Making martinis with Frank Sinatra a highlight for longest-serving flight attendant in U.S.

Ron Akana
Ron Akana, right, in his early years of service for United Airlines. Akana was a flight attendant for the company for 63 years. He recently retired at age 83.
Personal photo

(CBS News) It's been a great ride for Ron Akana. He's just retired after spending 63 years as a flight attendant for United Airlines.

He was first hired in 1949 as a flight steward flying from Hawaii to the mainland. Since then, he's met presidents and celebrities, and logged 20 million miles - enough to go from the Earth to the Moon and back a whopping 40 times.

Akana, now 83 years old, is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving flight attendant in U.S. history.

These days, flight attendants share safety information and offer snacks and drinks, but back when he was hired - one of eight people who were hired to represent the Hawaiian Islands - in 1949, Akana wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. "Nobody knew," Akana said. "We had to ask each other, when we read the ad in the paper what are we applying for nuclear weapon didn't know what the job was."

In his years of service, Akana has some favorite trips, including when he helped transport the cast of "From Here to Eternity," which included Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and his idol, Frank Sinatra.

Akana said he helped the icon fix martinis. "He enjoyed his martini," Akana said.

Asked how many Sinatra drank, Akana said, "He was approaching a good figure!"

As for not-so-good trips, Akana said that "There could have been (some, but) nothing to the point where you really had to stop the plane and get them off.

"Some of the Australian rugby players, very interesting group to have on board, especially if they haven't won a game."

Throughout his career, things changed within the airline industry, from food to entertainment.

Akana said movies, in particular, changed a lot. "Putting movies on the plane, they started off with these big reels on. Sometimes it wouldn't work, would pile up on the floor. We didn't know what to do with it. It was just a big pile of film!

"A lot of things (changed). The food service improved tremendously, methods of preparing food. We spent hours in the flight kitchen having to learn from the chefs."

He added, "It's been, for me, a very, very fun and interesting ride."

To watch the interview with Akana click on the video player above.