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:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People

For purchasing information, visit the puFor additional information about Pan American World Airways:blisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of  Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.”

Poster  Poster-1  54panamhawaii

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of  Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

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

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

The Pan Am Series – Part XXII: The Boeing 747

Boeing 747 Machat

Pan American Goes “Top of the World” With the 747

“Would you build it if I bought it?”

“Would you buy it if I built it?”

As legend has it, these were the utterances between Juan Trippe of Pan American and Bill Allen of Boeing while fishing from the Wild Goose in Puget Sound one summer’s day. By the end of their outing, there was, according to Bob Gandt in Skygods – The Fall of Pan Am, a verbal commitment to build an aircraft  what in Trippe’s mind would be a “stopgap airplane” top fill the void between the first generation jets –  the Boeing 707 and the DC-8 – and the yet-to-be-built Supersonic Transport, the SST.

Pan American had been enjoying unprecedented growth during the decade of the 1960s, with traffic, according to R.E.G. Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, increasing an average of about 15% per year. Business was booming and it was time to move forward. What was the next step? In Robert Daley’s An American Saga, the next step could have been the Supersonic Transport. At the time, the British and French were planning the Concorde. In the US, there were also plans for an SST, but the costs were beyond what the government could afford. Because of that, President Kennedy was put into a position as to whether to back the US project or not, and before he could decide, asked the then head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Najeeb Halaby (who would later become Pan Am’s Chairman) to ask Juan Trippe not to buy the foreign Concorde. Trippe, however, was aware that Kennedy was wavering and decided to force the President’s hand. He traveled to England and France in May 1963 and , according to Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul in The Chosen Instrument, “took an option on eight planes. . . [and] became the first airline other than Air France and B.O.A.C. to order a supersonic airliner”. This did not go over well with the President.

Shortly thereafter, however, President Kennedy “gave the signal for a commercial supersonic program to proceed and Trippe signed up for fifteen [Boeing] S.S.T.s.”

Unfortunately, the SST would not become operational for another ten years, and something needed to be done with the anticipated increase in airline travel. What would that be? According to Ron Davies, “Trippe had always been bolder than his contemporaries in going for larger aircraft; indeed he seemed to have followed a policy of ordering types which were typically twice the size of the previous generation. * * * [and] [t]he only way to increase capacity, apart from adding frequencies –  another method of coping with increased demand, but which was practically impossible, because of airport and airway congestion –  was to increase the aircraft size.” And that resulted in what Bob Gandt referred to as the “Everyman Airplane”: “The first jets had made world travel available to Everyman, not just the rich and elite. Now they had to build an airplane to satisfy the new yearning to travel – an Everyman airplane.” Thus lay the seeds for the Boeing 747.

By cajoling Bill Allen into such a project, according to Davies, “Juan Trippe went for broke.” To Bender and Altschul, it was a “spectacular gamble”. For Bill Allen of Boeing, according to Gandt, “[i]t would be the perfect swan song if he could step down knowing that he had launched the world’s mightiest ship of the sky. It would secure Boeing’s future well into the century. Or it could ruin Boeing“. The same fate faced Juan Trippe, according to Bender and Altschul, “by placing his company, its employees and its shareholders at enormous risk. If he judged correctly and was lucky to boot, Pan Am’s leadership would be maintained. If he was wrong or fate was cruel, the airline might well go bankrupt.”

On 22 December 1965, Juan Trippe and Bill Allen signed a Letter of Intent for the Boeing 747. On 13 April 1966, Pan American formally ordered twenty-five airplanes. But before the April agreement, a huge obstacle arose: On 30 March, President Johnson invited the Business Council to a dinner. Both Juan Trippe and Bill Allen were in attendance. During the dinner Johnson pleaded for austerity due to economic problems caused by the war in Southeast Asia. This jolted both Trippe and Allen, whose 747 project was not exactly austere. Was the project in jeopardy? After the dinner, Trippe, who had previously no success in having a personal meeting with Johnson, approached him to press his case. Johnson asked Trippe if anyone knew about the project and Trippe said “no, except for Bill Allen”.  Johnson then asked Trippe to be at the White House the next day “to see someone”. The next day Trippe was taken to the Pentagon to discuss the project with the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. At the time, another large capacity aircraft, known as the C-5A, was being developed for the Pentagon by Lockheed. McNamara pressed Trippe on the possibility of his waiting for a commercial version of the C-5A. Trippe argued his case for the 747 noting the impracticability of creating a commercial version of the C-5A. McNamara agreed and brought Trippe back to the White House where Johnson ordered that they “work it out”.  Both Trippe and Allen hammered it out with the White House and the Pentagon, and then went for approval from their respective Boards of Directors. With Johnson’s approval, the Pan Am directors were convinced. So convinced, that an option for an additional ten planes was authorized for incorporation into the contract, thus making it, according to Bender and Altschul, “the largest single order for a single aircraft model in the history of commercial aviation”.

Retired Pan American Captain John Marshall, who flew for the airline for years, wrote about the development of the Boeing 747 in an article that appeared in Airways Magazine. Below are excerpts from that article:

“Pan Am’s Juan Trippe was a visionary executive who dreamed in only one dimension: big.  Pan Am was the launch customer for the first successful jet transport, the Boeing 707, and it was Trippe who saw the need for an even larger airplane to keep up with the burgeoning growth in air traffic in the early ’70s.  In the mid-60’s, when the 707 was still a novelty in the world’s skies, Trippe took his ideas to Boeing’s Bill Allen.  He and Allen were alumni of the old school, both of them men of courage and daring, and after many long and sometimes contentious meetings between Pan Am’s planners and Boeing’s engineers, the decision was made to go ahead with the giant aircraft. 

“It was a tremendous gamble.  The 747 would embrace new design and technology that up to then had only existed in the dreams of engineers.  The technical hurdles that had to be cleared were enormous.  The new airplane would carry up to 500 passengers; one of the early questions was, how do you evacuate 500 people from an airplane in just 90 seconds?  The FAA, approached by Boeing to relax its 90-second evacuation criteria, dug in its heels and remained firm.  90 seconds was the limit, or the airplane would not be certified.  Engineers wrestled for days with the problem, and eventually redesigned the interior of the cabin to include not just one center aisle, but two, running the entire length of the airplane, with cross-aisles at each of the four main entry doors (there was an additional over-wing escape exit).  The doors were redesigned to permit egress of a staggered two-abreast.

“Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the aircraft’s designers was that of the engines.  While Pratt & Whitney was working on the prototype of the huge JT-9D engine, it had yet to be tested, and it was far from certain that it would be ready in time to mate with the 747.  Boeing had bitter memories of the B-29 bomber and its star-crossed marriage with the Wright Cyclone engines, which had a nasty habit of catching fire and burning off the wing.  The giant JT-9D engine would be the first jet engine mated to an airframe that had not earned its stripes on the wing of a military airplane.  It was an enormous gamble.

“The initial design specifications of the new airplane had the takeoff gross weight pegged at 550,000 pounds.  As the 747 design grew and matured, it put on weight, the bane of every aeronautical engineer.  A massive effort was directed at slimming-down the airplane, and eventually an all-up weight of 710,000 pounds became the final design target.  Four engines, each producing 41,000 pounds of thrust, would be required to get the 747 airborne, and as the airframe design came closer to being finalized, Pratt was way behind the power curve.  Engine development and production proceeded so slowly that the entire project threatened to sink under its own weight.  At one point there were so many engine-less airframes sitting on the ramp at the Everett production facility that their cost exceeded the net worth of the Boeing company.

“The early JT-9D-3 engines that powered the early model 747s were fraught with problems; they suffered from frequent compressor stalls, and would overtemp at the drop of a hat.  It quickly became a procedure that once the engines were running, while the airplane was on the ground at least one of the three cockpit crewmembers had to constantly monitor the engine temperatures for overheat.  Even the first scheduled passenger flight of the giant airplane was delayed several hours because of engine problems, severe enough to force an ignominious change to a backup aircraft.  The sheer weight of the engine and nacelle resulted in a new, heretofore unknown phenomenon, the “ovalizing” of the engine itself.  Its weight was literally pulling the engine out of round.  One of Boeing’s engineers put the situation into cleverly-phrased perspective.  “We have an unround situation,” he said.

“Engineers devised a unique, space-age solution.  It required that the largest amount of weight be placed in the smallest package, in the cowling of the engine itself.  The result was the use of one of the densest metals known, spent uranium, which was embedded in the engine cowl.  It solved the problem

“Trippe envisioned the 747 as a bridge aircraft which would carry the airlines through the adolescent years of the jet age until the supersonic transports, or SSTs, came along.  He insisted on the double deck design for the jumbo, with the flight deck perched high above the main level, so that when the airplane had outlived its passenger-carrying days, it could readily be converted into a very economic cargo carrier.  The nose cone would swing upward to reveal a nearly 200-foot straight-in main deck, accommodating cargo of a size and weight that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier.

747 Cargo

“Here the visionary pioneer made a major miscalculation.  The SST would be personified only by the Anglo-French Concorde, and even then only a few would be built.  Esthetic and graceful, it was nearly an economic disaster.  Designed when jet fuel was literally pennies per gallon, by the time it had completed what was then the most exhaustive test program ever devised, the oil crisis of the early ’70s had made the airplane almost prohibitively expensive to operate.  It soon became obvious that there would not be squadrons of supersonic transports gracing the skies, criss-crossing the oceans and continents to the world’s capitals, slicing flying times from hours and hours to hours and minutes.  The United State’s answer to the Angle-French Concorde, Boeing’s 2707, was slain by the stroke of a Congressional pen.  The B-747 would have to carry the transoceanic burden, at least for the foreseeable future.

“The introduction of the Boeing 747 represented a quantum leap in air transport technology and design.  Twice as big as its predecessor the 707, the Jumbo not only dwarfed anything it might encounter on the world’s airport ramps, but provided wonderful grist for anecdotal tales that were told among the airlines that were fortunate to have been at the head of the line to fly her.  Untold numbers of photos were snapped of comely stewardesses (still so-called in the early ’70s) standing in the cowling of the huge Pratt JT-9 engines, surrounded by the great shroud that enclosed the big fans.  “Artist’s renderings” was a fanciful term applied to the surrealistic drawings of the new 747 that appeared in promotional material.  The airplane was parked at a futuristic terminal, with a jetway conveniently nestled against each of her eight main entry doors.  There were piano bars (an innovation that briefly came to pass with at least one jumbo operator) and movie amphitheaters, a Radio City in the sky.  Passengers would be able to pass to and fro, as though attending a wonderful, celestial cocktail party. 

Pan American’s 1967 Annual Report noted that its order for the Boeing 747 “led the airline industry to a new generation of heavy duty transports. . .[and that] new standards of passenger comfort and convenience will be introduced. Simplified ticketing, computerized check-in and automated baggage handling will be provided. Pan Am’s 747s will have two aisles and seat 366 passengers.” In the 1968 Annual Report, Pan American noted that the “year 1969 will mark the beginning of the second stage of the jet age – the time of the Boeing 747 and other wide-bodied, advance-technology jet transports. Pan Am again is the leader. * * * Pan Am will be the first to put it into service to the major world markets we serve. Pan Am’s fleet of thirty-three 747s will be the largest. * * * Pan Am’s operating and marketing plans for the 747 program have already been formulated. Ground facilities are also being prepared. The men and women of Pan Am at home and abroad will be ready to put the plane in service”.

Development of the Boeing 747 as described above, was not without other challenges affecting performance and costs – the addition of a spiral staircase, for example. Building the massive aircraft also required a larger  assembly plant. That was achieved by construction of a new plant at Everett, Washington, near Paine Field.  In addition, Pan Am built a maintenance facility and extended the Pan American terminal to accommodate the big jetliners.

The illustrations below were taken from Pan American’s 1968 annual report.

The first 747 was delivered on time and was christened by the First Lady Pat Nixon on 15 January 1970. Six days later, on 21 January, the first commercial flight of a wide-body jet, Pan American flight 2, was scheduled for departure at 1900 hours for London. Clipper Young America was assigned the duty. Unfortunately, an overheating engine delayed the departure and also required a substitute aircraft, Clipper Constitution.  Never-the-less, at 0152 hours on 22 January, the 747 departed New York and arrived later that morning in London, completing an historic flight, opening the door to new era of commercial airline operations and making the Boeing 747 one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world.

In preparing this article, the following sources were used: John Marshall’s article in Airways Magazine, “The Big Jumbo”; The Chosen Instrument by Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul; An American Saga –  Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, by Robert Daley; Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, by Ron Davies; and Skygods – The Fall of Pan Am, by Robert Gandt; and Pan American’s 1967 and 1968 annual reports.

On interesting side-note:  Pan Am’s order for twenty-five 747s and an option for ten more in 1966 was the biggest ever at the time. In November 2013 Emirates airline rewrote all records in civil aviation with an order for 150 Boeing 777X, comprising 35 Boeing 777-8Xs and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs, plus 50 purchase rights; and an additional 50 Airbus A380 aircraft.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of  Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

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

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

 

The Pan Am Series – Part XVII: Death of a Grand Lady

Clipper Witch of the Wave at Sao Paolo, taken in 1991 (photo by Normando Carvalho, Jr)

Clipper Witch of the Wave at Sao Paulo in 1991 (photo by Normando Carvalho, Jr)

Memories of a Last Flight

On 4 December 1991, Pan American World Airways ceased all operations. The night before, Captain John Marshall flew the last flight from New York Kennedy Airport to Sao Paulo, Brazil, flight 211, a Boeing 747, departing at 8:30 p.m. Arriving in Sao Paulo the next day, he was awakened from his post-flight sleep by a phone call advising him that the airline had ceased to exist and that all aircraft needed to be out of South America that afternoon. In “Death of a Grand Lady”, he writes about his experiences. The story first appeared in the February 2001 issue of Airways Magazine.

Below is his story in its entirety:

“It was a miserable early December night.  The ride to the airport seemed to take forever; riding in the last row of the airport bus I sat and brooded as the rain pounded against the windows and the wind howled.  I was in uniform, overnight bag on the seat beside me, attracting glances from the few other passengers as we boarded, but then I always did when in uniform.  Was it my imagination or was this night different?

“I was scheduled to take the airline’s last flight of the night from Kennedy to Sao Paulo, Brazil, an eleven hour undertaking that would arrive in time for the unbelievable Sao Paulo rush hour.  We would snatch what sleep we could during the day, and then operate the return flight that evening, landing back in New York just as the sun was coming up.  Two all-nighters back to back, but only away a day and a half.  Tough, but productive.

Pan Am’s last timetable with map, schedule page showing Captain Marshall’s flight and 747 configuration.

“I disembarked from the bus at our “new” terminal, dingy and uninviting.  Our venerable and traditional Worldport, once the most modern and innovative structure of its kind in the country, had been usurped by our successor on the North Atlantic, Delta Airlines.  We had been displaced into the aging facility next door that had been hastily vacated by Delta.  Rumor and conjecture had been running rampant throughout the airline for weeks.  Delta had appeared during the summer, a White Knight making all the right noises, trading for our fabled Atlantic routes along with airplanes and crews, in return for a promise to support the New Pan Am, an emaciated airline returning to its Latin American roots.  Now as Pan Am was poised to exit from the ignominious bankruptcy that had plagued and embarrassed us, we would survive and fly on, albeit in a bit of a different form.

 

Overhead view of Terminal 2 (left), Pan Am's terminal after Delta took over the Worldport (Terminal 3, right)(photo from Airchive)

Post 1991 overhead view of Terminal 2 (left), Pan Am’s terminal after Delta took over the Worldport (Terminal 3, right)(photo from Airchive)

“I stopped at the desk in the tiny make-shift Operations Office and met the rest of the crew.  Due to the length of the flight there would be five of us, three pilots and two engineers.  The two first officers and I went over the paperwork while the plumbers went to the aircraft.  Then I climbed the stairs to the flight attendant’s briefing room, and walked into a buzzsaw.  I heard the latest, and nastiest, rumor for the first time.  I walked in and twelve voices all clamored at once,  ‘Is it true, captain?  Is Delta really pulling out of the deal?  What would happen then?’  It was a cacophony of shrill anxiety, with questions that I could not answer.

“This was new to me, but if even a bit of it were true it wasn’t good.  Voices swirled around me as I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. A tiny sick feeling niggled in the pit of my stomach as I quickly finished the briefing and hurried out to the aircraft

“A late-night ennui seemed to have settled over the terminal, and the unending drizzle outside did nothing to dispel the gloomy atmosphere.  I strolled quickly through the boarding area, alone with my thoughts.  The milling throng of waiting, restless passengers may as well not have existed.

“Once aboard, I settled into the long-familiar pre-departure routine, losing myself in the comfortable ritual.  For awhile it seemed like just another flight.  Passenger boarding and cargo loading was seamless, and without a glitch.  It was almost as though we were being hurried away.  We pushed back exactly on schedule, more the result of the late hour than anything else, and for once the lousy weather did not hold us up.  Only fifteen minutes from push-back to takeoff.  They should all be this efficient!

“At top of climb we settled into the task of tuning the big Boeing to the knife-edge efficiency of cruise flight, a delicate exercise designed to extract the maximum benefit from each pound of fuel.  Hurrying south into the night, the familiar checkpoints passed quickly, and soon we picked up the call sign of  Clipper 441, the nightly service from Miami to Rio.  Captained by an old friend, we chatted into the shank of the morning about the chain of ominous developments that threatened to overwhelm the airline.

“We crossed the Amazon at Santarem, with the eastern sky beginning to gray on the horizon.  Down across the endless green rain forest, we touched down at the sprawling Sao Paulo Airport almost exactly on schedule.  It was a beautiful early summer morning, and I was very much looking forward to a breakfast beer and a long nap.  Little did I know that for Pan American World Airways, this was a day that would live in infamy.

Baggage tag for Sao Paulo from 1950s era.

Baggage tag for Sao Paulo from 1950s era.

  ViewfromAir-SaoPaulo   guarulhos-airport-c-wing

Recent views of Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport

“The telephone rang, rudely, just past noon.  I came swimming up out of a deep sleep, confused and disoriented, groping for the insistent instrument.  The Pan Am Manager for South America was on the line, and his first words erased all traces of sleep from my brain.  In essence, it was over.  The airline had ceased to exist, just like that.  Decades of colorful history, of pioneering routes and opening oceans and continents to air commerce, all of it gone, in a stroke.  ‘All of the airplanes must be out of South America by this afternoon, Captain,’  he said.  ‘Your aircraft is turning around in Montevideo immediately, and will be back in Sao Paulo by three.  You must contact your crew and any others who may be at the hotel.  I suggest you contact the local station manager to make the arrangements.  The airplane must be away by dark.’  He rang off, and left me pacing the room with my jumbled thoughts.

“The next couple of hours passed in a blur.  By some miracle I managed to contact everyone in the crew and pass on the sad news.  I talked to the Sao Paulo station manager, the cheery Brazilian who had met me at my airplane just a few hours earlier.  ‘We must have some sort of catering,’  I said to him. ‘I’m sure no one has eaten anything since early this morning, and it’s going to be a long night.’  I tried to think of all the little details, to cover all the bases.

“Our crowded crew bus left the hotel at three.  It was a somber trip.  Tears flowed as questions and endless speculation filled the air.  The bus hurried through the mysteriously light traffic and sped toward the outskirts of the sprawling city.  It was as though our departure was being hastened by some dark and sinister force.  At the airport the transformation was nothing less than appalling.  The orderly infrastructure that we had left just hours before was now chaos.  All of the signs bearing the airline’s name had mysteriously disappeared, counters were deserted, computers unplugged and stacked haphazardly wherever there was space.  The few passengers we met stared at us as though we had some terrible contagious disease. I left the cabin crew in a forlorn little knot in front of the now anonymous ticket counter and went backstage looking for the operations office.  By mistake I opened a door into a room full of employees — it was a meeting of some kind, and not a happy one.  I could make a good guess at the subject.  The only sounds were muffled sobs; I hastily closed the door and moved on.  The operations office was manned by a harried clerk manning the one lone working computer.  He glared at us as he tossed the paperwork on the counter, as though all of this was our fault.  He explained that we were to ferry the airplane to New York; the crew that had brought it in from Uruguay would remain on board.  He was hurrying us along just like everyone else, anxious to be rid of this dreadful contagion.

“Finally there was nothing more to do.  The station manager appeared and covered the details of the departure.  The airplane was parked in a deserted corner of the massive airport, and he had managed to have it catered, thank God.  My stomach was reminding me that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast on the inbound flight, eons ago.  Our unhappy little brood gathered around and we headed for the bus that would carry us to the last departure, the last airplane we would ever call Clipper.  There was a hurried consultation between the station manager and an assistant, and then a quick question:  ‘Captain, we have a favor to ask.  The mother of one of our agents here has been visiting her from New York. Now she will have no way to return without paying full fare.  Do you think you could take her?’

“I almost laughed aloud.  What could they do, fire me?  ‘Of course, señor. That should be no problem.’  They could have gone out front and sold tickets on the sidewalk, for all I cared.

“In less than half an hour we were airborne.  We were a miserable band of about fifty crewmembers plus one somber Brazilian lady who spoke little English.  As we took the runway I keyed the mike.  ‘Sao Paulo Tower, this is Clipper One Zero Two Two.  Request permission to make a low pass over the airport on departure.’

“’Negative, Clipper.  Permission denied due to traffic.’ Short, terse, and to the point.  There was to be no sentimental farewell here.  To them it was just another departure.  I thought briefly about doing it anyway, then said to hell with it.

“We took off into the lowering sun and set the nose of the big Clipper northward toward the northern hemisphere winter.  I thought briefly about what we would do if we had any sort of problem and had to divert.  What would happen then?  What would we do for support, for maintenance if we needed it?  Would there be money for hotels for my oversized crew if we had to overnight?  All questions with no answers.  I thought about the airplane that was carrying us home on our last ever journey.  She was a 747-122, one of several we flew that had once belonged to United Airlines.  What would happen to her now?  Would she be bound for an ignominious grave in some southwestern desert?

“We had two full crews aboard, and the pilots offered to share in the duties, an offer that normally I would have gratefully accepted.  Tonight, however, I was reluctant to give up my seat to anyone; this was a flight that none of us wanted to end.  In ordinary times this takeoff and landing would have been the first officer’s, but not tonight.  He had accepted the inevitable with grace and a smile.  Finally I relinquished my seat and wandered back into the darkened cabin.  Little knots of people gathered in the galleys, pools of light amidst the great cabins now dark and empty, almost sinister in the silence.  I sat in one of the luxurious first class seats, seats that by all rights should have been filled with happy, chattering passengers who would pay my salary.  Tonight there was no one.  I tried to doze and could not, and finally gave up and went back to the flight deck.  As I opened the door I had a sudden feeling that this was all a cruel hoax, that everything was just as it was.  The airplane roared into the night, the three crew-members watching the performance with studied indifference, it was like a thousand other nights, quiet and comforting.

“I got back into the left seat, savoring the sounds and the night; the benign drone of the engines, the majesty of the December sky.  I wondered when I would ever experience them again.  For lack of anything better to do,  I decided to see if I could raise the company.  I dialed up Houston Radio and asked for a phone patch.  To my surprise, Pan Am dispatch answered almost immediately.  We chatted for a moment about routine things; I dragged out the brief conversation.  We were both reluctant to sign off, each of us recognizing the finality of the contact.  ‘You’re the last one, Clipper,’ he said.  Suddenly tears welled in my eyes, for the first time the reality of this unspeakable scenario hit home.

