New in the collection: Piedmont Airlines safety card

Cover of Piedmont Airlines seatback safety instructions featuring an image of a captain's hat.

Inside of Piedmont Airlines safety instructions. It includes drawings noting the proper use of drop down air masks, the location of emergency exits, and the method for removing emergency doors.

This seat-back safety instruction folder, likely pilfered from a 1980s Piedmont Airlines flight, proudly announces the captain is at the controls of a Boeing 727-200. Maybe even Lori Cline  — who at age 23 became the youngest airline captain ever for any airline.  “Without a doubt,” she told O.Henry magazine, “my favorite airplane of all time was the Boeing 727 for Piedmont Airlines, which was a workhorse for the industry during the ’70s and ’80s before it was retired for being considered inefficient, fuel-wise, due to its third engine. And to this day, before I retire, if I could get to fly one airplane again, it would be that classic Cadillac.”

Chris Runge, curator for the Piedmont Aviation Historical Society, mentions a feature of the 727-200 that enabled a policy that surely seems fantastical to the put-upon air travelers of 2022: “The 727 has what you call your rear air stairs…. If a passenger missed a flight and the plane was halfway down the tarmac, the agent would call out to the plane, they’d stop, the pilot would drop the air stairs. The passenger would run out on the tarmac, jump up the back of the plane and they’d lift it up and go. Their motto was ‘Don’t leave anybody behind. Ever.’ And they didn’t.”

Footnote: In 1978 Piedmont purchased from Northwest Orient Airlines a used 727-200 with a historic rear exit — the one used by “D.B. Cooper.” 

New in the collection: Piedmont Airlines souvenir box

Tin of double decker bus for Piedmont Airlines

Quite a big deal it was in 1987, when Charlotte Douglas International Airport was awarded its first nonstop transatlantic passenger service.

Piedmont Airlines even commissioned this ambitiously-detailed souvenir tin box, made in England, to celebrate the Gatwick connection.


Winston-Salem’s little ‘puddle jumper’ that could

On this day in 1948: Piedmont Airlines, headquartered in Winston-Salem, inaugurates passenger service with a DC-3 flight from Wilmington to Charlotte to Cincinnati.

Over the next four decades Piedmont will grow from what competitors dismiss as a “puddle jumper” to the nation’s eighth largest airline. In 1987 Piedmont is bought by Washington-based USAir [later US Airways] for $1.6 billion.

Pictured: Pinback button promoting Piedmont’s new flights from Charlotte to London Gatwick in 1987; plastic badge for child passengers; pinback button promoting Piedmont’s in-state Florida shuttle service, circa 1985.