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Overseas National Airways Crew Friendship Site
AIR BAHAMA HISTORY BY FRED COX CREW FRIENDSHIP REUNION WEBSITE FIRST PUBLISHED JULY 16, 2000

Boeing 707-320c
N525EJ, 1969

Nettie with ONA

ABC CREW


Shannon Ireland- Nettie
celebrating her 1968 birthday

DC-8-63CF
Le Bourget
Paris 1977

DC-8-63CF
Shannon
Ireland 1972

DC-8-63CF
Basel Mulhouse
Switzerland 1976

DC-8-63CF
Arlanda
Sweden 1976

DC-8-63CF Iceland 1976

INTERNATIONAL AIR BAHAMA CREW WEB



The Air Bahama Story
by Nettie Miller


Dedicated to the Air Bahama crew
The Beginning


Published June 2000
In the little village of New York City there 
once lived a stewardess named Nettie Miller 
who loved her life and her wonderful airline --
Overseas National Airways.  

One day I received a call from a dear friend 
of mine, Rona. She told me a friend of hers, 
Tommy Thompson,  was starting a new airline 
and would like to interview me in New York 
regarding being Chief Flight Attendant of 
this fabulous new adventure.  
Bahamas´ Minister of Communications 1968 The Honorable Mr. Arthur Foulkes (centre) pictured with (left to right) Daniel A. Mitchell, Nassau based manager for Int´l Air Bahama, Patsy Roberts, Adela Adderley, Emily Williams and Maddie Johnson, four of the Bahamian recruits who joined the IAB airline staff as stewardesses, and Miss Nettie Miller, IAB´s chief stewardess. With mixed feelings I met Rona and Tommy in New York and over many martinis and dinner I was talked into becoming the Chief Flight Attendant of an airline which at that time was still in the beginning stages with nothing finalized. I returned home to my two roommates Teddy Pakosta and Fifi LaBine of Overseas National Airways where I was working as Senior Stewardess (Purser), to tell them about what I had just done. It was a dream job I had always wanted. I wanted to be the best Chief Flight Attendant in the world. I wanted everyone to love me and I wanted the opportunity to show that I could do it. Tommy Thompson told me the story of the proposed airline. In the United States supplemental air carriers are required to have a certificate to fly passengers. There were at the time, 1968, only 17 of these certificates for non-commercial airlines in the United States. Tommy managed to buy the last remaining certificate from a small airline company called Johnson Flight Service in Missoula Montana. Tommy had previously operated an air carrier in Alaska but it had gone out of business and he then started a huge freight shipping company with headquarters in Alaska and Seattle. Because of his previous contacts with the airline industry he contacted his old friend Buck Mansfield and the two of them set out of find financing, staffing of pilots using international connections. On photo to the left Margie Ave Torres, Sylvia King, unknown, Lena Granquist Wright, Sophia van´t Hof v d Heuvel and Anneke Hoffmann Placide I am unclear exactly how Buck and Tommy met Norman Ricketts and whether Norman Ricketts introduced them to General Lassiter or not. Some of the names on the Board of Directors sounded very impressive to me: Jimmy Stewart (the movie star), General LeMay (head of the Strategic Air Command and a 4 Star General (who later ran for Vice President of the United States with Henry Wallace), Arthur Godfrey (well-known radio and TV star), Al Smith (CEO of Standard Oil), General Tibbitts, the captain of the Enola Gay airplane that dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan, to name just a few. I only know they managed to get together to attempt to get financing for this carrier and approval from the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority). General Lassiter and Tommy met with the top people at the Pennsylvania Railroad. And we were off but not yet cleared by the FAA. One of the reasons for the delay in clearance was that a public transportation company is not allowed to own another public transportation company such as a railroad running an airline so they were out to find new backers - such as U.S. Steel. This is against all antitrust laws in the United States. However, that did not slow down the Pennsylvania Railroad for putting up the money to get IAB off the ground. Another movie star trivia about Executive Jet is that John Denver’s father “Dutch” was a pilot with Executive Jet. Major Norman Ricketts was the prime mover of IAB. He is the one who swung the route certificate from the Bahamas government. Ricketts was chairman and president when he entered into an agreement to wet lease a Boeing 707-355C from EJA, the lease to start July 1, 1968. Because of General LeMay’s connections as well as General Lassiter, Boeing sold an airplane or two to Executive Jet. I left for Columbus Ohio in November of 1967 with great terror of what I had done and still keeping my name on the seniority list at ONA (I was No. 2). Teddy was No. 1 about to be married and Fifi No. 3. When I arrived in Columbus Tommy met me. He was only there about two days and off he went to be with his wife and son for Thanksgiving. Nettie in Hawaii I was put in charge of hiring and training stewardess for the smaller aircraft owned by Executive Jet Airlines, getting uniforms, training and writing a manual for the airline as well as being expected to work some of the flights if needed by General Lassiter. Plus write a manual for the new airline in my spare time. I found an apartment, Buck helped me get a car and off everyone went to spend time with their families. I was all alone and very homesick I can tell you. I spent my Thanksgiving alone crying in my beer and the next day I began training Executive Jet Stewardesses. One of the hostesses I hired was “Dreama Jeanne Foster” - who could resist that name - related of course to the great American songwriter and folk singer Stephen Foster. Months passed as negotiations were on-going with Pennsylvania Railroad, the FAA, and other possible financiers. Nicole Krettels Burnett and Karen Fawkes Foxlunn doing publicity for Air Bahama dressed in the wonderful white uniforms of 1968! Norm Ricketts and I met over uniforms (he wanted them 2 inches shorter than I did and the military brass wanted them 2” longer than I did. A compromise was reached after a great deal of bickering. I won! I knew this great uniform designer in New York, Norman had the design and I picked the pale orange and lime green with also the white that Norman wanted but I felt was too impractical on a day to day basis. That crisis over and Executive Jet running smoothly and stewardesses trained on small jets - occasionally I took one of the flights when The General asked me to - and then I was finally called in to meet with THE GENERAL!! Lassiter of course with Tommy (my friend and protector). I was to go to Europe - first to Luxembourg, I picked Sweden as the place I wanted to hire stewardesses because I had worked with so many wonderful gals on ONA and also because I knew they all spoke at least 2 or 3 languages. Photo by the swimmingpool of the Blue Vista Hotel in 1968, Lena Granquist Wright, Elisabeth Gustavsson Gyllman, Gun Vidal, Gunilla Hammar Safstrom and Viveka Hanngren. The language requirement was very important- they also wanted me to go to Luxembourg and hire at least 3 or 4 gals there. Norman wanted Euro-Asian girls from Amsterdam so off I went on a great adventure. General Lassiter gave me his Polaroid camera to take pictures of each of the candidates. I was to be in charge of interviewing and my recommendations were to be of great importance but they might wish to review my choices. The biggest conflict I had with everyone was age. They wanted only candidates to be not over 21 and I said I would not hire anyone under 21. I could not possibly be responsible for training, hiring, supervising, etc. inexperienced and immature girls. It was just too big a responsibility and I did win that round. Before I left for Luxembourg I contacted Fifi in New York whether any of the ONA stewardesses would be interested in coming to the new airline. I was especially interested in my dear old buddy Elisabeth Gustavsson and Fifi gave me her phone number and she was interested and I hired her. I also contacted Gun Vidal and an American gal Sylvia - because she also spoke two languages and had left ONA and returned to Los Angeles. Inauguration flight from Nassau International Airport Bahamas to Findel Airport Luxembourg on July 20, 1968. On photo from left to right:
  • Nassau Station Manager Nick Mennon
  • Major Norman Ricketts
  • Helene Lassiter-Brownson
  • Elisabeth Gustavsson Gyllman
  • Airport Official
  • Nettie Miller
  • Captain John "Jake" Jacobs
  • Gunilla Kuylenstierna (Key) Crawford
  • Findel Airport Official
  • Anna Eriksson
  • Sylvia King and
  • Anette Englund Martins RIP


  • CHIEF STEWARDESS
    NETTIE MILLER



    Nettie in Palm Springs 2004

    
    
    
    Claudine Hastert Ferron, Nettie Miller, 
    Elisabeth Gustavsson Gyllman, Eva Thelning Marco 
    and Connie awaiting pax boarding in departure 
    lounge at Nassau International Airport 1968
    
    Then off to Luxembourg where an ad was placed 
    in the newspaper.  The evening I arrived in 
    Luxembourg I received a mysterious phone call 
    from a gentleman who invited me to come to his 
    restaurant for dinner - he was the owner and 
    wanted to talk to me about the ad.  Now I 
    probably wouldn’t have gone but in those days 
    it was a great adventure - I had a wonderful 
    dinner and the mysterious caller came over and 
    introduced himself to me  (after 30 years or 
    so I don’t recall his name). 
     
    He did want to talk to me about hiring his 
    friend Lillian Steinmetz (who had flown 
    with other supplemental air carriers in 
    Africa). 
     
    I told him I would interview her the next day 
    along with the other candidates and because 
    he spoke so highly of her I was looking 
    forward to meeting her. I ended up hiring 
    Lillian Steinmetz because she was a bit 
    older and had experience as a stewardess 
    and I liked her.  
    
    (Tragically a year later she was killed in 
    a car accident when she was in Luxembourg 
    visiting her parents.  As soon as I heard 
    of the terrible event I flew to Luxembourg 
    to see her parents. Lillian was their only 
    child and they were devastated.   
    
    Lillian’s father and mother told me how 
    much it meant to her to be chosen as an 
    IAB stewardess and asked that Lillian be 
    buried in her white airline uniform and 
    asked if the stewardesses from IAB would 
    participate in the funeral.  
    We all did of course wearing our beautiful 
    white uniforms and white coats and walking 
    beside the hearse to the grave site.   
    It was a wonderful gesture on IAB’s part 
    to let the hostesses fly to Luxembourg 
    to do this for Lillian’s parents.
    
    
    
    
    Gun Vidal, Margie and Vernica Ferguson 
    doing promotion for IAB in Nassau
    
    After interviewing in Luxembourg, Stockholm, 
    Amsterdam, I arrived in Dublin to make 
    arrangements with Air Lingus to do the 
    training for IAB.   
    
    I had completed all my interviewing of 
    possible candidates and I spent many an hour 
    going over each interview and selecting who 
    I thought would be the candidates I would pick.  
    I had already chosen Gun and Elisabeth 
    (my former ONA buddies) and Elisabeth had 
    sent me Helene Falk's 
    resume while I was in Stockholm and I included 
    her as well as Sylvia. 
     
    When I returned to Columbus with pictures 
    and my story of each gal and the resumes 
    Dick Lassiter told me "Nettie I trust you completely.  
    You choose all of the gals you want and that 
    is to be the final decision." I was thrilled 
    because I think I picked a great bunch.    
    
    
    I looked upon all the Swedish gals with great 
    love and a bit of favoritism I might add and 
    little darling Dutch Anneke 
    (who I adored the minute I saw her) and Margie.  
    A big hug! How I would love to see them again.  
    I did have the pleasure of seeing Margie and 
    Donin San Francisco and that 
    is another story!
    
    This does not mean that I did not love every 
    one of the girls I selected and all turned 
    out to be wonderful hostesses and I would 
    like to think were all treated fairly.
    
    Who can forget our wonderful stay in Dublin.  
    The movie crew of Darling Lily - Rock Hudson, 
    Julie Andrews, Blake Edwards, etc. etc.  
    The nightly gathering at the hotel of all the 
    local Irish men to flirt and admire our 
    wonderful trainee flight attendants.  
    
    Margie and I sharing the affection of that 
    crazy German who played the famous flying ace 
    “The Baron” and his dyed blond tresses - 
    however, he did have a sense of humor.  The 
    fantastic training provided to us by Aer 
    Lingus and Marian McCreery. How sad it was 
    to learn of her death.  What a truly charming 
    lady.  I shall never forget and I am sure you 
    won’t either the 5 weeks in Dublin.  
    
    
    
    Graduations at Aer Lingus, Dublin, 
    Ireland, 1968 - photo taken across the road 
    from training classes location close to 
    Dublin Airport.
    
    Air Bahama Chief Hostess Nettie Miller and 
    Aer Lingus Training Class Supervisor Marian 
    McCreery not present in photo.
    
    Left to right Sophia vantHof - van den Heuvel,
    Daisy Leenart, Helen Falk Brownson, 
    Thelma Otto, Anna Eriksson, Gunilla Kaye 
    (Kuylenstierna) Crawford, Elisabeth Gustavsson 
    Karlson, Anette Englund Martins, Gun Vidal, 
    Nicole Krettels Burnett, Claudine Hastert 
    Ferron, Liliane Steinmetz, Gudrun Johansson 
    Federico, Eva Thelning Marco, Lucy Timmermann 
    Justiliano, Mia McCreery Topping, Sylvia King, 
    Carin Bergquist Skoglund, Lena Granquist Wright, 
    Betty Marie-Berthe Frieders Kuntziger, 
    Viveca Hanngren, Gunilla Hammar Safstrom 
    and Anneke Hoffmann Placide.
    
    The triumphant return to Columbus, Ohio where 
    I am sure most of the Swedish girls especially 
    were surprised to learn is not filled with 
    Woolworth stores but actually quite charming, 
    and then on to the Bahamas and the FAA exercise 
    to evacuate the airplane.  
    
    
    
    
    Photo Crew lodging at Hotel Blue Vista Club,
    Nassau Bahamas
    
    I pause to quote an article written by a 
    reporter in Miami about our new airline, 
    an article in the International 
    Stewardess News. 
    
    AIR BAHAMA VACATION
    SPECIAL TO LUXEMBOURG
    
    "An airline is born.  Air Bahama made its 
    inaugural flight from the Bahamas to 
    Luxembourg July 20 1968 and will operate on 
    a three trips per week basis. With a 180 
    passenger Boeing 707 leased from 
    Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. of Columbus, 
    Ohio, the airline got off the ground with 
    the first few weeks booked solid. 
    Air Bahama could be called a vacation 
    special, and that is its look, from the 
    colorful sunburst and firebird on the plane’s 
    tail down to the straw hatted, bare 
    midriffed hostesses."
    
    What does it take to start an airline?  
    At one time it might have been just an 
    airplane and someone to fly it.  Today 
    the important thing is a piece of paper, 
    the certificate, as Executive Jet 
    Aviation found out.
    
    Executive Jet has the planes, two 727’s and 
    two 707-320-C’s, in addition to all of 
    their smaller craft, but have been unable 
    to talk the CAB into going along with their 
    starting a new supplemental carrier.  
    Or buying out one already in existence, 
    Johnson Flying Service in Montana.
    The reason:  Executive Jet is backed by the 
    Pennsylvania Railroad, and the CAB is 
    rather sticky about a surface transportation 
    company owning an airline.  
    
    However, this technicality is being remedied, 
    with U.S. Steel and Burlington Ind. 
    buying out the Railroad’s interest, so 
    Executive Jet still hopes to make it.
    
    
    
    On the other side of the ocean in Bristol, 
    England, is a former RAF Major, Norman 
    Ricketts.  Major Ricketts had all the little 
    pieces of paper necessary to start an airline, 
    but he too, lacked one important thing, 
    an airplane.
    
    So Major Ricketts leased one of Executive 
    Jet Aviation jets, and Air Bahama was born.
    Retired Col. John H. Kunkel, Jr. of 
    Executive Jet said it is a “wet lease agreement, 
    and that’s as close as we can get to operating 
    a supplemental air carrier at the moment.”
    
    Under a wet lease, they supply the airplane, 
    the flight crews, maintenance and fuel.
    Aside from the 707, probably the most important 
    thing Executive Jet supplied were the services 
    of their own Director of Flight Attendants, 
    Nettie Miller.  
    
    Nettie at one time flew as a stewardess 
    with Bonanza and later with Overseas National Airways.
    Nettie proved to have a real talent for picking 
    hostesses and uniforms. She hired four [sic - 
    actually ten] Swedish girls, four Dutch, four 
    Indonesian, four from Luxembourg, one Irish 
    and one American.
    
    The girls have diversified backgrounds. 
    One is a glider pilot, one worked with a 
    psychiatrist, one was a ballet dancer with a 
    famous troupe.  There is a teacher, 
    a former Hertz employee, ground hostesses 
    from SAS, two from a small Swedish airline, 
    a model, and one, Helen Falk of Sweden was 
    in the June issue of Playboy Magazine.
     
    (Helene insisted, however, on being fully 
    clothed for the picture.)
    
    Nettie took her group to Aer Lingus in Dublin 
    for training with Marian McCreery, “because,” 
    said Nettie, “Aer Lingus is known for the 
    friendliness of their hostesses.  
    
    They have time to be true hostesses aboard 
    their planes, and that is what we want on 
    Air Bahama.  We want the passenger to feel 
    they are guests in our home.
    
    Aer Lingus obviously did a good job.  At the 
    end of the first flight, the passengers, 
    in what is probably an unprecedented action, 
    stood up and applauded the girls.  
    
    Eleven of the hostesses were brought to Miami 
    for emergency equipment training with Eastern 
    Airlines and for check out with the FAA.
    
    Holiday Tours is handling the booking for Air 
    Bahama and round-trip fare for the nine hour 
    Nassau to Luxembourg flight is around $300.
    
    


    Nettie on a sailing trip with
    Nassau Station Manager Nick Mennon,
    travel agents David Bowery UK + his mother.

    Fifi and Mark, Luxembourg Office.

    Nettie and Elisabeth at Nassau Beach Hotel.

    Eva Thelning and Elisabeth at Cable Beach.
    
    
    JD and Don, two of all IAB expert pilots
    
    Those connected with Air Bahama believe they 
    have a winning run.  for the American 
    going to Europe, Luxembourg is only a short 
    distance from any European cities.  
    
    For the European seeking the sunshine of the 
    Bahamas, or who wants to make connections 
    to Miami but by-pass New York, Air Bahama 
    may be the answer.”
    
    I think so often of our wonderful days in 
    the Bahamas, Fifi joining the airline from ONA, 
    all the days and nights at the Casino - 
    Champagne everybody!!!!! - all the training 
    flights, my friend Betty Bartko visiting from 
    San Francisco, spending Thanksgiving on the 
    airplane, side trips to Paris and Brussels.  
    The wonderful friendship and the fun of being 
    the Chief Stewardess of a wonderful airline.  
    I used to get calls from everywhere asking 
    the gals to attend this and that and they 
    would invite me too.  I felt like a movie 
    star at times! Betty was very impressed and 
    still talks about it today.  I never would 
    have left except I was asked to go to Miami 
    to check on training equipment. I never returned.  
    Ev Terry met me there and requested that I 
    resign and that I would not be able to return 
    and that they would send for my personal things.
    
    
    Luxembourg stewardess Betty Frieders Kunziger The reason I was exciled from the Bahamas and not being able to even say goodbye (like Napoleon) was because Tommy Thompson resigned. As you know, he hired me and was my very dear friend. Also his friend Buck Mansfield and my special friend resigned with Tommy. They told me everything that was happening, all about Lassiter and his many lady friends, the government's case against the Pennsylvania Railroad and if Air Bahamas was not taken out of the control of the railroad and sold that it was going down the tubes and Lassiter with it. They felt I could not be trusted to keep on as Chief Stewardess knowing what I knew about the present management at IAB. Air Bahama reunion in Stockholm Sweden July 2004, left to right Uffe Karlson, Olive Rolle Schneider, Elisabeth, Nettie, Sophie vant Hof v d Heuvel and Anna Eriksson When I returned to Columbus to gather up my things they gave me a party and a lovely watch. General Lassiter told me that I was the best thing that had happened to the airline but because of Tommy and Buck resigning they had no choice but to let me go but I was given wonderful letters of recommendation. He also told me that I had found Helene and she was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to him. I do believe he straightened up his act after he met Helene but I was always afraid for her because of all I knew. I always knew what was happening and many things I wish I didn't know. I wanted the best of everything for all the stewardesses. It is more difficult to be a Chief Flight Attendant then just a happy-go-lucky stewardess. Tommy told me so often that he never would have resigned if he had known what would happen to me. He just wanted to get out while he could. His wife also wanted him to come back and run the company in Alaska with her and Craig, their little boy. I was happy knowing that the Chief Stewardess position was in good hands with my dear old roommate of many years, old ONA flying buddy, and wonderful gal Fifi LaBine! Wonderful IAB Luxembourg 2000 reunion, at Betty Bamberg´s hotel at Ehnen Luxembourg beside the Moselle River I am writing this story for the other IABers who I have never met me but also for those that I do know. I want them know if it wasn't for Tommy Thompson and Norm Ricketts IAB would never have been. General Lassiter was important too because he had the financial connections as well as the fantastic pilots that flew all those years for IAB -- Jake, Don Torres, etc. General Lassiter was one of a kind -- he had great charisma -- IAB was so lucky that Icelandic bought it so it could keep on flying with all the same pilots and hostesses. Executive Jet's lawyer Bruce Sundlun took over Executive Jet and IAB and General Lassiter was locked out of Executive Jet in Columbus and he was put on trial by the U.S. Government - for misuse of the airline funds loaned to it by the railroad who declared bankruptcy to the detriment of the U.S. taxpayer who had invested in the railroad. I was subpoenaed to appear at the hearing but at the time I had just started with a law firm of Cooley, Godward in San Francisco and I was working for a lawyer whose father at the time was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California. Needless to say I got out of it but did get a copy of the Congressional investigation which read like a novel with references only to hostesses first names such as Dreama Jeanne - not too many of them around. IAB Stockholm Sweden reunion 1999, standing left to right Elisabeth, Gunilla Hammar Safstrom, Anna Eriksson, Eva Thelning Marco and sitting Anette Nettie and Carin Bergquist Skoglund. Years passed with no further contact with IABers except of course Fifi. I was sent an invitation to the 20th reunion of IAB in Nassau which I attended hoping to meet again with many of the hostesses I had hired. I talked Tommy into going with me (little did I know then that he only had a year or less to live). I went on ahead and he met me there. We traveled down memory lane the two of us, ate at old restaurants, gambled at the Island and went to the banquet. All the time I am taking pictures (only to find out I had no film in my camera when I got to New York) - I got to see Norm Ricketts again and Karen Fawkes, met Yvonne Shaw for the first time. I was disappointed that none of the stewardesses I hired were there although the gals in the Bahamas certainly had nice things planned, dinner at their homes, sailing, etc. but I spent most of my time with Tommy. Thank God now that he is gone. I begged for pictures telephoning many times when I found out Tommy was dying but to no avail. By the time I received a few Tommy had died. We had so much fun taking those p ictures and poor Tommy never got to even see one because I had no film in my camera. Needless to say I threw that camera away. That is my version of the beginning of IAB and I am sure all of you can fill in little bits and pieces. I want all of you to know how much I loved being your Chief Stewardess - how proud I am of what you have done with your lives. I also want all of you to GIVE A BIG HIP HIP HOORAY FOR TOMMY THOMPSON, DICK LASSITER AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, MAJOR NORMAN RICKETTS! Without those three, I wouldn’t have been able to have the great job I had, could not have hired any of you and Fifi LaBine (my dear old roommate and friend).
    CHAMPAGNE EVERYBODY!!
    SOS CHILDREN VILLAGES - SHARE YOUR ABUNDANCE



    IN FOND AND LOVING REMEMBRANCE OF ALL FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES WHO ARE NO LONGER WITH US