See a vintage ’50s airplane safety card for a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

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Vintage '50s airplane safety card for a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

This little airplane safety card pamphlet was given to passengers on board Pan Am’s double-decker “Strato” clipper propeller-driven airplane (Boeing 377, aka Stratocruiser) to instruct them on what to do in the event of an emergency.

They were printed on plain paper, and it was expected that the passengers would keep them as souvenirs.

But they were more than just for holding on to a memory.

Although only 56  of these planes were in service, these instructions were needed on several occasions. In fact, these Stratrocruiser aircraft suffered 13 hull-loss accidents between 1951 and 1970 — meaning the loss of 140 lives.

As proof of that point, this particular brochure came from a plane that crashed a year later. Read about it here: Hawaii-bound plane crashed into the ocean in 1957, killing 44 – and we still don’t know why.

Vintage 1950s Boeing 377 Stratocruiser airplane - Pan American PAA

A vintage ’50s airplane safety card

Emergency instructions for your safety – Just in case…

Vintage 1950s airline emergency instructions safety brochure

Water landings

A water landing is improbable while you are flying in a Clipper, because it is a multi-engine aircraft with ample reserve power to remain aloft under emergency conditions.

Just the same, Pan American’s Clippers are designed to withstand such landings. Airtight wing tanks and cabin keep the aircraft afloat long after you board life rafts.

Your Clipper carries hundreds of pounds of the latest safety equipment. It has been thoroughly tested before you boarded the plane. Instead of one life raft, there are four or more stowed away in strategic locations. Each is outfitted with food and water. There is also an emergency radio which can send an SOS, constantly, hundreds of miles in all directions.

ALSO SEE: A 1950s tour guide to Hawaii: See what the islands looked like before becoming the 50th state

If trouble should arise, your Clipper Captain will first radio for help. Next, he will inform you — even though the situation is far from serious. We believe in keeping every passenger completely informed at all times.

Your Clipper crew has practiced many times what to do in case of an emergency. Your part is to cooperate quickly and completely.

Let’s make an imaginary water landing. First, make yourselves as comfortable as possible. Remove things which obviously could hurt you — such as pencils, pens, sharp jewelry. Men, loosen your collars. Ladies, please take off those high-heeled shoes.

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser stewardess

Your life jacket

In back of the seat ahead of you (underneath tourist seats), or in the compartment indicated by your flight attendant, is one of the latest lightweight life jackets. Slip it on according to the directions shown in the next panel.

A short time before any emergency water landing, your Clipper Captain will give the order, “Brace for ditching.” Adjust back of seat to forward, vertical position, fasten seat belt, extend legs out straight, clasp your hands under your knees and bend forward with head on lap as nearly as possible. That, combined with the cushioned seat, will relieve any sharp stop.

When plane stops its forward motion, unfasten your seat belt and follow the next instructions of your crew members to evacuate the aircraft, You have probably located the Emergency Exit nearest you — there is an “Exit” sign over the window. The curtains at both sides should be removed by a pull downward.

Vintage 1950s airline emergency instructions safety brochure (2)
Notice that there was a washroom for men, and a separate one for women

Just above the window is a cover over a red handle. A quick jerk removes the cover. Then grasp the handle, pull it toward you and pull exit inward. Lift exit panel from hinge.

Seat backs opposite window emergency exits may be reclined fully. In tourist aircraft, the backs push forward and down over the seat.

After you are out of the aircraft pull the two small knobs at the lase of your life jacket. They will inflate your jacket.

The Captain, Co-pilot, Plight Engineer and Purser will be in charge of the rafts. Your sea-going raft has adjustable sides and a sun shade to protect you from sunburn and water spray.

MORE: See old cruise ships & ocean vacations from the ’30s through the ’60s

If an emergency landing is made on land, the emergency slide will also he used to evacuate passengers. Ordinarily, your crew will take care of the slide, but you may be asked to assist.

The emergency slide is packed in a neat pouch on the inside of the main cabin door and attached as shown in the above photo. Unsnap the entire front flap of the pouch; pull out the blue and yellow strap fittings and attach to similar colored fittings on the floor. Then open the cabin door and kick out the slide.

Two men, selected by the crew, should then slip to the ground and hold the extended end of the slide away from the plane. Passengers can slide in sitting position and slide to the ground.

1950s airline emergency instructions safety brochure


Vintage airplane safety card from the ’50s: Remember these safety rules

Know the location of the nearest emergency exit. There is a sign that reads “Exit” by each one.

Know the location of your life jacket — it’s in back of seat in front of you, or in compartment indicated by your flight attendant.

Loosen collar and tie. Remove glasses and sharp objects from pockets. Put on life jacket, if instructed, and fasten seat belt.

Adjust seat to vertical position. Assume proper position to relieve strain of possible shock.

Never inflate your life jacket inside cabin. Wait until you get outside the plane.

Keep cool, calm and cooperative until help comes. Follow instructions of your aircraft officers.

ALSO SEE: The history of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress planes from WWII

See a vintage airplane safety card from the '50s


Boeing 377 Stratocruiser – United Airlines plane diagram

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser - United Airlines plane diagram

DON’T MISS THIS: Pretty, thin, young and single? Check out these sexist stewardess job requirements of the ’50s & ’60s

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