We are indebted to the family of our late member Alan Smith for this fascinating insight to the early days of BEA. Alan was BEA’s Station Engineer at Hanover. Sadly, Alan died in April 2022 at the age of 100.
From British Airways News, April 1977
Three tricky moments on the Hanover inaugural
From WILLI VOGLER in Hanover
What do you do if you have only six sugar cubes and 25 VIP passengers taking coffee?
That was one of three nasty moments for Stewardess Gisela Behrendt, now ahousewife in Berlin, on the first flight of a civil airliner into the newly-opened HanoverAirport on April 26, 1952. Twenty-five years later, on April 26 1977, Gisela and the pilots of Dakota flight BE485 from Berlin to Hanover, together with the former Station Engineer, were guests at a silver jubilee celebration at the airport. Cheered by hundreds of guests, the airport director, Herr Linicus, called on Gisela, Captain Arthur White, Captain Bill Jackson and Engineer Alan Smith and presented them with the golden “Badge of Honour” of Hanover airport.
The British Airways team thanked the airport company and handed over a suitable memento: a shining polished compressor disc engraved “25 years of British Airways services to Hanover”. Gisela’s former colleagues are still in active service: Captain White flies TriStars to the Persian Gulf and Captain Jackson is in command of Boeing 707s with British Airtours. But Gisela herself quit airline service after seven years of duties as stewardess and chief stewardess in 1958- one of the rules of the job in those days.
She was the first ever German stewardess to be employed for the Internal German Services. Today there are 93 German girls looking after the Super One-Eleven flights from Berlin to West Germany.
It was a day of nostalgia forthe British Airways team and Gisela recalled with amusement the three tricky moments on that historic opening day.
The first mishap occurred when Gisela rushed back from the hairdresser for the inaugural flight. She said: “I used to catch a US Air Force coach to Tempelhof. However, that morning it did not operate and taxis were like gold. “What a shock, when I saw the open car of the Governing Mayor of Berlin approaching, escorted by police motorcycles. He was going to Tempelhof, I knew, to join the flight. “In my distress I waved at the mayor. Ernst Reuter,and the incredible happened – he gave me a lift to the airport!”
The second incident came during meal service when Gisela suddenly realised that there were only six sugar cubes in the galley. She put the cubes into her fresh handkerchief and crunched them with the emergency axe. Then, from a saucer, Gisela graciously offered her passengers a few grains of sugar if they wanted some.
Shortly before landing came another setback: a lady got locked in the lavatory! The arrival at Hanover had to be delayed by ten minutes while the passenger was freed. “I never had such an eventful flight,” said Gisela, “but 25 years later I think one can have a good laugh about it!”
The British Airways station in Hanover has been going for more than 25 years, of course. Otto Paul, District Superintendent Hanover, said: “Our operation to this part of Germany started on June 12th 1950 with flights from Dusseldorf via Wunstorf to Berlin. “This was only a temporary base because from autumn 1950 we used the RAF Stationat Bückeburg. The station has so far handled 16 million passengers.”
Thanks to ABAP member Len Jones for assistance with preparing the text for this article.