from cards I collected since the 1960s. Some from aircraft on which I actually flew. Some from being a teenager interested in airplanes and asking a gate agent if I could go on board to look at the airplane. In those days, security was minimal and if you asked nicely, you were usually given permission.

All the images seen in these articles are from a collection donated to the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey. Since both I and the museum have the images, at my suggestion the museum (always in need of money) sold them on eBay and added about $3,500 to its financial resources. I bring this up because as I write this, the Aviation Hall of Fame, and virtually every other museum and cultural organization is suffering from the worst financial disaster in history with the Corona Virus. May I humbly recommend that if you enjoy these articles, please contribute to the charity of your choice.

United

My first airplane flight was from LGA to PHL on a Northeast DC-6B. The return flight was PHL to EWR on a United Caravelle. And just as they say about your first love, the Caravelle has a special place in my heart. (As an item of trivia, although this “seat card” was a mere piece of paper, neither card stock nor laminated, it brought into the museum the highest price of any of the seat cards, $420)

The Early Boeing 720 Emergency cards were also single sheets of paper, neither card stock nor laminated. Note that although a swept wing jet, the over wing window exits still used a rope for egress.

TWA

I am very happy I had in my collection a TWA Convair 880 emergency card. The Aviation Hall of Fame has a former TWA Convair 880 cockpit, galley, and part of the first-class cabin on display and now they have an authentic TWA emergency card as well.

 

 

Mohawk

This BAC One-Eleven I flew on (on a “weekends unlimited excursion”) from Albany to Newark. I am told that the flight crew referred to the BAC-111 as a “roman candle” because although it had engines in the back, the only door exits in the entire aircraft were at the front of the cabin.

American Airlines

I only flew a 720 once, and that was a 45 minute “flightseeing tour” on TWA for a fare of $5 from Idlewild airport. These cards came from a gate visit or possibly from a weekend open house at Newark Airport.

Stay tuned for the next (and last) chapter of these cards—devoted to some of the jets of Eastern Airlines.
Lester Anderson

 

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seatback Pocket II

Aircraft Safety Cards and Seating Charts
Propeller Aircraft – Part 2
Eastern; Continental; United; BOAC

Written by Lester Anderson

Eastern

I admit without any hesitation that Eastern was my favorite airline. Part of that was due to the fact that when they first opened airline clubs to the general public for a fee, around 1974, I was an early participant in being a member. I started with a one-year membership ($25) then was upgraded to a 5-year membership ($99 more) then to a lifetime membership, ($300 more) all within a 12-month period. The fact that I live in the NY metro area and that my personal and business travel was often on the east coast made Eastern a natural in terms of flight frequency, and also gave me the advantage of being able to stop in an Ionosphere Club, often at both origin and destination airports.

Continental

This Continental seating chart is most probably a ticket counter advertisement as opposed to an in-aircraft safety card (because it does not show emergency exit locations or operation).

 

United

Another major player at Newark (although not nearly what they are today) was United. I did fly on the United Vickers Viscount. The thing I remember most about the flight, other than it was a great one) was I could sit over the wings and see the operation of the props.  The engines run at a constant rotation in flight, with the forward thrust controlled by the pitch or angle of the propeller blade.  On the United Viscount, there were markings on the prop and the hub of the propeller and you could see visually (as well hear and feel) as the plane react to the  pilot’s commands for more or less (or reverse) thrust.

 

Newark airport, which had a great observation deck, was an ideal spot to look at the Viscounts, the D-6’s and DC-7’s that were still very much in use (for shorter flights) from Newark Airport. If I recall, most of the EWR flights that were coast to coast were one stop or more.  Nonstop flights were mainly from Idlewild (later JFK).

 

BOAC

This came from a travel agent.  About 3 miles from my house was an accommodating travel agency who would give me a copy of the old Official Airline Guide every so often.  I believe the OAG came out twice a month and were (for those who remember phone books) about the size of a major city phone book.  It fit nicely in my bicycle basket and gave me great reading pleasure.

If I recall this was a promotional brochure from BOAC that the travel agency gave out.  My guess is they knew I liked airplanes (I was getting the OAG) so they put this aside for me.

I never flew a Britannia, but I did see them from the International Arrivals Building observation deck at Idlewild, in New York.

Because of my interest in airplanes, while working at my college radio station, I put myself on PR lists for any airlines I could.  I recall getting a release about a charity event that BOAC was sponsoring.  The thing I recall was a stern message to the radio stations that the airline was to be called B O A C (four letters) not a called a word formed by the letters (pronounced like “Bowack”).

 


I hope you enjoyed this Prop series of articles.   The next series of articles consist of Jet aircraft.  
Lester Anderson

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Musings from a Passenger’s Seatback Pocket I

Aircraft Safety Cards
Propeller Aircraft – Part 1
Northeast; Mohawk; American; Braniff; Northwest; TWA

Written by Lester Anderson

There are many people (often politicians) who seek forgiveness for past actions calling them “youthful indiscretions.” I seek such absolution for my activities starting in the 1960’s, not for sex or drugs (or rock and roll), but because my youthful indiscretion is that, whenever I could, I would take (I prefer “borrow” to steal) the emergency card from an airplane.

Many of the cards in this image collection are from aircraft I flew. But back in the more innocent 60’s, as a teenager interested in airplanes, you could go to a gate and ask the gate agent if you could board the aircraft to “take a look around.” Permission was usually granted. Pan Am was the most careful—they let you on board but gave you a protective covering for your shoes so you would not get their carpeting dirty. There were also “airport days” at Newark Airport where, on a weekend Saturday, families could go onboard aircraft and tour them because in that decade not a lot of people traveled on airplanes for pleasure. It was often a mainly business travel experience.

This is the first of a series of articles which display the cards. I hope you enjoy them.

NOTE: For those of you younger than I am (and many probably are), note that in the days of propeller powered aircraft, and a few early jets, the over wing exits did not have a slide—they had a rope  The emergency card told you where to find and how to release the rope so you could climb down.  And unlike today’s safety videos that explain how to put oxygen masks on children, there is no mention on how to get a child down the rope for an emergency exit!

Northeast

My first airplane flight was on a Northeast DC-6B. It had the kind of emergency card I treasured because it had the seating chart for the aircraft clearly displayed. Note that this card (like many others) were two sided, with English on the front and the identical information in Spanish on the back.

Mohawk

Since my home base was NYC and Newark was the closest airport I saw a lot of Mohawk activity.  Plus they had a “weekends unlimited” fare of $25 to take as many flights as you could cram into a weekend (which two friends and I did).

American

These were most probably from a weekend open house at Newark Airport.  American was a prominent carrier there and displayed many aircraft for those wonderful family walk through days.

 

Braniff

I did not fly on this Braniff airplane, but I “took Braniff to school” every day.  Each airline sold flight bags at the ticket counter at Newark, and the Braniff one was the ideal shape to fit school books plus a loose leaf notebook—so Braniff served me well to carry books through junior and senior high (and it fit in the school locker nicely).

 

Northwest

My first trip to Newark Airport was in 1961 to pick up my grandmother who flew in from Minneapolis on a Northwest Orient DC-7C.  She lived in Brainerd, so she bought her ticket at the North Central ticket counter in the Brainerd airport.  I have the ticket passenger coupon and that flight cost her $53.95 plus tax. The seat card came later from asking to tour the plane at the gate.

Another frequent sight at Newark was the Northwest Electra.  This was the time just after the upgrade of the Electra to fix the whirl-mode accident problem.  Northwest called the aircraft Electra II.  Eastern called them the Super Electra. (That card is the next article)

TWA

An aircraft I actually flew was a TWA 749 which had a combined seat card with the Super-G Constellation.

 

I hope you enjoyed either bringing back old memories or creating new ones with these cards.
Lester Anderson

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SAFETY CARDS of Local Service Airlines – Part # 1

Written by Brian Barron

In this era of mega carriers, it is nice to look back at some of predecessor airlines that became part of today’s behemoths – American, Delta and United.

As has been well documented elsewhere in the Log, the Local Service Airlines were established by the CAB to operate services to more rural areas of the USA and provide feed to the national network carriers.  These airlines were the pre-cursors to the Essential Air Service (EAS) operators of today and were responsible for introducing commercial air service to much of the country.

For this article, we will focus on the Local Service Airlines of the Western U.S.A.  Safety cards from some of these airlines are among the most coveted in the collector community and are difficult to find.

Let’s start in the Northwest with West Coast Airlines.    West Coast, like most of the LSA’s started flying with a fleet of second hand DC-3 aircraft.

Here we have a car showing the window exit operations of the DC-3.  This card is believed to date from the early 1960’s [Carl Reese collection].   As the 60’s progressed, WCA acquired more modern aircraft including turboprop F-27’s and DC-9’s

This card is from West Coast Air’s small fleet of DC-9 10 Series aircraft.  This plastic card shows a large floorplan on the front with exit and oxygen illustrations on the back.  [Note the Jackie Kennedy look alike at the window].  This design would live on, as it was adopted by Air West which was the resulting carrier from the merger of WCA, Pacific Air Lines and Bonanza Air Lines in 1968.

Next we move down the coast to San Francisco based Pacific Air Lines.  Ironically, Pacific started life as Southwest Airways.  In 1958, they changed the name to better reflect their home region.  Pacific also started with the venerable DC-3.  By the early sixties they would graduate up to larger props such as the Martin 404 and Fairchild F-27.

Here we have a two sided card featuring the F-27 and the Martin 404 with one type on each side of the card.  This card dates prior to 1967. After 1967, it was mandatory that each aircraft type would have its own safety card.  These images were taken from the web, so I don’t know who the lucky owner is. J

Like WCA, Pacific Air Lines would join the jet age, but with larger Boeing 727’s.    The 727’s would prove to be too big for Pacific’s routes and were quickly sold off after the Air West merger.

Based on this card, we can assume maintenance was done by United Airlines as it is an exact replica of early United 727 design.  [Carl Reese collection].

Next, we move east to Las Vegas and the home of Bonanza Air Lines.  Bonanza started flying with a single engine Cessna, soon to be followed by the DC-3.

This DC-3 card is a simple Black and White cardboard affair, quite common with smaller DC-3 operators. [Image from the web]

Bonanza was one of the launch customers of the Fairchild F-27, the U.S. built version of the Fokker F-27. Bonanza would christen these planes the “Silver Dart” and these birds would become the backbone of their network.

We know of at least two different versions of cards for the “Silver Dart”.  This photo comes from a Bonanza Air Lines tribute web page and features black and white exit photographs

This example, from my collection, is a Nov 1967 two sided plastic card with graphic illustrations issued shortly before the 1968 merger.

Bonanza, like WCA operated DC-9-10’s and was even flying to Mexico at the time of the merger.  As far as I know, now one in the Safety Card community has the Bonanza DC-9 Safety Card, nor have we been able to uncover any pictures. If anyone reading this article can help, we would love to see what it looks like. This writer would also love to buy it, (if it’s for sale, of course. J )

Next we move east to Denver and the home of Frontier Airlines.   Frontier was one of the largest LSA’s and successfully made the transition to the jet-age.  It would survive until 1986, before being acquired by People Express and ultimately rolled into Frank Lorenzo’s Continental.

First, we look at a DC-3 card from the mid 1960’s. [Carl Reese collection]

Convair 580 and Boeing 737 cards from the 70’s and 80’s are quite common.  However, Frontier operated a small fleet of 727-100 and 200 series aircraft.  Similar to what Pacific experienced, the 727’s proved to be too large for Frontier’s network.   The smaller 737-200, initially acquired as part of a Central Air Lines order, would prove to be the perfect jet for Frontier.

Here is a 727-200 cards from 1970.  There was a second version of similar design with the type as Boeing 727-291.

Frontier also operated smaller aircraft such as the Beechcraft 99 and the DeHavilland Twin Otter for service to very small communities.

This Twin Otter card is from 1976.   This card was small and square shaped, and used typical stock illustrations provided by De Havilland Canada

In the 1980’s, Frontier would try its luck again with a larger airplane, this time choosing the DC-9 Super 80 [MD-80].

The Super 80’s, like the 727’s before them, proved to be an odd fit to Frontier’s route structure, although the plane did look stunning in the Saul Bass “Circle F” livery.  Here we have a DC-9 Super 80 cards from 1982.  This was a typical two-fold color card produced by Interaction Research.

Finally, we move to Fort Worth, TX based Central Airlines.  Central would be acquired by and merged into Frontier in 1967.  As a result, safety cards are few as they disappeared prior to more stringent regulations regarding safety cards being put into law.  Here we have the cover of a Central DC-3 card [Carl Reese collection]

In the next article, we will cover the Local Service Airlines in the eastern USA.  Thank you for reading.

Until next time, keep your seat belts fastened.

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The “Queen” at 50 – Early 747 Safety Cards

Written by Brian Barron

September 30, 2018 marks 50 years since the “Queen of the Skies” made her first public appearance at Everett, Washington.  She would take off into the heavens and into our hearts a few short months later.

