Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Leave with Savoir Faire

Today sees me heading off to Montreal for a long weekend, so Savoir Faire devotees; I will be incommunicado for a couple of days.

If I just happened to have been an allied officer during World War II on the North African campaign I would have been on leave with savoir faire in Cairo. Luckily also being an officer meant that I would have been enjoying my leave at either the Mena House or Shepheards Hotel. These were THE places to stay before the war and so it seems during the war also.

They might have been operating on somewhat reduced circumstances, however I could still enjoy a drink on the terrace at Shepheard’s and watch the world go by, and maybe even eavesdrop in on a conversation that was just filled with espionage.

If I was lucky to be billeted at the Mena House, enjoying my afternoon tea by the pool would have been a matter of course. If so inclined I could then climb the Great Pyramid right next door.

So we salute you and have a fabulous weekend.

*Suggested reading, Shepheards Hotel by Nina Nelson.

Savoir Faire in the Air

I think that the general consensus is that most of us are sick of the airline industry, the long lines, the cramped conditions, the lousy food (unless we are up the front) and all the extra charges. Even with the introduction of new aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing’s anticipated 787 Dreamliner, I think that we are all a little jaded. I am an airline and plane buff (I know, who would have known) and rather disappointed. The A380 is an ugly plane, that doesn’t conjure up any of the streamlined ideals that we associate with flight.

It was not always like this. The Vickers VC-10 was an incredibly sleek, stylish airliner both inside and out! It was something an airliner should have looked like! The Vickers VC10 is a British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also be capable of hot and high operations from African airports. The performance of the VC10 was such that BOAC, the initial operator, laid claim to the VC10 providing the fastest crossing of the Atlantic - London to New York, by a jet airliner. This record is still held, to date, by the VC10, for a sub-sonic airliner; only beaten by the supersonic Concorde. What set the VC10 apart was the location of the engines. These were located aft in pods attached to the fuselage below a high T style tail. (Sorry to be technical- but the savoir faire is coming)

With the launch of the VC 10 BOAC held out no stops. Lavish promotional brochures with fabulous artwork highlighted the sleekness and the overall stylishness of this new entry into the jet age. BOAC used word such as aristocrat and superlative with abandon when promoting their new aircraft.

Capitalization was made of the fact that the Rolls Royce engines were at the back of the fuselage creating a silent cabin. Slogans such as “The VC 10 a great step backwards” boosted sales of seats.

Interiors were bright and airy with promotional material showing passengers (much more well dressed than today’s travelling public) enjoying this magnificent aircraft.

If you were travelling first class, BOAC’s famed Monarch service got you to your destination with lots of savoir faire!

Sadly the glamour of the VC 10 started to fade with the advent of the 747 and larger aircraft. Today only a few remain in the service of the RAAF.
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