Pan Am Series – Part XLVIII: Skygods

Skygods

pan-am-boeing-314-dixie-clipper-nc18605-630-620x413

 

Sky-god \ski-god\: a being who reigns supreme while aloft in man-made flying contrivance  2: an aeronautical creature endowed with godlike attributes and worthy (in his or its own estimation) of human worship

 On 14 January 2015, former Pan American captain Gerry Mahan celebrated his 100th birthday. Captain Bill Nash, whose story about flying the Boeing 314 was featured in Part II of this series, is in his late 90s. Both men started with Pan American near the beginning of  World War II and stayed with the airline until into the 1970s. Both got their feet wet with Pan American as pilots in the Boeing 314, the last of the great flying boats. There were others who flew these great machines that also included the Sikorsky S-38, S-40 and S-42, the Consolidated Commodore and the Martin M-130: R.O.D. Sullivan, Leo Terletsky, Steve Bancroft. Ed Schultz, Bob Ford, who flew the first round-the-world flight in a commercial airliner and Edwin Musick, probably the most famous of the flying boat pilots, who flew the first trans-Pacific scheduled airmail flight in the China Clipper. These men were known as “Skygods” and today they are few and far between.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday Captain Mahan was the subject of an article by Julia Prodis Sulek in the San Jose Mercury News. An excerpt follows:

“Born in Kansas on Jan. 14, 1915, Mahan was raised by his grandmother until he ran away at the age of 13 — about a year after Charles Lindbergh gained international fame for completing the first solo flight from New York to Paris.

 “‘The freight trains were running in my direction,’ Mahan joked.

“He settled in Southern California and lived with his aunt. He sold shoes to put himself through UCLA. By age 18, he owned his first plane, his daughter, Luana Davis, 72, said. He flew for TWA before joining Pan Am in 1941. He flew everything from DC-3s to 747s, retiring out of San Francisco in the mid-1970s. He taught his oldest daughter, Luana, how to fly when she was just 11. She spent her career flying for Federal Express.

 * * *

“‘It was one hell of a great experience,’ said Mahan, who lives with a caregiver in his hilltop home, with views of the Mineta San Jose International and Reid-Hillview airports, where he once owned as many as a dozen private planes and taught one of his daughters how to fly. ‘It was a magnificent life. If I had to do it all again, I’d do it the same way.’

“At a time well in advance of modern navigation aids or weather forecasting, he remembers flying over the Pacific in a Boeing 314 Clipper no higher than 8,000 feet to keep oxygen for the passengers in the cabin. Sometimes he flew as low as 1,000 feet, he said. Navigating by both the stars and the waves, he would throw a marker flare out the window to triangulate his position.”

Click Here for the Entire Story about Jerry Mahan

Gerry Mayhan, 99, holds a photograph of a Clipper airplane, circa 1939, at his home in Los Gatos, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Gerry Mahan, 99, holds a photograph of a Clipper airplane, circa 1939, at his home in Los Gatos, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Captain Mahan flew the Boeing 314 on transpacific flights. The below timetable shows what flights he might have operated:

Jun 1940 Timetable0001   Jun 1940 Timetable0002

 

Captain Bill Nash grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey and lived nearby Bader Field, a small local airport. In a letter, he described how he “hung around the banner flying business hanger, getting in the way, so they put him to work sweeping hanger floors, washing planes, etc. Interested in his enthusiasm, they began putting him in the front cockpit when they flew banners behind the plane just seaward of the beach and boardwalk. The planes were Biplane OX5 Challengers (KR-31 Fairchilds). The pilots taught him to fly so they could watch the girls on the beach.”

Captain Nash went on to Temple University to study to become a teacher and also obtain his pilot’s license through President Roosevelt’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. After graduating from Temple, he decided  he preferred flying and applied for a job at Pan American. He was hired in 1942 and was assigned as a Fourth Officer in the Boeing 314 flying boat. After successful completion of training, Captain Nash was where he wanted to be, flying for an “international airline out of Pan Am’s Marine Base in New York to Europe.”

Captain Nash flew flying boats in support of the war effort during World War II and at war’s end, when Pan Am phased out the flying boats, he progressed to the DC-3s, the DC-4s, the Constellations, the DC-6s and the DC-7s. Eventually he was flying jets, and during his last fifteen years with Pan American, he was based in Berlin, flying Pan American’s Internal German Services, and, “keeping the corridors to Berlin Open”.

Speaking of his flying boat days, Captain Nash said,  “[t]o me, experiencing this phase of early commercial aviation was one of the best times of my life.  Having had the opportunity to be part of a Boeing 314 crew was an outstanding adventure for a young man, and I still recall it well. . . , and thrill to the memories of that great aircraft and the exciting era of world history, all made possible by my years with Pan Am.”

Nash retired in 1977. One son, Bill Nash, Jr., is also a pilot.

Captain Bill Nash (Courtesy Bill Nash)

Captain Bill Nash (Courtesy Bill Nash)

 

Captain Nash flew the Boeing 314 on transatlantic flights. The below timetable shows what flights he might have operated at the end of World War II:

Oct 1945 Timetable0001   Oct 1945 Timetable0003

 

In his story “Skygods”, featured in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History through the Words of its People, writer Bob Gandt recalls his experiences with the Skygods he encountered early in his career with Pan American. Below are excerpts from his story:

“’Back in the Boat Days. . .’” 

