Pan Am Series – Part XXVII: Clipper Cargo

Pan American’s All-Cargo Service

Pan American World Airways has always been associated with passenger service, however what is often overlooked is the fact that Pan American was a leader in air cargo and was, in fact, a pioneer in all-cargo flight operations.

The history of Pan American’s all-cargo operations can go as far back as early World War II, when, in 1942, the airline operated international airline service with all-cargo aircraft using DC-4s (Army C-54/Navy R5D) and Coronados (PB2Y). The total cargo carried from 1941 through 1943 rose exponentially from 14,792,441 pounds in 1941 to 84, 545,010 pounds in 1943. In addition, Pan American’s 1943 Annual Report announced:

“The first scheduled all-cargo service was inaugurated . . . between North and South  America. This service to Brazil has provided rapid transit for both war materials and commercial cargoes. Sikorsky Clippers stripped of 2,500 pounds of luxury passenger equipment ns capable of carrying four tons of cargo, are used.”

The Coronado (R5D) (1943 Annual Report)

The Coronado (PB2Y) (1943 Annual Report)

By 1945, Pan American was, according to the annual report of that year, offering “the first commercial transatlantic all-freight service. Regularly scheduled all-cargo Clippers [were] operated by Pan American on several routes.” DC-4s (former Army C-54s) operated on these routes. In 1948, the all-cargo fleet received an influx of ten Curtis C-46 Commandos (the Army C-55) that operated primarily in the Caribbean, although some ventured as far south as Brazil and Argentina. The 1948 annual report noted that Pan American has “[s]ixteen special all-cargo Clippers [to] supplement cargo capacity of the passenger Clippers.”

Curtis C-46 Commando (Ed Coates Collection)

Curtis C-46 Commando (Ed Coates Collection)

Below is illustrated a 1948 advertisement for Clipper Cargo and a page from the 1948 Annual Report showing cargo loading operations on Pan American’s two all-cargo-type aircraft, the DC-4 and C-46. A caption on this page notes that it is cheaper to ship a private aircraft than to fly it to its destination.

The the schedules of all-cargo flights did not appear in any of Pan American’s timetables issued prior to 1950 reviewed for this article. South American all-cargo flight schedules appeared in a 1950 timetable using C-46 aircraft. In a 1952 timetable, the South American flights included the DC-4 as well as the DC-6A. All-cargo flights in other parts of Pan American’s system did not appear in these two timetables.

In a 1956 timetable, transatlantic all-cargo flights were included as well as South American, with the former using DC-4 and DC-6A equipment. In a 1959 timetable, the DC-6A was used on transatlantic flights and the C-54 (DC-4) used primarily on South American routes (page not shown).

By 1961, Boeing 707 passenger jets had been introduced to Pan American’s fleet and because of this, some of the airline’s fleet of DC-7C aircraft were converted to an all-cargo configuration. According to the 1961 Annual Report:

“Conversion of 13 DC-7Cs to all-cargo configuration with 20-ton payload capacity on a transatlantic flight. Each is designed for “’AirPak’ the new cargo loading system developed by Pan American. Using pre-loaded pallets, AirPak reduces aircraft-loading time to less than an hour, provides improved services for shippers and increases utilization of aircraft.”

Utilization of the DC-7CF on transatlantic all-cargo flights were included in the 1961 timetable. The C-54 (DC-4) was deployed in South American operations. In a 1965 timetable, Boeing 707-321C jet freighters had been introduced into service, primarily on the transatlantic routes. Interestingly enough, the South American all-cargo service included not only jet freighters, but DC-7Cs and DC-6As as well. By 1966, the DC-7CFs had dropped off the timetable leaving just a couple of DC-6As on a handful of flights in South America. This marked the end of the piston all-cargo operations.

The 1960s saw a remarkable growth in Pan American’s all-cargo operations, and in the 1967 Annual Report, it was noted that “Pan Am again was the world’s leading air cargo carrier. Pan Am flew 605,500,000 cargo ton-miles, up 15.2 per cent, compared to 1966. * * * In five years, the cost to the average shipper was cut by 25.7 per cent to a new low yield of 20.5 cents per ton-mile.”

Going into the 1970s, cargo growth continued. In the 1972 Annual Report, it was noted that new freighter services were introduced to South America and a South Pacific freighter began new operations providing the only service of this type between the West Coast of the united States and Australia/New Zealand. The report also noted that new cargo centers were opened at off-line stations and new cargo terminal facilities opened in Rome, Lisbon, New Delhi, Osaka and New Orleans. New services were also announced for the next year, 1973, including additional freighter between New York and Latin America, New York and Tokyo and across the Atlantic, and new service between New York and Africa. The report also noted that Pan Am “lead the free world in air cargo tonnage”.

