Aviation Regulation – History and Practice – Part 4

Aviation Regulation – History and Practice

Part Four

This part covers the Post-War and the Regulated and Protectionist Era and the Role of Government in International Civil Aviation with a focus on the Cold War Era.

POST-WAR AND THE REGULATED AND PROTECTIONIST ERA 

United States Commercial Aviation

Often referred to as the “glory days of airline travel”, the Post-War and the Regulated and Protectionist Era witnessed the manufacture of large capacity, long-haul, piston driven aircraft, the introduction of and transition to commercial jet airliners that ushered in the “Jet Age”, and finally the development of high capacity, wide-bodied aircraft that started the path toward the end to economic regulation of the privately-owned U.S. airlines.

ConstellationIn the United States, the trunk carriers began the transition to peace-time operations, enjoying the technology developed during the war. There was a surplus of former military transport and bomber aircraft that were acquired by the trunk airlines and modified for commercial service. These surplus aircraft were also purchased by entrepreneurs who began to transport people and cargo on an ad hoc basis, with no fixed routes or schedules. Thus emerged a new type air carrier to be known as the non-scheduled or “non-skeds” to the public or as “large irregular carriers” to the CAB, which was powerless to regulate them under the current statutes. This was remedied by an amendment to the Civil Aeronautics Act that created supplemental air carriers and supplemental air transportation requiring these carriers to possess certificates of public convenience and necessity in order to operate as an air carrier.

In addition, the post-war years witnessed the granting of new “feeder” routes by the CAB. Although the trunk carriers claimed a right to these routes under their grandfather rights, the CAB nevertheless granted these new routes to another new class of air carrier known as “Local Service Carriers”, each with a regionally centered route system. Airlines such as Allegheny, Mohawk, Lake Central, Frontier, Bonanza, Ozark and Southern were all certificated during the 1945-1951 period. Because of the thin markets served by these carriers, they were awarded subsidies to keep operating in these markets.

These new air carriers, added to the already existing trunk carriers, meant an overcrowding of American airspace, and the regulation in place for air traffic control was soon considered antiquated.

In 1956, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Edward Peck Curtis as Special Assistant for Aviation and was named to head a commission to study the dramatic increase in airline traffic and to propose ways to deal with airplane traffic jams at airports. This was followed by and event, however, that shook the very foundation of air traffic control.

800px-1956_Grand_Canyon_mid-air_collisionOn the morning of 30 June 1956, United Airlines flight 718 collided with TWA flight 2 over the Grand Canyon. With 128 fatalities this was at the time the largest loss of life in an aviation accident. This high profile accident, which took place in uncontrolled airspace, raised public concern for airline safety.

As a result, in 1957, Congress passed the Airways Modernization Act that established the Airways Modernization Board (AMB) headed by General Elwood Quesada.  The mandate of the Board was the development and modernization of the national system of navigation and air traffic control facilities to serve the present and future needs of civil and military aviation.

Two subsequent mid-air collisions between military aircraft and commercial airliners, one near Las Vegas, Nevada (United Airlines flight 736) on April 21, 1958, where 49 died, and another involving Capital Airlines over Brunswick, Maryland a month later on May 20 that cost 11 lives, showed further imperfections in the regulation of air traffic, particularly the need for unified control of airspace for civil and military flights.

The day after the Brunswick collision, Senator Mike Monroney and Representative Oren Harris introduced the Federal Aviation Act and two days after Brunswick, a stopgap presidential proclamation was issued that (1) required military jet aircraft to fly by Instrument Flight Rules while in the civil airways below 25,000 ft. (later reduced to 20,000 ft.) and (2) prohibited jet penetration swoops from high to low altitudes through civil airways.

Citing “recent midair collisions of aircraft occasioning tragic losses of human life,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the White House’s support of the legislation on 13 June 1958. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 passed Congress and was signed into law by Eisenhower on 23 August.

Taking a comprehensive approach to the federal role in fostering and regulating civilNewsign aeronautics and air commerce, the new law repealed the Air Commerce Act of 1926, the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, the Airways Modernization Act of 1957, and those portions of various presidential plans dealing with civil aviation. The legislation assigned the functions exercised under these repealed laws to two independent agencies — a new Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and a Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

Provisions of the Act included:

Established the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA, later Federal Aviation Administration).

Abolished the CAA, and empowered the FAA to oversee and regulate safety in the airline industry and the use of American airspace by both military and civilian aircraft.

CAB continued as an independent agency and retained jurisdiction over route allocation, accident investigation and fare applications.

International routes subject to bilateral agreements between the US and the country involved and the CAB designated the carrier to operate the route.

