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Friday, December 30, 2016

My first crossing of the Equator

August 1983

TAP Air Portugal used to have two types of diplomas for passengers doing their first flight or for those celebrating the first crossing of the Equator.

I have this one for my supposedly first flight:

First Flight diploma

But I always knew this was only my first crossing of the Equator and not the first flight. My first flight ever was between Lisboa and Porto (confirmed with my parents) still in the same year I was born! I still have the ticket although not much information about the exact date or even the flight number. The corresponding boarding pass apparently didn't survive as I can't find it in my archive.

Lisboa-Porto ticket

But because of my passion for the L-1011, I always felt more curious about the details of the first transatlantic flight. Although I was confident it was a L-1011, I couldn't rule out the possibility of the flight being operated by a Boeing 707. The L-1011s entered in service early that year. I made my first attempt to figure out what airplane operated that flight based on the 1st August 1983 date. But no evidence was found in the archives of TAP for that particular day.

Some years later I found the boarding pass of the return flight from Recife. The date of it was handwritten on its back by my mother: 01/09/1983. It was when I started putting in doubt the date of the diploma. Hardly my mother would write a wrong date in the boarding pass and I confirmed we never spent holidays one month long in Brazil.

Recife-Lisboa boarding pass

I insisted with my parents to give me more evidence or clues about the real date of my first Equator/Atlantic crossing and it was when our family passport from that time showed up. Analysing the passport stamps I finally found everything I needed for an accurate investigation. Not only the return date was confirmed but I finally had a more plausible date for our departure: 24/08!

Passport stamps

So I only had to pray that the correspoding Journey Logs were in the possession of TAP. I was lucky! And I was also happy to confirm my almost umbilical connection with the L-1011:

Date: 25/08/1983
Flight Number: TP397
Flight Time: 7:15
Tail Number: CS-TEA

Yeah! It was the very first TAP's L-1011, the beautiful TriStar 500 named "Luís de Camões" which I clearly remember of being on board of it some years later - those days, TAP flight attendants used to say the name of the airplane during the welcome announcement so that one was easy to retain even if I didn't care about tail numbers.

CS-TEA postcard

Because of the logged date being 25/08 and the departure stamp having 24/08, I was in doubt if there was a chance of another flight the day previous day which was not found in the logs. But the arrival stamp at Brazil which is almost faded, dissipates any doubt. It was really this flight which departed already after midnight.
It was the 100th entry of the second Journey Logbook of CS-TEA:

CS-TEA Journey Log Book #2

For the return flight the following data was returned:

Date: 01/09/1983
Flight Number: TP396
Flight Time: 7:10
Tail Number: CS-TEB

The tail number CS-TEB was the second L-1011 delivered to TAP and it was named "Infante D. Henrique". It was the last L-1011 flying in Portugal and also the last civil passenger aircraft of the type in Europe.
This flight was found in the 45th entry of the second logbook of CS-TEB:

CS-TEB Journey Log Book #2

Ironically I got this information very recently at the same time I was doing a LIS-REC-LIS rotation! This time it was like this:

Date: 20/12/2016
Flight Number: TP011
Flight Time: 7:40
Tail Number: CS-TOI
//
Date: 22/12/2016
Flight Number: TP010
Flight Time: 6:30
Tail Number: CS-TOG

I was happy to finally solve this mystery. Of course I don't have memory of any of these flights. But I have the memory of many other L-1011 flights with TAP that followed during the 80s and the 90s.

L-1011 wing photo

I know my first flight ever was in September 1982 (staff tickets were open tickets). Probably on a Boeing 727, another great trijet and also one of my favorite aircraft types. But I guess I will never be able to sort it out!

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