Fred Cox DC-8 Jet Collection – AFA DC-8 History

Fred Cox
DC-8 Jet Collection

AMERICAN FLYERS AIRLINE

ADDITIONAL HISTORY


Memories From Flight Attendant Susan Moore
Who Worked For AFA From 1967-1969:

"When I started, they were phasing out the DC-3s, but still used them to ferry crew. I flew as a stewardess (now called flight attendant) on Super Connies and Electra’s briefly, then onto 727s and the "stretch" DC-8s. They had a couple of "baby" Connies too – one of which the Beatles used on one of their first tours in the USA. Our first 727 was leased from Braniff, who had painted all of their aircraft in bright, single colors. We got a green one, and we stewardesses called it the "flying pickle." We called the Boeings the "Cadillacs" and the DC-8s the "workhorses," because the galleys were deluxe in the Boeings (727s) and the aircraft were quieter on take-off. However, they only held half as many passengers as the DC-8s."

"I remember lots of flights in the DC-8s that were configured half for passengers and half for freight. It was quite a challenge to take food from the galley to the cockpit crew through all of the freight! The combo flights I remember most were to Thule, Greenland and Keflavik, Iceland. The Air Force guys were always glad to see us, because we brought fresh milk. They drank powdered milk during the winter when the weather didn’t permit cargo flights. Another memorable flight was out of the middle east in which some "idiot" travel planner had placed a group of Arabs and a group of Jews on the same flight. Fortunately, we picked them up in different locations, boarded them through different doors, and had lots of empty rows between them. In addition, we were able to block off visibility behind the forward galley (I don’t remember how) so they couldn’t see each other. Those stretch 8’s are LOOOOONG aircraft!"

"When the DC-8-63s were configured for all passengers, we carried 250 passengers and 7 stewardesses. We had a forward galley and a rear galley. I was the "lead stew" on the 8’s — at the age of 22 — which meant I had to contact caterers at airports all over the world to order the food, make sure it arrived on time and was stowed properly. In addition, I had to check all of the safety equipment, keep the magazine racks supplied with updated magazines, make sure the cabin was properly cleaned, and keep track of the other stewardesses at layovers, as well as direct all of the cabin services inflight."

"I remember one time, two of our 8’s were leaving Europe within minutes of each other to fly to New York. The pilot announced when he could see the other DC-8 right below us and slightly to the right. It looked small and dark, in silhouette against the bright clouds, but you couldn’t miss that sleek, distinctive shape."

"Here is what I remember about AFA history. It was started in Dallas by Reed Pigman, and I believe that the airline stayed there throughout the 1950s. AFA had a flight school as well. AFA moved both the airline operation and flight school to the abandoned airbase at Ardmore, Oklahoma sometime in the late 50s or early 60s. During this time the stewardesses lived in a BOQ and the student pilots (who came from all over the world) lived across the street. It was great fun. There was a big swimming pool we used in the summer, and then used it empty as a tornado shelter during tornado season. AFA opened a base in New York in 1968 (which I moved to) and then shortly after that, they moved the whole airline operation to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. However, the flight school stayed in Ardmore. It was a well respected flight school, and I don’t know when it ceased operations, if at all."

[If you would like to see a photo of Reed Pigman and some AFA Stewardesses in uniforms of that time please click here. The pictures are in the third, forth & fifth rows. You can then click on any picture to see a larger image.] "One of the Stewardesses pictured was Yvonne Lutske, a friend of mine, who was flying a few years before I started. She was killed in a car accident in 1967 or 68 when she and two other stewardesses were driving back to home base after landing in Dallas on a commercial flight. It was near Christmas and they hit ice (not so common in TX and OK) on a bridge. The pictures reflect the uniforms that were worn at the time (early to mid-1960s). The gray uniform with the red hat was our winter uniform and the white and ice cream color uniforms were our summer uniforms until we got short little green and blue dresses (in 1968 I believe) that were worn year around. These dresses were washable – what a concept! Probably made the Ardmore Cleaners very sad. Sometimes we’d be on the road for 2 or 3 weeks at a time & washable uniforms were a relief. We did some creative things, like washing them in our hotel rooms and rolling them up in towels to wring them out so they would dry overnight. Beats trying to find a dry cleaner who could get it done before the aircraft left the next day!"

[One other note about Reed Pigman, when the Beatles were touring the USA in 1964 they had chartered one of American Flyer’s Lockheed Electra’s to fly them around during their tour. It was Reed Pigman who flew them in the AFA Electra & also invited the Beatles to his ranch in the Ozarks to get away for a few days from the frenzy of fans that greeted them at each stop on the tour. While resting at the Pigman ranch they were able to go horseback riding, hiking and play board games in the evening. This was before Susan worked for the airline but she recalled hearing that a couple of AFA stewardesses got to stay at the ranch during the Beatles visit as well. Sadly, this Electra that had carried the Beatles in 1964 was the same one that crashed in 1966.] "Reed Pigman was at the controls of the Electra that crashed at home base in Ardmore in 1966. People who loved him and were loyal to him swore it wasn’t his fault, but you can see the reasons given at the aviation safety web site:"

"Most of our pilots were retired military guys. I still think they were some of the best pilots in the world. Flying non-scheduled, they were always called upon to land at strange airports. When scheduled airlines wouldn’t take-off or land because of weather, our guys could still go. I saw them handle engine malfunctions, landing gear malfunctions, fogged-in airports and snow storms like they were picnics. Only once did one of them land at the wrong airport (NOT in a DC-8) – and I’m not sure he was ex-military!"

"The AFA logo used to be different before we got the DC-8s [see top left]. It was all capitol letters, slanted. When they changed to the one you see on the DC-8 [see top right], one of the stewardesses said "It looks like an Aztec Bird!" We didn’t tell anyone else what we thought, of course. They paid good money for that logo!"

[Below Are Some Photos Which Susan Kindly Scanned For Me To Show You.]

"A photo of me in front of a Super Constellation in 1968. "


"Both of our DC-8s on the tarmac in Frankfurt in the Summer of 1969. The cheerful ramp agent will have to remain nameless unless someone writes in who recognizes him."

"This photo is of the two of us during the climb after take-off. I’m on the right – yes I’m standing, I’m just really short and -no- my hair is not that big – part of it is the shadow! I don’t remember the name of my fellow flight attendant. We could lean way far back and not fall over because those stretch 8s had a really steep climbing angle, even fully loaded! Some flight attendants swore they gained a whole shoe size and lots of varicose veins from doing food and drink services during the climbs;)."

Thank You Susan For The Wonderful Stories & Photos! What Great Adventures You Had Working For AFA! If anyone else "out there" has any AFA stories to share please email me at: info@dc-8jet.com


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