During this period, the 707-321C was the mainstay of Pan American’s jet freighter fleet, operating throughout the world as illustrated in 1971 and 1974 timetables:

In 1977, cargo operations continued to grow, carrying more tons of freight and earning more revenue than ever before. It was also announced in the annual report of that year that Pan Am would develop a Five-Year Plan to improve cargo profits by maximizing utilization of passenger aircraft cargo space and increasing the number of 747 freighters in the fleet. The annual report also noted that Pan Am is “one of the world’s largest and most experienced air freight carriers, . .  [and] [i]ts fleet of  747 freighters  – the largest in the industry – and 707 all-cargo jets, plus the extensive cargo space of its passenger aircraft, give it unmatched capacity. Pan Am’s route system, serving 93 cities in 62 lands, literally covers the world for shippers”.

In 1978, cargo volume and revenue set new records and, according to the 1978 Annual Report, Pan Am regained its position as the “world’s number one carrier of scheduled international air cargo. By the end of 1978, the last of the 707s was retired, making  the Clipper Cargo fleet all wide-body with six 747 freighters. The fleet evolved from seventeen 707s to the six 747s over the decade and this prompted some scheduling and aircraft utilization changes to maximize the economic potential of the 747. This was done through increasing daily utilization, reducing short-haul segments and increasing available capacity.

During this period was the domestic deregulation of the cargo market. This gave Pan American domestic authority in cargo markets, giving the airline new benefits. Thus, for example, adding Chicago to a transcontinental-South Pacific routing would provide additional revenue from the New York-Chicago-San Francisco-Honolulu segments, previously unavailable to Pan American.

Going into the 1980s, Clipper Cargo remained an important part of Pan American’s operations. Freighter service was restructured to improve profitability by emphasizing high volume markets. In addition, the control of containers used on wide-body aircraft for the loading of cargo and baggage was computerized through “Pantrac”, Pan American’s world-wide cargo reservations tracking system. This increased the efficiency of tracking containers, maximizing use and reducing the need to invest in new equipment.

In addition, taking advantage of the deregulation of cargo operations in the United States and the expansion of domestic services, Pan American took the lead, according to its 1979 Annual Report, in introducing the lowest domestic container rates available. Called the “79ers”, these rates made it possible for domestic shippers to ship by air at rates comparable to “LTL” (less than truckload) truck costs. Also introduced was a service for small packages called the “Clipper Package Service”, offering either expedited airport-to-airport or desk-to-desk service at the option of the customer.

Below are timetable pages from 1977 and 1980. Note the extent of world-wide cargo operations in the former. In the latter, the all cargo flights were incorporated into the passenger schedules.

From the cargo perspective, things looked quite encouraging for Pan American at the start of the 1980s. But it was not to be. It is difficult to really explain what happened. Perhaps it was the competition from the likes of Federal Express who revolutionized small package service and eventually flexed its wings overseas. Or perhaps it was the fact that Pan American was losing money and needed cash. During that time, the airline began selling any expendable assets it had. Apparently the 747 freighters fell in that category. In any case, Pan American piece-by-piece reduced its all-cargo operation starting in 1982 when then Pan American CEO C. Edward Acker started selling off the Boeing 747 freighter fleet. The last was sold to Japan Airlines in 1983. Thus came to an end, “Clipper Cargo”.

PanAmCargo

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories 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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

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

The book is also available directly from the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon.

For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation

The Pan Am Series – Part XXVI: The Beatles (2 of 2)

The Beatles arriving in London on Clipper Beatles after their triumphant inaugural tour of the United States.

The Beatles arriving in London on Clipper Beatles after their triumphant inaugural tour of the United States.

The Beatles’ whirlwind first visit to the United States also included a trip to Miami fifty years ago this weekend. National Airlines provided the transportation in a DC-8.  On Sunday 16 February 1964 they made their second television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which this time was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. They returned to New York and on the morning of 22 February, arrived back in London on Pan Am’s flight 102, a 707 named Clipper Beatles. As has been thoroughly documented, Pan Am played an important role in this trip and the planning going into the trip was weeks in the making. Mike Webber, an air cargo consultant who is also a musicologist and fan of the Beatles, wrote about this planning in an article in Air Cargo News that appeared on 7 February this year, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in the United States:

“The mannered manager of the English band whose name few had previously heard had a message for all those present in the conference room at JFK’s International Arrivals Building (IAB, now Terminal 4). Speaking to mostly seasoned representatives of Pan American Airways, the Port Authority, and the New York Police Department, Brian Epstein could not have found an audience less likely to believe that they were weeks from experiencing a crowd unlike anything they had seen before. 

“Mary Ann Trainor had joined Pan Am’s public relations department after moving to New York from Michigan in 1963. She sat across the table from Epstein in the hours-long planning meeting, during which the Beatles’ movements from aircraft to an on-site press conference and through curbside departure were plotted in detail.   

“She recalls Epstein as thoroughly serious as the assembled representatives discussed which mix of local, national, and international media would have access to the tarmac and press conference. Trainor recalls how Epstein, a man whose classmates had included Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts—confidently repeated his assertion that no matter how big they could imagine this would be, it would be bigger. One can easily imagine how such a message went down with a group largely comprising native New Yorkers. They scoffed, but history validates Epstein’s faith about what would transpire at JFK International Airport a few weeks later on February 7, 1964. If not for a decision made at that planning meeting, the iconic images of the Beatles descending the stairs from the Boeing 707 would either not have existed or would have been profoundly less impressive. Several options could have allowed The Beatles to arrive more privately obscured from the viewing areas above the IAB but those in the planning meeting had agreed that they had to give the fans ‘something.’

“While he may have been cagey about it, Epstein relished the kind of massive reception about which he was warning. Rather than pull closer to the gate, the aircraft Pan Am had named Jet Clipper Defiance would be parked on the tarmac in full view of the thousands of fans and gathered media. The scene was repeated—with even more fans in attendance after the appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show—days later when the Beatles left JFK for England.”

Once flight 101 arrived in New York, Dorothea Rizzo took the Beatles under her care. From Webber’s article:

“Once the aircraft had been parked on the tarmac, Pan Am’s Special Services (VIP) representative Dorothea Rizzo boarded the plane, bringing with her a porter to assist with the Beatles’ luggage. Rizzo introduced herself and each Beatle introduced himself and then identified his bags to the porter. * * *

“Rizzo observed that they looked like little boys’ but she admired ‘how neatly combed they were, well scrubbed and with mod suits. . . . [she] observed that when asked if they had any special requests from VIP services, the four had none. ‘You would want to have a son like that,’ was how Rizzo summed up her impression of how the Fab Four handled the almost unimaginable situation unfolding in front of them. 

“Rizzo enjoyed that, unlike celebrities who seem compelled to act unimpressed, these four boys were clearly exhilarated by the clamor of the crowd, but still unfailingly polite and ‘laid back’ to the professionals whose jobs entailed serving them.  After posing for photos on the stairs and tarmac, the Beatles entered the International Arrivals Building for processing by Customs, Immigration, and Health Services.” 

The big question in this whole episode was how the Beatles came to fly Pan Am instead of the state-owned national carrier of Britain, British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C.). According to Webber, all the Pan Am veterans he interviewed believed “that Pan Am’s brain trust recognized the potential promotional benefit of operating these flights and took up the challenge of competing with The Beatles’ own national carrier.” Further, these veterans expressed belief to Webber that overall “credit might be placed on the efforts of Richard (Dick) N. Barkle, who frequently seemed to be involved in such marketing opportunities for Pan Am.”

Unfortunately, Webber could not interview Mr. Barkle as he passed away in San Francisco on August 7, 2013. However, in his obituary from the New York Times (published 8/24/13) it was noted that he had been “responsible for accompanying VIP’s and dignitaries from around the world” during his many years at Pan Am.

As noted in the previous post about the Beatles historic trip to the United States, the concepts “product placement” and “brand recognition” in the airline industry could very well have had their genesis with flight 101 from London to New York with the Beatles.  Webber sums it up quite neatly:

“One can scarcely locate a single photo taken of the Beatles on the airfield in which Pan Am’s aircraft and its recognizable personnel are not clearly visible. Then once inside the IAB, the Beatles’ press conference was conducted in front of a wall decorated with the classic Pan Am globes visible on all sides. Even when walking, the Beatles can be seen toting clearly labeled Pan Am bags they would continue to use for the remainder of the trip; photos and news reels shot later on the trip showed the Beatles carrying newly purchased records and other bounty from America in these same bags. 

“By the time the Beatles returned to England, Pan Am had temporarily renamed its aircraft with a stenciled ‘Jet Clipper Beatles‘ in full view of the photographers and thousands of fans waiting to see them off at JFK.”

Webber’s full article can be seen here.

As Pan Am provided the air transportation for the Beatles and their entourage, it could fairly be said that the airline was in fact a sponsor of their trip to the United States. In all likelihood, however, at least in the airline industry at the time, providing free transportation was very likely not considered “sponsorship” in the sense it is today. And it would hardly make sense if the historic trip was called “The Pan Am/Beatles Official Inaugural Flight to the United States”. Times have changed! It should be noted, however, that since Pan Am’s breakthrough, other airlines began getting the message, starting with plugs during credits following TV shows where “travel arrangements provided by such and such airline” can be heard.

In another interesting story connected with this event, the daughter of Gerry Shea, the pilot of flight 101 on 7 February 1964 who sent the note to Monica Conway with a postcard autographed by the Beatles covered in the previous post, revealed that she too, was given a similar autographed postcard by her father. In an article written by Bob York that appeared in MassLive.com, Helen Shea Murphy recalls dinner the day he arrived from his trip:

“I remember my father . . . who loved to tease us . . . saying ‘I had some English lads who are in a band called the Bedbugs.’ Well, it took me about two seconds to scream, The Beatles! I suddenly realized that The Beatles were scheduled to be on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night,” she recalled. “Then my father just laughed and asked, ‘What is it about this band that all the girls scream when they hear their name?’”

After Murphy was given her autographed postcard she was told she could not call her friends until after supper, something that “seemed a bit harsh at the time”.  After supper she did get on the phone and the word got around. Today it is “a keepsake I have to this day. That postcard made its rounds at my high school. It was hugged by many girls and even went under some pillows … it certainly has been very loved.”

Murphy’s father, a former Marine pilot, according to the article, was often used to pilot celebrities on Pan Am flights. Murphy was quoted as saying, “He was a very personable man. He had a great sense of humor and really enjoyed schmoozing with the passengers. When working, my father considered the plane as his living room and felt it was part of his responsibility to entertain the passengers.” This is probably the reason he was selected to fly the Beatles to the United States.

The full story about Helen Shea Murphy on MassLive.com can be seen here.

Finally, on 7 February 2014, the Port of Authority of New York & New Jersey hosted an event commemorating the arrival of the Beatles at the TWA Flight Center at Kennedy Airport. The Lord Mayor Gary Millar and Deputy Mayor Wendy Simon of Liverpool, England were in attendance as well as the band “The Cavern Beatles” from Liverpool, who performed for the attendees. A commemorative plaque marking the arrival of the Beatles on Pan Am will be dedicated and installed at Kennedy Airport and a replica of the plaque was unveiled at this celebration. In attendance were members of World Wing’s International, a philanthropic group of former Pan Am flight attendants. Gillian L’Eplattenier who worked flight 101 and whose recollections were featured in the previous post and Mike Webber’s article, was honored by the City of Liverpool with a gift for her role on the Beatles’ first flight to America. Photographs from that event are here.

In sum, the Beatles inaugural trip to the United States was a huge coup for Pan Am. Not only did the “Blue Ball” springboard into world recognition, the creative use of sponsorship to gain brand recognition and product placement had its genesis. Pan Am crafted this technique to ensure its market presence but it was not until decades later that it developed into an art by the world’s airlines.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories 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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

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

The book is also available directly from the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon.

For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation

The Story of Snow Leopard – Part 5: A Postscript

Snow Leopard at Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Snow Leopard at Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

A Postscript to the Story of Snow Leopard

Some new photographs have emerged about Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP operation told in “The Story of Snow Leopard” previously posted on this blog site. The images illustrate the spirit of cooperation between the Tajiks and the ex-Pan Am crew who were enthusiastically and selflessly working to give Tajik Air a name for itself in Central Asia. Many thanks to Purser Gunilla Crawford for providing the photographs.

The first set of images includes scenes at Dushanbe Airport with airport staff and security guards. They all were very happy to come on board the “giant” airplane and enjoy the buffet laid out for them by the flight crew.  Also are pictures of TU-154s at the airport and a photo taken from Snow Leopard while flying over the Pamir mountains. There is also a photograph taken by one of the Snow Leopard pilots from the ground in Dushanbe of a mysterious flying object. They were told: “They never saw anything! No Explanation!”

The next series of images shows the level of meal service enjoyed by the First Class passengers on Snow Leopard. As the cabin crew were former Pan American World Airways pursers, the service replicated Pan Am’s iconic “Seven Cart” gourmet meals.

This short-lived Boeing 747SP operation gave Tajik Civil Aviation an all too brief “shining moment” that for two short months gave Central Asia a glimpse of what could be done in commercial flight. It is gone for now, but the memories remain, thanks to the ex-Pan Am cabin crew and pilots who shared their photographs and memories to make “The Story of Snow Leopard” possible.

The Pan Am Series – Part XXV: The Beatles (1 of 2)

The Beatles Arrive in New York on Pan Am!

390-beatles-0125

Fifty years ago today, 7 February 1964, what has been coined the “British Invasion”, began with the arrival at New York’s Kennedy Airport of a British rock group, the Beatles. Much has been written and broadcast about this auspicious event. However, what should be recognized is the important role Pan American World Airways played in this trip. Most noteworthy is the fact that the Beatles were in the exclusive care of Pan Am from London Heathrow (then London Airport) up to their first news conference after arriving at Kennedy. This aspect the Beatles  historic visit will be covered here.

The Flight from London

One of the unique features of working for Pan American during its heyday was, particularly for the flight crews, the opportunity to meet famous personalities in business, government and entertainment. And the one Pan American trip where that could happen frequently was the airline’s daytime New York-London rotation, flights 100/101. A previous post, “The Pan Am Series – Part X”, describes this flight in detail. It was the best Pan American offered in terms of aircraft and service and because of this the giants of industry, government and entertainment were regular customers.

One Pan Am flight attendant, Gillian Kellogg L’Eplattenier, who was working her second flight, was assigned to flight 101 on 7 February 1964. She did not know that on that day she would be flying with a very special group of passengers. She shares her experiences in a story featured in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. Here is an excerpt:

“The Pan Am crew bus picked up twelve of us from our designated London ‘layover’ hotel, the Athenaeum Court, to work the scheduled Flight #101 to New York on February 7, 1964.  It was anticipated as a normal day and a normal flight.  However, what was not normal was to have two extra stewardesses (flight attendants, today) in our crew.  But no one questioned the two extras, as this was often the luck of the draw – except for the Captain, who was briefed about our special flight.  

“All of us were settled into our seats, the cockpit crew sitting forward in the bus (as they usually did), and ready for the fifty minute drive to Heathrow Airport.  Just as our bus pulled out into traffic, the first officer stood up facing us with a clearly recognizable mask on his face.  Was this a joke?  As he sang a rather poor rendition of the song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, he exclaimed, ‘Guess who we have on board with us today?!’

“’The Beatles!’ we all cried out with excitement and disbelief.  

“The remainder of the bus ride was more than just exciting.  Many of the stewardesses were not much older than the Beatles themselves and were reveling in the liveliness and the unusual of what was to ensue this day.  Even the cockpit crew, in their dignified way, was animated.  This prompted a contest as to who could remember the most songs and hits of Britain’s Fabulous Four.   * * *

“As our crew bus approached Heathrow Airport and our departing terminal, all around there was a fevered pitch with hundreds of people all over the place. The air was electric. 

“The cockpit crew went in for their flight briefing and the rest of us went out to the aircraft to check the provisions.  We also learned en route to the airport that our plane was configured differently. Usually there were only 12-18 seats in First Class with the balance in Economy.  That day, however, we had (if memory serves me correctly) 36 seats.  I had been assigned to work the First Class section and thought, ‘Oh, my God, what an enormous number of people for whom we would have A-1 service.’  I felt a bit apprehensive.

“After our purser viewed the Passenger Manifest, we learned some of our ‘guests’ besides, John, Paul, Ringo, and George, were John’s wife, Cynthia, Brian Epstein, the group’s manager, a few other Beatles’ girlfriends and the remainder, important persons from the media, journalists and photographers….all together thirty-six First Class passengers.

“Before we knew it, passengers began to embark onto our 707 – only the First Class passengers, came up the stairs to the forward door while economy passengers were designated to embark only through the aft cabin door.  Once our four notables and news media were seated it seemed like the balance of the trip was a seven and one-half hour un-staged play of excitement, bustling around, picture taking, laughing, talking (no singing) and trying to keep our Fabulous Four in their seats for the meal and cart services.  That was a major challenge. 

“One must remember that this was the Beatles first trans-Atlantic ‘voyage’ and they were like young guys just having a grand old time!  But this was just the prelude for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show the next day, and following that, many years of being one of history’s most popular and successful singing groups and songwriters.  Our four-some were not particular to any choices of entrees, just saying, ‘I’ll take whatever’.  The elegance we provided only mildly impressed them as it was something they were not yet used to. 

“Paul was the most active of the group, not only talking to others, but also photographing passengers and crew alike, myself included.   I often wish I had some of those photos…..what fun to cement a lifelong memory!   John was the quietest of all while Ringo and George seemed to be enjoying themselves, moving around and talking with other passengers. 

“There was literally no time for us as crew to interact with our passengers, due to the amount of service and the large number of people to serve and need to convince them to stay in their seats!  Service carts and passengers in the aisle was an impossibility! 

“Meanwhile, passengers in the economy section were so excited to be on board this flight and they were continuously asking the stewardesses in that section to please take their menus forward for the Beatles to autograph.  The hours just flew by and the atmosphere aboard did not lose its magnetism.  We were just able to finish the service, clean up, and get all carts and gear secured when we were already halfway in our descent into Kennedy Airport.  Cheers were heard throughout the airplane on landing.

“Taxiing up to our gate produced another glimpse of their unprecedented popularity. We opened the cabin doors to about five thousand loud cheering fans, some screaming, sobbing and waving signs, ‘We love you, Beatles’.  This was truly the beginning of the ‘Beatles Invasion’.  And it was the unbelievable beginning to my career with Pan Am.”