DOT-FAA_Headquarters_by_Matthew_BisanzThe twenty years following the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was characterized as an era of strict economic regulation in the United States and government protectionism in the rest of the world. The privately owned U.S. flagged airlines were restricted by the CAB as to where they could operate and what fares they could charge. Routes were awarded after long and costly proceedings where a carrier needed to prove the market applied for11.Wash-CAB actually needed the service. Fares were also subject to board approval and were calculated using a formula known as the Standard Industry Fare Level (SIFL). A small handful U.S. carriers operated international routes, most notably Pan American, TWA and Northwest, with Pan American being the dominant carrier and considered the “Chosen Instrument” for the United States.

Below are the regulated-era route systems and typical aircraft of the U.S. carriers American, Pan American, TWA and United:

AA 1976

MAP 1966 Sep

TWA 1978

UAL 74

DC-7B-N339AA-SAN-122562-860x539proctor

707-123B-N7522A-SAN-1263-860x486proctor

Electra - Proctor

DC-9 Mark Hansen

707 inaugural flight Orly

377-3 RA Scholefield

1049G-N7108C-LAX-564-860x461 proctor

707-131-N743TW-LAX-41863-870x504 proctor

DC-8 at LAX

DC-7-N6331C-SAN-dupe-860x503 proctor

On 15 October 1966, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) was established as the federal Cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation. It began operation on April 1, 1967 and is headed by the United States Secretary of Transportation.

Prior to its establishment, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation administered the functions now associated with it. In 1965, Najeeb Halaby, then Administrator of the FAA, suggested to President Lyndon B. Johnson that transportation be elevated to a cabinet-level post, and that the FAA be folded into the DOT.

DOT’s mission is to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”

Usdot_headquarters

Provisions related to air transportation include:

The FAA became an agency within the department.

The CAB remained an independent regulatory agency with jurisdiction over economic matters (routes and rates/tariffs).

Established the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that took over the CAB’s accident investigatory function. NTSB was severed from DOT by the Independent Safety Board Act of 1974.

International Commercial Aviation

In the international arena, the foreign flagged airlines in the Post War era were largelyAir France state-owned and were controlled by their respective civil aviation authorities. International routes were governed by bilateral agreements between the countries involved and fares were agreed to at Traffic Conferences organized by IATA. The airline of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot, and airlines of Eastern European countries were also state-owned.

Tu114 Pereslautsev Alex

Foreign-flag carriers operating international routes were generally identified as being the “Chosen Instrument” of their owning countries.

377_boac

DC-7C-JA6302-LAX-3460-860x554 proctor

Government Role in International Civil Aviation

One very important factor during this era was the government role in international civil aviation, best illustrated by how governments dealt with aviation issues in three main areas: ICAO, IATA and bilateral Air Services Agreements (ASA). This era was dominated by the Cold War, and the international airline industry was in many respects, though not obviously, a pawn in the struggle between the super powers at the time.

Political considerations became apparent early, when, in 1947, ICAO became an agency ofIberia the United Nations.  In one case, as a condition of acceptance of ICAO into the UN, the Soviet Union demanded the expulsion of Spain from ICAO.  Spain was then considered a key terminal and a source or destination for a substantial amount of traffic, and its expulsion hampered the development of air facilities and aids to navigation that were essential to orderly air transport. In another case involving South Africa, thirty-one African nations demanded the expulsion of that country because of its apartheid policy. The attempt failed because of failure to meet the required advance notice.

Government involvement in IATA activities, although a non-governmental organization, was also prevalent. Under its Articles of Association, traffic or rate conferences were called whenever necessary. Each member had one vote, and each member had veto rights. These conferences made a variety of decisions, but only those that were unanimously agreed on and expressed in the form of a resolution were binding. However, because most international airlines at the time were state-owned, these resolutions would not be binding on the international airline until its government approved. Further, a member would not be bound if it certified the resolution was not coincident with the laws or official policy of its government. Despite these restrictions, however, government approval of IATA resolutions during this period was overwhelming. This can be attributed to the fact that most international airlines received instructions prior to attending the conferences and in some cases, airline representatives were actually state or government employees disguised as officials of the state-owned airline.

The government role in the industry, however, was most intense and interesting at the bilateral level. This was particularly true during the Cold War and the role of government was interpreted in terms of foreign policy. The international airline could either be an instrument of foreign policy or it could reflect or parallel the foreign policy of a country. A country may also use its international airline to gain political favors from other countries. Here, the key to successful negotiations was bargaining power, or the ability to influence other countries in a way that would contribute to the economic success of the home country’s airline. It was also entirely possible that an airline’s profitability could be damaged because something of value to a national airline could be traded away by government to meet a governmental objective.

