03 November 2008

The Most Senior of Them All

At our airline, we are all on a seniority list, arranged by how long we have been flying, and choose our flights based on how far up the list we are. We have over 10,000 flight crew, and those in the top 999 are called 'area codes', those in the top 99 often called 'country codes' (not always affectionately).

Recently I flew with the number one flight attendant in out company. Ron Akana began flying in 1949. Yes, you read that correctly. nearly 60 years of flying and I have to say he works circles around most crew that were born after 1949. He is a total old school steward,I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to have flown with him. Ron kindly allowed me to ask him some questions about his career, he mailed me 4 pages of longhand answers to my questions. Here is Rons story in a tiny nutshell, the more I learn, the more I want him to write a book!!

How did you begin your career at our airline and what were you doing prior to flying?

In 1949 I was in my third year at the University of Hawaii,the president of XXX airlines, Pat Patterson had just bought 8 Boeing Stratocruisers. These were 4 propellor enging double deckers that seated 55 passengers on day flights, 52 at night. 4 berths were made up forward of the rest rooms.

A spiral staircase took you to a very plush lounge downstairs that held 14 passengers.

We were still 10 years before the jet age and coach fares were years away. Every seat was first class ( no movies).

Our president Pat Patterson had been born and raised in Hawaii and wanted 8 Hawaiian stewards to represent each of the eight main islands.

An ad was put in the papers and I along with 400 applicants applied for the 8 positions. To have been born and raised there, 2500 miles from any continent, would make you realize the great opportunity this job presented. It was exciting.

What has been your favorite aircraft to work and why?

The aircraft most pleasant to work and exciting to fly was and still is the Boeing 747. The first 747 had 3 lounges, 1 upstairs above first class that sat 6 with a table and a bar. The 2nd lounge was for first class and took up what is now business class. The 3rd lounge was a huge one for economy class between doors 3 and 4.

Movies were just being introduced in 1972.

What was your training like?

Our training consisted of 1 week inflight service all in the new Boeing Stratocruisers in HNL (Honolulu). Our instructor Lynn didn't know anything about the facilities onboard. She was a great gal and we all learned it together.

Our second week of training was emergency training at the Coast Guard station at the San Francisco, California airport.

By January 1st we were assigned to start the innagural HNL-SFO and SFO-HNL flights. 3 flight attendants on each, a first stewardess, a second stewardess who had to be a nurse and a steward.

The fun thing about training was that none of us knew anything about the plane. Our instructor was an expert in inflight services. The flight was 9 hours and 15 minutes. No movies. There was a hot meal service, then a beautiful seafood/cold cut/cheese/fruit and salad second meal service.

What were your layovers like then?

Our layovers were at the Ben Franklin Hotel in San Mateo, California for 4 days. We had club hose passes at two race tracks ( horses) and the use of a car. Great socializing on layovers in the peninsula.

What are some of your more memorable flights? Any celebs onboard?

The greatest celebrity trip was the cast of From Here to Eternity. Burt lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift and Deborah Kerr.

Other celebrities were Bing Crosby and a planeload of top PGA golfers. Red Skelton, Sammy Davis, Susan Hayward, Ray Millan, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and Elvis.

Is there anything special you always pack in your crew bag?

I always packed a suit sports coat and dress shoes besides casualy. Going out was always coat and tie dress.

This has been a great and wonderful life. My wife and I were the first flight attendants married ( 45 years now) and my daughter the first flight attendant born from flight attendants ( she is based 19 years now in denver).I put my son and daughter thru mainland colleges, and I have 5 grandchildren who have travelled extensively.


3 comments:

DUNCAN said...

Another great story Heather. BTW I am now officially Delta. The Union vote is coming soon!

Traytable said...

Great post. Meeting true 'old school' crew is always memorable!!

Blondie said...

I flew with his daughter recently--it was interesting to hear her talk about her Dad!