 

Unique Memorabilia

Some interesting memorabilia have emerged from that trip, including a letter from Gerry Shea, who was also working on the flight, to a friend in England:

These items are described in the Beatles Autographs Website founded and owned by Frank Caiazzo:

“Friday, February 7, 1964. It is arguably the most decisive day in the history of The Beatles. At 11:00 a.m., the group and their entourage boarded Pan Am flight 101 at London’s Heathrow Airport and embarked on the trip that would change the world forever. This was their first journey to America, and they were on the way to make their groundbreaking appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Fading in the distance behind them was their native England, the country they had taken by storm throughout 1963.

“Through chart-topping records, television, radio and concert appearances, they had well-established themselves as the most heralded act in all of British entertainment. In just a few hours, they would arrive in the United States – America – the one domain that no British act had ever conquered. During the flight, The Beatles were virtually caught between two realms – a past that saw humble beginnings, a demanding musical apprenticeship in Liverpool and Hamburg and a meteoric rise to fame in Britain … and an unfathomable future that not even the most vocal devotees could have predicted. This was more than just a flight to New York City. This was a flight to their destiny. Once they stepped off the Pan Am . . . Clipper and onto the tarmac at JFK Airport, nothing would ever be the same again.

“It’s been often said that an autograph is a moment frozen in time. If there was ever a Beatles autograph set that captured an epochal moment, this is it – a Pan Am postcard signed by all four Beatles in mid-flight just an hour before that momentous landing in New York. All have signed their full names beautifully on the reverse side of a Pan Am postcard in blue ballpoint pen. George Harrison has additionally written an inscription: ‘Dear Monica Best wishes from the BEATLES’.

What is most remarkable about this signed postcard offering is the letter that accompanies it. Rarely has such impeccable provenance been provided with a Beatles autograph set. Amazingly, the note, written by a member of the flight crew (Gerry Shea), is on a sheet of Pan Am letterhead and boasts all the written pedigree that collectors dream about. It’s as though Gerry knew that detailed provenance would be critically important over four decades later.

“At the top, . . . the letter [is dated] ‘Friday, February 7, 1964’ and . . . the time (‘5:30 p.m. London time, 12:30 p.m. New York time’) as well as ‘Flight 101, Boeing 707’. The body of the letter reads:

“‘Dear Monica,

‘Good news – I have the Beatles on board and we are up in the air now about one hour away from New York. The flight has been a good one so far. We left London airport at 11 a.m. and sure enough there were hordes of screaming girls – The B’s boarded safely however – They are very nice Monica, fine lads – I had a chat with each of them and told them of you – I told Paul especially that he was your favorite – They all send their greetings to you and don’t be surprised if they all pop into Woolworths to see you someday – Excuse my poor writing as the air is a little rough here. I am enclosing the card they signed just for you. They said they were delighted to do it. I sure hope you are still living at this address because I would not want your autographs to get lost – The Beatles are going to be in N.Y. 10 days – They did some singing in the lounge on the plane – quite good too. I hope you, Ann, Mrs. Voss, Olive, etc. etc. are well – Please give my best wishes to all of them & to Mary White if you get to see her. Hope to be seeing all of you again at the end of the month – Both the Beatles & I send our love to you – Keep well

‘Gerry Shea ‘

“As if this isn’t enough provenance, the letterhead reads ‘In Flight…Pan Am Jet Clipper’, further cementing the fact that the set was signed during the flight.

“One of the most fascinating passages in Gerry’s letter is one mentioning an impromptu show held by the group in the plane’s lounge. One can only imagine them doing an ‘unplugged’ rehearsal of their Sullivan set!

“Interestingly, as Gerry was obtaining The Beatles’ autographs on this postcard, the band’s road manager Neil Aspinall was elsewhere in the plane busily adding his own version of their signatures to a stack of publicity photographs in an effort to fulfill what would certainly be an avalanche of autograph requests from Manhattan police and city officials. After a while, he tired of signing in full and proceeded to sign the balance of the photos in first name only.

“The postcard and letter are accompanied by the original Pan Am envelope which has been addressed to the recipient in London, Monica Conway, and is postmarked ‘FEB10 ‘64’ (mailed from Jamaica, New York – which is just next to JFK airport).  * * *

“In every detail, this remarkable assemblage of items represents the calm before the storm. Even the most discerning collectors would be hard-pressed to find a Beatles autograph set with better provenance or one that captures a more important moment in The Beatles’ extraordinary history. This is a truly unique opportunity to own what is one of the best-documented and historic sets of Beatles autographs ever to surface…..$35,000″

According to the website, these items have sold.

