Pan Am Series – Part XLI: Flying to the USSR – 1

Москва

One of the major accomplishments of Pan American World Airways was its involvement in opening an airline route between the United States and the then Soviet Union (USSR). Of all the routes operated by Pan American, this would probably be the one route on which the airline actually operated as the “Chosen Instrument” or indeed as an instrument of American foreign policy.

The first flight from New York to Moscow was 15 July 1968. However it took years to finalize the arrangements that led to the inauguration of regular airline service between the two Cold War rivals. During this time, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union ranged from friendly to confrontational and included numerous events that were major news makers during that era.

USA and USSR Flag

The first instance of Pan American interest in entering into an airline service agreement occurred during the 1930s when Juan Trippe held discussions with the Russians. These discussions, however, were thwarted by politics. In 1945, the US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) awarded American Export (AOA) authority to serve Moscow by extension from Helsinki. Pan American inherited this authority from the AOA merger, but the authority lay dormant due to the Cold War.

About ten years later, during the Geneva Summit in 1955, US President Eisenhower proposed an exchange of airline service agreement with USSR. That year, the USSR concluded bilateral treaty with Finland, its first.

Bob Henriques 1959 magnumphotos.com

President Eisenhower (left) and Soviet Premier Khrushchev (right) in 1959

In 1956, the USSR concluded bilateral treaties with the Scandinavian countries for routes to Copenhagen with “beyond” (Fifth Freedom) rights to London, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam. In addition, the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC approached Juan Trippe and Pan American about opening a route between the US and the USSR. Trippe reported the contact to the U.S. State Department and the CAB and was authorized to continue discussions (in effect to revert to his old-style diplomacy), even though the opening of the route would be subject to a bilateral agreement between the USA and the USSR.

Based on this authority, Trippe went to Washington and met with Yevgeny F. Loginov, Minister of Civil Aviation and director of Aeroflot. Talks focused at the start on technical matters such as maintenance facilities, radio navigation, fuel storage and baggage handling. Negotiations were protracted.  During this time, Trippe also visited Moscow.

By 1958, both nations had agreed to exchange airline service and the US-USSR cultural exchange agreement of 1958-59 contained promises that an air pact would be signed in due course. During that time, Khrushchev accused the U.S. ambassador to the USSR of “foot-dragging” in the negotiations.

In 1959 Trippe accompanied US Vice President Nixon to to Moscow and met with his Aeroflot counterpart. The Aeroflot chief later accompanied Khrushchev to the US and suggested the US attempt to persuade the Scandinavian countries to give the Soviets overflight (First Freedom) rights on its route to New York. This suggestion however, was in conflict with NATO policy of “confining” Soviet international aviation and insisting on strict reciprocity. These talks, however, were postponed to a more suitable time due to the U-2 incident, the abortive Paris summit meeting and the shooting down of a USAF RB-47.

US_Air_Force_U-2_(2139646280)    Khrushchev_U2

U-2 aircraft (left); Khrushchev looking at wreckage (right)

 Things eased when President Kennedy was sworn in as President and talks resumed. However, the FAA Administrator warned Secretary of State Dean Rusk that a standard bilateral agreement (modeled on Bermuda) should not be used with Russia, otherwise Pan American would be at a disadvantage compared with Aeroflot. Both countries, however, finally agreed on text, and Pan American and Aeroflot agreed on inter-carrier matters.

Unfortunately, however, the Soviets’ building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis intervened, causing President Kennedy to decline to sign the air agreement.

Berlin_Wall_1961-11-20     640px-Kennedy_in_Berlin

Building the Berlin Wall (1961)(left); President Kennedy at the Berlin Wall (1961)(right)

american-and-russian-military-  Bettmann CORBIS

Cuban Missile Crisis (Credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

In 1963, President Kennedy advised Soviet Premier Gromyko that the US is ready to move forward on the airline agreement. There were still issues to be resolved, however, and it was not until December, 1963 that President Johnson, who succeeded the late President Kennedy, instructed Najeeb Halaby (then FAA head, later president of Pan American) to solve the remaining problems with the Soviets regarding the treaty. However, there was opposition to the treaty in the US, with the fear that the treaty will allow Soviet penetration into the Western hemisphere. In addition, the Vietnam War soured relations.

By 1966, USSR and Canada had concluded a bilateral air agreement giving Aeroflot authority to Montreal. President Johnson also suggested that the old agreement should be looked at again, and on 4 November 1966, the US-USSR agreement was signed in Washington.

The agreement differed from typical bilateral agreements where agreement on the commercial aspects of air services between the two countries, including capacity and tariffs, were made subject to a prior agreement between the designated airlines (Pan American and Aeroflot) which, in turn, was subject to prior governmental approval.

According to Marilyn Bender and Selig Altschul in Chosen Instrument, the agreement was a money loser. It entailed a once a week round-trip for each airline and the Russians prohibited Pan American from drumming up business in the USSR. “Although it may have been in the national interest for an American-flag carrier to fly to Moscow, there was no subsidy forthcoming from Washington.”

In 1967, another barrier was encountered when it was discovered that Soviet aircraft did not meet noise limitations, had insufficient avionics and flew too fast for US holding patterns. Rumors were that that the Soviets did not want to share technical data because of the similarity between their commercial aircraft and their bombers.

Later, the Soviet-Canadian agreement was amended  to give Aeroflot beyond rights to New York. A new Soviet plane, the IL-62 began making test trips to New York and other U S airports.

On 15 July 15 1968, Aeroflot’s inaugural flight arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport; on the same day a Pan Am 707 took off for Moscow on its inaugural flight to the Soviet Union.

First Regular Moscow-New York Flight     Boarding

PAA 707 off to Moscow

PAA 707 off to Moscow-2     PAA 707 arrive Moscow

PAN_707 arriving Moscow 16 July 1968 - 1     KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Aeroflot IL-62 preparing for departure in Moscow (top)

Pan American 707 departing New York for Moscow (middle)

Pan American 707 arrival at Moscow (bottom)

All photos from http://www.miniaviamodel.ru

George Hambleton was sent by Juan Trippe to Moscow to develop good relations with Marshal Loginov, the Minister of Civil Aviation and director of Aeroflot. He wrote about this assignment in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People.  Excerpts from his story are below:

“Juan Trippe had sent me to Moscow from Helsinki in the mid 1960’s to develop good relations with Marshal Loginov, Minister of Civil Aviation, in an effort to persuade Aeroflot to join Pan Am in developing an InterContinental Hotel in Russia.  The contracts had been signed in Helsinki.  Mr. Trippe told me not to tell anyone about the Russian hotel proposal – not even my own boss in Pan Am.  Relations with the Ministry and Aeroflot developed favorably, but a hotel agreement was never concluded.  The favorable relations, however, set the stage for eventual introduction of scheduled services between New York and Moscow.

“During the early negotiations, I remember, with some amusement, our US technical team telling Aeroflot that the FAA required both DME and transponders on all aircraft entering New York airspace.  This was long before GPS.  The Pan Am team said with these two instruments pilots could know their exact location.  The answer from Aeroflot was, “Soviet pilots always know their exact location!”   However, if one had looked closely at the belly antenna of the Russian IL-62, after service began, one would have seen the insignia, ‘RCA’ (Radio Corporation of America).

“In the Cold War decade of the 1960’s, after Sputnick, the Cuban missile confrontation, and the Kennedy assassination, life in Moscow was grim.  The city was bleak, drab and grey.  There was no lighting or advertising signs on the sides of buildings – no color printing – only some faded reds and blue.  The terror of the years of Stalinist purges had diminished but fear was still pervasive – particularly among older people.  The attitude of many was, ‘We have always been at war – with the Germans – before that with the French – the Swedes – and the Tartars.  Our memories are all of sadness.’ * * *

“Into this world I walked as a relatively young man, with a young English wife, two young children, and a Labrador puppy.  How to cope with this system, and have an efficient Pan Am operation off to a successful start was the question.  Given Pan Am’s strict worldwide policy against bribes and corruption, it seemed almost impossible, until we remembered a clause in the bilateral air agreement.  Aeroflot was permitted to distribute advertising material in the United States – and Pan Am was permitted to distribute advertising material in the Soviet Union.

“Here was our incredible secret weapon.  There was nothing in Russia like the Pan Am calendar, with its large, beautiful color pictures of worldwide destinations.  People who had no other color pictures would frame them to hang in their otherwise drab and crowded apartments.  I was told that Pan Am calendars would sell for the equivalent of some twenty or thirty dollars on the black market.  During communist days, the Soviet Poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote ‘Without a piece of paper you’re an insect – with a piece of paper you’re a man!’  We had a piece of paper that made it legal for us to distribute these valuable items – a box of a hundred calendars was a pretty handsome gift – It was advertising material.

“Eventually service began. 

“On July 14, 1968 Richard Witkin wrote in the New York Times:

‘At Pan American World Airways’ second floor sales office in the Hotel Metropol, 15 sons and daughters of American Embassy officials spent much of the rainy Moscow         Sunday putting 16 kopek’s worth of stamps on 22,000 envelopes marking the inaugural        flight….  The letter will be flown to New York on the… Pan American flight, and      delivered to stamp collectors and others with special interest in the start of the route.

‘The (Pan Am/Aeroflot inaugural) flights will culminate a diplomatic effort that had its fragile beginning in the first Soviet-American cultural exchange agreement in 1958.  It also will be another in a series of recent signs that relations between the two countries are being selectively improved, despite strains imposed by the Vietnam War.’

* * *

“In the early 1960’s, Mr. Khrushchev had been saying the Soviet Union would soon “overtake and surpass” the United States.  Speaking at a ceremony celebrating Pan Am/Aeroflot service in the late ‘60’s, Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson said there was one field in which he would welcome the Soviet Union overtaking and surpassing the United States – that was in the number of visitors from Russia to the United States overtaking the number of visitors from the United States to Russia.”

1969 - Sep -cover   1969 - Sep -0001     1969 - Sep -0002

The September 1969 timetable (above) illustrates the Pan American Moscow service that was operated for ten years. In the next posting of the “Pan Am Series” will be a description of the operation during this period.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Aircraft Leasing Workshop – 14 November 2014 – Washington, DC

The “Nuts and Bolts” of Aircraft Operating and WET Leases

Aeropodium’s Law Aviation  Workshop Series is holding its highly informative workshop, Legal Aspects of Aircraft Leasing and Financing on  14 November 2014 in Washington, DC.

The workshop is hosted by the Washington offices of Cozen O’Connor and includes speakers with decades of experience in negotiating and managing all aspects of aircraft leases.

CLE and CPD Credits Available.

Register Now! Limited Spaces Available!

 

 

 

washington-dc_skyline2
Thomas J. Whalen, Attorney at Law, Schott Law Associates & Former Member of the US Delegation to the Cape Town Convention and Participant in the Drafting of the Agreement.
Bruce Burnett
 Senior Vice President, Technical

Avitas

Mark Atwood, Member, Cozen O’Connor
Jamie Baldwin, Lecturer, Author and Consultant on Air Transportation, Adjunct Instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Don Kenny, Senior Vice President, Falcon Insurance Agency

WORKSHOP THEMES
Introduction to Aircraft Leasing

Contract Law Refresher

Hear about the principles of the Law of Contracts that work together to create an airtight and fully enforceable aircraft finance or lease agreement.

– Offer / acceptance / agreement / performance / discharge / breach / remedies

– Applicability to aircraft lease agreements

Operating Leases (“Dry”)

Learn the ins and outs of the operating lease and how to get the best deal while avoiding the pitfalls.  Hear about and discuss current trends and the outlook for the future.

– Bargaining the Terms and Conditions

– Operations and Maintenance Considerations

– Dealing with Trade Sanctions

Cape Town Convention

Hear from the former US Delegate to the Convention, Tom Whalen, Esq.  Learn how to protect your interests in aircraft and engine lease and finance agreements

– History and practical application

Technical Lease Language

How technical lease language can ensure maintenance and return of the asset while retaining its value

Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance & Insurance (“WET”) Leases

Learn how and why “Wet” leases are used by the airlines to meet their operational commitments.  Hear how these leases work and how to get the best deal.

– How they differ from Dry Leases

– Bargaining the Agreement

– Duties of the Parties

Aviation Insurance

Learn what every Lessor or Lessee needs to know about adequate insurance coverage.

– Insurance protections available to aircraft operators and financial institutions engaged in aircraft transactions

 

 For More Information or to Register, click here.

Pan Am Series – Part XL: Round-the-World Flight

Pan American’s Round-the-World Services

48-First RTW

John T. McCoy’s painting of Clipper America arriving at San Francisco, completing the first commercial airline round-the-world flight, 29 June 1947.

 Setting the Stage

With the Fifth Freedom rights granted by Britain in the Bermuda Agreement of 1946, the United States obtained the authority for its international air carriers to pick up passengers in Britain (and in British colonies such as India and Hong Kong) to beyond points in Europe and Asia. What this meant was that Pan American would be able to launch a “round-the-world” service.

At the time, with World War II ended, the U.S. international air transportation system was taking on a whole new complexion. Prior to the war, Pan American Airways was the de facto U.S. flag international air carrier. This was achieved largely by Juan Trippe’s ability to (1) win Foreign Air Mail contracts and (2) negotiate landing concessions with countries of interest. This worked very well in Latin America because for all intents and purposes, Pan American’s activities in the region were in line with the U.S. desire to keep the Germans from establishing any presence there.

With the end of the war, however, as a result of their support to the war effort, the Civil Aeronautics Board awarded the likes of TWA, Northwest, United and American Export (AOA, later acquired by Pan American) international routes, much to the chagrin of Pan American.  Juan Trippe had fought tooth-and-nail to be the designated U.S. flag international carrier (the “Chosen Instrument”), but was thwarted along the way by politicians and his competition. This story and its political intrigue is covered in detail in The Chosen Instrument, by Marylin Bender and Selig Alschul and An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, by Robert Daley.

Nevertheless, Pan American had the beyond authority as granted in the Bermuda Agreement and on 17 June 1947, Juan Trippe departed on the inauguration of Pan American Airways’ round-the-world service, the first for a scheduled commercial airline.

The aircraft used was a Lockheed Constellation model 749, Clipper America, powered by four 2.200-horsepower Wright engines, with a cruising speed of 260 miles per hour and a pressurization system that permitted flying at altitudes between 18,000-20,000 feet.

Clipper America departed from New York’s LaGuardia airport and stopped in Gander, Shannon, London, Istanbul, Dhahran, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Manila, Shanghai, Tokyo, Guam, Wake Island, Midway, Honolulu, San Francisco and Chicago, arriving back in New York on 30 June. The journey entailed 22,170 miles. Not having domestic authority, the flight between San Francisco and New York was a “ferry-flight” and thereafter all of Pan American’s round-the-world flights departed from one coast of the U.S. and terminated on the other.

The round-the-world service was a fixture in Pan American’s timetables from then on, until the final round-the-world flight in October, 1982. During this time, the iconic round-the-world flights 1 and 2 represented the summit of Pan American’s power and glory.

Pan American’s Round-the-World Schedules

Below are descriptions of Pan American’s round-the-world service from selected timetables over the years. While a variety of flight numbers operated on the route, flights 1 and 2 were a constant and are focused on here.

Initially the Constellation and the DC-4 were employed in the round-the-world service, as shown in the June 1948 timetable. On the eastbound flight 2, the Constellation operated from New York to Calcutta and handed over to the DC-4 to continue the route to San Francisco. In the timetable, flight 2 departed New York on Saturday and arrived in Calcutta the following Tuesday, with stops in Gander, London, Brussels, Istanbul, Damascus, Karachi and Delhi. Flight 2 continued its journey to San Francisco, departing Wednesday evening and arriving in San Francisco on Thursday with stops Bangkok, Shanghai, Tokyo, Wake Island and Honolulu. The flight gained a day crossing the International Date Line between Wake Island and Honolulu. The DC-4 from Calcutta featured “Sleeperette Service”, specially reclining seats with “curtained privacy”.

1948 RTW

Constellation-1     DC-4

Constellation (left, source unknown) and DC-4 (right, PAA postcard).

By 1952, the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser (“Strato Clipper”) was deployed into the service as illustrated in the April 1952 timetable. The westbound flight 1, a Strato Clipper, departed San Francisco on Tuesdays and Thursdays, arriving at Manila on Thursdays and Sundays with stops in Honolulu, Wake Island and Guam. The flight lost Wednesday when crossing the International Date Line. From Honolulu, “Sleeperette Service” was offered. Flight 1 changed gauge at Manila to a DC-4, leaving on Fridays and Mondays for Hong Kong, where a Constellation took over on Mondays for London via Bangkok, Calcutta, Delhi, Karachi, Basra, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Brussels. The flight arrived in London on Wednesday morning where flight 1 was paired with flight 101 for New York with a Strato Clipper. There were optional fuel stops in Shannon or Gander on this segment.

1952 RTW    Boeing 377-n

“Strato Clipper” (right, PAA photograph).

By 1954, the Constellation was no longer operating this route and the DC-6B had been introduced, offering “Rainbow” tourist service in addition to the “President” first class service. On the eastbound route, flight 2 was paired with flight 70, a DC-6B offering “Rainbow” service and flight 100, a Strato Clipper offering “President” service, on the New York-London segment. Although the service was offered five days a week, flight two only operated on Mondays. From London, a DC-6B took over and offered both “Rainbow” and “President” service, departing on Tuesday and arriving in Hong Kong on Thursday, with stops in Düsseldorf, Istanbul, Beirut, Karachi, Rangoon and Bangkok. From Hong Kong, flight 2 continued to Tokyo where it laid over until Saturday morning when a Strato Clipper continued the flight to Los Angeles via Wake Island and Honolulu. In addition, from Hong Kong on Thursdays, a DC-4, flight 6, operated to Manila, where a Strato Clipper continued to San Francisco via Guam, Wake Island and Honolulu.

1954 RTW    DC-6B

DC-6B (right, PAA photograph).

By 1956, the Super Stratocruiser and the DC-7B were operating in the round-the-world service. In the April 1956 timetable, eastbound flight 2 from New York was paired with flights 100, 102 and 64. Flights 100 and 102 were Super Stratocruisers departing on Sundays for London with the latter stopping in Boston and Shannon. Both flights arrived in London on Monday and connected to flight 2, a DC-6B, which departed on Tuesday for Tokyo via Frankfurt, Istanbul, Beirut (receiving traffic from flight 64), Karachi, Rangoon, Bangkok and Hong Kong.  At Tokyo, a Strato Clipper took over for the remainder of the trip to Seattle with stops in Wake Island, Honolulu and Portland. Flight 64 was a DC-7B that operated from New York to Beirut where it connected with flight 2. The intermediate stops were Shannon, Paris and Rome. In this timetable, Pan American offered a daily round-the-world service with different flight numbers. With the exception of the service described above, the eastbound flights all terminated in San Francisco.

RTW 1956

377-3 RA Scholefield   DC-7B-n2

 Super Stratocruiser (left, credit R.A. Scholefield Collection) and DC-7B (right, PAA photograph).

 By 1959, the DC-7C and the Boeing 707-121 were seen in the round-the-world service. In the April 1959 timetable, westbound flight 1 operated on Saturdays with a DC-7C from San Francisco to Tokyo with stops in Honolulu and Wake Island. Flight 805, also a DC-7C, operated on Saturdays from Los Angeles to Honolulu, where it connected to flight 1. “Sleeperette Service” was available on both segments. Flight 1 arrived in Tokyo on Monday where a Strato Clipper took over for the segment to Hong Kong where the flight was handed over to a DC-6B. This aircraft continued to London with stops in Bangkok, Calcutta, Karachi, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf. From London a DC-7C took over for the trip to New York, with stops in Shannon and Boston. In Beirut, flight 1 also connected to flight 115, a service to New York via Rome and Paris. From Beirut a DC-6B operated to Rome. From Rome, a Boeing 707-121 operated to Paris and then on to New York.

1959 RTW

DC-7C at IDL Allan Van Wickler    707-121 IDL Bob Proctor

DC-7C (left, photo by Allan Van Wickler) and Boeing 707-121 (right, photo by Jon Proctor) at New York.

By 1966, the Boeing 707 and DC-8 were operating a daily all-jet round-the-world service. On Sundays, flight 2 departed New York in the evening and arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday via London, Frankfurt, Vienna, Istanbul, Beirut, Baghdad, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Honolulu. Other stops on the route, depending on the day operated, included Belgrade, Ankara, Tehran, New Delhi, Rangoon and Saigon. By 1971, the Boeing 747 operated flights 1 and 2, between New York and Los Angeles with stops in Honolulu, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and, depending on the day, New Delhi, Karachi, Tehran or Beirut, and then Istanbul, Frankfurt and London. After the merger with National Airlines, flights 1 and 2 continued in round-the world service between New York and Los Angeles with 747s, with stops in Tokyo and Hong Kong, and, depending on the day, Bangkok, Delhi, Bombay, Karachi or Bahrain, and then Frankfurt and London. The service also added Las Vegas to the route with a change of gauge to a 727 for the flight from/to Los Angeles.

1966 RTW   1971-72 RTW

1981 RTW

707-321 at LAX Bob Proctor    DC-8 at LAX Bob Proctor

747 at LAX Bob Proctor

Boeing 707-321 at New York (top left), DC-8-32 at Los Angeles (top right), Boeing 747-121 at Los Angeles (bottom). Photographs by Jon Proctor.

By the end of 1982, Pan American’s iconic round-the-world service was history. Although flights 1 and 2 continued to operate, the service was between New York and London and onward to points on the European continent. With the sale of Pan American’s London Heathrow route to United Airlines, flights 1 and 2 were removed from the timetable.

The last round-the-world flight departed Los Angeles on 27 October 1982. Merle Richmond, who worked in public relations for Pan American, and his two children were passengers on that flight. His memories of that flight, featured in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People are excerpted below:

 “They say when French writer Jules Verne wrote Around the World in 80 Days in 1873 it was during a financially difficult time for the classic adventure novelist.  Compared to Pan Am’s travails, it was no sweat.   He couldn’t have been as financially bad off as Pan Am was over a hundred years later when the airline decided to end its historic Round-the-World Flights One and Two.  But whether it was Verne’s novel, which I had read many years earlier, or   perhaps  Nellie Bly’s 1889 epic 72-day tale which she wrote for her newspaper, the New York World, I was awed by their feat and saw the last Pan Am RTW flights as my final opportunity.

“So it was on a fall evening in 1982 during dinner with my family that I announced that I was going to fly around the world that coming weekend, leaving October  27, 1982, and listened as my 14-year- old daughter Diana quickly asked if she could join me, followed later by  my 12-year old son Dwight.  Not sure that they understood the magnitude of the undertaking, I explained that the curtailing of Pan  Am’s Flights 1 and 2, which had been operating since June 17, 1947, represented surrendering what many considered the most symbolic aspect of the airline.  No other airline in the world had previously ever even attempted to make round-the-world service commercially viable. And we would be on the last flight!

“Not only we would be on the final flight, departing Los Angeles that Friday at noon, I told Diana and Dwight that if anybody in recent history had boarded Flight 1 and remained with the plane for the entire duration of the flight until it landed at JFK in New York on Sunday afternoon, I and others I queried, were unaware of such a back-breaking marathon.

“With the advent of jet service in 1958 with the Boeing 707, Pan Am switched departure city of Flight 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  Thus the route of the flight would be Los Angeles-Tokyo-Hong Kong-Bangkok- Bombay-Dubai-Istanbul-Frankfurt-London-New York on a Boeing 747.

“And so on Friday, October 28, 1982, with Capt. Carl Wallace in the left hand seat, we joined the world of Verne and Bly.  * * * For Diana and Dwight, the RTW trip was an unparalleled emotional and educational experience.   

48- kids and clipper    48-On board

“Some two full days after takeoff in Los Angeles we landed in New York on a brilliant sunny fall day.  We had made it in one piece after 56-hours of flying. We had eaten the best airline food in the world (more breakfasts than dinners when you fly west to east). . .  [a]nd yes, Diana and Dwight even did some of the homework they brought with them.

“Altogether, 18,647 miles in 39 hours and 30 min. of actual flying time.  And who knows how many steaks!!!! Worth every bite!”

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

 

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXIX: The S-42

 

Sikorsky S- 42 - Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am - An Airline and Its Aircraft

Sikorsky S- 42 – Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft. Pictured left, Captain Edwin Musick, pilot-in-command of the China Clipper’s historic transpacific crossing, who lost his life in Pago Pago in a deadly fire in a S-42 after a survey flight and initial South Pacific service.

The Airliner that Changed Aviation History

To say that the Sikorsky S-42 is the “Airliner that Changed Aviation History” undoubtedly will spark debate. However, its role with Pan American World Airways presents a very strong case. Indeed, in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, author Ron Davies noted that it [was an] airliner . . . whose effects and influence on the world of air transport were more immediate”, compared to the DC-2, which went into service about the same time. First, the airliner epitomized Juan Trippe’s “Nautical Airline” (see Pan Am Series Part V, “The ‘Nautical Airline'”). Secondly, the airliner was a chess piece in Juan Trippe’s trans-oceanic ambitions. And finally, because of its superior capabilities, the S-42 might have very well sowed the seeds for the Chicago Convention of 1944, which created the political environment and regulatory scheme under which all airlines operate today.

Sikorsky_S-42_PAA_taking_off_in_1930s

The Aircraft

On 19 November 1931, on board a Sikorsky S-40 flying boat during lunchtime, pilot Charles Lindbergh turned the controls over to Basil Rowe and went aft into the passenger cabin to sit down next to the most important passenger on board, Igor Sikorsky. The meeting between the two would characterize this flight as, according to Robert Daley in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, “one of the most important flights in the history of aviation”.

What Lindbergh and Sikorsky discussed was “the next step”, according to Daley. What Lindbergh wanted was a “really new airplane, something completely clean in design, with no external bracing, no outriggers, no fuselage hanging from the wing by struts, no engines stuffed amid the struts like wine bottles in a rack. All those struts and bracings only meant wind resistance to Lindbergh, and wind resistance meant loss of range and speed”. Sikorsky countered saying that what Lindbergh wanted was “two steps ahead in development, and Sikorsky wanted to take one step at a time . . . because lives were at stake . . . [and] [t]they could not afford to make mistakes.” Therefore what was the next step? Both men began to work it out while eating lunch. Lindbergh drew something on the menu. The S-42 was conceived.

Juan Trippe, had a similar vision of an aircraft able to span oceans. The new design provided for an increased lifting capacity to carry enough fuel for a 2,500 nautical miles (4,000 km) nonstop flight against a 30 mph (48 km/h) wind, at a cruising speed far in excess of the average operating speed of any flying boat at that time. Based on these requirements, Glenn Martin drew up plans for such an aircraft. However, Sikorsky’s S-42 was to be delivered first, as the Martin M-130 was still almost a year away from completion.

Specs

The S-42 made its first flight on 30 March 1934 and, according to Davies, “incorporated many technical refinements such as large wing flaps, extensive flush riveting, engine synchronization indicators (also on the S-40), propeller brakes and automatic carburetors. Its wing loading was higher than any previous airliner and was not exceeded by any other type until 1942, eight years after it went into service. Had it been a land-plane, concrete runways would have been needed at airports (then normally grass, gravel or cinder strips) to support the wheel loads.”

The S-42 could carry a full payload of 32 passengers over a range of 750 nautical miles, permitting non-stop trans-Caribbean flights to Colombia and omission of several en-route points on the Brazil route. Said Davies, the S-42 could “carry almost twice as many passengers as least as fast and twice as far as the DC-3”.

The first S-42 delivered: NC 822M Brazilian Clipper

The first S-42 delivered: NC 822M Brazilian Clipper

The “Nautical Airliner”

When in full passenger configuration, the S-42 truly epitomized Juan Trippe’s “Nautical Airline”. The passenger windows were round, like a ship’s portholes and the interior furnishings resembled the trappings of a luxury passenger liner or yacht, as illustrated below:

 s42_panam_cabin3     s42_cabin

s-42-interior

An advertising brochure also highlighted the nautical nature of the service (below). Note the use of the term “cruises” and depiction of the flight-deck, which appears like the bridge of a ship.

planes_47

S-42_Cockpit    s42_boarding

Pan American inaugurated passenger service with the S-42 in 1934, operating out of Miami to Colombia and down the East Coast of South America to Rio de Janeiro (passengers traveling to Buenos Aires were transferred to either a DC-2 or DC-3).

This service continued into the late 1930’s as shown in the September 1939 timetable below:

1939 Sept Timetable

In 1935, the S-42A entered service, with improved aerodynamics and a slightly longer wingspan. The engines were also upgraded, permitting a longer range. These aircraft were used in the Caribbean and South America.

Sikorsky S-42A - Ed Coates Collection

Sikorsky S-42A  (Ed Coates Collection).

In 1936, the long-range S-42B entered service. On 18 June 1937, the Bermuda Clipper inaugurated service between Baltimore and Bermuda. The S-42B also started service to the South Pacific on 23 December 1937. Sadly, however, the service was temporarily suspended when the Samoan Clipper, another S-42B, commanded by Captain Musick, suffered a deadly fire resulting in the death of him and his crew. The S-42B was also used on the Manila-Hong Kong route in 1937 and the Seattle-Juneau route in 1940.

Samoan Clipper

Sikorsky S-42B – Samoan Clipper

Survey Flights

The S-42B, because of its range, was also used extensively on survey routes for Pan American. In 1937, Pan American Clipper III made five survey flights in the Atlantic, originating in New York. The first was a round trip to Shediac, New Brunswick, followed by a round trip to Botwood, Newfoundland. The next two trips were to Southampton, England, via Foynes, Ireland (the northern route). The last trip was the southern route to Southampton via Bermuda, the Azores, Lisbon and Marseilles.

However, the most important of all surveys was the transpacific survey in 1935.

Juan Trippe’s Trans-Oceanic Ambitions

As described in Pan Am Series Part XIV, “Crossing the Pacific”, Juan Trippe initially sought to inaugurate trans-oceanic operations across the Atlantic to England. As it turns out, at least prior to 1937, it was not to be. There were a variety of reasons, largely political, as outlined in “Crossing the Pacific” and described in great detail in Daley’s An American Saga and in The Chosen Instrument, by Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul. One important reason was the S-42, then the most advanced aircraft in the world. According to Bob Gandt in China Clipper, the British had nothing approaching the technical superiority of the S-42. And that superiority for all intents and purposes, blocked Pan American from inaugurating transatlantic service to the United Kingdom. The British would not let the United States (Pan American) display its technical superiority until they (the British) had an aircraft of similar capabilities.

The S-42, however, was not the aircraft designed for transpacific flight. It was designed for the Atlantic, with “its British-held stepping stones”, according to Bender and Altschul. With thirty-two passengers, a crew of five and 2500 pounds of mail and cargo, the S-42 could make 1,250 nautical miles; not enough for the Pacific.

Unfortunately, the Martin M-130, slated for Pacific duty, was not yet ready for delivery, and Juan Trippe wanted to start operations in the Pacific “now”. It was thus decided to use the S-42 for the survey flights, and NC 823M, the West Indies Clipper was sent back to the factory, stripped of its interior and fitted with extra fuel tanks to give it a range of 3000 nautical miles. The airliner, renamed Pan American Clipper, flew off to San Francisco for its historic assignment. The critical element of the assignment was flying the California-Hawaii sector, which, according to Davies, “was and still is the longest significant air route segment in the whole world. Any aircraft that could perform adequately on this critical leg could fly any commercial overseas route”. The Pan American Clipper accomplished this.

Clipper_NC_823M_S-42 Nick grant adventures com

S-42 NC 823M Pan American Clipper over the yet to be completed Bay Bridge in San Francisco (nickgrantadventures.com).

The British finally developed an airliner that could compete with the S-42, the Shorts S.23. With that, the door was opened to Pan American for Atlantic services on which the S-42B conducted the survey flights, detailed above. Atlantic services were inaugurated in 1939 with the Boeing 314.

S-42 NC 16734, Pan American Clipper II/Samoan Clipper and Shorts 23 in Auckland

S-42 NC 16734, Pan American Clipper II/Samoan Clipper and Shorts 23 in Auckland

Sowed the Seeds for Chicago?

While it might be considered an overstatement to claim the S-42 sowed the seeds for the Chicago Convention of 1944, it should be remembered that because of its superiority, the British balked at allowing Juan Trippe access to the United Kingdom during the early 1930s. As mentioned above, the British were not going to let the United States (Pan American) display its superiority in air transportation on its soil until they had an aircraft of similar capabilities.

Another important point is that Juan Trippe was doing the negotiating for the landing concessions (as he had done in the past). In this case, he was dealing with Imperial Airways (the predecessor of BOAC and British Airways), which was a creature of its own government as opposed to a private enterprise, as was Pan American. In a sense, Trippe was negotiating with the British government. And this prompted the question from the British as to why the U.S. government was not doing the bidding for Pan American. This opened the door to U.S. government involvement in negotiating with foreign governments for landing rights, ending Juan Trippe’s role as a “shadow foreign minister for aviation”. Government-to-government negotiations for landing rights became U.S. policy toward the end of World War II.

As the war was winding down,there was no doubt that the United States was by far the strongest aviation power in the world, prompting significant worries from the British. This could have been made possible by an agreement between the U.S. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill during the war, whereby the U.S. would focus on development of long-range bombers and transports while the Allies focused on fighters and light bombers. As a result, at the end of the War, the U.S. had a decided advantage in capacity and range. What the British had, however, was control of one end of a large number of international journeys, something of great interest to Pan American, who had visions of operating flights to the European continent and Asia. Nevertheless, the U.S. was in a position similar to the proverbial elephant, who, while dancing through a chicken yard, cried, “everyone for himself!”

As the war was winding down it became increasingly clear that a meeting be held to resolve issues of international aviation and most importantly the issues between the U.S. and the British. Eventually, the U.S. sent out invitations to the Allied Nations and the neutral countries of Europe and Asia to meet in Chicago on 1 November 1944.

   chicago-conference-photo4     Chicago_Convention_Titelseite

And all of this, because of an airliner created during a Pan American flight on the back of a menu by Charles Lindbergh and Igor Sikorsky: The S-42.

s42_afloat    s42_mia2

As a postscript, it should be noted that at the end of the Chicago Convention, economic issues, largely issues between the U.S. and Britain, were still unresolved. The U.S. (Pan American) wanted authority to pick up passengers in Britain for travel beyond (“beyond rights” as provided for in the 5th Freedom of the Air, promulgated at Chicago) and the British balked. Finally this was resolved with the U.S. (Pan American) getting the coveted beyond rights in the Bermuda Agreement of 1946 an air services agreement between the U.S. and Britain that also became the model for future air services agreements the world over.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXVIII: The DC-7C

The DC-7C - Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am - An Airline and its Aircraft

The DC-7C – Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft by Ron Davies

“Swan Song of an Airline Generation”

Probably the most advanced of the piston airliners, the Douglas DC-7C had also one of the shortest, if not the shortest, service life with Pan American World Airways.

The aircraft came about as a result of the competition in the North Atlantic for what Ron Davies’ in Pan American World Airways – An Airline and Its Aircraft, referred to as the “non-stop prize”. The competition had already been brewing on the domestic front between Douglas and Lockheed with TWA introducing the first U.S. transcontinental non-stop service in October 1953 with the L-1049C Super Constellation shortly followed by American with the DC-7.

In the transatlantic, it was TWA with its Super Constellations versus Pan American, with its Super Stratocruisers fitted with extra fuel tanks and later with DC-7B’s, which had a slightly higher gross weight and longer range than the DC-7. Then, in November 1955, TWA introduced the L-1049G, the “Super G”, which was matched by Pan American with the DC-7C  in June 1956.

With the DC-7C, called the “Seven Seas”, an extra wing section was added, increasing the wing area by 12 percent, thus enabling the increase of weights, payloads and tankage. The wings also allowed the engines to be placed five feet further away from the fuselage which reduced the engine noise and vibration in the cabin. Lockheed later introduced its answer to the DC-7C with the L-1649A Starliner, called the “Jetstream” by TWA, but it only had marginally more range than the former.

Pan American’s DC-7B and DC-7C Operations

Pan American started taking delivery of its seven DC-7Bs in May of 1955 and these were deployed in the Atlantic. The aircraft was used primarily in all-tourist or dual first and tourist service on the transatlantic routes. The aircraft was marginally non-stop capable, requiring a stop on its westbound leg.

DC-7B - Clipper Jupiter Rex

DC-7B – Clipper Jupiter Rex

Below are pages from the April 1956 timetable showing the DC-7B’s services in the North Atlantic:

1956 Atlantic - T   1956 Atlantic

In the same timetable, Pan American also announced the introduction of the, the DC-7C, called the “Super Seven”, the “world’s newest and first commercial airliner capable of flying nonstop across any ocean or continent”.

1956a

Pan American ordered twenty-six DC-7C’s , including the freighter version and took delivery of the first in April 1956.

Douglas DC-7C Clipper Bald Eagle

Douglas DC-7C Clipper Bald Eagle

By 1957, the Super Seven was primarily operating in the Atlantic, some Pacific service and on the round-the-world route. The DC-7B was moved to the Latin America services, including the New York-Buenos Aires flights and points in the Caribbean.  The below pages from the September 1957 timetable illustrate the Atlantic and Caribbean services of the “-7B”. Pan American also highlighted its first class service to Nassau (bottom).

1957 Atlantic   1957 Latin America

pa570301

With the introduction of the jets, the Super Sevens continued operating in the Atlantic, Pacific and round-the-world markets as well as on the Africa service. The -7B continued its presence in the Latin America markets. These services are illustrated in the April 1959 timetable.

