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Corrine Canon, of Fort Dodge

USAF attendant flew the friendly skies

November 3, 2013
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

During dozens of flights, Corrine Canon made sure the passengers aboard her airliner were safe and comfortable. She even served meals.

Canon was a flight attendant, but she never flew for a commercial airline. She was a member of the United States Air Force who worked aboard flights that took troops, military families and USO entertainers across the globe.

With the exception of some assigned to Air Force One and planes used by the vice president and generals, military flight attendants have been phased out. But when Canon was in the service between 1954 and 1960, the Air Force had flight attendants working on a fleet of passenger planes.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
U.S. Air Force veteran Corrine Canon, of Fort Dodge, poses for a photo. Between 1954 and 1960, she was a flight attendant on Air Force passenger planes that transported troops, military families and USO entertainers throughout the world.

''I just enjoyed all of them,'' the Fort Dodge woman said of her journeys through the sky. ''To me it was a great experience.''

''The military was a family,'' she added. ''They really took care of you.''

For Canon, the military meant family in a very literal way. Six of her brothers served in the armed forces. She and two of the brothers were in the Air Force at the same time, although they never served at the same base. She met her late husband, Richard, while in the military. He was a fellow Air Force flight attendant who served for more than 30 years.

When she was growing up in West Bend, Canon decided she wanted to be an Air Force flight attendant even though she had never flown in a plane.

''From the time I was in sixth grade, I wanted to be in the Air Force,'' she said.

After graduating from West Bend Consolidated School, she enlisted. He first stop was Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for basic training. There, she had to do all the exercises that male Air Force recruits had to do. She recalled that her training differed from that of the men in only one way - she didn't have to fire a rifle.

Her dream of becoming a flight attendant was temporarily thwarted after she completed basic training because the Air Force wasn't accepting anyone into that program at the time. So Canon instead went to Cheyenne, Wyo., where she trained in clerical work. She was next assigned to Riverside Air Force Base in California. Later she went to Travis Air Force Base, also in California. Ironically, her task there was to help prepare for the arrival of female flight attendants.

Canon got out of the Air Force when her enlistment was up. However, she was out of uniform for just 90 days before re-enlisting. Upon her return, she was accepted for flight attendant school at West Palm Beach, Fla. Her training there lasted six weeks. There were tests every week, she recalled. She added that giving a five-minute speech was one of her least favorite parts of the program.

Although she was training to be a flight attendant, she never went aloft in a plane.

After completing that training, she was assigned to Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina. There, she became part of a squadron that flew Lockheed Super Constellation 121 airliners that had four propeller engines and three tail fins.

As a member of that squadron, she finally began flying. Her flights took her to Bermuda, Britain, The Azores, Libya and Saudi Arabia, among other places.

Her most memorable flight originated in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. On that trip, the plane, which could carry 81 people, had just one passenger - a man in a straitjacket. Canon said she believed he was faking insanity in order to get out of the military.

After the plane took off, Canon glanced out a window and saw flames coming from a propeller. She called the cockpit and told the pilot what she saw.

''This guy heard me and ripped his way out of that straitjacket,'' she said.

After bursting out of his restraints, the man behaved himself, she recalled.

''He just sat there,'' she said. ''He didn't cause any problems.''

She said the pilot stopped the fire by shutting down that engine.

Canon said her squadron transported comedian Bob Hope on several of his trips to entertain service members.

''He wasn't the friendliest guy,'' she said.

Occasionally, Canon flew in a helicopter in order to ensure that she had the required number of hours in the air every month. She also once flew in a jet bomber from California to Ohio.

She got out of the Air Force for the last time in 1960, when she was pregnant with her first child.



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