During this flight (Flight 114 departing New York to France), our captain was notified that France was on a national strike. We were only an hour away from Paris. The airport tower and air controllers were included in this national strike. The captain quickly made a general announcement over the speaker “all passengers fasten your seat belts immediately”. The key word “immediately” in the announcement was a code word to alert the crew of a major issue.
We systematically assembled in the galley near the cockpit of our 707 Boeing. The captain informed us of the national strike and the lack of fuel for a diverted landing. The captain was then instructed to land at a French military base outside Paris. We returned to our duties and waited for further instructions.
After short time, the chief purser approached me to inform me that I was selected to be the responsible person for the translations of landing instructions by the non-English speaking French military air controllers. Yikes! I was petrified. My initial reaction was all the visions that came to mind during the times I sat in the cockpit jump seat during take-off and landings. I would watch at the faces of the captain and first officer age by at least ten years during those most stressful moments. (The cockpit also staffed a navigator.) Why me? Well, my family moved to France in the late 1940’s after WWII. We lived in France for ten years and my brother, sister and I spoke french as natives.
I was still petrified. Finally, I bravely marched to the cockpit and we landed safely on the French military base in the middle of a parcel of land near their landing strips. For military security reasons we were precluded from leaving the plane until Pan Am sent buses for all passengers and crew.
It happened that my brother Peter and his family were living in Paris at that time. Before disembarking, my first thought was to bring my family provisions. I grabbed all the non-perishable and food items from first class to take to my brother. Agriculture and customs were no where to be seen, therefore, the provisions would be wasted on the plane.
When I finally arrived at their home in Neuilly, Anne, my sister-in law just marvel over all the goodies. It was like an early Christmas. They were so low on food supplies because all the grocery stores etc were also on strike.
Pan Am Story told by the Pan Am Stewardess who lived it,
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Charles Lindbergh Blvd, Garden City, Long Island, New York 11530
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