“That was an expression we heard a lot during our pilot indoctrination at Pan Am.  Whenever an old-timer spoke of an event that happened in the first half of Pan Am’s existence, his voice would take on a reverential tone:  ‘Things were different in the Boat Days, you know.  Back then we used to. . .’

“Never mind that this was 1965, that Pan Am possessed the largest fleet of commercial jets in the world, or that futuristic craft like the 747, the SST, and even spacecraft were on the drawing board.  The Boat Days—the era of the great flying boats like [the S-42], the China Clipper and the majestic Boeing B-314—were the spiritual epicenter of Pan Am’s history.  And the high priests of the Boat Days were a generation of legendary airmen we called Skygods.

s42_afloat     China Clipper

New Image

 “And they were still around.  We caught glimpses of them in the big blue Pan Am hangar at the San Francisco airport where we attended classes.  Like living artifacts from another age, the lordly airmen could be observed striding down the hallway to attend to their worldly business in the crew scheduling or personnel offices.  Their heels clacked like hammers on the marble floor.

“Even their uniforms were distinctive.  The gold on their cap visors and the four stripes on their uniform sleeves had a weathered, salt sprayed dullness.  The white caps rode atop their graying manes with a windward tilt.  In their double-breasted, gold-encrusted Pan Am uniforms they looked like ancient mariners.

“Their trademark was the Look.  Skygods squinted at the world over the tops of half-frame spectacles, down the lengths of their leathery noses.  Wearing the Look, they would lock their imperious gaze on whatever subspecies happened to warrant their attention.

“Not until a year-and-a-half later, when I was a freshly-qualified Boeing 707 first officer, did I actually fly with one of these legendary captains.  He was a Skygod of monumental reputation, a man whom I’ll call Jim Howland, and we were scheduled to operate a Pan Am round-the-world flight.  The experience would stay seared in my memory for the rest of my career.

“It started off badly.  When I introduced myself at check in, Captain Howland ignored my outstretched hand.  After a perfunctory glance over his half-frames—the Look—he turned his back and busied himself with paperwork.  In the cockpit his only utterances came in the form of terse commands:  ‘Read the check list,’ ‘Get the clearance,’ ‘Gear up.’  My half of the exchange was limited to ‘Yes, sir.’

“So it went for the next few days —the Skygod issuing commands, the lowly first officer complying.  It was impossible to tell whether Howland was pleased or disgusted with my performance.  His expression never changed.  Nor did the monosyllabic stream of orders.  He made every take off and landing, sharing none of the flying duties with his first officer.

“This condition lasted until we reached the Middle East.  It was then, while we were in our descent toward Beirut airport, that history and geopolitics converged on us like a perfect storm.  ‘Clipper One,’ called the air traffic controller, his voice an octave higher than before, ‘be advised that this region is in a state of war.  Airports in every country are reporting air attacks.  What are your intentions?’

“Intentions?  I looked at the captain.  He appeared to be deep in thought, his eyes fixed on the hazy brown desert-scape ahead of us.  The controller sounded flustered, and so did the Pan Am operations agent on the ground in Beirut.  No one knew what was going on or where we should go.   The controller offered the opinion that since Beirut airport didn’t seem to be under attack at the moment, it was probably safe to land.  Probably.

“At this the captain’s eyeballs bulged, and he rose to full Skygodly stature.  ‘To hell with that idiot,’ he thundered.  ‘Tell him we’re not landing in Beirut.’

“’Yes, sir, but where do you want to—’

“’We’re going to Tehran.’”

“Tehran?  Ooookay.  The Skygod had spoken, and it didn’t matter what air traffic control or our man in Beirut had to say.  Clipper One was headed for Tehran.  The problem was, getting a clearance to there—or anywhere else—wasn’t possible.  The en- route frequency had become a bedlam of hysterical chatter about airports being bombed, fighters in the air, warning shots fired.

“Off we went, eastward over the desert, while the relief pilot and I re-calculated our fuel and pored over the charts and tried to get clearance through the airspace.  We encountered no fighters, no one tried to shoot us down, and somewhere along the way I actually obtained an airways clearance.  When we landed in Teheran and deplaned our 120 passengers, we learned that we had just experienced Day One of what would be the Six Day Arab-Israeli War of 1967 .

“That night the captain invited me to join him for a drink.  For the first time I observed a softening of the fearsome Skygodly countenance.  Peering over his half-frames, he raised his glass and spoke words that would stay with me for the next half century.  ‘You know something, kid?  You did good today.’

“I was speechless.  You did good today.  Coming from a Skygod, it was like an accolade from the Almighty.

“Thereafter, for the remainder of our trip around the planet, Howland actually shared the take offs and landings.  And he talked.  In quiet moments high over the ocean, he recalled adventures from the Boat Days when ships like the China Clipper ruled the skies.  They were exotic stories, and it didn’t matter to me that they might be a bit embellished.  I listened like a kid hearing fairy tales.

“Over the next couple of years I flew with more of these ancient pelicans, and while the experience was seldom heartwarming, I always had the sense of being connected to a slice of history.  The era of the Skygods spanned a time from fabric-and-wood mail planes, through the glamour-filled Boat Days, through WWII and the arrival of long-range landplanes, all the way to the jet age.  They had seen it all.

In his book Skygods – The Fall of Pan Am, Gandt recalls how the newly hired pilots would watch the Skygods with awe. “Like everything else”, he said, “they knew these ancients had practically invented aviation. Back in the boat days, these heroes had braved a thousand storms, alighted on mountainous seascapes, flown over the vastness of great oceans.” They were the Masters of the Ocean Flying Boats. They also played a part in setting the operational standards that governed Pan American’s pilots in the Jet Age.

In the early days of Pan American’s flying boat operations, much of the procedures and standards that were established were the product of Andre Priester, a Dutchman hired to oversee Pan American’s flight operations. According to Gandt:

“As chief engineer, Priester was given autonomy over all Pan Am’s flying hardware.  * * * [H]e stamped the airline with his own ethic of hard-nosed, conservative, meticulously planned operations. It was Priester who laid down the specifications for each of Pan Am’s new flying boats. He plotted new routes and wrote operations manuals and calculated aircraft performance. Priester invented Pan Am’s operational philosophy.”

Priester was a hands-on chief engineer. He was omnipresent and seemed to be everywhere, snooping, inspecting and asking questions. And, as noted by Gandt, “[t]he pilots feared Priester. They resented his uncompromising, perfectionist attitude. But in their secret hearts they took pride in what he made them accomplish.”

The standards set by Priester and the Skygods he trained transcended to the generations of Pan American pilots who followed. The pilots who were hired in the mid-1960s, who were known as the “New Hires”, a name that stuck with them throughout their careers, helped bring the art of piloting to the highest levels. To the current generation of airline pilots, they are the Skygods of today.

13-Skygodincockpit   gandt formation

Robert Gandt (above left), a former Pan Am captain, was based in San Francisco, Berlin, Hong Kong, and New York during his twenty-six-year career.  He is a novelist, historian, and the author of thirteen books. In 2011 he received the Samuel Ellliot Morison Award for Naval Literature by the New York Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States.  Still flying today, he is a member of the Redhawks Aerobatic Team (above right). Visit his website at www.Gandt.com.

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

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The Pan Am Series – Part XIV: Crossing the Pacific

Crossing the Pacific – The “Unsung Hero”

On the date 22 November, Pan American World Airways was part of two historic events. The first, in 1935, was the inauguration of trans-Pacific airline service, and the second, in 1963, was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In this installment is the story of the China Clipper, which crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1935; in the next will be the story of Pan Am’s part in the tragic events in Dallas, Texas in 1963.

Whenever there is reference to the first airliner crossing of the Pacific Ocean, invariably it is the Martin M-130 China Clipper that comes to mind. This, event, according to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft, was “one of the most noteworthy and historic dates in the history of transport”. The Clipper, commanded by Edwin C. Musick, departed San Francisco Friday afternoon, 22 November 1935 and arrived in Manila, Philippines Friday afternoon, 29 November, having stopped in Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island and Guam along the way. The 8210 mile trip took 59 hours and 48 minutes flying time.

In addition to its historic importance, the event was one of the most publicized ever. Described in detail by Robert Daley in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, the celebration included lunches, speeches by VIPs and “crowds on the docks, crowds on the rooftops and crowds aboard the extra ferries that had been added on”. In addition the inaugural ceremony was broadcast both in the USA as well as in Europe, South America and the Orient and included speeches by Postmaster General James Farley and Juan Trippe. Trippe concluded matters with the command, “Captain Musick, you have your sailing orders. Cast off and depart for Manila in accordance therewith”. Receptions greeted the Clipper in Honolulu and upon arrival in Manila between two and three hundred thousand Filipinos jammed together along a jetty to welcome the ship. In addition was an enclosure with two thousand prominent guests as well as people in the streets and on rooftops. A flotilla of military fighter planes flew out to escort the Clipper through its splashdown and landing. There followed a reception, banquet and parade. Later, Captain Musick presented a letter from US President Roosevelt to Philippine President Quezon commemorating the flight. It was indeed an important event in aviation history.

The Atlantic

Crossing the Pacific, however, was not the original intent of Juan Trippe in his desire to cross an ocean. It was the Atlantic. However the geopolitical situation coupled with technological limitations made that option impossible. The details are spelled out with precision in Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul’s The Chosen instrument. In a nutshell, the path to Europe was through Newfoundland. Unfortunately, negotiations between Juan Trippe, Britain, Canada and Newfoundland in 1932 did not provide the access desired, although some understanding was achieved between Pan American and Britain’s Imperial Airways with regard to traffic rights. Because Newfoundland appeared to be in doubt, Trippe looked south. Unfortunately, the political situation in Portugal made it difficult for Pan American to negotiate for traffic rights there as well. In addition, a survey trip made by Charles Lindbergh in the summer of 1933 brought into question the feasibility of using flying boats for regularly scheduled trans-Atlantic service.

What is interesting here, with respect to the negotiations over Newfoundland, is that it was not the American government doing Pan American’s bidding. It was Juan Trippe. And it was Juan Trippe who personally dealt with the governments of Britain, Canada and Newfoundland, following a pattern used when he negotiated traffic rights to countries in Latin America.

