By Joel Hall
From the beginning of commercial flight, until the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s, flying was considered a luxury, and passengers experienced it.
This Saturday, the National Museum of Commercial Aviation in Forest Park will try to create that same experience. From 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., the museum will host an open house to showcase its new exhibit, "Served You Right," which takes visitors on a chronological tour of how airline amenities have changed.
"It wasn't really until the sixties that you saw people flying in mass," said Grant Wainscott, executive director of the museum. "Until the seventies, when you flew a route, it was subsidized. After deregulation, the airlines had to rely solely on cargo and passengers for profits.
"You saw airlines really re-evaluate their profit margins in the 1970s, and we've seen a steady decline in the services on flights since then," said Wainscott.
Several rare items afforded to customers in the earlier days of commercial flight are featured in the exhibit, including brass-plated shaving kits, amenity packets, dinner ware, and serving equipment dating as far back as the 1930s. The exhibit displays items once used in flight by defunct airlines ,and highlights failed advertising campaigns, which catered specifically to men, particularly Braniff International Airways' 1965 "Air-Strip" campaign.
"They really used sex to sell airline seats," said Wainscott. "With each meal, [flight attendants] would have fewer and fewer clothes, basically ... Women would change into cocktail dresses to serve [alcoholic] cordials.
"One flight had about four to six outfit changes," Wainscott continued. "The campaign actually backfired on them, and they lost money on it."
From 11 a.m., to 2 p.m., there will be a free barbecue lunch provided for those in attendance. During that time, Norbert Raith and Erik Bernhard -- both photographers and former Delta Air Lines employees -- will present slide-show presentations on "Airports and Airline Buildings" and "Airlines and Airplanes of the South," respectively.
At noon, Gate Gourmet, a catering service which provides food to most of the planes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will donate a 1985 Ford catering truck, the museums first acquisition of ground support equipment.
Larry O'Keeffe, a 37-year employee of Gate Gourmet, who currently serves as a senior billing specialist, helped facilitate the exchange.
"There is so much that the flying public is not aware of ... what goes on behind the scenes to make their in-flight experience smooth and comfortable," said O'Keeffe. "As I've spent my whole life working in commercial aviation, I tried to find a way for my company to be represented in the museum.
"Discussing that with several senior people, we thought that since we were replacing a lot of our fleet, we could donate a catering high-lift truck," O'Keeffe continued. "We've been working on this for about a year and I'm glad to see it finally done."
"We want to give the visitor a complete experience," said Wainscott. With the acquisition of the catering truck, "We get to display some parts of the industry that usually get looked over.
"Not only is it our first ground support piece, but it made people aware that we are actively collecting these pieces, so it did us immeasurable good," said Wainscott. He said most aviation museums focus only on planes and uniforms, but donations such as the catering truck allow the museum to be "about everything else."
The National Museum of Commercial Aviation is located at 5442 Frontage Road, Suite 102 in Forest Park. For more information, call the museum at (404) 675-9266.