Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The World's First Flight Attendant on a Conventional Aircraft

The world's first flight attendant to serve on a conventional aircraft was Jack Sanderson, who was hired in 1922, at the age of 14, by The Daimler Airway, one of several small air carriers who together would eventually become British Airways.
There are two known photos of him. This is the earliest. Sadly, he died the following year in a plane crash.
Several other airlines hired men in the capacity of airline steward during the 1920s. In 1930, Boeing Air Transport hired Ellen Church, who became the world's first airline stewardess. Boeing Air Transport eventually became one component of the amalgamated United Airlines, which is why United is often incorrectly stated to be the airline which hired her.
But wait! The world's first flight attendant on airships predates even Jack Sanderson.
He was Heinrich Kubis, who began caring for passengers and serving food aboard the DELAG zeppelin LZ-10 Schwaben, in March, 1912. Heinrich also served on the LZ-120 Bodensee, the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin and LZ-129 Hindenburg. Kubis worked alone on the early zeppelins, but there was an assistant steward and cook aboard the 20-passenger Graf Zeppelin, and a team of 10-15 cooks and stewards aboard the 72-passenger Hindenburg. Kubis was in the Hindenburg's dining room when the ship burst into flame at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. When the ship sank close enough to the ground, Kubis encouraged passengers and crew to jump from the windows and jumped to safety himself. He testified at the inuiry into the Hindenburg disaster and then returned to Germany, where he lived until his death in the 1970s.
(Ellen Church, we mean you no slight, but these guys Jack and Heinrich were way ahead of you!)
Many thanks to one of my favorite aviation historians, Bob DuBert, for turning me on to these wonderful profiles of early flight attendants.


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