Incredible airline nostalgia: Freeman of the Air certificates

Knowing I collect airline memorabilia, one of my readers contacted me last week and asked if I might like a piece of her family’s history – two certificates issued to her recently departed grandmother bestowing “Freeman of the Air†rights for crossing the equator.

My reader’s grandmother, originally from Australia, was married to a U.S. Navy man and living here in the United States, but needed to return to Australia to visit with her dying father. She flew British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines in December of 1952 and was issued the following certificate commemorating her first crossing of the equator by air.

a certificate with a red seal and a red stamp

It’s truly an incredible piece of aviation history and a reminder of just how much the industry I love has changed to one where such a crossing today has become so very commonplace without pomp and circumstance. My reader’s grandmother returned to Australia on another trip in 1978 flying Qantas and received a similar certificate.

a brown paper with text and a picture of a man in a cloud

I’m so very appreciative and thrilled to add these to my collection and thought some of you would be equally interested to see a piece of an era long since passed.

P.S. If there are any Boeing historians out there who have a deep insight about the original design process and development of the 747 (particularly of the team working on it), please shoot me an email as my reader is looking for information about her grandfather’s role on that team.


  1. What a wonderful thing for your reader to share. Best wishes to her and condolences about her departed grandmother.

  2. What a great tradition, sorry to see that it’s ended.

    Thanks to you and your reader for sharing!

  3. What a great story. I’ve flown across the equator a few times. My first trip was on Pan Am, southbound to Africa, returning from Rio to JFK. My second time was a round-trip on Eastern between Miami and Buenos Aires. The most recent crossing was on United, a round-trip between San Francisco and Sydney. Sadly, none of the airlines offered us these types of certificates. Maybe crossing the equator is no big deal to many, but “many” is not “everyone.” To some of us, these types of journeys remain special. I wish airlines would remember that.

    • @AAdvantage Geek: I was so thrilled to get my 777 inaugural flight certificate in 1995… maybe United will roll them out for the 787s (oh, and American, too, once they get theirs) 😉
      @Henry: I’m so jealous of your Pan Am trip. I’ve flown U.S.-SYD-U.S. sooo many times now and every time is very, very special.

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