Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?
We have reimagined details of VR-HFG's journey in order to "fill in" the original 1950s card.
(No archival material was defaced in the course of preparing this article.)
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Anyone who flies

long-haul regularly will be familiar with the moving maps that update passengers on the flight's progress. A digital map linked to the aircraft's flight computer systems shows the position and direction of the aircraft in real-time and the display also provides data such as altitude, airspeed, outside air temperature, elapsed flight time, distance to destination, and local time at destination.

Cathay Pacific introduced Airshow, the pioneer of moving map systems, in 1988. Back then, a video loop showing location maps and data tables appeared at regular intervals during the flight on the large screen at the front of each cabin. Thirty years on, the system is available on demand on longhaul flights, on passengers' PTVs in all classes. Nowadays, external cameras also provide passengers with a pilots'-eye view of their journey.

Today's high-tech, real-time data display may seem a million miles away from the early days of Cathay Pacific's first scheduled passenger services in the 1940s and 50s. But aside from the touchscreen technology, have things really changed that much?

This inflight information card dates to the mid-1950s and would have been made available to passengers on the airline's flagship regional DC-6 services. The first DC-6 – Cathay Pacific's first pressurised aircraft – joined the fleet in 1955 and was used to launch the airline's first non-stop service to Singapore, where a new international airport opened the same year. Leaving Kai Tak at 6pm, the flight landed at midnight at Paya Lebar Airport, and after the briefest of turnarounds, returned to Hong Kong at dawn. It was a schedule that was popular with passengers, but less so with flight crews – especially given the high incidence of thunderstorms on this route, in an aircraft with no weather radar.

The hand-written 1950s card actually provided much the same information that Airshow gives us today - the difference being that the Captain filled in the relevant figures personally, checking the data from the instruments on the flight deck and marking the aircraft's approximate position on the map on the reverse. Needless to say, it would have been impossible to fill in a card for each of the 58 passengers carried, so the recipient was requested to read and then pass it on to the next passenger!
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