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American Airlines: Music Across the Skies


Among those Gyrofrog readers who reside in Austin, some may have wet their whistles a time or two with a cold beer at Casino el Camino on Sixth Street. At one time or another, many patrons of this fine establishment have found themselves downing their suds up on the second level where the pool tables are. A quick glance beyond the billiards apparati up there reveals a rather curious piece of furniture: a sort of semi-circular mini-bar with a piano keyboard mounted on one side.

What is this here contraption, one may well ask? Well, about twenty years ago, many well-tempered claviers, such as the one at our beloved Casino, were mounted in American Airlines' (then-new) 747 Luxury Liners. At the time, American configured the tail end of the 747's cabin into a piano lounge. Whenever more than a few passengers, highballs in hand, would congregate in the lounge, the Flight Service Director (whose position has long since been eliminated) would come back and acknowledge what a great time the passengers seemed to be having. But wouldn't it be even MORE fun if someone among the group could play the piano? At this point, the Flight Service Director would conveniently proffer a copy of Music in Flight, a songbook especially compiled for (or by?) American Airlines.

Well, as one might surmise, it wouldn't take very long for even more passengers to make their way back to the lounge, joining in the revelry and singing along to classics such as "When the Red-Red-Robin Comes Bob-Bob- Bobbin' Along." The activity became so popular that on many flights, the lounge would be crammed with passengers, all of whom were drinkin' it up and having a good ol' time.

All too soon, however, trouble set in. So many people were going to the back of the airplane to participate in the fun that the 747, despite its colossal size, would become considerably tail-heavy. This actually led to maneuvering problems, causing a few headaches for the flight crew up in the cockpit. The airline decided that this warranted the removal of the rear-cabin lounges --- although, for those lucky enough to fly in first class, there was always the piano-less lounge on the upper deck behind the cockpit (some other airlines outfitted the upper deck with regular seating).

When the rear-cabin lounges went, so did the little piano mini-bars. One of these eventually found itself in the C. R. Smith Museum at American Airlines' headquarters near Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport. Most, however, were immediately scavenged by airline employees, and more than likely, this is how one piano eventually wound up at Casino el Camino. Go see it why don't ya?!

Airborne piano lounges --- certainly a far cry from contemporary air travel, in which $500 will get you a round-trip ticket from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Nashville (a globe-spanning 600 miles) and NO in-flight meal!