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 XXX: Hawaii Reunion

 PanAmers Gather in Hawaii for an “Aloha” Celebration

101016panam707

The name Pan American World Airways brings to mind many destinations around the world, some exotic, some glamorous, some politically important and some world centers of commerce:

Rio2  BUE   London  80s-IAD

Paris  TYO  Berlin80s-DEL

  Dakar  Madrid  Calcutta-1JFK

However, one destination, not shown above but should be, played an extremely important role in Pan American’s early accomplishments in commercial aviation and could very well be regarded as one of the most important in Pan American’s history:

HNL-2

Honolulu represented one of Pan American’s greatest achievements, the historic crossing of the Pacific Ocean by the China Clipper, detailed in a previous post. The challenge of being able to complete the initial leg between California and Honolulu meant the remainder of the voyage to the Orient was possible. The challenge was met and the rest is history. Pan American went on to establish routes all over the Pacific and become the dominant airline in the region for decades. This lasted until 1985, when the routes it pioneered were sold to United Airlines. For many PanAmers, this was a bitter pill to swallow.

During its heyday, however, Honolulu was one of Pan American’s most popular and important destinations.

Hawaii-by-Clipper100   LingerLongerHI

pan-am-hawaii-2-b

Fittingly, this year, former Pan American employees are joining together in one of many of their favorite destinations, Honolulu, Hawaii for the “Pan Am Aloha Celebration”. Organized by former Pan American Captain Don Cooper who was the drive behind this celebration, Pan Amers from all over will have the opportunity to meet old friends (and make new ones) and reminisce about their times working for “The World’s Most Experienced Airline”. They will also visit sites in Honolulu where Pan American history was made.

Captain Don Cooper

Captain Don Cooper

  S42 at Hawaii   377 honolulu   HNL-2

Helen Davey, a former Pan American Purser, has written an eloquent and moving description about this event, and what Pan American means to its former staff, in the Huffington Post. The article in its entirety appears below:

“On April 2-5, 2014, former Pan Am employees from all over the world are converging on Honolulu, Hawaii, to enjoy the Pan Am Aloha Celebration. It will be a week of seeing old friends and making new ones, sharing memories and stories, and interestingly, celebrating our experience, while at the same time mourning our loss of Pan Am together.

“The day that Pan American World Airways ceased operations, December 4, 1991,Newsweek ran an article about the airline’s history, beginning with the statement, ‘This is not a story about planes. It’s about romance….It may be hard for today’s all-too-frequent flyers to remember that once, air travel was an adventure; that airlines once had a soul. Pan Am certainly did.’

“As a veteran Pan Am flight attendant for 20 years (1965 – 1986), and now as a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist for 27 years, I have studied and written about the unique relationship between Pan Am and its employees, and about the airline’s triumphs and traumas, in order to help those people who were still suffering from the loss of their beloved company.

    Helen Davey  15-Helen Davey today

Helen Davey

“Pan Am. No other airline in history ever evoked such images of glamour and adventure, because it was the airline that practically invented aviation. Known as the “Queen of the Skies,” it was the benchmark by which all other airlines were judged.

“And for good reason. Pan Am was the first airline to fly to Latin America, the carrier whose famed Clipper flights to Europe and the Pacific were the stuff of romance. It was also the first airline to circle the globe. Its round-the-world Flight 1 (westbound) and Flight 2 (eastbound) were inaugurated just after World War II. Then, at the dawn of the jet age, Pan Am flew the first Boeing 707 in 1958. Then came the 747. Pan Am was the airline of the ‘stars,’ and to the moon (2001: A Space Odyssey).

“But none of these innovations, as impressive as they were, was what made Pan Am different from other companies. It was the feeling of “family” and adventure and loyalty that Pan Am inspired from its very beginning. Its rich history, almost unbelievable events, and stories of our legendary “characters” were passed down through the generations, filtering – as family legends do – into each new-hire group.

“Indeed, no other airline had more intensely loyal employees, who continue even now to keep alive the spirit of a company that went out of business so many years ago. From the beginning, we were introduced into Pan Am as “family,” strongly bonded and loyal to each other. We became deeply interested in helping our company be the best, and while some people outside our ‘family’ saw that as arrogance, we saw it as striving for excellence.

“But what did that mean? It wasn’t just about the glamour of far-off places, 7-course meals served on fine china, or how proud we were wearing the Pan Am uniform. It’s about something called ‘the Pan Am World.’

“One of our company’s jingles was, “Pan Am has a place of its own. You call it ‘the world.’ We call it ‘home.'” In my view, there are two very different meanings of the word ‘world.’ One pertains to geography, and, of course, this was very significant to our peripatetic lives. Globetrotting was our lifestyle, but very few of us ever got over the thrill of taking off on a brand-new adventure.

“However, ‘world’ has another very important meaning, and that has to do with the way in which people make sense of their lives. Many Pan Am employees have described their relationship to the company as ‘a love story.’ Pan Am felt to us as if it had a living, breathing soul (as Newsweek described), and so the company’s essence was much more than a merely practical world.

“Indeed, it was a very emotional world, and Pan Am was much more than a mere company. A job with Pan Am was a passport to the world with unlimited horizons, and its employees shaped their lives around the framework of the Pan Am culture. In other words, every trip was a meaningful event, which makes the upcoming Aloha Celebration an even more meaningful event.

“On a personal level, I’ll have the opportunity to share with other Pan Am family members about our relationship to the company. I’d like to extend the invitation to my fellow attendees who’d be interested in being interviewed about their Pan Am experience.

“And we’ll have plenty of opportunities to chat. Several cocktail receptions and dinner at the Pacific Aviation Museum, as well as a special tour of the historic sights used by Pan Am during Pan Am’s China Clipper era, have been planned. And a ‘Clipper Club’ (Captain’s room) will be available each day for us to find our friends and circulate.

“On Thursday, April 3, from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., the public is invited free of charge to share in an exciting day of legendary “family” memories. This forum will be held in the Prince Hotel in the Mauna Kea Ballroom. One of the featured speakers will be Ed Dover (author of The Long Way Home), who was on the crew that flew a B-314 flying boat all the way around the world the other way, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an unanticipated first circumnavigation of the globe by a commercial airline. They flew in total secrecy and radio blackout for six weeks. It’s a great story.

“Author Jon Krupnick, author of Pan Am Pacific Pioneers, will be discussing his wildly successful book about Pan Am’s “boat days.” Our own Captain Don Cooper (the man largely responsible for organizing many of our most spectacular reunions) will set the historical and political scene in the Pacific before 1935, which led to Pan Am’s subsequent hegemony in the area. There will be other speakers as well, all passing along our Pan Am family stories.

“Fittingly, the world ‘aloha’ means both hello and goodbye, and it is with a tinge of sadness that we know that Captain Don Cooper will no longer be doing this. At 82, Captain Cooper feels that this reunion will be his swan song, reminding all of us that many of our ‘Skygods’ are now in their 80’s and 90’s. Our ‘hellos’ are joyous, but as is reflected in the closeness of our Pan Am family, we don’t like saying ‘goodbye.’

“But just as I was thinking this might be the last big all-inclusive Pan Am reunion, up pops the news of a Pan Am Worldwide Family Reunion on Long Island, New York on July 31 – August 3, 2014. It is being sponsored by Pan Amigo News (Miami), a newsletter for former employees for the purpose of keeping in touch, and sharing news of reunions, travel discounts, and finding friends we’ve lost track of.

“But it doesn’t stop there. We also have philanthropic organizations with their own newsletters, such as World Wings International (retired flight attendants), Clipper Pioneers (retired pilots), The Retirees Club (retired ground staff), and the Pan Am Historical Foundation (open to all including non employees). Many Pan Am websites can be found on the Internet, such as everythingpanam.com, and various closed groups just for Panamers. Meanwhile, the Pan Am AWARE store in Miami is busily supplying Pan Am memorabilia to those people who are nostalgic for ‘the Queen of the Skies.’

“Pan Am, as the slogan goes, is ‘Gone But Not Forgotten.’ The company as parent has died, but the family endures; the siblings continue to forge meaningful connections with each other all over the world – finding creative ways, as families do, to project themselves unendingly into the future. As long as the airline’s employees and their children (known affectionately as Pan Am ‘brats’, who grew up flying around the world with us) are still alive, the deep affection for Pan Am will endure.

“And like all families, we’ve had our share of tragedy. Most former Pan Am employees can tell you where we were when we heard about the sale of the Pacific routes to United, the Lockerbie tragedy, and the demise of Pan Am. We share common trauma, as well as phenomenal experiences: the high life and slow death of Pan Am is seared into our collective memory, but nobody can take away our love for our company.

“For those who are interested, I am including a link to a video about our Pan Am world, put together by Captain Tommy Carroll for the last big reunion, which was held in Monaco in 2012. It provides a glimpse of just some of our layovers in 86 countries and every continent, except Antarctica. Click on the following link, (747skygod.com) , and then click on the video ‘Pan Am Gone But Not Forgotten.’

“Then, sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for a nostalgic journey back to the ‘good old days’ – a time when America itself was at its zenith, and working for Pan Am felt like the best job in the world.

“Postscript: This article is also respectfully dedicated to all aviation employees who have lost their companies – our ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ at TWA, the former employees of Eastern, Braniff, Western, PSA, Piedmont, and Republic Airlines – just to mention a few.”

Poster  Poster-1  54panamhawaii

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

The Pan Am Series – Part 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