27 October 2013 Leave a comment
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26 October 2013 2 Comments
THE LAST WEEK OF OCTOBER IS SIGNIFICANT IN THE HISTORY OF Pan American World Airways. Looking at the last six days of the month, the first Amazon route service was established on the 25th in 1933. On the 26th was the first service to Buenos Aires in 1931. On the 28th was Pan Am’s first scheduled flight in 1927. And on the 29th was the first operation at Pan American Field in Miami in 1928. There were two more recent events: On the 26th was the inauguration of the first scheduled trans-Atlantic service with an American-built jet, a Boeing 707-121 in 1958, the subject of this article, and on the 28th was the record-breaking Pole-to-Pole round-the-world flight with a Boeing 747SP in 1977, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Pan Am’s first scheduled flight, to be covered next week.
During World War II, Pan Am President Juan Trippe, Charles Lindbergh and Pan Am Chief Engineer Andre Priester explored the idea of jet propulsion. However, the idea that jets would eventually become commercially viable did not have its genesis until the early 1950’s. Then, there was no jet airliner even in the design stage in the United States. Britain had been developing the “Comet” jet, but it lacked range. Boeing was developing a bomber, called the B-47, but its design did not lend itself to commercial flight. In December 1951, BOAC (predecessor to British Airways) took delivery of its first Comet, notwithstanding its poor economy and range. What Pan Am wanted was a plane that could carry at least 65 passengers from New York to London at 500 miles-per-hour. In mid-1952 Pan Am engineers Priester and John Borger made the rounds to Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed. What was seen was disappointing. The manufacturers, however, soon began focusing on a commercial jet because by September 1952, jet airliners had become inevitable. Boeing developed the Boeing 707 prototype and Douglas was working on its DC-8 project. At the same time, the turboprop engine had been developed and airlines were lining up for the likes of the Lockheed Electras and British Viscounts. Pan Am was not in the line because its engineers were of the opinion that propellers were the cause of most mechanical breakdowns.
BOAC indicated its intent to start trans-Atlantic operations with the Comet jet, even though its range required two stops westbound and one stop eastbound. Despite that, it was still 3-5 hours faster than the comfortable Startocruiser that Pan Am was using on its trans-Atlantic routes. To play it safe, Pan Am ordered three Comets although doubtful they would ever be delivered. They were not. After a number of accidents it was determined the Comet had a design flaw that required its grounding.
Other problems had to be dealt with, most foremost were the lack of airports that could handle jets, lack of fuel to “feed them”, lack of tugs to tow them, lack of suitable stairways and lack of adequate hangers to overhaul their engines. Other issues included the engine to be used, the size of the aircraft and its range, and its economics, pitting the air-frame manufacturers, the engine manufacturers and Pan Am on seemingly a collision course, given the different needs of each group.
After hard negotiations, Pan Am got what it wanted: The Boeing 707 and the DC-8. And on 13 October 1955, Juan Trippe made the announcement that he had just bought 45 jetliners. According to R.E.G. Davies, in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft:
“Each [jet] had twice the capacity of all but the largest piston airliner, had the potential for trans-Atlantic nonstop range, and was twice as fast. In economic terms this multiplied to about four or five times the productivity of the DC-7Cs . . . . and furthermore the reliability of the engines and airframes held out the prospect of far higher levels of annual utilization. “
While the 707 got all the attention given it was the first to be delivered, the jet aircraft order was for 20 Boeing and 25 Douglas machines. The fact that Pan Am ordered more DC-8’s suggests, according to Davies, that “Pan Am was prepared to support the company which had supplied it with so many reliable aircraft during the postwar years, but was also warning it that its product had to be good and that tradition and sentiment would not guarantee a continued market.” In fact, the Douglas jets were bigger and had better range than its Boeing counterparts, and because Boeing feared the foreign airlines going to Douglas, Boeing and Pan Am renegotiated the order for a bigger 707. Pan Am did take delivery of six smaller 707s in order to open service in the north-Atlantic before anyone else did (BOAC, however, did beat Pan Am, operating the first jet service to New York from London on 4 October 1958, although not daily). Boeing took Pan Am’s warning to heart. It assembled a production and marketing team that, according to Davies, “out-produced and out sold the experienced Douglas. More important, Pan American switched to Boeing as its main supplier. * * * [And] when Pan American sneezed, the rest of the aviation world felt a severe [draft] and most of it caught [a] cold or worse.”
The issue of economics of the jets was a major consideration during the transition from prop to jet. There was the belief that the jet would be a “rich man’s airplane” – “extra speed at extra prices. . . a “super-first class premium ride” for well-heeled patrons, according to Robert Daley, in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire. Pan Am took the opposite view. Daley notes that Pan Am saw the jet as a way to keep costs down as the tourist fare had just been introduced with great success resulting in increased trans-Atlantic travel 30% over the previous year. Once the jets were in service, Pan Am’s position was clear, as shown in the 1958 Annual Report to shareholders:
“In April, 1958, Pan American inaugurated transatlantic Economy class service offering fast, comfortable transportation at a greatly reduced fare. Whereas the roundtrip fare between New York and London was $783.00 First class, and $567.00 Tourist class, the new Economy class fare was $453.00.
“Economy class service increases aircraft seating capacity by use of close seat spacing required for that new class…Luxury services are curtailed. Economy class service, sponsored by your company, again emphasizes the leadership in expanding air travel by bringing it within the budgets of more and more people who heretofore could not afford to travel abroad.
“Over 100 transatlantic Clipper flights per week are scheduled during the 1959 season, all offering Economy class service. Jet Clippers will operate 50 of these flights with the remainder being flown with long-range Super-7 Clippers”.
This page from a 1959 timetable (above) demonstrates the extent of Economy (“Clipper Thrift”) class service on trans-Atlantic flights. Every flight offered it. Tourist (“Rainbow”) service was only available on a handful of flights. It should be noted, however, that Rainbow (and not Economy) service was available on all flights beyond the UK and European gateway cities, probably due to limitations in the bilateral agreements between the US and the countries concerned. Deluxe “President Special” service was only available on jets. The other aircraft used on the trans-Atlantic routes was the DC-7C with a change of gauge to DC-6Bs once “over the pond”. One interesting note is that some flights offered three-class service: First, Tourist and Economy.
Pan Am’s first scheduled jet flight was No. 114 from New York to Paris on 26 October 1958. The flight was operated with the smaller 707-121 and required a fuel stop in Gander along the way.
Former Pan Am purser Jay Koren was a flight attendant on the first trans-Atlantic jet flight. His story about his experiences on that flight is featured in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People published by BlueWaterPress. Below are excerpts from his story:
“Pan American flight 114 to Paris, slated to depart New York on October 26th, would not only mark America’s entry into the Jet Age, it would mark the inauguration of the world’s first daily trans-Atlantic jet service. * * *
“Crew rosters had been posted weeks earlier and the lucky chosen few notified of their assignment to the first fights. Four days before the inauguration, my supervisor called. “We’ve decided to add a seventh flight attendant to the inaugural, Jay, and you’ve been selected.” I couldn’t have been more excited if I were being sent to the moon. Day before our departure, we were given an extensive briefing. * * * First Class on the Boeing 707s, with seats and aisles wider than any pre-jet aircraft, was designated Deluxe Class and Pan Am’s President Special dining service would be featured. * * *
:On the eve of participating in this historic event, although supercharged with anticipation, we all confessed to a sense of apprehension. We were about to zap across the Atlantic at more than eighty percent of the speed of sound—nearly twice as fast as any of us had ever flown before—at an altitude nearly twice as high, and in an aircraft capable of carrying double the load of our old, familiar, piston-engine airplanes. * * *
Until boarding began we were busy checking out our new workplace: its closets and cabinets, galleys and equipment, food and bar provisioning. * * * [Captain Miller announced], ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the runway. Flight Service, prepare for take-off’. * * * As we began our roll down the runway and Captain Miller opened the throttles to full thrust, the powerful force of our rapid acceleration pressed our backs into the thinly-padded bulkhead behind us. Even more startling was the unexpected vibration and violent roar of the jet engines as we gathered speed for our leap up into the night. We grasped hands and stared wide-eyed at one another in disbelief. Where is that vibration-free, quiet-as-a-whisper ambiance the airline ads have been touting? We discovered why the first-class section is now located in the front. Just opposite to piston-engine aircraft—where the cabin becomes quieter toward the rear—we were seated in the noisiest spot in a jet. * * *
“Also unlike conventional airplanes that lift off the runway in a horizontal attitude, jets do it nose up. No one has given us prior warning of this characteristic either. As we attain take-off speed approaching 200 mph, Captain Miller rotates the nose of the Clipper sharply upward. This causes us, seated in the very tail of the jet, to drop sharply downward—a sensation I would never become totally comfortable with. We are airborne!
“In half the time required of the “pre-jets,” we reached cruising altitude. The vibration disappeared completely and the engine roar subsided to little more than a gentle hum.”
Arrival in Paris
The introduction of jet service changed the travel industry forever. Slowly, trans-Atlantic travel by passenger steamship as a mode of transportation (as opposed to cruising or pleasure) disappeared. Similarly did long-haul rail service in the United States. Because of the jet, more places are available to more people than anytime in history. What Juan Trippe envisioned some 80 years ago not only has become a reality, but also a part of the life we live today.
Jay Koren’s story about his first flight on Pan Am jets is one of 71 stories in Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.
Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People
Also available in a Kindle Edition
For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline.
For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation
19 October 2013 Leave a comment
PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT, COMPETITIVE AND DENSE INTERNATIONAL ROUTE in any form of transportation is the North Atlantic. Today, hundreds of flights make the crossing daily between the major cities of the United States and those of Europe. However, it was not always that way. For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the principal market was between New York and London. These two cities for all intents and purposes were the main gateways to the United States and Europe respectively, and more passengers and cargo passed through these cities than any others. This article will focus on that market and highlight a major player in it, Pan American World Airways and its signature flight, Clipper 100, one of the most prestigious of airline lore.
But first, a little history. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, crossing the Atlantic was by sail, and the trip was often perilous and time-consuming, often several months. With the advent of the steamship, travel times were greatly reduced and safety and reliability noticeably improved. The Cunard and White Star Lines pioneered these routes and developed the great ocean liners that were national and company symbols. The “grand” ocean liner became a staple in the North Atlantic passenger trade at the beginning of the 20th Century as the technology improved to allow construction of mammoth (at the time) ships with large passenger capacity. The liners competed in the luxury market offering opulent accommodations designed to please the most discerning of passengers. They also competed in speed and comfort. Until the jet age, the liners were the transportation of choice for many a trans-Atlantic passenger. In the US-UK market, the names are legendary: Acquitania, Mauretania, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and United States, to name just a few.
(Note: To enlarge any of the images below, simply click on it)
Commercial travel by air in the trans-Atlantic market did not really play a role in transAtlantic commerce until after World War II. The first commercial flights were pioneered by Pan Am. In 20 May 1939 the first transAtlantic mail service was inaugurated when the Yankee Clipper, a Boeing 314 flying boat, flew from New York to Marseilles, France via Horta, Azores and Lisbon, Portugal. About a month later, on 24 June 1939, the Yankee Clipper established the first airmail service from New York to Southampton, England. In June 1939, the Dixie Clipper, also a Boeing 314, inaugurated passenger service between New York and Marseilles, and in July, passenger service was inaugurated between New York and Southampton. These services were suspended during World War II and it was not until 1945 that passenger service resumed.
As best can be determined, flights were not numbered in the timetables until the ending of the War. In the October 1945 Pan Am timetable, flights were numbered and the flight between New York and the United Kingdom was identified as “Flight 100”, a Boeing 314. It departed New York’s La Guardia Airport on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 a.m. for Foynes, Ireland with stops in Shediac, Canada and Botwood, Newfoundland. At Foynes, passengers connected with a BOAC DC-3 for London (Croydon), arriving at 3 p.m. the next day. By the October 1948 timetable, the equipment had been changed to a Lockheed Constellation and offered a daily non-stop service departing La Guardia at 4 p.m. and arriving at London Airport at 11 a.m. the next day.
October 1945 Timetable
October 1948 Timetable
In the 1950’s Flight 100 switched to the Boeing 377. In the June 1954 timetable, the flight departed New York’s Idlewild daily at 4 p.m. arriving London at 9:30 a.m. the next day. On Fridays “The President Special” service was available, which, according to the timetable, was “the ultimate in luxury service”, featuring “Sleeperette” chairs that provided “bed-length sleeping comfort”. Also included was special food service and extra cabin attendants. “President Staterooms” with berths were also a feature of the service. In the October 1957 timetable, the equipment was upgraded to a specially configured Boeing 377 designated a “Super Stratocruiser”. “The President Special” was offered on Fridays. By 1959, a Boeing 707 was operating the service and in the April 1959 timetable, a 707 departed daily at 8 p.m., arriving London at 7:35 a.m. the following day. “The President Special” service was offered daily. It should be noted that in the timetable effective 26 October 1958, which included the first jet service, Flight 100 had a 10 a.m. departure from New York, arriving in London at 9:35 p.m. The service was started on 16 November. On 15 November, the all-First class Super Stratocruiser service was discontinued. The new jet service was later changed to the evening departure.
June 1954 Timetable
October 1957 Timetable
Page from 26 October timetable (above) showing the start of jet service. For the first time, flight 100 included two-class service, Deluxe President Special and Economy.
April 1959 Timetable
By the 1960’s, Flight 100 was a daylight flight departing New York at 10 a.m. and arriving at London at 9:45 p.m., as shown in the September 1961 timetable. In the 1970’s, the Boeing 747 was introduced to the route, as shown in the January/February 1971 timetable, and continued operating the same daylight flight through the decade as shown in the Summer 1978 timetable.
September 1961 Timetable
January/February 1971 Timetable
Summer 1978 Timetable
With the merger of Pan Am and National in 1980, Flight 100 was discontinued as shown in the Spring/Summer 1980 timetable. All New York-London services were overnight flights and none were numbered “100”. In the timetable that became effective 24 April 1983, Flight 100 returned, operating a daytime flight with a Boeing 747SP. The flight offered 3-class service with “Clipper Class” in a separate cabin, departing at 10 a.m. and arriving in London at 9:40 p.m. Interestingly enough, the timetable announced it as a “New Daily Daylight Service”.
