Pan Am Series – Part XLVI: The Last Clipper

The Last Clipper

“Any pilot’s final flight is traumatic, but when it’s the last for an American Icon, it becomes a part of history.”

Pan American Boeing 727-235 - Same Aircraft type as Clipper Goodwill (Photo by Pedro Aragão)

Pan American Boeing 727-235 – same Aircraft type as “The Last Clipper”. (Photo by Pedro Aragão)

TWENTY-THREE years ago today, Pan American World Airways ceased all operations and thus ended a glorious existence that included pioneering events that shaped what international commercial aviation is today. Last year this Series featured the story of the last Pan Am 747 to South America piloted by John Marshall. This year will feature the story by Mark Pyle of the Last Clipper to carry revenue passengers from Barbados to Miami. He was also the pilot of that flight and his story is featured in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. Here it is in its entirety:         

“At one time, I subscribed to Aviation Quarterly, which was remarkable in its quality, its appreciation of aviation, and its unrelenting pursuit of excellence. It was hardbound and worthy of being perused in my favorite lounge chair as I enjoyed a snifter of choice brandy. I was a life-time charter member, but it is now defunct and belongs to history. Nothing is forever!

“My airline now belongs to the past as surely does my aging lot of forgotten magazines. Pan American World Airways is lost–lost to corporate ineptitude, governmental indifference, and an inability to change with the world it helped to bring together.

“’It looks like a beautiful day to go flying,’ First Officer Robert Knox of Greensboro, N.C., said as we began our ritual of checking the weather along our route of flight. Flight 219, bound for Bridgetowne, Barbados, was one hour from departure. We completed the paperwork that would ensure that the trip would meet all legal requirements for performance and weight and balance. We were more than businesslike, because CNN had reported the night before that Delta Air Lines had withdrawn its support for our newly proposed company.

“On most occasions, we would have made a comment or two about sports or hobbies at a predeparture briefing. Individuals who had not flown together before would use such small talk to break the ice of unfamiliarity. This morning was certainly different–an air of finality hung about everyone at our counter. The fact that it was 6 a.m. further depressed the atmosphere. The engineer, Chuck Foreman of Washington, D.C., was poring over the fuel figures. He had just returned to the Boeing 727 from its much larger cousin, the jumbo Boeing 747.

“We walked briskly to our aircraft, ship No. 368, one of the newest Boeing 727s in the fleet and quite a pleasure to fly with its more powerful engines and spirited performance. Pan Am had many Boeing 727s, but most were older. Their engines were always adequate but would not produce the kick in the seat of this newer model. I stowed my gear in the cockpit with a feeling of quiet pride, generated by command of such a machine. I then walked aft to greet the flight attendants who would complete our ship’s company on this beautiful New York morning.

“Immediately, the purser raised the question of Delta’s withdrawal, and my answer was the same as it would be to my cockpit crew members: ‘Whatever the day holds, we will make it a good trip.’ All agreed that it would be, whether as the first of many, as the promised ‘born again’ Pan Am with roots in Miami, or as the last of many.

“We acknowledged the push-back clearance from our ground team, or what had been our ground team. Now that they were attired in their Delta uniforms, we felt a sense of unreality as we left the gate. Our aircraft responded in its usual marvelous manner–the engines whined to life as though longing to push onward into the promise of this cloudless morning. The ground team gave us a salute, and we were off. The navigational computer engaged, and we took our place on the runway as the final checklist items, routine with years of repetition, were completed.”

Clipper Goodwill

“As we gathered speed, I marveled at what fine engines the wonderful folks at Pratt and Whitney had provided for us. Gently, I eased the nose of this beautiful airplane skyward. The sound of rushing wind and whirring instruments added to what is always a magic moment in every pilot’s life. The ground fell rapidly away, and the sky above beckoned. Both man and machine were happy to oblige. We turned away from the familiar Manhattan skyline and pointed the nose of Clipper Goodwill south–toward Barbados.

“After leveling at 31,000 feet, the routine of monitoring powerplant and navigational instruments settled in. The conversation once again turned to what we felt to be the abandonment of our airline by what we had all thought was a corporate good guy. Not a visionary by any means, I had detailed my fears along these same lines from the day the agreement was finalized. ‘The Delta promises were necessary to cement the agreement and nothing more,’ I had said, and all along I had hoped I was wrong! I, like many of my friends, was not fortunate enough to transfer, or more correctly, I was not on the right airplane–the Airbus A310. (Delta wanted only certain groups of pilots, based primarily on airplane qualification.)

“We flew over Bermuda, that incredible 21-square-mile piece of volcanic rock, where I had spent my last Christmas on layover. I have many happy memories of Bermuda and of other places–all associated with destinations on what had been a world carrier. Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Manila, Beijing, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Venice, Oslo, Istanbul, and many other cities–destinations previous Pan Am employees largely pioneered–all hold memories for many more Pan Am employees.

“Only a few puffy cumulus clouds–airborne cotton balls–blocked our way to Bridgetowne as we began our descent. The approach along the western coast of Barbados is surreal. The island is truly a multicolored jewel set in a background of turquoise sea. We landed to the east, as the trade winds nearly always dictate, touching down 4 hours 30 minutes after our departure from New York. We taxied to the gate and shut down our engines as we had done hundreds of times before. This time there would be a difference, a notable difference! In the four and one‑half hours of our flight, tragic history had been made.”

Pan Am Ceases Operations

“The station manager approached as he always did and greeted the inbound passengers. He then stepped into our office (the cockpit) and greeted us cordially, explaining he had some bad news. I quickly responded that I thought we could guess the nature of his grim tidings. He produced a message from New York operations in a very familiar format. This content, however, had never before in its 64-year history been inscribed on any Pan American document. Pan Am, as of 9 a.m. on Dec. 4, 1991, had ceased operations. None of our flight attendants could restrain their emotions, or their tears. All were at least 20-year veterans with Pan American or National Airlines. They vented their disbelief and their resentment of the Delta decision; consoling them prevented those of us in the cockpit from showing our own pent-up feelings.

“Our station manager asked us if we would operate the trip to Miami. He would find a way to buy fuel. Many passengers were stranded, and some Pan Am employees were packing to leave their stations and their jobs. We informed our station manager that we would delay as long as possible. This would ensure that all those wishing to return to Miami had time to board. We waited more than two hours in mostly silent thought while the passengers gathered from their hotels and employees packed their belongings.

Last timetable0001     Last timetable0002     Last timetable0003-1

“At one point, the local airport employees who had served Pan Am so well, and whom Pan Am had so well served, came to the aircraft. A tearful ceremony followed. Flowers and good wishes were exchanged. The local television news media requested interviews. Airport employees barraged the Clipper Goodwill for last pictures, which would adorn family scrapbooks.

“At 2 p.m. EST, the wheels came up on Clipper 436, hailing from Bridgetowne, Barbados, and bound for the city of Pan Am’s birth. We flew with silent thought, exchanging few words as time passed. San Juan Center cleared our flight direct to Miami, and I punched in the navigational coordinates for Miami International a final time. Little could be said in the face of a solemn reality–the certain knowledge of dead-end careers. What happened can best be described as a death in our immediate family. Pan American was my family in every sense. It was the corporate family to thousands.

“The engineer interrupted my thoughts as we began our descent into Miami: ‘Should I call in range?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘someone will surely still be there. The airplanes must be put to bed.’

The engineer spoke again in my direction very softly, so softly I could not understand.

‘Pardon me?’ I said.

 This veteran engineer of more than 25 years choked back tears through clouded eyes. He said, ‘Mark, we’re the last flight–the final flight.’ That circumstance had not occurred to me. He continued, ‘They want us to make a low pass over the field.’

I said, ‘You’re kidding, right? They’re joking!’ Privately, I thought it might be a friend who had landed before me, now pulling my leg.

‘No joke,’ he said, ‘they are going to be there to meet us–some kind of ceremony.’

“Miami lay before us. A cold front had just passed, and fog followed the coastline, extending out to sea almost to the Bahamas. Miami sat on the other side of the fog bank, eerie and beautiful at the same time. Dinner Key lay nestled in the fog. My mind raced at the finality of what I was doing. This wasn’t just the end of my career! This airline’s fading into history far surpassed the end of any individual’s career. Franklin Roosevelt had left from that same Dinner Key aboard Dixie Clipper, bound for Casablanca in 1943, the first American President to fly while in office.

“Pan Am had not been just a part of history, it had made history for all of its 64 years. It was always there when the government needed it. Indeed, Pan American Clippers had many scars as mementos from encounters with enemies of the United States. From Japanese bullet holes a lumbering clipper received as it evacuated key military personnel from Wake Island during the early stages of World War II, to the terrorist bombing of “Clipper 103.” More recently Pan Am pilots and airplanes aided in Operation Desert Storm. A Pan American Clipper brought me home from Vietnam. Now Pan Am had only Clipper Goodwill and this last crew–this final flight.

“With the passengers briefed carefully as to our intentions, I called for flaps 15. We descended on the electronic glideslope that had so often guided me to Miami. We now executed the requested low pass–my first since I left the Navy many years ago. As we flew down the centerline of Runway 12, I noted the lineup of American Airlines aircraft that would soon take our place. As we completed the low pass, the tower issued a final statement: ‘Outstanding, Clipper!’

“Pulling up and turning downwind for our final approach and landing, I looked at the beautiful Miami Airport and the city it serves. We all realized this would be the last time. Again, the finality of the moment slammed my senses. Our wheels touched for the last time in a Pan American aircraft –the last time for a scheduled revenue flight of any kind for this historic airline.

“Approaching the taxiway, we began to see the reception that stretched before us. Airport vehicles of every description–police and security vehicles, port authority and fire equipment–lined the taxiway, and video cameras abounded. Lines of individuals in semi-military formation were everywhere.”

Salute to History

 “As we taxied past the first formations, men and women came to brisk attention and saluted ‘the last of the Clippers.’ Tears welled up in my eyes then for the first time. Many rows of people and machines–all smartly formed–all saluted. I returned the salute just as crisply, fully knowing that their salutes were to this “machine” and to all the ‘machines’ that bore the title ‘Clipper’ for 64 years. Their salute was to the history that this ship represented and to all that had gone before.

“We passed the line of fire equipment, and the water cannon was fired over the aircraft. My emotions reeled under the weight of this tribute to Pan Am’s last flight. I engaged the windshield wiper to clear water that was on the windscreen, but that did little good for the water in my eyes. My first officer fought back his tears. He had worn Pan Am blue for 23 years.

“One final formation–all Pan American ground personnel–tendered their last salute. We approached the gate and set the brakes for the last time. We shut down systems for the last time and secured the faithful engines. Sadly gathering our belongings, we shook hands. Our final fight was over. No eyes in the cockpit were dry. Many of the departing passengers shared our moment of grief. The tears for Pan Am will continue.

69-blocking in-1

“Upon returning to my home, our 13-year-old son presented me with a letter. Through his own tears, he named me Pan Am’s greatest pilot. For one brief moment, on one tearful occasion.”

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 XXXII: Technical Assistance Like No Other – 2

Technical Assistance for Tajik Air – 1993

Part Two

Pan Am’s spirit is alive in a unique Technical Assistance Project

Acceptance and Inaugural Flights of Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP

The acceptance flight is a critical part of the delivery process of an aircraft to an airline.  Once the aircraft is accepted and delivered, anything that is discovered wrong with the aircraft becomes the responsibility of the airline.  Inspections and the acceptance flight should ensure that this does not happen.  The Boeing 747SP was flown to London by a United Airlines supervisory pilot and crew.  Upon arrival, Captain Carr and his crew met the aircraft and began the task of inspecting the aircraft and its logs and maintenance records and carrying out the acceptance flight.  The aircraft looked great with a fresh paint job with Tajik Air livery.  Once everything was signed off, and the walk-around inspection complete, the aircraft was pronounced airworthy and Captain Carr and his crew boarded the aircraft to begin the flight.

N149UA-2   747SP at DYU-1

However, once on board, there was a surprise awaiting them:  The aircraft was full of people!  Normally such a flight involves the necessary minimum crew members.  Not this one.  The press was on board, as were Tajik Air officials, the Minister of Aviation of Tajikistan and management staff.  In fact station personnel and baggage handlers were also on board!

From Captain Carr:

“[I had] a quiet conversation with the [Minister of Aviation] to make sure that carrying all these people on a test flight was okay. I learned that wonderful Russian phrase: ‘kharasho’ (‘no problem’).  Since he was the law for our Tajikistan operating certificate, it was like getting the word directly from God. 

“I climbed into my seat in the cockpit. The United pilot looked really nervous and seemed a few shades deeper red than normal. He indicated his concern about all these people on board, and I said ‘kharasho’, took the clip board from him and signed as Pilot in Command. He looked relieved. I reminded him that United was still responsible for any maintenance items until I signed the aircraft acceptance form.  The flight went smoothly, the aircraft was perfect and everyone enjoyed the tour of the English countryside as we put the airplane through its paces. We returned to Heathrow and I made my first landing in a real 747 in about a year and a half. As we came in on final approach, I realized that we had almost all the top brass aboard, the new crew-members and a whole planeload of people who had never been on a 747 before. 

“If you’re are flying a 747 correctly, on speed and according to ‘the book’, it normally makes a very nice landing. Once in a while, when conditions are just right and you are very lucky, the touch down is so smooth that you don’t realize you are on the ground until the speed-brake handle comes up as it automatically reacts to a micro-switch on the landing gear as the wheels touch ground. This was one of those landings. 

“It is a Russian custom to applaud after a landing. But I didn’t think this applause was for landing, rather giving thanks to be alive.   However, during the flight we kept the door open for the bigwigs to view the cockpit and after landing I heard the cheers and applause from behind. Winning an Oscar for an actor couldn’t feel any better than how that landing and applause felt to me.  As we all left the aircraft my new bosses kept congratulating me as though I was the greatest pilot in the world. What could I say?  I just smiled and secretly thanked Boeing.”

Snow Leopard-1a-comp

Gunilla Crawford, having arrived in London to handle flight service, also had a look at the 747SP prior to delivery:

“The day came when we were to see the plane for the first time. It was a rainy overcast day, but there she was as beautiful as ever, sitting on the wet tarmac. We inspected the galleys, the equipment  and planned the last details, now that a few months of training and planning  had come together and the real adventure was to begin. ‘Starving’ for flying since the demise of Pan Am . . .we were all raring to go, as this would be the ‘real’ thing………..or so we thought.”

It was now time to get ready for operations.   Ticket sales and crew scheduling were at the top of the agenda.

With the acceptance flight completed and the aircraft ready to start operations, management and staff got into full gear. Tickets were sold, crews scheduled and plans were made for launch activities.  At the London Headquarters on Kensington High Street, tickets sales in both the Delhi, India and Karachi, Pakistan markets was brisk and flights sold out very quickly. However, ticket sales in the Dushanbe market was slow due to very little western business activity in the country, and what little passenger traffic there was, was largely government in nature. Thus, selling seats in the beyond markets was necessary.  As described in Part One, this “Sixth Freedom” operation enabled a profit on what would have been money losing flights.  In fact, over 90-95% of the booked passengers were booked on flights to Delhi or Karachi.  Deeply discounted advance purchase excursion tickets offered through local travel agents in the ethnic neighborhoods of London resulted in a huge response.

The Kensington High Street Headquarters served as both a ticket office and operations base with constant activity, day and night. This was punctuated with welcome and frequent visits by the Pan Am and Tajik flight crews.

McMillan House-1 Cyrus and Eni    McMillan House-3

McMillan House-2

 

While ticket sales and preparations for the inaugural flight were progressing, Gunilla Crawford and her team of flight attendants set about to organize crew scheduling and rotations.  This was no easy task!

Cabin crew scheduling was a challenge for Gunilla.  With no computers available, some creativity was required:

From Gunilla Crawford:

“We went across the street from the hotel to a gas station and bought four dinosaur-shaped erasers in four different colors.  Each dinosaur represented a crew.   And each crew consisted of two ex-Pan Am flight attendants and the rest Tajik.  On a large poster board we plotted the four destinations, London, Dushanbe, Karachi and New Delhi.  By moving the dinosaurs between the destinations we made sure nobody was scheduled from London, when in fact the crew member was in New Delhi!”

Cabin Crew Sked-2

 

When Gunilla arrived in London, she was in for a surprise.  In addition to heading up the cabin crew, there was another responsibility as well:  Catering.  She handled that in pure Pan Am fashion.

“We made appointments with Catering at Heathrow airport, we picked china for the First Class Service, silver ware, serving dishes, baskets and linens. The ‘old’ Pan Am training came back in force and we would do the service in the name of that classic carrier.” 

The food service to be offered was superb.

In First Class departing London, “Royal Doulton Service” included during the drinks service a choice of Hot Canapes including Chicken Kebab, Mushroom Cream Vol-au-Vent, Spring Roll, Basil Cashew Parmesan Tartlets and Asian Canapes of mixed pakoras and samosas. The Hors d’oeuvres offered a choice of Poached Salmon Medallion on Oakleaf lettuce with Diced Pepper and Cucumber Salad, or a Tomato Cup filled with Mayonnaise Lemon garnish or a Smoked Chicked Breast on Radicchio with Mandarin Orange and Cucumber or a Radish and Mixed Peppers Julienne, all with a Mixed Leaf Salad with Vinaigrette.  For the entree, the choices were Curry Prawn Jalfrezi with fresh chopped Coriander, Rack of Lamb with Herbs and Fresh Rosemary Sprigs or Chicken Shirin Polo accompanied by Basmati Rice with Zereshk or Potato Sesame Croquettes and a choice of vegetables including Broccoli au Gratin Mornay or Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Baby Sweetcorn, Turned Carrots and Mange Tout.

For desert Gateau Chocolate Roulade with Orange Zest was followed by a cheese plate that included Camembert, Port Salut, Feta, Stilton, Brie with black grapes, black and green olives and celery batons.  Ending the meal was a fresh fruit basket.

Prior to landing in Dushanbe the pre-arrival “hot breakfast was just as posh…It was like working the Pan Am Clippers again”, according to Vince Rossi one of the ex-Pan Am flight attendants.

Gunilla Feb 19   Gunilla Feb 12    Gunilla Feb 10-cropped

As the day approached for the first revenue flight from London to Dushanbe and onwards to Karachi, the crews began assembling in London to prepare. For Gunilla, it was a happy reunion with the Tajik flight attendants who greeted their ex-Pan Am counterparts with “squeals and shouts of joy”.  For the inaugural flight four ex-Pan Am were to work the flight, Robert Stewart, Tania Anderson, Linda Morehouse and Linda Oja.  In the flight deck were Captain Ed Olasz, First Officer Jim Donahue and Flight Engineer Carl Meixal.  In addition, two qualified captains were assigned to the flight.

Preparations for departure went into high gear.  Nothing was overlooked.  Everything was covered, from the accuracy of the manuals to training to CRM (crew resources management) with the Tajik flight attendants.   Anything that could possibly happen, even the unpredictable, was discussed and thoroughly prepared for.

The excitement of flying again did not escape the ex-Pan Amers who were taking part in the operation.  The 747SP’s first flight coincided almost to the date of the demise of their beloved Pan Am, some two years prior.

 

From Tania Anderson:

“I happily scribbled away in my diary, gushing about the thrill of flying with my cosmopolitan colleagues again. A few fondly remembered having flown with this particular 747SP before. Some of my co-workers had not flown since Pan Am’s demise. It had been nearly two years to the day that I had been on my last flight, a White House Press Charter, when we learned that we were bankrupt for good. Now as we gathered in the lobby of our London hotel for the first flight to Dushanbe, we all noted the sad anniversary coupled with the excitement of exploring a new airline together.”

At 2215 hrs on the date of the inaugural flight, Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP, designated flight 7J801, departed London Heathrow for Dushanbe. The spirit on board was one of joy and happiness.

From Tania Anderson:

“During the flight, I quickly noted that many of the passengers, who were going onto Karachi, were much less frenetic than the ones we used to fly on Pan Am. They were elated to be going home, either for a visit or permanently, for a reasonably priced airline ticket. One passenger actually asked if he could kiss me, and I reluctantly replied, “Well, Ok, but on my cheek!” I also noted in my diary that we were flying across Russian airspace which may not sound like a big deal but to someone who grew up during the Cold War when the former USSR was our mortal enemy, it was intriguing to me.

“The multi-national crew also bonded quickly. The Tajik flight attendants loved the fact that my name was Tania. Naturally assuming that I was Russian with a name like Tania, one actually commented that I spoke good fluent English for a Russian. Some of the Tajiks were dark with olive skin and Middle Eastern looks. Most were Muslim. Others were the opposite end of the spectrum with white skin and light eyes. They were usually Russian Orthodox.

“Among the Tajik flight attendants, there were three Irenas on the flight.  Any time I said ‘Irena’, all three would whirl around simultaneously to see what I wanted.  The Tajik flight attendants  were absolutely delightful and so easy to get along with. They were also thrilled to have secured a job such as this with the opportunity to explore a bit of the world, especially London. Many of them had no transportation from their homes, so they simply walked miles to the airport to work these extraordinarily long flights. They went out of their way to tell us how their country was still in a lot of upheaval economically. In addition, Afghani insurgents were coming over the border to make trouble, and they wanted none of it. ‘Tania, we just all want peace and to be able to live our lives’, one told me.”

Cabin Crew-2a    Cabin Crew-1a

Crew-1    Cabin Crew-1

After a long flight into the night, the 747SP landed in Dushanbe.

From Tania Anderson:

“It was a cold, wintry, snowy day when we landed in Dushanbe to a zealous reception on the tarmac. After all, we were the first western aircraft to ever land in somewhat remote Tajikistan. I distinctly remember applause in the cabin upon our touchdown, but the local hoopla outside just about had me abandoning my jump-seat.

“With a dramatic back drop of steep snow-encrusted mountains, dozens of well-wishers had gathered on the tarmac in their traditional brightly-colored clothes. There was a band playing Russian instruments complete with long-nosed horns and big drums. Tajik national TV was there with their ancient equipment to record every single minute of the ceremonies and our arrival.”

DYU Reception-2

Gunilla Feb 03    Gunilla Feb 01    Gunilla Feb 02

From Tania Anderson:

“Once on the blocks, the ground people enthusiastically boarded the plane, not only to welcome us, but to ask for a quick tour of the 747SP. Descending the spiral staircase, our pilots were given handsome home-made colorful robes to wear over their uniforms. Now that the door was open, I could observe the entire scene. Our pilots were quickly ushered down the stairs and off to the terminal for a reception including some local culinary treats whose identity was left to the imagination. Later one of them told me that the Tajiks had insisted that they shoot some vodka—maybe local moonshine—to celebrate the day. A bit horrified, our pilots made certain that the officials knew we still had another leg to fly to Karachi, but the general response was like, ‘So what?’

“Linda Oja and I stayed on the plane watching everything from L-1. Then something happened I shall never forget. As Linda squealed, ‘Oh, No!’ I saw some Tajiks dragging a sheep across the tarmac towards the Snow Leopard. It struggled the entire way, right up to the staircase, just as if it knew something lousy was about to occur. As they do in many countries, they sacrificed the sheep at the bottom of our stairs, directing the blood from his neck into a bowl. In the west we christen ships and airplanes with champagne, but now we were half way around the world in a land with customs very different than our own.

“Not long afterwards, the entire crew along with the ground people gathered in front of the aircraft for a memorable photo. Each of us was festooned with garlands of deep red-colored roses. They were velvet to the touch and their fragrance was heavenly, even against the cold blast of mid-winter.

“Standing there on that frosty winter day, I felt a true sense of pride about our latest “operation.” In true Pan Am fashion, we had pulled ourselves up after the bankruptcy and were on the other side of the planet helping the struggling Tajiks with their burgeoning airline, begun with one beautiful 747SP.

“Flying on [Tajik Air’s 747SP] was another wonderful Pan Amigo adventure to add to my memoirs.”

Inaugural at DYU-1

When the flight arrived at Dushanbe that morning, Tajikistan was in the midst of an economic crisis along with a civil war.  Bread was being rationed but at the same time the country was trying to turn the page into a new chapter of their existence, emerging from the era of Soviet rule to an independent and free nation.  The arrival of this beautiful 747SP representing their national airline stoked both great pride and happiness among its citizens.

This unique “Technical Assistance”, from the beginning, was the story of a revolutionary idea that should have been hugely successful. Who would have thought that a remote country in the former Soviet Union would have a Boeing 747 operation linking it with the West?  It actually happened – and it could have continued.  Unfortunately the fates would not allow that and countless hours of devotion to a noble project went to waste. If there is blame, it is not worth dwelling on.  Everyone wanted the right outcome.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The timing was just not perfect for starting such an operation. The infrastructure within Tajikistan’s Civil Aviation Authority had not matured enough to take on the financial and political burden of a complex Sixth Freedom operation, requiring bilateral agreements not only with the United Kingdom, but with India and Pakistan as well. Thanks to the London management, the UK agreement and slots at Heathrow were secured.  Unfortunately, the negotiations to secure the agreements with India were still incomplete when the operation started and that presented barriers and resultant revenue losses. Had the start of the operation been delayed until the negotiations were completed there might have been a different result.  That will never be known.  However, the Boeing 747SP operation proved that it could be done, and for four short months, Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP proudly flew the skies between London, Dushanbe and Delhi/Karachi.

N149UA-1a     N540PA-1

Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP, Manufacturer’s Serial Number 21649, Serial 373 was first delivered to Pan American World Airways on May 11, 1979 registered as N540PA and named Clipper White Falcon.  It was renamed Clipper Flying Arrow on August 1, 1979 and later renamed Clipper Star of the Union on January 1, 1980. One year later, on January 1, 1981, the aircraft became China Clipper.

On February 12, 1986, as part of Pan Am’s sale of its Pacific Routes, N540PA was acquired by United Airlines.  The registration was changed to N149UA on June 1, 1986.  It was under this registration that the aircraft operated for Tajik Air. After the aircraft was repossessed by United Airlines, it was bought by the Brunei Government and re-registered as V8-JBB. It was then bought by the Government of Bahrain on December 24, 1998 and registered as A9C-HMH. Today the aircraft is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, registered as VQ-BMS. She is still in operation.

EVENT REMINDERS:

Aircraft Accident Workshop, 31 May 2014 in San Francisco.

Click here for info or registration.

Pan Am’s Worldwide Family Reunion

31 July – 3 August  2014

New York/Long Island City

Click here for info and registration.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

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

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pan Am Series – Part XIX: Clipper Maid of the Seas

“Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance”

21 December 1988, the day Pan Am flight 103, Clipper Maid of the Seas, was destroyed by a terrorist act, is a date that anyone connected with Pan American World Airways – passenger, employee, friend or fan – will always be, to quote President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “a day which will live in infamy”. For many, this tragic and awful catastrophe marked the beginning of what was to be the slow demise of the once great airline. During the course of the past two weeks Pan Amers all over the world have been posting messages on the social media with thoughts about the events of that horrible day and the loss of their colleagues and passengers on that flight and the people of Lockerbie, Scotland. In addition, memorial events have been scheduled around the world as well as a call for a moment of silence at 1902 hours, GMT, the moment  Clipper Maid of the Seas disappeared from radar.

Pan American flight 103 was the last of three daily nonstop Pan Am flights scheduled between London Heathrow and New York Kennedy airports.  It originated in Frankfurt Main with a Boeing 727 and changed gauge to a Boeing 747 at Heathrow for its transAtlantic sector. The scheduled departure was 1800 hours. The October 1988 timetable, below, illustrates the flight:

On 21 December 1988 Clipper Maid of the Seas (Clipper 103) operated the London-New York sector and pushed back just after its scheduled departure time of 1800 hours.

Clipper Maid of the Seas

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo credit itusozluk.com)

Paula Helfrich and Rebecca Sprecher in their novel, Flying – a novel, dealt with that day through their fictional character Zoe Longfield. The pre-departure events described in the excerpt below are factually correct.

“Zoe heaved her crew-bag over the aircraft’s wet doorsill, the rain seeping around the jetway’s transom on this rainy evening.  Hawea’s nanny had been late arriving at the flat, so she’d rushed to the airport in a hurry. As she passed through the doorway, she noticed a small chip in the molding of the emergency slide.

“Damn, Morning Light, here you are again!”  She smiled ruefully at the maintenance chief, who turned the pages of the ship’s maintenance log for the engineer’s signature as he headed out on his pre-flight check.  Making a bet with herself, she checked the history of cabin maintenance items going back several weeks.  Sure enough, N739PA’s aft toilet banks had been inoperable on at least 15 log entries, and all had been written off.   One acknowledgement out of Amsterdam responded to the entry “Toilet 4-3 broken,” with a terse, “Still broken, but trying.”  She laughed and showed the maintenance chief.

“’Yes, miss, sometimes it’s a bit tough to get all these moving parts moving in the proper order.’  He noted that the aircraft had just come in from San Francisco some four hours earlier, and they had not been able to schedule several major cabin items due to a worker shortage and the weather.

 “She responded, ‘You know, Chief, this Clipper Morning Light is almost older than I am!  I remember her from that tiny chip on the slide cover at the L-1 door on my training flight in 1970, and the damned toilet was broken then!’

“He laughed, ‘G’wan, then. Yer not that old! Besides, she was Morning Light for a long bit, and then the big brains changed her name to protect the innocent.  Now they’ve called her Maid of the Seas.’   Look, they’ve even repainted the name on the nosecone.”  And sure enough, they had.

* * *

“Maintenance workers in blue uniforms swarmed over the exterior of the aircraft, refueling from massive fuel points set into the cement apron and conferring over maintenance items. Ramp workers drove out the long buggies of baggage containers, which had sat in the rain all day, unsupervised, set up by some anonymous daily planning docket. She looked casually out as the ramp workers maneuvered the first silver baggage container tagged AVE4041 up the belt.  Engines roared from the takeoff runway, aluminum baggage cans rattled, and voices crackled loudly on two-way radios, their words indistinct.  Permeating all of this familiar mayhem was the heavy, sweet-thick smell of jet fuel and machine oil and the constant scream of accelerating engines.

“Zoe looked out at the rain falling steadily, softly, creating a grey ground fog on the tarmac and a ghostly pall over the other aircraft in the middle taxiway as they glided past towards the active runway, their colors muted in the mist. In the First Class galley before her, two port stewards conferred with the flight attendant on duty, covering the inventory of meals, equipment, supplies and special orders that had been loaded and labeled in each galley compartment. They laughed companionably, and the younger of the two men, a handsome man of Mediterranean complexion, flirted amiably with the attractive German flight attendant.  Zoe smiled, catching the eye of the older steward and rolling her eyes, causing him to laugh out loud and nudge his colleague.  She laughed, shaking her head and heading down the left aisle to the economy section galley.

“Several of the crewmembers were gathered there, discussing the latest in the depressing news about Pan Am’s seemingly endless financial woes while they went about the business of preparing for another load of passengers.  They were a collegial, cosmopolitan group.  Zoe had met or flown with most of them in one place or another.  She had shared the December 24th birthday of the French woman some years ago in Beirut at a wild all-night party. She heard the accents of Germany, England, Ireland, Spain and the Scandinavian countries. Crewmembers recounted stories of paying several hundred dollars to commute from Berlin to London on a Pan Am subsidiary, and then working back from London to Frankfurt later that day.  It was a crazy world, and every dollar was measured twice. 

* * *

“There were 13 working crew altogether, almost all based in London. The cockpit crew was from New York, and all were tired from the ongoing anonymity of the new scheduling policies, in which practically everyone was a stranger.  The cabin crew were somewhat alienated by the new locked doors and cockpit-exclusive rules.  Everything appeared to be more-or-less on time for a 6 p.m. departure, with the cooperation of the weather. 

“The load was forecast at 257, with a few deadheading crew and Christmas vacation non-revenue passengers hitching a ride stateside for the holidays ahead.  There was the usual mix of Europeans, Americans, students, diplomats, military and civilian families, single soldiers, businessmen and professionals.  As was typical these days, the load was heavy in First Class and Clipper Class, and fairly light in the three economy sections, where savvy travelers could snag several adjacent seats in a row for a good night’s sleep.  [Zoe] had volunteered to work in the First Class section where there was an extra jumpseat, and the load certainly warranted the extra hand. The briefing was soon over, and the crew dispersed for duty-free shopping.

* * *

“[Zoe took a]  look through the preliminary passenger manifest, listed by name and seat number.  Businessmen and senior professionals in the First Class and Upper Lounge, many with VIP codes next to their names: DALPO—do all possible, or EXCOR—extend courtesies.   A number of diplomats, techies and university professors in Business Class were often distinguished by their titles.  She thought of the impossibly handsome man she’d known briefly, seated opposite her jumpseat, his slow smile of recognition, their brief and white-hot affair. Pahlavian had reappeared in her life just days before with pleasant surprises, and they’d agreed to have dinner when she returned, after Christmas.  Nowadays, most surprises have to do with who might blow us up.

“She noted two stars in the Clipper Class section:  Gannon, 14-J and McKee, 15-F, who appeared to be travelling under diplomatic status but with military recognition.  Another Swedish diplomat named Carlsson was seated nearby in 17-H.  She frowned slightly and noted the anomaly.

“In the economy sections, the demographics loosened up and passengers were spread out, leaving empty rows in the middle of the aircraft.  The list showed lots of single travelers—professionals or sales executives, military officers and enlisted, some with family members seated next to them.  There would be many students travelling alone for the holidays. She noted the name of a young student, Khalid Jaafar in 53-K, almost the last row, as the only ‘profile’ candidate on the plane.  Stop being stupid, she told herself.   There were several young couples.  Some special needs coded:  diabetic meal, vegetarian, hamburgers, seats together.   No birthdays or wedding cakes today.  These codes were clustered around seven families travelling with elderly parents or teenagers, some younger children.  Baby meals and bassinets were noted for six infants and toddlers travelling with their families.  On a flight like this, it would be easy to move passengers around, ensuring an empty seat next to a young military sergeant travelling with her infant child in seat 32-K.

“Waiting for the boarding announcement, [Zoe] took a few moments to observe the actions of the young flight attendant she was check-riding, noting her calm assurance and professional demeanor with approval.  She thought of her training check-ride so many years ago with Sally—sweet Sally so far away in Hawai’i, so happy and settled.  She was sorry that their friendship had gone on hold.

* * *

“The old-timers and the Sky Marshalls had taught her to read the manifests, something crews rarely had time to do these days, but it gave an airline an advantage to find someone a birthday cake and have the crew sing, to deliver a bottle of champagne for an anniversary or to an obviously enamored honeymoon couple, or even to folks who had just met. At least tonight, just a few days before Christmas, she thought it might be a great gesture to offer a bottle of champagne to the oldest passenger, seated in 26-F, Ibolya Robertine Gabor, a 79-year-old Hungarian who had ordered a wheelchair on arrival in New York.

“Military personnel were noted on the manifest for any special duties and emergency assistance, primarily because of their training.  Some Pursers at holiday times offered on-the-spot upgrades, or asked other passengers to step aside to allow the young soldiers to leave the aircraft first, a form of honor reserved only to the Purser’s discretion, and not found in any regulation book.

“She took her assigned position as the passenger-boarding phase was announced, greeting passengers cheerfully and recognizing names or seat numbers she had noted. 

“The Purser signaled the imminent departure by announcing that the doors had been closed. . .

* * *

“The aircraft hummed along its taxiway, finally turning into the active runway and revving for takeoff position.   [Zoe] noted . .  the clouds still scudding by with intermittent rain and a fitful sunset, as the huge aircraft started its ponderous take-off roll.   She pressed her head back, completely relaxed, always anticipating this special moment when rotation took away the thudding roar and the thousands of pounds of aircraft became airborne, every time a miracle of flight.”

At about the same time, Roger Cotton, a London businessman driving west on Bath Road, which runs parallel to Heathrow’s runways, saw a Boeing 747 lift off and noted that it was a Pan Am Clipper, likely heading to New York.

In London, Denny Rupert, a student on his way to the United States to visit his parents for the holidays, had checked into a hotel for the night. He was originally booked on Clipper 103, but elected to take a flight the next day so he could spend extra time in London with friends rather than his parents in Minnesota.

At about 1900 hours, at 31,000 feet with a ground speed of 434 knots on a northwesterly track of 321 degrees, Clipper 103 was picked up by the Scottish Area Control Center at Prestwick, Scotland, where it needed clearance to begin its crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft appeared as a small green square with a cross at its center showing its transponder code. The code gave information about the time and height of the plane: the last code for the Clipper showed it was flying at 31,000 ft.

Captain James Bruce MacQuarrie called Prestwick: “Good evening Scottish, Clipper one zero three. We are at level three one zero.” Then First Officer Ronald Wagner spoke: “Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance.”

These were the last words heard from Clipper 103. Soon after that, air traffic controller who watched the Clipper as it crossed Scottish airspace, saw that the aircraft’s transponder stopped replying somewhere over Lockerbie. The ATC controller tried again to communicate with the aircraft, but there was no reply. Not one, but several radar returns on his screen altogether disappeared.

Arnie Reiner was working at Pan Am’s flight safety office at New York Kennedy Airport on that day. It was just a routine day until the secretary of Pan Am’s Senior V.P. of Operations came through the door. What follows are Reiner’s recollections of that day, which are featured in his story about Lockerbie in Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer:

 “[T]he Senior V.P. of Operations’ secretary came through the door and announced that the airline’s system control group had just been informed that Flight 103 had disappeared from the radar during departure from London and was presumed down.  Soon after that, network news reports flashed word throughout the world that Pan Am 103 had gone down in Lockerbie, Scotland with the loss of 243 passengers, 16 crewmembers and an unknown number of casualties on the ground.

“The company’s aircraft accident contingency plan was immediately activated.  Every key department was involved and a 24-hour command center at Kennedy Airport was established to coordinate company post-accident efforts and assign duties.  Concurrently, a go-team  was  assembled primarily from Flight Operations and Maintenance and Engineering with supporting members from other departments to assist in the investigation at the accident site with government investigators from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),  National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB ), a Boeing representative and  a large contingent of investigators from Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AIB).  Representatives from the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) and Flight Engineers International (FEIA) unions also flew to the scene and assisted in the effort.

“As a member of the go-team I assembled with the rest of the group at Pan-Am’s JFK Worldport that evening to catch the evening flight 002 to London.  Captain Bob Gould, Senior Vice President of Operations, would lead the team.  The Worldport was a somber and frenetic scene swarmed by media reporters with their cameras and lights intent on capturing the sorrow and anguish of relatives and friends gathered there to meet those who would never arrive on Flight 103.  Company representatives were on hand to lend what comfort, support and assistance  they could at a time of bottomless despair.

* * *

“.  .  . We were met at Heathrow by Pan Am staff, whisked to a chartered twin engine plane and flown to an airport near Lockerbie.   After quickly dropping off our bags at a hotel, Captain Gould and I split off from the group and had a driver take us about the town and out into the nearby countryside to take in the scope of the accident scene.  It was immediately obvious from the large debris area in town and out in the surrounding countryside east of Lockerbie that the 747-100, Clipper Maid of the Seas, N739PA, experienced a catastrophic in-flight breakup at a high altitude.

* * *

“The nose section had broken off and was in a field outside town with First Officer Raymond Wagner and Flight Engineer Jerry Avritt still inside the wreckage when we arrived.  Captain James MacQuarrie lay outside, already covered by a tarpaulin.   Debris was visible in the steeply rolling pastures in every direction.   A portion of the horizontal stabilizer was off in the distance.  An engine lay imbedded in a Lockerbie street.  The center fuselage and wings   had come down almost vertically, striking a housing area and exploding on impact.  Over 10 homes in the immediate vicinity were destroyed and others were badly damaged out to 900 feet.  The impact and explosion fueled from the fuselage and wing tanks gouged a huge elongated crater where the houses once stood.  Looking down into the scorched impact trench, there were no signs of cabin occupants.  About a half mile away, a fuselage section aft of the wing root struck  a house and impacted a street leaving passengers and  cabin crew  tangled and broken in building debris and aircraft structure. Constables guarded the scene. Residents milled about, quietly.

“We returned to the hotel, washed up and gathered the Pan Am group for a preliminary briefing. I presented to the group what Bob and I had seen and learned so far: That obviously there had been a very rapid catastrophic in-flight breakup and the aircraft had come down steeply, shedding parts as it descended; and so far as we knew there was no distress transmission from the crew before the plane disappeared from air traffic control radars; and that our objective was to keep an open mind about what might have happened, not speculate, and follow the evidence.  But privately my thinking was that by then 747s had been around over 18 years. Pan Am was the driver behind their development.  They were structurally damage tolerant, solid planes with robust systems redundancies and in nearly two decades of operating experience at Pan Am, they didn’t just suddenly fall apart in midair.

“Something else was going on here.  I’m certain the structural engineers from the company’s Maintenance and Engineering Department who sat at the briefing that evening were thinking along the same lines.  

* * *

“[After several days of investigative work] “[o]ur group’s first break, the one confirming our unspoken suspicions, came while walking down a country road when a farmer approached and told us he and his wife had removed a number of suit cases from nearby sheep meadows to keep them out of the rain.  He said they were in a shed by his house.  There in neat rows were about a dozen pieces of passenger baggage, one with distinct scorch marks.  Also that day, one of the British AIB team members noted a distinct bowing out of a fuselage skin fragment.  Then a constable accompanying our group found a heavily pitted fuselage fragment in the tall meadow grass.  It was tagged and bagged by the constable to assure continuity of evidence and taken away for analysis. The following day the British announced that analysis of the wreckage confirmed that an explosion had occurred in a cargo container in the forward cargo compartment.  A later investigation revealed that forces from the blast breached the fuselage and internal shock waves led to further fuselage failures which quickly led to the aircraft’s in-flight disintegration.

“With official confirmation that the loss of Flight 103 was a terrorist act and not an accident, our role as accident investigators had  ended and one of the most  intense forensic and criminal investigations was just beginning.” 

Kelly Cusack was working the New York Reservations Department that day. Below are his memories:

“On 21 December 1988 I was working in Pan Am’s New York Reservations Department. About 2:20 in the afternoon I was summoned into the Manager’s Office along with about 20 other experienced agents. The manager, Bob Turco, closed the door and said “the 103 is missing.” In 1988 flights between London and New York did not go missing. We all instantly knew that our aircraft, passengers and crew had been lost. We were assigned to work a toll free number for families and friends calling in for information. It was emotionally excruciating as we were not authorized to give out any specific confirmations until London did a flight coupon (this was back in the days of paper tickets) recount, though we could see the passenger list in the computer. 

“Later that evening I was assigned to begin arranging travel for Next of Kin who wished to travel to the crash site. I worked 24 hours straight and remember a colleague, Cathy Dorr passing me in the hallway and remarking she had lost complete track of time and her only gauge was passing me periodically in the hall and seeing my beard grow in. I finally went home and slept a few hours and then worked another 24 hours on various crash related follow up. I flew home to my family Christmas Eve morning, got into bed and slept for 24 hours. 

“My life would be all about the 103 for the next 6 weeks, traveling to Lockerbie for the Memorial and working at both the Pan Am Building and JFK Operation Centers. It was a very sad time. I was 26 and was very aware of all the young Syracuse University Exchange students who had perished on the flight as well as crew members I had known.”

Steve Priske was a Flight Attendant and photographer. On one of his trips he was assigned to Clipper Maid of the Seas. He took a picture of the ship, below, followed by his comments:

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo by Steve Priske)

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo by Steve Priske)

“Pan Am 747-100 Clipper Maid of the Seas. I am onboard photographing our reflection in the windows of the World Port JFK, on our way to LHR. This aircraft would also be Pan Am 103, blown up over Lockerbee Scotland in December of 1988. My fiancé, flight attendant LHR based Jocelyn Reina, would be on board.”

Jocelyn Reina (courtesy of Steve Priske)

Jocelyn Reina (courtesy of Steve Priske)

 

Below is a poem by Susanne Malm, a former Pan Am flight attendant:

The Demise of Clipper Maid of the Seas

“Clipper one zero three,
at level three one zero,
requesting oceanic clearance,”
advised the transmission
over Scotland’s Prestwick Control.

Cpt. MacQuarrie throttled back,
scanned the gauges,
affirmed the crossing
of the shining, briny “pond.”

“All is well!” chimed the bell,
oblivious, like the innocents
cradled in aluminum and
safely secured by seat-belts,
to a ticking terror
in the cargo hold below.

Pulsing Mach stem shock waves,
spawn of terrorists’ maniacal minds,
punched through the P in Pan Am
on the Clipper Maid of The Seas,
maimed at 434 knots,
giant wings afire like Apollo’s muse,
Cpt. MacQuarrie lifeless at the helm,
thumbs indented, clutching the yoke.

Wreckage rained on Lockerbie,
unwary sleepy Scottish village,
flaming fragments
of a proud clipper’s voyage,
and an echo of
MacQuarrie’s final desperate plea
to save the souls entrusted to his care:

“Clipper one zero three,
at level three one zero,
requesting oceanic clearance,”

That never came.

Thanks to the late Paula Helfrich and Rebecca Sprecher for excerpts from their novel, Flying – a novel and to Susanne Malm for her poem.

Further information about Flying – a novel is available through Amazon.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

The Book Pan Am – Personal Tributes to a Global Aviation Pioneer is an oversize hard cover book, suitable for a coffee table. There are over eighty stories written by Pan Amers and friends of Pan Am about historic events during the 64 years of Pan Am’s operations, each illustrated with colorful images that include posters, ads, rare baggage tags, timetables and aircraft.

This book is available through eBay or Amazon.

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Also available is 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

CoverFinalDesign.Book1-June2011

The book is also available through eBay and Amazon. Signed copies (on request) are available on eBay and through JPB GOODS on Amazon.

Both books can be purchased as a package deal on eBay.

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

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

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

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

Memories of a Last Flight

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

Below is his story in its entirety:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baggage tag for Sao Paulo from 1950s era.

Baggage tag for Sao Paulo from 1950s era.

  ViewfromAir-SaoPaulo   guarulhos-airport-c-wing

Recent views of Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

The Story of Snow Leopard – Part Three: The Inaugural Flight

Snow Leopard-ground

Part Three:  The Inaugural Flight

Selling Tickets

With the Acceptance Flight completed and the aircraft ready to start operations, management and staff got into full gear. Tickets were sold, crews scheduled and plans were made for launch activities.  At the London Headquarters on Kensington High Street, tickets sales in both the Delhi, India and Karachi, Pakistan markets was brisk and flights sold out very quickly. However, ticket sales in the Dushanbe market was slow due to very little western business activity in the country, and what little passenger traffic there was, was largely government in nature. Thus, selling seats in the beyond markets was necessary.  As described in Part One, this “Sixth Freedom” operation enabled a profit on what would have been money losing flights.  In fact, over 90-95% of the booked passengers were booked on flights to Delhi or Karachi.  Deeply discounted advance purchase excursion tickets offered through local travel agents in the ethnic neighborhoods of London resulted in a huge response.

The Kensington High Street Headquarters served as both a ticket office and operations base with constant activity, day and night.  This was punctuated with welcome and frequent visits by the Pan Am and Tajik flight crews.

McMillan House-1 Cyrus and Eni

   McMillan House-6 Amin   McMillan House-4

Ticket Sales at Kensington High Street Office

McMillan House-3

Tajik Staff

McMillan House-2    McMillan House-7 Pilot

Pan Am Flight Crews visiting Kensington High Street Headquarters

Cabin Crew Scheduling

While ticket sales and preparations for the inaugural flight were progressing, Gunilla Crawford and her team of flight attendants set about to organize crew scheduling and rotations.  This was no easy task!

Cabin crew scheduling was a challenge for Gunilla.  With no computers available, some creativity was required:

From Gunilla Crawford:

“We went across the street from the hotel to a gas station and bought four dinosaur-shaped erasers in four different colors.  Each dinosaur represented a crew.   And each crew consisted of two ex-Pan Am flight attendants and the rest Tajik.  On a large poster board we plotted the four destinations, London, Dushanbe, Karachi and New Delhi.  By moving the dinosaurs between the destinations we made sure nobody was scheduled from London, when in fact the crew member was in New Delhi!”

Cabin Crew Sked-2   Cabin Crew Sked-3

Cabin Crew Scheduling.   In the left picture are Gunilla Crawford, Vince Rossi and Debbie Thornburg.  In the right are Gunilla, Linda Morehouse and Vince.  Note the colored dinosaurs!

From Vince Rossi, who worked on crew scheduling:

“Gunilla was responsible for the entire inflight programme. To that end, building and scheduling crews was an important component of her job. Four crews were required to staff the operation, with one or two crews on rotation back home. Each flight would be staffed with two Pan Am Pursers joined in the SP cabin by flight attendants from India for Hindi language as well as the wonderful Tajiks. Some Brazilian and French flight attendants who lived in London also joined.

“For aircraft plotting, crew staffing, scheduling and rest requirements, in the days before laptop computers with Excel spreadsheets, improvisation was needed. A long sheet of plotting paper was procured, along with 4 small rubber toy dinosaurs. Each dinosaur was numbered in pencil: crew/dinosaur 1, crew/dinosaur 2, etc…. An interpretation of a full week of aircraft movements and stations visited was marked on the plotting paper, with lines drawn as the days progressed marking the track of the aircraft from Heathrow through Dushanbe and on to Delhi or Karachi. When Gunilla said it was time to “run the dinosaurs”, we placed the numbered dinosaurs on the plotting paper, each one numbered and representing a crew at their respective locations across the system and ensured that legal rest requirements were met and staffing matched the projected aircraft movements. This method was used for the entire time of the operation.

“Often the dinosaurs were “run” on a coffee table in a dedicated crew lounge provided at our hotel on Bath Road near Heathrow, and crews from other carriers in the lounge would be amused watching the “run of dinosaurs.  This system worked exceptionally well. No aircraft movement was impeded due to cabin staffing or crew rest issues for the entire operation. It is also important to note that the initial “pairings” were established in meetings with the Tajik crewmembers, who also had an idea of how they wanted their work patterns and layover times and points. I may be mistaken but India and Pakistan were potential visa issues for the Tajiks even for layovers.”

 and . . . Catering

When Gunilla arrived in London, she was in for a surprise.  In addition to heading up the cabin crew, there was another responsibility as well:  Catering.  She handled that in pure Pan Am fashion.

“We made appointments with Catering at Heathrow airport, we picked china for the First Class Service, silver ware, serving dishes, baskets and linens. The “old” Pan Am training came back in force and we would do the service in the name of that classic carrier.” 

The food service to be offered was superb.

In First Class departing London, “Royal Doulton Service” included during the drinks service a choice of Hot Canapes including Chicken Kebab, Mushroom Cream Vol-au-Vent, Spring Roll, Basil Cashew Parmesan Tartlets and Asian Canapes of mixed pakoras and samosas. The Hors d’oeuvres offered a choice of Poached Salmon Medallion on Oakleaf lettuce with Diced Pepper and Cucumber Salad, or a Tomato Cup filled with Mayonnaise Lemon garnish or a Smoked Chicked Breast on Radicchio with Mandarin Orange and Cucumber or a Radish and Mixed Peppers Julienne, all with a Mixed Leaf Salad with Vinaigrette.  For the entree, the choices were Curry Prawn Jalfrezi with fresh chopped Coriander, Rack of Lamb with Herbs and Fresh Rosemary Sprigs or Chicken Shirin Polo accompanied by Basmati Rice with Zereshk or Potato Sesame Croquettes and a choice of vegetables including Broccoli au Gratin Mornay or Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Baby Sweetcorn, Turned Carrots and Mange Tout.

For desert  Gateau Chocolate Roulade with Orange Zest was followed by a cheese plate that included Camembert, Port Salut, Feta, Stilton, Brie with black grapes, black and green olives and celery batons.  Ending the meal was a fresh fruit basket.

Prior to landing in Dushanbe the pre-arrival “hot breakfast was just as posh…It was like working the Pan Am Clippers again”, according to Vince Rossi one of the ex-Pan Am flight attendants.

The Inaugural Flight

As the day approached for Snow Leopard’s first revenue flight from London to Dushanbe and onwards to Karachi, the crews began assembling in London to prepare.  For Gunilla, it was a happy reunion with the Tajik flight attendants who greeted their ex-Pan Am counterparts with “squeals and shouts of joy”.  For the inaugural flight four ex-Pan Am were to work the flight, Robert Stewart, Tania Anderson, Linda Morehouse and Linda Oja.  On the flight deck were Captain Ed Olasz, First Officer Jim Donahue and Flight Engineer Carl Meixal.  In addition, two qualified captains were assigned to the flight.

Preparations for departure went into high gear.  Nothing was overlooked.  Everything was covered, from the accuracy of the manuals to training to CRM (crew resources management) with the Tajik flight attendants.   Anything that could possibly happen, even the unpredictable, was discussed and thoroughly prepared for.

The excitement of flying again did not escape the ex-Pan Amers who were taking part in the operation.  Snow Leopard’s first flight coincided almost to the date of the demise of their beloved Pan Am, some two years prior.

From Tania Anderson:

“I happily scribbled away in my diary, gushing about the thrill of flying with my cosmopolitan colleagues again. A few fondly remembered having flown with this particular 747SP before. Some of my co-workers had not flown since Pan Am’s demise. It had been nearly two years to the day that I had been on my last flight, a White House Press Charter, when we learned that we were bankrupt for good. Now as we gathered in the lobby of our London hotel for the first flight to Dushanbe, we all noted the sad anniversary coupled with the excitement of exploring a new airline together.”

At 2215 hrs on the date of the inaugural flight, Snow Leopard, designated 7J801, departed London Heathrow for Dushanbe. The spirit on board was one of joy and happiness.

From Tania Anderson:

“During the flight, I quickly noted that many of the passengers, who were going onto Karachi, were much less frenetic than the ones we used to fly on Pan Am. They were elated to be going home, either for a visit or permanently, for a reasonably priced airline ticket. One passenger actually asked if he could kiss me, and I reluctantly replied, “Well, Ok, but on my cheek!” I also noted in my diary that we were flying across Russian airspace which may not sound like a big deal but to someone who grew up during the Cold War when the former USSR was our mortal enemy, it was intriguing to me.

“The multi-national crew also bonded quickly. The Tajik flight attendants loved the fact that my name was Tania. Naturally assuming that I was Russian with a name like Tania, one actually commented that I spoke good fluent English for a Russian. Some of the Tajiks were dark with olive skin and Middle Eastern looks. Most were Muslim. Others were the opposite end of the spectrum with white skin and light eyes. They were usually Russian Orthodox.

“Among the Tajik flight attendants, there were three Irenas on the flight.  Any time I said ‘Irena’, all three would whirl around simultaneously to see what I wanted.  The Tajik flight attendants  were absolutely delightful and so easy to get along with. They were also thrilled to have secured a job such as this with the opportunity to explore a bit of the world, especially London. Many of them had no transportation from their homes, so they simply walked miles to the airport to work these extraordinarily long flights. They went out of their way to tell us how their country was still in a lot of upheaval economically. In addition, Afghani insurgents were coming over the border to make trouble, and they wanted none of it. ‘Tania, we just all want peace and to be able to live our lives’, one told me.”

Cabin Crew-1

Crew-1   Upper deck SP from Vince

Cabin Crew-2a   Cabin Crew-1a

The Pan Am and Tajik Flight Crews

After a long flight into the night, Snow Leopard landed in Dushanbe.

From Tania Anderson:

“It was a cold, wintry, snowy day when we landed in Dushanbe to a zealous reception on the tarmac. After all, we were the first western aircraft to ever land in somewhat remote Tajikistan. I distinctly remember applause in the cabin upon our touchdown, but the local hoopla outside just about had me abandoning my jump-seat.

“With a dramatic back drop of steep snow-encrusted mountains, dozens of well-wishers had gathered on the tarmac in their traditional brightly-colored clothes. There was a band playing Russian instruments complete with long-nosed horns and big drums. Tajik national TV was there with their ancient equipment to record every single minute of the ceremonies and our arrival.”

DYU Reception-2  DYU Reception-1

The Reception at Dushanbe Airport

From Tania Anderson:

“Once on the blocks, the ground people enthusiastically boarded the plane, not only to welcome us, but to ask for a quick tour of the 747SP. Descending the spiral staircase, our pilots were given handsome home-made colorful robes to wear over their uniforms. Now that the door was open, I could observe the entire scene. Our pilots were quickly ushered down the stairs and off to the terminal for a reception including some local culinary treats whose identity was left to the imagination. Later one of them told me that the Tajiks had insisted that they shoot some vodka—maybe local moonshine—to celebrate the day. A bit horrified, our pilots made certain that the officials knew we still had another leg to fly to Karachi, but the general response was like, ‘So what?’

“Linda Oja and I stayed on the plane watching everything from L-1. Then something happened I shall never forget. As Linda squealed, ‘Oh, No!’ I saw some Tajiks dragging a sheep across the tarmac towards the Snow Leopard. It struggled the entire way, right up to the staircase, just as if it knew something lousy was about to occur. As they do in many countries, they sacrificed the sheep at the bottom of our stairs, directing the blood from his neck into a bowl. In the west we christen ships and airplanes with champagne, but now we were half way around the world in a land with customs very different than our own.

“Not long afterwards, the entire crew along with the ground people gathered in front of the aircraft for a memorable photo. Each of us was festooned with garlands of deep red-colored roses. They were velvet to the touch and their fragrance was heavenly, even against the cold blast of mid-winter.”

Crew and Ground Staff in front of Snow Leopard after arrival

Crew and Ground Staff in front of Snow Leopard after arrival.

From Tania Anderson:

“Standing there on that frosty winter day, I felt a true sense of pride about our latest “operation.” In true Pan Am fashion, we had pulled ourselves up after the bankruptcy and were on the other side of the planet helping the struggling Tajiks with their burgeoning airline, begun with one beautiful 747SP.

“Flying on the Snow Leopard was another wonderful Pan Amigo adventure to add to my memoirs.”

When Snow Leopard arrived at Dushanbe that wintery morning, Tajikistan was in the midst of an economic crisis along with a civil war.  Bread was being rationed but at the same time the country was trying to turn the page into a new chapter of their existence, emerging from the era of Soviet rule to an independent and free nation.  The arrival of this beautiful 747SP representing their national airline stoked both great pride and happiness among its citizens.
The story of Snow Leopard continues In the next and final part of this story, with exciting adventures for the Pan Am and Tajik crews and the sad end of the operation.

The Pan Am Series – Part III: The Cairo Hijacking

Remains of hijacked Pan Am Flight 93, N752PA "Clipper Fortune" a Boeing 747 after being blown up at Cairo.

Remains of hijacked Pan Am Flight 93, N752PA “Clipper Fortune” a Boeing 747 after being blown up at Cairo.

On 6 September 1970, Pan Am’s flight 93, a Boeing 747, departed Brussels for New York via Amsterdam.  The flight never made it to New York.

During the flight’s stopover in Amsterdam, four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (“PFLP”) attempted to board an El Al flight, a Boeing 707 bound for New York.  Two got through but the other two were denied by Israeli security. These two then purchased First Class tickets on flight 93.

On the same day in Frankfurt, another group of PFLP members boarded TWA Flight 741, a Boeing 707 bound for New York; and in Zurich, members also boarded a Swissair DC-8 bound to New York as well. The Pan Am, TWA and Swissair flights were hijacked.  An attempt to hijack the El Al flight was foiled by the crew and a sky marshal. The TWA and Swissair flights were flown to and eventually landed at the PFLP’s “Revolutionary Airport” at Dawson’s Field, a remote desert airstrip in Jordan, formerly a British Royal Air Force base. The Pan Am flight was flown to Beirut, where it refueled and took on board additional PFLP members. The aircraft then flew on to Cairo instead of Dawson’s Field, because the Jordan airfield was considered too small to accommodate a 747.

On 9 September, a BOAC (now British Airways) VC-10 bound for London was hijacked after it departed from Bahrain and was taken to Dawson’s Field.

This became known as the “Dawson’s Field Hijacking”.

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The “Revolutionary Airport” at Dawson’s Field

The BOAC, TWA and Swissair aircraft were blown up on September 12, 1970 (below).

Dawson's_Field blowing up on Sep 12

The Pan Am aircraft, upon arrival in Cairo, was blown up almost immediately.  The late John Ferruggio was the In-Flight Director, and having been told the 747 would be blown up within eight minutes after landing, led his cabin crew team in the evacuation of 136 passengers and 17 crew-members.  Everyone survived.

Nellie Beckhans was a flight attendant on that trip, her first in Europe after years working Pan Am’s Central and South America routes.  Below are excerpts from her story about this event that appears in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, published by BlueWaterPress.

From Nellie Beckhans:

“* * * We picked up passengers in Amsterdam.  Now it was time to go home.  On taxiing to the runway the plane stopped.  A few minutes later I heard a commotion in the First Class section.  From my assigned position at R3 door, facing the aft of the airplane, I turned around to see Captain John Priddy talking to the purser and some passengers.* * * After a short period of time the Captain made an announcement stating that he had to check some passengers and we were now ready for departure.  * * *  

“The airplane took off, headed for New York.  About 20 minutes later when we thought we were going to start our service, the In-flight Director made an announcement that we were to remain seated.  We were going to a different destination.   * * * The flight attendant working First Class told me that there were two hijackers and they had a gun and grenades.  They did not want anybody in First Class.  She said that the Purser was taken to the cockpit with a gun at her head.  * * * Thankfully the passenger load was light and everyone remained calm.   * * *

“Much later I heard we were going to Beirut.  * * * The hijackers wanted to go to Amman to blow up the plane.  I remember flying and flying. Meanwhile a hijacker was stringing the dynamite fuses between the seats.  * * * When the hijackers finally agreed to land in Cairo the In-flight Director called the crew together and informed us of the plan.  * * * As soon as the plane stopped I opened R4 door and the passengers evacuated.  When I was going down the chute the airplane moved and I went off the slide.  * * * It was a happy moment when we heard everyone got off the airplane.  We lost our possessions and our shoes but we were alive and safe.     

Nelida (Perez) Beckhans was based in New York from 1967 to 1970 as a Special Services Representative and from 1970 to 1982 as a Flight Attendant.  She transferred to Miami in 1982 and was stationed there through 1991.  Her length of service with Pan Am was 24 years and 8 months.

Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, cover pictured below, is a collection of essays  written by the people of Pan Am, the pilots, the flight attendants, the station managers and other staff who participated in the history making events that arguably made Pan Am the greatest airline that ever was—and certainly the most renowned and celebrated.

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From the preface:

“On December 11, 1934, Pan Am’s founder, Juan T. Trippe in a New York City speech stated:

‘By each successive step, aviation is advancing to that potential ideal of a universal service for humanity.  By overcoming artificial barriers, aviation can weave together, in closer understanding, the nations of the world, and lift for the peoples of the world those horizons which have too long limited the prospective of those who live upon this earth.’

“These words are fulfilled in this book, an anthology of stories written by the people of Pan Am.  They were there at the important and news-making events that shaped the airline’s life.  Many of these events made headlines around the world, such as the carnage at Tenerife or the Lockerbie bombing.   And, with the recent fall of Muammar Ghaddafi, the name Pan American is still commanding space in news publications today.  Other events, among so many, might have just been a small item in the local newspaper or were never reported at all. 

“There were those employees who went beyond the call of duty; others were simply doing their job and in some cases there was loss of life of their dear friends.   The bottom line, big or small, heroic or otherwise, is that the events were important to the airline and its people.  This is the story we have to tell: The historic achievements of Pan Am as experienced and lived by its greatest resource – its people.”

Among the 71 essays are recollections of the inaugural flights of the Boeing 707 and 747, the flight that brought the Beatles to the United States for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and flights carrying dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa.  Other stories recall Pan Am’s involvement in the rescue of orphans during the Viet Nam War and the final closing of its Saigon Station.  There are personal recollections of hijackings, Presidential Press charters, the sale of Pan Am’s Pacific routes and the merger with National Airlines.  Finally is the narrative by the pilot who was captain on Pan Am’s last revenue flight on December 4, 1991.

These stories and much more are included in this book and any student or fan of aviation will find a treasure trove of history and memories.

Below are some comments:

From Readers,

“This is a superb collection of very short tales by a wide range of former employees ranging from flight crew to “ground pounders.” Taken together they provide an accurate, intimate view of what made this airline great.”

“Pan Am – nostalgia – memories – incredible stories. A must read if you enjoy air travel and get to wondering just what kind of lives did – and do – airline personnel live.”

“A nice compiling of stories by former Pan Am employees.  Well worth the read for any fan of Pan Am or airlines in general. Pan Am was the pioneer and the stories in the book prove it!”

From Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group,

“Fathered by the legendary Juan Trippe, Pan American was the leader in international aviation exploration and development. A relentless risk-taker, Trippe was an innovator and ultimate entrepreneur……………and this book captures many of Pan Am’s most memorable events from personal accounts of the employees who were there.”

This book is available for purchase directly from the publisher:

http://bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am2.html

More information about Pan American World Airways History can be found on the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation.

http://panam.org/