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Ellen Church - The First Flight Attendant16. may 2011 20:42
A great innovation in aviation was made in a scheduled flight with Boeing Air Transport (BAT), now United Airlines, 81 years ago on last Saturday when the first flight attendant served tables in the air. But her job was quite different from what we’re used to today.
The 25 year old Church had just earned her pilot license when she first walked into BAT’s office facility to apply for a pilot position in the spring of 1930. Even though this was during the time Amelia Earhart was breaking records in aviation, this was still a male dominating profession. Church expected a negative answered so she prepared plan B which was to convince BAT’s management that it would be to their advantage to have a nurse onboard as she was a qualified nurse.
Aviation was still a young profession and accidents and incidents were common at the time so she managed to convince Steve Simpson of BAT that it would be beneficial to have a nurse onboard. They hired Church and seven other nurses to fly on their aircrafts.
This received great public attention and Church and the other nurses were an instant hit. Within 3 years all major airlines in the US had flight attendances onboard their flights.
The hiring process was strict in the early years. Flight attendances had to be certified nurse, single and no older than 25. In addition, they could not weigh more than 115 Pounds (52.2 kg) and could not be taller than 5’ 4” (163 cm).
In those days the flight attendance job was very diverse. When needed they were required to load the the aircraft, pump fuel and even help the pilots push the aircrafts into the hanger - all this for only about $100 a month.
Even though Church was a pioneer in the industry she only lasted a year and a half before she got injured in a car accident and had to retire from flight attendance. Church worked as a nurse for the Air Force during World War II.
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