Pan Am’s Marketing Coup

This trip could also represent a major airline first: Brand Recognition. The bold and prominent display of the Pan Am logo and Blue Ball throughout the event was clearly designed to gain maximum exposure for the airline and hammer out the message that it was Pan Am that brought the Beatles on their first trip to the United States. In nearly all news photographs of the event, the Pan Am logo and Blue Ball are clearly visible as well as the Beatles being seen toting clearly labeled Pan Am carrying bags. A very powerful message was put across.

The Blue Ball eventually became one of the most recognized symbols around the world, and the value of that recognition could easily be traced back to the Pan Am brain-trust who originally organized the Beatles flights. Airlines displaying their logos or symbols as a marketing tool has transcended over the years to the point where its has become an art, primarily through sponsorship, and has been perfected by Emirates Airline. At nearly every major world-wide sporting event, the name “Emirates” is strategically placed for maximum exposure. What Pan Am did during that February in 1964 was the genesis of what Emirates is doing today.

Pan American recognized the value its association with the Beatles meant to its global recognition. The two images below illustrate this. The photograph below left was taken well after the Beatles first trip to the United States. Behind John Lennon’s left hand can be seen part of the word “Beatles” on the fuselage of the 707. Undoubtedly the aircraft was given the name, albeit temporarily, Clipper Beatles. Below right is another photograph taken  a few years later. Looking at the nacelles of the 707, it appears to be a later version of the 707, the 707-321, as opposed to the 707-121 used in 1964.

In the next posting, the story will be told how Pan American managed to land a marketing coup that shaped its global recognition for the years to come and also how the Beatles came to fly Pan Am rather than their own national carrier, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories 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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

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

The book is also available directly from the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon.

For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation

 

The Pan Am Series – Part XXIV: The Boeing 377

Pan American’s Boeing 377 – The Stratocruiser

Boeing 377 - Clipper America (Mike Machat)

Boeing 377 – Clipper America (Mike Machat)

One of Pan American World Airways’ most iconic airliners was Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. In the post war years and into the 1950s, it epitomized the ultimate in luxury air travel that was unparalleled at the time and probably never will be.

The Stratocruiser was developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter, a military derivative of the B-29 Superfortress. It was Boeing’s first commercial transport since the Boeing 307 Stratoliner and it possessed all the speed and technical improvements available to bombers at the end of the war.

Like the C-97, the Stratocruiser was developed by grafting a large upper fuselage onto the lower fuselage and wings of the B-29, creating an “inverted-figure-8” double deck fuselage. The aircraft had four huge Pratt & Whitney 4360 radial engines with Hamilton Standard propellers.

According to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, the Stratocruiser “looked as ponderous as the Constellation looked graceful. It seemed to bore its way through the air, defying apparent theories of clean aerodynamics. It was, in fact, as fast as the Constellation, and set many point-to-point records.”

The Stratocruiser set a new standard for luxurious air travel with its tastefully decorated extra-wide passenger cabin and gold-appointed dressing rooms. A circular staircase led to a lower-deck beverage lounge, and flight attendants prepared hot meals for 50 to 100 people in a state-of-the-art galley.  As a sleeper, the Stratocruiser was equipped with 28 upper-and-lower bunk units.

Pan American placed the first order for 20 Stratocruisers, worth $24 million, and they began service between San Francisco and Honolulu in 1949. Fifty-six Stratocruisers were built between 1947 and 1950. In addition to Pan American, the Stratocruiser was also operated by American Overseas Airlines (acquired by Pan American in 1950), United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, B.O.A.C. and others.

The Stratocruiser was most remembered for its lower-deck lounge and staterooms. It was used on Pan American’s most prestigious routes and attracted the most discerning of passengers. Although its operating costs were high, they were offset by high revenue.

The Pan American Stratocruisers saw service all over the world. A “Super” Stratocruiser was deployed on the airline’s most prestigious route, the New York-London flight 100/101 and was operated until replaced by the Boeing 707. The “Strat” was also deployed on the New York-Rio “President Special” service but was eventually replaced by the DC-6B, the DC-7B and the Boeing 707. The aircraft also saw extensive usage on Pan American’s Pacific routes as well as the round-the-world service. The timetable images below illustrate these services:

The aircraft was also a favorite of flight crews, not the least for the fact that many celebrities were passengers. Barbara Sharfstein, a former Pan American purser who started working for the airline 1951 and stayed until 1986, when she went to United Airlines with the sale of Pan American’s Pacific routes, said, in a story in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:

“I applied and was hired as a “stewardess” by Pan American World Airways in July, 1951, one month after reaching my 21st birthday and after graduating from college.  About three months later, my friend from home and school, Pat Monahan, joined me and three other new hires in a rented house one block from the Miami Airport.  We started our careers flying to South America and almost all islands in between.  We agreed it was the most amazing, wonderful life imaginable. The types of airplanes we crewed were: Convairs, DC4s, Constellations and our all time favorite, the Boeing- 377 Stratocruiser.  * * *

“[O]ne of the most memorable times in my flying career happened on the Stratocruiser when Louis Armstrong and his band were downstairs in the lounge longing to get to their instruments.   As it happened, there was a door to the cargo compartment right next to the bar.   In fact, the liquor kits were kept in the same compartment as the luggage with only a mesh rope curtain separating us from what they could spot as a few of the instruments.  I can only say it was fortunate for the weight and balance of the airplane that the lounge was centrally located or we might have been in trouble.  Almost all the passengers were in the lounge seats or on steps.  Passengers were helping me serve drinks and neither they nor I will ever forget it.”

Pan American was known for many historic “firsts” in commercial flight and the Stratocruiser was no exception, albeit, in one case, in a most unusual way. On 12 October 1957, Captain Don McLennan and crew started the four engines of Clipper America for a special mission. The story follows from the Pan Am Historical Foundation’s website:

“It was a charter flight for the U.S. Navy. The ultimate destination for the flight was just shy of 10,000 miles away, in the Antarctic at 77 degrees 51 minutes S,166 degrees 40 minutes E – the 6,000 ft. runway at the United States Naval Air Facility, McMurdo Sound; operations base for the Navy’s Operation Deep Freeze III. 

“The passengers included thirty-six Navy personnel, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and a New Zealand cabinet minister, some reporters, but public attention was directed mostly towards the flights’ two Pan Am stewardesses, Ruth Kelly and Pat Hepinstall. The pair were about to become the first women to travel that far south, and although the clipper would be “on the ice” for less than four hours, their arrival caused a big stir at the bottom of the world – and a great news story everywhere else. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral George J. Dufek, the polar veteran in charge of the operation had suggested that such a flight might provide a great PR coup for Pan Am. Operation Deep Freeze would be probing the mysteries of the massive Ross Ice Shelf. The Pan Am flight would mark the first commercial airline flight to the Antarctic. But the admiral was also in for a surprise.

“Three kilometers away from McMurdo was New Zealand’s Scott Base, and as the social calendar was fairly wide open at both facilities, invitations were extended to the Kiwis. Many of the personnel at both bases had been there for months, while some were more recent arrivals – “summer people”. But it seems the arrival of the two young women was apparently not appreciated universally.

“According to an article written by Billy-Ace Baker in the Explorer’s Gazette, official publication of the Old Antarctic Explorer’s Association, in 2001:

“Commenting on the report that there would be no women on the proposed Pan Am flight to McMurdo Sound, Rear Admiral Dufek said: ‘If there are any hostesses they’re going to be men.’

“The Admiral, before the flight anyway, was adamant about not opening the gates to other requests to accommodate women in what was – in 1957 – an exclusive male bastion. But apparently, the stewardesses’ arrival created other conflicts, according to Baker:

“The summer tourists made a big fuss over the girls, but some members of the wintering-over party, who had several more months to spend on the ice, ran away and hid. If you haven’t seen a woman in 12 months, it’s not going to do you much good to look at one who will be gone in a couple of hours. That explains why there were only 50 men in attendance.

“During their brief stay, Kelly and Hepinstall were tasked with judging a beard contest (categories included: longest, blackest, reddest, & sexiest) and were participants in a U.S. v New Zealand dog sled race. The latter event was a failure as far as a picking a winner was concerned, as the stopwatch froze up. So did Pan Am Navigator Earl Lemon’s camera, which also froze after getting one picture.

The event was commemorated in a John T. McCoy watercolor, one of his series of Historic Pan Am Firsts:

Clipper America arriving in Antarctica, 15 October 1957 (John T McCoy watercolor).

Clipper America arriving in Antarctica, 15 October 1957 (John T McCoy watercolor).

During its service for Pan American, the Stratocruiser was dressed in three liveries. The most familiar is pictured above. Below are images of the other two, the first, the original livery upon delivery and the second, the “blue ball”, applied toward the end of its service.

The Stratocruiser played an important role in the phenomenal growth of commercial aviation after World War II and remained a presence on the world’s prestige airline routes up to the beginning of the Jet Age. From Ron Davies:

“While the Constellation is remembered with affection as the epitome of elegance of the piston-engined era, and the DC-6B for its reliability and efficiency, the Stratocruiser was the last to be retired from the world’s prestige routes when, first the turboprop Britannia, and then the Comet and the Boeing 707 jets ushered in a new era that became the Jet Age.”

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories 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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

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

The book is also available directly from the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon.

For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation