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Across the Pond

June 2012 marks the 49th anniversary of the first charter flight across the Atlantic in the history of the Yugoslav civil aviation. An Adria Aviopromet plane, the predecessor of today's Adria Airways, flew across the puddle, setting a Yugoslav record in the length and uninterrupted duration of the flight.

The notice was issued in 1963.

Excerpt from the notice of the first charter flight across the Atlantic. SI AS 1130, Republic Secretariat for Tourism of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, no. 1, p. e. 29. | Author Arhiv Republike Slovenije

Report by Adria Aviopromet on the First Charter Flight Across the Atlantic Ocean

The time for vacation and travel abroad is fast approaching and some of us may also decide to take a plane and fly across “the pond” to the other side of the Atlantic. June 2012 marks the 49th anniversary of the first charter flight across the Atlantic in the history of the Yugoslav civil aviation. A plane owned by Adria Aviopromet, a forerunner of Adria Airways, took off and flew across the Atlantic Ocean.

Urged by the initiative committee of the Aeronautical Association of Slovenia, the first Slovenian aircraft company was founded in March 1961 mostly to meet the need of the fast developing Slovenian and Yugoslav tourism and based on the growing interest of tourist to visit Yugoslavia. Foundation of a charter aviation company was a must since JAT - the only Yugoslav airline at that time - simply did not have enough planes. The tasks of the newly established charter company included making international charter flights, domestic flights off season, and occasional flights for the purpose of Slovenian or Yugoslav economy, mostly to Third World countries.

In August 1961, the company bought used planes DC-6B from the American manufacturer McDonnel Douglas (see pictures) and in the same month performed its first charter flight employing a crew of the Dutch airline KLM. Domestic crews and technical staff that Adria managed to lure away from JAT and military air force were also being trained. In December 1961, Adria performed its first flight with a domestic crew. Other services needed for the continuity of the company’s work were also being developed; from sales department to financial and accounting departments. Since the Ljubljana airport in Polje was too small to receive huge DC-6B planes, Zagreb airport had served as the main airport until the opening of the Brnik Airport in 1964.

Gradually, Adria managed to conquer the market of transporting tourists from Germany, England, Holland and Scandinavia to the airports on the Adriatic coast. This month’s archivalia describes the first flight performed for emigrant organizations in Canada and the USA and the first Yugoslav charter flight across the Atlantic in June 1963.

On June 26, 1963, the plane took off from Zagreb and flew to Toronto (Canada) via Shannon (Ireland). The 5,480 km long non-stop journey between Shannon and Toronto lasted 13 hours and 22 minutes, setting a Yugoslav record in the length and non-stop duration of a flight. Total duration of the 7,720 km long flight was 19 hours and 2 minutes.

In Toronto 81 emigrants boarded the plane. The plane made a stop in Grander (Canada) and Shannon and finally arrived to Zagreb on June 29 finishing a 7,600 km long journey after 18 hours and 9 minutes.

The flight employed double crew and was made under the guidance of captains Branivoj Majcen and Karel Rankel who were both qualified for transoceanic flights. The report also states that the air navigators did a brilliant job making the flight keep a precisely determined course and time. The difference between the planned and the actual time of arrival of the flight across the Atlantic and back was only one to two minutes.

The flight was repeated on June 27 when emigrants returned to Canada. Adria’s transoceanic charter flights became more common in 1964.

Jernej Križaj