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

“Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance”

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

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

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

Clipper Maid of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo by Steve Priske)

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo by Steve Priske)

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

Jocelyn Reina (courtesy of Steve Priske)

Jocelyn Reina (courtesy of Steve Priske)

 

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

The Demise of Clipper Maid of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

That never came.

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

This book is available through eBay or Amazon.

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

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

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

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

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The Pan Am Series – Part VII: Aviation History

   China Clipper    707-121

Pan American World Airways’ Role in Aviation History

During the next three months, anniversaries of many “firsts” and significant events in the history of Pan American World Airways will be observed.  There are quite a few particularly noteworthy events.  Suffice to say, below is a list:

October: Launch of the Pan Am Shuttle on 1 October 1986; first to order American-built jet transports from Boeing on 13 October 1955; ditching of flight 943, a Boeing 377, in the Pacific on 15 October 1956; first airliner trip to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica on 15 October 1957; first flight on 19 October 1927 (chartered from West Indian Aerial Express); first trans-Pacific passenger service on 21 October 1936; first flight to Hong Kong on 23 October 1936; first Amazon route service on 25 October 1933, first trans-Atlantic service with the Boeing 707 on 26 October 1958; first scheduled Pan Am flight on 28 October 1927 and first to make a round-the-world flight via the North and South Poles on the same date in 1977, marking the 50th anniversary of the airline.

November:  First delivery of the Douglas DC-4 on 3 November 1945; first service to Fiji on 5 November 1941; first service to Barcelona on 8 November 1948; first Great Circle route to Tokyo on 17 November 1959; first “Clipper” flight on 19 November 1931 and the first trans-Pacific flight (mail) by the China Clipper a Martin M-130 on 22 November 1935.

December: First service to Bolama (West Africa) on 1 December 1940; runway overrun by flight 812, a Boeing 707, after an aborted takeoff caused by bird strikes and a related engine failure in Sydney on 1 December 1969; first to open the largest single air terminal in the world at New York Kennedy Airport on 5 December 1973; first service to Leopoldville on 6 December 1941; first delivery of the wide-body Boeing 747 on 12 December 1969; first jet service to Sydney on 15 December 1959; first delivery of the Ford Tri-Motor on 28 December 1928 and first delivery of the Fokker F-10-A on 31 December 1928.

On a sadder note, during this same period will be the anniversaries of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, the last trans-Atlantic flight from Frankfurt on 1 November 1991 and finally, the cessation of all operations on 4 December 1991.

It has been suggested that the history of Pan Am could be considered the history of international commercial air transportation.  The above events, plus the geographic location of the US and the events of World War II, lend a lot of validity to this assertion. At the time of Pan Am’s founding, the notion of using air carriers for shipping the mail was gaining in viability, and getting mail to the countries of Latin America by air became an attractive idea.  A special inter-departmental committee called by then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover reported its recommendations just about one month after Pan Am successfully delivered its first load of mail to Cuba. This committee was headed by Undersecretary of State Francis White, a Yale alumnus known to Pan Am’s founder Juan Trippe, and a supporter of the new airline. The committee included representatives from the Commerce, War, and Navy Departments, as well as the Post Office – several being Yale grads and known to Trippe. Their conclusions, among other things, included the suggestion that foreign airmail contracts be let to the bidder that in the judgment of the Postmaster General, would best serve the interests of the United States, which was a critical distinction, freeing the Post Office from selections based solely on low bids. They also suggested development of two routes south from Florida, both of which had been suggested by Trippe. It was this meeting that for all practical purposes crowned Pan American Airways as America’s chosen instrument for developing international air routes.

Operating authority to these countries, however, needed to be secured and at the time there was no framework within the US government to accomplish that. Trippe, was able to do it. He carried out then, what the US Departments of State and Transportation do today with respect to foreign routes. But to realize his vision, Trippe needed the U.S. government’s cooperation and as a result, Pan Am worked closely with a small group of influential and informed government officials to create and exploit the opportunity that would permit Pan Am to flourish and grow.

Another factor was that the US had virtually no colonial empire as compared to its European counterparts. The “foreign routes” of European airlines, for the most part government-owned (unlike the privately owned US carriers), were largely made up of routes to their colonies in Africa and Asia. There was no need to obtain operating rights. Pan Am, however, was required to obtain rights to operate not only to the European countries, but to their colonies as well. This was basically the situation at the beginning of World War II.

During World War II, because of the nature of the war in the Pacific, the US faced a need to develop large, long-range aircraft, in transports (the C-54) and bombers. These aircraft featured large fuselages, a wide wingspan and big capacity. Translated to a peace environment, these would convert to large passenger aircraft that would give the US a decided advantage in long-haul, intercontinental commercial airline operations. Because of this and other factors, the Chicago Conference was called in 1944 to deal with such issues that many anticipated would arise at the end of the war. What emerged from that conference was the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Freedoms of the Air and the framework for traffic rights between countries through Bilateral Agreements.

At the end of the war, with the benefit of conversion of wartime aircraft to large passenger aircraft, Pan Am emerged as a truly global airline, culminating in the operation of the first commercial round-the world-flight in 1947.  The war also caused the development of a mighty U.S. based aircraft industry, capable and ready to beat the proverbial sword into plows to supply newly-developed aircraft to both U.S. and foreign airlines.

    48-First RTW-comp    377-n

 John T. McCoy’s watercolor of Pan Am’s first round-the-world flight (left) and the “converted bomber” (right) .

The people of Pan Am have been in the forefront of the airline’s glorious history. And probably no other airline chief ever received the loyalty that Juan Trippe earned, carrying on through decades long after he stepped down as Pan Am’s Chairman, his passing and finally the passing of the airline he founded. Many of the Pan Am family played major roles in Pan Am’s history and have had the selflessness to share their recollections with us.

In Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of Its People, published by BlueWaterPress, seventy-one such Pan Amers did just that, giving us 71 stories about their part in some of Pan Am’s history-making events.

Here are some of the writers:

2-KathleenClair  W.Crew-1BW   8-Jump Rope   10-Arriving JFK

Left to right:  Kathleen Clair, writes about her experiences as Juan Trippe’s personal assistant; Jay Koren (2nd from right in picture) writes about the first 707 flight; Kari Mette Pigman remembers November 22, 1963 in Dallas; and Gillian Kellogg L’Eplattenier tells about the excitement of flying the Beatles to New York.

13-Skygodincockpit   15-HelenDaveytodayBW   Chief Pilot, Berlin. 1982   26-McGhee

Left to right:  Bob Gandt tells of his experiences flying with the “Skygods”; Helen Davey recalls the R&R flights during Viet Nam; John Bigelow brings back memories helping Ariana Afghan Airlines; and John McGhee recounts the evacuation of Vietnamese orphans.

28-toppingtodayBW   30-Dorothy Kelly and Carla Johnson-comp   34-Mother Teresa-comp   37-Doubleday-3BW

Left to Right:  Allan Topping recollects his role in Pan Am’s last flight out of Saigon; Dorothy Kelly recalls the horrors of Tenerife; Ron Marasco tells us about Pan Am’s special relationship with Mother Teresa; and George Doubleday brings back memories of resuming service to China.

38-BenefieldBW   42-ClarktodayBW   48-OnboardBW   53-PAAnewHire

Left to right:  Harvey Benefield recalls evacuating Pan Am employees from Tehran; Mike Clark remembers his role in the merger with National Airlines; Merle Richman tells about Pan Am’s last round-the-world flight; and Diane Vander-Zanden recollects the sale of Pan Am’s venerable Pacific routes.

57-Kelly&JaneNamakama LGA   60-ReinerTodayBW   62-Don Cooper-1    68-NScully-1BW   69-mark pyle

Left to right:  Kelly Cusack writes about starting the Pan Am Shuttle; Arnie Reiner recalls the initial investigation of the Lockerbie tragedy; Don Cooper tells about the Internal German Service out of Berlin; Nancy Scully recollects her experiences working Pan Am’s White House Press Charters; and Mark Pyle remembers piloting the Last Clipper to Miami.

 

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From the preface:

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

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

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

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

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.”

From Readers,

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

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

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

From Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group,

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

This book is available for purchase directly from the publisher:

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

This book is also available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/American-Airways-Aviation-History-Through/dp/1604520728/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381238392&sr=1-1&keywords=Pan+American+World+Airways+-+Aviation+History

For more information about Pan American World Airways history visit the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation at  http://panam.org/

The Pan Am Series – Part IV: The Karachi Hijacking

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Pan Am Flight 73, a Boeing 747-121, N656PA, Clipper Empress of the Seas, was hijacked on 5 September 1986 while on the ground at Karachi, Pakistan (“KHI”) by four armed men of the Abu Nidal Organization. The aircraft, with 360 passengers on board, had just arrived from Mumbai, India, and was preparing to depart for Frankfurt and continuing on to New York.

