8 First-Timers for KLM

The first steward, the first jet, the first passenger… there is a first time for everything. Things that are now everyday events had to start somewhere. These are 8 first-timers for KLM.

1. The First Steward and Stewardess

In 1935 KLM formalised the position of steward. The first “attendant” (using the genteel Dutch word hofmeester) to fill the position at KLM was Theo Boyeng, who had experience in the international hotel world and, later, in shipping. Boyeng applied for the job at KLM in 1935. He was one of three attendants to be employed that year at KLM, alongside four stewardesses.

One of the first “air hostesses,” as the function was then known, was Nel de Vrieze. “No fewer than 300 people were invited to apply,” she said in an interview. Following the first selection, there were twenty candidates left. “During a flight in a Fokker, we were tested for our ability to respond to different situations. Later, on the ground, we were subject to another psychological test.”
first stewardesses

2. The First KLM Flight

The first KLM flight ever actually didn’t depart from our home base Amsterdam but flew from London to Schiphol in a leased aircraft. On 17 May 1920 English pilot H. “Jerry” Shaw landed the De Havilland DH.16 G-EALU at Schiphol.

3. The First Dutch Passenger

The return flight from Schiphol to London carried cargo and newspapers as well as two journalists and a letter from Amsterdam’s Mayor Tellegen to his counterpart in London. One was M.J. van den Biggelaar of De Maasbode, published in Rotterdam, who wrote an extensive account of the event.
first dutch passenger klm

4. The First KLM Jet

Late in the 1950s, civil aviation stood on the eve of an unparalleled age. The advent of the jet engine allowed aircraft to increase in size and speed. KLM’s first jet aircraft was the DC-8 which was introduced on the Amsterdam-New York route in 1960.

Compared to the DC-7 and Super Constellation, the Boeing 707 and DC-8 were able to carry almost twice as many passengers and twice as much cargo while reducing travel time on the North Atlantic route by half.

First Jet KLM

5. The First Wide-Body Aircraft

Shortly after the new Schiphol airport opened in April 1967, KLM decided to acquire the Boeing 747 to cater for all the travellers it expected to transport to their destinations in the 1970s. On 31 January 1971, KLM took delivery of PH-BUA, dubbed the Mississippi.

The 747 was an exceptional aircraft for its day with space for 353 passengers. In the KLM fleet, it was a huge leap forward compared to the largest aircraft KLM was operating at that time. It had a variety of consequences for handling, crew, maintenance and catering. Schiphol Airport also had to adjust. All in all, it took several years to prepare for the arrival of the 747.

KLM First Boeing 747

6. The First KLM Head Office

It consisted of just three rooms in a building at number 13 Herengracht in The Hague. The administrative director, Albert Plesman, moved in with a staff of three on 1 November 1919.

KLM maintained its Herengracht offices until 1925, by which time it had expanded so much that it needed new premises, which it found on the Hofweg, also in The Hague. KLM only moved into its hypermodern offices in March of 1971, shortly after celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. It is continues to be KLM’s headquarters up to the present day.

First Head Office KLM

7. The First Transatlantic Flight

On 15 December 1934 a very special flight departed from Schiphol. At ten minutes past midnight, the triple-engine Fokker F-XVIII Snip, registration PH-AIS, took off with a four-man crew. Their final destination was the Antillean island of Aruba. To get there they would have to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They would be the first KLM crew to do so, opening transatlantic service to the Dutch colonies in “the West”. The journey was a true adventure, not least because the last and longest leg of the voyage went over sea. It was thrilling endeavour, which had taken several years to prepare for.

First Transatlantic Flight KLM

8. The First Designer

Since the 1940s and ’50s KLM has made a tradition of seeking out renowned designers and making use of their talents and insights. The first was glass designer Andries Copier. In the late 1940s, plastic utensils were not as popular as they are now. In fact, Bakelite was the only form of plastic in common use. It was most popular for telephones and light switches. In 1948, when KLM came out with a new line of tableware, they put a new form of plastic, Melamine, to use. The tableware was designed by Copier, once chief of the design studio of Royal Leerdam Crystal.

Andries Copier

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Tracy Barber

I would like to become familiar with KLM occasionally posting a comment on something interesting or informative good example too.

Frido Ogier

Dear Tracy,

Looking forward to your comments!

Kind regards,

Frido

Ferriandy Chianiago

I always enjoy Frido’s blog post, it brings me to nice history of one great airliner in the world.
Thank you Frido!

Frido Ogier

Thank you too Ferriandy!

Pieter van Houten

ik heb nog wat foto’s van de aankomst dan de eerste 747 op 31-1-1971.
Wilt u die hebben voor uw blog?

Frido Ogier

Beste Pieter,

Altijd leuk om eens foto’s te krijgen die misschien heel anders zijn dan die in de KLM-archieven zitten. Graag dus. Mocht je op facebook zitten, wil je dan via het KLM-profiel reageren op de post ove het blog dan zorgen de medewerkers van de social media hub dat het bij mij terecht komt.

Alvast hartelijk dank!

Groeten,

Frido

Marcel de Breet

hartelijk dank voor de leuke stukjes! Ga vooral door! Precies 61 jaar geleden, ik was 6, vloog ik voor de eerste keer, en wel meteen naar Colombia….! Weliswaar niet met KLM, maar dat heb ik later wel ingehaald. Kan er veel over vertellen. Mijn hele “carriere” in de luchtvracht gewerkt, dus altijd in contact met de luchtvaart, en dus KLM ook, gebleven!! Gevolg was heel veel vlieguren maken!!En nog steeds ga ik graag aan boord van een vliegtuig!!

Frido Ogier

Beste Marcel,

Vliegen blijft iets magisch houden en dat blijkt maar al te vaak als je de geschiedenis in duikt. Het leuk om te doen en zeker als de lezers er plezier aan beleven. Ik zal dus zeker nog even doorgaan

Karen Gordon

In Alaska where most of our towns and villages are remote, “in the bush” we call it, are reachable only by air. There are no roads. Consequently, the role of aviation has been, and will continue to be, the most critical logistical element of Alaska’s social, political, and economic infrastructure. This means that in remote Alaska villages everything comes by air- food, fuel, building supplies, etc. Bush pilots still are seen as hardy pioneers who tough out challenges like extreme weather and cold and yet still deliver the goods, and people, to their destinations.

Having said all that, this wonderful article struck a chord with me as it provides some exciting similar perspectives of KLM’s pioneering spirit as has been seen in Alaska. So many great firsts upon which are built an array of successes that make KLM a global leader in worldwide commerce. Looking backwards in time gives us a fresh perspective of how far KLM has come while its influence around the world has flourished, and it stirs our heart a little. So thank you, Frido, this look into the past was a nostalgic and fun jaunt into KLM’s pioneering days. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Frido Ogier

Dear Karen,

Thank hou very much for your compliment. It’s good to see that people all over the world read my blog. Every time I do my research for a new blog I try to choose a topic which will interest as many readers as possible. And it’s good to see that I succeed sometimes :-) Have you already read my blog about the Polar route? In these days one of the stops was in Anchorage. There is a nice film included as well. I think you will like it.

Thanks again and keep on reading :-)

Best regards,

Frido

Stephen

I always enjoy what Frido and the team write. I get excited seeing a new blog has been posted.

Keep up the good work

Frido Ogier

Thanks Stephen!

Hans Goede

Voor het eerst gevlogen met KLM omstreeks het jaar 1958. Mooie herinneringen, glaasje medium sherry, heerlijke maaltijd met zilver bestek. Zelfs een cigaartje met een Drambuie. Later jaren gewerkt in internationaal bedrijfsleven. Ben vergeten hoeveel keer ik de oceaan overgestoken bent en hebt een lange rij van Amsterdam gracht huisjes and coasters. Werd uiteindelijk bekend geraakt met het personeel op Schiphol Business lounge en meerderen keer cabine personeel meegemaakt van vorige reizen. Jaren geleden hebben we m’n vader’s vriend Parmentier in Warmond begraven, prachtige man. Op dezelfde vlucht naar Prestwick zaten twee vrienden van onze familie. Maar dat is alweer lang geleden. Ben nu gepensioneerd en vlieg betrekkelijk weinig. Misschien dit voorjaar nog een keer naar A’dam met de KLM. Heb er weer zin in. Leuk om op de hoogte te blijven met KLM.

Frido Ogier

Beste Hans,

Leuk verhaal. Ja, zo ging dat in die jaren. Dat zilveren bestek kun je je bijna niet meer voorstellen, maar er was inderdaad ooit een tijd dat je daarvan in het toestel at. Ik wist niet dat Parmentier in Warmond begraven ligt. Mooi dorp, ik ken het goed. Ik ga morgen weer eens broeden op een nieuw onderwerp voor het volgende blog. Ik zou zeggen: tot volgende week zondag en hopelijk stap je binnenkort weer eens aan boord bij KLM.

Hartelijke groet,

Frido

Elisabeth

Weet ook niet meer hoe dikwijls ik die plas ben overgevlogen van Curacao/Adam en weer terug, met man heerlijk eerste klas, kaviaar, indische rijsttafel en voor de dames een corsage, pure verwennerij ! Ook achterin was het vroeger supergezellig, het vloog letterlijk om, met veel bekenden lekker in de pantry hangen, kids vermaakten elkaar, niets dan leuke herinneringen !

Frido Ogier

Leuk om te horen Elisabeth! Dankjewel voor je leuke reactie.

Groeten,

Frido

Doreen Vlietstra.

Leuk om het allemaal weer te lezen. Mijn schoonmoeder was een van de eerste stewardessen en mijn vader een klm- alm piloot .Nu rest mij de herinneringen. De Snip staat nu eenzaam in een klein gebouwtje bij het Curacao museum. De tegeltjes, die ik nu nog heb, gaan we uitdelen als prijs bij zeilregattas. Met de klm vliegen geeft altijd een soort thuisgevoel.

Frido Ogier

Dankjewel Doreen, fijn dat KLM je een thuisgevoel geeft. Kan me er wel wat bij voorstellen. De meeste blogs gaan inderdaad over lang vervlogen dagen. Hopelijk dat jouw herinneringen goede zijn, maar zo te lezen denk ik dat wel. Tja, de Snip was bijna ten onder gegaan in een hoekje, maar gelukkig is datgene wat ervan over was na restauratie voor ons nog te zien. Woon je op Curacao?

Dank voor je reactie en een hartelijke groet,

Frido

Flora Ilse Bender

Frido, my first flight was with KLM PH-DSE august 13 1958 from frankfurt to São Paulo ; I have a diploma numbered and signed by KLM as an Eolo,s delegate. If you want I can send you a picture ; kind regards Flora

Frido Ogier

Dear Flora,

Have you read my blog ‘A Winged Ritual across the Equator’? As a illustration I used the diploma of my father. I think it’s the same as yours, because he received it in 1957. A year earlier. I can imagine that you still have it, because it’s a nice memory of a memorable flight!

Kind regards, Frido

Priscilla Knaap

I worked at KLM purchasing and repair department, and enjoyed every minute of it, one of the best jobs I have ever had.

Linda

Beste Frido,

Hoe kan ik je artikel het beste printen? Mijn oma heeft heel vroeger als stewardess bij de KLM gewerkt en ik wil haar graag een geprinte versie geven.

James Olano

Amazing really good!! KLM always very best!..around the world!

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