Both routes knew a lot of alternates, but Iceland was never mentioned, except as a possible stop in the itinerary. The reason for this was that a Constellation did not carry enough fuel to make it with a safe margin all the way from Newfoundland to Shannon/Ireland or Prestwick/Scotland; the Super Connie had wing-tip fuel tanks. So the flight plan was over Iceland; which, flying the Great Circle, was not so much out of the way as it looks on these maps. If, at a certain point, there was enough fuel left, as confidently expected, Iceland was skipped.
How We Flew
to the East and to the West
KLM Far East route
Around 1950, the Fokker aircraft had been replaced with Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-6.
These could make much longer hops much faster, but the trip from Curaçao or Jakarta to Amsterdam still took three or four days.
Now AMS-HML: From Amsterdam to Jakarta, formerly Batavia, ~1950.
Now CUR-AMS: From Curaçao to Amsterdam, ~1950.
Most maps are from a contemporary KLM Flying Dutchman/Vliegende Hollander flight booklet,
New York or
except for the Loftleidir North Atlantic map - the only I found one showing Iceland. Naturally.
The strangest thing about this trip is that we were taken by bus from Idlewild, now JFK, to La Guardia to continue our journey from there. I really can't imagine why.
How Loftleidir almost killed me.
In 1978 we flew Loftleidir Icelandic from Luxembourg to Nassau, Bahamas, and from there to Curaçao. This was the cheapest flight available, and you can bet all hippies knew about this. It was a pandemonium at Luxembourg airport. Many people had a lot of overweight luggage, and Loftleidir was well aware that, apart from the hassles and bad publicity, they would not be able to pay for it; so they just stowed it aboard. Trouble was, without really weighing it. (A KLM captain flying Paramaribo, Suriname - Amsterdam once had all the passengers deboarded and luggage unloaded to weigh it so he knew.)
The DC-8 duly made its take-off rotation and lifted off - only to drop right back on the runway. Really. Would I lie to you about a thing like this? Nothing for the captain to do but to continue the take-off, there was not enough runway left to abort it. Well, we made it and flew on to Shannon in Ireland.
This airport is a sad case. It was built to enormous proportions to accommodate those flights to Newfoundland for Constellations and Douglas DC-6s; I know it from those days. (It was the scene of a famous KLM crash.) Then, the jet age set in and nobody needed Shannon any more (just like Newfoundland, I presume). You walk around in these enormous empty halls with empty restaurants and empty shops. It must then have had pretty low landing rights, a good reason for the budget-conscious Loftleidir to use it.
Anyway, the DC-8 was absolutely fueled up to the gills to make it to Nassau from there, and the captain taxied all the way to the end of the runway with the two back wheels actually in the grass. Normally, they then crank up their engines, start the run, crank up the engines to take-off power, pick up speed, rotate and take off. But this guy jammed on the brakes and had the engines up to maximum power before releasing the brakes. Then, he forced the DC-8 to remain on the ground until the last possible moment; I couldn't see it from where I was sitting but my guess is with flaps fully extended. Well, we made it again; and the cockpit crew must have been as relieved as we were. Amazingly enough, it looked like hardly any other passenger had an inkling. I know too much; I have never been that scared on a flight before or since.
Not in the DC-3 Dakota when we had to film a stall, or in a Constellation when the motor started burning.
And more power to Douglas for their DC series - including the much-vilified DC-10, which I loved to fly in.
First Summer Schedule
In winter the route went via Marseille for better weather conditions.
Day depart from Stops distance total km 1-Thursday Amsterdam Halle
2-Friday Athens (Mersa-Matruh)
3-Saturday Caïro Gaza
4-Sunday Baghdad Bushir
5-Monday Jask Karachi
6-Tuesday Jodhpur Allahabad
7-Wednesday Calcutta (Akyab)
8-Thursday Rangoon Bangkok
9-Friday Medan Palembang
9 days 14159km
This added 500km to the distance, resulting in a 10-day trip.
The crew flew the next plane back; a return trip took them five weeks.
The Flight of the Snip
To compare, the schedule for British Imperial Airways London-Calcutta, just over half the distance.
days depart from transportation arrive at 1-Saturday London airplane Paris 1-3 Sat-Monday Paris rail (33 hours) Brindisi 3-Monday Brindisi sea plane Athens 4-Tuesday Athens sea plane Galilea 5-Wednesday Galilea airplane Basra 6-Thursday Basra airplane Jask 7-Friday Jask airplane Karachi 7 days 7800km
Universal World Atlas
By Rand McNally & Company.
They're in the USA, so don't blame them for emphasizing North America a bit.
(This is a good deal.)
Military and civil aviation from the beginnings to the present day:
- The history of powered flight
- The world's great aircraft
through the ages
- A-Z directory of almost
- Technical glossary
- Over 1000 reference
Color photos arranged chronologically, from airliners originating in the 1930s up to the early jetliners - the de Havilland Comet and the Boeing 707. Includes older versions of current models as the Boeing 727 and 747. Many photos show these veteran airliners in recent action.
maps & charts
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