Nostalgia: old airliners and military planes

I can’t remember all the aircraft I’ve flown on. They would include the Convair, Fairchild, and Fokker. For a while, I probably logged more miles in DC-9s and 727s since they flew back and forth between Atlanta and Tallahassee. Lesa was not a fan of the DC9 because she thought pilots flew it like a hotrod. It was a tough, gritty plane.

The first large plane I flew on was the DC-8. I flew it between Luxembourg and New York City (with a brief stop in Iceland) and between Manilla and California. Both flights must have been smooth because my main memory was being asleep for most of both trips except when the flight attendants woke me up to eat again and again.

My favorite plane was the L-1011 (TriStar), very technologically advanced when it appeared in 1972, even though it certainly had a lot of people in that center section where the windows seemed several miles away. I think these were retired much too soon.  Delta and Eastern flew these, so I saw a fair number of them.

The strangest plane I flew on was the Grumman HU-16 Albatross. These were used by the Navy and Air Force for search and rescue operations and could be configured as a seaplane, though the one I flew on in the Philippines was land-based. Jimmy Buffett flew the seaplane.

The Albatross typically carried 10 passengers. The Grumman C-1 Trader typically carried nine, though its main role in the 1960s and 1970s was bringing mail and/or flag-level staff to aircraft carriers. While it was capable of taking off from a carrier without using the catapult, the time I flew between the USS Ranger and Da Nang, we were catapulted off. That was a bit rougher than a DC-9 taking off from Tallahassee.

The DC-3 I flew on in the Boy Scouts seemed rather ancient and it was for a special trip out of the Tallahassee airport down to the coast and back. This would have been in the late 1950s. My biggest surprise was seeing the Gulf of Mexico right after we took off. Oddly enough, a few airlines and cargo operators are still flying this 1935 aircraft.

Okay, thanks for putting up with my trip down memory lane. Obviously, I’ve been on other planes, including the DC-10, MD-80, and the 757. (Don’t sit in the rear section of the 757.) Never was on a 747. Sigh.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of At Sea, a Vietnam war novel. I took the cover photo but taking pictures on the flight deck didn’t get me a ride on any of our fighter jets.