25 February 2017
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Established 2005
Vickers Viscount Network
A Virtual Museum dedicated to the Vickers-Armstrongs VC2 Viscount

My first day as a United Air Lines Stewardess

Beth (Monast) Krzaczek tells the story of her first day as a Viscount Stewardess

Beth Krzaczek
Beth Monast

My first trip as a United Air Lines 'Stew' was in August 1968; the crew desk had called me for a O'Hare/Lansing turnaround on the Viscount.

I was as nervous as hell, so I check-in early and headed out on the tarmac with my stewardess manual opened and ready to familiarize myself with the aircraft. The first thing the manual said was to stow my bag in the crew luggage rack located straight ahead, up the stairs, as you entered the aircraft. A special note said 'to be sure, attach the luggage webbing'.

The uniforms of the day were the new 'Jean Louis' designed mini dress with zip front racing stripe complete with a 'Kepi' hat. Upon entering the aircraft I found the crew luggage rack, but the manual should have also said 'stoop, don't bend over to stow your luggage', as when I bent over my one piece dress really rose up and became a micro-mini - the Co-Pilot coming up the stairs got an eye full.

Straight out of 'Stew' school this was not the way you want to meet your first pilot crew member! I believe his name was Swensen, a tall blonde good looking guy. For the remainder of our trip together, whenever the opportunity arose, he would say 'you've got to swing that thing, baby'!

When I was in 'Stew' school, stewardesses on the line were wearing the old uniform ... navy blue skirt and jacket with the 'Scoop' hat. There was much expectation on the debut of the new uniform, as UAL had paid Jean Louis $1,000,000 for his design of the new uniform. If you remember back then, 'Stew' uniforms were all the rage... PSA had their girls in hot pant shorts and Braniff's ladies wore mini dresses with an optional astronaut space helmet.

A few classes ahead of me the 'Stews' were issued both the 'Scoop' and 'Kepi' hat uniforms. The reason for this was in case they were on a layover the day of the uniform change. They would wear the 'Scoop' uniform on their outbound trip and the new 'Kepi' uniform following the official change date.

We were issued 3 dresses ... a white one with a red/orange coloured racing stripe, a navy dress with a white racing stripe, and a red/orange dress with a white racing stripe. When you wore the navy uniform, it was mandatory that you would wear a white nylon hose that was held up by a mandatory garter belt! In flight we had to completely change into a red/white/blue panelled serving dress. I remember one trip on a DC-8 I went into the aft blue room to change during the taxi ... got out of the uniform and while trying to slip into the serving dress I leaned against the blue room door ... it flew open and I tumbled out in my mandatory one piece bra/slip in front of 4 men sitting in the aft lounge!

As for the hat, we all hated it! It had to be worn at all times except in-flight. United's policy during an evacuation, after you had yelled 'grab ankles, keep your head down until the plane stops, release seatbelts and get out' ... was not to open the exit, but FIRST put on your 'Kepi' hat so that passengers could identify you as a crew member!

United Air Lines Viscount c/n 104 N7406
Viscount N7406

On the Viscount while holding the mike for the PA announcement, you also had to simultaneously point out the exits, etc. I can remember someone telling me to be sure to stress to the passengers to only open the window exits, complete with ropes, during an evacuation. I had been told that apparently a depressed military guy had opened a window during a Viscount flight and jumped to his death!

Now for the flight ... after 6 weeks in 'Stew' school being groomed and pampered, I arrived on the airport scene with long perfectly manicured finger nails. I could not say the same thing when we arrived back in O'Hare. I had only one long manicured thumb nail left having managed to snap off the other nine with those damn latches on the galley doors!

Speaking of the galley, my manual stated that there was a 'fire screen window' in the galley which was located in the aft of the aircraft. It went on to state that a fire in the cargo could only be seen through this window and that it was my responsibility to monitor the window and report to the Captain if I saw any smoke or flames. Well, I took this very seriously and was lucky to have completed the service prior to landing. I look back now and can still see myself checking the window, running out two trays, checking the window again before I ran out the next two trays ... and on and on! I should have gotten a 'Smokey the Bear' merit award!

Wish I had flown more flights on the Viscount, but the memory of my first flight on this aircraft will stay with me forever!

Happy Landings

Beth Krzaczek

Beth Krzaczek Stewardess Class of August 1968
Beth Monast (right hand side, back row) and her graduation class of 21 August 1968


Photo of BEA - British European Airways Viscount G-AOJC

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This website has been designed, built and is maintained by Geoff Blampied, Norwich, Norfolk, England.