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HomeJIm Archambeault's First Plane Ride

My first airplane trip

During a hot Oklahoma summer, about 1959, my family and I took an airplane trip to Ohio. I’m not sure, now, why we went by air but my father took us to the airport, put the four of us on a plane and stayed behind. He was due to drive to Ohio a week or two later to spend some time with us and our grandparents, before driving us all home.

I was sooooo excited I could hardly contain myself. A plane ride! All the way to Ohio! And we’d get to see both sets of grandparents on the other end of the trip! I couldn’t wait!

On the morning of the flight (it must have been from Tulsa), we went to the airport. In those pre-security conscious days, of course, everyone could get fairly close to the planes. And so, my Mother, Father and brother and sister and I all trooped out of the terminal onto the ramp and stood looking at the plane. What a marvel it was – shiny and powerful looking. Looking back, I suppose it was an Electra or Convair, or maybe a DC 6 or 7. It was BIG.

Travel used to be an ‘event’ and before flying became the equivalent of a smelly bus trip through the skid row of every city you have ever visited, people actually dressed up to get on a plane. Flying was a big deal and people wore clothes at least as nice as what they wore to church. I probably wore a nice shirt and dress slacks and maybe a tie for this flight. My sister and certainly my Mother both had dresses on; dresses, not skirts.

My poor mother had her hands full with my little brother and sister. Aged 1 and ½ or 2, my brother was in her arms. My sister was 5, and my mother had her by the hand, I’m sure. I was about 8, and being the oldest and most mature, I was on my own. We said our goodbyes to our Dad and walked across the tarmac to the plane, still waving. While climbing the stairs; I continued waving madly at my Dad. We turned at the top of the steps, before entering the plane and waved again, one last time.

I entered the plane in awe; I was finally inside the airplane and about to be borne into the sky! I quickly looked at the layout and all the doodads, and raced ahead to our assigned seats. My Mother struggled along behind me, her hands full with 2 small kids. Arriving at our seats on the terminal side of the plane I looked out the window, saw my Dad, and continued to wave. I waved madly - with vigour and excitement. Then I looked at the window more closely. It had handles on both sides. So, I grabbed the handles and turned, in order to open the window to wave some more.

The window opened and fell outward, falling about 15 feet to the pavement with a loud crash. I saw my Dad, stuck my head, neck and shoulders out of the plane and kept waving. And I began yelling; “Bye Bye Dad”. Years later my Father later told me he instantly realized what had happened, even before hearing me. As soon as the emergency door hit the ground he realized WHO was responsible. He said he quit waving, took a step backward, and tried to melt into the sparse crowd.

After the window hit the deck, the pilot came back and began yelling at my mother. The flight was delayed while several mechanics fit the door back into the side of the plane. Much to my dismay, I was required to sit in an aisle seat for the whole flight. The pilot made it clear to my Mother that I was not to be allowed near the window. I couldn’t understand why and I pouted the rest of the trip. I missed sitting next to that window. Why in the world was the pilot, my Mother and most of the passengers mad at ME? If that window wasn’t supposed to open – why did it have handles and opening instruction printed in large letters right on it.?

Surprisingly, I get through airports pretty trouble free these days. I can only imagine what sort of 

“no-fly” list nightmare would follow a kid for the rest of their life if they pulled a similar stunt today.


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