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Whenever somebody gets nostalgic about the past, I get
suspicious. In the eigth century BC, Hesiod was already moaning
about how things aint like they used to be.

The Wall Street Journal has a great article about how nostalgic people get
for the way air travel used to be in the 1950s — with more leg
room, less hassle and more romance.

Piffle. Compard with today, it was expensive, dangerous and

The piston-driven planes of those
days, like the Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-7, were noisy
and often ferociously bumpy. They couldn’t fly over storms and
turbulence the way jet-powered airplanes can. Engine failures were
more frequent. So were crashes. And the cost of a ticket was
affordable for only an elite few.

The 1960s were no picnic either:

In one month alone-January
1969-eight airliners were hijacked to Cuba… The fatal accident
rate per departure in 1969 was 13 times higher than in

Here’s the Journal’s remarkable table comparing different eras
in flight:


1949 1959 1969 2009
Typical plane Douglas DC-3; Convair 240 Lockheed Constellation; Douglas DC-6
and DC-7
Boeing 707 and 727; Douglas DC-8 and
Boeing 737; Airbus A320
Typical cruise speed 150 mph 300 mph 500-600 mph 500-600 mph
Average price to fly one mile* $0.57 $0.44 $0.34 $0.14
New York-Los Angeles one-way
$1,447 $785 N/A $298
Passengers on U.S. airlines 16.7 million 60.3 million 171.9 million 769.5 million
Number of flights 2.3 million 3.9 million 5.4 million 10.1 million
Fatal accidents per 100,000
2.868 1.653 1.302 0.098
Net profit (loss) for U.S.
($42 million) ($25 million) $409 million ($4 billion)





By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  wall-street-journal