In November 1916, Lawrence Sperry, who had already made history as the inventor of the autopilot, entered the annals of aviation a second time. A prurient daredevil, he found that his new device facilitated a midair assignation with a female flight student thereby unofficially inaugurating the Mile High Club. Things almost ended tragically that day: Sperry's boat plane went crashing into a New York bay, where two bewildered duck hunters saved the naked couple.
How many passengers today try to follow Sperry's lascivious lead? Flight attendants everywhere have tales of being propositioned by (usually drunken) passengers, but airlines insist this is a club no one belongs to. "Honestly, I have never heard of it happening," says Cathay Pacific spokeswoman Lisa Wong. At KLM, flag carrier for the Netherlands, spokesman Youssef Eddini was taken aback that we even asked the question. "It is simply not allowed," he ruled. Even the spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic whose owner, Richard Branson, once intimated that he would like to introduce double beds on his planes said, "It's illegal and violators could be handed over to the proper authorities."
Unfortunately, even for those willing to risk it, "there is no such official club per se," says San Diego-based businessman Phil Kessler, who owns the U.S. trademark for "Mile High Club." But for informal members and you know who you are his eight-year-old website, milehighclub.com, offers "MHC"-branded merchandise and lists dozens of tall tales, raging from World War II soldiers trysting over the South Pacific to married couples spicing up their summer vacations. No doubt Sperry, who died in a crash seven years after his inaugural rendezvous, looks down at this with lusty approval.