UAHF Volunteers Visit the Los Angeles Flight Path Museum
The United Airlines Historical Foundation volunteer teams in Chicago and Denver paid a visit in February, 2009 to the Los Angeles Flight Path Museum and Learning Center which is located on the perimeter of Los Angeles International Airport. Those who attended from Chicago were Linda Davis, Barb Hanson and Carole Tye. Laura Coats and Phyllis Jack from Denver joined the group.
The Flight Path museum backs up to the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport. Events are hosted both in and outside the building and, on occasion, aircraft may be taxied over for a special event.
Each group has a special interest in learning more about the museum’s efforts to acquire, preserve and display vintage airline uniforms, which is an ongoing project of the Foundation. In 2009, the United Airlines Onboard Division generously donated all but one set of their large collection of United’s vintage flight attendant uniforms and uniform accessories to the United Airlines Historical Foundation. These items range in date from 1930 to current and will be donated to three or more prominent aviation museums in the United States.
The Chicago team has researched and prepared over 50 description sheets that will accompany the collection along with a DVD of photos of the individual garments and accessories. The Flight Path Museum has a large collection of uniforms from airlines that served the south west corridor of California which included TWA, United, American and Western Airlines when the airport opened to commercial traffic in December 1946. Pan Am joined the early airlines serving Los Angeles one month later in January 1947. The Foundation was able to share the information they had accumulated with Flight Path and vice versa. The Denver team was interested in all United employee uniforms as well as seeking out and sharing overall display ideas.
The day’s events began with a meet and greet by our escort and host, Ethel Pattison. From 1951-1953 Ethel worked as a stewardess for United Air Lines until her marriage at which time she resigned to comply with United’s regulations which required stewardesses to remain single. Ethel’s future in an aviation career would become centered at Los Angeles International Airport where she has worked for more than 53 years.
In 1956, Ethel was among eight young women hired as tour guides to educate the public and business groups on the coming jet age. After passing a civil service test she became Chief Airport Guide which was a newly created position. Throughout the years she played a pivotal role in the development and expansion of the program. She scheduled tours, hired new tour guides and staffed special events.
In November 2002, the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners officially authorized Flight Path to operate an educational facility and museum in the LAX Imperial Terminal. During the next year, Flight Path refurbished the terminal with major support from Los Angeles World Airports, the City agency which operates LAX. The museum opened in September 2003, and the airport guides moved to the site. Ethel continues to serve as the airport’s resident historian and she provides tours of the museum to visiting dignitaries and special groups.
Once inside the museum, we were treated to coffee and a table of sweets after our introduction to Flight Path staff members Eleanor Ginsberg and Marie Happ, who spent the remainder of the day with us. Both women are Airport Guide Supervisors having served 32 and 20 years respectively. Eleanor said “this has been the perfect part-time job for all of us, with flexible hours so we were able to raise our families with few work schedule conflicts.”
Some of their duties include airport tours both on the field and until 9/11, in the terminal and on aircraft. At times they speak to community groups such as the nearby Rotary Clubs and also do public speaking at the museum to many different groups. Immediately after 9/11, they worked to answer questions about flight arrivals in the outer parking lots of the airport keeping in touch with airport operations, since the public was not allowed into the terminal for quite some time.
Meet the Flight Path Museum staff from left to right: Ethel Pattison, Eleanor Ginsberg and Marie Happ.
The agenda for the day at Flight Path took on a casual “Cook’s” tour of the facility and we were allowed to wander in and out of the various rooms to explore areas of individual interest. The Chicago team photographed a selection of garments that were missing from the Chicago collection, including three different uniforms from the 1950s and early 1960s that were worn by Capital Airlines stewardesses. Since Capital Airlines was acquired by United Air Lines in 1961, being able to document some of their uniforms was an unexpected bit of good luck.
United memorabilia from the 1930s to current is featured throughout the museum.
Flight Path staff and United Airlines Historical Foundation uniform team members from Chicago and Denver pose in front of a backdrop of vintage flight attendant uniforms from airlines that flew in and out of Los Angeles over the years. Top L-R– Marie Happ, Carole Tye, Phyllis Jack, Laura Coats, Linda Davis Bottom L-R: Eleanor Ginsberg, Ethel Pattison, Barb Hanson
A 1939 United Summer uniform is featured near center case and in the background is an example of the very first uniform worn in 1930 when Boeing Air Transport, a predecessor company of United pioneered the profession.
Because of its location on airport property, the level structure of the Flight Path Museum and Learning Center has wonderful views of the terminal buildings, an active runway and the iconic “Theme Building” which heralded in the jet age in 1961. The group also got an opportunity to see the 800+ passenger Qantas Airbus 380 that was parked at a nearby gate.
Under the wing of a vintage 1930s DC-3 that is on permanent display at the museum, the group is captured in one final pose. L-R: Ethel Pattison, Barb Hanson, Carole Tye, Linda Davis, Phyllis Jack, Laura Coats, Marie Happ, Eleanor Ginsberg
Visitors to Flight Path can see views of aircraft taking off and landing. A majestic United B747 is taxing in the background.
The day ended on two high notes. The first occurred as we were preparing to leave the museum when Ethel and Eleanor brought out “extra” uniform garments that we were missing from our collections and graciously gifted them to the UAHF. The second highlight was a brief visit to our host’s home that is situated on the beach and steps away from the ocean. We shared reflections of the day, a spectacular sunset and the promise of a lasting relationship between our respective organizations.
The group enjoys a spectacular sunset from the patio of our host, Ethel Pattison.
Other fact-finding trips that are planned for 2009 will include a visit to the Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum in Atlanta and the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Dallas.