1959 Africa  1959 Latin America

1959 Pacific

DC-7B Evening Star   DC-7C-2 Van Wickler

Pan American’s DC-7B (left) and DC-7C (right; Allan Van Wickler photo)

Going into the 1960’s it became increasingly clear that the days were numbered for the DC-7C as a passenger airplane. In the September 1961 timetable, the Super Seven was largely a “DC-7CF” as a freighter with very limited passenger service in the South Pacific. By 1965, the DC-7CF was only operating freighter services in Latin America. These services are illustrated in the timetable pages below and bottom:

1961 Cargo    1961 Pacific

September 1961 timetable.

1965 Latin America

 The “DC-7CF” – Photos by Allan Van Wickler

DC-7C - 1   DC-7C -3

Pan American took delivery of its first DC-7C only two and a half years before entering the Jet Age. The airplane cost $2,500,000 each, but within ten years, they were largely gone, either sold to aircraft traders or the occasional non-scheduled airline or even for scrap. It was, said Ron Davies, an “ignominious end to a fine example of commercial airline technical development.”

The DC-7C

IDL Lineup

At New York Idlewild (photo by Allan Van Wickler).

DC-7C-1   DC-7C Frank Hudson

Left photo, at New York, by Allan Van Wickler; right photo, at London, by Frank Hudson

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXXVII: The DC-6B

 

Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am - An Airline and its Aircraft by Ron Davies

Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft by Ron Davies

The Workhorse of the Fleet

During the heyday of Pan American World Airways’ prop-era and well into the jet age, one particular airplane figured prominently in its operations around the world: The Douglas DC-6B “Super Six Clipper”.

According to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft, Pan American ordered a total of forty-five of the aircraft that were delivered between February 1952 and June 1954. During its deployment in Pan American’s fleet, the Super Six performed just about every duty conceivable. It could be configured in an all-first class service with 44 seats, all tourist from 88 to 109 seats and in a dual configuration with 82 seats.

The Super Six, however, played a very important part in Pan American’s history when Clipper Liberty Bell inaugurated  all-tourist Rainbow service on the prestigious New York-London route. This was a significant accomplishment in Pan American’s effort to bring air travel to the mass market.

Pan American announces the new Rainbow Service with the Super Six in the april 1952 timetable.

Pan American announces the new Rainbow Service with the Super Six in the April 1952 timetable.

Clipper Liberty Bell. This aircraft inaugurated the all-tourist Rainbow Service on the New York-London Route (Allen Clarke photo)

Clipper Liberty Bell (Allen Clarke photo)

The all-tourist Rainbow Services in the Atlantic are shown below in a page from the June 1954 timetable. In the same timetable Super Sixes were also operating on the round the world routes, the Africa service as well as in Latin America. “Sleeperette” seats (fully reclining with leg rests) were also available in some aircraft.

1954 June

Clipper Viking at Leopoldville (Connie Heggblom photo)

Clipper Viking at Leopoldville (Connie Heggblom photo)

By 1956, the Super Sixes were operating extensively on all of Pan Americans world-wide routes with the aircraft in various configurations, including dual first and tourist class service in the Atlantic, Pacific and round-the-world services, all-first class in the Alaska operation and all-tourist (with all-first on some routes) in Latin America. In 1959, the Super Sixes were seen in the Atlantic, Pacific and Latin America. DC-7C’s replaced the “Sixes” on the Africa route, and in the New York-San Juan route, the aircraft was offered in a high density Clipper “Thrift” service with 106 seats. Examples of these services are illustrated in pages in the April 1956 and April 1959 timetables.

Atlantic and Pacific services from the April 1956 timetable (below).

1956 April   1956 April-a

DC-6B-1

The Super Six Clipper (Ed Coates)

Clipper Liberty Bell (Ed Coates)

The Super Six was also the mainstay of Pan American’s Latin America operations, serving Central America, South America and the Caribbean, offering all-first class, dual-service and all tourist.

Portfolio-1   Portfolio-2

Atlantic and Latin America services from the April 1959 timetable (below). Note the San Juan service offerings with the 106-seat configuration for “Clipper Thrift Service” (bottom).

1959 April   1959 April-a  1959 April-b

By 1961, the Sixes were no longer on the round-the-world and Pacific service. Most were deployed in the Internal German Service out of Berlin while some remained operating in Latin America and on the Alaska service in an all-first class configuration. By 1966, the Boeing 727 began replacing the Sixes in Berlin. However, the Sixes returned to the Pacific, having been given a new life as rest and recuperation charters for the U.S. military serving in Southeast Asia.

Latin America and Internal German Services(IGS) from the September 1961 timetable (below).

1961 Sept   1961 Sept-a

Phasing out the DC-6B service from the IGS in the September 1966 timetable (below).

1966 Sept

A DC-6B in Berlin (Ralf Manteufel photo).

A DC-6B in Berlin (Ralf Manteufel photo).

Boeing 727-100 landing at Berlin (Ralf photo).

Boeing 727-100 landing at Berlin (Ralf Manteufel photo).

 

DC-6B Vietnam-1

DC-6B on Rest and Recuperation mission in Vietnam (courtesy everythingpanam.com)

An all-freighter version of the DC-6B, the DC-6A, was also purchased by Pan American for use in its all-cargo operations. These aircraft operated all over the world and continued operations through 1966 when they were replaced by the DC-7C and jet aircraft.

DC-6A freighter (photo by Jon Proctor).

DC-6A freighter (photo Van Wickler/Proctor).

 

Retired Pan American captain John Marshall flew the DC-6A while assigned to Pan American’s Internal German Service stationed in Berlin during the early days of his career. He wrote about his experiences in a story “Flying the ‘6’” that appeared in Airways Magazine. Below are excerpts:

“In the early days of my airline career, I cut my teeth at the flight engineer’s station of one of the most venerable airliners of the time, the Douglas DC-6B. My class of newly hired, neophyte would-be airline pilots were assigned to the company’s Internal German Service, stationed in Berlin. We were handed over to the care . . . of the Assistant Chief Flight Engineer. He was a baleful, somber figure. . . a great hulk of a man . . . [who] walked with an ambling, rolling gait as though he were treading the deck of a ship in heavy sea. Out of hearing we called him the Cinnamon Bear, with awe and trepidation at first . . . and then . . . with great respect and affection.

“It was my fate to be assigned the nightly freighter as my perpetual training flight. This was the only flight that was operated by our aging DC-6A freighter, affectionately known as Nineteen Charlie. She was a battle-scarred veteran of milk runs into the Caribbean and Central America, squatting on sun-baked strips carved from bug-infested jungles. She had hopped from island to island carrying coconuts and bananas, and now she was carrying mail into and out of Berlin. * * * Every night except Sunday, the blue and yellow trucks of the German Bundespost would begin to gather at the cargo depot at the far end of the big hanger. . . [and] by 10:30 [p.m.] hundreds of  sacks of mail and other assorted cargo would be loaded aboard Nineteen Charlie. She left for Frankfurt at 11 p.m. and you could set your watch by her.

1965 IGS-1

Page from April 1965 timetable showing the Berlin-Frankfurt DC-6A freighter service.

“The flight crew sauntered down leisurely from operations around ten-thirty. Everything on the airport was quiet now, the last flights having arrived from the West by ten. * * *  The flight engineer was always the first to arrive and in my case, new at the game and anxious to absorb all the quirks and tricks of the trade, ‘early’ meant at the airplane an hour and a half before departure, with the hulking figure of my instructor never far from my side.

“Precisely at 11 p.m. the four big Pratt & Whitneys were cranked into sputtering life, and we slowly taxied out to the end of the runway. With the exhausts glowing an angry orange-red and the propellers straining to a pulsing song we roared the length of runway 27 Left, lifted off and careening over the railway station, we were off into the night. Upon arrival in Frankfurt the mail flight became part of a carefully orchestrated scenario that turned the Frankfurt Airport into a central mail depot for all of West Germany. Flights from all over the Republic were arriving within minutes of each other, bound for the same rendezvous. Sacks of mail were unloaded, sorted, exchanged and reloaded, and two hours later the same planes dispersed, bound for the cities from whence they came. It was one of the original hub-and-spoke cities.

“During the two-hour layover the pilots took pillows and blankets to the Operations Office and were able to snatch forty winks while the loading was completed, but I did not join them. The DC-6 was a sleek-looking creature from a distance, but up close she was mottled with dozens of orifices — some large, others the size of soda straws. We would be asked the function of each on our final check, and the check engineers were sure we were well drilled. The entire layover was spent walking around the airplane, flashlight in hand, instructor at my side, poking and peering into the nether regions of the airplane. I saw valves, pipes and cables in my sleep for weeks afterward.

“Then it was back aboard for the flight back through the south corridor to Berlin. It was nearly 3 a.m., and the sparkling lights of the East German towns were about half the size they had been earlier. The country slept. Finally the glow of Berlin appeared on the horizon ahead, and soon we could see the blackness of Tempelhof, like a hole on the middle of the city. The tires squeaked onto the runway at 3:30, give or take a few minutes, and the day’s flying was finally done.”

The predecessor of the DC-6B, the DC-6, was in response to the challenge by Lockheed to out-class the DC-4, although reliable and route-proven in World War II, not pressurized and an under-performer against the Constellation. For the DC-6, Douglas stretched the fuselage of the DC-4 and pressurized it. The aircraft was further improved when an all-cargo operator ordered the DC-6A, the freighter version. This type was then produced in a passenger version, the DC-6B, five feet longer than the DC-6 and twelve feet longer than the DC-4.

According to Davies, the aircraft was considered marginally more economical to operate than the Constellation, and from an engineering standpoint easier to put through the system of inspection, maintenance and overhaul checks for both the airframe and engines. Said Davies, “[a]lthough later developments of the Douglas line were to outperform the 6B, this was the aircraft that wise old airline folk would refer to as a thoroughbred”.

 DC-6B-2

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

 

 

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXVI: Press Charters

White House Press Charters

One of the perks as the “World’s Most Experienced Airline” was being the preferred airline of the White House Press Office. This involved carriage of the White House press corps that accompanied the President of the United States flying in Air Force One. Although other airlines were periodically given this assignment, it was Pan American who got the lions share of the White House Press Charters, largely because of its international route system and ability to offer greater capacity.

“Air Force One” is the official air traffic control call sign of any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States.  The call sign was created in 1953 after an incident during which a flight carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same call sign. Recent examples of this aircraft include the VC-137 (a customized Boeing 707), pictured here arriving at Andrews Air Force Base with President Jimmy Carter on board (below, left) and; on the Boeing VC-25 (a customized Boeing 747-200) shown here arriving at MacDill Air Force with with President George H. W. Bush on board (below, right).

AF1 at Andrews AFB-big-1    President Bush visits MacDill AFB

The first U.S. President ever to fly in a commercial airliner while in office was Franklin D. Roosevelt, when, on 11 January 1943, he traveled on Pan American’s Dixie Clipper to the Casablanca conference.

67-FDR on Clipper    pan-am-boeing-314-dixie-clipper-nc18605-630-620x413

However, there developed a concern over relying on commercial airlines to transport the president, hatching the idea of designating a specific military aircraft to transport the President. The first aircraft to be converted for presidential use was a C-54 Skymaster, called the Sacred Cow (pictured below, left). This aircraft carried Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in 1945 and was later used by President Harry S. Truman for another two years. A VC-118, a modified DC-6, called The Independence (below, middle) was also used by Truman. The VC-121E, a Super Constellation, called Columbine was used by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his administration, and was later replaced in October 1962 by the VC-137C during the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

 Sacred_Cow_airplane    Independence_aircraft    800px-Lockheed_VC-121E_Super_Constellation

Retired Pan American Captain John Marshall had the opportunity to fly the White House Press Charters during Pan American’s 707 days. He shared his experiences in a column he wrote for Airways Magazine, excerpted below:

“One of the very pleasant chores that befell me while I was a check airman in the New York Chief Pilot’s office in the 707 days was being assigned to the very limited cadre of airmen who flew White House Press Charters.  These unusual charters were planned and assigned through the White House Travel Office, and parceled out, like packages on Christmas morning, to several different airlines.  Allocation was supposed to be even-handed and impartial, but international trips, plus most of the extended domestic ones that required greater capacity, were almost always given to Pan American.

“One primary reason we were a habitual beneficiary was the fact that the crews that flew these trips were selected from a limited pool of carefully selected airmen.  They were always the same, few in number, and taken from the managerial ranks so that there would never be any question of running afoul of the ubiquitous union with its strict rules regarding duty and flight time limits.  There were days when union scheduling reps would have thrown up their hands in shocked horror at the hours we were keeping. 

“The captains were limited to two, a long-time grizzled check airman who had been flying these trips for a number of years and knew all the ropes and unique procedures associated with White House flying, and his understudy. The flight attendants were picked from a list of about twenty of the best the airline had to offer, all of them based in Washington, and all White House veterans.  The White House liked the arrangement because it simplified the security vetting, and the Press Corps liked it because the cabin crews were generally all familiar faces, who knew from experience just how everyone liked his steak and what sort of libation to have waiting at the front door after a long day.

“Captains assigned to White House charters were permitted to choose their own cockpit crews, and their number were normally counted among the ranks of the airline’s flight instructors and check flight engineers.

“During presidential campaigns a single day’s flying might entail five or six stops, with legs sometimes as short as twenty minutes.  Not exactly the mission its designers had in mind for the 707.  The pattern for each was the same:  the President and his party arrived at the foot of the steps leading to the front entry door of Air Force One (a 707 in those days) and as the presidential shoe hit the bottom step the engines began to turn.  The press pool chosen to travel on the presidential jet hurried to the aft steps and clamored aboard, while the rest of the White House Press Corps boarded the press airplane.

“Air Force One waited for only one man.  Once he was aboard and the door closed, the big blue and white aircraft with United States of America emblazoned on the side taxied immediately.  The lone stragglers were the photo crew assigned to film the presidential departure.  It was an exercise with macabre overtones; should disaster befall the Presidential jet an official photographic record would remain.  When Air Force One’s gear folded into the wheel wells the film crew boarded, and with engines already running the door was hastily closed and we taxied out quickly, off to follow the president.

“On nearly every leg we performed an intricate exchange with Air Force One.  The press airplane always landed first in order to cover the arrival.  Photo opportunities (“photo ops” in journalese) were the meat and potatoes of the travelling press, and a clip for the evening news was always the hoped-for prize.  A certain amount of ‘slop’ was built into each flight plan, permitting us to catch up with and pass the president.  Each leg was briefed with the Air Force One crew, and a special discrete radio frequency enabled us to monitor the progress of the interchange.

“The press airplane customarily leveled off just below the blue and white 707, accelerating to the barber pole, or about Mach .88, depending on the altitude and length of the flight.  Air traffic control treated us as an entry, creating a large block of airspace around the two flights, giving us ample room to maneuver as we pleased.  On one flight from Kansas City to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Air Force One was running behind schedule (one of the rare occasions when the operation failed to run to the minute).  Air Force One was a dwindling speck flying northward as we lifted off.  We stayed low and fast, passing our quarry as we neared Chicago.  Center cleared us direct to the airport at 3,000 feet.  Overhead the field the tower declared, ‘Clipper, you are cleared visual approach to the runway of your choice and you are cleared to land…please advise.’  How often can one claim such priority at O’Hare Airport? 

“I wondered later how long it took to unsort the tangle of air traffic that must have resulted from our unusual arrival.  It was heady stuff. 

“Since the operation was a chartered one, we felt that we had a great deal of leeway in the enforcement of some of the regulations that were obviously intended for other times, other places.  The cockpit door remained open for the entire flight, and there was no shortage of takers for the two cockpit jump seats, particularly for the takeoff and landing.  In flight there was a steady procession of visitors, some dropping in out of mere curiosity, others who stayed literally for hours, with a steady tattoo of questions about the airplane, route, and  the scenery below.  

“I never ceased to marvel at the precision with which the presidential crew managed to hit its ETA’s.  The published daily itinerary printed arrival times to the minute, and it was a rare arrival (barbecued ribs notwithstanding) that didn’t see the nose wheel come to rest on the spot within a second or two of straight up on the scheduled time.  I asked the crew one day just how they did it.  ‘We time it from the outer marker,’ was the answer.  ‘We know to within a second or two how long it will take us to reach the blocks from the marker, so we plan our arrival at the marker accordingly.  Of course, it helps that we don’t ever have to wait for traffic.’

“Advance men orchestrated the carefully choreographed arrivals.  No sooner had the press airplane come to a halt and the journalists scurried off  than a telephone was brought aboard, trailing the longest phone cord in the western world.  (It was before the days of cellular phones and satellite communications.)  The instrument was placed on the jump seat behind the captain, and became the primary communications backup to the awesome array aboard the Presidential airplane.  It was a direct line to the White House switchboard, where the waiting operators could connect with any telephone on the planet.  I once called my mother from my seat in the airplane.  That renaissance lady, who still marveled at the wonders of the portable radio, was dumb-struck at the modern technology.  It took a good deal of convincing before she believed that she was at one end of a phone call from a 707, sitting on the ground or not.

“After one particularly exhausting, multi-legged day we were finally headed back to Washington after the last campaign stop in New Hampshire.  There was no intricate interchange involved, no need to cover an arrival; just a quick trip home at the end of a long day.  Claire, our wonderful British purser, popped her head into the cockpit as we taxied out to inquire about the flight time home.  ‘We’ve got a steak dinner planned,’ she said. ‘I hope we can get it all done in time.’

“‘Well, we’ve got just a little over an hour’s air time,’ I replied.

“Her face fell.  ‘Then we’ll just have to hustle,’ she said. 

“After takeoff we were given a direct clearance to Andrews Air Force Base, without the usual side trips and do-si-do’s that usually accompany any flight into the busy New York-Philadelphia-Washington corridor.  It soon became apparent that our expedited handling, plus some unforecast tailwinds, were going to have us landing well ahead of schedule.  I called Claire to give her the news.

“A moment later she burst into the cockpit in a highly agitated state, wild hair flying from her normally carefully coiffed head.  ‘John, you can’t do this to me!’ she exclaimed.  ‘We have trays out all over the cabin, and we’re just now starting the wine around!’

“‘Claire, just tell me what you feel is more important, an early landing or dinner,’ I said.

“‘Dinner!’ she replied without hesitation.

“‘You got it,’ I said.  ‘I’ll give you another hour.’  I picked up the mike and made probably the most unusual request that Washington Center had ever received.  Could they please place us in a holding pattern somewhere out of the way for about 45 minutes while our passengers finished dinner?  I could swear I heard chortles in the background as center granted our request.  We made lazy circles off the Maryland coast in the calm smooth air of a moonlit night, and after getting the nod from the back end we made a gentle letdown into Andrews.  Our well-fed and liquefied passengers disembarked, tired but content, and none the wiser.”

