Scotland

'Oldest stewardess in Britain' retires after 44 years

Charmaine McCall-Hagan onboard an aircraft Image copyright Loganair
Image caption Charmaine McCall-Hagan survived a hijacking in the weeks before 9/11

One of the UK's longest-serving cabin crew members has flown her final flight after a career spanning 44 years.

During that time Charmaine McCall-Hagan, 65, from South Lanarkshire, has looked after royalty and survived a hijacking attempt weeks before 9/11.

She completed her final flight on a Loganair service from Shetland to Edinburgh on Friday.

She began her career in 1973 at the age of 21 with British Airways with her first flight to Belfast.

It was during her time on the Belfast route that she met her husband, now-retired pilot Captain Bill Hagan.

'Winning the lottery'

He earned fame for saving the lives of 400 passengers after a hijacking attempt on a British Airways 747 bound for Nairobi in Kenya in 2000.

A male Kenyan passenger stormed the flight deck, sending the jumbo jet into a 10,000ft nosedive, with Mr Hagan having to resort to sticking his finger in the hijacker's eye to control him.

Mrs McCall-Hagan, who is from Bothwell, recalled the incident: "I was on board with the children and Bill was flying the aircraft. I wouldn't like to do it again.

"Afterwards we said it was like winning the lottery because we survived it.

"It wasn't nice and it's a shame because when you hear about plane crashes the passengers know they are going down and it's not pleasant at all."

Image copyright Loganair
Image caption Charmaine McCall-Hagan started her career with British Airways in 1973

Mr Hagan said the incident occurred in the months before the 11 September terrorist attacks in America and resulted in him fighting off the would-be hijacker.

He said: "The event between him and I went on for the best part of three minutes.

"I had quite a wide selection of thoughts during that time, but ultimately my main concern was for the safety of the aircraft and various thoughts were going through my head about where we were in the world - were we over the Himalayas and what sort of heights were involved before we would hit the ground?

"A few days before, we were on the aircraft I had been talking to my young son as he was then and he asked what you would do to fight off a shark if you were attacked by one.

"I said I had been told that if you stick your finger in its eye it might break off its attack and it was just at the time as we were going down that I got the inspiration to gouge him with my finger."

'Great time'

Mrs McCall-Hagan's aviation career was primarily spent in Scotland, apart from six years when she worked with British Airways' long-haul fleet travelling to destinations in the US and Africa.

She has looked after many well-known passengers including George Best, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne.

She joined Loganair in 2011. The Scottish regional airline marked her departure by holding an informal ceremony in Sumburgh Airport's departure lounge and announcing to passengers it would be her final flight.

Mrs McCall-Hagan added: "I've had a fantastic career and when you think about it I can't go on forever - I must be the oldest stewardess in Britain. I'm just embarrassed about all the fuss.

"I've had a great time from start to finish. We own a boat in Largs so I could be swapping the skies for the ocean."

Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair's managing director, said: "Congratulations to Charmaine on her well-deserved retirement.

"It's extremely fitting for her to finish a long and successful career with Loganair, operating routes across the Highlands and Islands as she began her flying life 44 years ago."