The 747 would fundamentally change the course of commercial aviation and opened the feasibility of air travel to the masses.  50 years later, the 747 is still an integral part of the world’s Airline and Cargo fleets.

From a Safety perspective, the 747 presented many challenges that had never been considered before.  It was the first double aisle jet, the first to regularly carry up to 500 people.  In order to meet FAA and other world authority certification, a full Jumbo would need to be evacuated within 90 seconds.

A tall challenge for Boeing indeed.  In order to meet the goal, the 747 featured double lane slides as well as the first over wing mounted slide installation.   With 10 main deck doors and 20 slide lanes, this was the only way to meet the strict evacuation requirements

In the early days, 747 Upper Decks were largely limited to lounge use and often were not certified to be occupied by passengers during routine take-off and landings.   All early 747’s featured a spiral staircase to access the Upper Deck.  While these were certainly elegant for the day and age, they were not the easiest to maneuver, especially in turbulence or an emergency.    Primarily installed for Flight Deck crews, 747 Upper Decks did feature a narrow single lane slide exit.  Nearly 5 stories high, using this slide would be a frightening experience for even a seasoned traveler.

We will now explore first/early issue 747 safety cards from the first generation of operators focusing on 747-100/200 aircraft.

Pan Am was the launch customer for the 747 and the first card was appropriately issued in January 1970, the same month of entering commercial service.

This 14 page booklet was mostly text with some graphic illustrations.   This would be the standard until 1975 when Pan Am changed to a more graphics based cards

For a brief time in 1970-71, Pan Am issued a larger and more colorful 747 Safety Card. This illustration from this September 1970 card shows the main level evacuation plan as well as door operation.

National Airlines largely followed Pan Am’s booklet format for its 747 cards

The other launch customer was TWA, and the first to fly the Queen domestically between LAX and JFK in February, 1970.

TWA used the 747 launch to introduce a new safety card design.  Prior to 1970, all TWA cards were text heavy with limited illustrations.

The 747 was a Top hinged plastic folder that was heavy of graphics and limited on text.  This is the January 1970 release.   These cards were used for many years with the same 1-70 date.  A unique collectible is the version of this card Printed In Italy.

TWA’s new graphic style apparently made an impression on other early 747 operators as they decided to adapt the TWA style for their own first issue cards.

This included Northwest Orient, who was the third 747 operator from the U.S. and the first to fly the Jumbo across the Pacific.  In 1989, Northwest would also be the launch carrier for the most popular variant of the 747, the 747-400.

Others to use the TWA style include Aer Lingus –Undated card – from ca 1971 [all 4 panels shown]

Air India – Undated ca 1972.   Note the Flight Attendant in Indian dress

Braniff International – which christened their Jumbo as 747 Braniff Place. This card is dated August 1975

EL AL – Undated ca 1972

Other early U.S. operators generally stayed fairly close to their established Safety Card formats

Delta Air Lines – October 1970 issue.  Delta first flew a 747 in late 1970 and flew the last passenger flight by a major U.S. Carrier in December 2017.   However, Delta’s 747 operation is not continuous, operating -100’s from 1970-1977 and then not again until flying -400 series from 2009-2017 following its acquisition of Northwest Airlines

United Air Lines – July 1970 issue – United had the longest continuous 747 operation of any U.S carrier from 1970-2017.

Continental Airlines – May 1970 issue.  Like Delta and National, Continental’s initial 747 operation lasted only for a few years.   The 747 proved too big for these smaller legacy carriers and they quickly found out that tri-jets such as the DC-10 or L-1011 were a better fit for their operations.

American Airlines first 747 card touted the Queen as the “Astroliner”.  This terminology would later be changed to LuxuryLiner. This card is undated from ca. 1970

Air Canada issued their 747 in the same format as its other cards of the time, although the 747 was a smaller sized Tri-Fold than that used on the DC-8’s .  This card was issued March 1971.

We now cross the Atlantic and review the first issue of Europe’s national carriers.

Lufthansa was the first foreign airline to receive a 747 in spring of 1970 and now holds the title of longest continuous 747 operator.  A title it will likely keep as it operates the newest member of the 747 family, the 747-8i.  This card is from 1972

Lufthansa’s first card was interesting as it featured black and white demonstration photos, including the then unique two lane and over wing slide utilization

Next up is BOAC, the predecessor to today’s British Airways.  This undated ca. 1971 card is a large A4 folder with thick loose lamination.

Air France’s first 747 card would follow their common format of the era.  These early cards were printed on Thick Vinyl making them very sturdy.

Two of my favorite 747 cards are the first issues from Alitalia and Iberia.

Alitalia introduced its iconic livery in conjunction with the 747 entering service.  It also changed its Safety Card format to a heavily graphic style.  This card is from July 1970

Iberia’s first card was an 8 panel plastic bound safety card featuring colorful illustrations. Iberia would continue to use this unique design until shortly after their livery changed in 1977. This card is ca. 1971

Iberia was one of the few early 747 operators to show detailed instructions for the Upper Deck door operation.

TAP Air Portugal top-folding card ca. 1972.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, SAS, Swissair and KLM had a collective maintenance agreement for their new widebody 747’s and DC-10’s.   Unfortunately, for the collector this agreement resulted in the very generic Safety card without airline name or logo used by all three carriers.   These cards are known among collectors as the KSSU Format (KLM, SAS, Swissair union)

We move now to Asia.  While 747-400 operations were dominated by the Asian carriers, the early 747 was not in high demand and early operators only ordered a few examples until the economic boom of the mid 80’s

Japan Air Lines was the first Asian based carrier to fly the 747.  Their safety cards of this era had a detailed floorplan as evidenced by this ca. 1970 example

Korean Air Lines would introduce the 747 in 1972.   Their card was similar in design to JAL but without the detail.  A unique feature of Korean’s early 747 operation was the location of a Cargo compartment in the last section.  As such exit from door 5 was only possible on the right hand side.

In 1972, Singapore Airlines was a new airline from a very small country.  Their acquisition of 747’s was considered a big risk for such a small country.  Needless to say, the risk worked out and SIA is now one of the most prestigious airlines in service today.  The naming of type as 747B was commonly used by early -200 operators.

Next we move down under to QANTAS.  QANTAS was unique in that it operated an exclusively 747 fleet between 1979 and 1985.   This card is undated and would be from ca. 1972-74

In the early 1970’s, the only airline in Africa that had the traffic to justify a 747 operation was South African Airways.   They would be the only 747 airline based in Africa for nearly a decade and the only African airline to operate 4 versions of the Jumbo.  Their first 747 safety card (ca. 1972) was this large placemat sized example.

Thank you for reading this brief history of early 747 safety cards and celebrate the airlines that flew the Queen from the beginning.

I am always looking for ideas/themes for upcoming Safety Card articles.  Input from the Safety Card community is always welcome.

Thank You

Brian Barron

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Safety on Board

Written by Brian Barron

The launch of modern commercial jets in the late 1950’s are early 1960’s revolutionized air travel. Likewise, the jet age also brought a significant change in Safety Card design and use.

Prior to the jet age, the vast majority of safety cards were geared towards water evacuation and use of life vests. However, these cards were usually limited for aircraft used in trans-oceanic operations. As a result, for aircraft used primarily overland, safety information was usually just a few small paragraphs in a “Welcome Aboard” type booklet or part of a route map.

In this article, we illustrate examples of safety cards issued for the first jets operated by major airlines of the time. The majority of cards featured were issued between 1959 and 1963.

This Northwest Orient EMERGENCY WATER LANDINGS from 1960 features their newly delivered DC-8 as well as DC-6 and DC-7.   The DC-8 was short lived with NW and were replaced by Fan-Jet 707’s by 1963 for trans-pacific operations.  This card was an extension of the”Ditching cards” used in the 1950’s.  In fact, NW used this design from the early 1950’s DC-4 operation and continued to the 707 and 720 fan-jets.

Pan American’s first safety card for the 707 was this large plastic bound card showing basic emergency exit procedures. Interestingly, it is lacking aircraft floorplans. The assumption is this was done to cover both 707 and DC-8 services. The card makes no specific reference to a B-707 or a DC-8.

TWA’s first card for the 707 featured a basic layout with a detailed floorplan.  It is interesting to see how much of the plane was dedicated to First Class in the early glamour days of Jet travel.

TWA’s first Convair 880 followed the same layout as the 707. Many of the early jets did not show how to open the exits.  On the Convair Jets, we can guess this may had something to do with the types notoriously heavy swing out doors.

Northeast Airlines first owned jet was also a Convair 880 .   The format followed close to TWA’s early cards of the era.  As TWA did  most of the heavy maintenance on the NE 880’s it makes sense that they would borrow TWA’s look.

