Great Moments in Travel History – January 2023 Edition

January is the first month of the year in most of the world’s calendars, and is also the coldest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the warmest in the Southern.

The start of the month – New Year’s Day – is marked with festivities across the globe as billions ring in the New Year, starting at midnight in Samoa and Christmas Island, while Honolulu, American Samoa, and the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands are among the last to welcome it.

The origin of its name is in dispute: Some scholars believe that January is named after Janus, the god of beginnings and time, while others believe that January is named after janua, the Latin word for door, given that January is the start of the year and hence an opening to new things.

The month of January was created around 450 B.C.E. when the original ten-month Roman calendar was replaced by a 12-month calendar with January at the start.

Here’s what happened in Januarys past.

The National Geographic Society was founded on January 27, 1888, by a group that included explorers, geographers, cartographers, teachers, and scientists. It was organized as “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”

On January 20, 1908, what is now the Fairmont Empress opened in Victoria, British Columbia. The 108-year-old property, originally opened as the Empress, has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada and was last renovated in 1989.

The first scheduled commercial airline flight took place on January 1, 1914, for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line when pilot Tony Jannus flew the former mayor of St. Petersburg in a Benoist XIV biplane over Tampa Bay. The flight lasted 23 minutes, cruising 50 feet (15 meters) above sea level.

The first ever airline uniforms, worn by Instone Air Line’s pilots and staff, were introduced on January 1, 1922.

The Biltmore Hotel opened its doors on January 14, 1926, in Coral Gables, Florida. At the time, it was the tallest building in Florida.

American Airlines was founded on January 25, 1930, as American Airways. The airline is now the world’s largest, following the 2013 merger with US Airways.

Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly solo between Hawaii and the United States on January 11, 1935, when she flew her Lockheed Vega from Wheeler Field in Honolulu across the eastern Pacific to Oakland, California, in 18 hours and 15 minutes.

On January 9, 1945, a C-97 Stratofreighter set a transcontinental record when it flew 2,323 miles (3,738 km) from Seattle to Washington, D.C., in six hours and four minutes. The aircraft covered the distance at an average speed of 383 mph (616 km/h).

The first commercial flight to depart London’s Heathrow Airport took place on January 1, 1946, when British South American Airlines Avro Lancastrian ‘Star Light’ flew to Buenos Aires.

On January 30, 1948, aviation pioneer Orville Wright died at the age of 76 after a second heart attack.

The BSAA Star Tiger, an Avro Tudor IV passenger aircraft, disappeared without a trace over the Atlantic Ocean on January 30, 1948. The disappearance remains unsolved to this day and helped fuel speculation and theories about the Bermuda Triangle.

The first commercial non-stop flight from Tokyo to Honolulu was made by a Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser on January 3, 1950.

The Boeing 747, the world’s first wide-body aircraft, made its inaugural commercial flight from New York to London for Pan American on January 22, 1970. The flight had been planned for January 21, but was delayed due to engine overheating. The two remaining U.S. airlines that operated the 747, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, retired the type in November and December 2017 respectively.

One hundred and seventy six people perished on January 22, 1973, when a Nigeria Airways Boeing 707 crashed while attempting to land at Kano International Airport in Nigeria.

Air India Flight 855, a Boeing 747, crashed in the Arabian Sea on January 1, 1978, killing all 213 onboard.

A fire broke out at the Coates House Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri on January 28, 1978, killing 20. The hotel had first opened its doors in 1867 and among its notable guests were presidents William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt.

On January 26, 1989, the first Boeing 747-400 aircraft was delivered to launch customer Northwest Airlines. The 747-400’s innovations included a two-pilot glass cockpit, which made the flight engineer’s position redundant, more fuel-efficient engines, and an all-new interior.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 made its first flight on January 10, 1990. The MD-11 is a three-engine wide-body airliner, based on the DC-10. In addition to a stretched fuselage, it featured an all-glass, two-pilot cockpit.

On January 19, 1991, Eastern Air Lines ceased operations. The airline, which had been founded in 1926, grew to be one of the major U.S. airlines but was unable to compete after deregulation of the U.S. airline industry and following a decade of tumultuous labor relations. Only the former Eastern Air Shuttle, which was sold to Donald Trump in 1989 and subsequently sold to USAir in 1992, remains in existence and is now the American Shuttle, following US Airways’ 2013 merger with American Airlines.

Trans World Airlines filed for bankruptcy on January 10, 1992, and again in 1995. After yet another bankruptcy filing, the carrier’s assets were acquired by American Airlines in 2001 in a bankruptcy sale.

On January 8, 1996, an Air Africa Antonov An-32B plane overshot the runway at N’Dolo Airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although all of the six crewmembers onboard survived, there were 227 fatalities and 253 serious injuries on the ground, the largest number of non-passenger ground fatalities caused by a plane crash.


Click here to continue to Page 2 – The Dawn of In-Flight Internet and Miracle on the Hudson

* This article was originally published here