• Ellen Church, the First Flight Attendant in History

Today we bring you a very interesting and special post… Does the name Ellen Church ring a bell? No? And what if we told you that she was the first stewardess or flight attendant in history?

You know that aviation works like a colossal mechanism in which each part is essential to operate efficiently, quickly and, above all, safely.

That is why today we are going back more than a century in time. We will find out how the job of flight attendant came about, who Ellen Church was and why it was she, and not someone else, who became the first cabin crew member in the history of aviation. Will you stay to find out?

The birth of a new profession

In 1930, there lived a young nurse who dreamed of becoming an airline pilot, a profession that was reserved for men at the time. Her name was Ellen Church and, although she was aware that her dream of flying was impossible, one day she went to Boeing headquarters determined to put forward a ground-breaking proposal.

Ellen proposed the idea of incorporating personnel in the passenger cabin to be able to attend to passengers in situations of fear of flying, nervous breakdowns or minor medical problems. She could even assist pilots in case of indisposition.

The idea was readily accepted by the Boeing management, partly encouraged by Ellen’s enthusiasm during the interview.

And so it was that same year that Nurse Ellen Church had her first flight as a stewardess, aboard a Boeing 80-A between Oakland and Chicago. On her own with fourteen passengers for more than 20 hours of flight time and thirteen stopovers – quite an adventure!

Did you know…?

Ellen Church was born in Cresco, a small town in the US state of Iowa. And thanks to her passion for flying and her brilliant work, Cresco airport is named Ellen Church Field in her memory.

The Sky Girls, the first cabin crew in history

Following the success of Ellen’s work, Boeing managers made it a condition for her to continue in her position: she had to find seven more nurses to do the job. Thus was born the first crew in history.

And almost immediately, companies began preparing uniforms, training manuals and schedules. It was unstoppable, a new profession was born: the flight attendant or cabin crew member.

The Sky Girls, as they were christened, were to be all professional nurses, under 25 years of age, unmarried and with a maximum weight and height, namely 52 kg and 162 cm. And all this, with a salary of about 125 dollars a month. These were certainly strict requirements that have nothing to do with today’s requirements.

How the job of Flight Attendant has changed

Nowadays, fortunately, there are no longer any gender barriers: both men and women can work in the air, either as pilots or cabin crew.

Moreover, training, ability, professionalism and a willingness to work in a team are the priorities for the job of flight attendant or cabin crew member. All of this is to ensure the safety of passengers on board.

And another aspect that has changed is the number of crew members on a flight. Although there are some peculiarities, there will generally be one flight attendant for every 50 passengers.

Ellen Church’s legacy in the airline industry

It is clear that Ellen Church left a lasting legacy in the airline industry. Although her career as a flight attendant lasted only 18 months due to a car accident, she remains a figurehead in the world of aviation.

In 1964, she was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame and, in 2010, the 80th anniversary of her first flight was celebrated with a special event at San Francisco International Airport.

Without a doubt, the idea of that young 25-year-old nurse was a revolution in air passenger transport. Can you imagine getting on a plane today without flight attendants? No way!

If you want to discover other famous figures in aviation, we recommend our post about the first aeroplane in history or these others about personalities such as Glenn Curtiss or Amelia Earhart.

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