Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet in 2009? Heck, we had a public phone on a B-377 Stratocruiser in 1957!

Its always only a matter of time.  And technology!
Yours truly at the console of NWA Ship 704

Amazement at recent accounts of the Wi-Fi race among airlines brings to mind the equally stunning feat (for its time) when Northwest Airlines installed the first air-ground telephone in regularly scheduled passenger service. NWA Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser #704 was equipped with a unit furnished by AT&T and manufactured by the A/C Sparkplug division of General Motors in Milwaukee. The unit weighed 45 pounds. The special telephone, mounted at the rear of the passenger cabin on the stewardess communications panel adjacent to the galley, could be used to place or receive calls to or from anyplace in the world - as long as the plane was within a 175 mile radius of two special ground receiving stations in Chicago and Detroit. These stations were maintained and operated by Illinois Bell and Michigan Bell Telephone Companies. Remember them? Read more about it in Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels (To order click on the contact button above.)
Back to the Future:  It has been reported that Delta (the largest airline in the world) has already installed Wi-Fi on half of its 300 domestic aircraft fleet at a cost of $100,000 per airplane.  Oh, they'll make that up, youbetcha, by charging you extra to use it.  Only one problem, as I see it.  Know how tough it is just to lower your seat tray in your cramped coach seat?  Now try to imagine opening your laptop wide enough so that you can see the screen while you surf the web. Wait a minute - wouldn't that image make a great commercial for i-phone, blackberry, et al?


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