“No goose, no gander”

This was the slogan on this airline advertisement in the late 1950s:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8187/8083555182_112b4a5bdd_o.jpg

The small print may tell you that it was issued by El Al. To understand the story behind this, we must first identify the goose and the gander.

A map of the North Atlantic may make things clearer:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@43.9785764,-32.7453284,4z

It shows you the straight-line routes from, say New York to London and Paris. Using the great circle formulae and putting in the coordinates of JFK, LHR and CDG we get:

New York to London: 3451 miles (all miles are statute miles here,not nautical miles).

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=JFK-LHR

New York to Paris: 3635 miles

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=JFK-CDG

The first flight from New York to Paris (not exactly matching JFK and CDG) was made by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, thus ushering in the modern air age as many textbooks may say. But it was not the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. That was back in 1919 by Alcock and Brown with a converted WW1 bomber on a shorter route, from St John’s, Newfoundland (then a British colony and not part of Canada) to a bog near Clifden, Ireland (which was still in the UK at that time). Taking the coordinates we get 1886 miles, considerably less than the more “useful” New York to London route. A rough sketch of this route (with the nearest airport at Galway as the eastern terminus) is:

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=YYT-GWY

The point where they landed in the bog is still marked, while there is an Alcock and Brown hotel in Clifden.

It followed, therefore that if you wanted to travel from North America to Europe and your airliners had limited range, you would have to have stops in Newfoundland or western Ireland, preferably both so that you could travel to more interesting places such as New York, Toronto, London and Paris.

Thus arose the huge airport at Gander, Newfoundland. A subsidiary airport was also built at Goose Bay in Labrador, (on the mainland of Newfoundland). Similarly, a large airport came up at the practically unknown town of Shannon in the Republic of Ireland. This was close to the town of Limerick, though researchers have failed to prove conclusively that limericks were invented there.

Both Gander and Goose Bay can be seen here:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Goose+Bay+Airport/@50.78814,-55.0941876,6z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x4c7b7a25e4bf9d67:0xbbcbc870ca9fe1dd

And Shannon:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Shannon+Airport/@53.1810897,-8.5608469,8z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x485b41dad0f8b40b:0x6bf3c305b024f8dc

These airports in Newfoundland were intensively used by the Allies during World War 2. After the war got over, trans-Atlantic flights began with an invariable stop at Gander for refuelling. When weather there grew too bad, the planes were diverted to Goose Bay.

By the late 1950s, the Britannia turboprops were finally able to manage New York-London without refuelling at Gander. Even the BOAC’s Comet 4s had to stop at Gander.

So El Al could proudly announce direct Britannia flights with “No Goose, No Gander”. Ironically the Britannia itself was soon superseded by faster jets such as the Boeing 707.

History did not deal kindly with Gander and Goose Bay airports when they lost their primacy. They stagger along with limited Canadian internal flights, although the US military continues to use Gander. They also used to survive on the Havana-Moscow flights until the collapse of the Soviet Union. These flights became a bit of a pain for the Canadians as numerous frustrated Cubans and Soviets used to seek asylum there. Finally they passed a rule that anyone travelling on a flight which stopped at Gander had to have a Canadian visa.

Shannon fared somewhat better and still has a number of flights to various parts of Europe as well as the US. Shannon and Dublin (joined recently by Abu Dhabi) are among the few places outside the Western Hemisphere where the US immigration and customs processes passengers before they leave for the US. There is even an all-business class flight of British Airways which takes off with an Airbus A318 from the tiny airport at London City, stops at Shannon for refuelling and processing of passengers, and then goes straight to NYC where the passengers can get off and be on their way without any other formalities. This is numbered BA 001 and is marketed as one of BA’s most elite services:

http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/travel-classes/business/club-world-london-city

More interesting facts about geese and ganders here:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/the-goose-in-popular-culture/

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