Pan Am Series – Part XLVII: The Douglas DC-3

DC-30009

 

The Douglas DC-3

Ron Davies, who authored Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft, described the Douglas DC-3 as “The Old Indestructible” that “has more nearly approached immortality than any other aircraft, military or civil.” This is no exaggeration. Since before World War II, more than 13,000 were built, and many are still flying today, some nearly 70 years old. The type has never been grounded.

Some History

The DC-3 was the culmination of a development effort that began with a request from Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) to the Douglas Aircraft Company to design and build an aircraft to allow TWA to compete with United Airlines, who was starting service with the new Boeing 247. The request was made because Boeing, due to its close association with United, was unable to sell to TWA or any other airline until United’s order for 60 aircraft had been filled. At the time, the 247 was the most advanced aircraft on the market, indeed it was the “first modern airliner”. It was an all-metal airplane with two NACA-cowled Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, giving it speeds in excess of 165 mph. It had a gyro panel for instrument flying, an autopilot, pneumatically operated de-icing equipment, a variable-pitch propeller and retractable landing gear. Jack Frye, TWA’s vice-president of operations wanted an airliner that was ten percent better than the 247 in speed, range, size and airfield performance. From these requirements came the Douglas Commercial Model One (DC-1). Only one was built, as the designers quickly realized that a simple modification would allow for two extra seats, leading to the DC-2 in 1934. The DC-2 was a success and it stopped sales of the 247 to all airlines except United.

Although Pan American did not participate in the initial introduction of either the Boeing 247 or the DC-2, the airline did order eighteen DC-2’s that were deployed entirely on the routes of its associate companies China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), Mexicana and Panagra.

United Airlines' Boeing 247 (SDASM Archives)

United Airlines’ Boeing 247 (SDASM Archives)

The DC-3 was developed after American Airlines CEO C.R. Smith persuaded Douglas to design a sleeper aircraft based on the DC-2 to replace American’s Curtiss Condor II biplanes. Douglas agreed to go ahead with development only after Smith signaled his intent to purchase twenty aircraft. The new aircraft was engineered by a team led by chief engineer Arthur E. Raymond and the prototype DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport) first flew on 17 December 1935. A version with 21 seats instead of the 14-16 sleeping berths of the DST was given the designation DC-3. There was no prototype DC-3; the first DC-3 built followed seven DSTs off the production line and was delivered to American, which inaugurated passenger service in 1936. American, along with United, TWA and Eastern, eventually ordered over 400 aircraft of this type. These fleets paved the way for the modern American air travel industry quickly replacing trains as the favored means of long-distance travel across the United States.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was the first foreign air carrier to receive the DC-3, delivered in 1936 and used on its Amsterdam-Sydney route, via Batavia (now Jakarta). At the time, it was the longest scheduled route in the world.

The first airline in Latin America to use the DC-3 was Cubana de Aviación. The aircraft was first deployed in domestic operations and later used to inaugurate its first scheduled international service from Havana to Miami in 1945.

Douglas_DC-3,_American_Airlines_JP7076904 Jon Proctor   KLMN DC-3 (RuthAS)   Cubana DC-3 Pichs Collection

Top: American Airlines DC-3 (Jon Proctor)(left) and KLM DC-3 (RuthAS)(right).  Above: Cubana DC-3 (Pichs Collection).

Pan American and the DC-3

Pan American’s Juan Trippe, according to Davies, was in no hurry to follow American Airlines in ordering the DC-3. Douglas had already received orders from the U.S. domestic airlines and from four European airlines before Pan American, with its associate Panagra, joined the queue.

However, says Davies, “[Pan American] soon made up for lost time. After the first one was delivered on 1 October 1937, eight more were added to the fleet before the end of the year, and two more in 1939. These were powered by the popular Wright Cyclone engine, as were most of the early production DSTs (Douglas Sleeper Transports) and DC-3s, but thereafter, the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engines were preferred.”

Pan American DC-3 at Santo Domingo (Dax M Roman photo)

Pan American DC-3 at Santo Domingo (Dax M Roman photo)

Pan American deployed the DC-3 on its important Miami-Buenos Aires route as shown in the September 1939 Latin America timetable below.

Scan0001   Scan0002

Wartime Production and Post-War Deployment

With the onset of World War II, Douglas switched to wartime production and the C-47 and C-53 military versions were developed. By the end of the war, over 10,000 had been built at Douglas’ Santa Monica, California, Long Beach, California, and Oklahoma City plants.

Overseas some were built by Fokker and 487 Mitsubishi Kinsei-engined aircraft were built by Showa and Nakajima in Japan as the L2D Type 0 transport.  In the Soviet Union, 4,937 were built under license as the Lisunov Li-2.

After the war, according to Davies, “Pan American did something it had never done before: it bought second-hand aircraft – DC-3s. No doubt its engineering staff ensured that it had the cream of the crop of war surplus C-47s, C-53s, and other varieties of the basic breed, but the fact of the matter was that even Pan American could not pass up the opportunity to acquire perfectly serviceable workhorse airliners for about $5000-$8000 each.”

Pan American’s post-war DC-3 operations were primarily in Latin America and Europe as shown in the timetables below. By 1948, however, DC-4’s and Constellations were being delivered to Pan American’s fleet, replacing the DC-3 on key routes.

Scan0003   Scan0004   Scan0005

Scan0006   Scan0007   DC-30001

Into the 1950’s the liveries of the likes of Avianca, Cubana, Mexicana and Panagra became more evident on the DC-3 in Latin America as Pan American eventually phased out the aircraft from it own fleet. The timetable examples below show the DC-3 deployment by Pan American’s affiliates:

DC-30002   DC-30003

DC-30004   DC-30005   DC-30006

DC-30007   DC-30008

In sum, for Pan American, the DC-3 was an important aircraft on many Latin American routes operated by its affiliates and was a prominent fixture well into the late 1950’s and even the early 1960’s. Said Davies, “[i]t is sufficient to state that Pan American and its cohorts probably owned, at one time or another, about 90 DC-3s, including ex-military conversions, and that is a substantial number, by any standards.”

DC-3 in "Blue Ball" Livery

DC-3 in “Blue Ball” Livery

Still Flying

Today, a restored DC-3, named Clipper Tabitha May is, according to its Facebook Page “dedicated to honoring the history of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation and Pan American World Airways. [The owners and operators] hope that seeing this magnificent, restored airliner will ignite the imagination of young visitors while encouraging others to share their memories and experiences of two iconic American aviation companies.”

Clipper Tabitha May-4

Clipper Tabitha May-1

Clipper Tabitha May-6   Clipper Tabitha May-2

Photos of Clipper Tabitha May from her Facebook Page. The bottom pictures were taken during a recent trip to Cambridge-Dorchester (Maryland) Airport (KCGE). She was seen that day flying over the River Marsh Golf Club of the Cambridge Hyatt Regency.
See more about Clipper Tabitha May on her Facebook Page: Clipper Tabitha May
The DC-3 may not have had the glamour or fame of Pan American’s more prominent airliners, but she was a workhorse and fulfilled vital air transportation needs along Pan American’s Latin America routes during World War II and after. For this, she will be remembered.

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

 

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Services

48-First RTW

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

 Setting the Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Schedules

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

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

1948 RTW

Constellation-1     DC-4

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

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

1952 RTW    Boeing 377-n

“Strato Clipper” (right, PAA photograph).

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

1954 RTW    DC-6B

DC-6B (right, PAA photograph).

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

RTW 1956

377-3 RA Scholefield   DC-7B-n2

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

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

1959 RTW

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

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

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

1966 RTW   1971-72 RTW

1981 RTW

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

747 at LAX Bob Proctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48- kids and clipper    48-On board

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

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

 

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

The Workhorse of the Fleet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clipper Liberty Bell (Allen Clarke photo)

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

1954 June

Clipper Viking at Leopoldville (Connie Heggblom photo)

Clipper Viking at Leopoldville (Connie Heggblom photo)

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

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

1956 April   1956 April-a

DC-6B-1

The Super Six Clipper (Ed Coates)

Clipper Liberty Bell (Ed Coates)

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

Portfolio-1   Portfolio-2

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

1959 April   1959 April-a  1959 April-b

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

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

1961 Sept   1961 Sept-a

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

1966 Sept

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

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

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

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

 

DC-6B Vietnam-1

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

1965 IGS-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 DC-6B-2

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

 

 

 

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

Pan American in Vietnam – A Pilot’s Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dc-6_cockpit

Cockpit of DC-6B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tan-son-nhat

Tan Son Nhut Airport

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

tsn-map-o51-bunker    tsnab_2   71S1hxbr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

66-Marshall    66-Marshall-3

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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 XXI: The Constellation

Around the World in a Constellation

Lockheed 049 Constellation (Illustration by Mike Machat  in Ron Davies' Pan Am - An Airline and Its Aircraft)

Lockheed 049 Constellation (Illustration by Mike Machat in Ron Davies’ Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft)

Many who have followed the history of Pan American World Airways during the piston era often associate the airline with the Boeing Stratocruiser, the DC-6B and the DC-7C, aircraft that played starring roles during that time. Often overlooked was the Constellation, which is always associated with Trans World Airlines (TWA). The ubiquity was obvious: when one sees a Stratocruiser or a DC-6B or DC-7C, one thinks of Pan Am; when one sees a Constellation, one thinks of TWA. Yet, the Constellation played an important role in the post-World War II history of Pan Am, not the least, making the first commercial airline flight around the world.

The Lockheed Constellation (“Connie”), built by the Lockheed Corporation, is a piston airliner driven by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 propeller engines. Between 1943 and 1958, 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models at Lockheed’s Burbank, California facility. The aircraft is distinguished by a triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage and was used as a civilian airliner and as a military and civilian air transport, and saw service in the Berlin Airlift and the Biafran Airlift. It was the presidential aircraft for U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, Ron Davies said this about the Constellation:

“British aviation writer Peter Brooks described the Lockheed Constellation as the ‘secret weapon of American air transport.’ The description was almost literally true as it was produced, if not clandestinely, certainly behind locked doors. It was the inspired result of close cooperation between Lockheed’s design staff headed by the redoubtable Kelly Johnson, and the leadership of Howard Hughes, now actively in charge of TWA. Discussions were first held in 1939. TWA ordered nine in 1940, and the ‘Model 049’, as Lockheed engineers always called it, first flew on 9 January 1943. All concerned must have known it was a winner, even if the C-54s (DC-4s) were piling up the hours across the conflict-stricken oceans.

“On 19 April 1944 Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye flew the ‘Connie’ nonstop from Burbank, Lockheed’s plant location in California, to Washington, DC in three minutes less than seven hours, an air journey which normally took between 12 and 14 hours, including stops. The aircraft was immediately handed over to the Government for military use, and Howard Hughes no doubt made a considerable impression on the assembled bureaucratic multitude as he demonstrated it (illegally) in TWA’s colors”.

With the onset of World War II, the TWA aircraft entering production were converted to an order for C-69 Constellation military transport aircraft, with 202 aircraft intended for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). The aircraft was mostly used as a high-speed, long-distance troop transport during the war.

After World War II the Constellation came into its own as a popular, fast, civilian airliner. Aircraft already in production for the USAAF as C-69 transports were converted to civilian airliners, with TWA receiving the first on 1 October 1945. TWA’s first transatlantic proving flight departed Washington, DC, on 3 December 1945, arriving in Paris on 4 December via Gander and Shannon.

Pan American’s involvement with the Constellation came about before World War II and involved none other than Juan Trippe’s rival, Howard Hughes. According to Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul in The Chosen Instrument, during the first winter of transatlantic service with the Boeing 314, flights suffered many delays because of weather conditions and only 56% were completed. There were icy conditions in the Northeast and rough seas around the Azores. Because of the weather conditions in the Northeast, eastbound passengers were ferried south, sometimes as far south as Miami, by train or domestic carrier to pick up their transatlantic Clipper. On the westbound trip, heavy headwinds and swells at Horta in the Azores caused cancellation of many flights. Later, in the summer of 1940, Pan Am received authority to use Bolama, on the coast of Portuguese Guinea, for an alternative route during the winter months. Westbound flights originating in Lisbon flew south to Bolama and then west and north through Belem and Bermuda to its U.S. destination, adding over 4000 miles to the trip.

Pan Am desperately needed a long-range plane, a type of plane the domestic airlines had taken the lead in developing; but none existed that was capable of spanning oceans. According to Bender and Altschul, “Providence, in the person of . . . Howard Hughes bailed Trippe out on his dependence on the flying boat.” Hughes had bought a controlling interest in TWA and spurred Lockheed to build a four-engine high altitude plane for his airline. It was the Model 049 and it was a challenge to the DC-4 Douglas was building for United and American. As TWA was a domestic carrier at the time, Hughes “allowed” Trippe to enter the Lockheed program. Pan Am ordered twenty 049’s and ten long-range versions of the model in June 1940.  The latter version had pressurized cabins that allowed for flying over the Atlantic storms. However, with the outbreak of war and before the delivery date in 1942, Lockheed had to assign Pan Am’s contract to the Army, with the promise to deliver the aircraft after the war.

As a sidebar to this story:

During the war four significant events occurred that would change the way international airlines did business. Briefly, and without going into the details, these were: (1) a decision between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill whereby, according to Bender and Altschul, the British were to concentrate on production of fighter planes and small bombers and the Americans were to build large bombers and transport planes; (2) great leaps in technology during the war that resulted in the development of larger airplanes with more efficient engines capable of airlifting supplies and personnel over the oceans and that eventually gave the U.S. a clear advantage in the field of international civil aviation; (3) the Roosevelt Administration in Washington not supporting, according to Bender and Selig, a “monopoly [for Pan American] of the overseas air routes. ‘Juan Trippe cannot have it all'”; and (4) the Chicago Conference of 1944, called because of the U.S advantage in international civil aviation and the concern of other nations over that advantage.

The Chicago Conference provided for the “Freedoms of the Air”, governing overflight and landing and traffic rights; “bilateral agreements”, a mechanism for the exchange of traffic rights between governments; and the creation of the International Civil Aviation Organization which would oversee the agreements within the convention having to do with the technical side of international civil aviation. Unfortunately, economic issues, such as frequencies and tariffs, were not resolved largely due to the failure of the British and the Americans to resolve their differences on a variety of economic issues.  These were eventually resolved in 1946 in what became known as the “Bermuda Agreement”. One of the most important features of this agreement was the granting of “Fifth Freedom” rights, which in the case of a bilateral agreement between the United States and a foreign country, gave the right of a U.S.  airline to pick up traffic in that foreign country and carry it to another foreign country along the airline’s route. For example, in the the Bermuda Agreement a passenger may board Pan Am’s flight 2 at London and travel to Frankfurt (or another destination along its route). This right would prove to be important for Pan American with respect to its round-the-world services.

With the end of hostilities, the aircraft built for service in the war, including the Lockheeds, were turned over to the airlines, including Pan Am. In addition, the U.S. Government, through the Civil Aeronautics Board, awarded international routes to several U.S. domestic airlines, including TWA.

Lockheed 049 Constellation - Clipper Challenge - at New York (Connie Heggblom)

Lockheed 049 Constellation – Clipper Challenge – at New York (Connie Heggblom)

From Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft:

“Juan Trippe had been accustomed to sponsoring new generations of aircraft, and it must have been quite a shock to his system to see Hughes and TWA not only taking over such leadership, but also receiving extensive international route awards from the Civil Aeronautics Board, enthusiastically supported by the President (Roosevelt), and now challenging the Chosen Instrument, as Pan American was unofficially dubbed, on the lucrative North Atlantic route.

“The first of the Lockheed airliners, with 54 seats in Pan Am’s layout, was delivered on 5 January 1946 and was christened Clipper Mayflower. A second arrived one week later and Pan American opened North Atlantic Constellation service on 14 January 1946. This was a measure of Pan Am’s considerable organizational strength as TWA itself did not start scheduled transatlantic service until 5 February. * * *

“Pan American took delivery of 22 Model 049 Constellations before the end of May 1946. Two went directly to Panair do Brasil, still very much a Pan Am subsidiary and which was the fortunate recipient of eleven more during the 1950s as they retired from the parent company’s routes.

“On 17 June 1947 a Constellation Model 749, an advanced version, one of four delivered to Pan Am, made the first round-the-world airline inaugural flight from New York to San Francisco. * * * Later, with the purchase of American Overseas Airlines (A.O.A), seven more of the 049 model were added for a total Connie fleet of 33.”

This round-the-world flight undoubtedly was the Constellation’s most notable achievement during its service for Pan Am. Clipper America departed on its historic flight from La Guardia Field in New York. After stops in Gander, Shannon, London, Istanbul, Dhahran, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Manila, Shanghai, Tokyo, Guam, Wake, Midway and Honolulu, the Clipper arrived in San Francisco on 29 June. As Pan American did not have authority to operate domestic flights in the United States, the Clipper ferried to New York, arriving at La Guardia on 30 June via Chicago to complete the journey. Because of the Fifth Freedom rights granted the United States (and Pan Am) in the Bermuda Agreement, Pan Am was able to carry passengers between countries along its round-the-world routes, provided one of the stops involved a British Commonwealth Country and was on Pan Am’s route.

McCoy print First RTW

 From Ron Davies:

“The Lockheed 049 Constellation was in a class of its own. It was at least 70 mph faster than the DC-4; it was pressurized – at a higher equivalent altitude than the Boeing 307 had been; it was larger, with 60 seats against the DC-4’s 44 at the same seat pitch; and it had the range to fly the North Atlantic with only one stop. It sent all the Douglas design staff back to the drawing board in a hurry to develop the un-pressurized Four into something bigger and faster and higher-flying. For the path which airlines had beaten to Santa Monica was superseded by one to Burbank, because when TWA put the Constellation into service, it quickly became evident that there were two classes of airline: those with Connies and those without them.”

Pan Am operated the Constellation for about a decade from its first deliveries in 1946. In a 1948 timetable, the airplane was used primarily on the airline’s round-the-world flights (although sharing duty with the DC-4) and on its services across the Atlantic, including Africa. The Constellation was also operated between New York and San Juan. Pan Am’s subsidiary Panair do Brasil, operated the Constellation between Istanbul and Buenos Aires through Europe and Africa. In a 1950 timetable, the Constellation still operated in the around-the-world service, sharing duties with the DC-4 and Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. Of note was the Friday westbound trip originating in San Francisco designated “PA1”. The airplane continued to be used on Atlantic services, including Africa, as well as the New York-San Juan rotation. The timetable images below illustrate some of these services:

Clipper Winged Arrow

Clipper Winged Arrow

As the decade of the 1950s progressed, Constellation operations began to fade. In a 1952 timetable, its round-the-world sector was between London and Hong Kong. It’s transatlantic operations were replaced by the DC-6B and the Stratocruiser, although it still operated to southern Europe and Africa. The airplane also experienced an increased presence in Latin America. By 1956, the Constellation was only seen in Central America under the Pan Am livery, as seen in a timetable of that year. By the end of the decade the Pan Am Constellation fleet had been sold to Panair do Brasil, Cubana, Delta and Air France.

As a footnote, the Constellation holds two records for flight duration: On 29 September 1957, a TWA L-1649 Constellation  flew from Los Angeles to London in 18 hours and 32 minutes. On its inaugural London to San Francisco flight on 1 October 1957, the aircraft recorded the longest duration non-stop passenger flight, staying aloft for  23 hours and 19 minutes.

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 XIII: Farewell Boeing 314 and Hello DC-4

Ending the Flying Boat Era: The DC-4

Douglas DC-4 (Illustration by Mike Machat in Ron Davies' Pan Am - An Airline and Its Aircraft)

Douglas DC-4 (Illustration by Mike Machat in Ron Davies’ Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft)

During 1936, Pan Am and the four main U.S. domestic airlines engaged in talks with Douglas Aircraft Company regarding the development of an airliner designed to carry more than 60 passengers with a range of 1000 miles. The result was the DC-4E, the first large airliner to feature a nose wheel as well as a main landing gear. The first flight was in June 1938. Unfortunately, the aircraft design did not meet the requirements of all of the five airlines and as a result it was scrapped and attention was switched to a smaller airliner, the DC-4.

DC-4E (Carl Malamud photo)

DC-4E (Carl Malamud photo)

The DC-4 initially went into production as a four-engine propeller-driven long-range commercial land plane. However, with the start of World War II, the focus switched to the military and the aircraft  was re-designated the C-54 for the Army Air Corps and the R5D for the Navy. The first flight was on 14 February 1942 and eventually over 1000 were built. During the war nearly 80,000 ocean crossings were made including a 250-strong armada that delivered two Army divisions to Japan from Okinawa after the Japanese surrender. The DC-4 also had a prominent role in the Berlin Airlift.

The aircraft proved to be a popular and reliable type, and its tricycle landing gear design allowed the fuselage structure to be stretched into the later DC-6 and DC-7 aircraft. Douglas continued production throughout the war and after. The aircraft was not pressurized, although it was an option.

Once hostilities were over, the C-54s and R5Ds were released and the world’s airlines scrambled for them. The U.S. airline industry went into high gear, and Pan Am was no exception, taking its first delivery on 3 November 1945. And for Pan Am, the acquisition of the DC-4 meant the end of the flying boat era, as described by Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft:

“In an epoch-making mission, Pan American dispatched a DC-4 on 21 October 1945 on a 25,000-mile survey flight to Japan, China, Southeast Asia and India. The message was clear. To underscore the point, Pan Am replaced its Boeing 314s on the California-Honolulu route with DC-4s. The daily flight took about 10 hours, compared with the Boeing’s 20, and the fare was reduced from $278 one way to $195. The era of the flying boat was at an end.”

End of an Era (Pan Am 1945 Annual Report)

End of an Era (Pan Am 1945 Annual Report)

Besides the U.S. carriers, airlines from all over the world acquired the DC-4. Among the many were SAS, Iberia, Swissair, Air France, Sabena, KLM, Aerolineas Argentinas and South African Airways, as well as Pan Am affiliates Panagra, Cubana and Avianca.

DC-4 in "bare metal" color scheme.

Clipper Westward Ho in “bare metal” color scheme.

Pan Am eventually acquired over 90 DC-4s and employed them throughout its world-wide route system. It was also the aircraft used on 19 January 1946, when Pan Am operated the first landplane passenger flight to Africa with Clipper Lightfoot to Leopoldville, Belgian Congo. Pan Am’s use of the DC-4 from the end of the war until it was withdrawn in the early 1960s was initially extensive but became more specialized. A look at the timetables from that era tells the story.

John T. McCoy watercolor of the inauguration of service to Africa.

John T. McCoy watercolor of the inauguration of service to Africa.

In the June 1948 timetable, the DC-4 was used on Pan Am’s round-the-world flights between Calcutta and California and saw service on European, Alaska and the Pacific routes. The aircraft was also used in Latin America, including on Pan Am’s signature flights 201/202 between New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Clipper Reindeer in Alaska (PAHF)

Clipper Reindeer in Alaska (PAHF)

By the April 1952 timetable, Pan Am had introduced the DC-6B and the DC-4 was used more sparingly. In Europe it was used primarily on the Internal German Services (IGS) and in the Pacific it operated for the most part between Tokyo, Manila, Hong Kong and Singapore. The aircraft was also used in the Alaska service, Bermuda service and for Tourist class service between New York and San Juan and Miami and Havana.

By the April 1956 timetable, the DC-7B and DC-7C had been introduced to Pan Am’s fleet and the DC-4’s operations became more and more specialized. For example, the aircraft was employed exclusively on the IGS, with limited service on the Alaska and Pacific routes, and in Latin America with Avianca flights out of Bogota, Colombia.

Clipper Dreadnaught at Frankfurt

Clipper Dreadnaught at Frankfurt

DC-4 at Berlin

DC-4 at Berlin

By the April 1959 timetable, jet service had been introduced. The DC-4s were still employed in the IGS and with very limited service in the Pacific, and also with Panagra in Latin America.

And in the September 1961 timetable, with minor exceptions, Pan Am’s DC-4 passenger service ended when the DC-6B replaced the venerable aircraft on the IGS.

The DC-4, along with the Constellation, played a big role in Pan Am’s early post-war operations. The aircraft enabled Pan Am to become a “world” airline and it was instrumental in establishing Pan Am’s presence in Europe, the Pacific and in Latin America.  Its range enabled it to make ocean crossings, which gave Pan Am and the United States a distinct advantage in the development and operation of long range, large capacity aircraft. Unfortunately the DC-4 was remembered for its lack of pressurization and slower speed. Nevertheless because of its massive production and wide deployment by both military and commercial operators, what should not be forgotten, as so succinctly said by Ron Davies, “is the record of the intercontinental airlines, U.S. and foreign alike, almost all of which  inaugurated their prestigious trunk routes with DC-4s.”

For a timeline of Pan Am “firsts” and significant historical events with images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of the book  Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

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

CoverFinalDesign.Book1-June2011 small

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