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My First Airline

Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:59 am

I suppose this has been done before, but oldies are goldies as they say, so here's the story of the first airline I ever passengered on, and the wonderful flying machines they flung from Scandinavia to various warm and sandy places in the Med.

The centrepiece of this story is Conair, formed from the original Flying Enterprise, which was the airline arm of Scandinavian travel giant Spies Travels. Owned 100% by a hugely intelligent maverick, and also a certifiable madman, by the name of Simon Spies, it was one of the pioneering inclusive tour operators in Scandinavia, and gave many Danes, Swedes and Norwegians their first tast of sun, sea and sangria.

Out of spite more than anything, Simon decided to to get his own wings and created Flying Enterprise, renamed shortly after to Conair (short for Consolidated Airline Company) and set off in pursuit of affordable aeroplanes. Simon never borrowed a cent; everything the company ever owned was bought under his rule was paid for for in cash.

And so it went that my first flight was onboard this very aeroplane:

The immaculate DC-7C. I was only 2 years old for my first flight, so obviously don't remember a thing. Still, nice to know that my first ever fligth was onboard this classic, built in a time when men were men, and sheep were scared.

Alas, the -7s were hardly the fastest things and with an expanding company something bigger and faster was needed. Simon came across a batch of B720s (5 of them to be exact) which he bought, in cash of course, from the US and flew home to Copenhagen. My first flight on a jet was courtesy of this baby:

OY-DSP was a classic straight-pipe, water-injected, turbojet which left a trail of black smoke and was probably the most efficient fuel-to-noise converter this side of a Saturn rocket, producing enough of both smoke and noise to make present day sandalistas keel over enmasse.

A few years later a batch of B720Bs became available. The main difference between the A and B model was the donks, with the B being fitted with the first generation by-pass turbofans. With increased power, longer routes to the Canaries were now possible non-stop, and of course the new engines also helped to reduce the fuel burn. Sadly they also lost the tell-tale smoke trails and generated quite a bit less noise.

Papa Victor flaring for landing in Palma. My first flight on a B was with PV and did go to Palma. Technically speaking then, this could have been a picture of my very first landing in a B, but statistics does not really lend credence to that claim.

Eventually the 720s started showing their age, and after two incidents involving broken nose-gears on landing (no injuries; Conair had some truly gifted airmen) they had to let them go. The search for replacements were long and ardous, but eventually Conair decided to replace 6 x 179 seat Boeings with 3 x 300ish seat Airbii.

November Lima rotating off Palma. This very A300 was my first introduction to wide-body flying, albeit to Salzburg and not Palma.

Then things started to go really pearshaped. Simon had died and left his empire, which was now by far the largest inclusive tour operator in Scandinavia and hugely profitable, in the hands of his widow, a 22 year old bimbo with the mental faculties on par with a trained chimp. She promptly fired all the old hands, who knew what they were doing, and hired her brother (a tool maker) as CEO and a self-professed financial guru as CFO, who obviously hadn't a clue. Together they managed to run the company into the ground in record time.

One contributing factor was their decision to mortage the company on a fleet of brand spanking new Airbus Plastiques, having been pursuaded that would be a brilliant idea by the new generation of starry eyed Captains who'd been given the reins at Conair.

November Delta on short finals to Malta. About the only good thing that came out of buying these aircraft was that they provided me with not a few cockpit rides, thereby giving me the first introduction to a truly cutting modern aircraft.

Not long after, Spies went tits up and Conair was merged with Scanair to form Premiair. Eventually they folded as well, and what was once Conair is now MyTravel Scandinavia.

I hope you enjoyed this little story, now let's hear yours.
From receips and radials over straight pipes to big fans - been there, done that, got the hearing defects to prove

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