American’s first 707 card had a similar look to TWA, but with a slightly different layout.  The 707 was the only aircraft type featured in this design.   I would think similar cards may exist for the 720 and Convair 990, however I have not seen any.

The next cards for all American jets came out in the mid-60’s  “Astrojet”.  This card was used on all Jet types in the fleet, 707, 720 and Convair 990.   The card indicates there is a ‘minimum of six exits’.  The 720 and 990 would have had 6 exits, while the 707 would have 8.

In my opinion, United had the nicest cards of the U.S. carriers for their early jets.   This DC-8 card featured a nice tail drawing on the cover.  An interesting feature of early jets is that the evacuation slides were often ceiling mounted and required extra handling to bring them into use.  From the mid 60’s onward, it was most common for evacuation slide to be housed in the door for automatic deployment.

The first Caravelle card also followed the same layout.  Unfortunately, these nice “Tail cover” cards would be short-lived.  By 1962, United would adopt its single card style which would be the norm for the fleet until 1977.  The second 720 card also followed this design.

However, United’s first 720 card doesn’t even look like a safety card on the surface.  Instead, it only subtlety brings your attention to  “things you should know.”

Apart from some basic life vest and oxygen use cards, Delta Air Lines did not have any true safety cards prior to the mid 1960’s.   The first known card to feature the Jets was this multi-fold card featuring all planes in the fleet.  There was also a large single card featuring  Delta fleet.  In the illustration above, I have included the panel for the Convair 880.  This card was probably quite confusing for the typical traveler.  In 1967, the FAA adopted a regulation requiring each individual aircraft type to have its own safety card.

National was another airline that used a fleet card  for early  jets. This example features the DC-8, 727 and Electra.  Prior to this there was a basic two-sided card from 1963 that showed only the exit location without any instructions.  One side was the DC-8, the other side featured the Electra.

Going North across the border, Trans Canada also had a fleet card booklet.  This card features several variants of the DC-8 and Vanguard.  Surprisingly, the Viscount was not included in this series of cards.  Take note of the Trans Canada mascot, Mr. Beaver, on this card.

Across the pond to England, BOAC issued many cards featuring the early jets.  Early BOAC jet cards were all fleet cards, but did feature aircraft floorplans. To my knowledge, there are no cards featuring the ill-fated Comet 1.  The above example shows the 707, Comet 4 and the big props of the time.

Iberia in Spain issued this simple card to welcome the DC-8 to the fleet.  Prior to this, Iberia often included their safety information with their Route Map pamphlets.

[Image from collection of Carl Reese]

The above example shows both of Lufthansa’s early Boeing jetliners.   The detailed floorplans and photographs of exits were a nice feature of early LH jet age cards.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines prominently featured this DC-8 graphic on the cover of its early jet age safety cards.   The card also featured prop aircraft and the Caravelle.

Safety cards of First Generation Russian passenger jets are quite rare.   Aeroflot, in fact did not issue safety cards with any regularity until the late 1970’s. The above example is a TU-104 card issued by CSA from Czechoslovakia.

In Africa, South African Airways issued this comical cover design for its early 707 cards. This is the second version.  The card was issued in English and Afrikaans with opposite side printing for each language as shown by the exit plan.

Also, from Africa is this unique card from Sudan Airways featuring it’s Comet 4. As Air India had the Little Maharaj as its mascot, Sudan Airways had Little Hassan.   This design was also used on a Viscount card.

Air India’s first 707 Card was labeled Service and showed a group of travelers enjoy a gourmet meal service while lounging in a life raft.   Something tells me this image would not be politically correct in today’s world.

QANTAS, like Air India and SAA, also used a comical cover for it’s first 707-100 aircraft.  Using the Knight as a mascot,  I assume the suit of armor is to be symbolic of the sturdiness  of the modern jet ??

In Asia, Japan Air Lines had issued several Water landing/Life Vest cards for its prop operations.  However, the earliest DC-8 card we can find is this card from the late 60’s featuring three variants (-30/50, -61, -62).   There is also a CV-880 card in this format.  

Finally, we venture to South America.  VARIG Brasil issued this thick plastic card which was used on board the Boeing 707 along with the DC-8 and Convair 990.  Note the over wing exit marked with an * indicating this exit was not on all aircraft.  (Convair jets only had one set of overwing exits)

LAN Chile issued this nice booklet.  While the image shows only the front and back cover, the interior pages had nicely drawn illustrations.

I hope you enjoyed the above selections.  I welcome any comments and additions to the theme of this article.

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