Memories of Flying

In may 1954 I flew for the very first time, and although I was only two and a half years old, I can still vaguely remember some details. You see me here with my mother just before boarding. As you can see it was a Douglas DC3, the post war civil version of the famous Dacota. It did not have a pressurized cabin, so you would suffer at lot of pain in your ears if you were a little boy and did not know how to releave the pressure. I remember that I had several bon-bons for the very same reason. Another problem with the not pressurized cabin was that the cruising altitude very often was relatively low, between the clouds, where the “road” is very bumpy. Being a pre war design it had a tail wheel instead of one in the front. You almost had to climb op to your seat from the lille door in the back. The seats by the way were very much like canvas garden chairs.

My father worked for the airline company SAS until his pension, and this is why we could afford the luxury of flying. He had the employee number 300-and-something, and actually started in the DDL in 1947. DDL was the danish airline that was later merged with the norwegian and swedish airline companies to form SAS. We had one free ticked every year, all four of us. The first years we used them for our annual visit to Århus, but later we had great trips to more exotic places. SAS used the DC3 until the mid 50’s and after that it was mostly Convair Metropolitan 440 that I flew with. Later, during my “traveling years” I tried all sorts of airplanes, but I will still say that there is nothing compared to flying with propellers and piston engines. The startup of a DC7C “Seven Seas” with its mighty supercharged Wright Duplex-Cyclone engines was really “something”! For every engine they started, there were two men placed with long fire extinguishers, one on each side, and when the engine after a couple of turns roared up, long flames and smoke were sent backwards. Before the jets, the noise and vibrations in the cabin were horrifying, and sometimes it was like your eyeballs were shaking. But the smell of AVGAS super high octane fuel were like perfume to a young “petrol-head”.

When I was 17-20 years old, I had a friend with a Private Pilot Certificate. We would usually get 200 DKK together, and for that small amount we could rent a Cessna for one hour. We would ride our small mopeds to the airfield in Ringsted or Tune, because we didnt even have cars. For 400 DKK we sometimes would rent a fast (> 320 km/h) low winged SIAI Marchetti, a four seater with retractable wheels and carburettors for advanced flying. I tried several times taking over the control stick, and for some time had a dream of becoming a pilot myself.

Today, many hundreds of flights later, I think flying has become boring and just like riding a bus. But I still have the nostalgic memory of a time when flying was something really special, with an aura of luxury and adventure. I think this old SAS postcard with “all the world” expresses  this feeling really well: