Did you know that a Macedonian was born during a flight in the sky some 11,000 meters above the surface? And that his name is a dedication to the airline? No? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’ll tell you the crazy story of Jatko Todev …
Today, when air traffic has increased significantly and determines global life and its interactions, it is perhaps no longer an absolute sensational announcement when a baby is born during a flight. But this story happened over 40 years ago. At that time it was still a rarity and at the same time a sensation.
Flight B-707 reports: Baby born on board!
On February 13, 1978, Maria Todeva from Macedonia gave birth to a son on the plane during the B-707 flight from Yugoslavia to Australia. It was one of the first such cases in the history of air travel. This of course caused a worldwide sensation.
She was only 18 years old. In the eighth month of her pregnancy, she boarded a plane operated by the then Yugoslavian company JAT Airways, which flew from Belgrade to distant Sydney. Her husband Stojan, who had traveled to Australia a few months earlier in search for a better life, was waiting there.
The birth of the child began two hours before landing. The flight crew separated her from the passengers, after which the flight crew assisted in her birth.
The birth went without any complications. According to the statements of those who helped, after the birth the umbilical cord was cut with a pair of scissors, which can be found on board on every plane (and especially with the “safety standards” of forty years ago that are hard to imagine today). The “cutlery” and the interfaces were disinfected with high-proof whiskey.
And so it happened that the plane that took off from Belgrade with 106 passengers arrived in Sydney with one more passenger.
The very next day, the news of the “baby on board” went viral in all Yugoslav and world newspapers. Television stations also reported on the little high-flyer who was born weighing 2.4 kilograms, as the Yugoslavian newspapers reported at the time.
Pilot Žika Maljković, who led the flight B-707 and himself witnessed this unusual event, was chosen as the baby’s godfather.
Jatko Todev – Homage to the airline
As we mentioned at the beginning, the baby was given a name that sounds like an homage to the airline. Nis name “Jatko” was derived from JAT, as the now defunct Yugoslavian airline was once called, with the suffix -ko, as in Branko, Slavko, etc.
Jatko Todev also received the lifelong right to fly free of charge to any destination in the world with JAT airline (now known as Air Serbia).
Believe it or not, Jatko Todev never took advantage of this gift. He was able to travel wherever he wanted, but decided to stay in Australia, where he still lives with his family to this day.
JAT Airways was the national airline and largest airline of Yugoslavia, as well as Serbia after the collapse of the Socialist Federation. The airline was founded in 1927 as Aeroput but ceased operations during World War II.
After flights resumed in 1947, the airline was renamed Jugoslovenski Aerotransport (JAT in short) on April 1, 1947. The airline was eventually renamed again on August 8, 2003.
In 1946 it became clear that the Yugoslav Air Force could not be involved in the development of civil aviation after the war. As a result, preparations were made for the establishment of an air transport company. Three Douglas C-47 Skytrains and three German Junkers Ju 52s were converted to carry passengers.
In 1949, Yugoslavia faced a terrible international position: isolated from both the West and the East. This led to further rationing of fuel, difficulties in obtaining spare parts and the cancellation of all flights to Eastern European destinations. JAT only survived with operating on six domestic lines.
As Yugoslavia turned to the West, an agreement was reached with SwissAir to open the Belgrade-Zurich route, which was inaugurated on August 24, 1949.
Turning point for JAT in the mid-fifties
The year 1954 was a turning point in many respects. Convair CV-340 and Convair CV-440 Metropolitan aircrafts were purchased for short and medium-haul routes, after which the Douglas DC-3 was only used on domestic routes.
Soon after, several international and domestic routes were opened. In 1957, six Ilyushin Il-14M aircraft were added to the fleet. JAT bought later several Douglas DC-6Bs for long-haul flights in 1959.
JAT Airways and its predecessors were one of the oldest airlines still in operation. Flight operations were based at Belgrade Airport (today named after Nikola Tesla) and the airline operated scheduled flights to 72 international destinations outside the former Yugoslavia territories as well as charter flights.
Operations stopped due the Yugoslavian war
In 1992, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up, leading to the Yugoslavian Wars. JAT was forced to suspend all domestic services. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Yugoslavia on May 20, 1992. For the first time since World War II, international transport in Yugoslavia was therefore forcibly stopped.
This was preceded by the decisions of Germany and Italy to suspend traffic with Yugoslavia: on December 21, 1991 – Germany (the largest market for JAT in Europe, with seven flights daily and a gross annual profit of 40 million marks) followed by Italy on January 10, 1992.
The United States imposed an embargo on air travel with Yugoslavia on May 2, 1992: the last JAT flights to the United States were operated to Chicago and New York. JAT management decided to reroute long-haul North American flights to Canada. However, Canada quickly followed and banned all JAT flights, thus ending all JAT operations over the North Atlantic.
During this period, JAT only operated domestic flights between Belgrade, Podgorica, Tivat, Niš, Priština and – for a short period the Užice Ponikve Airport. In 1994, JAT resumed some of its international services. Soon after, all flights were canceled as Europe introduced a new ban.
Sanctions finally lifted – planes took off
International sanctions were finally lifted in 2000 and JAT resumed regular service. With the country’s restructuring from SFR Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro, JAT Yugoslav Airlines changed its name to JAT Airways on August 8, 2003.
The Serbian government made two unsuccessful attempts to privatize JAT Airways in 2008 and 2011.
In 2011, the Serbian government announced that it would create a successor to JAT Airways with a strategic partner. The new airline would take over all of Jat’s healthy assets, codeshare agreements, aircraft and airport slots. Baltic Aviation Systems was the only company to acquire the tender documents, but decided not to pursue the partnership further. The tender was canceled again due to a lack of interested buyers.
In March 2013, Serbian Finance Minister Mlađan Dinkić traveled to Abu Dhabi to propose that Etihad Airways take a stake in Jat to renew its fleet.
On August 1, 2013, the Serbian government and Etihad Airways formalized an agreement that provided for restructuring of operations and renaming of the airline to Air Serbia.
In November 2023 Serbia’s finance minister announced that Etihad is to sell all its shares in Air Serbia, with the Serbian state to take full ownership of the national carrier.