“Then finally it was time to go, to close this unhappy chapter.  We started down into the early morning glitter of New York City; it was cold and windy, the air crisp and sparkly.  At two a.m. we were the only traffic, and we cut the corners onto the runway 31 Left ILS.  None of the controllers knew what to say, and we didn’t either.  We taxied to a far corner of the sprawling ramp in front of the International Arrivals Building where we were greeted by one lone maintenance type whose sole contribution to the proceedings was to install the gear pins and wheel a maintenance ladder up to the left forward door.  He wore a Delta Airlines uniform; I had never seen him before.  He was gone almost as soon as he arrived.  The descent from the airplane was almost worse than the flight itself, the flight attendants teetering down the rickety ladder with tote bags and flight kits, following slowly one by one.  There was a Volkswagen van of undetermined vintage poised to take us into the customs hall, where the one lone inspector sympathetically waved us through.

“And so it was over.  What the future would hold for all of us none could foresee, only that this chapter was closed.  We had had a grand run, dancing with one of the grand ladies of the industry.  Growing gracefully beautiful in her middle age when we met, she had moved with stately grace even as she grew older.  We waltzed happily together into her sunset years, and it was only later that she showed the lines and ravages of age and neglect.  None of us will ever forget her.”

Captain John Marshall served as a pilot for Pan Am from July 1964 until 4 December 1991.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of  Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

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

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

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

An American Clipper Ship circa 1870

An American Clipper Ship circa 1870

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Clipper

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

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

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

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

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

Sikorsky S-40 – Pictured is the Southern Clipper

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

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

Clipper Pride of the Ocean at London Heathrow

Clipper Pride of the Ocean at London Heathrow Airport

Clipper Dashing Wave at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport

Clipper Dashing Wave at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport

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

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

M-130 - China Clipper

M-130 – China Clipper

Boeing 314

Boeing 314

Boeing 377

Boeing 377

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

The "Bridge" of the Boeing 314

The “Bridge” of the Boeing 314

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

Interior of Boeing 707 in All-Economy Charter Configuration.

Interior of Boeing 707 in All-Economy Charter Configuration.

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

SS United States  (photo credit Charles Anderson)

SS United States
(photo credit Charles Anderson)

Bridge of a Roll On/Roll Off merchant ship.

Bridge of a Roll On/Roll Off merchant ship.

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

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

1958 Annual Report

1958 Annual Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greatest Airliner of All Time?

Pan American World Airways Boeing 707-321 - Clipper Stargazer - at Los Angeles International Airport sometime in 1969

Pan American World Airways Boeing 707-321 – Clipper Stargazer – at Los Angeles International Airport sometime in 1969

 

Boeing 707's of Two Iconic Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport sometime in 1969.

Boeing 707’s of Two Iconic Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport sometime in 1969.

 

It has been suggested that the Boeing 707 could be regarded as one of the greatest airliners of all time.  It was the aircraft that launched daily scheduled passenger jet operations across the Atlantic and eventually around the world.  Sadly, it was instrumental in the demise of trans-Atlantic ocean liner crossings and passenger rail services in the United States.  However, the aircraft and its successors, aided by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and the liberalization of economic regulation in the rest of the world, have made air travel available to the masses.  Interestingly, the availablity of air travel to the masses was not that recent a phenomenon.  Back in the post World War II and 1950’s era, Pan American World Airways pioneered “Tourist” travel with the DC-6B.  Affordable fares were offered to points in Pan Am’s worldwide system.  I was one of the beneficiaries when my family traveled through Central and South America in the late 1950s.  Below is a picture of the iconic DC-6B:

Pan American World Airways DC-6B, the "Super 6", Clipper Midnight Sun.

Pan American World Airways DC-6B, the “Super 6”, Clipper Midnight Sun.

Cover of my Book

Cover of my Book

Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

My first published book! I had collected a lot of Pan Am memorabilia over the years and thought it would be nice to be put unto some sort of scrap book to preserve them. What resulted was this book. So many people do not know about the important contributions Pan Am made to commercial air transportation, and I put this book together so that those interested in airlines and airline history would get a quick visual summary of Pan Am’s accomplishments in its short life.