After the sale of Pan Am’s Pacific routes, which included the 747SP fleet, the equipment was changed back to a 747. In the timetable effective 26 October 1986 the 10 a.m. departure was changed to 9 a.m., with an 8:40 p.m. arrival. With the sale of the London Heathrow routes to United, Flight 100 came off the timetable. In addition, as shown in the May 1991 timetable, Pan Am no longer operated the New York-London route. Ironically, the cover of that timetable boasted “More Nonstops Across The Atlantic Than Any Other Airline!”. Little did anyone know that six months later, Pan Am would have no transAtlantic routes except for a 3-times weekly Miami-Paris flight.
Spring/Summer 1980 Timetable
April 24, 1983 Timetable
October 1986 Timetable
May 1991 Timetable
It is not unreasonable to believe that Flight 100 was Pan Am’s premier passenger flight. Although Pan Am had several lucrative routes in its system, it is fair to say that the New York-London route was the most important. Not only was it Pan Am’s most prestigious route, it could arguably be called its Signature Route. Pan Am put its best foot forward with equipment, in-flight service and scheduling. Nothing was overlooked and as a result, it attracted the passengers who demanded that type of service. According to Carla Marshall, a former Pan Am Purser, “it certainly was our most popular businessman’s flight (few women then). Always top executives of major companies, both American and European. Nelson Doubleday was a frequent traveler, as was IBM Chairman Thomas Watson. Also NATO General Alexander Haig was often on the 707 flights as was Elizabeth Taylor.”
For Bronwen Roberts, a young flight attendant (then Stewardess) for Pan Am, a very special passenger on Flight 100 was one of the highlights of her 31 year career with Pan Am.
Below is an excerpt from her story about this special passenger in the book, Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:
“When I was hired by Pan Am in February 1958, one of 11 from 5,000 applicants, I could not in my wildest dreams have imagined the exciting life I would lead and the fascinating people I would encounter during my 31 year career.
“In the 1960’s Pan Am was the airline of choice for the rich and famous. Among the celebrities I had on board were the legendary Charles Lindbergh, films stars Robert Taylor, Warren Beatty, Susan Hayward, Sophia Loren and her husband Carlo Ponti, Audrey Hepburn and her husband Mel Ferrer.
“However my most memorable flight occurred early in my career. As a child I had been subjected to the terror of air raids over Britain during World War Two and I remember listening to the inspiring speeches given over the radio by our then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. How could I possibly have known then that on April 14th.1961 I would be serving the great man on a Pan Am Clipper flight. To my everlasting gratitude and indeed to my amazement I was selected to serve Sir Winston on flight 100 from New York along with another British flight attendant, Valerie Wilton, and American purser, Mickey Deangelis.
“The flight was uneventful and very pleasant with cocktail service followed by a leisurely lunch, with the regular President Special menu consisting of Hors D’oeuvres, including caviar, Terrapin or cream of mushroom soup; entrees, including Lobster Thermidor, Filet of Sole, Himalayan Partridge Sweetbread Financieres, stuffed Rock Cornish game hen, double lamb chops or Prime Rib of beef, choice of vegetables, salad; and a selection of continental cheeses, desserts and fresh fruit items. Colmans mustard and horseradish, Stilton cheese, imported teas and crumpets were added.
“After the excitement of the arrival I was taken to be interviewed by the British press and that is how my parents learned in the following morning newspapers that their daughter had had the privilege and honour of serving one of their heroes, something neither I nor they could have ever imagined so many years earlier.”
From the flight deck, Flight 100 was just a regular flight, according to former Pan Am Captain John Marshall, “from the flight deck perspective Clipper 100 was pretty much like any other, except that the scheduling showed us arriving at the hotel downtown around 9 PM, with just time enough to change and get to the pub before last call. We usually operated flight 101 back the following day departing LHR at 1100. A very civilized schedule, which is why most of us liked it.”
Because of the attractive scheduling, the most senior and experienced pilots were likely in the cockpit. Thus Flight 100 not only provided the best in the cabin, but in the flight deck as well.
It is fair to say that Pan Am’s Flight 100 set the standard for the ultimate in first class travel. Over the years Pan Am had multiple daily flights between New York and London, but Flight 100 was singled out as the way to travel between the two cities. At that level, the only real competition was the Concorde.
Today, notwithstanding the multiple US cities that have non-stop service to London, New York is still the major departure city from the US to London. Indeed, between New York Kennedy Airport and Newark Airport, there are upwards of 25 daily flights between the two cities. However, credit has to be given to Pan Am for setting the high standards that today’s carriers strive for in that market. Pan Am may be gone, but its not forgotten.
Bronwen Robert’s story about her experiences on Pan Am Flight 100 with Winston Churchill is one of 71 stories in Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.
Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People
Also available in a Kindle Edition
For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, such as illustrated in this article, see a preview of the book Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline.
For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation
13 October 2013 Leave a comment
On 16 October 1956, Pan American World Airways flight 6 (sometimes referred to as flight 943) with 24 passengers and seven crew ditched in the Pacific Ocean after two of its four engines failed. The aircraft, Clipper Sovereign of the Skies, a Boeing 377 bearing the registration N90943 (hence the flight 943 designation), was operating the last sector of an around-the-world flight and had departed Honolulu the previous evening.
According to the April 1956 and July 1956 timetables (the only two available for this article), flight 6 was part of Pan Am’s round-the-world service operating on Thursdays and Fridays as flights 70/6 (all-Tourist Class) and 100/6 (all-First Class) and on Fridays as 64/6 (combined First and Tourist). Flights 64 and 70 were operated with DC-7B or DC-7C equipment and flight 100 was operated with a Boeing 377 Super Stratocruiser. Flights 70 and 100 operated from New York to London where flight 6 took over with DC-6B equipment offering “Sleeperette” service. Flight 64 operated from New York to Beirut via Shannon (April 1956 only), Paris and Rome. In Beirut, the trip connected with flight 6 from London with a stop in Frankfurt. From Beirut flight 6 continued to Karachi, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo, where the equipment was changed to a Boeing 377 “Strato” Clipper. The flight then continued to Wake Island and Honolulu before terminating in San Francisco.
Captain John Marshall, who flew Pan Am Clippers for many years, wrote about flight 6 (flight 943) in an article that appeared in Airways Magazine. Below are excerpts from his article:
“It was a gentler time. A journey aboard a modern airliner, especially a trans-oceanic one, was an incredibly romantic adventure, and the passengers preparing to board Pan American’s flight 943 (flight 6) from Honolulu to San Francisco on that balmy October evening in 1956 were excited. Purser Pat Reynolds stood at the top of the stairs at Honolulu Airport and greeted the 24 boarding passengers that were going to be in her charge for the next ten hours. Their chariot that night was a Boeing 377, at the time the largest airliner in the sky. She was powered by four huge Pratt & Whitney 4360 engines and pulled by Hamilton Standard propellers.
The Stratocruiser was the state-of-the-art airline transport; there was no more luxurious airliner anywhere. She had recently arrived from the Orient and around the world, and was finally headed back to her home base at San Francisco. Her flight crew that night consisted of veteran Pan Am skipper Dick Ogg, First Officer George Lee Haaker, Navigator Dick Brown, and Flight Engineer Frank Garcia.
“The passengers were a mixed bag. There were the Gordons, a young couple traveling with their two tow-headed twin girls, barely three years old, a French physician and two middle-aged California ladies traveling alone. Businessmen, holiday vacationers, young marrieds, they were typical of those that flew across oceans in 1956. What was not typical was the adventure that was to befall the crew and passengers of the Sovereign of the Skies during the next few hours.
“At 26 minutes past eight o’clock, Honolulu time, the big Boeing lifted from the runway at Honolulu Airport. Captain Ogg pointed her bulbous nose out past Diamond Head and into the darkening eastern sky, and took up a heading for California. The flight plan called for a flight of 8 hours and 54 minutes, leveling off initially at 13,000 feet, and then, just prior to the equal time point, climbing to 21,000 for the remainder of the trip. The big Pratts rumbled their song as they settled down into the cruise portion of the flight. The weather was good and the air smooth. Dick Brown would have no problems locating his favorite stars to navigate by on this evening. Flight Engineer Garcia carefully leaned the engines and set the spark advance, keeping close track of the fuel they were burning. In the cabin Pat Reynolds and her colleagues, Mary Ellen Daniel and Katherine Araki set about serving a light supper to the passengers. Soon the lights were dimmed and the passengers settled in for the night. Pillows and blankets appeared, and they slept.
“Flight 943 (flight 6) cruised into the night at 13,000 feet until close to the midpoint of their Pacific crossing, when their clearance to the final level, 21,000 feet, was approved by ATC. Garcia set the engines at climb power, and she climbed easily upward to the new level. In a few moments they leveled off, and the crew once more allowed the aircraft to increase speed, settling into the routine for the final pull to San Francisco. Stewardess Mary Ellen Daniel had just stepped onto the flight deck to take coffee orders from the crew. Lee Haaker, who was doing the flying, had just called for cruise power, and Frank Garcia began easing the throttles back from the climb setting.
“Suddenly, in an instant, the placid atmosphere of the flight deck was shattered, and everything changed. The soothing beat of the engines was interrupted by a shrill high-pitched whine; the airplane lurched, Mary Ellen staggered, and almost fell. The propeller noise increased quickly, and First Officer Lee Haaker, who was flying the airplane, felt the controls vibrate. A quick glance at the engine instruments told the crew the bad news: the prop on the number 1 engine was running away. Haaker saw that the RPM was rapidly approaching the upper limit; it was over 2900 on the gauge, and he quickly pushed the feathering button to bring it under control. At the same time he slowed the huge Boeing and lowered 30 degrees of flaps. This was the ‘book’ solution to the problem; at the lower speed the propeller would be easier to control. Frank Garcia, meanwhile, pulled the mixture to cutoff to shut off the fuel to the number 1 engine, and pulled back the throttles on the other three to help slow the airplane. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help. The needle on the number 1 tachometer hit the upper limit of the gauge and stayed there. They had a true runaway.
“Captain Ogg had been sitting at the navigator’s station, and he quickly regained the left seat. He had some rapid decisions to make. His first action was to make a radio transmission to Ocean Station Vessel ‘November’, a Coast Guard cutter named Ponchartrain, that was permanently stationed midway between Hawaii and the mainland. She was there to provide navigational assistance as well as to render whatever other help might be required by an airplane flying over that loneliest stretch of the Pacific. Incredibly, flight 943 (flight 6) was less than 40 miles from the ship, and Ogg motioned to Haaker to pick up the bearing to the cutter.
“An uncontrollable runaway prop presented a considerable problem. Unlike a damaged engine which could be stopped and the propeller feathered into a minimum drag configuration, a runaway acted like a flat plate disk out there in the slipstream, creating terrible drag. Ogg knew that if they were unsuccessful in controlling the number 1 prop, they could well be faced with the ultimate horror of ocean flying: a ditching at sea.
“The aircraft had been in a slow descent as they headed toward the Ponchartrain, the crew trying several times to unsuccessfully feather the uncooperative prop on the number 1 engine. Ogg finally told Garcia to cut off the oil to the engine in hopes that it would eventually seize, stopping the prop. A few minutes later there was a momentary decrease in the prop speed, followed by a heavy thud, and an increase again in the RPM. They had been successful in freezing the engine, but now the prop was just windmilling in the airstream.
“At 5,000 feet they added power to level off, and received another surprise, one that effectively sealed the fate of the unlucky Stratocruiser. The number 4, the outboard engine on the opposite wing, was not responding; it would only run at about half power. The vital signs were all pretty close to normal, it just wouldn’t produce the power. The crew discovered that they could keep the airplane in the air with rated power on the inboards, and partial power on number 4. They also found that if they slowed to 140 knots the problem prop out there on number 1 was just barely controllable at the upper limit of the tach, but 140 was about twenty knots below efficient two engine cruise speed.
“It wasn’t long before the crew sighted the Ponchartrain, it was a bright clear night and visibility was good. Some quick calculations revealed what they already knew to be true. With only two good engines trying to pull their reluctant brethren as well as sixty-five tons of airplane, they only had fuel for 750 miles. It was over 1,000 miles to the nearest dry land, be it San Francisco or Hawaii. There was a finality to it now; they were committed to a landing in the Pacific. In a way, however, they were incredibly lucky. There was fuel enough to loiter over the cutter until sunup, when they would be able to accomplish the ditching in full daylight. Also they wouldn’t have to wait long to be rescued; their rescuers were already alerted and waiting, 5,000 feet below. They set up a large orbit over the Ponchartrain and awaited the morning.
“Dick Ogg and Frank Garcia turned the controls over to Lee Haaker and went aft to see to the preparations in the cabin. Pat Reynolds and her crew had already gone through the aisle and briefed their charges; Ogg and Haaker wanted to be sure that everyone knew how to handle the over-wing exits and the escape lines. Ogg later remarked on how calm everyone was, it was almost becoming a non-event. One concern that the captain had was the placement of the passengers in seats over the wings; he was afraid that when they struck the water the spinning prop on number 1 would dig into the sea, spin the aircraft around and break the tail off.
“When he returned to the flight deck Ogg had time to really think about the landing he was about to make; the last landing that the Sovereign of the Skies would ever make. It was difficult to imagine that everything that they looked at and touched in the spacious cockpit would soon be at the bottom of the sea. The book said to land the airplane parallel to the major swells and across the secondary swell. Ocean pilots often mused about how one would ever accomplish such a thing at night, or in a storm-tossed sea. Dick Ogg and his crew were lucky; it would be daylight, and the sea below was glass calm. He would fly her down as slow as possible, with the gear up and full flaps, and the nose slightly raised so that the huge flaps took the brunt of the initial impact.
“Soon the sky paled in the east, and the sharpening horizon took on more definition. Below were the comforting lights of the Ponchartrain. It was a beautiful morning, just right for a ditching, Ogg thought. He made one last orbit and picked up the PA mike. ‘There is absolutely nothing to worry about,’ he said. ‘Things couldn’t be better. I’ll give you a ten minute warning, and then at one minute to touchdown I’ll tell you, this is it.’”
At 0540 Captain Ogg notified Pontchartrain that he was preparing to ditch. The cutter laid out a foam path for a best ditch heading of 315 degrees to help the captain to judge height above the water. After a dry run the plane touched down at 0615, at 90 knots with full flaps and landing gear retracted, in sight of the Pontchartrain at 30°01.5’N. 140°09’W. One wing hit a swell, causing the plane to rotate, damaging the nose section and breaking off the tail.
