Those of you who have flown recently have notice and perhaps used one of several seat-back entertainment devices. Video games, movies, music, audio books, and more. However, back in the 1970s you might remember inflight movies. Movies shown on three or four pull-down screens overhead of the center aisle. Screens about six or eight feet from an ole Bell and Howell 16 mm projector. What was unique about this multiple projector system was the 16 mm film spooled along a track assisted by several cogs starting from the rear projector on to another projector. So, one reel of film would traveled all along the overhead spooling pass and through the lighted projection lens from projector to the next interim projector. Ending up in the
First Class section. A good system when it worked. But it had many weaknesses. Just the film itself traveling from the rear of the aircraft all the way to the front of the plane could catch or break anywhere along the way. A good sixty-feet or so. If one projector broke down or its projection lamp blew, the whole operation would shut down. A sprocket or track could stick ending in a film jumbled wad. All the while each projector sent the audio to each viewing section. But when it all work, and I have witnessed this, a person from the rear of the plane could watch the same scene three or four times as the film progresses overhead from screen to screen. Inflight entertainment in itself. I viewed the original ‘Topgun’ on a flight to Honolulu from L A.
Now all that brings me to this recollection. A flight from Honolulu to Vancouver, BC back in 1973. It was going to be an overnight six-hour flight. Some call it a red-eye. Leave in the afternoon and arrive early the next morning. But let me mention this first. Wife and I were flying what they call non-rev. Space available for airline employees. We were flying on Canadian-Pacific airlines. When we fly non-rev, we must do our best to represent our airline, American Airlines. Which means we must dress in business attire. Sport coat, tie, and slacks for me and a nice dress for my wife. Our three-year-old daughter something appropriate for school wear. Shortly after going through all check points, we boarded the plane and sat together. My guess we were one of the last to board the plane. So, we sat down, buckled up, and stowed our carry-on under the seat in front of us. After we got comfortable in our seats, I thought it be nice to ask for either a complimentary magazine or newspaper. The nice flight attendant told us all reading material has been distributed and had neither mag or a paper left. But since we were basically flying for almost nothing we did not complain. Our daughter had a few play items brought with her. None the less, we just sat there in anticipation of leaving soon. I had noticed that air was not yet flowing from the overhead air nozzle. I twisted it but no air came. We sat for a few more moments and still no air flow. In the meantime, the air temperature in the main cabin began to rise. I began to perspire a bit around my shirt collar. So, I dare loosen my tie a bit and took off my sport jacket and put it in the overhead bin. It took a good hour to get air flowing the main cabin and we had not yet taxied to the tarmac. Just before backing out of our plane’s parking spot the air start to blow from the overhead air nozzle. All in all, it was about an hour and a half after we boarded and then took off. Once in the air at cruising altitude we became comfortable and the sun on the horizon began to set. What a view! It was mentioned by the way there would be no movie onboard.
Since it was not quite sleeping time for all I had ask the flight attendant for a pack of playing cards. Anything to do while waiting for sleeping time. She apologetically mentioned there was only one deck of cards on the plane and another family was using them. But would ask them when they finish to pass them on to us. About fifteen minutes elapsed and the kind attendant handed me the playing cards with this caveat to just use them for about fifteen or twenty minutes and she would pass them on to the next passengers. So, we all played a quick game of books. Drawing and matching numbers. A game our three years ole daughter could play. We played about fifteen minutes a handed the deck back to the attendant and we prepared for an overnight sleep. So much for inflight entertainment.
However, at about six AM the cabin crew was preparing breakfast and it was served. It was a magnificent Canadian breakfast; eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffin, coffee and juice. One of the best inflight meals I’ve ever had. Thank you, Canadian Pacific. We touched down in Vancouver about eight AM.