PAA and AF1

 Bill Frisbie, another retired Pan American Captain, flew the 747’s. His experiences are included in a story he contributed to Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People.  Below are excerpts:

“I first began flying White House charters in 1984 when President Reagan made a trip to China.  The White House knew that I had flown all the proving and initial flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Canton starting in 1978 as the bamboo curtain began to fall, with the journey of the Boston Pops to Shanghai.  The White House wanted the benefit of my China experience as China’s air traffic system was unbelievably backward, mostly ADF approaches, altitude measured in meters not feet, wind speed in meters per second and although the charters carried five crew members, they were all pilots who had no knowledge of navigation in the area.  Also, in those days, the de-icing of a 747 was accomplished by opening the over wing emergency exits and having the Chinese beat the ice off the wings with bamboo sticks.

“A Presidential trip overseas is an enormous undertaking.  The Presidential staff does not want the public to know the size and cost of these trips.  Advanced teams go to each stopover with operations, security and support people and special vehicles – all bullet proof – are flown to each city to await the arrival of Air Force One.         

“Many aircraft are involved. In addition to Air Force One, there is usually a backup Air Force One in case of a mechanical problem.  Then there is the White House press plane, other passenger jets including 707’s, Gulfstream’s, Lear Jets and countless cargo and rescue aircraft.        

“On the White House press aircraft we carried cabinet staff members, security personnel and secret service members.  We even took along our own customs and immigration staff so we could clear US government formalities onboard and also carried medical personnel.

* * *

“The longest duty day I remember was returning from Asia on the occasion of Emperor Hirohito’s memorial services. We left Tokyo before dawn for Seoul, South Korea and stayed at the airport all day during the President’s meetings. We then left Seoul around dusk for Washington and while en route we saw a sunrise and another sunset before landing in Andrews well before dark – and then we had to ferry the aircraft back to JFK.      

* * *

“All of our trips were exciting as we were witnesses to history.  I especially remember the 1987 economic summit which was held in Venice– what a beautiful and romantic place.  We also included a side trip to Rome.   Then we left for Berlin where President Reagan delivered an address at the Brandenburg Gate in front of the Berlin Wall exhorting President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union to ‘tear down that wall’.    The flight to Berlin was a challenge as we landed at Templehof Airport that was used in the Berlin airlift following World War II.   We had to fly between the apartment buildings on landing and had only 4,300 feet of runway with no glide path aids.  The runway was actually longer than 4,300 feet but was only 143 feet wide so the 747 could only use the first 4,300 feet to permit a turn-around.

“In December of 1988, shortly before leaving office, President Reagan invited our crew to meet with him and have lunch at the White House in appreciation for the support the White House received from Pan Am.  This was a great thrill and remains to this day one of my greatest memories from my flying days.”

From the Flight Attendants’ view, Nancy Scully worked on the White House Press Charters for thirteen years during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. She wrote about her experiences in her story “White House Press Tales” also in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People.  Excerpts of her story appear below:

“Many times people asked me how I came to be chosen for the prestigious opportunity to accompany the White House on the Press Charters.  I believe I came to the attention of Pan American World Airways due to my performance during the hijacking of Flight 64 in 1980.  It was the beginning of the most exciting travel that anyone could experience as a flight crew member. 

“Several months after the hijacking, I received a phone call from Crew Scheduling asking me if I would be interested in working a White House Press Charter that would accompany President Carter to the Sugar Bowl to view his beloved Georgia Bulldogs.  I accepted the offer and following the trip, I was asked to join the Press Charters on future trips.  The Press Charters carried the reporters and press staff who were not part of the pool that traveled on Air Force One.  The White House Travel Office would arrange each trip and work with the advance teams to assure travel comfort, gourmet meals and what turned out to be memorable trips as history was being written.  We made the trips fun and the press and staff several times claimed that they would rather travel on the Pan Am plane rather than Air Force One because they had more fun and better food.  On foreign trips we would dress in a costume that represented the place we had visited.  We had hula skirts over our uniforms, babushkas, or an apron with pictures of sushi from Japan.  The Press was greeted each morning of departure with orange juice, Dunkin Donuts and a steaming cup of coffee.   Some of the reporters’ children nicknamed us the Donut Ladies when they traveled with us for long summer visits to the Western White House in Santa Barbara.  Many times we would prepare eggs Benedict and or lamb chops for the short morning trip between Andrews and NYC.  This was a hurried service.  One time we were rushing so quickly that the plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns flew off my tray and onto a White House Correspondent’s lap as she tried to read her newspaper in the front row of the 727.    

68-Press Plane Crew

“The charter crew and the press were like family.    This was a time when the Press Plane was the reporters’ time to be away from all their company assignments; a place to relax before the hurried and sleepless days ahead of them as a member of the traveling press.           

“As the crew, we were witnesses to history as it was being made.  For thirteen years, we were at the economic summits in Venice and England and at the meetings of Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in Moscow and Reykjavik, negotiating the end of the Cold War and limiting nuclear armament.  We were invited to climb into the huge transport cargo planes that carried the armored limos in which the Russian President rode.  It was like being in a Tom Clancy novel.  The airplane nose had a two story window of small panes of glass.  One could imagine a gunner sitting there as approaching a target.

* * *

“There were many occasions when we were invited to the White House Press Office if we were in town before or during a trip.  We watched the election returns and would often be in the Rose Garden for a visiting dignitary’s meeting with the President.  On one particularly cloudy afternoon, we were in the Rose Garden when President Reagan presented Mother Teresa with the Medal of Freedom.  As President Reagan towered over this tiny woman she became larger than life.  All of the sudden, the sun appeared and her presence displayed a magnitude of brightness.  She stated her unworthiness in accepting the Medal and we stood in awe of the moment.

* * *

“I was blessed and most thankful to all at Pan American World Airways and the White House Travel Office to have been an eye witness to world history.”

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

           

Pan Am Series – Part XXXV: Saigon and R&R-2

Pan American in Vietnam – A Pilot’s Perspective

In the previous posts Pan American’s Vietnam involvement was presented from the perspective of a station manager, Al Topping and flight attendants, Anne Sweeney and Helen Davey. In this posting, the pilot’s perspective is chronicled through the words of former Pan American Captain John Marshall, who flew the DC-6B’s in the Rest and Recuperation airlift and also flew scheduled flights in and out of Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon. His story was first published in Airways Magazine and is set forth below in its entirety:

The year was 1966.  The war in Southeast Asia had been simmering, percolating just below the boil for more years than we cared to count.  By 1966 enough troops and materiel had been amassed in that poor and backward corner of the Third World that it was time for the commanders to seriously look at relief for some of the longer serving units.  It only made good sense that instead of rotating entire units back stateside they would be given a hiatus from the awful conditions under which they lived and fought, and the war-weary GIs would be afforded the opportunity to sample the cultural diversities of the cities of East Asia.  The operation was to be called ‘R & R’, standing for Rest and Recuperation.  It would require the use of enough commercial airliners to carry  GIs out of Vietnam to the bright lights and flesh-pots of Asia, set them down for a week, and re turn them to the war zone to fight again.  It was one of the only sensible decisions made by American commanders in that most unfortunate of wars.

“Pan American Airways at the time was in a transition of equipment from the venerable propeller-driven transports of the fifties and early sixties to the jets which would eventually take over the skies.  The last hurrah for the DC-6 at Pan Am was the Internal German Service, based in Berlin, and even now that venerable airliner  was rapidly being replaced in Germany by the sparkling new Boeing 727s.  As the 6’s were replaced they would be headed for the backwaters of aviation; to South America and Africa, there to spend their dying years carrying livestock, heavy equipment for distant oil fields, or worse; ending up forgotten and decaying in the corner of some airplane boneyard.  But wait!  There was indeed one more mission, one more humanitarian task they could perform.  Pan Am’s DC-6s were offered to the government under contract to carry GIs to R & R for cost plus a dollar.  How could any sane government functionary refuse?

“And so it came to pass that the old Douglas’s made a slight detour on their way to pasture.  They would rumble out to Hong Kong where they would form the backbone of Pan Am’s contribution to the war effort.  Since the only DC-6-qualified airmen in Pan Am’s system were those in Berlin, flying out the days of the last pistons, it fell to us to man the new operation while newly-hired crews were trained and sent to Asia.  We jumped at the chance to escape the dreary northern European weather and sample the exotica of Asia and the Pacific rim.

This DC-6B pictured here in Berlin was probably used initially in the Rest and Recuperation Airlift. These aircraft were brought over from the Internal German Service in Berlin. (Ralf Manteufel photo)

This DC-6B pictured here in Berlin was probably used initially in the Rest and Recuperation Airlift. These aircraft were brought over from the Internal German Service in Berlin. (Ralf Manteufel photo)

“After a flurry of government-mandated paperwork, mostly involving visas, inoculations and other tiresome functions , we departed in twos and threes, embarking for the long tortuous flight aboard Pan Am’s famous Flight Two, boarding at Frankfurt and finally coming to ground many sleepless hours later on another planet.  We were in Hong Kong!

 “After a suitable period of decompression and recovery from a first degree case of jet lag, we were ready and raring to go.  The mission was deceptively simple.   Battle-hardened and frazzled GIs were pulled from the war zones and sent to one of several embarkation points.  Da Nang, Cam Ranh Bay, Nha Trang, and Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon were the most prominent.  The men were loaded aboard and flown to any one of a number of Asian cities for a week’s R and R.  Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, and Singapore were the initial destinations; other cities were added as the program grew.  Through a complex set of negotiations with the governments involved, immigration and customs formalities were kept to a minimum.  Once the operation was up and running it was simply a matter of taking a load out of Vietnam, and bringing a load back.  Needless to say the mood in the cabin peaked at wide extremes depending on whether the trip was headed out or back.  The airline pulled out all the stops in the catering department.  Kobe beef steaks, French fries, lots of cold milk and all the ice cream one could possibly eat made up the meal of choice.  The flight crews dined on the same fare, but even for us such extravagant cuisine paled after a while.  On about the third day of a six day trip we began to wish for chicken, or even fish — anything to break the monotony of such sumptuous gluttony.

“After a quick course in long-range operation of the airplane, we were thrown into the fray, and embarked on our first trips.  None of us flight engineers had flown the airplane on a leg longer than two hours; in Europe the fuel requirements and the short flights in the ‘6 were simplicity itself.  Some gas in the mains, off you go, and Bob’s your uncle.  But hidden perils lurked behind the innocent conduct of a flight from Hong Kong to anywhere.  Any reader who has ever had a passing acquaintance with Mr. Douglas’ piston airplanes knows what a labyrinthian maze their fuel systems could be.  I learned the hard way early on.

“On a flight from Saigon to Taipei we carried fuel not only in the mains, but in the auxiliaries and reserves as well.  (Ancient piston drivers, bear with me.   Memory may not serve with total accuracy the nomenclature of the tanks, but you get the idea.)  After top of climb we settled into the cruise routine for the long flight across the South China Sea and the Western Pacific.  Mixtures were carefully leaned and spark advance set.  After a bit it was time to reset the fuel panel.  This was located in front of the center pedestal, behind the throttles and propeller controls.  There were long levers which controlled the shutoff valves in each tank, and depending on the fuel load, there were a stupefying number of combinations with which to set the tank feed.  The flight engineer (me) had to lean way over the pedestal in order to reach the controls.  The captain on this trip was a laid-back old-timer who smoked a pipe (still acceptable in those days) and he leaned back in his seat and watched my efforts carefully.  Tendrils of blue smoke curled gently from the smoldering briar and wafted over my shoulder.  Finally satisfied, I sat back smugly.

dc-6_cockpit

Cockpit of DC-6B

“It wasn’t long before the skipper disengaged himself from his seat and disappeared aft.  I clamored up onto his throne and settled in to enjoy the view from the best seat in the house.  The sea below was a shimmering slate, and the sky ahead was dotted with puffy cumulus.  How could life get any better than this?  I was soon to find out. 

“Half an hour passed, and the flight deck settled comfortably into the ennui of a lengthy overwater trip.  The first officer was absorbed in a manual of some sort, and I gazed out the window at my side.  The captain was a garrulous sort, and had not returned from the passenger cabin.  Suddenly our reverie was rudely shattered by the barking cough of the number 1 engine, followed by a series of backfires in quick succession.  We shot bolt upright in our seats as the number 4 quickly followed suit.  I reached down and slammed the mixtures to full rich, while staring at the panel of engine instruments.  The fuel pressure gauges caught my eye, primarily because the needles on the outboard engines were wildly careening around the dials.  The first officer grabbed the wheel and disconnected the autopilot, at the same time exclaiming, ‘Fuel panel!  Check the fuel panel!’  Startled, I reached over and slammed all the fuel valve levers to the forward position, opening all of them.  After an eternity, while we gently massaged the throttles and mixtures, the outboards finally caught and resumed their healthy roar.  My heart settled down to a trip-hammer rate, and I wiped beads of sweat from my brow.  In a moment I was composed enough to get out the book and carefully reset the fuel feed.

“Suddenly I realized that the captain had not reappeared.  I looked aft through the open cockpit door and saw him slowly sauntering forward.  He stopped in the entrance and shifted the pipe from one side of his mouth to the other.  He gazed at me without saying anything.  ‘Little screw-up in the fuel sequencing,’ I stammered, shame-faced.  I unfolded myself from his seat to let him back in.

“‘Well,’ he drawled, after he had settled himself.  ‘I didn’t think it looked exactly right, but I figured you probably knew what you were doing, so I didn’t say anything.’   It was an abrupt and exciting initiation into the oceanic operation.

“I took a healthy ribbing from the flight attendant crew on our way to the hotel in Taipei.  They were a venerable, uninhibited bunch, not above exploiting the chinks in the veneer of cockpit crew perfection with mirth and enjoyment.  The following night the wet-behind-the-ears flight engineer was to have another adventure, although nowhere near as heart-stopping as starving two of the airplane’s four engines of fuel. 

“We were the same crew, departing Taipei just at dusk for the five-hour flight to Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo.  By the time we levelled off in cruise full darkness had fallen.  We flew in an ocean of black, the sky above dimpled with stars that shed just enough light to outline the occasional cloud formation.  After dinner the skipper again went back into the cabin to socialize, and once again I occupied the left seat.  This time I had made double sure of the fuel feed sequence, and the four big Pratts rumbled along contentedly.  I gazed below into the blackness, and then sat abruptly upright in the seat, heart pounding.  Now I am pretty good at world geography, and I knew without really thinking that if one flew straight from Taipei to Tokyo the trip was all over water.  But here we were over land, and there was a major city below us, or at least a good-sized town.  Good God, we had strayed over mainland China!  A curious tingling sensation began between my shoulder blades, in immediate anticipation of a barrage of .50-caliber bullets that I was sure any second would slam into the defenseless Douglas.  We would fall victim to the Red Guards and the Cultural Revolution!

“I  looked over at the first officer.  His eyes were closed and his head nodded on his chest.  “‘Clyde!’  I fairly shouted.  ‘Get your charts out!  Where in the hell are we?’

“Eyes opened wide in startled surprise, Clyde looked around hurriedly, straining to get his bearings.  I pointed frantically downward at the thousands of lights that stretched to the horizon.  Before I could say anything more, he looked over the side for a long moment, then settled wearily back in his seat.  A long sigh escaped his lips.  ‘Fishing fleet, John.  Just fishing boats.  They’re all over the ocean around here.’  In a moment his head nodded chest-ward and silence once again engulfed the cockpit.

tan-son-nhat

Tan Son Nhut Airport

“Operating in and out of Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport was an experience unto itself.  It was like no other airport in the world.  While the other strips that we flew out of were primarily military bases, the airport at Saigon wore many faces.  It bravely attempted to be a commercial airport like any other, with everyday airline operations trying valiantly to pretend that things were normal, coexisting with the maelstrom of military hardware fighting a war swirling around them.  Even Pan American sent its 707 round-the-world flights One and Two into Tan Son Nhut on a weekly basis.  Most of the time the airport made O’Hare look like a sleepy country strip.  The ramp was an overwhelming place.   707s and DC-8s under military charter carried troops and materiel in and out; military C-130s from countless different squadrons and with just as many esoteric missions kept up a steady stream as they taxied to and fro, their unique rumble trembling the gut as they passed.  Helicopters of every description, led by the workhorse Hueys, buzzed like malevolent insects.  There were Vietnamese Air Force fighter units based there as well, flying ancient hardware that has a habit of trickling down to the Third World.  Venerable C-47s and C-46s completed the mix, along with the occasional B-26.

tsn-map-o51-bunker    tsnab_2   71S1hxbr

“The airport had intersecting runways, which proved to be a mere annoyance, as operations were conducted simultaneously on both.  Controllers took great pride in threading the needle at the intersection, seeing just how close they could cut it.  Occasionally a flight of fighters would return with one or more of their number shot up, requiring the controllers to break out all the existing traffic until the wounded had safely landed.  This resulted in a fur-ball of major proportions orbiting near the field, each pilot jockeying for position when the field re-opened.  The controllers were native Vietnamese, some with limited language and/or controller skills.  The sheer volume of traffic would have been daunting to an experienced journeyman, and at times the local controllers were simply overwhelmed.  It was then that the down-home drawl of a GI controller would come on the mike, and laconically unravel the havoc.  When things had returned to some semblance of normal (a relative term), back came the Asian controller to begin the process all over again.

Phelan_1968-70vietnam_0418-1   typical-day-at-Tan-Son-Nhut-Airport-Saigon-1968   C-130

“The normal entry into Tan Son Nhut used by the big transports was called a ‘Canyon Approach’.  It called for the initial approach to be made at 5,000 feet above the field, an altitude safely out of range of snipers perched off the end of the runway.  Once the runway had nearly disappeared under the nose, gear and full flaps went down, and the props into fine pitch.  Over went the nose, pointing straight at the touchdown zone.  It was a maneuver that demanded great skill and the courage to wait until the very last minute to complete.  It was exciting to sit through, particularly the last few feet before the flare.

“Once safely on the ground and disembarked, Tan Son Nhut assaulted all the senses.  The heat and humidity were unlike any other in Southeast Asia, and the noise and clamor and hubbub were nearly disorienting in their sheer intensity.  Quickly in and quickly out was the name of the game; not only was ramp space at a precious premium, but the longer on the ground the greater exposure to dangers unknown.

“The operation lasted the better part of three years with the venerable DC-6.  Eventually the new Boeing 727s and 707s took over the job, and the old Douglas finally flew into the sunset as part of Pan American’s fleet.  Many ended up in Latin America and Africa, and not a few simply expired in the boneyards of the world.  Their last hurrah was a stirring and exciting one, a fitting climax to the old girls’ career.”

DC-6B and Boeing 707 at Hong Kong (Jon Proctor)

DC-6B and Boeing 707 at Hong Kong (Jon Proctor)

66-Marshall    66-Marshall-3

Pan Am Captain John Marshall attended Deerfield Academy, Stanford University and served in the US Air Force in preparation for his distinguished career with Pan Am. He was based in Hong Kong, Sydney, Berlin, San Francisco and served as Chief Pilot of the Honolulu base a.k.a. “the Royal Hawaiian Flying Club”. He received the civilian Desert Shield and Desert Storm medal for flying military troops and materiel in support of Operation Desert Storm, and finished his Pan Am career commanding the last 747 revenue flight from South America-Sao Paolo to JFK. John retired as a 747 Captain with Korean Airlines. He was recently presented with the prestigious Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award, and is enjoying his membership with fellow Quiet Birdmen. John’s writings and columns have been published and featured for a number of years in Smithsonian Magazine and Airways Magazine, and he keeps in shape flying a WWII B-25 Bomber, “Show Me”John presently works for the FAA as an Aviation Safety Inspector in St. Louis, MO, where he resides with his wife, Carla.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXXIV: R&R in Vietnam War

Pan American’s Rest and Recuperation Airlift – Vietnam War

The DC-6B was used initially in the Rest and Recuperation Airlift. These aircraft were brought over from the Internal German Service in Berlin. (Ralf Manteufel photo)

The DC-6B was used initially in the Rest and Recuperation Airlift. These aircraft were brought over from the Internal German Service in Berlin. (Ralf Manteufel photo)

It is well known that over the years Pan American World Airways’ Chief Executive Juan T. Trippe might have held differing views with respect to United States government policy toward his airline. However, notwithstanding his personal feelings, he always made his airline available for service to the country. This went back to the earliest days of the airline and carried on throughout its existence.

One of the biggest operations in support of the country was during the Vietnam War, when Pan American Clippers carried troops and cargo between home and the war. As noted in the 1965 Annual Report, Pan American was providing approximately “40 flights every week between California and Saigon for the support of the military”. In March 1966 Pan American helped boost morale when it began a massive airlift of troops between Vietnam and rest and recuperation areas initially in Southeast Asia and Japan, and later the addition of Australia and Hawaii. Pan American was, according to the 1967 Annual Report, “the only airline providing this service. . . .[and in] two years more than 500,000 round-trip passengers used the Rest and Recuperation Airlift. Each has enjoyed full First Class amenities on these flights”.

As government needs for airlift increased as the war progressed, the 1968 Annual Report highlighted the fact that operations in support of the military increased dramatically:

“Pan Am provided a larger portion than any other airline of civil airlift of medical supplies, matériel and personnel across the Pacific in support of the armed forces in Southeast Asia. As of March 1, 1969, approximately 12 percent of Pan Am’s long range jet fleet was assigned to military support services. [The airline’s] transpacific airlift provides up to six flights a day to Vietnam.

“Pan Am conducts the airlift of troops between Vietnam and rest-and-recuperation sites. Since the start of this program in March, 1966, Pan Am has carried more than 800,000 round-trip passengers on the Rest and Recuperation Airlift.

During the Tet offensive beginning February, 1968, Pan Am responded to the urgent request of the Department of Defense and assigned a total of 18 Boeing 707-321’s to the emergency airlift. Additional cargo and passenger expansion capability was also provided on regularly scheduled services.

“On July 1, in response to a Government request, Pan Am opened seven Sales/Service offices in Vietnam.”

Soldier and FA Saigon    Cargo

Two former Pan American Flight Attendants (then Stewardess) worked on the R&R flights during 1967 – 1968 and generously share their experiences in the following two stories. The first, by Anne Sweeney, originally appeared in the Pan American Historical Foundation’s newsletter, Clipper:

“The tropical sun shone through the window of the DC-6 and on to the baby face of the young blond soldier sleeping off five days of R&R in the bars and brothels of Bangkok. His stubble was sparse and soft in the morning light.

“I moved to the next row- two brothers with Darth Vader shades and a shy, slight Puerto Rican kid. Their meals were always the same on the R&R flights – steak, home fries, green beans, fresh milk, ice cream – and ketchup. On everything but the ice cream.


“They were typical R&R passengers – young kids, from the ghettos, barrios and backwaters of America – LeRoy, Manuel, Billy Bob.


“Our Pan Am crews were based in Hong Kong and we worked these R&R flights, exclusively, flying troops from Saigon, Cam Rahn Bay and Da Nang to for five days of “Rest & Recuperation” in places like Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong. In support of the war effort and to gain government favor, Pan Am organized and operated these flights for $1 a year plus costs. The aircraft were old DC-6s; propeller planes phased out from the company’s Berlin operation by new 727s.


“We did our best to make them comfortable on the flights – to chat, smile and bring extra milk or ice cream. The soldiers were polite and deferential. ‘Where are you from in the world, ma’am?’ The world was anywhere outside Vietnam; a country few of them knew existed until their draft boards set them straight.


The plane started its approach into Cam Rahn Bay. Miles of blue and green water and beaches were covered from end to end with military equipment. Scrap metal, artillery, jeeps and tires rotted and rusted in the tropical heat. Cahn Rahn Bay was an Air Force Base. We unloaded one group of soldiers, the aircraft was cleaned and provisioned, another group quickly boarded and we were aloft, headed home to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport. Landing at Kai Tak was actually more perilous than landing in Vietnam

“My Christmas was waiting to begin across the harbor in a modern flat overlooking the South China Sea. It would be like no other Christmas for this small town girl from Rhode Island.

“When I got there, a Japanese Spruce tree would be hung with handmade ornaments, and Ah Nee, my houseboy, would be busy with preparations for Christmas Dinner. Ten people were coming – friends from Pan Am, my next-door neighbor, an Englishman I’d been seeing, plus friends of his from the British Navy whose ship was in port. There was room for more. I invited two young GI’s, Mike and Ted, from the flight.

“As soon as we were off-duty I headed for the Star Ferry and home. I loved the ferry at sunset. Violet dusk settled over the harbor and the lights came up on both sides of the port. Behind me, in Kowloon, the white Colonial façade of the Peninsula Hotel glowed in the last light and the deck lamps of the luxury liner SS Rotterdam were lit. Junks, sampans, pleasure craft, tankers, and freighters, military ships from aircraft carriers to supply boats, plied the harbor or rested at its piers. Up ahead on the Hong Kong side, a portrait of Chairman Mao stared from the towers of the Bank of China..

“On the Peak, lights glimmered in the great houses of the Tai Pans and along the Tramway that slowly climbed the steep hills.

“The Hong Kong Hilton yacht, Wan Fu, in full sail, glided by. A cocktail party was in progress; the well-heeled passengers, flying their colors of bright silks and navy blazers, sipping Tanqueray martinis and Tattinger Champagne.

“We docked, and within minutes, a taxi was speeding me up and over the hills and home for Christmas.

“The next morning was overcast, its chill mitigated by some of Ah Nee’s homemade and hot rice wine. Guest arrived at 2 – pilots, stewardess, naval officers and the two young soldiers from the plane. The Brits brought some very fine Scotch and Roger’s mother has sent a plum pudding from Fortnum’s. The festivities were interrupted briefly at 3 when Roger insisted we listen to the Queen’s Speech, broadcast at 3 o’clock on Christmas Day throughout the Commonwealth. Her Majesty’s high, clipped voice wished us all a Happy Christmas just before Ah Nee, who could cook in several languages, presented a perfect turkey with all the trimmings.

“In the midst of the meal, the phone rang. It was my father, calling me from Rhode Island. How was I, he asked. Had it been a lonely day? No, no, I assured him. We had made our own Christmas.

“‘You know what I always told you,’ he said, his voice cracking over the time zones and tears. ‘That there would always be cake and ale and Christmas.’

“Gathered around the table, strangers and friends, we found a glad holiday, however far from home. Thankfully, we didn’t know what the future held. Those at the table would scatter and lose touch. The war would be lost. Pan Am would one day fold its proud wings. The Queen would send her son to preside at the return of Hong Kong to China. One of the young soldiers would die on another holiday a few weeks later in what became known as the Tet Offensive, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

“But on that Christmas Day, all seemed merry and bright. Carols rang out. Toasts were raised to the season. The plum pudding flamed in a brandied glow. There was indeed, cake and ale and Christmas, and I knew then there always would be.”

41-Anne Sweeney-1   41-A Sweeney today

A former Pan Am flight attendant, Anne Sweeney also worked in the corporate communications department at Pan American World Airways. She was based in Hong Kong from 1967-68, flying the company’s R&R flights for US troops, taking soldiers from Vietnam to cities throughout Asia. She is president of Anne Sweeney Public Relations in South Brunswick, NJ

 The second story, by Dr. Helen Davey, is featured in the book  Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:

 “I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Vietnam. It was the spring of 1968, after the disastrous Tet Offensive had resulted in an escalation of the war.  I was flying my first volunteer flight as a Pan Am stewardess into Saigon to pick up American soldiers and deliver them to their R & R’ (rest and recreation) destination.  Glued to the airplane window as we approached Tan Son Nhut airport, I was astonished to see actual bomb craters and smoke rising from scattered skirmishes on the ground. I had to give myself a reality check: was this really me, and was I really seeing this, and were American men really being killed right below me? I thought I had seen it all on the nightly newscasts at home, but somehow I was shocked to see this vision of hell first hand.

“As we had been briefed, the pilots made the steepest descent I had ever experienced in an airplane.  I remember thinking about all the stories of bullets being found in the fuselage of Pan Am airplanes, and the jokes about Pan Am pilots sitting on their manuals for a little extra protection while flying in and out of Vietnam. In my purse, I carried the paper that awarded Pan Am stewardesses Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force status, which meant that under Geneva Convention rules we would be treated as officers in the event of capture.  Used to providing elegant in-flight service to our passengers in a rather formal atmosphere, I was about to experience the most surreal flight I had encountered to date. We had been told that ‘almost nothing was by the book,’ but only the male purser on our flight and the pilots who had flown many flights to Vietnam knew what that meant.

“As we taxied around the airport, I felt overwhelmed to see the sheer numbers of war machines of all types buzzing around seemingly everywhere. As we swung the door open, the noise was deafening, and the hot humid air enveloped me, taking my breath away. Our stewardess uniforms were made of fabric that was supposed to be ‘all weather, which really meant that it was too hot in summer and too thin in winter. Add to that the fact that we were still required to wear stockings and girdles, and I think you can imagine our discomfort. As I stared out of the open door, I became aware of the pallets of aluminum coffins lined up on the tarmac – each one containing somebody’s precious husband or son or father or boyfriend or uncle or friend.    

“I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the sight of the soldiers that boarded our airplane. I was expecting to see excited young men ready for a new adventure, laughing and joking with each other, and relieved to get away from the war. But as the men quietly filed aboard the airplane, I clearly saw the faces of trauma.  Many were strangely quiet, with expressionless ‘masks’, and most of them stared at our ’round eyes’ as if trying to take in a bit of home. I had no idea how young these men would be, but I wasn’t expecting them to look like they should be in high school! Twenty-five at the time, I wasn’t used to being called ‘Ma’am,’ and I felt strangely old. I’m convinced that my experiences with these traumatized men helped fuel my later professional interest in the study of trauma.      

“The Pan Am pilots, mostly ex-military men, felt deep empathy for these soldiers, and their announcements reflected it.  And here’s where our very talented male purser came in. As funny as any stand-up comedian, he knew exactly how to handle these traumatized men. Totally throwing aside our traditional announcements, he used colorful language that I had never heard uttered on a Pan Am intercom. He spoke right to the men, as if he were waking them up from their nightmare. And he loved to tease the stewardesses! As we were doing our regular emergency demonstrations, we were supposed to point overhead to the forward, center, and aft life rafts in the ceiling. During the part where he was supposed to say ‘forward, center, and aft life rafts,’ he mixed it up and said, ‘aft, center, and forward.’ By rote, all of us stewardesses pointed out the rafts in their normal sequence. He said, ‘So you see, guys, our young ladies don’t seem to know their ‘forward’ from their ‘aft!’ The soldiers exploded in laughter, and the tone was set for helping to relieve these young men’s burdens for a short time. By the end of the flight, some of the soldiers seemed less robotic, and their eyes were coming alive.     

“Nothing about this flight felt familiar. Several of the men got up and helped with the serving of meals, leaving us stewardesses with more time to talk to the homesick men. Some of them wanted to ask about what was happening at home, especially about the escalation of protests. One of them asked me to call his mother when I got home, which I did. They showed us pictures of family, children, girlfriends, and wives. They wanted to know all about our crew, where everybody was from ‘in the world.’  One Vietnam vet wrote about Pan Am stewardesses that we were ‘some of the sweetest, caring women I’ve ever known and need to be recognized for their contribution. Nurse, psychiatrist, mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, confessor, sex object – they wore all the hats.’

“So hungry for a touch of home, their eyes pleaded for just a little conversation. I learned on that first flight that if anybody had gone to sleep due to exhaustion, we had to be very careful in waking them up; they would awaken in an extremely startled state, arms flailing, reaching for their imaginary guns. I didn’t realize at the time that I was witnessing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which might stay with them for the rest of their lives. I picked out one particularly vulnerable looking soldier who was very shy, and as we talked, I decided to become his pen pal. I knew that having a Pan Am stewardess as a pen pal would qualify any soldier to be regarded as a ‘rock star.’

“This was the first of four soldiers that I eventually agreed to have as pen pals.  When I began to receive notices, one by one, that each one had been killed, I started to regard myself as a jinx and stopped writing letters.  Now I regret this, but at the time it just became too painful for me to be able to put a face to the names of dying men.       

“Music is where my memory of Vietnam lives, and this time of my life comes with its own special sound track; Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Marvin Gaye, Ike and Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills & Nash, Otis Redding, the Animals, Aretha Franklin, and Edwin Star who sang ‘War’ (‘War! Huh! Good God, y’all! What’s it good for? Absolutely nothing!’) The music describes wartime — especially the ambivalence about this particular war — better than words can convey. When I hear it, I feel as if I were back there.  I think that any of us Pan Am employees who flew into Vietnam feel that we, too, were a part of that war.  At the time, many of our regular destination cities in Asia were teeming with American soldiers, and wherever there were American soldiers, there was the music, blaring and insistent.

“In a bizarre conclusion to my first flight to Vietnam, I asked the Captain if I could sit in the cockpit for landing.  He said, ‘Of course.’ Again, since all rules were mostly suspended, the Captain decided to generously allow the engineer, who never really got to fly the airplane, to help with the landing.  On final approach, just before touchdown, the left wing of the airplane dipped way too close to the runway.  At the last moment, the Captain grabbed the controls back, and I think that every person in that airplane knew that we probably narrowly escaped disaster. Nobody in the cockpit spoke. I could tell that the blood had drained from the pilots’ faces, and the engineer was shaking     

Trembling from what had just happened, I stumbled out of the cockpit. The purser was up to his old tricks, and was just waiting for me to step through the door. He had signaled to the men, and when I appeared, a soldier yelled, ‘Nice landing, Ma’am!’ Again, everyone exploded in laughter. After all, what was a little ‘near crash’ to them? These brave men were facing death every day anyway. I sat down by the purser on the jumpseat and said, ‘We were just in the middle of a battle, and we almost crashed!’ He replied with a phrase that I was to hear often:

“’Well, welcome to war!‘”

15-Helen707-1    15-Helen Davey today

Dr. Helen Davey is a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist in private practice in West Los Angeles and a former Pan Am Stewardess. Her doctoral dissertation, A Psychoanalytic Exploration of the Fall of Pan American World Airways, is a study of the trauma experienced by Pan Am employees when the airline collapsed.  She published an article entitled “The Effects of the Trauma of 9/11” for airline employees following the terrorist attack.  She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

Below is a YouTube Video of Pan American’s Rest and Recuperation Airlift:

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXXIII: Saigon

Pan American’s Presence in Saigon

Part 1

On 24 April 1975, Clipper Unity, a Boeing 747, departed Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon with 463 passengers on board, ending an over twenty year Pan American World Airways presence that started with two weekly scheduled DC-4 passenger rotations in the mid-1950’s, growing to daily 707/747 scheduled passenger operations in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, along with extensive cargo operations in support of the U.S. military, was eventually reduced to two rotations a week in the mid 1970’s and finally ended just before the  fall of South Vietnam in 1975. This is the first of three stories about Pan American’s presence.

sai-gon53-giaoduc.net.vn

The Airport

Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut International Airport had its origins in the early 1930s, when the French colonial government constructed a small airport with unpaved runways near the village of Tan Son Nhut. By mid-1956, with U.S. aid, a 7,200-foot (2,190 m) runway had been built and the airfield became Saigon’s and South Vietnam’s principal international gateway.  Between 1968 and 1974, the airport was the major base for military operations during the Vietnam War and was one of the busiest military airbases in the world.

Tsn-1962   SGN-1

camp-airport1-550   main_gate_1

Pan American’s Operations in Saigon

Saigon as a Pan American city first appeared in its timetable maps in the late 1940’s, but was not listed in the flight schedules or shown in the “List of Principal Offices”. In the May, 1950 timetable, a route to/from Saigon was identified as “services authorized but not operating”. In the January and April 1952 timetables, Saigon was not even on the route map. By the June 1954 timetable, two weekly rotations were being offered between Manila-Saigon-Singapore with DC-4 equipment.  The flights linked at Manila with Pan American’s San Francisco service  Below is the map from a 1948 timetable and the Pacific services in the 1954 timetable:

Map 1948

1954 Pacific Skeds

In the September 1957 timetable, the Manila-Saigon-Singapore service was increased to three rotations weekly with DC-6B equipment. These flights linked to Pan American’s to San Francisco and Los Angeles services at Manila. In the April 1959 timetable, the service was increased to five rotations weekly with both DC-6B and Boeing 377 Stratocruisers. By the September 1961 timetable, two weekly rotations were offered on the Honolulu-Guam-Manila-Saigon-Singapore-Djakarta route with Boeing 707’s or DC-8’s. In addition the eastbound round-the-world flight number 2 made a weekly stop.

Timetable pages -0001   Timetable pages -0002

Timetable pages -0003

In the April 1965 timetable, three weekly rotations were offered between Honolulu and Saigon (with both intermediate and beyond points) as well as the weekly eastbound round-the-world flight 2.  All-cargo freighters were shown operating three rotations weekly in the timetable as well. By the September 1966 timetable, the passenger operations were up to four rotations weekly plus the once-a-week eastbound round-the-world flight. The all-cargo service was shown as a daily operation, although some all-cargo flights required a minimum revenue load to be “flag-stopped” . By the September 1969 timetable, the number of rotations was increased to five and with extensive cargo operations.

Timetable pages -0004

Timetable pages -0005    Timetable pages -0006

 In the January 1971, Pan American offered a daily rotation with Boeing 707 aircraft as well as daily all-cargo services. By late 1973, Pan American severely reduced its Saigon service to a twice weekly rotation and three weekly all-cargo operations. After April 1975, there was no Pan American presence in Saigon.

Timetable pages -0007   Timetable pages -0008

Clipper Unity (Photo Eduard Marmet)

Clipper Unity (Photo Eduard Marmet)

The End of the Pan American Era in Saigon

Al Topping was Pan American’s last Station Manager at Saigon and organized the airline’s last ever departure from Ton Son Nhut Airport. His story was captured in a made-for-TV movie, Last Flight Out, starring James Earl Jones as Topping and Richard Crenna as Clipper Unity’s pilot Dan Hood. Topping’s story also appears in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. Below is an excerpt:

“[In] November of 1972, I was in charge of the Pan Am operation in South Vietnam.  * * * Saigon was very hot, very humid, very noisy, and due to the tens of thousands of motor bikes (the primary means of transportation) the air was polluted.  The international arrivals area at [Saigon’s] airport had dirt floors and no air conditioning. Downtown was a bustling crowded city with a variety of shops, restaurants, an open / active black market, street money changers, prostitutes and beggars roaming the streets holding babies—many of them scared  and crippled by napalm.

“As for the war, there were signs of it everywhere. A tank guarded the entrance to the airport, and heavily armed troops guarded every government building.  The most telling of all were the sounds of war.  Every night one could hear muffled booms of shelling off in the distance. Nevertheless the war was supposedly winding down and peace talks were on-going in Paris.  A peace agreement was finally reached and by June of 1973 the last American combat troops departed Vietnam.  The 10,000 day war was finally over.  So we thought.  Optimism was in the air.  The government began promoting tourism and encouraging foreign investments.  Back in Washington, DC the United States Congress voted to virtually terminate all military aid to Vietnam.   The South Vietnamese were now on their own.

“Approximately 18 months passed and the political landscape of South Vietnam began to dramatically change. Huge chunks of South Vietnam were taken over by advancing North Vietnamese troops. Cities, provinces and villages were falling with hardly a shot being fired. It was becoming obvious to me that North Vietnam had Saigon in its cross-hairs. In early April 1975, panic was in the air.

“Various American companies began sending some of their employees to places like Hong Kong and Singapore.  As the situation deteriorated I convinced Pan Am to commit to evacuating all of our local staff and their immediate families.  But it was up to me to come up with a plan for the actual evacuation, a workable plan that would not endanger lives.  It was only later that I realized I was embarking on a decision-making process I would never forget.

“Tension and suspense engulfed us as evacuation plans were being made. There were some surprises. When I asked our personnel manager for a listing of all 61 employees and their immediate family members, I was presented with a list of over 700 names. In the Asian culture, the immediate family is the extended family. Now what, I wondered?  For the first time, I saw the enormity of the situation. Lives were at stake. I held some emotional, gut-wrenching meetings with our department heads.  It was necessary to review again and again the company commitment of evacuating our employees and their ‘immediate families’.  It was extremely difficult to convince them of the differences in interpretations of an immediate family.  In the end they would have to make the final decision as to who goes and who stays.  So it was now a matter of freedom for some and unknown consequences for others.  Once the decisions were made I  had a list of 315 employees and their family members.  One more major challenge was lurking.

“Although the government of South Vietnam was rapidly deteriorating, they were still in charge. A Vietnamese citizen could not leave the country without proper documentation.  Under normal circumstances it may take two to three months for Vietnamese to obtain a passport and visa.  However, we had little time left.  We needed those documents in a matter of days.  In the past, I had witnessed hundreds of orphans being expeditiously evacuated to the U.S. for adoption.    I soon realized that this may be our only way out.

“Our personnel manager spent countless hours at the Office of the Ministry of Interior to obtain the required documentation for adoption.  My staff prepared these stacks of legal documents for my signature that would also permit our Vietnamese employees to leave the country.  In effect, the documents I signed said I was adopting more than 300 people, that I would be responsible for their well-being in the United States.  It worked!

“The situation in Saigon was now in panic mode.  In order to avoid further chaos the final date and time of Pan Am’s LAST FLIGHT OUT was kept secret until the night before.  It was to be Thursday April 24, 1975.  Most of our employees and their families spent the night in the back rooms of our downtown ticket office.  Three buses brought them to the airport that morning.  At the airport checkpoint armed troops boarded the buses to check the documentation.  The tension in the air on those buses defied description.

“The aircraft was Clipper Unity N653PA, a Boeing 747.  After cramming 463 souls on board into a cabin configured with 375 seats, the LAST FLIGHT OUT lifted off the runway on the designated date.  Many of the passengers doubled up in one seat.  Others stood in the aisles, sat on the floor or found space in the lavatories.

Clipper Unity at Saigon on the day of the LAST FLIGHT OUT (Al Topping)

Clipper Unity at Saigon on the day of the LAST FLIGHT OUT (Al Topping)

 

“The flight’s departure, however, had not been assured. Shortly beforehand, the Federal Aviation Administration had banned U.S. commercial flights into Saigon. It was not until high-level U.S. officials had designated our flight as a U.S. government charter that the jumbo jet could fly into Saigon to take us out.  When Capt.  Bob Berg finally received take-off clearance and we began our take-off roll, my heart was pounding like a bass drum. The tension was overwhelming until we cleared the coastline and I could see the fleet of American warships in the South China Sea below us. At that point I said, thank God we made it.”

Pan American’s involvement in Saigon extended beyond its scheduled passenger and cargo operations. In the next two postings will be stories about how the people of Pan American went out of their way to help their fellow human beings in desperate and difficult circumstances.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXXII: Technical Assistance Like No Other – 2

Technical Assistance for Tajik Air – 1993

Part Two

Pan Am’s spirit is alive in a unique Technical Assistance Project

Acceptance and Inaugural Flights of Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP

The acceptance flight is a critical part of the delivery process of an aircraft to an airline.  Once the aircraft is accepted and delivered, anything that is discovered wrong with the aircraft becomes the responsibility of the airline.  Inspections and the acceptance flight should ensure that this does not happen.  The Boeing 747SP was flown to London by a United Airlines supervisory pilot and crew.  Upon arrival, Captain Carr and his crew met the aircraft and began the task of inspecting the aircraft and its logs and maintenance records and carrying out the acceptance flight.  The aircraft looked great with a fresh paint job with Tajik Air livery.  Once everything was signed off, and the walk-around inspection complete, the aircraft was pronounced airworthy and Captain Carr and his crew boarded the aircraft to begin the flight.

N149UA-2   747SP at DYU-1

However, once on board, there was a surprise awaiting them:  The aircraft was full of people!  Normally such a flight involves the necessary minimum crew members.  Not this one.  The press was on board, as were Tajik Air officials, the Minister of Aviation of Tajikistan and management staff.  In fact station personnel and baggage handlers were also on board!

From Captain Carr:

“[I had] a quiet conversation with the [Minister of Aviation] to make sure that carrying all these people on a test flight was okay. I learned that wonderful Russian phrase: ‘kharasho’ (‘no problem’).  Since he was the law for our Tajikistan operating certificate, it was like getting the word directly from God. 

“I climbed into my seat in the cockpit. The United pilot looked really nervous and seemed a few shades deeper red than normal. He indicated his concern about all these people on board, and I said ‘kharasho’, took the clip board from him and signed as Pilot in Command. He looked relieved. I reminded him that United was still responsible for any maintenance items until I signed the aircraft acceptance form.  The flight went smoothly, the aircraft was perfect and everyone enjoyed the tour of the English countryside as we put the airplane through its paces. We returned to Heathrow and I made my first landing in a real 747 in about a year and a half. As we came in on final approach, I realized that we had almost all the top brass aboard, the new crew-members and a whole planeload of people who had never been on a 747 before. 

“If you’re are flying a 747 correctly, on speed and according to ‘the book’, it normally makes a very nice landing. Once in a while, when conditions are just right and you are very lucky, the touch down is so smooth that you don’t realize you are on the ground until the speed-brake handle comes up as it automatically reacts to a micro-switch on the landing gear as the wheels touch ground. This was one of those landings. 

“It is a Russian custom to applaud after a landing. But I didn’t think this applause was for landing, rather giving thanks to be alive.   However, during the flight we kept the door open for the bigwigs to view the cockpit and after landing I heard the cheers and applause from behind. Winning an Oscar for an actor couldn’t feel any better than how that landing and applause felt to me.  As we all left the aircraft my new bosses kept congratulating me as though I was the greatest pilot in the world. What could I say?  I just smiled and secretly thanked Boeing.”

Snow Leopard-1a-comp

Gunilla Crawford, having arrived in London to handle flight service, also had a look at the 747SP prior to delivery:

“The day came when we were to see the plane for the first time. It was a rainy overcast day, but there she was as beautiful as ever, sitting on the wet tarmac. We inspected the galleys, the equipment  and planned the last details, now that a few months of training and planning  had come together and the real adventure was to begin. ‘Starving’ for flying since the demise of Pan Am . . .we were all raring to go, as this would be the ‘real’ thing………..or so we thought.”

It was now time to get ready for operations.   Ticket sales and crew scheduling were at the top of the agenda.

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

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

McMillan House-1 Cyrus and Eni    McMillan House-3

McMillan House-2

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

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

From Gunilla Crawford:

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

Cabin Crew Sked-2

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

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

The food service to be offered was superb.

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

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

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

Gunilla Feb 19   Gunilla Feb 12    Gunilla Feb 10-cropped

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

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

The excitement of flying again did not escape the ex-Pan Amers who were taking part in the operation.  The 747SP’s first flight coincided almost to the date of the demise of their beloved Pan Am, some two years prior.

From Tania Anderson:

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

At 2215 hrs on the date of the inaugural flight, Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP, designated flight 7J801, departed London Heathrow for Dushanbe. The spirit on board was one of joy and happiness.

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

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

Cabin Crew-2a    Cabin Crew-1a

Crew-1    Cabin Crew-1

After a long flight into the night, the 747SP landed in Dushanbe.

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

DYU Reception-2

Gunilla Feb 03    Gunilla Feb 01    Gunilla Feb 02

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

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

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

“Flying on [Tajik Air’s 747SP] was another wonderful Pan Amigo adventure to add to my memoirs.”

Inaugural at DYU-1

When the flight arrived at Dushanbe that morning, Tajikistan was in the midst of an economic crisis along with a civil war.  Bread was being rationed but at the same time the country was trying to turn the page into a new chapter of their existence, emerging from the era of Soviet rule to an independent and free nation.  The arrival of this beautiful 747SP representing their national airline stoked both great pride and happiness among its citizens.

This unique “Technical Assistance”, from the beginning, was the story of a revolutionary idea that should have been hugely successful. Who would have thought that a remote country in the former Soviet Union would have a Boeing 747 operation linking it with the West?  It actually happened – and it could have continued.  Unfortunately the fates would not allow that and countless hours of devotion to a noble project went to waste. If there is blame, it is not worth dwelling on.  Everyone wanted the right outcome.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The timing was just not perfect for starting such an operation. The infrastructure within Tajikistan’s Civil Aviation Authority had not matured enough to take on the financial and political burden of a complex Sixth Freedom operation, requiring bilateral agreements not only with the United Kingdom, but with India and Pakistan as well. Thanks to the London management, the UK agreement and slots at Heathrow were secured.  Unfortunately, the negotiations to secure the agreements with India were still incomplete when the operation started and that presented barriers and resultant revenue losses. Had the start of the operation been delayed until the negotiations were completed there might have been a different result.  That will never be known.  However, the Boeing 747SP operation proved that it could be done, and for four short months, Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP proudly flew the skies between London, Dushanbe and Delhi/Karachi.

N149UA-1a     N540PA-1

Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP, Manufacturer’s Serial Number 21649, Serial 373 was first delivered to Pan American World Airways on May 11, 1979 registered as N540PA and named Clipper White Falcon.  It was renamed Clipper Flying Arrow on August 1, 1979 and later renamed Clipper Star of the Union on January 1, 1980. One year later, on January 1, 1981, the aircraft became China Clipper.

On February 12, 1986, as part of Pan Am’s sale of its Pacific Routes, N540PA was acquired by United Airlines.  The registration was changed to N149UA on June 1, 1986.  It was under this registration that the aircraft operated for Tajik Air. After the aircraft was repossessed by United Airlines, it was bought by the Brunei Government and re-registered as V8-JBB. It was then bought by the Government of Bahrain on December 24, 1998 and registered as A9C-HMH. Today the aircraft is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, registered as VQ-BMS. She is still in operation.

EVENT REMINDERS:

Aircraft Accident Workshop, 31 May 2014 in San Francisco.

Click here for info or registration.

Pan Am’s Worldwide Family Reunion

31 July – 3 August  2014

New York/Long Island City

Click here for info and registration.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXI – Technical Assistance Like No Other

Technical Assistance for Tajik Air – 1993

Part One

Pan Am’s spirit is alive in a unique Technical Assistance Project

Even though Pan American World Airways ceased operations on 4 December 1991, those of the flying staff who remained to the end continued flying in whatever assignment they could get. Some flew on Hajj charters; some went overseas to teach Korean pilots and others took any job so long as it involved flying. The possibility of ever joining together again as a team seemed like a remote possibility. However, the “Pan American Spirit” remained in the hearts of many Pan Amers and manifested itself in late 1993.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990 was the breakup of its national airline, Aeroflot. The once behemoth was divided up among the newly independent republics who immediately set out to form their own national airlines. One airline was formed in the new Republic of Tajikistan, “Tajik Air”. Its fleet consisted largely of old Soviet TU-154s that were operated to points within the old Soviet Union. The idea of operating long-haul intercontinental flights was nothing more than a dream.

TU-154s   Tajik_Air_Tupolev_Tu-154M_Dvurekov

Tajik Air TU-154s (Photo on left by Gunilla Crawford; on right by Igor Dvurekov)

Then something profound happened. A group of businessmen in London, England saw the potential of doing business in Tajikistan and formed the Tajikistan Development Agency, headquartered in London. The group came to a quick realization that there was a serious lack of air transportation between the UK (or anywhere in Europe) and Tajikistan. Then came an idea: Why not expand the operations of Tajik Air so that it can offer flights between London and Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan?

Starting a new service in any market requires a great deal of research and planning.  There must be a suitable aircraft.  Government approvals must be in place.  Airport access, slots (if required), ground handling services and airport facilities (check-in desks, etc) must be obtained.  On the commercial side, the new service needs to be marketed, publicized and tickets sold.  Other details include setting up the ticket and operations offices, arranging catering, publishing an In-Flight magazine and printing safety information cards, timetables, paper tickets, baggage tickets, promotional materials and stationary.

For Tajik Air, however, there was one very important requirement missing: an operating base in London and sufficient infrastructure to crew and maintain an aircraft operating the long-haul route between Dushanbe and London.  That presented a huge problem as the civil aviation structure of Tajikistan was completely inexperienced in intercontinental operations. Setting up a London base would seem impossible to achieve given the limited resources of Tajikistan.  However, through the foresight and creativeness of a few airline experts in London, a unique solution to the problem was hatched: Establish a third-party UK management company to operate the route.

After much discussion with Tajikistan’s civil aviation authority, a contract was signed and Tajik Air Limited was formed. It would build the the necessary infrastructure and operate flights to/from London on behalf of Tajik Air.  The company would obtain and maintain the aircraft and crew, organize the marketing and selling of the flights and essentially operate the flights.  This would be accomplished using Tajikistan’s Air Operator’s Certificate and Tajik Air’s call-sign and airline code.   Tajikistan committed to funding the new service and also obtaining the required government permissions for the operation.

How would this operation be viable and profitable?  The route of primary interest to Tajik Air was the London (Heathrow) (“LHR”)-Dushanbe (“DYU”) sector.  Operating that sector as an Origin-Destination route presented problems in that there was little, if any, traffic between the two points.  The question was how to fill the aircraft?  The answer:  Offer service between LHR and points beyond DYU.  The beyond points selected were Delhi, India (“DEL”) and Karachi, Pakistan (“KHI”).  This was to be accomplished using rights under the Sixth Freedom of the Air, made possible by Tajik Air using Tajikistan’s Third and Fourth Freedom rights under agreements with the UK, India and Pakistan.  DYU would be the “hub” for traffic between LHR and DEL/KHI.

The schedule would work like this:  Tajik Air departs from LHR with a planeload of passengers on a Fourth Freedom flight to DYU.  Upon arrival in DYU, those few passengers destined for DYU disembark and the rest stay on board.  The flight then departs DYU with a new flight number on a Third Freedom flight for DEL or KHI.  Upon turning around in DEL/KHI, with a new planeload of passengers, the flight becomes a Fourth Freedom to DYU and from DYU, with another flight number, Third Freedom to LHR.  By operating this schedule, Tajik Air could fill the seats of the aircraft, and compete in a highly competitive market by offering good service with low fares.

The next question was what type of aircraft and this is where the spirit of Pan American first came on the scene: The selection of the Boeing 747SP for the operation. The aircraft acquired was first delivered to Pan American on May 11, 1979 registered as N540PA and named Clipper White Falcon.  It was renamed Clipper Flying Arrow on August 1, 1979 and later renamed Clipper Star of the Union on January 1, 1980. One year later, on January 1, 1981, the aircraft became China Clipper.

On February 12, 1986, as part of Pan Am’s sale of its Pacific Routes, N540PA was acquired by United Airlines.  The registration was changed to N149UA on June 1, 1986.  It was under this registration that the aircraft operated for Tajik Air, pictured below:

747SP Snow Leopard-cropped

Once the 747SP was secured, a call went out for crews to operate it. This was the second instance of the Pan American spirit in the new operation: The selection of former Pan Am crews to operate the service.

Because of the aircraft choice and their availability, it was decided to hire former pilots of Pan American.  The decision was perfectly logical in that Pan Am pilots had many hours of experience in the 747SP – some had actually flown the aircraft when it was with Pan Am – had experience operating in the geographic area of the intended operation, and had the savvy and know-how in dealing with unexpected circumstances or conditions inherent in such an operation.

Captain Sherman Carr, an experienced Pan Am pilot was one who received a call from a former colleague about an opportunity to be “an aviation pioneer again”.  According to Carr, the offer was to operate a new 747 service for the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan.  He was told the route to be flown and that the pay would be minimal but with generous per diem and off-time.  After some research he made his decision.  He learned that Tajikistan

“. . .is magnificently beautiful with a major fertile valley with a mild climate that grows cotton  surrounded by majestic peaks rising 18 to 20 thousand feet and populated by their national symbol, the snow leopard. I also learned that (the capital) Dushanbe is on the old “Silk Road” route used by Marco Polo when he brought the secrets of making spaghetti from China to Italy. The neighboring cities of Tashkent and Samarkand conjured up images of wondrous bazaars and really old world treasures of the Mongol Empire and kabobs made from Yak. I was hooked. Like the line from the Clint Eastwood movie: “do you feel lucky?” I did. I called back and signed up”

It was the same for all the pilots who received “the call”.  A chance to be an aviation pioneer was too great an opportunity to turn down.

Captain Carr also had this is to say about the 747SP:

“The airplane that was to be used for this operation was a Boeing 747SP.  The SP stands for special performance. The plane was originally developed for Pan Am to be able to operate non-stop from the U.S. to Hong Kong and be able to stay aloft for over 15 hours. It was actually a regular 747 with upstairs lounge seating but shortened by about 48 feet to make it lighter and additional fuel tanks for longer range. If it’s not loaded with full fuel for extended range flights, the aircraft actually scoots like a hot rod and will outperform any WWII or Korean conflict fighter aircraft and is a lot of fun to fly. It will roll or loop or do most of the maneuvers you see at an airshow but of course this is not authorized so no pilot would ever tell you he had done those things. For Dushanbe, surrounded by mountains in all directions, it was the perfect choice due to its ability to climb quickly, safely and be on its way in a timely manner and still carry about 260 people with an extended first class.”

