NEW YORK -- American Airlines launched the nation's first transcontinental jet passenger service today with a record-smashing Boeing 707 flight from Los Angeles to New York that shrank the nation in half.
The sleek silver plane made the flight in airline official time of 4 hours and 3 minutes, half the usual scheduled time for DC- 7CS. It was airborne in Los Angeles at 12:01 p.m. (EST) and was clocked over the Idlewild International Airport tower here at 4:04 p.m.
The same four-jet transport, nearly half as long as a football field, then turned around and flew back to Los Angeles with the first load of east to west transcontinental passengers. It departed at 6:27 p.m. EST.
It arrived back at Los Angeles International Airport at the unofficial time of 12:47 a.m. EST, 50 minutes behind its scheduled 5 1/2 hour flight time because of 100-mile-an-hour headwinds encountered mostly in the storm-ridden midsection of the nation.
But although behind its hoped-for schedule, it was still about 2 1/2 hours ahead of the usual flight time for propeller-driven craft.
Among the capacity load of 112 passengers on the inaugural eastbound flight was 89-year-old Gilbert Wright of Del Mar, Calif., wealthy retired Realtor who made his first trip west from Illinois to California by train in 1883. That trip took seven' days and seven nights.
Today's flight was in sharp contrast to the first transcontinental passenger trip, made by the old Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., now Trans World Airlines, on Oct. 25, 1930. It took 39 hours westbound and 34 hours, 18 minutes eastbound, including 11 stops.
The fares for today's flights were $193.88 for one-way first-class and $124.40 for one-way coach.
Also aboard was actress Jane Wyman, who donned a stewardess' uniform in flight and posed for pictures. Other passengers included Dr. Frank Stanton, presdient of Columbia Broad casting System, Horace Stoneham, president of the San Francisco Giants baseball team and retired Gen. Robert R. Scott, author of "God Is Our Co-Pilot."
The westbound load of 112 passengers included poet Carl Sandburg, who dedicated the four million dollar Boeing plane at Idlewild Airport shortly before it took off.