For the most part the countries of the international airlines exchanged routes on a reciprocal basis and when both had equal bargaining power. A country with greater power, however, can demand more for its routes. In a 1957 case, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines appliedDC-7C-PH-DSC-KLM-IDL-661-Bob-Proctor-860x499 for additional routes in the United States. The U.S. government was not prepared to grant these additional routes because the Netherlands had nothing to offer in return. To the Dutch, KLM was one of the Netherlands’ biggest industries that was a symbol of Dutch internationalism and initiative. Thus, to obtain the desired routes, the Dutch offered a continuing cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This was acceptable to the US and the routes were granted. The granting of airline rights to foreign governments in exchange for political support, military bases or troop contributions to NATO were regular bargaining tools of the U.S. in order to maintain its military superiority over the Soviet Union.

ASAs can also be subject to disputes between the parties and at times an injured party might resort to counter-measures to protect its interests. This was illustrated in a case between Pan American and Air France in connection with the bilateral ASA between the U.S. and France. Under that agreement Pan American was authorized a scheduled service between Paris and London. However, because of the aggressive subsidies being provided 747-121-N740PA-LAX-102184-860x509proctorby the French government to Air France, Pan American decided to substitute a smaller, more economical  aircraft for the 747 already scheduled on that route (gauge change). The French government refused on the basis ranging from assertions of national honor (Pan American flying anything smaller than a 747 into Paris would be an affront) to the more pragmatic reason that Air France would enjoy the prospect of forcing its competitor to run a grossly unprofitable route (with the 747). Finally, the French compelled Pan American to cease its flights to Paris. The U.S. government proposed arbitration to resolve the dispute, but for two years the French refused. The U.S. eventually made a reprisal by suspending Air France’s Paris-Los Angeles route, long established under the ASA.

This got the French government’s attention and France agreed to arbitration. The issues were (1) whether Pan American could change gauge and (2) whether the U.S. could unilaterally suspend Air France’s route to Los Angeles. The first issue was resolved in favor of Pan American. In the case of the second issue, the French argued that as the ASA provided for arbitration, it was impermissible for the U.S. to engage in unilateral self-help measures. The arbitrator ruled, however, that it was France that had been setting up707-328-AF-LAX-760-Bob-Proctor-860x474 barriers by not agreeing to arbitration and that it was only the U.S.’s retaliatory move terminating the Los Angeles route that brought France to the table. In short, the arbitrator ruled that counter-measures were a necessary part of the punch and counter-punch often needed to get parties to submit their disputes to arbitration or other method of binding settlement.

One point made in this case was that in any use of counter-measures, there could always be a risk of escalation. France could have cut off Pan American’s New York-Paris route and then the U.S. could have retaliated by economic or other sanctions outside the air transport sector, and so on. The point here is that although the underlying reasons for the dispute were aviation related, there could have been other non-aviation factors driving the actions of the French government.

Beyond the government role in ASAs, and as alluded to above, an international airline during this era could be a reflection of or parallel the foreign policy of its country. A good example of this is Aeroflot, then the only international airline of the Soviet Union. As previously mentioned the Soviet Union did not attend the Chicago Convention. The Soviet policy at the time was that of isolationism and civil aviation was kept at a low priority. This changed in the 1950s when the Soviet government switched to a more internationalist policy in relation to the Eastern Bloc countries, and it was reflected in Aeroflot’s opening of new routes to capitals in Eastern Europe. The 1960s also witnessed some dramatic changes after the switch from the Khrushchev regime to the Brezhnev-Kosygin regime. Here the policy changed to greater flexibility toward the Western powers, and Aeroflot began operating to countries outside the Soviet bloc and by 1967 almost all Western European capitals. In 1968, after several years of negotiations, service was inaugurated between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The agreement best illustrates the concepts of political considerations in bilateral negotiations and the notion of the “Chosen Instrument”. The airlines involved were Pan American and Aeroflot.

If there was any route in Pan American’s history that could be designated as a “Chosen Instrument” route, the U.S.-U.S.S.R. could be that route. Pan American was the selected airline because it was recognized as the primary U.S.-flag carrier as manifested by the So16A-Hambletonviet Union’s aviation officials making the initial contact directly with Juan Trippe. After reporting the contact to the U.S. State Department and the Civil Aeronautics Board, Trippe was authorized to negotiate with the Soviets on key issues for an ASA between the two countries. However, given the political climate, it can be reasonably inferred that political considerations also played a role in formulation of the final agreement between the two countries and both Pan American and Aeroflot were instruments of those considerations, and therefore instruments of both countries’ foreign policy, hence,  “Chosen Instruments”.

For Pan American, a private enterprise as opposed to the state-owned Aeroflot, the operation was a money loser and the competition was not on a level playing field. Quite simply, Pan American could not sell tickets in the Soviet Union and was at a tremendous economic disadvantage. Unfortunately, there was no provision for a subsidy to a U.S. flag carrier operating at an economic disadvantage in an international market at the government’s bidding. Pan American eventually suspended the losing operation but did so when U.S.-Soviet relations were souring. It was not until relations began to improve between the two countries in the mid to late 1980s did the service resume, in 1986, later crowned with a non-stop 747 service in 1988.

59-IL-62-cropped

From the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Aeroflot grew rapidly and by 1973, had set a record for route expansion, operating under sixty-five bilateral agreements with other countries. These changes from isolation to a world-wide presence could be considered a reflection of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy at the time, or it could have been viewed as a challenge to the U.S. superiority in air transport. Whatever the case, the Soviet policy of détente was based on political and economic weakness. There were three basic reasons for this: (1) the Sino-Soviet Conflict, in which China had survived the Cultural Revolution and gained strength in the international arena; (2) the avoidance of Western European unity, which could be a strategic threat and a threat in itself to Eastern Europe and the Soviet control of Eastern Europe; and (3) the weakened Soviet economy, which had found the Soviets lagging behind the U.S., especially in consumer goods. The policy was designed to effect technological cooperation with the West, avoid a political struggle on two fronts (China at one end, the West at the other) and increase political influence in Europe. In 1973, Aeroflot concluded a Trans-Siberian route exchange (connecting Europe and Japan through Moscow, thereby saving time and mileage) with Japan Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France.

The Trans-Siberian route was considered important because it impacted the bargaining power of both the U.S., where travel between Japan and Europe was through Anchorage, Alaska, and the Middle East, which had bargaining power with Fifth Freedom rights. By IL62 JAP Aeroflot Malcolm Nasongranting this route to Japan Airlines and the European airlines, the Soviet Union effectively diminished the U.S. and Middle East bargaining power in this market. In addition, this Soviet move made possible increased influence in both Japan and Western Europe.

Whether the Soviet activities at the time were a threat to U.S. leadership is questionable. First, the Soviet aircraft were well behind those of the U.S. technologically and were more expensive to operate; secondly, the airline service offered was not consumer-oriented and was reputed to be deplorable; and third, Aeroflot was not a member of IATA at the time. However, the view at the time was that the rapid Soviet growth was a bid to engage in a contest for national prestige and political influence, by using aviation as a means to an end.

One other event during this era, which occurred on board the fishing boat Wild Goose in the Puget Sound, would set in motion a series of events that would rock the very foundation of the industry:

As legend has it, Pan American’s Juan Trippe asked, “Would you build it if I bought it?” to which Bill Allen of Boeing responded, “Would you buy it if I built it?”

What was “it”? The Boeing 747

END OF PART FOUR

The next installment of this story, Part 5, will cover Deregulation and Open Skies.

 

 

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:

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 XII: The Boeing 747SP

The Boeing 747SP and a Record Making Flight

Boeing 747SP (Illustration by Mike Machat in Pan Am - An Airline and Its Aircraft)

Boeing 747SP (Illustration by Mike Machat in Ron Davies’ Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft)

Once the Boeing 747 was a fixture in Pan Am’s fleet, the focus in the mid-1970s was toward ultra-long range flights. In the airline’s eye was the important and potentially lucrative New York-Tokyo market. What was called for was an aircraft with a range of 7000 miles and capable of carrying approximately 200 passengers in a mixed class configuration. The flight would be about 13-14 hours duration.

Pan Am was convinced there was a demand in the New York-Tokyo market for such an aircraft and persuaded Boeing to produce a shortened version of the 747 with the range for that route. Iran Air was also looking for a high capacity airliner with sufficient range to cover its Tehran-New York route. What resulted was the Boeing 747SP.

Boeing 747SP - Clipper Freedom

Boeing 747SP – Clipper Freedom

The Boeing 747SP is a modified version of the Boeing 747, and was designed for ultra-long-range flights. Compared with its predecessor, the 747-100, the 747SP retains its wide-body four-engine layout, along with its double-deck design, but has a shortened fuselage, larger vertical stabilizer, and simplified trailing edge flaps. The weight saved by the shortened fuselage permitted longer range and increased speed relative to other early 747 configurations. The aircraft was also intended to provide Boeing with a mid-size wide-body airliner to compete with the DC-10 and L-1011. And until the introduction of the Boeing 777-200LR and 747-8, the SP was the first and only Boeing wide-body with a wingspan greater than the length of its fuselage

The SP could accommodate 230 passengers in a 3-class cabin to a maximum of 440 passengers in one class. Originally designated 747SB for “short body”, Boeing later changed the production designation to 747SP for “Special Performance”, reflecting the aircraft’s longer range and faster cruise speed. Pan Am was the launch customer, taking the first delivery, Clipper Freedom, on 5 March 1976.