The Pacific

Any hope for trans-Atlantic operations, however, was dashed when, in April 1934, the British government demanded reciprocity with the United States over traffic rights.  According to Bender and Altschul, the British “[g]overnment pulled the strings for Imperial, and if it viewed Pan American Airways as a similar instrument of national policy, then it would want to settle matters with the United States government.” Juan Trippe had overestimated his diplomatic skills and his “go-it-alone diplomacy” was not working. He admitted that he did not see much future for Pan American in the North Atlantic. In addition, as pointed out by Bob Gandt in China Clipper – The Age of the Great Flying Boats, “[t]he British, in 1934, had nothing like the S-42 or the coming M-130. Until Imperial Airways . . . possessed an airplane that could commence scheduled flights from Britain to the United States, Pan American would find itself blocked from the British crown colonies”.

One point of interest here is that during this time the state-owned flag carriers of several European nations were establishing routes to their own colonies in Asia, Africa and the Indian Sub-Continent, all without the need to obtain traffic rights. Privately owned Pan American did not have this luxury in that part of the world.

The focus thus switched to the Pacific. After a “great circle” trans-Pacific route through the north was ruled out due to issues between the United States and the Soviet Union, it was decided to take the route that represented the longest distance between the United States and the Orient: the mid-Pacific.

Here, the issue of traffic rights was not a problem for Pan American. The route involved stops at Honolulu, Midway, Wake and Guam, terminating in Manila, all of which were under U.S. jurisdiction. At Guam and the Philippines, the U.S. Navy had established bases on the pretext of potential confrontation with Japan. Midway was being used by the Navy for war games staged in the area. This left Wake, a tiny island, discovered by Juan Trippe in the New York Public Library, and, according to Daley, “[f]or a brief time – only the blink of an eye as history is measured – it was one of the most famous places in the world”.

Wake Island

The tiny island of Wake, an uninhabited coral atoll, was to become one of the most important way points on the route west to the Orient. It lay over 4000 miles from the U.S. mainland in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and was a minor trophy of the Spanish-American War. Inside was a lagoon with surface water smooth enough to handle landings of flying boats, but the presence of coral heads made landings impossible. Its location, however, made it a critical point for the trans-Pacific flight. Juan Trippe eventually got permission to use the island as a base, and on 27 March 1935, the S.S. North Haven, a cargo ship, sailed west with provisions to set up bases for Pan American at Midway and Wake. At Wake, an entire village was built, including a hotel for passengers en-route to or from the Orient. Everything used in building the base was shipped from the mainland. In addition, a swimmer from Columbia University, Bill Mullahey, who boarded the ship in Honolulu in a swimsuit, straw hat and a surfboard over his shoulder, was brought on board as the one man demolition expert to clear the lagoon for landings. Wherever there was a coral head in the lagoon, he would dive down and place dynamite sticks in holes in the coral heads and attach detonator wires to them. After he surfaced the dynamite was blasted, and afterward he would go down to inspect. The channel to be cleared was one mile long and three hundred yards wide and it took months to clear the channel of several hundred coral heads. His only gear was a pair of marine goggles; fins, face-masks, snorkels and scuba tanks had not yet been invented.

The below illustrations of Wake Island are from Robert Daley’s An American Saga. Shown is the treacherous surf outside the lagoon the workers bringing in gear had to brave, the village and the hotel’s lobby. Because there was no anchorage, the North Haven anchored offshore.

 The Aircraft

On 1 October 1932, Pan American placed an order for three Sikorsky S-42s, The aircraft was a product of the joint oversight of Pan American’s Chief Engineer Andre Priester and Charles Lindbergh. What was unique about this aircraft, according to Bob Gandt, was the design of the wing, which gave it greater range and the ability to bear a greater load. By the time Pan American accepted delivery of its first S-42, the aircraft had set several aviation records that made it probably the most advanced airliner in the world. Unfortunately, it was primarily designed for service in Latin America and was not suitable for trans-oceanic passenger operations. The aircraft could only carry six or eight passengers with the required fuel. In Latin American operations, passenger capacity was up two thirty-two.

At the same time, the Martin M-130, a larger aircraft capable of trans-oceanic flight, was on the drawing board. A more advanced airliner than the S-42, Juan Trippe also placed an order for three.

Survey Flights

The M-130 was the intended aircraft for the new trans-Pacific route, however it was not due for delivery until the end of 1935. Survey flights were needed and Juan Trippe would not wait. The West Indies Clipper, an S-42 then being used in Latin America, was selected for the duty. It was renamed the Pan American Clipper and was stripped of all passenger accommodation and fitted with extra fuel tanks, giving it an endurance of 21 1/2 hours and a range of 3000 miles. The key, and most important flight segment of the trans-Pacific trip was California-Honolulu. The ability to fly this critical segment meant there would be no barrier to the eventual establishment of trans-oceanic flight. That was achieved. The Pan American Clipper departed San Francisco on 16 April 1935 for Honolulu and returned on 22 April. On 12 June it surveyed the Honolulu-Midway segment; on 9 August, Midway-Wake; and on 5 October, Wake-Guam. On 24 October, the U.S. Post Office awarded Pan American the trans-Pacific mail contract, the day the  Pan American Clipper arrived back in San Francisco from its survey flights across the Pacific.

The two illustrations below are from different sources: On the left is a picture of an S-42 departing San Francisco, presumably on one of the survey flights. It was provided by the late Marcel “Skip” Conrad, Esq., who was an attorney for Oakland International Airport. The picture was on one of the walls in his office. The picture on the right is the S-42 upon arrival in Honolulu on its first survey flight. This was an illustration in Robert Daley’s An American Saga.

China Clipper

The first Martin M-130, China Clipper, was delivered 9 October 1935. On 22 November, China Clipper inaugurated trans-Pacific airline service. The planning and preparation for this service was typical of the efficient organization nurtured by Pan American, and was a manifestation of the high standards demanded of the flying crews. As described by Ron Davies, “… there was a certain inevitability about the event. . . .the planning which went into the preparation for the historic event left no stone unturned, or to be exact, no potentially damaging piece of coral reef unmoved. * * * Pan American Clippers had cut the trans-Pacific travel time from a matter of weeks to a matter of days. The world’s biggest ocean had been conquered. A new age had begun.”

Below is illustrated the cover and the inside page (showing the route map and flight schedules) of Pan Am’s June-August 1940 timetable. Note the flight numbers were 800 and 801 and the aircraft used were either the M-130 or the Boeing 314. Until the sale of its Pacific routes to United in 1986, all Pan Am flight numbers in the Pacific were numbered in the 800’s.

The Unsung Hero

The "Unsung Hero" of Pan American's historic crossing of the Pacific, Bill Mullahey. Without his bravery in blasting out each coral head in the lagoon of Wake Island, the flying boats could never have landed. (Daley, An American Saga)

The “Unsung Hero” of Pan American’s historic crossing of the Pacific, Bill Mullahey. Without his bravery in blasting out each coral head in the lagoon of Wake Island, the flying boats could never have landed. He had another role in a later Pan American historic event that occurred after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (Daley, An American Saga)

On 22 November 1985, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the historic flight of the China Clipper, Pan American re-enacted the event with a Boeing 747-212B, named China Clipper II. Ann Whyte, who was Manager, Public Relations at the time, was a participant. She tells about her experiences of that flight in the book, Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. Below is an excerpt from her story:

“The 1935 China Clipper, piloted by Captain Edwin Musick, departed from Alameda and stopped in Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island and Guam before finally landing in Manila.  * * * Our 747 would follow the exact route. The revenue passengers, in addition to many VIPs, were composed of members of our frequent flyers program, others who yearned to be a part of aviation history, and those who wanted a package tour to the Pacific. 

China Clipper II (Don Boyd photo, airliners.net)

China Clipper II (Don Boyd photo, airliners.net)

“Excitement and expectancy were evident at our airport ceremony that included music and speeches. The son of James A. Farley, Postmaster General in 1935, was there.  His father had delivered a message from President Franklin Roosevelt, who said, ‘Even at this distance, I thrill to the wonder of it all.’  San Francisco Postmaster Mrs. Mary Brown told us that a special China Clipper international 44-cent stamp had been issued at Treasure Island in February 1985 and that the original flight carried 100,000 letters to the Philippines.  Also, 5,000 envelopes which had received philatelic treatment were on board our flight and would get special cancellations at each stop.  Flight attendants paraded in the various styles of uniform worn since the early days.  We cheered members of our flight crew when they were introduced.   It was a festive atmosphere.

51-Comm Envelope

“For the 1935 flight, the San Francisco to Hawaii leg was the most dangerous.  It took 21 hours for the seaplane to fly over the 2,397 miles of open water.  There was no radar, no voice communication.  The flight navigator had to climb out of a hatch several times at night to take star sightings with a sextant.  Harry R. Canaday, a pioneer captain on board our flight, remembered that in the early days, even with the best equipment available, it was what they called ‘flying by the seat of your pants.’  Shure V.  Sigfred, another pioneer captain on board, was astounded by the amount of people and cargo carried on our modern 747.  ‘We loaded the ship according to the weather and weighed every ounce,’ he reminisced.

“But on our flight there was a party atmosphere.  It took just five hours for us to reach Honolulu.  I was eager to see each island for a different reason.  I had had the opportunity to look at photographs and read accounts of those early days in the archives.  What I saw were pictures of enthusiastic crowds, flowers, song and dance waiting to greet the M-130 crew in Hawaii 50 years ago.

“I could feel the hospitality as soon as we landed.  To me, Hawaii signifies music, dancing, singing, fragrant blossoms, romance and exotic fruit.  We received a warm Aloha welcome of leis, song and dance.   Next we were whisked away to Pearl Harbor where we were honored with a ceremony to dedicate a plaque commemorating 50 years of commercial air service at the location where the original China Clipper landed, Middle Loch, Pearl City Peninsula.  That evening, it was thrilling to be part of the reception, testimonial dinner and entertainment at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where our pioneers were recognized and applauded.”

At the other end of the trip, Cass Myers, Regional Director for Sales based in Hong Kong, was involved with the re-enactment of the China Clipper’s historic flight as well. His memories are also included in the above book, and are excerpted below:

“The seats on the flight were marketed commercially and there were many celebrities participating, including author James Michener, an astronaut, and other dignitaries such as Charles Lindbergh’s four grand-sons.  The Manila Hotel on Manila Bay was also nearly taken over for the group where two days of fun was planned.

“Two outside factors made this flight re-enactment especially interesting:  (1) United Airlines had already purchased Pan Am’s Pacific Division and was scheduled to take over flight operations as United Airlines in early February 1986; and (2) the President and First lady of the Philippines, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, were on their last legs as rulers, both  literally and figuratively.  In a couple months, the world would know that Imelda Marcos owned 2,000 pairs of shoes.     

“Being based at the Pan Am Regional Office in Hong Kong, I was fortunate to be one of the people responsible for the setup on the ground in Manila for the arrival, greeting and hotel transfer for the passengers and all the ceremonies and entertainment that followed. 

“The event itself was what was expected and more!   The arrival went without a hitch. The Pan Am Country Manager,  the late Joe Basso, even managed to locate the same bugler who in 1935 was a Boy Scout and then (at 58 years of age) still had the same bugle and played for the arrival. Needless to say, a great time was had by all but it was, in a way, bittersweet as Pan Am’s presence in the Pacific was rapidly coming to an end.”

The above excerpts are from two of seventy-one stories in Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

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 writer of this article gratefully acknowledges the four sources liberally used in its preparation:

Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul, The Chosen instrument

Robert Daley, An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire

Ron Davies, Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft

Robert Gandt, China Clipper – The Age of the Great Flying Boats

The Pan Am Series – Part II: The Boeing 314 Flying Boat

Boeing 314 - Flying Boat

Boeing 314 – Flying Boat

The Boeing 314 was a long-range flying boat produced by the Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 and 1941. One of the largest aircraft of the time, its massive wingspan enabled it to achieve the range necessary for flights across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Twelve ships, designated Clippers, were built for Pan Am.

Pan Am’s Clippers were built for “one-class” luxury air travel, a necessity given the long duration of transoceanic flights. With a cruise speed of 188 miles per hour (303 km/h) Pan Am’s scheduled flight between San Francisco and Honolulu was 19 hours.  The passenger seats were convertible into 36 bunks for overnight accommodation.  In addition there was a lounge and dining area with galleys crewed by top chefs.  White-coated stewards served multi-course meals during the trip.

Flight Deck

Flight Deck

Passengers Dining

Passengers Dining

The Boeing 314 inaugurated Pan Am’s trans-Atlantic service and on 20 May 1939, was first to operate mail service with the Yankee Clipper from New York to Marseilles, France via Horta, Azores and Lisbon, Portugal.   The Yankee Clipper also inaugurated mail service between New York and Southampton, England about a month later.  Trans-Atlantic passenger service was inaugurated on 29 June 1939 with the Dixie Clipper between New York and Marseilles, via Horta and Lisbon.

The aircraft played an important role in World War II and completed two history-making f;lights:

In January, 1942, the Pacific Clipper, commanded by Captain Robert Ford, completed the first flight around the world. Originating in San Francisco, the flight was required to return to the United States on a westward course due to military action after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  From Honolulu, the flight eventually arrived in New York after stopping in Canton, Suva (Fiji), Noumea, Auckland, Gladstone, Port Darwin, Surabaya, Trincomalee (Ceylon), Karachi, Bahrain, Leopoldville, Natal and Port of Spain.

On 11 January 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew on the Dixie Clipper to the Casablanca Conference, becoming the first American president to fly on a commercial airliner while in office.  The route was Miami-Trinidad-Belem, Brazil-Bathurst, Gambia and then by army transport to Casablanca.  The return trip by the Clipper originated in Bathurst and stopped in Natal, Brazil and Trinidad, arriving in Miami 30 January 1943.

At Anchor in San Francisco

At Anchor in San Francisco

Captain Bill Nash, a retired Pan Am pilot, joined the airline in 1942 and spent his first years in the flight deck of the Boeing 314.  Below is a story he wrote about his experiences flying this aircraft.  It appears in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, published by BlueWaterPress.

The words of Captain Nash:

“When I joined Pan Am in 1942, one of the first phrases that I learned was “flying by the seat of your pants” – an old adage used to describe proper flying techniques. Before high-altitude jets flew commercially, we had to fly through wide storms rather than over them.  To do so, we developed a seat of the pants technique – literally- whereby our bottoms were being bumped, rather than slipping or sliding.

“Today, we have the sophistication and luxury of jetliners to fly over many of those boiling storm masses, cabin pressurization for oxygen supply, and radar to show us the dangerous storm cells, enabling us to fly around the violent depictions shown on the weather radar screen.

“When crossing an ocean in a Pan Am flying boat such as the Boeing-314, we navigated celestially using an octant.  Every Pan Am pilot was required to learn two methods of star computations to lay a position on the chart. On a Boeing-314 we had a glass hatch atop the cabin through which we could “shoot stars”.  When the sky was partly cloud-covered, we plotted whatever navigational stars we could see.  If the sky was overcast we could not use our octants.

“In the daylight we could see wind streaks on the surface of the sea, shiny lines running 90 degrees to the waves.  If we had cloud cover below as well as above, we would navigate by dead-reckoning, using the wind we thought we had.  If clear below and we passed a ship we could see, we could compare our position with theirs.

“Approaching a coast, such as much of the Atlantic shoreline, which could be a mass jungle, while receiving poor or no radio signals, we aimed at the shore off-coast 30 degrees left or right – wherever we considered the destination most likely to be.  When we arrived at the coast we then followed the shore to our destination.  If we had flown straight at the destination and saw nothing, we would not have known which way to follow the coast.

“During a typical 11-12 hour flight, we usually took turns resting every 4 hours in our crew bunks.  The props turned at 1,600 RPM’s and they vibrated violently.  Consequently, it took some time to fall asleep.

“During World War II on trans-oceanic flights, Pan Am crews had to learn how to decipher coded messages.  At departure we received an envelope which was not to be opened until we were aloft containing the keys to the codes which were valid for only a certain number of hours and then changed.

“The Boeing-314 crew consisted of a captain, first officer, second officer, third officer, fourth officer, first and second flight engineers and one Morse Code radio-operator plus varying number of flight personnel.  Four or more male stewards were aboard, depending on the aircraft’s configuration.  The work on board was considered too strenuous for stewardesses.  Hefty, large-capacity life rafts had to be handled and there were ponderous bunks to be prepared for sleeping.

“The entire aircraft was First Class, and our flying boats often carried kings, queens, presidents and potentates.  We were instructed to be pleasant with them if they addressed us, but not to seek out conversation.  President Juan Trippe wanted us to be able to converse intelligently by keeping up with current events, and having a good knowledge of history and sensitive political issues.

“Passengers enjoyed delicious meals that were prepared onboard and served in a 14-place dining room with black walnut tables in a silver and blue décor.  The food was elegantly served in courses by stewards in white jackets, on pale blue table cloths with matching monogrammed napkins and china.  Wine was always served and dinner was topped off with fancy desserts, fruits and cheeses, and a cordial of crème de menthe.  Sometimes there was a captain’s table.  After dinner, the dining room was converted into a lounge where some passengers chose to relax while others went to their cabins to sleep.

“The Boeing-314’s were retired from Pan Am’s service in 1946, after World War II.  Not one survived, and only a few parts exist in museums which to me, is very sad. Clare Booth Luce, a playwright, United States Congresswoman and Ambassador to Italy, returned to the US aboard a flight on the Boeing-314 and said “Years from now, we will look back upon Pan American’s flying boats as the most glamorous, romantic air travel in the world”.

“To me, experiencing this phase of early commercial aviation was one of the best times of my life.  Having had the opportunity to be part of a Boeing 314 crew was an outstanding adventure for a young man, and I still recall it well at age 94, and thrill to the memories of that great aircraft and the exciting era of world history, all made possible by my years with Pan Am.”

Bill Brenton Nash was a Pilot with Pan American from 17 August 1942 to 1 June 1977.  Now 96 years old, he lives with his wife Eva in Southwest Florida.

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.

CoverDesign.Book2-2011

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 Michael Manning, Broadcast Journalist and Media Consultant,

“[The book takes the] reader ‘inside Pan Am’ relative to its achievements and tragedies from a first-person perspective. * * * [O]ver 70 first-hand accounts . . . that lend authenticity to the human experience shared by employees at all levels of the company.  By the conclusion of the book, what becomes evident is that this unique US institution—long admired as ‘the American Flag’ by many foreign countries—has also come to represent a piece of the USA that has been sadly lost. This wonderful presentation of Pan Am revealed without barriers allows the reader to ponder a company that was only as great as the people who made it ‘The World’s Most Experienced Airline’”.

From Bobby Booth, long time airline consultant and aficionado,

“The stories in this book make up what is essentially one important story – a story of dedication, heroism, and sacrifice – by an airline and its people during an important period of aviation history.  It is a story that needs to be preserved in history for future generations.  This book is an important step in that direction.”  

From Edward S. Trippe, Chairman, Pan Am Historical Foundation,

” . . . is a tribute to the legacy of one of the world’s great airlines and the men and women who for six decades were the soul of the company. * * * [This is] a compelling book, which through the words of its contributors captures much of the joy, adventure and spirit which was Pan Am.”

This book is available for purchase directly from the publisher:

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

The Pan Am Series – Part I: The Book

Boeing 747-121 at Los Angeles International Airport circa 1969

Boeing 747-121 at Los Angeles International Airport circa 1969

I am launching a new series of postings about Pan American World Airways to be called “The Pan Am Series”.  My aim is to share the memories of this iconic airline that played such an important role in the development of civil aviation.  Pan Am’s first revenue flight was a Fokker F-VII between Key West and Havana on 28 October 1927.  The last revenue flights were a 747 from New York Kennedy to São Paulo, Brazil on 3 December 1991 and a 727 from New York to Barbados on 4 December 1991.  Pan Am officially ceased operations at 9:00 a.m., 4 December 1991.  The 747 crew was resting in São Paulo awaiting their return flight that evening when the news broke.  The captain of the 727 received the news upon arrival in Barbados. Both their stories will be published in future postings.

I have been a fan of Pan Am all my life, starting as a boy when I watched a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser arrive at its gate at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after a flight from the Far East with my grandfather on board.

Pan Am's Boeing 377 - the Stratocruiser

Pan Am’s Boeing 377 – the Stratocruiser

My father did a lot of international travel as well and we would meet him at LAX when he arrived on DC-6Bs of Pan Am from South America.

Pan American World Airways DC-6B, the "Super 6", Clipper Midnight Sun.

Pan American World Airways DC-6B, the “Super 6”, Clipper Midnight Sun.

During our childhoods growing up in Los Angeles, our parents often took my sisters and me to LAX to visit the terminals and watch airplanes land over Sepulveda Boulevard.   During that time I developed an interest in collecting airline brochures, timetables and baggage tags.  For some reason, I developed a keen interest in the baggage tags and amassed a large collection over the years.  I leaned heavily in Pan Am’s favor because I thought it was the “best airline” and because the baggage tags were more colorful than other airlines.  I also liked the Pan Am timetables because the route map seemingly covered every corner of the globe!

Eventually, our family went on a trip to South America, and we flew on Pan Am!  I remember that day in 1957.  We flew from Los Angeles to Guatemala on a DC-6B, Flight 515.   That was the beginning of my traveling on many more Pan Am flights over the next decades, including on some its most prestigious routes.

As I grew up, I studied the history of Pan Am, and learned a lot of geography from the route maps and flight schedules in its timetables.  I even learned about time zones and the 24-hour clock!   As a college student, I managed to work Pan Am into my studies as an International Relations major, focusing on the international airline system and international politics.  Later, I went to law school to become an airline lawyer.

I continued collecting and over a period of 50 years, managed to keep much of the material, supplemented by purchases from similar collectors on eBay.

Recently, while teaching in the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, I often mentioned Pan Am, but to my surprise most of my students were not familiar with the aviation pioneer.  At the same time, I was in the process of preserving my Pan Am collection by scanning the brochures, timetables and tags and putting them into a digital “scrapbook”.  It dawned on me that it would be a nice idea to use the digital scrapbook to create a book about Pan Am’s history through images of the material I had scanned and use it to tell the Pan Am story to students and those who were not around during Pan Am’s glory years.  Thus was born my book, Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline.

pan am bookcover

From the Preface:

Probably no airline in the history of aviation has attracted more attention and has been more written about than Pan American World Airways, for decades the symbol of airline superiority world-wide. This is the airline that pioneered air navigation and communications.  It introduced international and over-ocean flights. It set the standard for in-flight service and brought air travel to the masses through the introduction of “Tourist” class.  It brought the industry into the jet age and eventually the era of the wide-body jet. To thousands of Americans living and working overseas, Pan American meant home. Pan American served the United States and never failed to answer the call of the country. For many, Pan American was the symbol of the United States around the world.

Pan American’s pioneering “firsts” have been thoroughly documented in many books and articles. And indeed a wealth of books, ranging from detailed histories to coffee-table picture books, is available to anyone interested in Pan American.

 In this book, Pan American’s firsts, along with significant events, are presented in chronological order and are divided into six sections representing key eras of the life of Pan American: (1) Beginnings (1927-1939); (2) The War Years (1940-1945); (3) The Piston Era (1946-1957); (4) The Jet Age (1958-1969); (5) Top of the World – Boeing 747 (1970-1979); and (6) End of an American Icon (1980-1991). The firsts and significant events are listed at the beginning of each section followed by illustrations from that era, including covers of annual reports, covers of time tables (along with a page of flight schedules and route map), baggage strap tags, safety information cards and pictures of aircraft. Some images are of items never before illustrated, many of which are rare or no longer exist.

Below is a link to a condensed version of the book featuring selected pages. The manuscript is “pre-camera ready” and many of the images may appear un-cropped.

http://issuu.com/jamiebaldwin/docs/manuscript_-_issuu

Comments about this book:

From Captain Bill Nash, who flew for Pan Am August 1942 – June 1977

“As a Pan Am pilot for 35 years (34 yrs as Captain) I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and the way you did it with items familiar to me, such as varied baggage strap tags, articles, routes, schedules, annual reports, progressive aircraft photos (external and internal), lists of Pan Am “firsts”, and operation advances.”

From Captain Bob Gandt, who flew for Pan Am 1965-1991 and author, Skygods: The Fall of Pan Am

“Jamie Baldwin has given us a treasure trove of Pan Am lore. Here is something for everyone — a concise history of the pioneering airline, a rich potpourri of Pan Am memorabilia, and, best of all, a nostalgic journey back to an age when the mighty Pan American ruled the skies.”

From Susanne (Strickland) Malm, Flight Attendant, 1968-1978

“…a carefully constructed timeline of Pan Am’s incredible record of firsts and aviation achievements… chock full of rare and nostalgic collector’s memorabilia… a veritable time capsule into which any reader may be gently transported…back to a time when flying was gracious, glamorous and eagerly anticipated by passengers and crew alike!”

From Pete Runnette, President, Pan Am Historical Foundation

“…a fine chronology of Pan Am’s pioneering history, with wonderful pictures to match – valuable to student or aviation aficionado alike, and browsing will bring back fond memories for employees or passengers, of air travel Pan Am style…”

From Carol and Fred Tomlinson, Pan Am Staff

“We would like to thank you for doing a marvelous job on the book, and for portraying Pan Am as the great airline that it was!  We are all extremely proud of its history and professionalism, and your book brought back many happy memories!”

From Barry Humphreys, Chairman, British Air Transport Association and former Director, Virgin Atlantic Airways

“No history of international aviation can be complete without including the amazing story of Pan American Airways. Pan Am was without doubt the industry’s leader for several decades; more than just another airline. Jamie Baldwin’s fascinating collection of photographs and chronology captures the story of Pan Am brilliantly, from the early days, thru the glory years to the sad end. It is a story well worth telling.”

This book is published and is available for purchase from the publisher, BlueWater Press.  Please follow this link for ordering information:  http://www.bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am.html

It is also available from Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Pan-American-World-Airways-Airline/dp/1604520469/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381237003&sr=8-1&keywords=pan+american+world+airways+-+images+of+a+great+airline

From the Preface:

I hope readers will enjoy seeing these items that were representative of Pan American’s glory years and that this book will find its place alongside the many books already written about Pan American World Airways.