The Pan Am Series – Part VII: Aviation History

   China Clipper    707-121

Pan American World Airways’ Role in Aviation History

During the next three months, anniversaries of many “firsts” and significant events in the history of Pan American World Airways will be observed.  There are quite a few particularly noteworthy events.  Suffice to say, below is a list:

October: Launch of the Pan Am Shuttle on 1 October 1986; first to order American-built jet transports from Boeing on 13 October 1955; ditching of flight 943, a Boeing 377, in the Pacific on 15 October 1956; first airliner trip to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica on 15 October 1957; first flight on 19 October 1927 (chartered from West Indian Aerial Express); first trans-Pacific passenger service on 21 October 1936; first flight to Hong Kong on 23 October 1936; first Amazon route service on 25 October 1933, first trans-Atlantic service with the Boeing 707 on 26 October 1958; first scheduled Pan Am flight on 28 October 1927 and first to make a round-the-world flight via the North and South Poles on the same date in 1977, marking the 50th anniversary of the airline.

November:  First delivery of the Douglas DC-4 on 3 November 1945; first service to Fiji on 5 November 1941; first service to Barcelona on 8 November 1948; first Great Circle route to Tokyo on 17 November 1959; first “Clipper” flight on 19 November 1931 and the first trans-Pacific flight (mail) by the China Clipper a Martin M-130 on 22 November 1935.

December: First service to Bolama (West Africa) on 1 December 1940; runway overrun by flight 812, a Boeing 707, after an aborted takeoff caused by bird strikes and a related engine failure in Sydney on 1 December 1969; first to open the largest single air terminal in the world at New York Kennedy Airport on 5 December 1973; first service to Leopoldville on 6 December 1941; first delivery of the wide-body Boeing 747 on 12 December 1969; first jet service to Sydney on 15 December 1959; first delivery of the Ford Tri-Motor on 28 December 1928 and first delivery of the Fokker F-10-A on 31 December 1928.

On a sadder note, during this same period will be the anniversaries of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, the last trans-Atlantic flight from Frankfurt on 1 November 1991 and finally, the cessation of all operations on 4 December 1991.

It has been suggested that the history of Pan Am could be considered the history of international commercial air transportation.  The above events, plus the geographic location of the US and the events of World War II, lend a lot of validity to this assertion. At the time of Pan Am’s founding, the notion of using air carriers for shipping the mail was gaining in viability, and getting mail to the countries of Latin America by air became an attractive idea.  A special inter-departmental committee called by then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover reported its recommendations just about one month after Pan Am successfully delivered its first load of mail to Cuba. This committee was headed by Undersecretary of State Francis White, a Yale alumnus known to Pan Am’s founder Juan Trippe, and a supporter of the new airline. The committee included representatives from the Commerce, War, and Navy Departments, as well as the Post Office – several being Yale grads and known to Trippe. Their conclusions, among other things, included the suggestion that foreign airmail contracts be let to the bidder that in the judgment of the Postmaster General, would best serve the interests of the United States, which was a critical distinction, freeing the Post Office from selections based solely on low bids. They also suggested development of two routes south from Florida, both of which had been suggested by Trippe. It was this meeting that for all practical purposes crowned Pan American Airways as America’s chosen instrument for developing international air routes.

Operating authority to these countries, however, needed to be secured and at the time there was no framework within the US government to accomplish that. Trippe, was able to do it. He carried out then, what the US Departments of State and Transportation do today with respect to foreign routes. But to realize his vision, Trippe needed the U.S. government’s cooperation and as a result, Pan Am worked closely with a small group of influential and informed government officials to create and exploit the opportunity that would permit Pan Am to flourish and grow.

Another factor was that the US had virtually no colonial empire as compared to its European counterparts. The “foreign routes” of European airlines, for the most part government-owned (unlike the privately owned US carriers), were largely made up of routes to their colonies in Africa and Asia. There was no need to obtain operating rights. Pan Am, however, was required to obtain rights to operate not only to the European countries, but to their colonies as well. This was basically the situation at the beginning of World War II.

During World War II, because of the nature of the war in the Pacific, the US faced a need to develop large, long-range aircraft, in transports (the C-54) and bombers. These aircraft featured large fuselages, a wide wingspan and big capacity. Translated to a peace environment, these would convert to large passenger aircraft that would give the US a decided advantage in long-haul, intercontinental commercial airline operations. Because of this and other factors, the Chicago Conference was called in 1944 to deal with such issues that many anticipated would arise at the end of the war. What emerged from that conference was the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Freedoms of the Air and the framework for traffic rights between countries through Bilateral Agreements.

At the end of the war, with the benefit of conversion of wartime aircraft to large passenger aircraft, Pan Am emerged as a truly global airline, culminating in the operation of the first commercial round-the world-flight in 1947.  The war also caused the development of a mighty U.S. based aircraft industry, capable and ready to beat the proverbial sword into plows to supply newly-developed aircraft to both U.S. and foreign airlines.

    48-First RTW-comp    377-n

 John T. McCoy’s watercolor of Pan Am’s first round-the-world flight (left) and the “converted bomber” (right) .

The people of Pan Am have been in the forefront of the airline’s glorious history. And probably no other airline chief ever received the loyalty that Juan Trippe earned, carrying on through decades long after he stepped down as Pan Am’s Chairman, his passing and finally the passing of the airline he founded. Many of the Pan Am family played major roles in Pan Am’s history and have had the selflessness to share their recollections with us.

In Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of Its People, published by BlueWaterPress, seventy-one such Pan Amers did just that, giving us 71 stories about their part in some of Pan Am’s history-making events.

Here are some of the writers:

2-KathleenClair  W.Crew-1BW   8-Jump Rope   10-Arriving JFK

Left to right:  Kathleen Clair, writes about her experiences as Juan Trippe’s personal assistant; Jay Koren (2nd from right in picture) writes about the first 707 flight; Kari Mette Pigman remembers November 22, 1963 in Dallas; and Gillian Kellogg L’Eplattenier tells about the excitement of flying the Beatles to New York.

13-Skygodincockpit   15-HelenDaveytodayBW   Chief Pilot, Berlin. 1982   26-McGhee

Left to right:  Bob Gandt tells of his experiences flying with the “Skygods”; Helen Davey recalls the R&R flights during Viet Nam; John Bigelow brings back memories helping Ariana Afghan Airlines; and John McGhee recounts the evacuation of Vietnamese orphans.

28-toppingtodayBW   30-Dorothy Kelly and Carla Johnson-comp   34-Mother Teresa-comp   37-Doubleday-3BW

Left to Right:  Allan Topping recollects his role in Pan Am’s last flight out of Saigon; Dorothy Kelly recalls the horrors of Tenerife; Ron Marasco tells us about Pan Am’s special relationship with Mother Teresa; and George Doubleday brings back memories of resuming service to China.

38-BenefieldBW   42-ClarktodayBW   48-OnboardBW   53-PAAnewHire

Left to right:  Harvey Benefield recalls evacuating Pan Am employees from Tehran; Mike Clark remembers his role in the merger with National Airlines; Merle Richman tells about Pan Am’s last round-the-world flight; and Diane Vander-Zanden recollects the sale of Pan Am’s venerable Pacific routes.

57-Kelly&JaneNamakama LGA   60-ReinerTodayBW   62-Don Cooper-1    68-NScully-1BW   69-mark pyle

Left to right:  Kelly Cusack writes about starting the Pan Am Shuttle; Arnie Reiner recalls the initial investigation of the Lockerbie tragedy; Don Cooper tells about the Internal German Service out of Berlin; Nancy Scully recollects her experiences working Pan Am’s White House Press Charters; and Mark Pyle remembers piloting the Last Clipper to Miami.

 

CoverDesign.Book2-2011

From the preface:

“On December 11, 1934, Pan Am’s founder, Juan T. Trippe in a New York City speech stated:

‘By each successive step, aviation is advancing to that potential ideal of a universal service for humanity.  By overcoming artificial barriers, aviation can weave together, in closer understanding, the nations of the world, and lift for the peoples of the world those horizons which have too long limited the prospective of those who live upon this earth.’

“These words are fulfilled in this book, an anthology of stories written by the people of Pan Am.  They were there at the important and news-making events that shaped the airline’s life.  Many of these events made headlines around the world, such as the carnage at Tenerife or the Lockerbie bombing.   And, with the recent fall of Muammar Ghaddafi, the name Pan American is still commanding space in news publications today.  Other events, among so many, might have just been a small item in the local newspaper or were never reported at all. 

“There were those employees who went beyond the call of duty; others were simply doing their job and in some cases there was loss of life of their dear friends.   The bottom line, big or small, heroic or otherwise, is that the events were important to the airline and its people.  This is the story we have to tell: The historic achievements of Pan Am as experienced and lived by its greatest resource – its people.”

Below are some comments:

From Michael Manning, Broadcast Journalist and Media Consultant,

“[The book takes the] reader ‘inside Pan Am’ relative to its achievements and tragedies from a first-person perspective. * * * [O]ver 70 first-hand accounts . . . that lend authenticity to the human experience shared by employees at all levels of the company.  By the conclusion of the book, what becomes evident is that this unique US institution—long admired as ‘the American Flag’ by many foreign countries—has also come to represent a piece of the USA that has been sadly lost. This wonderful presentation of Pan Am revealed without barriers allows the reader to ponder a company that was only as great as the people who made it ‘The World’s Most Experienced Airline’”.

From Bobby Booth, long time airline consultant and aficionado,

“The stories in this book make up what is essentially one important story – a story of dedication, heroism, and sacrifice – by an airline and its people during an important period of aviation history.  It is a story that needs to be preserved in history for future generations.  This book is an important step in that direction.”  

From Edward S. Trippe, Chairman, Pan Am Historical Foundation,

” . . . is a tribute to the legacy of one of the world’s great airlines and the men and women who for six decades were the soul of the company. * * * [This is] a compelling book, which through the words of its contributors captures much of the joy, adventure and spirit which was Pan Am.”

From Readers,

“This is a superb collection of very short tales by a wide range of former employees ranging from flight crew to “ground pounders.” Taken together they provide an accurate, intimate view of what made this airline great.”

“Pan Am – nostalgia – memories – incredible stories. A must read if you enjoy air travel and get to wondering just what kind of lives did – and do – airline personnel live.”

“A nice compiling of stories by former Pan Am employees.  Well worth the read for any fan of Pan Am or airlines in general. Pan Am was the pioneer and the stories in the book prove it!”

From Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group,

“Fathered by the legendary Juan Trippe, Pan American was the leader in international aviation exploration and development. A relentless risk-taker, Trippe was an innovator and ultimate entrepreneur……………and this book captures many of Pan Am’s most memorable events from personal accounts of the employees who were there.”

This book is available for purchase directly from the publisher:

http://bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am2.html

This book is also available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/American-Airways-Aviation-History-Through/dp/1604520728/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381238392&sr=1-1&keywords=Pan+American+World+Airways+-+Aviation+History

For more information about Pan American World Airways history visit the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation at  http://panam.org/

The Pan Am Series – Part VI: Latin America and Flight 201

    

The S-38 pioneered Pan Am's expansion in the Caribbean and Central America.

The S-38 pioneered Pan Am’s expansion in the Caribbean and Central America.

A Boeing 747 at Rio de Janeiro -  the mainstay of Pan Am's South American operations until the end.

A Boeing 747 at Rio de Janeiro – the mainstay of Pan Am’s South American operations until the end.

Pan Am, from the beginning has been identified with Latin America.  Perhaps it is the name, “Pan American Airways”, which founder Juan Trippe finally settled on when told that “pan” meant all and that is what the airline was: it served all the Americas.

The airline’s first scheduled mail (28 October 1927) and passenger (16 January 1928) flights were from Key West to Havana, and on 29 October 1928, Miami was added to the route system.  During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s Pan Am’s network extended through all of Central and South America. Pan Am also purchased a number of ailing or defunct airlines in Central and South America and negotiated with postal officials to win most of the US government’s airmail contracts to the region. In September 1929 Trippe toured Latin America with Charles Lindbergh to negotiate landing rights in a number of countries, including SCADTA’s home turf in Colombia, and Venezuela. By the end of the year, Pan Am offered flights along the west coast of South America to Peru. The following year, Pan Am purchased the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA), giving it a seaplane route along the east coast of South America to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and westbound to Santiago, Chile. Pan Am also partnered with W. R. Grace & Company in 1929 to form Pan American-Grace Airways (Panagra).

Front and back cover of Pan Am's first timetable.  Reproduction of the original eight page folder.

Front and back cover of Pan Am’s first timetable. Reproduction of the original eight page folder.

The Sikorsky S-38 was the workhorse of the period and was used in survey flights and scheduled service as Pan Am extended its route system in the Caribbean.  On 6 February 1929, this aircraft made the first airmail flight to the Canal Zone with Charles Lindbergh in command and John A. Hambleton, one of the airline’s co-founders, as co-pilot.

Timetable cover circa early 1930s.

Timetable cover circa early 1930s.

Captain John Marshall piloted Pan Am’s Latin America routes for years on many of the airline’s aircraft.  He wrote about Pan Am in Latin America along with memories about his first flight to Rio in a piece that appeared in Airways Magazine.  Here are excerpts from his article, “Flying to Rio”:

“Pan American Airways (the ’World’ did not come until after the war, when the airline really did fly all over the world) from the beginning had a Latin flavor.  Its very first flight was from Key West to Havana, and the early days were marked by exploration and new service to the Caribbean, Central America, and down to the huge southern half of the hemisphere. One of founder Juan Trippe’s early moves was the purchase of the New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA).  The routes from this purchase formed the backbone of the South American route system that would be a mainstay of the company until its very last days.  Included in the deal was a fleet of Consolidated Commodores.”

Consolidated Commodore
Consolidated Commodore

Much of the early route exploration done during 1929 was accomplished with the Sikorsky S-38 seaplane with Charles Lindbergh at the controls, along with wife Anne and the Trippes, Juan and his wife Betty. Together they pioneered these first routes that connected Miami with Cuba and Central America.  Later on that year they explored another air mail route that took them through Puerto Rico and as far south as Paramaribo in Dutch Guiana (now Surinam).

“The fledgling airline’s fleet of Consolidated Commodore and the venerable S-38 formed the backbone of Pan Am’s South American operation until the arrival of the four-engine Sikorsky S-42.

“The Commodore could cover the journey from Miami to Rio in an astounding five days.  It could fly nearly 900 miles without refueling, and carry a load of 32 passengers, plus cargo – a truly staggering achievement!  Crossing the equator vested one with a rare and unique badge of honor, and properly engraved certificates were solemnly presented to each passenger.  When the ‘Line’ was crossed, the captain pulled back on the yoke and then pushed abruptly forward, performing a swooping, stomach-dropping maneuver that was proof that the flight had indeed crossed the Equator and entered the southern hemisphere.

“It was about this time that Pan Am began building a series of guest houses along the long route to South America in order to provide suitable accommodations for over-night passengers.  These guest houses would remain in use until well after the war.

Flight 201

Pan Am’s flight 201 could be considered a Pan Am “signature” flight that operated on its prestige routes.  It originally operated between Miami and Buenos Aires and eventually between New York and Buenos Aires.  The flight also included a stop in Rio de Janeiro.  Just when the flight was designated “201” is difficult to determine.  The flight number appears in the December 1939 timetable but does not in the April 1939 timetable.  Timetables from earlier years had no flight numbers.

In 1939, flight 201 operated six days a week with an S-42, and the journey took 6 days.  Below is the schedule of flight 201 from the December 1939 timetable.  Note the overnight stops.

1939 Latin America

The Sikorsky S-42

The Sikorsky S-42

In 1940 the flight was operated with a Boeing 307 “Strato Clipper” and in 1943, a DC-3 was operated on the route. Presumably this continued during the war wartime restrictions prevented publication of public timetables.

