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

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

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

“Swan Song of an Airline Generation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC-7B - Clipper Jupiter Rex

DC-7B – Clipper Jupiter Rex

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

1956 Atlantic - T   1956 Atlantic

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

1956a

 

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

Douglas DC-7C Clipper Bald Eagle

Douglas DC-7C Clipper Bald Eagle

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

1957 Atlantic   1957 Latin America

pa570301

 

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

1959 Africa  1959 Latin America

1959 Pacific

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

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

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

1961 Cargo    1961 Pacific

September 1961 timetable.

1965 Latin America

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

DC-7C - 1   DC-7C -3

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

The DC-7C

IDL Lineup

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

DC-7C-1   DC-7C Frank Hudson

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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 XXIII: Panagra

Pan American-Grace Airways

Logo

It might come as a surprise, but probably one of the most unknown of U.S. international airlines pioneered one of the key segments in Juan Trippe’s quest to circle South America with airline routes. That airline was Pan American-Grace Airways.

Once Pan American Airways began operations in 1928, it soon became clear that Juan Trippe was intent on operating routes south of the Caribbean and around the entire continent of South America. His most important destination, according to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, was Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America”. The plan, according to Robert Daley in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, were two lines in South America itself. One down the west coast to Santiago, Chile and the other down the east coast to Buenos Aires. The shortest route to Buenos Aires, however, was by the west coast, and Juan Trippe needed the landing and traffic rights to set up that route. He was faced with a formidable challenge. And if it was not for Pan American-Grace Airways, Panagra, that west coast passage would not have been possible.

It all started in Peru.

In 1854, William R. Grace, the son of an Irish immigrant, founded the W. R. Grace and Company in Peru, where he worked as a ship’s chandler. In 1865 his brother Michael joined the business and the company name was changed to Grace Brothers & Co with head offices in New York City. The company was incorporated in 1865. Later a third brother joined and the three consolidated their holdings into a new private company, W. R. Grace & Company. The consolidation involved W. R. Grace & Co. of New York, Grace Brothers & Co. of Lima, Peru, Grace & Co. of Valparaiso, Chile, William R. Grace & Co. of London and J. W. Grace & Co. of San Francisco.

One of Grace’s main business was shipping. To get products from Peru to North America and Europe, William Grace founded the shipping division and service began in 1882. The shipping operation grew and Grace Line ships became a regular presence in the shipping lanes of the west coast of South America. They were known as the “Santa” ships and carried both passengers and cargo. The shipping operation, tied with an extensive business presence, including investment and ownership of piers, warehouses and real estate, gave W. R. Grace & Co. a powerful presence in the region.

In the meantime, in 1928, also in Peru, another historic event took place: A tiny single-engined Peruvian Airways Fairchild FC-2 with four passengers and mail took off from a racetrack in Lima and landed in a soccer field in Talara, Peru, 550 miles away. For all intents and purposes, this represented the beginning commercial air transportation along the west cost of South America. Another company, Huff-Daland Dusters, a crop-dusting specialist, had, on the initiative of its local representatives Harold Harris and C. E. Woolman, obtained full Peruvian traffic rights. Harris was also founder of Peruvian Airways.

Because of the power of the W. R. Grace, Juan Trippe encountered a huge obstacle. The company was run by Trippe’s father’s college roommate, W. R. Grace. That was no help, however, as the company saw no reason why Pan American should be allowed to operate in its domain. As Grace was a shipping company, there was also no need for an airline to move mail and passengers faster than its ships did.

To counter the power of Grace, Trippe sought to “exercise a political flanking movement”, according to Davies, by establishing airlines in Peru and Chile.  As Peruvian Airways already existed, he purchased half interest in it on 16 September 1928 and on 28 November acquired the Peruvian air permits held by Huff-Daland Dusters. In Chile, Chilean Airlines was formed on 21 December 1928, but never operated. The formation, a “tactical move” by Trippe, put pressure on Grace.

As a result, a compromise was reached and on 25 January 1929, Pan American-Grace Corporation (Panagra) was formed. Capitalization was $ 1 million (according to Daley; according to Davies, each side contributed $1 million), split 50-50. One month later, Panagra acquired Peruvian Airways. Panagra was incorporated on 21 February 1929 and on 2 March, won the FAM No. 9, Panama to Chile airmail contract, with a provision to cross the Andes to Buenos Aires and Montevideo. On 15 May, Panagra started its own service with a leased S-38 from Pan American. It picked up mail from Miami at Cristóbal (Panama) and carried it to Talara, where a FC-2 took it to Mollendo, Peru. The route was extended to Santiago on 21 July, and on 12 October, a Panagra Ford Tri-Motor made the first commercial flight across the Andes, reaching an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and establishing a mail route between Santiago and Buenos Aires.

The route extended some 4,200 miles and what is often overlooked is that the flying distance it represented was virtually unheard of during that time. In less than a year from its inception, Panagra had linked Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay with the United States. According to Daley, no domestic airline in the US  had even managed to span the country, yet, with this route, and the eventual development of the east coast route, Juan Trippe and his Pan American empire was looking at pushing planes along ten thousand miles of routes.

As Panagra expanded it achieved a number of firsts. For example: In 1933, Panagra was the first to install radio and weather stations in the Andes between Chile and Argentina; in 1946, it was first to use South American flight hostesses; in 1947, it was first to introduce DC-6 service in South America and to provide sleeper service; in 1952, it was first to introduce DC-6Bs and inaugurate tourist-class services in South America; in 1954, it was first to use the latest airborne weather radar in regularly scheduled service; and in 1955, it was first to introduce DC-7B service between the US and Argentina. Panagra was also first to introduce the DC-8 to South America.

Besides its firsts, Panagra was also noted for other achievements in support of other non-aviation events. Just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when war with the Axis was imminent, Panagra, with the assistance of the respective South American governments and at the request of the US State Department, first paralleled and then replaced the services of German controlled SEDTA in Ecuador and Lufthansa in Peru and Bolivia. This was designed to remove the Nazi threat in the region. In the humanitarian area, Panagra provided relief after earthquakes in Chile (1939 and 1961) and Peru (1948) and its planes were often sent on mercy missions, carrying, for example, vital life-saving medicine for a dying man, an iron lung to a girl stricken with polio and a shipment of drugs to arrest the spread of an epidemic.

Panagra remained a presence on the west coast of South America through the decade of the 1950s. Its “El Pacifico” tourist service and “El Interamericano” first class service were the staple for travel from the United States to cities such as Guayaquil, Lima, Antofagasta, Santiago and Buenos Aires. When Braniff was awarded authority to operate in competition with Panagra, Panagra extended its operations up to Miami and New York, in a thru-plane interchange service with Pan American and National Airlines. Braniff operated from Dallas and also offered similar service to Miami and New York with an interchange with Eastern Airlines.

By the 1960’s Braniff was in negotiations to acquire the 50% interest of W. R Grace and in December 1965, a deal was made to purchase these shares. On 17 March 1966, the remaining 50% interest was acquired from Pan American. In July 1966, the acquisition was approved by the US Civil Aeronautics Board and by February 1967, Panagra’s operations were fully integrated into Braniff.

Panagra’s operations during its life can be best illustrated with timetables. As Panagra was a major part of Pan American’s operations in South America, some of Pan Am’s timetables are used. A 1939 timetable shows operations with a Pan American S-42 flying from Miami to Panama and then a Panagra DC-2 or DC-3 from Panama south to Buenos Aires.

In the Pan Am 1948 and 1952 timetables, Panagra DC-6’s operated the “El Interamericano” first class service offering sleeper berths and the “Fiesta Lounge”. DC-4’s were also in the 1952 schedule offering “El Especial” tourist service. DC-3s were used in local services in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.

The decade of the 1950s featured extensive operations employing the DC-7B in the all-first class “El Interamericano” service, the DC-6B in the tourist “El Pacifico service and the DC-3 and DC-4 in local services in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The Interamericano and El Pacifico flights were a thru-plane interchange service originating in New York. National operated the New York/Washington, DC –  Miami sector and Pan American operated Miami-Panama sector. The Panagra flights also received connecting passengers at Panama from Pan Am’s Central American services. A 1959 Pan Am timetable illustrates these services. Braniff also operated west coast routes with its first class “El Dorado” DC-7C services and tourist class “El Conquistador” DC-6 services. Braniff also offered a trans-continental service from Lima to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

PG - Tags frontPG - Tags back

In 1960 came the jets, and Panagra introduced the DC-8 to its New York to Buenos Aires thru-plane service.

Panagra DC-8 at Panama (Allan Van Wickler)

Panagra DC-8 at Panama (Allan Van Wickler).

By 1967, Braniff’s acquisition of Panagra was complete, although Pan American’s timetables continued to show the service up to 1971.

Afterword:

Gustavo Vidal was with Pan American-Grace Airways at it’s inception in 1929 and was the airline’s first Comptroller. Vidal remained with the airline as Comptroller and Vice President until November 1950. At that time, he assembled a photo album highlighting the early years of Panagra, complete with an accompanying typed list of descriptions of each photo.

When Vidal passed away in 1975 many of his files went into storage. The photo album surfaced again for the first time in 2012, and is presented here in its entirety. To view it, click here.  Also included in this link is Vidal’s Panagra-related personal images and mementos, a confidential docket on “Panagra’s Importance to National Defense” and Panagra’s 30th Anniversary Publicity Kit.

For further information and images of the airline, Chip and Jef Reahard have made an outstanding home for Panagra on the internet. Visit PanAmericanGrace.com for the definitive Panagra website.

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 IX: The Ditching of Flight 6

The Ditching of Pan American World Airways Flight 6

On 16 October 1956, Pan American World Airways flight 6 (sometimes referred to as flight 943) with 24 passengers and seven crew ditched in the Pacific Ocean after two of its four engines failed. The aircraft, Clipper Sovereign of the Skies, a Boeing 377 bearing the registration N90943 (hence the flight 943 designation), was operating the last sector of an around-the-world flight and had departed Honolulu the previous evening.

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser - Clipper Southern Cross

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

According to the April 1956 and July 1956 timetables (the only two available for this article), flight 6 was part of Pan Am’s round-the-world service operating on Thursdays and Fridays as flights 70/6 (all-Tourist Class) and 100/6 (all-First Class) and on Fridays as 64/6 (combined First and Tourist). Flights 64 and 70 were operated with DC-7B or DC-7C equipment and flight 100 was operated with a Boeing 377 Super Stratocruiser. Flights 70 and 100 operated from New York to London where flight 6 took over with DC-6B equipment offering “Sleeperette” service. Flight 64 operated from New York to Beirut via Shannon (April 1956 only), Paris and Rome. In Beirut, the trip connected with flight 6 from London with a stop in Frankfurt. From Beirut flight 6 continued to Karachi, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo, where the equipment was changed to a Boeing 377 “Strato” Clipper. The flight then continued to Wake Island and Honolulu before terminating in San Francisco.

Captain John Marshall, who flew Pan Am Clippers for many years, wrote about flight 6 (flight 943) in an article that appeared in Airways Magazine.  Below are excerpts from his article:

“It was a gentler time.  A journey aboard a modern airliner, especially a trans-oceanic one, was an incredibly romantic adventure, and the passengers preparing to board Pan American’s flight 943 (flight 6) from Honolulu to San Francisco on that balmy October evening in 1956 were excited.  Purser Pat Reynolds stood at the top of the stairs at Honolulu Airport and greeted the 24 boarding passengers that were going to be in her charge for the next ten hours. Their chariot that night was a Boeing 377, at the time the largest airliner in the sky. She was powered by four huge Pratt & Whitney 4360 engines and pulled by Hamilton Standard propellers.

The Stratocruiser was the state-of-the-art airline transport; there was no more luxurious airliner anywhere. She had recently arrived from the Orient and around the world, and was finally headed back to her home base at San Francisco. Her flight crew that night consisted of veteran Pan Am skipper Dick Ogg, First Officer George Lee Haaker, Navigator Dick Brown, and Flight Engineer Frank Garcia.

“The passengers were a mixed bag. There were the Gordons, a young couple traveling with their two tow-headed twin girls, barely three years old, a French physician and two middle-aged California ladies traveling alone. Businessmen, holiday vacationers, young marrieds, they were typical of those that flew across oceans in 1956. What was not typical was the adventure that was to befall the crew and passengers of the Sovereign of the Skies during the next few hours.

“At 26 minutes past eight o’clock, Honolulu time, the big Boeing lifted from the runway at Honolulu Airport. Captain Ogg pointed her bulbous nose out past Diamond Head and into the darkening eastern sky, and took up a heading for California. The flight plan called for a flight of 8 hours and 54 minutes, leveling off initially at 13,000 feet, and then, just prior to the equal time point, climbing to 21,000 for the remainder of the trip. The big Pratts rumbled their song as they settled down into the cruise portion of the flight. The weather was good and the air smooth. Dick Brown would have no problems locating his favorite stars to navigate by on this evening. Flight Engineer Garcia carefully leaned the engines and set the spark advance, keeping close track of the fuel they were burning. In the cabin Pat Reynolds and her colleagues, Mary Ellen Daniel and Katherine Araki set about serving a light supper to the passengers. Soon the lights were dimmed and the passengers settled in for the night. Pillows and blankets appeared, and they slept.

“Flight 943 (flight 6) cruised into the night at 13,000 feet until close to the midpoint of their Pacific crossing, when their clearance to the final level, 21,000 feet, was approved by ATC. Garcia set the engines at climb power, and she climbed easily upward to the new level. In a few moments they leveled off, and the crew once more allowed the aircraft to increase speed, settling into the routine for the final pull to San Francisco. Stewardess Mary Ellen Daniel had just stepped onto the flight deck to take coffee orders from the crew. Lee Haaker, who was doing the flying, had just called for cruise power, and Frank Garcia began easing the throttles back from the climb setting.

“Suddenly, in an instant, the placid atmosphere of the flight deck was shattered, and everything changed. The soothing beat of the engines was interrupted by a shrill high-pitched whine; the airplane lurched, Mary Ellen staggered, and almost fell. The propeller noise increased quickly, and First Officer Lee Haaker, who was flying the airplane, felt the controls vibrate. A quick glance at the engine instruments told the crew the bad news:  the prop on the number 1 engine was running away. Haaker saw that the RPM was rapidly approaching the upper limit; it was over 2900 on the gauge, and he quickly pushed the feathering button to bring it under control. At the same time he slowed the huge Boeing and lowered 30 degrees of flaps. This was the ‘book’ solution to the problem; at the lower speed the propeller would be easier to control. Frank Garcia, meanwhile, pulled the mixture to cutoff to shut off the fuel to the number 1 engine, and pulled back the throttles on the other three to help slow the airplane. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help. The needle on the number 1 tachometer hit the upper limit of the gauge and stayed there. They had a true runaway.

“Captain Ogg had been sitting at the navigator’s station, and he quickly regained the left seat. He had some rapid decisions to make.  His first action was to make a radio transmission to Ocean Station Vessel ‘November’, a Coast Guard cutter named Ponchartrain, that was permanently stationed midway between Hawaii and the mainland. She was there to provide navigational assistance as well as to render whatever other help might be required by an airplane flying over that loneliest stretch of the Pacific. Incredibly, flight 943 (flight 6) was less than 40 miles from the ship, and Ogg motioned to Haaker to pick up the bearing to the cutter.

“An uncontrollable runaway prop presented a considerable problem. Unlike a damaged engine which could be stopped and the propeller feathered into a minimum drag configuration, a runaway acted like a flat plate disk out there in the slipstream, creating terrible drag.  Ogg knew that if they were unsuccessful in controlling the number 1 prop, they could well be faced with the ultimate horror of ocean flying: a ditching at sea.

“The aircraft had been in a slow descent as they headed toward the Ponchartrain, the crew trying several times to unsuccessfully feather the uncooperative prop on the number 1 engine. Ogg finally told Garcia to cut off the oil to the engine in hopes that it would eventually seize, stopping the prop.  A few minutes later there was a momentary decrease in the prop speed, followed by a heavy thud, and an increase again in the RPM.  They had been successful in freezing the engine, but now the prop was just windmilling in the airstream.

“At 5,000 feet they added power to level off, and received another surprise, one that effectively sealed the fate of the unlucky Stratocruiser. The number 4, the outboard engine on the opposite wing, was not responding; it would only run at about half power. The vital signs were all pretty close to normal, it just wouldn’t produce the power. The crew discovered that they could keep the airplane in the air with rated power on the inboards, and partial power on number 4.  They also found that if they slowed to 140 knots the problem prop out there on number 1 was just barely controllable at the upper limit of the tach, but 140 was about twenty knots below efficient two engine cruise speed.

“It wasn’t long before the crew sighted the Ponchartrain, it was a bright clear night and visibility was good. Some quick calculations revealed what they already knew to be true. With only two good engines trying to pull their reluctant brethren as well as sixty-five tons of airplane, they only had fuel for 750 miles.  It was over 1,000 miles to the nearest dry land, be it San Francisco or Hawaii. There was a finality to it now; they were committed to a landing in the Pacific. In a way, however, they were incredibly lucky. There was fuel enough to loiter over the cutter until sunup, when they would be able to accomplish the ditching in full daylight. Also they wouldn’t have to wait long to be rescued; their rescuers were already alerted and waiting, 5,000 feet below. They set up a large orbit over the Ponchartrain and awaited the morning.

“Dick Ogg and Frank Garcia turned the controls over to Lee Haaker and went aft to see to the preparations in the cabin. Pat Reynolds and her crew had already gone through the aisle and briefed their charges; Ogg and Haaker wanted to be sure that everyone knew how to handle the over-wing exits and the escape lines. Ogg later remarked on how calm everyone was, it was almost becoming a non-event. One concern that the captain had was the placement of the passengers in seats over the wings; he was afraid that when they struck the water the spinning prop on number 1 would dig into the sea, spin the aircraft around and break the tail off.

“When he returned to the flight deck Ogg had time to really think about the landing he was about to make; the last landing that the Sovereign of the Skies would ever make. It was difficult to imagine that everything that they looked at and touched in the spacious cockpit would soon be at the bottom of the sea. The book said to land the airplane parallel to the major swells and across the secondary swell. Ocean pilots often mused about how one would ever accomplish such a thing at night, or in a storm-tossed sea. Dick Ogg and his crew were lucky; it would be daylight, and the sea below was glass calm. He would fly her down as slow as possible, with the gear up and full flaps, and the nose slightly raised so that the huge flaps took the brunt of the initial impact.

“Soon the sky paled in the east, and the sharpening horizon took on more definition. Below were the comforting lights of the Ponchartrain. It was a beautiful morning, just right for a ditching, Ogg thought. He made one last orbit and picked up the PA mike. ‘There is absolutely nothing to worry about,’ he said. ‘Things couldn’t be better.  I’ll give you a ten minute warning, and then at one minute to touchdown I’ll tell you, this is it.’”

At 0540 Captain Ogg notified Pontchartrain that he was preparing to ditch. The cutter laid out a foam path for a best ditch heading of 315 degrees to help the captain to judge height above the water. After a dry run the plane touched down at 0615, at 90 knots with full flaps and landing gear retracted, in sight of the Pontchartrain at 30°01.5’N. 140°09’W. One wing hit a swell, causing the plane to rotate, damaging the nose section and breaking off the tail.

From Captain Marshall’s article:

“Frank Garcia remembers:  ‘At touchdown I didn’t feel the initial contact of the wing flaps as Dick and Lee did on the control columns…I saw the water spray over the windshield then felt a force pulling me into the seat and noticed the first officer’s control column going back and forth. After that I saw nothing but water covering the windshield, and as soon as it started to recede I knew we were OK. After opening the cockpit door I got a shock when all I saw at the back of the aircraft was the Pacific Ocean.'”

All 31 on board survived the ditching. Three life rafts were deployed by the crew and passengers that had been previously assigned to help. One raft failed to inflate properly, but rescue boats from the cutter were able to promptly transfer the passengers from that raft. All were rescued by the Coast Guard before the last pieces of wreckage sank at 6:35 a.m.

From Captain Marshall:

“The rest of the saga was an anticlimax.  The flight deck crew quickly abandoned the cockpit and went aft to assist the passengers.  The stewardesses had already opened the emergency exits, and the orderly egress had already begun.  The only raft that was unusable was the one launched from the main cabin door that got trapped between the tail and the fuselage.  It was a remarkable feat of airmanship and skill that Dick Ogg was able to accomplish a water landing in the open sea with a large airliner, not only with no loss of life, but without serious injury.  Only five passengers were injured, and they only slightly.  The airplane floated for twenty minutes; plenty of time to get the 31 occupants to safety.  In fact even the dry and bureaucratic Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the body responsible for aircraft accident investigation in 1956, stated in their official report of the accident,  ‘The Board highly commends the crew members for their ability in recognizing the malfunctions and taking correct emergency actions consistent with known procedures.'”

At the end of Captain Marshall’s story, there was an interesting sidelight: When the cutter was en-route to San Francisco, Frank Garcia was told by a senior chief petty officer on board that Pan Am “was going to have his [behind] because the airplane had been dispatched with enough fuel to make it from the most critical point of the flight to go ahead or return with two engines out.  Of course we could have made it, if we’d been able to feather both of them.”

Many thanks for Captain John Marshall for his contribution to this story.  He has written a large number of stories covering his career with Pan Am, many having appeared in Airliners Magazine. He also contributed a story, “Desert Storm”, describing his involvement in the airlift supporting Operation Desert Storm in the first Gulf War, to Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, published by BlueWaterPress.  This book contains 71 stories written by people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history.

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

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For purchasing information:

BlueWaterPress

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Amazon

For information about Airways Magazine, visit:

Airways Magazine

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

Pan Am Historical Foundation

Below is an US Coast Guard film about the ditching of Pan Am flight 6: