Aviation Regulation – History and Practice – Part 3

 Aviation Regulation – History and Practice

Part Three

This part covers the end of World War II and the events leading up to the Chicago Convention of 1944, the Convention itself, the establishment of ICAO, the Freedoms of the Air and bilateral Air Service Agreements, the formation of IATA, the Bermuda Agreement of 1946 and the concept of the “Chosen Instrument”.

WORLD WAR II AND THE ROAD TO CHICAGO 

Like World War I, aviation technology made tremendous gains during World War II and these gains were enjoyed primarily by the United States, particularly in the area of high-capacity and long range air transport. Why this happened was a result of an agreement between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: the U.S. would focus on the manufacture of high capacity and long range transport aircraft and bombers and the Allies would focus on the manufacture of fighters and light bombers. As the war began to wind down, the potential of United States superiority in the manufacture of transport aircraft became inevitable.

By 1944 defeat of Germany was all but certain. And by then, aviation technology had developed to the point that no city in the world was more than forty hours away from any other city by air. However, the round-the-world routes operated by military air transport would snap apart with the advent of peace and would be closed to commercial planes unless the broadest traffic rights were obtained before the end of the war. Airlines would be limited to flying within their own borders (and to/from colonies) and in the case of the United States, under Pan American’s pre-war trans-oceanic authority unless the U.S. engaged in nation-by-nation politicking as Juan Trippe had done in South America. In addition, U.S. airlines desiring to fly beyond the coasts of Western Europe would require permission from the host governments of the gateway countries. The flag airlines of the Western European countries did not have such a problem. They simply operated routes through their colonies to Asia and Africa. The British carrier, BOAC, was already operating to areas within the commonwealth where war had receded.

Boeing 377 assembly lineFor the United States, a policy needed to be developed as to post-war international aviation and it came in the form of government-to-government negotiations for landing rights. This, in effect, ended Juan Trippe’s term as a “shadow” foreign minister for U.S. aviation. As put forth by President Roosevelt, “Juan Trippe can’t have it all”, and indeed, as a reward for their support during the war effort, domestic airlines such as TWA, American Overseas Airlines (formerly American Export Airlines until American Airlines’ merger with owner American Export Lines) and Northwest were granted authority to operate international routes by the CAB.

However, what was clear as the end of the war approached, was that the United States would have undisputed superiority in air transport to the extent that it was the only country with the capability to operate a worldwide air transportation system. Two other factors contributed: The U.S. had long production lines capable of turning out four engine, long range aircraft and the U.S. was also capable of making immediate commercial business, whereas the Allies, specifically Great Britain, were still geared to military production and unable to make a swift change and, along with France, were technologically injured. In addition, the defeated Axis powers were denied the capability to manufacture and produce aircraft. The result was obvious: The U.S. had a virtual monopoly on the manufacture of transport aircraft.

This virtual monopoly, of course, did not sit well with the major powers, in particular Great Britain, and it becamC-54 assembly line at Douglas factory now ORD 1943e clear that an international conference was necessary to resolve the issues of international aviation and more importantly, the issues between the U.S. and Great Britain.

As it was also clear that both the Paris and Havana Conventions were now obsolete, there emerged a need for an international organization to maintain standards of safety, communications, signals and weather reporting and also prevent destructive competition breaking out of tariffs. As a result, with the urging of Great Britain, the United States took the initiative and sent out invitations to the Allied Nations and the neutral countries of Europe and Asia to meet in Chicago on 1 November 1944. Fifty-four countries accepted and sent delegations to the Conference on International Civil Aviation, to be known as the Chicago Convention of 1944.

CHICAGO AND BEYOND

Chicago 1944

 The Chicago Convention of 1944

 On 1 November 1944, delegates from fifty-four countries met at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago to commence what was to become the most significant conference on aviation regulation in history. The goal was to promote international traffic and develop an entry procedure that would allow healthy growth in the industry. In addition, issues such as routes, frequencies, pricing and fares, aircraft registration, navigational aids and safety standards were to be discussed.

StevensHotelChicago

At a Convention such as this, those with the greatest bargaining power could afford to make broad and sweeping proposals, usually tailored to their interests. The United States had this bargaining power and the feeling was it was going to be used to secure a near monopoly in long-haul air transport. What the U.S. was advocating was access to international routes, minimal control of rates, frequencies and capacity and an international organization with limited political and economic authority. In essence, an “open skies” regime was being promoted.

While freedom of competition is a noble position to take, it seemed absurd that such a position would be espoused by a competitor who has a commanding lead in an industry that was characterized by considerable restriction to entry. The U.S. position was similar to the proverbial elephant who, while dancing through the chicken yard, cried, “Everyone for Himself!”

Other countries advanced proposals calling for more control, while the British were calling for an international air authority that would control frequencies, capacities, rates and routes agreed upon bilaterally or multilaterally between nations. The authority would take action with a view to maintaining a broad equilibrium between the world’s air transport capacity and the traffic offering. It would thus eliminate wasteful practices, unfair competition and control subsidies.

The British, while lacking bargaining power in the air transport aspect, did wield considerable power from the political aspect. Through its vast number of overseas colonies and commonwealth connections, Britain had the capability of denying landing rights to, for instance, U.S. carriers. This was a major weakness for the United States: the need to obtain landing rights in foreign countries to load and unload passengers and cargo.

Delegates from other countries also submitted proposals calling for some sort of control, including the possibility of a single international corporation as a World Airline, with every nation participating. These suggestions were all unacceptable to the United States.chicago-conference-photo4

What was emerging during the convention was that the nations in attendance were there to strengthen their weaknesses. Indeed, the U.S. was present to secure landing rights in foreign countries and that was the goal in calling for the convention in the first place. The U.S. did not bring up issues such as frequencies, traffic or capacity. As the convention progressed, however, it was clear that the U.S. would have to back down from its laissez-faire position. This occurred when the Canadian delegation proposed the “Four Freedoms of the Air” that would be universally acceptable:

First Freedom

The right to fly and carry traffic over the territory of another partner to the agreement without landing.

Second Freedom

The right to land in those countries for technical reasons such as refueling without boarding or deplaning passengers.

Third Freedom

The right of an airline from one country to land in a different country and deplane passengers coming from the airline’s own country.

Fourth Freedom

The right of an airline from one country to land in a different country and board passengers traveling to the airline’s own country.

For the United States, these did not meet its requirements for control on international trunk routes. Accordingly, the U.S. added a “Fifth Freedom” to the Canadian proposal.

Fifth Freedom

The right of an airline from one country to land in a second country, to then pick up passengers and fly on to a third country where the passengers then deplane.

This proposal was not received well by the other major nations as it made quite clear the U.S. objectives: to dominate and monopolize much of the world’s traffic. As a result, because the U.S. was unable to get sufficient support from the delegates for the Fifth Freedom rights, at the close of the convention, the economic issues such as fares, frequencies and capacities were left unresolved.

The failure to resolve the economic issues left the question as to where an airline could fly dependent on bilateral negotiations. And in these negotiations, the parties would summon whatever power they had to secure the greatest contribution to their national well-being. The convention amplified the importance of bilateral negotiations. The reality was that no strength in technical matters, no amount of operating know-how or superiority in quality can overcome the inability to reach a market. The British may not have been technically superior to the United States, but they did have control of one end of a large number of international journeys. This was sufficient to negate much of the U.S. superiority, and the failure of the British to sign-off on the Fifth Freedom addition was considered the major reason for the inability of the U.S. to secure those rights.

One notable absentee at Chicago was the Soviet Union. While invited and actually prepared to attend, a last minute decision was made not to attend. Considerable speculation arose as to why. One reason suggested was a low priority given to international civil aviation. Other reasons, however, were more feasible: First, attendance might have forced the Soviets to grant the right of innocent flyover its territorial air space. This would have been difficult to refuse since the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences lay ahead. Another was that the Soviets might have been forced into a premature disclosure of its plans for Eastern Europe.

The convention ended however, with three important accomplishments:

Established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Produced the Freedoms of the Air.

Produced the criteria for Bilateral Agreements (Air Services Agreements – ASAs)

The Convention on International Civil Aviation was signed at Chicago on 7 December 1944.

photo_21

Chicago_Convention_Titelseite

Chicago_Convention_signator

Key Provisions:

Every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over airspace above its territory.

The aircraft of states, other than scheduled international air services, have the right to make flights across state’s territories and to make stops without obtaining prior permission. However, the state may require the aircraft to make a landing.

No scheduled international air service may be operated over or into the territory of a contracting State, except with the special permission or other authorization of that State.

Each state shall keep its own rules of the air as uniform as possible with those established under the convention, the duty to ensure compliance with these rules rests with the contracting state.

Before an international flight, the pilot in command must ensure that the aircraft is airworthy, duly registered and that the relevant certificates are on board the aircraft. The required documents are:

Certificate of Registration

Certificate of Airworthiness

Passenger names, place of boarding and destination

Crew licenses

Journey Logbook

Radio License

Cargo manifest

The aircraft of a state flying in or over the territory of another state shall only carry radios licensed and used in accordance with the regulations of the state in which the aircraft is registered. The radios may only be used by members of the flight crew suitably licensed by the state in which the aircraft is registered.

The pilot and crew of every aircraft engaged in international aviation must have certificates of competency and licenses issued or validated by the state in which the aircraft is registered.

Recognition of Certificates and Licenses. Certificates of Airworthiness, certificates of competency and licenses issued or validated by the state in which the aircraft is registered, shall be recognized as valid by other states. The requirements for issue of those Certificates or Airworthiness, certificates of competency or licenses must be equal to or above the minimum standards established by the Convention.

No aircraft or personnel with endorsed licenses or certificate will engage in international navigation except with the permission of the state or states whose territory is entered. Any license holder who does not satisfy international standard relating to that license or certificate shall have attached to or endorsed on that license information regarding the particulars in which he does not satisfy those standards.

The Convention is now supported by nineteen annexes containing standards and recommended practices (SARPs). The annexes are amended regularly by ICAO and are as follows:

Annex 1 – Personnel Licensing

Annex 2 – Rules of the Air

Annex 3 – Meteorological Service for International Air Navigation

Annex 4 – Aeronautical Charts

Annex 5 – Units of Measurement to be used in Air and Ground Operations

Annex 6 – Operation of Aircraft

Annex 7 – Aircraft Nationality and Registration Marks

Annex 8 – Airworthiness of Aircraft

Annex 9 – Facilitation

Annex 10 – Aeronautical Telecommunications

Annex 11 – Air Traffic Services – Air Traffic Control Service, Flight Information Service and Alerting Service

Annex 12 – Search and Rescue

Annex 13 – Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation

Annex 14 – Aerodromes

Annex 15 – Aeronautical Information Services

Annex 16 – Environmental Protection

Annex 17 – Security: Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference

Annex 18 – The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air

Annex 19 – Safety Management (Since 14 November 2013)

Units of Measurement to be used in air and ground operations: feet (for vertical distance/altitude), knots (for speed), and nautical miles (for distance).

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was formed to administer the Convention.

icao

ICAO

Key areas of interest:

Establishment of international technical standards and recommended practices in the conduct of international air operations

Standardization of procedures

Air navigation

Communications and air traffic management

Air safety

Development in aircraft design

Growth and development of airways and airports

Cooperation between member nations

Sets industry technical and legal standards for member states’ civil aviation authorities

ICAO_World_Headquarters

Objectives:

Insure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation throughout the world

Encourage the arts of aircraft design and operation for peaceful purpose

Encourage the development of airways, airports and air navigation facilities for international civil aviation

Meet the needs of the peoples of the world for safe, regular, efficient and economical air transport

Prevent economic waste caused by unreasonable competition

Insure that the rights of contracting States are fully respected and that every contracting State has a fair opportunity to operate international airlines

Avoid discrimination between contracting States

Promote safety of flight in international air navigation

Promote generally the development of all aspects of international civil aeronautics

IMAGE635054387029267534

Freedoms of the Air

airfreedom3ry

First Freedom

The right to fly and carry traffic over the territory of another partner to the agreement without landing

Second Freedom

The right to land in those countries for technical reasons such as refueling without boarding or deplaning passengers

Third Freedom

The right of an airline from one country to land in a different country and deplane passengers coming from the airline’s own country

Fourth Freedom

The right of an airline from one country to land in a different country and board passengers traveling to the airline’s own country

Fifth Freedom

The right of an airline from one country to land in a second country, to then pick up passengers and fly on to a third country where the passengers then deplane

Sixth Freedom

The right to carry traffic from one country through the home country of the airline to a third country

Seventh Freedom

The right to carry traffic from one country to another country without going through the home country of the airline

Eighth Freedom

The right to carry passengers between two or more points in one foreign country with continuing service to or from one’s own country, known as “True Cabotage”

Ninth Freedom

The ninth freedom is a variation from the Eighth Freedom in that it is the right to carry passengers within a foreign country without continuing service to or from one’s own country, known as “Stand-alone Cabotage” and almost no country permits it

Bilateral Agreements

The criteria produced by the Chicago Convention included the following key provisions:

Exchange of air rights

Equality of treatment with respect to airport charges, customs duties and inspection fees

Mutual recognition of airworthiness certificates and personnel

Compliance with laws pertaining to entry, clearance, immigration, passports, customs, etc

Regulations concerning ownership and control

The designated carrier/s (“Chosen Instrument”?), the routes served and tariffs

The International Air Transport Association

Shortly after the Chicago Convention, a call was made for a meeting among airline operators with a proposal to form a non-governmental organization of airline operators. During this meeting, articles of association were drafted for consideration at a conference to be held in Havana in April 1945. On 19 April, the articles were approved and enacted, forming the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

iata    IATA-2

Focused on economic rather than technical issues, the purpose of IATA initially was to to promote safe, regular and economical air transport for the benefit of the peoples of the world; to foster air commerce and to study the problems connected therewith; to provide the means of collaboration among the air transport enterprises engaged directly or indirectly in international air transport services; and to cooperate with ICAO”. Today these functions largely remain the same:

Sets economic standards for the orderly flow of air transportation throughout the world

Coordinates fares and rates among member airlines

Provides forum for industry agreements between airlines (interline, alliances)

Conducts training for airline personnel

Provides clearing house for collections on interline international tickets

Holds semiannual “Slot Conference”

Assigns airline designators

The Bermuda Agreement of 1946

The Bermuda Conference was held in 1946 and it was essentially a conference between the two airline powers, Britain and the United States. There was a feeling of urgency at the conference. Besides the aviation issues to be resolved, Britain was in a severe crisis over its balance of payments and was concurrently negotiating a $3.75 billion loan on easy terms. At the same time, the U.S. was engaged in conference with Britain and its commonwealth partners over telecommunications rights with the hope that empire preferences disciminatory to the U.S. would be eliminated. It was, however, the principle aim of the conference to reconcile the widely divergent views held by the two nations on the extent to which international air transport should be controlled.

The Bermuda Air Agreement, known as the Bermuda Agreement of 1946, was accepted by both nations. Its provisions included criteria regarding Fifth Freedom Rights, including consideration of the traffic requirements between the country of origin and the country of destination, the requirements of through airline operation and the traffic requirements of the area through which the airline passes after taking account of local and regional services.

The key provisions included:

Provided for Fifth Freedom rights with reciprocity

Provided for extensive routes between the two countries with the requirement for reciprocity

No arbitrary restrictions on capacity or flight frequencies

Procedures for rate-making and traffic rules assigned to IATA subject to government approval

Disputes referred to the ICAO for advisory opinion

Pan American and BOAC were the designated carriers

Became model for future bilateral agreements

This agreement enabled Pan American pick up passengers at London for passage to points east. As the agreement also applied to commonwealth countries, Pan American benefited from Fifth Freedom rights at points in India and later at Hong Kong. This enabled Pan American to launch its round-the-world services in 1947.

Below are pages from a 1948 Pan American time table showing its round-the-world service and the scene in New York at the departure of its first round-the-world flight.The the area through which the airline passes after taking account of local and regional services.n and the traffic requirements.

1948 Jun   1948 RTW straight

First RTW flight leaving LGA 061747 PAHF-1

The “Chosen Instrument”

The concept of the “Chosen Instrument” suggests that the national carriers designated to operate international routes by their owning nations are instruments of those nations’ foreign policy.  Indeed, through the bilateral agreement system promulgated by the Chicago Convention, that could ring true. However, the term preceded Chicago.

During the early years of Pan American’s growth, the U.S. government looked very favorably at the carrier, and viewed it as an “instrument” of foreign policy by using the airline to facilitate economic expansion to Latin America and the Caribbean. The U.S. government, in fact, awarded Pan American every foreign airmail route for which bids were invited. This was helped by provisions of the Foreign Air Mail Act that provided that only airlines capable of operating on a scale and manner that would project the dignity of the United States in Latin America would be granted the right to carry international mail. Secondly, contracts would only be given to companies that had been invited for operations by the host countries. In both cases, Juan Trippe made sure that Pan American had no competition. He aggressively pursued friendly relations with most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and often personally met with foreign leaders. Trippe was also the kind of entrepreneur who emphasized elegance and grandeur in operating his airline. To enhance the stature of Pan American, Trippe also invited the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh to serve as a technical adviser.

In addition, there was concern over the German presence in South America in the 1930s. The German airline Lufthansa had established subsidiaries in various countries and Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transportes Aéreos (SCADTA) was formed by a group of Colombian and German businessmen, posing a threat to the Panama Canal. This meant the presence of German propaganda and espionage. Pan American proceeded to acquire SCADTA and other German subsidiaries to remove the German presence and expand its Latin American route network. In essence, this was carrying out U.S. foreign policy to rid the continent of the German presence.

Up to World War II, because of its leadership and role in international commercial aviation, Pan American was considered the “Chosen Instrument” for the United States.

However, while Trippe was largely successful negotiating on behalf of his airline and his government, his stature as the “ad hoc” transport minister would soon come to an end following his efforts to secure transatlantic authority from the British and the U.S. government’s eventual policy of government-to-government negotiations for foreign landing rights. However, although Pan American no longer had a monopoly on international routes, the airline was still considered the principle international carrier, and indeed, the “Chosen Instrument”.

The “Chosen Instrument” survived up through the Cold War largely because of the restrictive nature of the regulated airline industry and the resultant barriers to entry. With the advent of “Open Skies” and general liberalization of the industry, this concept has faded away. Under the current regime, there is virtually no airline that can really claim to be an instrument of its country’s foreign policy.

END OF PART THREE

The next installment of this story, Part 4, will cover the post-War regulated and protectionist era of the airline industry including the government role in international commercial aviation during the Cold War.

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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