Once the group was assembled, refresher training began at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Miami, Florida.  Most of the Pan American pilots were over 60 years of age.  While that would present a problem in the United States, it did not for Tajikistan.  And as is well known, pilots over the age of 60 have a near zero accident rate.

PAIFA exterior

At the academy was a 747SP simulator and the pilots were put through training that brought them up to speed on changes to the aircraft, flight rules and also fined-tuned their instrument piloting skills.  At the same time, flight attendants from Tajik Air were undergoing training for the 747SP.  These flight attendants were supposedly the “cream of the crop” from Tajik Air but with experience limited to smaller aircraft such as the TU-154.

While the pilots were progressing well in the refresher training, it was not the case for the flight attendants.

A former Pan Am purser, Gunilla Crawford, was working in contracts at the Flight Academy when she heard that Tajik Air flight attendants were to receive training on the 747SP.  Upon their arrival, she immediately discovered a serious problem:  their English speaking ability was extremely limited!  :

“I had created a training program for the Tajik flight attendants and we started with the 747SP aircraft:  the doors, how to arm, disarm, open and close in normal and emergency mode. The first day was spent studying the manual; the second day in the mock- up; the third day back in the classroom.  But I soon realized it would take five days to learn the doors and it would take months to teach procedures.

 “Nothing I tried worked with the students, mainly because of the language barrier, and partly because of the size of the aircraft. The 747 SP had two aisles vs. the TU-154 single aisle; oxygen masks in the overhead on the 747SP vs. two 5 foot tall oxygen tanks standing in the aft of the TU-154 cabin!”

A flight academy employee who spoke Russian eventually acted as an interpreter, but it became painfully clear that this group would not be able to staff a 747SP.  Although kind, interested and friendly, they were overwhelmed by the size of the 747SP.

This problem was not only a concern to Crawford, but also to the pilots who were undergoing refresher training and who had observed the Tajik flight attendants first hand.  A solution to the problem was needed, and after consultations with Tajik officials present, it was decided to hire some “real” flight attendants from the former Pan Am.  Crawford, was in contact with a group of “experienced and adventurous” former colleagues, and very soon a lot of familiar faces began appearing at the Flight Academy.

Training went into full swing for all concerned and soon it was finished.  For the cabin crew, it was decided that two or three experienced Pan Am flight attendants would be assigned to each flight.  The remaining cabin crew positions would be filled by the Tajik Air flight attendants as “trainees”.  The goal, under the supervision and direction of the Pan Am crew, was the Tajik crew to become qualified on a 747SP.

However, there was one more thing:  Teamwork

From Captain Carr:

Being on a flight crew is a wonderful thing. It is a team effort. Pan Am had always encouraged working as a team. That teamwork was designed to save lives. Although the duties of the cabin staff is the care of passengers, their real job is to save lives in an emergency. They operate the emergency equipment and are trained to get people out of the aircraft as quickly as possible. Good communication is essential. As a pilot, I always appreciated the job the flight attendants do and made sure they knew it”.

 In observing the training of the Tajik flight attendants, good communication was non-existent.  To alleviate this problem, Captain Carr suggested the Tajiks should see more of America other than their hotel and the flight academy and invited them and his fellow pilots to a luncheon at his home.  During the luncheon he made a very important observation:

“[At] almost any cookout in America, guests would pitch in to help with the food and drinks and have a party. Not so with the Tajiks. It became apparent that the concept of initiative did not exist in their culture. They would smile and do anything we asked of them but took no initiative. In an airplane emergency, this can be deadly so we proceeded to see what we could do about it. This was the first chance the pilots and cabin staff had the opportunity to talk in an informal setting. We encouraged them to help themselves and to pass things along to their fellow crew members.

 “We also found out why they didn’t talk to each other. They were all from Tajikistan but some were from various mountain tribes that were at odds with each other. Others were Russian, or Iranian or Tajik valley people. Apparently they had been chosen not because of their good English or flying experience but because they were related to government officials.  This was also meant to be a representative group of the Tajik population. While I thought this was a very democratic move, I later learned this diversity was meant to make it less likely that a jealous faction would [cause problems with the operation].

 “The lunch went very well and the English phrases, “more beer”, “more vodka” were pronounced much better. I also chartered a water taxi for a cruise to see the Bahia Mar Yachting Center and also homes along the waterway.  At the end of the tour and before returning to Miami, the Tajiks stopped by our home to thank us. Much to my relief they were all smiling and talking to each other and acting like a flight crew. That lunch was one of the best investments I ever made.

With the training finished and the Tajiks fresh from their team-building experience, everyone began leaving Miami for London to start the operation.  Captain Carr was asked to make the “acceptance flight” of Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP.  He accepted.

END OF PART ONE

Stay tuned for Part Two: The acceptance flight and applying the “Pan Am Experience” to the first flights of Tajik Air.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXX: Hawaii Reunion

 PanAmers Gather in Hawaii for an “Aloha” Celebration

101016panam707

The name Pan American World Airways brings to mind many destinations around the world, some exotic, some glamorous, some politically important and some world centers of commerce:

Rio2  BUE   London  80s-IAD

Paris  TYO  Berlin80s-DEL

  Dakar  Madrid  Calcutta-1JFK

However, one destination, not shown above but should be, played an extremely important role in Pan American’s early accomplishments in commercial aviation and could very well be regarded as one of the most important in Pan American’s history:

HNL-2

Honolulu represented one of Pan American’s greatest achievements, the historic crossing of the Pacific Ocean by the China Clipper, detailed in a previous post. The challenge of being able to complete the initial leg between California and Honolulu meant the remainder of the voyage to the Orient was possible. The challenge was met and the rest is history. Pan American went on to establish routes all over the Pacific and become the dominant airline in the region for decades. This lasted until 1985, when the routes it pioneered were sold to United Airlines. For many PanAmers, this was a bitter pill to swallow.

During its heyday, however, Honolulu was one of Pan American’s most popular and important destinations.

Hawaii-by-Clipper100   LingerLongerHI

pan-am-hawaii-2-b

Fittingly, this year, former Pan American employees are joining together in one of many of their favorite destinations, Honolulu, Hawaii for the “Pan Am Aloha Celebration”. Organized by former Pan American Captain Don Cooper who was the drive behind this celebration, Pan Amers from all over will have the opportunity to meet old friends (and make new ones) and reminisce about their times working for “The World’s Most Experienced Airline”. They will also visit sites in Honolulu where Pan American history was made.

Captain Don Cooper

Captain Don Cooper

  S42 at Hawaii   377 honolulu   HNL-2

Helen Davey, a former Pan American Purser, has written an eloquent and moving description about this event, and what Pan American means to its former staff, in the Huffington Post. The article in its entirety appears below:

“On April 2-5, 2014, former Pan Am employees from all over the world are converging on Honolulu, Hawaii, to enjoy the Pan Am Aloha Celebration. It will be a week of seeing old friends and making new ones, sharing memories and stories, and interestingly, celebrating our experience, while at the same time mourning our loss of Pan Am together.

“The day that Pan American World Airways ceased operations, December 4, 1991,Newsweek ran an article about the airline’s history, beginning with the statement, ‘This is not a story about planes. It’s about romance….It may be hard for today’s all-too-frequent flyers to remember that once, air travel was an adventure; that airlines once had a soul. Pan Am certainly did.’

“As a veteran Pan Am flight attendant for 20 years (1965 – 1986), and now as a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist for 27 years, I have studied and written about the unique relationship between Pan Am and its employees, and about the airline’s triumphs and traumas, in order to help those people who were still suffering from the loss of their beloved company.

    Helen Davey  15-Helen Davey today

Helen Davey

“Pan Am. No other airline in history ever evoked such images of glamour and adventure, because it was the airline that practically invented aviation. Known as the “Queen of the Skies,” it was the benchmark by which all other airlines were judged.

“And for good reason. Pan Am was the first airline to fly to Latin America, the carrier whose famed Clipper flights to Europe and the Pacific were the stuff of romance. It was also the first airline to circle the globe. Its round-the-world Flight 1 (westbound) and Flight 2 (eastbound) were inaugurated just after World War II. Then, at the dawn of the jet age, Pan Am flew the first Boeing 707 in 1958. Then came the 747. Pan Am was the airline of the ‘stars,’ and to the moon (2001: A Space Odyssey).

“But none of these innovations, as impressive as they were, was what made Pan Am different from other companies. It was the feeling of “family” and adventure and loyalty that Pan Am inspired from its very beginning. Its rich history, almost unbelievable events, and stories of our legendary “characters” were passed down through the generations, filtering – as family legends do – into each new-hire group.

“Indeed, no other airline had more intensely loyal employees, who continue even now to keep alive the spirit of a company that went out of business so many years ago. From the beginning, we were introduced into Pan Am as “family,” strongly bonded and loyal to each other. We became deeply interested in helping our company be the best, and while some people outside our ‘family’ saw that as arrogance, we saw it as striving for excellence.

“But what did that mean? It wasn’t just about the glamour of far-off places, 7-course meals served on fine china, or how proud we were wearing the Pan Am uniform. It’s about something called ‘the Pan Am World.’

“One of our company’s jingles was, “Pan Am has a place of its own. You call it ‘the world.’ We call it ‘home.'” In my view, there are two very different meanings of the word ‘world.’ One pertains to geography, and, of course, this was very significant to our peripatetic lives. Globetrotting was our lifestyle, but very few of us ever got over the thrill of taking off on a brand-new adventure.

“However, ‘world’ has another very important meaning, and that has to do with the way in which people make sense of their lives. Many Pan Am employees have described their relationship to the company as ‘a love story.’ Pan Am felt to us as if it had a living, breathing soul (as Newsweek described), and so the company’s essence was much more than a merely practical world.

“Indeed, it was a very emotional world, and Pan Am was much more than a mere company. A job with Pan Am was a passport to the world with unlimited horizons, and its employees shaped their lives around the framework of the Pan Am culture. In other words, every trip was a meaningful event, which makes the upcoming Aloha Celebration an even more meaningful event.

“On a personal level, I’ll have the opportunity to share with other Pan Am family members about our relationship to the company. I’d like to extend the invitation to my fellow attendees who’d be interested in being interviewed about their Pan Am experience.

“And we’ll have plenty of opportunities to chat. Several cocktail receptions and dinner at the Pacific Aviation Museum, as well as a special tour of the historic sights used by Pan Am during Pan Am’s China Clipper era, have been planned. And a ‘Clipper Club’ (Captain’s room) will be available each day for us to find our friends and circulate.

“On Thursday, April 3, from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., the public is invited free of charge to share in an exciting day of legendary “family” memories. This forum will be held in the Prince Hotel in the Mauna Kea Ballroom. One of the featured speakers will be Ed Dover (author of The Long Way Home), who was on the crew that flew a B-314 flying boat all the way around the world the other way, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an unanticipated first circumnavigation of the globe by a commercial airline. They flew in total secrecy and radio blackout for six weeks. It’s a great story.

“Author Jon Krupnick, author of Pan Am Pacific Pioneers, will be discussing his wildly successful book about Pan Am’s “boat days.” Our own Captain Don Cooper (the man largely responsible for organizing many of our most spectacular reunions) will set the historical and political scene in the Pacific before 1935, which led to Pan Am’s subsequent hegemony in the area. There will be other speakers as well, all passing along our Pan Am family stories.

“Fittingly, the world ‘aloha’ means both hello and goodbye, and it is with a tinge of sadness that we know that Captain Don Cooper will no longer be doing this. At 82, Captain Cooper feels that this reunion will be his swan song, reminding all of us that many of our ‘Skygods’ are now in their 80’s and 90’s. Our ‘hellos’ are joyous, but as is reflected in the closeness of our Pan Am family, we don’t like saying ‘goodbye.’

“But just as I was thinking this might be the last big all-inclusive Pan Am reunion, up pops the news of a Pan Am Worldwide Family Reunion on Long Island, New York on July 31 – August 3, 2014. It is being sponsored by Pan Amigo News (Miami), a newsletter for former employees for the purpose of keeping in touch, and sharing news of reunions, travel discounts, and finding friends we’ve lost track of.

“But it doesn’t stop there. We also have philanthropic organizations with their own newsletters, such as World Wings International (retired flight attendants), Clipper Pioneers (retired pilots), The Retirees Club (retired ground staff), and the Pan Am Historical Foundation (open to all including non employees). Many Pan Am websites can be found on the Internet, such as everythingpanam.com, and various closed groups just for Panamers. Meanwhile, the Pan Am AWARE store in Miami is busily supplying Pan Am memorabilia to those people who are nostalgic for ‘the Queen of the Skies.’

“Pan Am, as the slogan goes, is ‘Gone But Not Forgotten.’ The company as parent has died, but the family endures; the siblings continue to forge meaningful connections with each other all over the world – finding creative ways, as families do, to project themselves unendingly into the future. As long as the airline’s employees and their children (known affectionately as Pan Am ‘brats’, who grew up flying around the world with us) are still alive, the deep affection for Pan Am will endure.

“And like all families, we’ve had our share of tragedy. Most former Pan Am employees can tell you where we were when we heard about the sale of the Pacific routes to United, the Lockerbie tragedy, and the demise of Pan Am. We share common trauma, as well as phenomenal experiences: the high life and slow death of Pan Am is seared into our collective memory, but nobody can take away our love for our company.

“For those who are interested, I am including a link to a video about our Pan Am world, put together by Captain Tommy Carroll for the last big reunion, which was held in Monaco in 2012. It provides a glimpse of just some of our layovers in 86 countries and every continent, except Antarctica. Click on the following link, (747skygod.com) , and then click on the video ‘Pan Am Gone But Not Forgotten.’

“Then, sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for a nostalgic journey back to the ‘good old days’ – a time when America itself was at its zenith, and working for Pan Am felt like the best job in the world.

“Postscript: This article is also respectfully dedicated to all aviation employees who have lost their companies – our ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ at TWA, the former employees of Eastern, Braniff, Western, PSA, Piedmont, and Republic Airlines – just to mention a few.”

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For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXIX: Technical Assistance Program

Pan American’s Technical Assistance Program

It has long been recognized that Pan American World Airways was an industry leader in the development of flight operations, technology and procedures. What is little known is Pan American’s history of providing technical assistance to fledgling airlines around the world.

As early as 1934, Pan American was already providing technical assistance. From the 1934 Annual Report, the airline boasted of working with the Chinese government in support of China’s aviation programs and highlighted the introduction of “modern flight equipment, new ground radio stations and direction finders.” To be fair, the annual report was a bit ambitious when alluding to the successful cooperation between Pan American and the Chinese. The problem was the weather along the Chinese coastal route of the China National Aviation Corporation. Fog and the wind currents between the mountains and the sea, combined with primitive meteorological support, made flying dangerous and caused two crashes into the hills by the S-38 aircraft sent over from the United States by Pan American. This impaired the airline’s “vaunted reputation for technical skill and concern for safety”, according to Marilyn Bender and Selig Altschul in The Chosen Instrument. Nevertheless, this was one of the earliest instances of Pan American’s technical assistance outside the realm of its operating areas.

In addition, up to and during World War II, Pan American provided significant technical support to its Latin America subsidiaries. These airlines sported similar livery to Pan American’s aircraft and were part of the “Pan American Airways System” that covered nearly all destinations in Latin America. After the war and into the post-war decades, these subsidiaries were eventually sold to local investors or nationalized.

Pan American’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) formally came into being in 1955 as reported in the annual report for that year:

“Pursuant to the United States policy of furthering the economic development of friendly foreign nations, the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) has commissioned your company to conduct Technical Assistance Programs with the national flag airlines of Pakistan, Turkey and Thailand. Pan American’s mission is to offer technical guidance and personnel training in all aspects of the air transportation industry. Your company is proud to share its 28 years of international airline experience and thus contribute to the improvement of commerce, communications and employment opportunities in these friendly and important nations.”

The next year, Pan American added the national flag airline of Afghanistan, Ariana Afghan Airlines, to its programs. In addition it provided the airline with active management under ICA auspices and also participated as a minority shareholder.

Over the next few years more than 100 skilled Pan American personnel comprised the specialist teams in these programs, and in 1959 key employees of Pakistan International Airlines Corp. and Ariana Afghan Airlines Company Ltd were trained in the United States in the Participant Training Program sponsored by the ICA and the FAA.

In 1965, in cooperation with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Pan American began providing technical assistance to the national airline of the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. Technical assistance was also provided to Iran and was continued in Afghanistan. Later, the airlines of Vietnam and Ghana were added. By 1967, according to that year’s annual report,“[t]wenty-four airlines in all parts of the world have been assisted by Pan Am over the years”.

Into the 1970s, Pan American continued to provide technical assistance, management and training to various airlines overseas including Ariana, Iran Air, and Air Zaire. The airline also provided airport management under contract at Roberts Field in Liberia and at Muscat and Salalah, Oman.  By 1978, 141 employees were assigned to technical support, mostly overseas. It is not known here when the program was terminated, although no mention is made in annual reports seen subsequent to 1980.

The late John Bigelow, a Pan American Captain, spent a year in Afghanistan as part of the TAP, training pilots of Ariana Afghan Airlines. He wrote a story about his experiences in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. John recently passed away and was well known and respected by his peers, that group of pilots hired in the 1960’s known as the “New Hires”. He will be missed.

“It all started during the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, for the faithful, a mandatory rite of passage and a passport to heaven and eternity.  For years, Afghan pilgrims had made their way across the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia by bus, truck . . . and even camel caravan.  But a visionary King, Mohammed Zahir Shah, with the dream of leading his people into the twentieth century, blessed the conception of the country’s first airline.  In 1957, Ariana Afghan Airlines was born.  At last, pilgrims could fly to Jeddah – the staging point for the pilgrimage to Mecca – in hours rather than days or weeks.

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“Years later, in early May, 1968, Pan American’s Captain Richard Vinal, Chief Pilot of Latin America, summoned me to his office in Miami.  My reaction was predictable.   Chief Pilots were not in the habit of asking you in to inquire about your health.  I began to formulate complex denials and thought about calling my union representative.  I drove over to the office and sat under the suspicious eye of the Chief Pilot’s secretary who, I was convinced, knew of my misdemeanor, whatever it was.  At last, I was invited in and asked to sit down. The heavy oak door closed behind me, and I noted with some alarm that Captain Vinal and I were alone.

“‘Bigelow, how would you like to go to Afghanistan’?

“I had a vague idea where Afghanistan was – somewhere in Africa, I thought.  Whatever I’d done was about to condemn me to the other side of the world. So I asked my Chief Pilot for some background to his startling question.  A little more kindly now, he explained why we were having this conversation.

“‘Sam Miller, our Vice-President of Flight Operations, called me this morning, wanting to know if I had any young, eager pilots interested in a foreign flight training assignment.  He thinks you might be ready for something like this.

“‘Pan Am owns 49 per cent of Ariana Afghan Airlines and we run a Technical Assistance Program (TAP) with the airline.  Ariana has just acquired a new Boeing 727. Our Project Director out there thinks they need some help training the Afghan pilots.  If you’re interested, I’d like you to go up to New York to talk to Sam Miller.  They need someone out there right away.’