1940 Latina America-1      1943 Latin America-1

Douglas DC-3

Douglas DC-3

As the war was winding down, Pan Am began transition from wartime to peacetime operations and the focus was on Latin America. The October 1945 time table advertised a 21 hour trip between New York and Buenos Aires with “huge new 100 and 200-passenger Clippers”.  However, until the these new Clippers were available, the route to Buenos Aires continued to be operated with a DC-3 from Miami with overnight stops in Port of Spain, Belem and Rio de Janeiro.

Sched 1945-5       Sched 1945-3

From Captain Marshall:

“In July, 1948,  just three years after the end of the war, Pan Am advertised daily single plane service between New York and Rio.  The flight number was 201, as it would remain until the last day of the airline, and it left every night for Brazil.  The aircraft was a Douglas DC-4  the unpressurized successor to the C-54, the military workhorse whose fame extended to the Berlin Airlift in the same year.  Flight 201 left New York La Guardia (New York Idlewild, later JFK, would not come into general use until years later) at 2315 hours, according to the timetable, which was 11:15 p.m. to the civilian populace.  Ten hours later it landed at San Juan, where it spent an hour’s layover before departing on the next leg, to Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad, touching down three and a half hours later.   Passengers had the option of breaking their journey at Pan Am’s Piarco Guest House in Port of Spain and continuing on the same flight the next day or waiting to take flight 203, another DC-4 that operated on Wednesdays and Saturdays to Georgetown, British Guinea, Paramaribo, Surinam, and Cayenne, French Guinea.  That flight departed Port of Spain at 2:00 a.m. and passengers spent the rest of the long night boring through the South American skies to those exotic ports of call. Those continuing on flight 201 departed for Belem, Brazil at 1415 hours, 2:15 p.m. 

Douglas DC-4

Douglas DC-4

“Belem is Brazil’s northeastern-most seaport, on the bulge of the continent just north of the mouth of the Amazon, where the continent juts out into the Atlantic.  It is eight gut-throbbing hours before we land in Belem; nearly midnight.  Never despair, however, because the end is finally in sight.  On the ground a scarce sixty minutes, at 22315 hours, 11:15 p.m., flight 201 lifts off for the final time.  Next stop Rio!  The DC-4 flies through the endless night until finally the sun pushes its way into the windows on the port side of the aircraft.  For sightseeing, the passengers missed nothing; the flight from Belem is over nothing but solid, endless, green; the never-ending Brazilian rain forest.  Villages and settlements are mere specks of light in the endless darkness, there is nothing to see.  The new capital city of Brasilia is not yet a gleam of an idea in a politician‘s mind.  Finally the airplane begins its descent, and right on schedule, at 0715 hours, 7:15 a.m., the DC-4 touches down at Rio’s Galeao Airport.  What a journey!”

The June 1948 timetable below shows the journey of flight 201 on the “Latin America Services” page.  A map illustrating Pan Am’s route system is also shown.  Note the extent of services in Latin America.

PA timetable 1948 East Coast Latin American   Map 1948 (2)

Pan Am’s large presence in Latin America continued after the war and into the 50s and 60s but with the sale of Panagra to Braniff in 1967 and the sales of its subsidiaries, its presence, particularly in South America, became gradually less dominant. Timetable maps illustrate the changes.

Map from 1945 timetable.

Map from 1945 timetable.

Map from 1952 timetable.

Map from 1952 timetable.

Map from 1956 timetable.

Map from 1956 timetable.

Map from 1959 timetable.

Map from 1959 timetable.

Route map from 1969 timetable, after sale of Panagra.

Map from 1969 timetable, after sale of Panagra.

Route map from 1978 timetable.

Map from 1978 timetable.

Flight 201, however, continued operation as illustrated in the selected timetable pages below.  In 1952, a Boeing 377 Strato Clipper was used and offered “El Presidente Especial” service that included a lower deck club lounge and extra food and bar service. In 1956, a DC-6B (Super 6 Clipper) was employed in an all-First Class service, featuring the “President Special” twice a week. This service, according to the timetable “provides the ultimate in luxury service including Sleeperette chairs for bed length sleeping comfort.  Special food service and extra cabin attendants.”  The flight stopped in Caracas, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, terminating in Montevideo.  In 1959, the service was operated with a DC-7B, with “President Special” offerings on Tuesday and Friday.  The flight also stopped in Sao Paulo.  In 1969, the flight operated with a Boeing 707 and added Brasilia, the new capital of Brazil, as an intermediate point.  And in 1978, the flight was operated nonstop between New York and Rio de Janeiro with Boeing 747 on Friday and Saturday and a 707 the rest of the week.

1952 Latin America

1956 Latin America           1959 Latin America

1969 Latin America     PA timetable 1978 JFK-RIO

Douglas DC-7B

Douglas DC-7B

Captain Marshall’s first trip on flight 201 was in the late 1970s when he piloted a Boeing 707 from New York to Rio.  Below are his memories from the trip.

From Captain Marshall:

“Came the jets, and not much had really changed, except the guest houses were left for the flight crews.  The first time I flew flight 201 was in the late ‘70s, and my chariot was a 707.  Departure from Kennedy Airport was at 2200, and it was the nightly non-stop to Rio.  The airplane was at nearly maximum gross weight for the long flight; it was a common occurrence to “ring the bell” at a noise monitoring site near the airport, and we did just that.

“The first hours were spent flying south down the familiar airways into the Caribbean — dozens of flights to San Juan and Jamaica and yes, Piarco, had made these airways like old friends.  South of Port-of-Spain, however, the airways and place names became decidedly more exotic.  Georgetown and Paramaribo passed silently beneath in the darkness, and then we crossed the border into Brazil.  The immensity of the country struck me when I realized that we were barely half way — all the rest of the way would be through Brazilian airspace, but it would consume mere hours, instead of days just a few years before.

“A three-quarter moon had risen over my left shoulder, providing just enough illumination to enable me to pick out rivers below.  I craned my neck to peer forward into the night, searching for the mighty Amazon, which we would cross  just east of Santarem.  Suddenly there it was, stretched out before us in the moonlight, that most immense of rivers.  As we lined it up with the moon, I could see far to the east, where it opened up to a vast oceanic estuary, a hundred miles across at its mouth.  In a moment we would cross the equator, and I felt myself anxiously waiting for the bump.  In later years I always thought it would be an amusing exercise to have someone flush the lav just as we crossed the Line, and see if the swirl stopped going clockwise and began rotating in the other direction.  (Or is it the other way around?)

“Communications are a little different down here.  Routine position reports are passed to Belem on HF (high frequency) radio, which was proving to be a difficult exercise.  Both Belem and Brazilia radio seem to be at the bottom of a deep echoing well, and require patient persistence to make ourselves heard.  I was reminded of my first flights to India and South Asia.  One of the caveats concerning flight into South America niggled at my brain.  “They’ll give you anything you ask for, so you are essentially your own air traffic control.”  I tested this a moment later when, after finally reaching Belem, we asked for the next higher flight level.  The answer came instantly winging back, without a pause.  “Roger, Clipper, cleared to climb to flight level three five zero.”  Now is when the do-it-yourself kicks in.  We dialed up the air-to-air VHF frequency, 126.9, and made the required broadcast in the blind.  “Clipper 201, on one twenty-six nine, in the blind, southbound on Amber 4, fifty south of Santarem, climbing out of three three zero for three fife zero.”  I reached up and flipped on the landing lights, two stabbing beams of light piercing the night.  Silence.  Not a lot of traffic abroad in northern Brazil at two in the morning.

“Above, the night was punctuated by a dazzling display of stars, uncompromised by any lights on the ground; below an endless stretch of black, broken only every hundred miles or so by the lights of a tiny village on the banks of a river.  The air was smooth; we were suspended in the night.  I wandered aft to stretch my legs in the darkened cabin, virtually the entire airplane was asleep.  A lone flight attendant sat on a plastic crate in the galley, reading a book.  She smiled at me as I reentered the cockpit.

“Finally the eastern sky grays, then pinks and blues, and the sun burst upon us.  In three hours we will begin our descent into Rio’s Galaeo Airport, but we couldn’t relax our vigilance even for a moment.  Hot air balloons and hang gliders drift blithely across the long descent path from Pirai, unseen and unheeded by Rio Approach Control, who at this point have yet to see their first radar scope.  All hands were on the flight deck, eyes searching the haze ahead.  (Later on in my career, taking off from Galaeo for New York on a miserable rainy midnight in a fully loaded 747, we had a very near miss with a brightly lit hot air balloon drifting among the broken clouds, right smack in the middle of the departure path.  It appeared suddenly in the glare of the landing lights, startling us all nearly out of our wits, and was quickly gone.  We missed it by less than a hundred feet, by my estimate, and I wondered later if its occupants were as surprised and frightened as we were, and whether they were caught in our jet wash.)

“Finally the airport appeared in the windscreen, and on the horizon we could see Corcovado Mountain, with the giant figure of Christ, arms outstretched, the symbol of Rio.  With a healthy crunch the wheels bit the concrete, and we arrived.”

Pan Am’s flight 201 continued serving Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Montevideo with a Boeing 747 throughout the 1980’s and until the airline ceased operations in 1991.  The aircraft was configured in a “Latin America” seating arrangement that provided additional First Class space for a market that historically demanded it.  The flight operated four days a week non-stop to Rio de Janeiro and continued twice weekly to Buenos Aires and Montevideo.  This is illustrated in Pan Am’s last timetable, below, issued about six weeks before Pan Am ceased operations.  Note the very few cities served in South America compared to the early days.  There was, however, an extensive presence in the Caribbean and Central America, the original area of operation for the fledgling airline in  the 1920’s and 30’s.

1991-Last    Last timetable schedules    Last timetable seat config

  Map 1991-Last

In 1927 Pan Am came into being as an airline that served the Americas.  Sixty years later, after serving the globe, Pan Am returned to its roots.  It was from there that Pan American World Airways became a fond memory to all those who kept the once mighty airline in the skies.

There has been a wealth of literature written about Pan Am.  John Marshall, a long-time Pan Am captain, featured in this story, wrote a number of articles that appeared in Airways Magazine.  They will be featured in future editions of this series. He also contributed a story about his experiences flying Pan Am planes in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm to Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of Its People, published by BlueWater Press.

CoverDesign.Book2-2011

Please follow this link for further details and purchasing information about this book:  http://www.bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am2.html

For more information about Pan American World Airways history visit the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation at  http://panam.org/

The Pan Am Series – IV: The Karachi Hijacking

Recollections of Bill Lange who ran the Pan Am Emergency Command Center during the incident have been added. Very interesting and compelling.

JPB Transportation

747-2

Pan Am Flight 73, a Boeing 747-121, N656PA, Clipper Empress of the Seas, was hijacked on 5 September 1986 while on the ground at Karachi, Pakistan (“KHI”) by four armed men of the Abu Nidal Organization. The aircraft, with 360 passengers on board, had just arrived from Mumbai, India, and was preparing to depart for Frankfurt and continuing on to New York.

The incident began as passengers boarded the aircraft.  The four hijackers were dressed as Karachi airport security guards and were armed with assault rifles, pistols, grenades and plastic explosive belts. At about 6:00 a.m., the hijackers drove a van that had been modified to look like an airport security vehicle through a security checkpoint up to one of the boarding stairways to aircraft.  The hijackers stormed up the stairways into the plane, fired shots from an automatic weapon, and seized control of the aircraft. Flight attendants were able to alert…

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The Pan Am Series – Part V: The “Nautical Airline”

An American Clipper Ship circa 1870

An American Clipper Ship circa 1870

Pan American World Airways has always been associated with the sea and things nautical.  Its aircraft were called “Clippers” and many of the Clipper names had references to the sea, particularly with the Boeing 747 aircraft, which were given names such as Pride of the Sea, Champion of the Seas, Spark of the Ocean, Belle of the Sea, Crest of the Wave and Sovereign of the Seas, to name a few.

How Pan Am became the “Nautical Airline” is centered on Pan Am’s founder, Juan Trippe who dreamed of this idea from the beginning of his venture in establishing an airline. How Pan Am was formed is a story of wheeling and dealing, mergers and acquisitions and financial and political maneuvering that is well documented in the Pan Am literature, including Robert Daley’s An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, Marylin Bender and Selig Alyschul’s The Chosen Instrument and R.E.G. Davies’ Pan Am, An Airline and Its Aircraft.

Suffice to say, however, it is useful to have a little background.  In the beginning there were four interested groups, as identified by R.E.G. Davies in Pan Am, An Airline and Its Aircraft. The first group, the Montgomery Group, formed Pan American Airways, Inc. (PAA).  It was founded on 14 March 1927 by Air Force Majors “Hap” Arnold, Carl Spaatz and John H. Jouett, later joined by John K. Montgomery and Richard B. Bevier, as a counterbalance to German-owned carrier “SCADTA” (Colombo-German Aerial Transport Co) that had been operating in Colombia since 1920. SCADTA was viewed as a possible German aerial threat to the Panama Canal.  Eventually Montgomery petitioned the US government to call for bids on an U.S. airmail contract between Key West and Havana (FAM 4) and won the contract.  However, PAA lacked any aircraft to perform the job and did not have landing rights in Cuba.  Under the terms of the contract, PAA had to be flying by 19 October 1927.

On 2 June 1927, Juan Trippe formed the Aviation Corporation of America (ACA) (the Trippe Group) with financially powerful and politically well-connected backing, and raised $300,000.  On 1 July Reed Chambers and financier Richard Hoyt (the Chambers-Hoyt Group) formed Southeastern Airlines.   On 8 July Trippe formed Southern Airlines and on 11 October Southeastern was reincorporated as Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean Airways.  Trippe then proposed a merger between these three groups and in doing so played a trump card:  He and John A. Hambleton, one of his backers, traveled to Cuba and persuaded the Cuban president to grant landing rights to the Aviation Corporation, making Montgomery’s mail contract useless as a bargaining chip.  After much wrangling between the groups, including a meeting on Hoyt’s yacht during which Assistant Postmaster General Irving Grover threatened that if there was no deal he would not be awarding any contract to anyone, the Aviation Corporation of the Americas was formed, operating as Pan American Airways, headed by Juan Trippe.  Later the corporation’s name was changed to Pan American Airways.

The deadline of 19 October still loomed, however. A Fokker F-VII aircraft was selected for the operation, but could not be used because Meacham’s Field in Key West was not completed and could not accommodate the aircraft. What transpired was an eleventh hour miracle. Pan American’s representative in Miami learned that a Fairchild FC-2 monoplane was in Key West, sitting out a hurricane threat.  The aircraft was owned by West Indian Aerial Express (the Fairchild Group) and a deal was made to charter the aircraft.  The pilot was offered $145.50 to carry mail to Havana that had just arrived on the Florida East Coast-Atlantic Coast Line railroads.  The hurricane threat disappeared and the trip was made.  The rest is history.

On 28 October 1927, the Fokker left Key West on Pan American’s inaugural international flight, carrying 772 lb of mail. On 16 January 1928, the first passenger flight was completed on the same route.  And on 28 October 1928, Pan American established its Miami base at Dinner Key.

The First Clipper

In 1931, Pan Am acquired the Sikorsky S-40, the first aircraft that would be designated “Clipper”.  This designation came about as a result of Trippe’s fascination with ships and the sea.  As a child he had traveled to Europe on Cunard Line ships and this fascination transcended to the idea that Pan Am should be a kind of nautical airline.

RMS Mauretania, a Cunard ship that Juan Trippe might have traveled on to Europe

RMS Mauretania, a Cunard liner that Juan Trippe might have traveled on to Europe.

Along these lines, a maritime culture emerged.  Andre Priester, who Trippe had previously hired as chief engineer, dressed the pilots as naval officers with gold wings pinned to their breast pockets.  Gold stripes were on the jacket sleeves to show rank.  The pilots also wore peaked hats with white covers and a gold strap.  And, according to Robert Daley in An American Saga, Priester “forbade [the pilots] to stuff or twist these caps into the dashing, high-peaked shapes so dear to most aviators’ hearts.”  These naval trappings according to Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul in The Chosen Instrument “served to set distance between the airline and aviation’s all too proximate history symbolized by the khaki breeches, leather puttees, jacket and helmet of the daredevil flyer.  [Pan Am’s] pilots were invested as engineers to whom flying was a scientific business rather than a  thrilling escapade.”  Pilots underwent a stringent and comprehensive training program and, according to former flying boat and retired captain Bill Nash, were required to have college degrees prior to hiring and to demonstrate proven proficiency prior to promotion in the flight deck.  Nash started as a Fourth Officer before rising to Captain.

Sikorsky S-40 - "Southern Clipper" - the first Clipper Ship

Sikorsky S-40 – Pictured is the Southern Clipper

When the S-40 made its debut, it was the largest airplane built in the United States.  Its maiden voyage on 19 November 1931 was from Miami to the Canal Zone carrying 32 passengers with Charles Lindbergh at the controls and Basil Rowe (formerly with the West Indian Aerial Express) as co-pilot.  Igor Sikorsky, who Trippe had earlier brought on board to design an aircraft to Pan Am’s own specifications (the predecessor to the S-40, the S-38) also had some time at the controls.

Trippe named the aircraft the American Clipper.  Perhaps inspired by prints of American clipper ships hanging in his home or reaching back to his Maryland ancestry from where these swift sailing ships originated in the shipyards of Baltimore, it was, according to Bender and Altschul “appropriate then, to call the first transport ship designed for international air commerce after those magnificent vessels.”  Thereafter, all Pan Am aircraft were to be designated Clippers.

Clipper Pride of the Ocean at London Heathrow

Clipper Pride of the Ocean at London Heathrow Airport

Clipper Dashing Wave at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport

Clipper Dashing Wave at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport

The operation would be in keeping with maritime lore and custom.  The pilot was called “captain” and the co-pilot “first officer”.  The title “captain” implied master of the ship or chief executive of the flying boat.  Speed was calculated in knots (nautical miles per hour), time in bells, and a crew’s tour of duty was a “watch”.  In the cabin, according to Daley, “walls and ceilings would be finished in walnut painted in a dark stain, and the fifty passengers would sit in Queen Anne chairs upholstered in blue and orange. The carpet would be blue, and the windows equipped with rope blinds.  As aboard any ship, life rings would hang from the walls of the lounge.”  The stewards, according to Bender and Altschul, “were modeled in function and appearance after the personnel of luxury ocean liners.  Their uniforms were black trousers and white waist-length jackets over white shirts and black neckties. Stewards distributed remedies for airsickness, served refreshments (and in the S-40, prepared hot meals in the galley of the aircraft), pointed out scenic attractions from the windows of the plane and assisted with the red tape of Customs and landing procedures.”

This nautical approach seemed to carry on through the entire existence of Pan Am.  The flight deck – bridge – was always on the top deck, as on an ocean liner.  This was evident in the flying boats, including the Martin M-130, the China Clipper, the Boeing 314, the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and the Boeing 747, with its flight deck on the upper deck of the aircraft.

M-130 - China Clipper

M-130 – China Clipper

Boeing 314

Boeing 314

Boeing 377

Boeing 377

The flight deck of the Boeing 314 had the appearance of the bridge of a merchant ship:

The "Bridge" of the Boeing 314

The “Bridge” of the Boeing 314

Note the Clipper ship on the forward bulkhead of the Boeing 707:

Interior of Boeing 707 in All-Economy Charter Configuration.

Interior of Boeing 707 in All-Economy Charter Configuration.

Below, the SS United States and the bridge of a large merchant ship:

SS United States  (photo credit Charles Anderson)

SS United States
(photo credit Charles Anderson)

Bridge of a Roll On/Roll Off merchant ship.

Bridge of a Roll On/Roll Off merchant ship.

The “nautical” feel was also prevalent at Clipper departures, particularly from Dinner Key in Miami during the early years and Pan Am’s Worldport at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in the later years.  There was an atmosphere similar to the departure of an ocean liner, with festivity, sense of adventure and anticipation of a voyage to a distant place.  The setting at the Worldport, particularly with the evening departures to distant destinations, included passengers and well-wishers gathered at the gate in sight of the Clipper being readied for the long voyage ahead.  There was a sense of drama; the type of drama that Juan Trippe probably envisaged for each Clipper departure.  The romance of traveling to faraway places was part and parcel of the Pan Am experience.

The nautical element was also featured in many of Pan Am’s printed brochures and posters, as well as on the cover of an annual report.

1958 Annual Report

1958 Annual Report

However, as the years passed, the romance of the “nautical airline” began to wear out.  Perhaps Pan Am tried to preserve it with the Boeing 747, but times had changed.  The grand ocean liners were soon replaced by cruise ships where passengers were more interested in the on-board entertainment rather than the peaceful environment of the sea (although that can still be experienced on cargo ships).  Airline passengers became more interested in getting from A to B at the lowest fare, rather than experiencing the ambiance of a flying ocean liner.  Airplanes became more like buses, with the exception of the premium cabins, rather than airships commanding the airways. And the bridge, both on many cruise ships and on the largest passenger aircraft in the world, would no longer be on the topmost deck. The sense of command of the airways and the sea has seemed to disappear, and the bridge, “formerly sacrosanct navigational preserves”, as eloquently described by John Maxtone-Graham in Liners to the Sun,  is now simply a functionary in the process of getting passengers from A to B, or in the case of a cruise ship, from A to A via port visits.

On the A-380, the flight deck is located between the main and upper decks:

A-380 - Note location flight deck compared to Boeing 747

A-380 – Note location of the flight deck compared to Boeing 747, pictured above.

And on the newer cruise liners, the bridge is not on the highest deck, as shown here on the Holland America Line’s Eurodam.

MS Eurodam - Note the location of the bridge four decks below the top deck.

MS Eurodam – Note the location of the bridge four decks below the top deck.

Perhaps Pan Am the Nautical Airline was overcome by its own success.  One cannot, however, deny that the idea of a nautical airline was a necessary step in the process of shrinking the globe.  Now, with today’s technology, it probably is no longer needed.  Happily, one tradition of the nautical airline continues:  the Pilot-in-Command of an airliner is still the “Captain”.

For anyone interested in the history of Pan Am, the books referenced above are excellent sources of in-depth analysis of the airline’s story.  Another excellent book, a time-line of historic Pan Am firsts and major events, with illustrations, is Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline, by James Patrick Baldwin and published by BlueWaterPress.  The contents can be viewed at this link: https://jpbtransconsulting.com/pan-am-book-images/, and can be purchased directly from the publisher at this link: http://www.bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am.html

It is also available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pan-American-World-Airways-Airline/dp/1604520469/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381237003&sr=8-1&keywords=pan+american+world+airways+-+images+of+a+great+airline

Further information about Pan Am history can also be found on the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation,  http://panam.org/

The Story of Snow Leopard – Part Three: The Inaugural Flight

Snow Leopard-ground

Part Three:  The Inaugural Flight

Selling Tickets

With the Acceptance Flight completed and the aircraft ready to start operations, management and staff got into full gear. Tickets were sold, crews scheduled and plans were made for launch activities.  At the London Headquarters on Kensington High Street, tickets sales in both the Delhi, India and Karachi, Pakistan markets was brisk and flights sold out very quickly. However, ticket sales in the Dushanbe market was slow due to very little western business activity in the country, and what little passenger traffic there was, was largely government in nature. Thus, selling seats in the beyond markets was necessary.  As described in Part One, this “Sixth Freedom” operation enabled a profit on what would have been money losing flights.  In fact, over 90-95% of the booked passengers were booked on flights to Delhi or Karachi.  Deeply discounted advance purchase excursion tickets offered through local travel agents in the ethnic neighborhoods of London resulted in a huge response.

The Kensington High Street Headquarters served as both a ticket office and operations base with constant activity, day and night.  This was punctuated with welcome and frequent visits by the Pan Am and Tajik flight crews.

McMillan House-1 Cyrus and Eni

   McMillan House-6 Amin   McMillan House-4

Ticket Sales at Kensington High Street Office

McMillan House-3

Tajik Staff

McMillan House-2    McMillan House-7 Pilot

Pan Am Flight Crews visiting Kensington High Street Headquarters

Cabin Crew Scheduling

While ticket sales and preparations for the inaugural flight were progressing, Gunilla Crawford and her team of flight attendants set about to organize crew scheduling and rotations.  This was no easy task!

Cabin crew scheduling was a challenge for Gunilla.  With no computers available, some creativity was required:

From Gunilla Crawford:

“We went across the street from the hotel to a gas station and bought four dinosaur-shaped erasers in four different colors.  Each dinosaur represented a crew.   And each crew consisted of two ex-Pan Am flight attendants and the rest Tajik.  On a large poster board we plotted the four destinations, London, Dushanbe, Karachi and New Delhi.  By moving the dinosaurs between the destinations we made sure nobody was scheduled from London, when in fact the crew member was in New Delhi!”

Cabin Crew Sked-2   Cabin Crew Sked-3

Cabin Crew Scheduling.   In the left picture are Gunilla Crawford, Vince Rossi and Debbie Thornburg.  In the right are Gunilla, Linda Morehouse and Vince.  Note the colored dinosaurs!

From Vince Rossi, who worked on crew scheduling:

“Gunilla was responsible for the entire inflight programme. To that end, building and scheduling crews was an important component of her job. Four crews were required to staff the operation, with one or two crews on rotation back home. Each flight would be staffed with two Pan Am Pursers joined in the SP cabin by flight attendants from India for Hindi language as well as the wonderful Tajiks. Some Brazilian and French flight attendants who lived in London also joined.

“For aircraft plotting, crew staffing, scheduling and rest requirements, in the days before laptop computers with Excel spreadsheets, improvisation was needed. A long sheet of plotting paper was procured, along with 4 small rubber toy dinosaurs. Each dinosaur was numbered in pencil: crew/dinosaur 1, crew/dinosaur 2, etc…. An interpretation of a full week of aircraft movements and stations visited was marked on the plotting paper, with lines drawn as the days progressed marking the track of the aircraft from Heathrow through Dushanbe and on to Delhi or Karachi. When Gunilla said it was time to “run the dinosaurs”, we placed the numbered dinosaurs on the plotting paper, each one numbered and representing a crew at their respective locations across the system and ensured that legal rest requirements were met and staffing matched the projected aircraft movements. This method was used for the entire time of the operation.

“Often the dinosaurs were “run” on a coffee table in a dedicated crew lounge provided at our hotel on Bath Road near Heathrow, and crews from other carriers in the lounge would be amused watching the “run of dinosaurs.  This system worked exceptionally well. No aircraft movement was impeded due to cabin staffing or crew rest issues for the entire operation. It is also important to note that the initial “pairings” were established in meetings with the Tajik crewmembers, who also had an idea of how they wanted their work patterns and layover times and points. I may be mistaken but India and Pakistan were potential visa issues for the Tajiks even for layovers.”

 and . . . Catering

When Gunilla arrived in London, she was in for a surprise.  In addition to heading up the cabin crew, there was another responsibility as well:  Catering.  She handled that in pure Pan Am fashion.

“We made appointments with Catering at Heathrow airport, we picked china for the First Class Service, silver ware, serving dishes, baskets and linens. The “old” Pan Am training came back in force and we would do the service in the name of that classic carrier.” 

The food service to be offered was superb.

In First Class departing London, “Royal Doulton Service” included during the drinks service a choice of Hot Canapes including Chicken Kebab, Mushroom Cream Vol-au-Vent, Spring Roll, Basil Cashew Parmesan Tartlets and Asian Canapes of mixed pakoras and samosas. The Hors d’oeuvres offered a choice of Poached Salmon Medallion on Oakleaf lettuce with Diced Pepper and Cucumber Salad, or a Tomato Cup filled with Mayonnaise Lemon garnish or a Smoked Chicked Breast on Radicchio with Mandarin Orange and Cucumber or a Radish and Mixed Peppers Julienne, all with a Mixed Leaf Salad with Vinaigrette.  For the entree, the choices were Curry Prawn Jalfrezi with fresh chopped Coriander, Rack of Lamb with Herbs and Fresh Rosemary Sprigs or Chicken Shirin Polo accompanied by Basmati Rice with Zereshk or Potato Sesame Croquettes and a choice of vegetables including Broccoli au Gratin Mornay or Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Baby Sweetcorn, Turned Carrots and Mange Tout.

For desert  Gateau Chocolate Roulade with Orange Zest was followed by a cheese plate that included Camembert, Port Salut, Feta, Stilton, Brie with black grapes, black and green olives and celery batons.  Ending the meal was a fresh fruit basket.

Prior to landing in Dushanbe the pre-arrival “hot breakfast was just as posh…It was like working the Pan Am Clippers again”, according to Vince Rossi one of the ex-Pan Am flight attendants.

The Inaugural Flight

As the day approached for Snow Leopard’s first revenue flight from London to Dushanbe and onwards to Karachi, the crews began assembling in London to prepare.  For Gunilla, it was a happy reunion with the Tajik flight attendants who greeted their ex-Pan Am counterparts with “squeals and shouts of joy”.  For the inaugural flight four ex-Pan Am were to work the flight, Robert Stewart, Tania Anderson, Linda Morehouse and Linda Oja.  On the flight deck were Captain Ed Olasz, First Officer Jim Donahue and Flight Engineer Carl Meixal.  In addition, two qualified captains were assigned to the flight.

Preparations for departure went into high gear.  Nothing was overlooked.  Everything was covered, from the accuracy of the manuals to training to CRM (crew resources management) with the Tajik flight attendants.   Anything that could possibly happen, even the unpredictable, was discussed and thoroughly prepared for.

The excitement of flying again did not escape the ex-Pan Amers who were taking part in the operation.  Snow Leopard’s first flight coincided almost to the date of the demise of their beloved Pan Am, some two years prior.

From Tania Anderson:

“I happily scribbled away in my diary, gushing about the thrill of flying with my cosmopolitan colleagues again. A few fondly remembered having flown with this particular 747SP before. Some of my co-workers had not flown since Pan Am’s demise. It had been nearly two years to the day that I had been on my last flight, a White House Press Charter, when we learned that we were bankrupt for good. Now as we gathered in the lobby of our London hotel for the first flight to Dushanbe, we all noted the sad anniversary coupled with the excitement of exploring a new airline together.”

At 2215 hrs on the date of the inaugural flight, Snow Leopard, designated 7J801, departed London Heathrow for Dushanbe. The spirit on board was one of joy and happiness.

From Tania Anderson:

“During the flight, I quickly noted that many of the passengers, who were going onto Karachi, were much less frenetic than the ones we used to fly on Pan Am. They were elated to be going home, either for a visit or permanently, for a reasonably priced airline ticket. One passenger actually asked if he could kiss me, and I reluctantly replied, “Well, Ok, but on my cheek!” I also noted in my diary that we were flying across Russian airspace which may not sound like a big deal but to someone who grew up during the Cold War when the former USSR was our mortal enemy, it was intriguing to me.

“The multi-national crew also bonded quickly. The Tajik flight attendants loved the fact that my name was Tania. Naturally assuming that I was Russian with a name like Tania, one actually commented that I spoke good fluent English for a Russian. Some of the Tajiks were dark with olive skin and Middle Eastern looks. Most were Muslim. Others were the opposite end of the spectrum with white skin and light eyes. They were usually Russian Orthodox.

“Among the Tajik flight attendants, there were three Irenas on the flight.  Any time I said ‘Irena’, all three would whirl around simultaneously to see what I wanted.  The Tajik flight attendants  were absolutely delightful and so easy to get along with. They were also thrilled to have secured a job such as this with the opportunity to explore a bit of the world, especially London. Many of them had no transportation from their homes, so they simply walked miles to the airport to work these extraordinarily long flights. They went out of their way to tell us how their country was still in a lot of upheaval economically. In addition, Afghani insurgents were coming over the border to make trouble, and they wanted none of it. ‘Tania, we just all want peace and to be able to live our lives’, one told me.”

Cabin Crew-1

Crew-1   Upper deck SP from Vince

Cabin Crew-2a   Cabin Crew-1a

The Pan Am and Tajik Flight Crews

After a long flight into the night, Snow Leopard landed in Dushanbe.

From Tania Anderson:

“It was a cold, wintry, snowy day when we landed in Dushanbe to a zealous reception on the tarmac. After all, we were the first western aircraft to ever land in somewhat remote Tajikistan. I distinctly remember applause in the cabin upon our touchdown, but the local hoopla outside just about had me abandoning my jump-seat.

“With a dramatic back drop of steep snow-encrusted mountains, dozens of well-wishers had gathered on the tarmac in their traditional brightly-colored clothes. There was a band playing Russian instruments complete with long-nosed horns and big drums. Tajik national TV was there with their ancient equipment to record every single minute of the ceremonies and our arrival.”

DYU Reception-2  DYU Reception-1

The Reception at Dushanbe Airport

From Tania Anderson:

“Once on the blocks, the ground people enthusiastically boarded the plane, not only to welcome us, but to ask for a quick tour of the 747SP. Descending the spiral staircase, our pilots were given handsome home-made colorful robes to wear over their uniforms. Now that the door was open, I could observe the entire scene. Our pilots were quickly ushered down the stairs and off to the terminal for a reception including some local culinary treats whose identity was left to the imagination. Later one of them told me that the Tajiks had insisted that they shoot some vodka—maybe local moonshine—to celebrate the day. A bit horrified, our pilots made certain that the officials knew we still had another leg to fly to Karachi, but the general response was like, ‘So what?’

“Linda Oja and I stayed on the plane watching everything from L-1. Then something happened I shall never forget. As Linda squealed, ‘Oh, No!’ I saw some Tajiks dragging a sheep across the tarmac towards the Snow Leopard. It struggled the entire way, right up to the staircase, just as if it knew something lousy was about to occur. As they do in many countries, they sacrificed the sheep at the bottom of our stairs, directing the blood from his neck into a bowl. In the west we christen ships and airplanes with champagne, but now we were half way around the world in a land with customs very different than our own.

“Not long afterwards, the entire crew along with the ground people gathered in front of the aircraft for a memorable photo. Each of us was festooned with garlands of deep red-colored roses. They were velvet to the touch and their fragrance was heavenly, even against the cold blast of mid-winter.”

Crew and Ground Staff in front of Snow Leopard after arrival

Crew and Ground Staff in front of Snow Leopard after arrival.

From Tania Anderson:

“Standing there on that frosty winter day, I felt a true sense of pride about our latest “operation.” In true Pan Am fashion, we had pulled ourselves up after the bankruptcy and were on the other side of the planet helping the struggling Tajiks with their burgeoning airline, begun with one beautiful 747SP.

“Flying on the Snow Leopard was another wonderful Pan Amigo adventure to add to my memoirs.”

When Snow Leopard arrived at Dushanbe that wintery morning, Tajikistan was in the midst of an economic crisis along with a civil war.  Bread was being rationed but at the same time the country was trying to turn the page into a new chapter of their existence, emerging from the era of Soviet rule to an independent and free nation.  The arrival of this beautiful 747SP representing their national airline stoked both great pride and happiness among its citizens.
The story of Snow Leopard continues In the next and final part of this story, with exciting adventures for the Pan Am and Tajik crews and the sad end of the operation.

The Pan Am Series – Part IV: The Karachi Hijacking

747-2

Pan Am Flight 73, a Boeing 747-121, N656PA, Clipper Empress of the Seas, was hijacked on 5 September 1986 while on the ground at Karachi, Pakistan (“KHI”) by four armed men of the Abu Nidal Organization. The aircraft, with 360 passengers on board, had just arrived from Mumbai, India, and was preparing to depart for Frankfurt and continuing on to New York.

The incident began as passengers boarded the aircraft.  The four hijackers were dressed as Karachi airport security guards and were armed with assault rifles, pistols, grenades and plastic explosive belts. At about 6:00 a.m., the hijackers drove a van that had been modified to look like an airport security vehicle through a security checkpoint up to one of the boarding stairways to aircraft.  The hijackers stormed up the stairways into the plane, fired shots from an automatic weapon, and seized control of the aircraft. Flight attendants were able to alert the cockpit crew using intercom, allowing the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer to escape through an overhead hatch in the cockpit, effectively grounding the aircraft.

During the following 16 hours, Zayd Hassan Safarini, the Jordanian leader of the hijackers, demanded the return of the flight crew to fly the aircraft to Larnaca, Cyprus, where he wanted to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners being detained in Cyprus. During negotiations between Safarini and Pakistani authorities, Safarini threatened to kill all passengers. Four hours into the hijacking, one of the passengers was shot and pushed out the door onto the tarmac below. As nightfall arrived, the hijackers herded the passengers and crew members into the center section of the aircraft. The four hijackers opened fire on the passengers and crew, and threw grenades among them, killing almost 20. Most of the survivors escaped through two doors of the plane which were forced open when the firing began.

55-Empress of the Seas   747-3

Pan Am Captain Hart Langer was in Hamburg at the time of the hijacking and received word that the hijackers were demanding a crew to fly them anywhere they wanted to go.  Below are his recollections of what happened in excerpts from his essay “Karachi Hijacking – Rescuing a 747” in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, published by BlueWaterPress.

” * * *  A 747 without a crew was useless to the hijackers, and they demanded that Pan Am provide an Arabic-speaking crew to fly them where they wanted to go.  Captain Jim Duncan (System Chief Pilot), through his contacts in IATA, called Captain Jazza Ghanem, the Vice-President of Flight Operations at Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) to see if they could help out.  Captain Ghanem was willing, but unfortunately was overruled by top management at Saudia.

“As a result, the consensus at System Operations Control at JFK (New York), was that if Pan Am could find a volunteer crew, negotiations with the hijackers would hopefully get them to release all of the passengers in return for flying them to some other location.  Captain Duncan wanted to know if Captain Ed Cywinski and I could head to Karachi and fly the 747 to wherever the hijackers wanted to go, in return for releasing all 390 passengers.  We agreed.  Bob Huettl, a check Flight Engineer who was laying over in LHR (London), also volunteered. * * *

“As it turned out, the APU (Auxiliary Propulsion Unit) that was supplying electrical power to the 747 in KHI had a small oil leak, and the Tech Center at JFK had predicted exactly when it would shut itself down and stop providing power to the 747.  When it finally happened, the airplane went dark, and the hijackers thought that they were under attack.   They herded all the passengers into the overwing area, began shooting people at random, and set off numerous explosive devices.  At that point, the Pakistani army did indeed attack the airplane and finally overpowered the hijackers.

“All of this happened while we were en route to KHI.  Captain Duncan was able to get in touch with the Swissair DC-10 using a phone patch and HF radio, and informed us that the hijackers had been arrested.   When we arrived, we had a chance to inspect the airplane.  The carnage was unbelievable * * *   Pan Am dispatched a crack team of mechanics from LHR to KHI, and in five days they had the airplane in a flyable condition – which is remarkable considering that there were fifty-seven bullet holes in the fuselage.   Ed, Bob, and I flew the airplane back to JFK with a fuel stop in Frankfurt.  * * * “

In a related story, former Pan Am flight attendant Liz Morris tells about her volunteer work on Pan Am’s Care Team after the Karachi hijacking to assist families from that flight.   In her story, excerpted below, also from Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, she tells about a special passenger she cared for who was on the Clipper when it was hijacked:

“At that time – before Federal law required airlines to establish Care Teams to assist families and survivors of crashes and other disasters — Pan American used a one-on-one process to assist such survivors.  I was selected as one of 50-100 volunteers to meet the Boeing 747-121 upon its arrival with some 300 survivors at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York.  We were instructed to stay with our designated passenger or family and do everything possible to assist them with ground transportation, telephone communications, re-bookings, etc. (All immigration formalities had been attended to, via passenger listings, before the aircraft’s arrival, we learned.)

“I was first in the line to receive my special passenger or family – perhaps because of my 20-year seniority and/or because I worked in Special Services, which dealt with such situations.  I assumed I would be assigned the first passenger out of First Class – a celebrity or VIP of some kind.  Imagine my surprise when, as we lined up in the large and spacious JFK arrival hall to greet the traumatized passengers of Flight 73, I suddenly saw a skinny young  Pakistani teenager break from the oncoming crowd and run toward me shouting “Mrs. Morris, Mrs. Morris…”   * * *

“As he approached me, I recognized him.  Through several preceding years he had come to my office as the unaccompanied minor VIP son of an influential Pakistani family.  The first time he was brought to me he was a sad little boy weeping profusely.  * * *

“Now, on that fateful September day 25 years ago, as the young man ran up to me – still small and slender – I immediately recognized him as my young friend but couldn’t comprehend that he had been on Pan Am Flight 73.”

Bill Lange, then General Manager of Pan Am System Control, was also involved in this event from the Emergency Command Center in New York.  Here are his recollections:

“At the time, I was Gen Mgr of Pan Am System Control and thus ran the Emergency Command Center (NYCOZPA) dealing with this flight.  I well remember Hart Langer and Ed Cywinski agreeing to go to Karachi to fly the aircraft out with the hijackers if that became necessary, a decision on their part that cements them in my mind as the bravest people I’ve ever personally known.  They were, in fact, both in New York and I believe we got them last minute seats on as Swissair flight to Zurich with a connection from there to Karachi, although my memory on the particular flights involved may be fuzzy. 

“With the Command Center up and running, we were tied into the US Government Emergency Operations Center in Washington and also with Pan Am stations throughout the region.  We also had a direct link to Karachi via an open phone link into the Lufthansa (I think) station manager’s office because that office had windows overlooking the aircraft on the tarmac.  We were in direct connection through that office though the entire event and got the word first hand when the APU died and the aircraft went dark, leading to the explosions and shooting onboard.  During the hours of stand-off, Pan Am station and operating management were dispatched to each of a large number of airports around the region that we thought the hijackers, if they ever got airborne, might choose as a destination.  We also were back and forth with the US State Department and Military at the US Government Emergency Operations Center, providing information that was to be used to prepare a Delta Force team if the decision was made to try and free the hostages.

“It was a long night and next day at JFK and many pieces of it remain in my head in only fuzzy fashion, but one part that I do remember was after the aircraft was retaken and as the passengers were being given treatment and otherwise helped, we arranged the flight of two Pan Am 747 aircraft into Karachi to bring the passengers and crew members back to the US via Frankfurt.  During the Frankfurt stop, the badly injured passengers and crew were brought to the US military hospital there for treatment.  As these flights were being prepared and boarding priorities were being established, I took a call over the US government connection from the head of the FBI team that was just starting to investigate the who, what, why and how of the hijacking.  The first words out of his mouth were about how the FBI was commandeering the upper deck lounges on both aircraft and how their teams planned to board both aircraft in Frankfurt and use the lounge to conduct interviews of all of the passengers and PA 73 crewmembers on both flights during their passage back to the US.  He wanted names and details and directed that Pan Am set up interview schedules for everyone interviews and, essentially, provide staff service to the FBI throughout the flights.  I quickly said no, that the passengers had been through serious trauma and anguish and we were not going to add to that as we brought them home.  Further, the well-being of those passengers was the first and only priority of the Pan Am staff on those aircraft.  The conversation then through several stages of increasing noise and argument leading to my final phone statement that Pan Am would prevent the FBI agents from even getting either of the flights to pester our passengers and that they (the FBI) could meet with the passengers after we had brought them safely to the US – upon saying which, I hung up the phone.  In the end, no FBI interviews took place onboard, although we did tell passengers of the FBI interest in speaking to them and helped some volunteering passengers to meet with the FAA at a JFK hotel after their arrival.  I must admit to worrying for some time after PA73 whether I had that night put myself on an FBI list somewhere for special treatment should I ever happen to stumble in their direction.

“In the aftermath, there was great concern about the ongoing state of mind of Pan Am crews throughout the system on the new risks of hijacking.  Karachi was possibly the first time that a hijacking raised the possibility of crews and passengers finding themselves on a death flight – something that became all too real on 9/11.  Pan Am thus developed a campaign presenting all Pam Am crews with a detailed story of what the company had done to support the crews taken at Karachi.  A centerpiece of that was a 30-minute video-taped reenactment of the actions taken  at NYCOZ at JFK during the event, narrated various by me, Jim Duncan and Hart Langer.  I still have that tape on a shelf in what my wife calls my personal Pan Am Memorial Shrine, aka my basement office.

“I’m sure that everyone involved in aviation has a host of stories that they could tell about their experiences, but I will always take particular pride in my 19 years at Pan Am and the stories that members of the Pan Am family relate when they get together.  To me, Pan Am was a truly special place and time populated by special people doing amazing things.”

Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, cover pictured below, is a collection of essays  written by the people of Pan Am, the pilots, the flight attendants, the station managers and other staff who participated in the history making events that arguably made Pan Am the greatest airline that ever was—and certainly the most renowned and celebrated.

CoverDesign.Book2-2011

From the preface:

“On December 11, 1934, Pan Am’s founder, Juan T. Trippe in a New York City speech stated:

‘By each successive step, aviation is advancing to that potential ideal of a universal service for humanity.  By overcoming artificial barriers, aviation can weave together, in closer understanding, the nations of the world, and lift for the peoples of the world those horizons which have too long limited the prospective of those who live upon this earth.’

“These words are fulfilled in this book, an anthology of stories written by the people of Pan Am.  They were there at the important and news-making events that shaped the airline’s life.  Many of these events made headlines around the world, such as the carnage at Tenerife or the Lockerbie bombing.   And, with the recent fall of Muammar Ghaddafi, the name Pan American is still commanding space in news publications today.  Other events, among so many, might have just been a small item in the local newspaper or were never reported at all. 

“There were those employees who went beyond the call of duty; others were simply doing their job and in some cases there was loss of life of their dear friends.   The bottom line, big or small, heroic or otherwise, is that the events were important to the airline and its people.  This is the story we have to tell: The historic achievements of Pan Am as experienced and lived by its greatest resource – its people.”

Among the 71 essays are recollections of the inaugural flights of the Boeing 707 and 747, the flight that brought the Beatles to the United States for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and flights carrying dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa.  Other stories recall Pan Am’s involvement in the rescue of orphans during the Viet Nam War and the final closing of its Saigon Station.  There are personal recollections of hijackings, Presidential Press charters, the sale of Pan Am’s Pacific routes and the merger with National Airlines.  Finally is the narrative by the pilot who was captain on Pan Am’s last revenue flight on December 4, 1991.

These stories and much more are included in this book and any student or fan of aviation will find a treasure trove of history and memories.

Below are some comments:

From Michael Manning, Broadcast Journalist and Media Consultant,

“[The book takes the] reader ‘inside Pan Am’ relative to its achievements and tragedies from a first-person perspective. * * * [O]ver 70 first-hand accounts . . . that lend authenticity to the human experience shared by employees at all levels of the company.  By the conclusion of the book, what becomes evident is that this unique US institution—long admired as ‘the American Flag’ by many foreign countries—has also come to represent a piece of the USA that has been sadly lost. This wonderful presentation of Pan Am revealed without barriers allows the reader to ponder a company that was only as great as the people who made it ‘The World’s Most Experienced Airline’”.

From Bobby Booth, long time airline consultant and aficionado,

“The stories in this book make up what is essentially one important story – a story of dedication, heroism, and sacrifice – by an airline and its people during an important period of aviation history.  It is a story that needs to be preserved in history for future generations.  This book is an important step in that direction.”  

From Edward S. Trippe, Chairman, Pan Am Historical Foundation,

” . . . is a tribute to the legacy of one of the world’s great airlines and the men and women who for six decades were the soul of the company. * * * [This is] a compelling book, which through the words of its contributors captures much of the joy, adventure and spirit which was Pan Am.”

This book is available for purchase directly from the publisher:

http://bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am2.html

More information about Pan American World Airways history can be found on the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation.

http://panam.org/