The incident began as passengers boarded the aircraft.  The four hijackers were dressed as Karachi airport security guards and were armed with assault rifles, pistols, grenades and plastic explosive belts. At about 6:00 a.m., the hijackers drove a van that had been modified to look like an airport security vehicle through a security checkpoint up to one of the boarding stairways to aircraft.  The hijackers stormed up the stairways into the plane, fired shots from an automatic weapon, and seized control of the aircraft. Flight attendants were able to alert the cockpit crew using intercom, allowing the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer to escape through an overhead hatch in the cockpit, effectively grounding the aircraft.

During the following 16 hours, Zayd Hassan Safarini, the Jordanian leader of the hijackers, demanded the return of the flight crew to fly the aircraft to Larnaca, Cyprus, where he wanted to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners being detained in Cyprus. During negotiations between Safarini and Pakistani authorities, Safarini threatened to kill all passengers. Four hours into the hijacking, one of the passengers was shot and pushed out the door onto the tarmac below. As nightfall arrived, the hijackers herded the passengers and crew members into the center section of the aircraft. The four hijackers opened fire on the passengers and crew, and threw grenades among them, killing almost 20. Most of the survivors escaped through two doors of the plane which were forced open when the firing began.

55-Empress of the Seas   747-3

Pan Am Captain Hart Langer was in Hamburg at the time of the hijacking and received word that the hijackers were demanding a crew to fly them anywhere they wanted to go.  Below are his recollections of what happened in excerpts from his essay “Karachi Hijacking – Rescuing a 747” in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, published by BlueWaterPress.

” * * *  A 747 without a crew was useless to the hijackers, and they demanded that Pan Am provide an Arabic-speaking crew to fly them where they wanted to go.  Captain Jim Duncan (System Chief Pilot), through his contacts in IATA, called Captain Jazza Ghanem, the Vice-President of Flight Operations at Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) to see if they could help out.  Captain Ghanem was willing, but unfortunately was overruled by top management at Saudia.

“As a result, the consensus at System Operations Control at JFK (New York), was that if Pan Am could find a volunteer crew, negotiations with the hijackers would hopefully get them to release all of the passengers in return for flying them to some other location.  Captain Duncan wanted to know if Captain Ed Cywinski and I could head to Karachi and fly the 747 to wherever the hijackers wanted to go, in return for releasing all 390 passengers.  We agreed.  Bob Huettl, a check Flight Engineer who was laying over in LHR (London), also volunteered. * * *

“As it turned out, the APU (Auxiliary Propulsion Unit) that was supplying electrical power to the 747 in KHI had a small oil leak, and the Tech Center at JFK had predicted exactly when it would shut itself down and stop providing power to the 747.  When it finally happened, the airplane went dark, and the hijackers thought that they were under attack.   They herded all the passengers into the overwing area, began shooting people at random, and set off numerous explosive devices.  At that point, the Pakistani army did indeed attack the airplane and finally overpowered the hijackers.

“All of this happened while we were en route to KHI.  Captain Duncan was able to get in touch with the Swissair DC-10 using a phone patch and HF radio, and informed us that the hijackers had been arrested.   When we arrived, we had a chance to inspect the airplane.  The carnage was unbelievable * * *   Pan Am dispatched a crack team of mechanics from LHR to KHI, and in five days they had the airplane in a flyable condition – which is remarkable considering that there were fifty-seven bullet holes in the fuselage.   Ed, Bob, and I flew the airplane back to JFK with a fuel stop in Frankfurt.  * * * “

In a related story, former Pan Am flight attendant Liz Morris tells about her volunteer work on Pan Am’s Care Team after the Karachi hijacking to assist families from that flight.   In her story, excerpted below, also from Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, she tells about a special passenger she cared for who was on the Clipper when it was hijacked:

“At that time – before Federal law required airlines to establish Care Teams to assist families and survivors of crashes and other disasters — Pan American used a one-on-one process to assist such survivors.  I was selected as one of 50-100 volunteers to meet the Boeing 747-121 upon its arrival with some 300 survivors at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York.  We were instructed to stay with our designated passenger or family and do everything possible to assist them with ground transportation, telephone communications, re-bookings, etc. (All immigration formalities had been attended to, via passenger listings, before the aircraft’s arrival, we learned.)

“I was first in the line to receive my special passenger or family – perhaps because of my 20-year seniority and/or because I worked in Special Services, which dealt with such situations.  I assumed I would be assigned the first passenger out of First Class – a celebrity or VIP of some kind.  Imagine my surprise when, as we lined up in the large and spacious JFK arrival hall to greet the traumatized passengers of Flight 73, I suddenly saw a skinny young  Pakistani teenager break from the oncoming crowd and run toward me shouting “Mrs. Morris, Mrs. Morris…”   * * *

“As he approached me, I recognized him.  Through several preceding years he had come to my office as the unaccompanied minor VIP son of an influential Pakistani family.  The first time he was brought to me he was a sad little boy weeping profusely.  * * *

“Now, on that fateful September day 25 years ago, as the young man ran up to me – still small and slender – I immediately recognized him as my young friend but couldn’t comprehend that he had been on Pan Am Flight 73.”

Bill Lange, then General Manager of Pan Am System Control, was also involved in this event from the Emergency Command Center in New York.  Here are his recollections:

“At the time, I was Gen Mgr of Pan Am System Control and thus ran the Emergency Command Center (NYCOZPA) dealing with this flight.  I well remember Hart Langer and Ed Cywinski agreeing to go to Karachi to fly the aircraft out with the hijackers if that became necessary, a decision on their part that cements them in my mind as the bravest people I’ve ever personally known.  They were, in fact, both in New York and I believe we got them last minute seats on as Swissair flight to Zurich with a connection from there to Karachi, although my memory on the particular flights involved may be fuzzy. 

“With the Command Center up and running, we were tied into the US Government Emergency Operations Center in Washington and also with Pan Am stations throughout the region.  We also had a direct link to Karachi via an open phone link into the Lufthansa (I think) station manager’s office because that office had windows overlooking the aircraft on the tarmac.  We were in direct connection through that office though the entire event and got the word first hand when the APU died and the aircraft went dark, leading to the explosions and shooting onboard.  During the hours of stand-off, Pan Am station and operating management were dispatched to each of a large number of airports around the region that we thought the hijackers, if they ever got airborne, might choose as a destination.  We also were back and forth with the US State Department and Military at the US Government Emergency Operations Center, providing information that was to be used to prepare a Delta Force team if the decision was made to try and free the hostages.

“It was a long night and next day at JFK and many pieces of it remain in my head in only fuzzy fashion, but one part that I do remember was after the aircraft was retaken and as the passengers were being given treatment and otherwise helped, we arranged the flight of two Pan Am 747 aircraft into Karachi to bring the passengers and crew members back to the US via Frankfurt.  During the Frankfurt stop, the badly injured passengers and crew were brought to the US military hospital there for treatment.  As these flights were being prepared and boarding priorities were being established, I took a call over the US government connection from the head of the FBI team that was just starting to investigate the who, what, why and how of the hijacking.  The first words out of his mouth were about how the FBI was commandeering the upper deck lounges on both aircraft and how their teams planned to board both aircraft in Frankfurt and use the lounge to conduct interviews of all of the passengers and PA 73 crewmembers on both flights during their passage back to the US.  He wanted names and details and directed that Pan Am set up interview schedules for everyone interviews and, essentially, provide staff service to the FBI throughout the flights.  I quickly said no, that the passengers had been through serious trauma and anguish and we were not going to add to that as we brought them home.  Further, the well-being of those passengers was the first and only priority of the Pan Am staff on those aircraft.  The conversation then through several stages of increasing noise and argument leading to my final phone statement that Pan Am would prevent the FBI agents from even getting either of the flights to pester our passengers and that they (the FBI) could meet with the passengers after we had brought them safely to the US – upon saying which, I hung up the phone.  In the end, no FBI interviews took place onboard, although we did tell passengers of the FBI interest in speaking to them and helped some volunteering passengers to meet with the FAA at a JFK hotel after their arrival.  I must admit to worrying for some time after PA73 whether I had that night put myself on an FBI list somewhere for special treatment should I ever happen to stumble in their direction.

“In the aftermath, there was great concern about the ongoing state of mind of Pan Am crews throughout the system on the new risks of hijacking.  Karachi was possibly the first time that a hijacking raised the possibility of crews and passengers finding themselves on a death flight – something that became all too real on 9/11.  Pan Am thus developed a campaign presenting all Pam Am crews with a detailed story of what the company had done to support the crews taken at Karachi.  A centerpiece of that was a 30-minute video-taped reenactment of the actions taken  at NYCOZ at JFK during the event, narrated various by me, Jim Duncan and Hart Langer.  I still have that tape on a shelf in what my wife calls my personal Pan Am Memorial Shrine, aka my basement office.

“I’m sure that everyone involved in aviation has a host of stories that they could tell about their experiences, but I will always take particular pride in my 19 years at Pan Am and the stories that members of the Pan Am family relate when they get together.  To me, Pan Am was a truly special place and time populated by special people doing amazing things.”

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

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

http://panam.org/