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“At the time, I’d been with Pan Am for two years and still felt like a new boy.  My wife, Mary Lou, and I talked it over. We discovered Afghanistan was not in Africa but a land-locked kingdom in south-west Asia. To us, it sounded exciting and different, full of adventure and opportunity.

“I bought a paperback copy of James Michener’s Caravans and began reading it on the way to New York.  I was captivated by what I read, spellbound by descriptions of Kandahar, Kabul, and the Hindu Kush.  Suddenly, I was very keen to go there.

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Ariana 727 over the Hindu Kush

“My interview with the legendary Sam Miller went well.  He had been the commander of the first scheduled commercial flight of a Boeing 707 across the Atlantic in 1958 – a major milestone in Pan Am’s history.  Captain Miller was a gracious, quiet-spoken man and, despite his aura, made me feel at ease.  He was interested in my pre-Pan Am flying experiences in the Canadian Arctic and Middle East.  He had read my personal file and seemed pleased and handed me off to Erskine Rice who headed TAP field operations.

“Rice noted, ‘Were you to accept this assignment, you would be assigned as ‘Advisor’ to the Chief Pilot, Rahim Nowroz.  You would be responsible to him for assessing pilot standards and recommending steps to improve pilot performance.  The Afghan pilots have been trained and released by Boeing instructors, but Charlie Bennett, our project director in Kabul, feels there is a need for ongoing monitoring.

“‘The assignment would be for a year. We need someone out there right away. If you’re interested, I need a decision by the end of the day.’

“I was their man, and I immediately told him so.  He got up smiling, walked around his desk, and we shook hands.  Erskine Rice became more guarded when the discussion turned to Rahim Nowroz – the man I would be advising in Afghanistan.  He said that Nowroz had a reputation for being difficult at times, adding that he was also the King’s personal pilot, and – oh yes – rumored to have a fondness for drink.

“‘John, I’m sure you’ll get along just fine out there.  Go out there and do the best job you know how. I’m sure we’ll all be proud of you.’

“Now I knew I was being conned. No, he wasn’t smiling. He was smirking.

“’What am I getting into?‘”  I thought.

“I was in Kabul when, early in the morning of January 5, 1969, Ariana’s Boeing 727, YA-FAR, crashed three-quarters of a mile short of Runway 27 at London’s Gatwick airport during an instrument approach in a thick, freezing fog.  Our chief of maintenance, Ed Mix, had put his daughter Karen on the flight at Kabul.  With landing gear and flaps extended, the aircraft briefly touched down in a muddy field before becoming airborne again.  The pilot, none other than Captain Nowroz, aware at last that something was wrong, had jammed open the throttles but, seconds before, ten feet of the Boeing’s right wing had been torn away by a large tree.  The aircraft began an uncontrolled, climbing roll to the right, and would have become inverted had not a large two story house stood in its way.  The house and most of the aircraft then exploded in a large ball of burning kerosene.  The cockpit passed inches above the roof and detached itself at the moment of impact, remaining airborne briefly before skidding to a halt in the mud.

“Sixty-nine of the ninety-eight passengers and cabin crew burned to death.  Of those few who survived, most were difficult to recognize as human, even after months of restorative surgery. One of the survivors, a baby girl lying in her bassinette, a toy clutched in her hands, was unharmed in the smoking rubble. Her parents were not so lucky.

“The accident could have been prevented.  But because of a perverse and persistent aspect of human nature, people had to die before anything would change.

“Ed Mix and I traveled to London on Iran Air, a flight that duplicated Pan Am’s flight 115, stopping at Tehran, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt, and London.  Word of the accident had spread to all of Pan Am’s European stations that Ed and I were en route to London.  Ed was well known in Pan Am’s world and well-regarded. At each stop along our way, I deplaned to get an update, leaving Ed in his seat in the cabin, distraught and alone, but grateful for what I was doing.  Pan Am station personnel, waiting for our flight, met me with the latest news:  Few survivors, still no news of Karen. At each stop, as we continued up the line to London, I returned to my seat next to Ed: ‘Nothing yet, no news. But don’t give up. Don’t give up! You hear me?’

“This hard-bitten, cigar-smoking, maintenance manager was now crying.  He reached over to hold my hand. ‘I’m sorry John. I can’t help it. I can’t stop thinking about Karen.  Our beautiful daughter I love so very much . . .’

“On the last leg, from Frankfurt to London, Ed wrote me a note in pencil on an airsick bag. It said: ‘I can’t express myself properly with words at the moment. But I will never forget how important it is that you are here with me, or how grateful I am. Your friend, Ed.’

“I still have the bag.

“We were the first off the airplane at Heathrow.  Pete Dunstan, Pan Am’s maintenance manager in London, and a close friend of Ed’s, waited at the head of the jetway.  He was tight-lipped, a look of infinite sadness on his face.  Ed looked up at him, unable to speak. Pete shook his head and said: ‘I’m sorry, Ed. Karen didn’t make it.’

“Two days later, he and his wife Libby boarded Pan Am’s round-the world flight, ‘Clipper One’ to New York, with their daughter’s remains in the belly of the 707.

“Ed Mix would never return to Afghanistan.

“’You will be leaving us soon, won’t you?’ asked my administrative aide, Captain Gran.

“I answered, ‘It’s time. We both know it.  What can be worse than a guest who overstays his welcome?  My job is done here.  Ariana and its pilots now rank with the best in the world. You don’t need me anymore.’

“He answered, ‘I disagree with you.  We – and I speak for all the pilots – want you to stay.  We will always need you. You are no longer ferangi.  You are part of us; you belong with us.’

I said, ‘Look, Gran. I will always be available, but I must leave Afghanistan. It’s the essence of the program.  From the beginning, I came here to work my way out of this job and train my Afghan replacement – my replacement, not surprisingly, with whom I’m now having lunch.’  Maybe I derailed him with that remark.  When he regained his composure, he said: ‘It is strange how events sometimes unfold, isn’t it? When I look back four years ago, how different things seemed then . . .’

He answered, ‘We were suspicious of you from the start.  I agreed with Rahim – we didn’t need you.  Boeing had trained us, and we knew what we needed to know.  You were yet another example of an unwanted foreign presence. One way or another, the sooner we could get rid of you, the better. 

“’At first we assumed you would just give up and leave like so many others who, for whatever reason, had come to Afghanistan.  But, to Rahim’s frustration and, to a lesser extent, mine, you didn’t.  You were behaving like . . . like an Afghan!  You didn’t give up.  You had the testicles of a goat, and it was driving Rahim crazy!’

“He paused, took a deep breath, and continued.

“This is the part I find most difficult to admit:  I began to see what you were trying to do. But because of my loyalty to Rahim, and because, honestly, I was afraid of him, I did nothing.  If I had cooperated with you then, and you had left, Rahim would have made my life unbearable. We are a small country.  Never forget: Rahim and I are Pashtun, and blood, as they say, runs thicker than water. . . .

“’The accident changed everything.  Captain Rahim Nowroz, my Chief Pilot, I discovered, had committed a dreadful and unforgivable error.  He had killed many people, not the least, the daughter of your friend, Ed Mix.  And of course I knew about his drinking.  I was being split down the middle, in an impossible position.  I will never forget my first meeting with you in London after the crash. I saw myself on a buzkashi field – the calf fought over and pulled apart by opposing chapandaz.  You, Pan Am, and the British on one side, Afghanistan and everything it stands for on the other. I must tell you, John, it was the worst moment of my life.’

He continued, ‘What you did – and this is perhaps the most important aspect of your time with us – was to take our natural inclination to compete and to win at any cost, and to turn this inclination into something positive.  No longer could we buy our way into the seat of an airplane.  No longer was it a question of who we knew or how we were related. Only through training, only through passing through the necessary gates could we expect to succeed. We were all now competing with each other to be the best. . . .

“’We could not figure this out for ourselves; it took a pale-skinned, blue-eyed ferangi to do it for us.’

“I thought about what Gran had said. I was flattered by his words, but it went beyond the apparent success of this Afghan endeavor. For me, from its outset, it had been born out of failure.  In that moment, I saw what I was really doing here: proving to myself I wasn’t quite the hopeless screw-up I’d always seemed to be.  After so many false starts in my life, I’d needed a win.  Maybe, at last, I had one.

“I went on, ignoring him.  

“I said to him, ‘You, my friend, belong in an airplane, not behind a desk.  You know it.  No one ever was killed by paperwork, only inconvenienced. We’ll find someone to fill those administrative duties.  I’m recommending that you be appointed Chief Pilot, Training and Check.  It’s the only reason I can leave Afghanistan and sleep at night’”.

“I still sleep at night; now I am doing the sleeping in Dubai, training pilots at my ripe age of 75. Never will I forget my Afghan Journey, the frustrations and accomplishments. The turbulence and mistrust today, however, cause me to question whether Afghanistan can ever return to the era of serenity and enlightenment which I experienced in the sixties. May peace overcome.”

Arian 707

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

Malaysia Flight 370: What Didn’t Happen.

The JetHead Blog

Speculation on what happened to Malaysia 370 now runs rampant across the world media, just as it always does after any airline disaster. But as usual, most of what the “informed sources” hypothesize is unfounded or at least, not based on fact. That’s because whether the “experts” popping up on broadcast media want to admit it or not, there are few facts; and for all the wrong reasons in this case, there are fewer than ever.

That in itself is significant and, in my judgment from the perspective of one who makes a living piloting Boeing jets, a major factor largely ignored in the media. Specifically, what didn’t happen to that Boeing 777 holds the key to what did.

First, let’s start with the most obvious clue, which basically is the common denominator in one major risk factor that affected everyone who boarded Malaysia flight 370: the two travelers…

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Pan Am Series – Part XXVIII: Clipper Cargo – 2

Cargo Flights

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As described in the previous story, Pan American World Airways was an innovator and leader in the early development of the air freight business. Although freight and cargo was nearly always carried on passenger flights, Clipper Cargo was different and was identified with Pan American’s all-freight operation that for all intents and purposes was an airline within an airline. Whilst the all-freighter flights were included in the passenger timetables, as illustrated in the previous story, the flights operated at crazy times , carrying crazy cargoes and sometimes going to crazy places.

Captain John Marshall flew Pan Am Clippers for nearly thirty years and remembers some of his more memorable flights – and cargoes – when assigned to flying the freighters.  “Flying freighters was always an exercise in curiosity – one never knew just what the next load will bring”, he recalls. On one trip out of Anchorage, the load-master presented the Dangerous Goods Notifications Sheet, a document that listed all the hazardous materials loaded. On the list were all manner of flammable liquids, solids, poisons, corrosives and explosives. It turned out the explosives was an elephant tranquilizer gun, prompting the question whether there was an elephant on board. Also on board were five kilos of 24 carat gold in one kilo ingots. On another flight were six thoroughbred race horses bound for stud in Japan from New York. Marshall and his crew took over the trip at Anchorage and was told by the incoming crew that one big grey stallion had “an emphatic dislike for turbulence, and that during some light chop over Canada, they could hear him whinnying and stomping in his stall and when he kicked the sides of his enclosure the whole plane shook”. After take off the crew made contact with a Northwest flight twenty minutes ahead on the same track at the same altitude. The Northwest crew promised to advise them of any turbulence. Fortunately there was none, and the horse slept most of the way.

“We carried all manner of cargo on those flights – loads of over one hundred tons of payload were not uncommon”, says Marshall, “on one flight I was informed that the day’s cargo consisted of 110 head of elk — stags, does and yearlings. They were the entire load; there was no room for anything else. When I boarded there was no question as to the nature of the cargo. The smell was overwhelming. It followed us all the way across the Pacific, and permeated my clothes for weeks afterward.”

Once, when reporting for duty at the cargo hanger one midnight in Los Angeles, “I thought I had stumbled into the private quarters of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. There were cages all around the tarmac, carrying all manner of exotic fauna. One held two Bengal tigers, on the next pallet were half a dozen caged chimpanzees,chattering noisily at the big cats. Ahead of the wing was a portable stall which held four Lilliputian ponies, each so small it looked like a real horse viewed through the wrong end of a telescope.”

One of his oddest experiences in Anchorage was when he was told he and his crew were operating out of the Air Force Base at Elmendorf. No explanation was given and when they got to Elemendorf they soon found “our big 747 freighter sitting lonely and alone on the most remote pad on the base”. They boarded the aircraft and saw pallets of cargo tightly covered with dark green tarpaulin stretching into the darkness all the way aft. The cargo was Patriot missiles bound for Kimhae, at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Upon arrival they were met with battalions of huge trucks, along with the usual heavy loaders and forklifts. The plane was unloaded in less than a half an hour.

Jim Duncan, another former Pan American captain who flew the Clippers for over twenty years, had one interesting freighter trip that was then a highly classified Military Airlift Command (MAC) Mission from Little Rock, Arkansas to Mogadishu, Somalia. At the time Duncan was a 747 Check Airman and held the title Manager of Flying of the New York Base at JFK Airport. He wrote about his experience in his story “Night Flight to Mogadishu” in  Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. Below are excerpts from his story:

“It began with Bill McCarthy, the Duty Director in Pan American’s Operational Control Unit informing me that a request had come by way of the Dept. of Defense, the State Department, and possibly the CIA, to ferry a 747 Cargo freighter to Little Rock AFB to take on an extensive load of Class A munitions (rocket propelled grenades, .50 caliber bullets and T.O.W. —Tube-launched, Optically Wired controlled missiles), and transport them non-stop to Ramstein  Airbase, Germany with continuation, after a short crew lay-over in Frankfurt, via Cairo for refueling, to Mogadishu, Somalia. Ramstein’s main runway length of 9300 feet would not allow enough fuel, given the heavy cargo load, to make the flight nonstop to Mogadishu.

“My initial call was to my wife who did not take well to the idea.

“’Are you insane?’ she screamed into the phone. ‘Have you forgotten we have small children? Why you?’

“’It’s something I need to do,’ I replied, assuring her that this was not any different than some military missions I had flown in the past. ‘Plus, there will be added life insurance’, I joked.

“[I put together a crew] and [a]t sun-up the following day, the empty, overpowered 747 Cargo Liner lifted off the runway at JFK like a jet fighter and rocketed to our cruise altitude of 39,000 ft in a matter of minutes on its way to Little Rock AFB. Later that day, after arrival and a few hours rest, we closely inspected the Dangerous Goods Manifest. ‘Looks like a mega load of fireworks,’ commented [one of our crew] sarcastically as we checked the secure tie downs of hundreds of boxes in the lower cargo compartment. In addition to the flight plan, weather and wind forecasts, we were handed a special advisory to steer and remain clear of British and Belgian airspace.  European and African countries had allowed ‘only by exception’ the overflight of any aircraft carrying class A explosives.  

“We took off into the evening sky crossing over the Atlantic to overhead at Quimper, France in the early morning hours and continued on a straight path to land at Ramstein AFB in Southwestern Germany.  An Air Force ‘Follow Me’ truck in bright yellow colors guided us to the Dangerous Cargo loading ramp where six Armored Personnel Carriers were added to the upper deck cargo compartment.  

“Over breakfast the following morning, [the crew] and I speculated how we would be routed from Ramstein to Cairo having been denied overflight rights over Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. We were to be picked-up at the hotel at 3 p.m. for a late afternoon departure. However, back in our rooms we were further perplexed by a phone message stating that our departure from the hotel had been moved up by one hour to allow time for a military classified security briefing. The puzzle was solved at Ramstein when we heard the words of the Air Force intelligence officer: ‘From Cairo Southeast bound to Mogadishu you must fly radio silent. Do not answer any transmissions, don’t use your transponder; what’s more important, you will not obtain the usual Air Traffic Control clearance!’

“That was big news to me.

“Despite this unsettling information, we agreed to stick with the plan and take off on our night flight to Mogadishu. Soon we left France behind and looked down on the dark waters of the Mediterranean flying around the boot of Italy southeast to land in Cairo. During refueling we scrutinized our flight plan once more at the operations office. We were to fly a southeasterly track along the center line of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. The airspace to the east of our course was Saudi Arabia and Yemen, to the west the Sudan, Ethiopia, the disputed territory of Eritrea, and finally Somalia.  At the mouth of the Red Sea, to make it appear on radar that we  were destined somewhere else, we were to fly one hundred nautical miles off-shore, and around the Horn of Africa.

“’We are going to be pretty much on our own for most of the night without any Air traffic Control contact’, I noted. ‘Let’s take on a bit of extra fuel in case we have to divert to Nairobi.’

“The Pan Am freighter lifted off once again into the night sky. The city lights of Cairo gave way to the darkness of the desert below.  Thirty minutes into the flight, 150 miles southeast of Cairo, the heavy plane was still laboring to reach its cruising altitude. The termination of all communications with the Egyptian Air Controllers created an eerie stillness. The only contact we could safely make was an hourly call to contact Pan Am Dispatch via Berna Radio in Switzerland on the high frequency single side band radio: ‘Pan Am Clipper Operations Normal.’

“We continued to monitor the local VHF air traffic control frequencies for information on other air traffic nearby and overhear various aircraft reporting their positions.

“As we approached 200 miles north of the mouth of the Red Sea, we eased the power up to hold Mach .88, cutting our transit time by ten minutes. A blind warning call came over the radio: ‘Aircraft heading 140 degrees at high speed 65 Miles NW of Addis Ababa, identify yourself.’

“With us not responding, the warnings came repeatedly from Addis Ababa and San’a. ‘Strangest flight during my Pan Am career,’ I remarked as a visible shrug of relief is felt by all three of us once the plane has turned further to the East to carry us out over the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa.

“More than four hours after leaving Cairo we made our first radio call to Mogadishu, where we would arrive forty minutes later.

On the ground, and from the ramp we watched the Armored Personnel Carriers being unloaded. ‘Do you think we could take one for a spin around the ramp?’ [a crewman] asked the Somali officer. ‘If you think you know how to drive it, go ahead,’ he answered.

“It was a small reward for the Pan Am family having performed the assigned task. Pan American had supported our nation in the past.  We were merely filling another square.”

Pan American also carried traditional cargo, like the hard drive of the IBM 305 RAMAC computer, launched in 1956, shown below being loaded onto a Clipper freighter. The hard drive weighed over a ton and stored 5 MB of data. To put this into perspective, it would take  3200 of these units to equal the capacity of that little 16-Gig stick plugged into the side of a laptop.

Computer pic

It would not be surprising that every former Pan American pilot or flight engineer who flew the freighters would have similar stories. Hauling cargo may not have been glamorous, but it must have been fun.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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

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:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on 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:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on 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:

To learn more about the history of this pioneering airline, click on the title below for preview of

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition

This book is available on eBay .

Another excellent book is Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer, which was published to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Pan Am’s founding. It contains more than 80 stories written by former Pan Am employees and international media friends who had personal experience with many of Pan Am’s key events during its history. It is the perfect companion to Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline Second Edition and can be purchased on Amazon.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, which is available on Amazon.

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