The Air Bahama Story
by Nettie Miller
Dedicated to the Air Bahama crew
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. Nassau Station Manager Nick Mennon
Major Norman Ricketts
Elisabeth Gustavsson Gyllman
Captain John "Jake" Jacobs
Gunilla Kuylenstierna (Key) Crawford
Findel Airport Official
Sylvia King and
Anette Englund Martins RIP
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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,
I pause to quote an article written by a
reporter in Miami about our new airline,
an article in the International
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
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,
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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