Sunday, February 19, 2017

50 years ago: Undelivered telegram raises fears about overdue plane

In the Feb. 22, 1967 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, news from George Town provides an interesting anecdote from an era before instant overseas communications:

“Great concern for the safety of the 92 passengers and 7 crew members of the Pacific Western plane on Saturday the 18th was experienced when a telegram was not delivered to Galleon Beach Hotel. This telegram was sent from Vancouver on Friday night at five minutes to midnight and was stamped as arriving in Grand Cayman at 9:42 a.m. on Saturday. It stated, ‘Flight departure delayed until 1800 hours Saturday due to mechanical and weather ETA Cayman 0800 Sunday ETD approximately noon Sunday, McManus.’

“The plane was due at 10 a.m. and fearing for the safety of the passengers, which included his wife, friends, and friends of his guests who were on the plane, at 11:50 a.m. on Saturday Mr. Strieff went to the cable office and enquired if there was a telegram for Galleon Beach Hotel, whereupon the boy produced the cable from his pocket and when asked what time it was proposed to deliver same he replied, ‘After lunch, sir.’

“The expense involved by keeping 23 taxis waiting at the airport for two hours, 2 truck loads of luggage being transported and unloaded, the double change of bed linen when guests had to stay an extra night, is hard to evaluate, to say nothing of the extreme anxiety, which could all have been avoided had this cable been delivered or a telephone call made. There is no telephone at the cable office but the Administrator’s Office is only a stone’s throw away.

“A cable giving similar information sent to LACSA by Pacific Western was not delivered to Mr. Norman Bodden until 11:45 a.m. although it arrived at 9:45 a.m.

“The Air Traffic Control staff took the normal safety precautions when the plane was overdue and signals were sent out which resulted in the Coast Guard in Florida standing by.

“It is good to learn from Cable & Wireless that they are expecting to take over the telegraph system within the next three months which should result in a more reliable service by the use of teleprinters. They also intend to have messengers on motorcycles which should speed up the delivery service which is essential. The seriousness of this incident suggests that a telephone should be installed at once at the Wireless Station for use in cases of emergency.”


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