From Captain Marshall’s article:
“Frank Garcia remembers: ‘At touchdown I didn’t feel the initial contact of the wing flaps as Dick and Lee did on the control columns…I saw the water spray over the windshield then felt a force pulling me into the seat and noticed the first officer’s control column going back and forth. After that I saw nothing but water covering the windshield, and as soon as it started to recede I knew we were OK. After opening the cockpit door I got a shock when all I saw at the back of the aircraft was the Pacific Ocean.'”
All 31 on board survived the ditching. Three life rafts were deployed by the crew and passengers that had been previously assigned to help. One raft failed to inflate properly, but rescue boats from the cutter were able to promptly transfer the passengers from that raft. All were rescued by the Coast Guard before the last pieces of wreckage sank at 6:35 a.m.
From Captain Marshall:
“The rest of the saga was an anticlimax. The flight deck crew quickly abandoned the cockpit and went aft to assist the passengers. The stewardesses had already opened the emergency exits, and the orderly egress had already begun. The only raft that was unusable was the one launched from the main cabin door that got trapped between the tail and the fuselage. It was a remarkable feat of airmanship and skill that Dick Ogg was able to accomplish a water landing in the open sea with a large airliner, not only with no loss of life, but without serious injury. Only five passengers were injured, and they only slightly. The airplane floated for twenty minutes; plenty of time to get the 31 occupants to safety. In fact even the dry and bureaucratic Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the body responsible for aircraft accident investigation in 1956, stated in their official report of the accident, ‘The Board highly commends the crew members for their ability in recognizing the malfunctions and taking correct emergency actions consistent with known procedures.'”
At the end of Captain Marshall’s story, there was an interesting sidelight: When the cutter was en-route to San Francisco, Frank Garcia was told by a senior chief petty officer on board that Pan Am “was going to have his [behind] because the airplane had been dispatched with enough fuel to make it from the most critical point of the flight to go ahead or return with two engines out. Of course we could have made it, if we’d been able to feather both of them.”
Many thanks for Captain John Marshall for his contribution to this story. He has written a large number of stories covering his career with Pan Am, many having appeared in Airliners Magazine. He also contributed a story, “Desert Storm”, describing his involvement in the airlift supporting Operation Desert Storm in the first Gulf War, to Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, published by BlueWaterPress. This book contains 71 stories written by people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history.
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Below is an US Coast Guard film about the ditching of Pan Am flight 6:
5 October 2013 3 Comments
The Pan Am Shuttle was inaugurated on 1 October 1986 in direct competition with the legendary Eastern Shuttle that had been in operation since 30 April 1961. The Eastern Shuttle began with the Lockheed 1049 Constellation and operated between New York LaGuardia , Washington National and Boston Logan every two hours between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. The service later became hourly from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The shuttle required no reservations, there were no seat assignments, no check in was required and no boarding passes were issued. In other words, a passenger simply went to the airport and boarded the aircraft. Tickets were purchased on board after takeoff and there were no drinks or meal service.
The Constellation was eventually replaced by the Lockheed Electra, which was replaced by the DC-9, which was replaced by the Boeing 727-200, pictured above at its LaGuardia gate (left).
One feature of the Eastern Shuttle was that every passenger was guaranteed a seat. If a flight was full, a back-up aircraft was ready to go. As legend has it, there was once a single passenger who arrived for a flight on time and as it was full, was accommodated by a back-up aircraft.
Eastern Airlines and the Eastern Shuttle were acquired by Texas Air Corporation in 1986. In June of 1989, the Eastern Shuttle was acquired by Donald Trump and operated as the Trump Shuttle. Henry Harteveldt was Director of Marketing for Trump Shuttle at the time. Below are his recollections of the operation:
“When we took over the Eastern Shuttle, Eastern had 14% market share. Within 6 months, we’d increased that to about 48%-49%. Eastern lost market share due to the airline’s labor problems. The day after we started to operate as Trump, we started to see market share — led by key corporate clients — return, because they saw management stability and, importantly, a commitment to operational reliability and maintenance/safety (Eastern never compromised on Maintenance/safety, but corporate clients, travel agents, and the public had their concerns). Pan Am was a sharp competitor, and did some excellent marketing (their “corporate jet” advertising campaign was smart and clever). After we’d been in operation for several months, what we learned was that about 40% of the market was ‘loyal’ to Trump, 40% to Pan Am, and the remaining 20% looked at their watches and went to the airline that had the first departure.”
Later, the USAir Group acquired 40% of the operation with an agreement to manage it and also an option to eventually acquire the entire entity. In April 1992, the Trump Shuttle ceased to exist when it was merged into a new corporation, Shuttle, Inc., and began operating as the USAir Shuttle. In 1997 US Airways purchased the remainder of Shuttle, Inc., and began operation of the US Airways Shuttle, that continues to today.
The story of the Pan Am Shuttle had its roots shortly after the US airlines were deregulated when, in 1980, the Frank Lorenzo-owned Texas Air Corporation formed start-up, non-union New York Air to compete with the Eastern Shuttle. The new airline used DC-9-30s and later MD-80s on the Boston-New York-Washington shuttle route and also offered popular in-flight snack bags called “The Flying Nosh”.
As part of the previously mentioned Texas Air Corporation acquisition of Eastern Airlines and the Eastern Shuttle in 1986, the government required as a condition of the purchase that Texas Air Corporation divest itself of the New York Air shuttle operation. Pan Am, in its attempt to gain a presence in the Washington–New York–Boston air corridor purchased it for $100 million. Pan Am also acquired Ransome Airlines (which later became the Pan Am Express). The purchase of the shuttle operation enabled Pan Am to offer a high-frequency service for business travelers in direct competition with the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle.
Pan Am’s shuttle operation was different and unique. First, it operated on the half-hour, rather than on the hour. It offered in-flight snacks and beverages and featured Samuel Adams Beer. Pan Am went on a marketing blitz when the service was introduced, and differentiated itself from Eastern’s product by emphasizing “Pan Am Service”, recalling the glory days of Pan Am’s world renowned in-flight service. Ticketing was not done on board, rather with ticketing machines located in its terminals at Washington National, New York LaGuardia and at Boston Logan. No reservations were required. The passenger simply showed up at the terminal, purchased the ticket at a ticketing machine, and boarded the aircraft. The passenger also had the option of checking baggage before boarding, although this had to be done at a regular check-in desk. One unique and highly touted feature was that the New York terminal would be the renovated and rejuvenated Marine Air Terminal from where the Boeing 314 flying boats once departed.
The aircraft used were Boeing 727-200s (pictured at the top of this story, right, photo by Andy Martin), acquired from the defunct Peoples Express and from Lufthansa and were in an all-economy configuration. Pan Am also offered a guaranteed seat. In one advertisement, called “No Shutouts”, it was proclaimed: “If a flight is full, out comes a second plane to pick up the slack. No bench warmers; everybody gets in the game.” In addition, as its first flight was at 6:30 a.m., beating Eastern’s first shuttle at 7 a.m., the Pan Am Shuttle called itself “The first choice”. Also, to attract the high-yield business traffic, the shuttle was called “The Corporate Jet” and advertisements promoted in-seat telephones for use by passengers to “make connections in high places”. And in one of the best deals of all, members of Pan Am’s WorldPass frequent flyer program earned 2000 miles for every sector flown on the shuttle. A passenger could accumulate a total of 8000 miles on a round trip between Washington and Boston!
Kelly Cusack was involved with Pan Am’s shuttle operation in New York from its inception. Below are excerpts from his story about his experiences that appears in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of Its People, published by BlueWatePress:
“The Pan Am Shuttle was launched in the Fall of 1986 from the Marine Air Terminal which had been built by Pan Am in 1940 for Trans-Atlantic flying boat operations. An extension was added on to the original terminal allowing it to accommodate up to 5 jets and hourly service (on the half hour) to Boston and Washington, DC was offered from 6:30am to 8:30pm (Washington), 9:30pm (Boston).
“Pan Am’s goal was to compete with service and not price, offering leather seats and in-flight beverages and snacks. In order to allow customers to enjoy the in-flight perks Pan Am offered advance ticketing unlike the Eastern Shuttle that only ticketed in-flight. Another unique amenity of the Pan Am Shuttle was the Pan Am Water Shuttle, a ferry service from a pier at the Marine Air Terminal to Pier 11 serving Wall St in Manhattan. Because of the layout of LaGuardia Eastern could not match this service. The Water Shuttle reduced travel times significantly from LaGuardia to lower Manhattan during rush hours. Pan Am also introduced a “Business Center” in the modified Marine Air Terminal with fax and copier service. Within the terminal Pan Am offered a wide range of complimentary newspapers and magazines conveniently placed so customers could grab them as they dashed to catch a flight.”
The operation was staffed by New York-based personnel, although in an interesting twist, Pan Am staff from Honolulu also made up the work force. According to Cusack:
“The Pan Am Shuttle had an unusually high percentage of Hawaiian Employees working in Passenger Service. With the sale of the Pacific routes to United in March of 1986 there was a surplus of agents in Honolulu. These agents used their union “bumping” rights to secure positions at the Shuttle. There were 8 transfers from Honolulu. They shared a house and a car. They worked shifts for each other allowing each of them to get home to Hawaii about once a month for a week or more. They were lovely, warm people and their presence at the Shuttle was uniquely Pan Am.”
The Pan Am Shuttle was a wonderful operation that was very popular and profitable for Pan Am. Unfortunately, with the sale of Pan Am’s remaining European routes and Frankfurt hub to Delta, the Shuttle was part of the deal, and Delta took over operations on 1 September 1991.
Kelly Cusack’s story about the Pan Am Shuttle contains memories of his experiences with the operation as well as insight on its inception and some of the innovative marketing used to make it so successful. His is one of 71 stories by former Pan Amers in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of Its People.
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