Captain Sherman Carr, one of the former Pan Am pilots who flew the Boeing 747SP had this to say about the aircraft:

 “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 airshows but of course this is not authorized so no pilot would ever tell you he had done those things.

The 747SP first entered service on Pan Am’s New York-Tokyo route on 26 April 1976. It was later used on other long-haul routes, including New York-Dhahran, San Francisco-Hong Kong and Los Angeles-Sydney.

Until the 747-400 entered service in 1989, the SP was the longest-range airliner available. Despite its technical achievements, the SP never sold as well as Boeing hoped. The cost of fuel in the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, the SP’s heavy wings, expensive cost, reduced capacity and the increased ranges of forthcoming airliners were some of the many factors that contributed to its low sales.  Some of the engineering work on the 747SP, however, was reused with the development of the 747-300 and 747-400 permitting them to fly the same range as the SP with the added bonus of extra seats and cargo capacity.

The aircraft was later acquired by VIP, government and corporate customers. At the end, a total of 45 aircraft were sold. Pan Am took delivery of eleven and disposed of them with the sale of its Pacific Routes to United Airlines.

Boeing 747SP - Clipper Plymouth Rock (John Wegg photo)

Boeing 747SP – Clipper Plymouth Rock (John Wegg photo)

While in service for Pan Am, the 747SP made two record-setting round-the-world flights. From 1-3 May 1976 the “Liberty Bell Express” flew around the world from New York with two stops, Delhi and Tokyo. The flight took 46 hours and 26 minutes over 23,137 miles. And from 28-30 October, celebrating Pan Am’s 50th Anniversary, “Pan Am Flight 50” flew around the world over both the North and South Pole with stops in London, Cape Town and Auckland. The flight took 54 hours, 7 minutes and 12 seconds and covered 26,706 miles.

Pam Hanlon was Managing Director, Corporate Communications at the time of the flight, and was also editor of the employee newspaper, the “Pan Am Clipper”. Below is an excerpt about Pan Am Flight 50 from her essay about her experiences in that position in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People:

“[T]he most spectacular of all the Pan Am celebrations was a record-setting round-the-world anniversary flight that hurdled both the North and South Poles.  “Clipper 50,” a Boeing 747SP, carried 172 passengers, including aviation enthusiasts and Pan Am loyalists who paid $3,333 for First Class service and $2,222 for Economy; five employees selected by lottery; official guests, among them Miss Universe and Miss USA; a guitarist; caricaturist; hairdresser; members of the press; and a crew headed by Pan Am’s Chief Pilot, Captain Walt Mullikin, and Astrid Seemueller on the flight service side.  Clipper 50 (in regular service, the aircraft was Clipper New Horizons, or N533PA) took off from San Francisco, flew over the North Pole to London, then to Capetown, South Africa, and over the South Pole to Auckland, New Zealand, before returning to San Francisco. * * *  Reservations for the flight were on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the flight was sold out in less than a week after it was announced, due in large part to extensive media coverage of the dazzling plans.  It seems no one was disappointed in the experience.   As Clipper 50 taxied to the gate in San Francisco at journey’s end, Captain Mullikin asked over the public address system, ‘Would you do it again?’ His question was met with a resounding cheer of enthusiastic fliers. ‘Just say where and when,’ one passenger shouted above the rest.”

(left to right) Janelle Penny Commissiong, the reigning Miss Universe; Captain Walter H. Mullikin, Vice President and Chief Pilot; Kimberly Louise Tomes, Miss USA.

(left to right) Janelle Penny Commissiong, the reigning Miss Universe; Captain Walter H. Mullikin, Vice President and Chief Pilot; Kimberly Louise Tomes, Miss USA.

Pam Hanlon’s recollections of her experiences at Pan Am is one of 71 stories in Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

Also, in the “B747SP Website“, retired Pan Am pilot Lee Nelson contributed a great story in “A 747SP Love Affair”. This website is dedicated to the 747SP and contains a potuporri of information about the “cutest airplane”.

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

Kindle Edition Now Available!

Now Available in Kindle!

CoverDesign.Book2-2011

 

A Kindle Edition of Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People is now available!

Click here for more information.