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It was 1969, as the first Boeing 747 double deck planes were coming off the line. I had just gone to work in the public affairs department at the HQ of the Allstate Insurance Company, in Deerfield, Il. I was initially assigned to the Accident Prevention¬†Section, and reporting up to Don, then Allstate’s director of safety.

Don was chatting with us one day, and mentioned that Allstate had taken on part of the reinsurance for the first 747’s. Reinsurance is a way to spread risk, in which large insurance company’s like Allstate would provide insurance to back up another company’s insurance policy.

Don told us he had seen the loss projections on the early¬†747’s, and said that based on that, he would not be flying on them. We were stunned. I think it was several years later, after I had left Allstate and forgotten about Don’s cautionary admonition, before I booked a flight on one.

I just looked at the records of the giant craft, and since their first production, some 1500-plus 747’s have been manufactured, and 61 hulls have been lost, around 4%. However, a large percentage of those hull losses resulted in no loss of life, and many others were due to external causes such as terrorism and pilot error. In general, the planes have been incredibly safe.

But Don was right: statistics can be scary.

Just happened to chose Thunderball from my James Bond collection to watch. Odd thought related to the plane disappearance in Malasia, is that in this 1965 film, a British Vulcan bomber with two atom bombs is hijacked, and soft landed in the shallow waters near Nassau, where the bombs are removed by Specter, and the bomber is covered underwater by camouflage netting. The pilot gassed the crew while he hooked up to oxygen to hijack the plane. Maybe just an odd coincidence I happened to see this tonight, while the search goes on for the Malasian plane.

I can almost not contain my rage at American Airlines! First they screwed up my reservation, which was for a first class round trip from O’Hare to LaGuardia, using miles to upgrade. The result was that they would not let me board the flight I was reserved on, although they admitted they had messed up the reservation. then they scheduled me out on a plane in coach, that was cancelled then on another flight on coach that was late. as a result, I missed my reservation to visit the 9/11 Memorial for the first time.

They also managed to lose my bag, never to be found, so I spent three days and nights in NYC in the clothes I traveled in, despite meetings, dinners, lunches and a Carnegie Hall concert for which I should have been properly dressed.

And then refused 75% of my loss claim for the luggage and its content, after a three-month wait, saying they would not pay for any items valued at over $100 without receipts. Who keeps receipts for clothes over a year old?

All this despite I’ve never had a claim against American before and done hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate and personal business with the airline over decades.

I hate American Airlines, and invite you to as well.

This was the recent Big Foot Airport air show at Walworth, WI. Here’s more of the prop and engine.Here’s the front of the bi-plane. And finally, here’s the entire beautiful bi-plane on the grass at Big Foot. And here's an antique sea plane, shortly before taking off for Geneva Lake. src=”” alt=”” title=”P1010879″ width=”490″ height=”367″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1572″ />

Did you know that the number of pilots in the U.S. has dropped by a third from 1980 till now? We have about 600,000 today. How come? Word War II trained hundreds of thousands of pilots, and many more learned to fly on the GI Bill. Now those left from that era are in their 80s and 90s, and many not flying anymore. Private training programs don’t begin to make up the difference.

How do I know? I’m a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and I read their Sport Aviation magazine (p.6). You could too, by going to I don’t fly myself, but the discounts on John Deere lawn equipment, Ford and so on more than cover membership and it’s fun to keep up on this stuff, and go to the annual monumental Oshkosh Air Show (

There are about 200,000 private planes registered in the U.S., and 71 of them are Russian made MIGs! Here’s a shot of an all-american classic I took at this summer’s Walworth, WI Fly-In.

Here’s link to an article on how to prepare to fly, and cope with the flight, and try to cope with the frustration and avoid the kind of boil-over that contributed to the “Slaterization” of a recent Jet Blue journey.

One other tip: bring something in actual print that you’d like to read, in case the “turn off all electronic devices” command comes just as you’re retreating into your I-Phone or I-Pad or I-Pod.

From today’s WSJ: Viking Air Breathes New Life Into Old Plane
The Twin Otter, Last Built in 1988, Rises Phoenix-Like From Memories, Old Engineering Drawings

December 2022

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