Pan Am Series – Part XLIV: The Boeing 707 – 1

PA 707 LAX-eb

 

“One of the Great Airliners of All Time”

Part 1

The Boeing 707-120

On 15 August 1958, Pan American World Airways took delivery of Boeing’s Construction Number 17588, a 707-121 registered N709PA and named Jet Clipper America (later changed to Jet Clipper Tradewind). This event ushered in what became the Jet Age. The story leading up to that delivery was typical Juan Trippe, Pan American’s leader who, although the idea of commercial jet travel did not become viable until well into the 1950s, explored the idea of jet propulsion during World War II, along with Charles Lindbergh and Pan American’s Chief Engineer Andre Priester.

The Aircraft

Boeing 707-120 - Mike Machat drawing from Pan Am - An Airline and Its Aircraft, by Ron Davies

Boeing 707-120 – Mike Machat drawing from Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, by Ron Davies

The 707 was developed from the Boeing 367-80, a prototype jet that made its maiden flight on 15 July 1954 from Renton Field, the 38th anniversary of the Boeing Company.

According to the Boeing website, production go-ahead for the Dash 80 was announced by Boeing 30 August 1952, as a company-financed $16 million investment. The airplane rolled from the factory less than two years later, on 14 May 1954.

Boeing 367-80 Roll-Out (NASM Archives)

Boeing 367-80 Roll-Out (NASM Archives)

From the Boeing website:

“Powered then by four Pratt & Whitney JT3 turbojets, mounted under wings swept back 35 degrees, the Dash 80 established the classic configuration for jetliners to come. It also set new speed records each time it flew. This was illustrated 11 March 1957, when it flew from Seattle to Baltimore in 3 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 612 mph.

“The Dash 80 was retained as a Boeing test aircraft and underwent major structural and aerodynamic changes in the course of developing and testing advanced aircraft features. Many test programs were aimed far beyond aircraft flying today, such as airborne simulation of flight characteristics and systems concepts for a U.S. supersonic transport.

“The Dash 80 flew with a fifth engine mounted on the aft fuselage to test installation feasibility for the trijet 727 and with three different types of engines installed at the same time. It investigated engine-thrust reversers, engine sound suppressers, rigs designed to cause in-flight engine icing conditions, air conditioners, and wing flap and slat modifications.

“It was also used to test radar and radar antennas, and even different paints. In one test series for landing gear, the 707 prototype was outfitted with oversized tires; it landed and took off from mud fields barely able to support the weight of passenger automobiles.

“The 707 prototype also flew special landing-approach studies at Moffett Field, California, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A high-lift, slow speed system featuring special wing flaps for direct-lift control was used in steeper-than-usual landing approaches designed to alleviate community noise in airport areas.

“During its early years, the airplane was the center of attraction in the aviation world, giving many airline pilots, airline executives, and military and government officials their first taste of jet flying. It has approximately 3,000 hours of flight recorded in its logbook.

“The prototype led to a revolution in air transportation and it gave gave birth to the 707 series of jetliners. Much larger, faster and smoother than the propeller airplanes it was replacing, it quickly changed the face of international travel.

“The first commercial 707s, labeled the 707-120 series, had a larger cabin and other improvements compared to the prototype. Powered by early Pratt & Whitney turbojet engines, these initial 707s had range capability that was barely sufficient for the Atlantic Ocean.”

As part of the Dash 80’s demonstration program, Boeing CEO Bill Allen invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) to the Seattle 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on 6 August 1955. The Dash 80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnston instead performed two “barrel rolls” to show off the jet airliner.

The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, to which Johnston replied that he was simply “selling airplanes” and asserted that doing so was completely safe.

The Pan American Order

As mentioned above, Juan Trippe, Charles Lindbergh and Pan Am Chief Engineer Andre Priester explored the idea of jet propulsion during World War II.  However, the idea that jets would eventually become commercially viable did not have its genesis until the early 1950’s. Then, there was no jet airliner even in the design stage in the United States. Britain had been developing the “Comet” jet, but it lacked range.  In December 1951, BOAC (predecessor to British Airways) took delivery of its first Comet, notwithstanding its poor economy and range. What Pan American wanted was a plane that could carry at least 65 passengers from New York to London at 500 miles-per-hour. In mid-1952 Pan Am engineers Priester and John Borger made the rounds to Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed. What was seen was disappointing.  The manufacturers, however, soon began focusing on a commercial jet because by September 1952, jet airliners had become inevitable.  Boeing developed the Boeing 707 prototype as described above and Douglas was working on its DC-8 project. At the same time, the turboprop engine had been developed and airlines were lining up for the likes of the Lockheed Electras and British Viscounts. Pan Am was not in the line because its engineers were of the opinion that propellers were the cause of most mechanical breakdowns.

Other problems had to be dealt with, most foremost were the lack of airports that could handle jets, lack of fuel to “feed them”, lack of tugs to tow them, lack of suitable stairways and lack of adequate hangers to overhaul their engines. Other issues included the engine to be used, the size of the aircraft and its range, and its economics, pitting the air-frame manufacturers, the engine manufacturers and Pan Am on seemingly a collision course, given the different needs of each group.

After hard negotiations, Pan Am got what it wanted: The Boeing 707 and the DC-8. And on 13 October 1955, Juan Trippe made his announcement. In an email, former Pan American Captain Don Cooper described the events surrounding the order and its announcement:

“Juan Trippe in his typical covert manner, without telling Pan Am employees or other airline executives about what he was up to, started secret talks with aircraft manufactures. He pitted one aircraft manufacture against another for competitive purposes, and brow beat Pratt Whitney, the aircraft engine maker,  for more powerful and fuel efficient jet engines. After clandestine negotiations with Douglas and Boeing for new jet aircraft, Trippe decided to have a cocktail party in his Manhattan apartment over looking the East River to celebrate and announce Pan American’s future plans. His guests, members of the IATA executive committee, were having an enjoyable time and praising themselves for ordering new turbo-prop Lockheed Electras to replace their outdated propeller aircraft fleets. When someone asked Trippe what Pan American’s plans were, he announced that Pan American was going all jet with an order of 25 Douglas DC-8s and 20 Boeing 707s. That announcement had a chilling effect on his guests and ended the party’s upbeat note. Trippe had just forced the jet age upon his competitors and in the process, they would be forced to dump their propeller aircraft at loss. In the following days, airline executives headed west to the Boeing and Douglas plants to get in line behind Pan American for their new jets.”

The order announcement was also made to the Pan American shareholders in the 1957 Annual Report:

“Pan American again pioneered in closing, in October 1955, purchase agreements for a fleet of long range jet transports at a cost of $270,000,000. Equipped with four jet engines of 14,000 pounds thrust each, these Clippers will carry 150 passengers to Europe at 600 miles per hour. The new jet fleet will telescope greater technical advance in speed, comfort, range and capacity than achieved over the past thirty years.

“Radically new jet maintenance and overhaul facilities are in construction. Airports in many parts of the world are being enlarged and modernized for jet service. New techniques in air navigation and flight procedure are being perfected. Thus, the year under review has been, for your Company, a year of transition.”

1stRollout P st John Turner-1

According to R.E.G. Davies, in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft:

“Each [jet] had twice the capacity of all but the largest piston airliner, had the potential for trans-Atlantic nonstop range, and was twice as fast. In economic terms this multiplied to about four or five times the productivity of the DC-7Cs . . . . and furthermore the reliability of the engines and air-frames held out the prospect of far higher levels of annual utilization. “

While the 707 got all the attention given it was the first to be delivered, the jet aircraft order was for 20 Boeing and 25 Douglas machines. The fact that Pan Am ordered more DC-8’s suggests, according to Davies, that “Pan Am was prepared to support the company which had supplied it with so many reliable aircraft during the postwar years, but was also warning it that its product had to be good and that tradition and sentiment would not guarantee a continued market.” In fact, the Douglas jets were bigger and had better range than its Boeing counterparts, and because Boeing feared the foreign airlines going to Douglas, Boeing and Pan Am renegotiated the order for a bigger 707. Pan Am did take delivery of six smaller 707s in order to open service in the north-Atlantic before anyone else did (BOAC, however, did beat Pan Am, operating the first jet service to New York from London on 4 October 1958, although not daily). Boeing took Pan Am’s warning to heart. It assembled a production and marketing team that, according to Davies, “out-produced and out sold the experienced Douglas. More important, Pan American switched to Boeing as its main supplier. * * * [And] when Pan American sneezed, the rest of the aviation world felt a severe [draft] and most of it caught [a] cold or worse.”

 

october-16-1958-first-lady-mamie-eisenhower-and-pan-am-chairman-juan-trippe-christen-the-boeing-707-121-the-plane-that-inaugurated-the-commercial-jet-age-for-theFirst Lady Mamie Eisenhower christening the new Boeing 707 (PAHF)

 

707 Family Day at New York Idlewild Airport

707 Family Day at New York Idlewild Airport. (Allan Van Wickler photo)

The issue of economics of the jets was a major consideration during the transition from prop to jet. There was the belief that the jet would be a “rich man’s airplane” – “extra speed at extra prices. . . a “super-first class premium ride” for well-heeled patrons, according to Robert Daley, in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire. Pan Am took the opposite view. Daley notes that Pan Am saw the jet as a way to keep costs down as the tourist fare had just been introduced with great success resulting in increased trans-Atlantic travel 30% over the previous year. Once the jets were in service, Pan Am’s position was clear, as shown in the 1958 Annual Report to shareholders:

“In April, 1958, Pan American inaugurated transatlantic Economy class service offering fast, comfortable transportation at a greatly reduced fare. Whereas the roundtrip fare between New York and London was $783.00 First class, and $567.00 Tourist class, the new Economy class fare was $453.00.

“Economy class service increases aircraft seating capacity by use of close seat spacing required for that new class…Luxury services are curtailed. Economy class service, sponsored by your company, again emphasizes the leadership in expanding air travel by bringing it within the budgets of more and more people who heretofore could not afford to travel abroad.

“Over 100 transatlantic Clipper flights per week are scheduled during the 1959 season, all offering Economy class service. Jet Clippers will operate 50 of these flights with the remainder being flown with long-range Super-7 Clippers”.

Thus, while the Jet Age also ushered in a class of travelers known as the “Jet Set”, it also ushered in the opportunity for overseas travel to the mass market and created the international tourist.

Clipper America arriving at London on 8 September 1958. It was the first American-built jetliner to land in Britain. (PAHF)

Jet Clipper America arriving at London on 8 September 1958 on a non-scheduled flight. It was the first American-built jetliner to land in Britain. (PAHF)

Clipper America arriving at Paris Orly on inaugural flight (Allan Van Wickler photo).

Jet Clipper America arriving at Paris LeBourget on inaugural flight 27 October 1958. (Allan Van Wickler photo)

In the next posting, the stories of the Boeing 720 and what Ron Davies referred to as “one of the great airliners of all time”, the Boeing 707-321 will be told.

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 XLI: Flying to the USSR – 1

Москва

One of the major accomplishments of Pan American World Airways was its involvement in opening an airline route between the United States and the then Soviet Union (USSR). Of all the routes operated by Pan American, this would probably be the one route on which the airline actually operated as the “Chosen Instrument” or indeed as an instrument of American foreign policy.

The first flight from New York to Moscow was 15 July 1968. However it took years to finalize the arrangements that led to the inauguration of regular airline service between the two Cold War rivals. During this time, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union ranged from friendly to confrontational and included numerous events that were major news makers during that era.

USA and USSR Flag

The first instance of Pan American interest in entering into an airline service agreement occurred during the 1930s when Juan Trippe held discussions with the Russians. These discussions, however, were thwarted by politics. In 1945, the US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) awarded American Export (AOA) authority to serve Moscow by extension from Helsinki. Pan American inherited this authority from the AOA merger, but the authority lay dormant due to the Cold War.

About ten years later, during the Geneva Summit in 1955, US President Eisenhower proposed an exchange of airline service agreement with USSR. That year, the USSR concluded bilateral treaty with Finland, its first.

Bob Henriques 1959 magnumphotos.com

President Eisenhower (left) and Soviet Premier Khrushchev (right) in 1959

In 1956, the USSR concluded bilateral treaties with the Scandinavian countries for routes to Copenhagen with “beyond” (Fifth Freedom) rights to London, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam. In addition, the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC approached Juan Trippe and Pan American about opening a route between the US and the USSR. Trippe reported the contact to the U.S. State Department and the CAB and was authorized to continue discussions (in effect to revert to his old-style diplomacy), even though the opening of the route would be subject to a bilateral agreement between the USA and the USSR.

Based on this authority, Trippe went to Washington and met with Yevgeny F. Loginov, Minister of Civil Aviation and director of Aeroflot. Talks focused at the start on technical matters such as maintenance facilities, radio navigation, fuel storage and baggage handling. Negotiations were protracted.  During this time, Trippe also visited Moscow.

By 1958, both nations had agreed to exchange airline service and the US-USSR cultural exchange agreement of 1958-59 contained promises that an air pact would be signed in due course. During that time, Khrushchev accused the U.S. ambassador to the USSR of “foot-dragging” in the negotiations.

In 1959 Trippe accompanied US Vice President Nixon to to Moscow and met with his Aeroflot counterpart. The Aeroflot chief later accompanied Khrushchev to the US and suggested the US attempt to persuade the Scandinavian countries to give the Soviets overflight (First Freedom) rights on its route to New York. This suggestion however, was in conflict with NATO policy of “confining” Soviet international aviation and insisting on strict reciprocity. These talks, however, were postponed to a more suitable time due to the U-2 incident, the abortive Paris summit meeting and the shooting down of a USAF RB-47.

US_Air_Force_U-2_(2139646280)    Khrushchev_U2

U-2 aircraft (left); Khrushchev looking at wreckage (right)

 Things eased when President Kennedy was sworn in as President and talks resumed. However, the FAA Administrator warned Secretary of State Dean Rusk that a standard bilateral agreement (modeled on Bermuda) should not be used with Russia, otherwise Pan American would be at a disadvantage compared with Aeroflot. Both countries, however, finally agreed on text, and Pan American and Aeroflot agreed on inter-carrier matters.

Unfortunately, however, the Soviets’ building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis intervened, causing President Kennedy to decline to sign the air agreement.

Berlin_Wall_1961-11-20     640px-Kennedy_in_Berlin

Building the Berlin Wall (1961)(left); President Kennedy at the Berlin Wall (1961)(right)

american-and-russian-military-  Bettmann CORBIS

Cuban Missile Crisis (Credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

In 1963, President Kennedy advised Soviet Premier Gromyko that the US is ready to move forward on the airline agreement. There were still issues to be resolved, however, and it was not until December, 1963 that President Johnson, who succeeded the late President Kennedy, instructed Najeeb Halaby (then FAA head, later president of Pan American) to solve the remaining problems with the Soviets regarding the treaty. However, there was opposition to the treaty in the US, with the fear that the treaty will allow Soviet penetration into the Western hemisphere. In addition, the Vietnam War soured relations.

By 1966, USSR and Canada had concluded a bilateral air agreement giving Aeroflot authority to Montreal. President Johnson also suggested that the old agreement should be looked at again, and on 4 November 1966, the US-USSR agreement was signed in Washington.

The agreement differed from typical bilateral agreements where agreement on the commercial aspects of air services between the two countries, including capacity and tariffs, were made subject to a prior agreement between the designated airlines (Pan American and Aeroflot) which, in turn, was subject to prior governmental approval.

According to Marilyn Bender and Selig Altschul in Chosen Instrument, the agreement was a money loser. It entailed a once a week round-trip for each airline and the Russians prohibited Pan American from drumming up business in the USSR. “Although it may have been in the national interest for an American-flag carrier to fly to Moscow, there was no subsidy forthcoming from Washington.”

In 1967, another barrier was encountered when it was discovered that Soviet aircraft did not meet noise limitations, had insufficient avionics and flew too fast for US holding patterns. Rumors were that that the Soviets did not want to share technical data because of the similarity between their commercial aircraft and their bombers.

Later, the Soviet-Canadian agreement was amended  to give Aeroflot beyond rights to New York. A new Soviet plane, the IL-62 began making test trips to New York and other U S airports.

On 15 July 15 1968, Aeroflot’s inaugural flight arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport; on the same day a Pan Am 707 took off for Moscow on its inaugural flight to the Soviet Union.

First Regular Moscow-New York Flight     Boarding

PAA 707 off to Moscow

PAA 707 off to Moscow-2     PAA 707 arrive Moscow

PAN_707 arriving Moscow 16 July 1968 - 1     KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Aeroflot IL-62 preparing for departure in Moscow (top)

Pan American 707 departing New York for Moscow (middle)

Pan American 707 arrival at Moscow (bottom)

All photos from http://www.miniaviamodel.ru

George Hambleton was sent by Juan Trippe to Moscow to develop good relations with Marshal Loginov, the Minister of Civil Aviation and director of Aeroflot. He wrote about this assignment in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People.  Excerpts from his story are below:

“Juan Trippe had sent me to Moscow from Helsinki in the mid 1960’s to develop good relations with Marshal Loginov, Minister of Civil Aviation, in an effort to persuade Aeroflot to join Pan Am in developing an InterContinental Hotel in Russia.  The contracts had been signed in Helsinki.  Mr. Trippe told me not to tell anyone about the Russian hotel proposal – not even my own boss in Pan Am.  Relations with the Ministry and Aeroflot developed favorably, but a hotel agreement was never concluded.  The favorable relations, however, set the stage for eventual introduction of scheduled services between New York and Moscow.

“During the early negotiations, I remember, with some amusement, our US technical team telling Aeroflot that the FAA required both DME and transponders on all aircraft entering New York airspace.  This was long before GPS.  The Pan Am team said with these two instruments pilots could know their exact location.  The answer from Aeroflot was, “Soviet pilots always know their exact location!”   However, if one had looked closely at the belly antenna of the Russian IL-62, after service began, one would have seen the insignia, ‘RCA’ (Radio Corporation of America).

“In the Cold War decade of the 1960’s, after Sputnick, the Cuban missile confrontation, and the Kennedy assassination, life in Moscow was grim.  The city was bleak, drab and grey.  There was no lighting or advertising signs on the sides of buildings – no color printing – only some faded reds and blue.  The terror of the years of Stalinist purges had diminished but fear was still pervasive – particularly among older people.  The attitude of many was, ‘We have always been at war – with the Germans – before that with the French – the Swedes – and the Tartars.  Our memories are all of sadness.’ * * *

“Into this world I walked as a relatively young man, with a young English wife, two young children, and a Labrador puppy.  How to cope with this system, and have an efficient Pan Am operation off to a successful start was the question.  Given Pan Am’s strict worldwide policy against bribes and corruption, it seemed almost impossible, until we remembered a clause in the bilateral air agreement.  Aeroflot was permitted to distribute advertising material in the United States – and Pan Am was permitted to distribute advertising material in the Soviet Union.

“Here was our incredible secret weapon.  There was nothing in Russia like the Pan Am calendar, with its large, beautiful color pictures of worldwide destinations.  People who had no other color pictures would frame them to hang in their otherwise drab and crowded apartments.  I was told that Pan Am calendars would sell for the equivalent of some twenty or thirty dollars on the black market.  During communist days, the Soviet Poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote ‘Without a piece of paper you’re an insect – with a piece of paper you’re a man!’  We had a piece of paper that made it legal for us to distribute these valuable items – a box of a hundred calendars was a pretty handsome gift – It was advertising material.

“Eventually service began. 

“On July 14, 1968 Richard Witkin wrote in the New York Times:

‘At Pan American World Airways’ second floor sales office in the Hotel Metropol, 15 sons and daughters of American Embassy officials spent much of the rainy Moscow         Sunday putting 16 kopek’s worth of stamps on 22,000 envelopes marking the inaugural        flight….  The letter will be flown to New York on the… Pan American flight, and      delivered to stamp collectors and others with special interest in the start of the route.

‘The (Pan Am/Aeroflot inaugural) flights will culminate a diplomatic effort that had its fragile beginning in the first Soviet-American cultural exchange agreement in 1958.  It also will be another in a series of recent signs that relations between the two countries are being selectively improved, despite strains imposed by the Vietnam War.’

* * *

“In the early 1960’s, Mr. Khrushchev had been saying the Soviet Union would soon “overtake and surpass” the United States.  Speaking at a ceremony celebrating Pan Am/Aeroflot service in the late ‘60’s, Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson said there was one field in which he would welcome the Soviet Union overtaking and surpassing the United States – that was in the number of visitors from Russia to the United States overtaking the number of visitors from the United States to Russia.”

1969 - Sep -cover   1969 - Sep -0001     1969 - Sep -0002

The September 1969 timetable (above) illustrates the Pan American Moscow service that was operated for ten years. In the next posting of the “Pan Am Series” will be a description of the operation during this period.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Services

48-First RTW

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

 Setting the Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Schedules

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

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

1948 RTW

Constellation-1     DC-4

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

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

1952 RTW    Boeing 377-n

“Strato Clipper” (right, PAA photograph).

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

1954 RTW    DC-6B

DC-6B (right, PAA photograph).

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

RTW 1956

377-3 RA Scholefield   DC-7B-n2

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

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

1959 RTW

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

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

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

1966 RTW   1971-72 RTW

1981 RTW

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

747 at LAX Bob Proctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48- kids and clipper    48-On board

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

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

 

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXIX: The S-42

 

Sikorsky S- 42 - Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am - An Airline and Its Aircraft

Sikorsky S- 42 – Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft. Pictured left, Captain Edwin Musick, pilot-in-command of the China Clipper’s historic transpacific crossing, who lost his life in Pago Pago in a deadly fire in a S-42 after a survey flight and initial South Pacific service.

The Airliner that Changed Aviation History

To say that the Sikorsky S-42 is the “Airliner that Changed Aviation History” undoubtedly will spark debate. However, its role with Pan American World Airways presents a very strong case. Indeed, in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, author Ron Davies noted that it [was an] airliner . . . whose effects and influence on the world of air transport were more immediate”, compared to the DC-2, which went into service about the same time. First, the airliner epitomized Juan Trippe’s “Nautical Airline” (see Pan Am Series Part V, “The ‘Nautical Airline'”). Secondly, the airliner was a chess piece in Juan Trippe’s trans-oceanic ambitions. And finally, because of its superior capabilities, the S-42 might have very well sowed the seeds for the Chicago Convention of 1944, which created the political environment and regulatory scheme under which all airlines operate today.

Sikorsky_S-42_PAA_taking_off_in_1930s

The Aircraft

On 19 November 1931, on board a Sikorsky S-40 flying boat during lunchtime, pilot Charles Lindbergh turned the controls over to Basil Rowe and went aft into the passenger cabin to sit down next to the most important passenger on board, Igor Sikorsky. The meeting between the two would characterize this flight as, according to Robert Daley in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, “one of the most important flights in the history of aviation”.

What Lindbergh and Sikorsky discussed was “the next step”, according to Daley. What Lindbergh wanted was a “really new airplane, something completely clean in design, with no external bracing, no outriggers, no fuselage hanging from the wing by struts, no engines stuffed amid the struts like wine bottles in a rack. All those struts and bracings only meant wind resistance to Lindbergh, and wind resistance meant loss of range and speed”. Sikorsky countered saying that what Lindbergh wanted was “two steps ahead in development, and Sikorsky wanted to take one step at a time . . . because lives were at stake . . . [and] [t]they could not afford to make mistakes.” Therefore what was the next step? Both men began to work it out while eating lunch. Lindbergh drew something on the menu. The S-42 was conceived.

Juan Trippe, had a similar vision of an aircraft able to span oceans. The new design provided for an increased lifting capacity to carry enough fuel for a 2,500 nautical miles (4,000 km) nonstop flight against a 30 mph (48 km/h) wind, at a cruising speed far in excess of the average operating speed of any flying boat at that time. Based on these requirements, Glenn Martin drew up plans for such an aircraft. However, Sikorsky’s S-42 was to be delivered first, as the Martin M-130 was still almost a year away from completion.

Specs

The S-42 made its first flight on 30 March 1934 and, according to Davies, “incorporated many technical refinements such as large wing flaps, extensive flush riveting, engine synchronization indicators (also on the S-40), propeller brakes and automatic carburetors. Its wing loading was higher than any previous airliner and was not exceeded by any other type until 1942, eight years after it went into service. Had it been a land-plane, concrete runways would have been needed at airports (then normally grass, gravel or cinder strips) to support the wheel loads.”

The S-42 could carry a full payload of 32 passengers over a range of 750 nautical miles, permitting non-stop trans-Caribbean flights to Colombia and omission of several en-route points on the Brazil route. Said Davies, the S-42 could “carry almost twice as many passengers as least as fast and twice as far as the DC-3”.

The first S-42 delivered: NC 822M Brazilian Clipper

The first S-42 delivered: NC 822M Brazilian Clipper

The “Nautical Airliner”

When in full passenger configuration, the S-42 truly epitomized Juan Trippe’s “Nautical Airline”. The passenger windows were round, like a ship’s portholes and the interior furnishings resembled the trappings of a luxury passenger liner or yacht, as illustrated below:

 s42_panam_cabin3     s42_cabin

s-42-interior

An advertising brochure also highlighted the nautical nature of the service (below). Note the use of the term “cruises” and depiction of the flight-deck, which appears like the bridge of a ship.

planes_47

S-42_Cockpit    s42_boarding

Pan American inaugurated passenger service with the S-42 in 1934, operating out of Miami to Colombia and down the East Coast of South America to Rio de Janeiro (passengers traveling to Buenos Aires were transferred to either a DC-2 or DC-3).

This service continued into the late 1930’s as shown in the September 1939 timetable below:

1939 Sept Timetable

In 1935, the S-42A entered service, with improved aerodynamics and a slightly longer wingspan. The engines were also upgraded, permitting a longer range. These aircraft were used in the Caribbean and South America.

Sikorsky S-42A - Ed Coates Collection

Sikorsky S-42A  (Ed Coates Collection).

In 1936, the long-range S-42B entered service. On 18 June 1937, the Bermuda Clipper inaugurated service between Baltimore and Bermuda. The S-42B also started service to the South Pacific on 23 December 1937. Sadly, however, the service was temporarily suspended when the Samoan Clipper, another S-42B, commanded by Captain Musick, suffered a deadly fire resulting in the death of him and his crew. The S-42B was also used on the Manila-Hong Kong route in 1937 and the Seattle-Juneau route in 1940.

Samoan Clipper

Sikorsky S-42B – Samoan Clipper

Survey Flights

The S-42B, because of its range, was also used extensively on survey routes for Pan American. In 1937, Pan American Clipper III made five survey flights in the Atlantic, originating in New York. The first was a round trip to Shediac, New Brunswick, followed by a round trip to Botwood, Newfoundland. The next two trips were to Southampton, England, via Foynes, Ireland (the northern route). The last trip was the southern route to Southampton via Bermuda, the Azores, Lisbon and Marseilles.

However, the most important of all surveys was the transpacific survey in 1935.

Juan Trippe’s Trans-Oceanic Ambitions

As described in Pan Am Series Part XIV, “Crossing the Pacific”, Juan Trippe initially sought to inaugurate trans-oceanic operations across the Atlantic to England. As it turns out, at least prior to 1937, it was not to be. There were a variety of reasons, largely political, as outlined in “Crossing the Pacific” and described in great detail in Daley’s An American Saga and in The Chosen Instrument, by Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul. One important reason was the S-42, then the most advanced aircraft in the world. According to Bob Gandt in China Clipper, the British had nothing approaching the technical superiority of the S-42. And that superiority for all intents and purposes, blocked Pan American from inaugurating transatlantic service to the United Kingdom. The British would not let the United States (Pan American) display its technical superiority until they (the British) had an aircraft of similar capabilities.

The S-42, however, was not the aircraft designed for transpacific flight. It was designed for the Atlantic, with “its British-held stepping stones”, according to Bender and Altschul. With thirty-two passengers, a crew of five and 2500 pounds of mail and cargo, the S-42 could make 1,250 nautical miles; not enough for the Pacific.

Unfortunately, the Martin M-130, slated for Pacific duty, was not yet ready for delivery, and Juan Trippe wanted to start operations in the Pacific “now”. It was thus decided to use the S-42 for the survey flights, and NC 823M, the West Indies Clipper was sent back to the factory, stripped of its interior and fitted with extra fuel tanks to give it a range of 3000 nautical miles. The airliner, renamed Pan American Clipper, flew off to San Francisco for its historic assignment. The critical element of the assignment was flying the California-Hawaii sector, which, according to Davies, “was and still is the longest significant air route segment in the whole world. Any aircraft that could perform adequately on this critical leg could fly any commercial overseas route”. The Pan American Clipper accomplished this.

Clipper_NC_823M_S-42 Nick grant adventures com

S-42 NC 823M Pan American Clipper over the yet to be completed Bay Bridge in San Francisco (nickgrantadventures.com).

The British finally developed an airliner that could compete with the S-42, the Shorts S.23. With that, the door was opened to Pan American for Atlantic services on which the S-42B conducted the survey flights, detailed above. Atlantic services were inaugurated in 1939 with the Boeing 314.

S-42 NC 16734, Pan American Clipper II/Samoan Clipper and Shorts 23 in Auckland

S-42 NC 16734, Pan American Clipper II/Samoan Clipper and Shorts 23 in Auckland

Sowed the Seeds for Chicago?

While it might be considered an overstatement to claim the S-42 sowed the seeds for the Chicago Convention of 1944, it should be remembered that because of its superiority, the British balked at allowing Juan Trippe access to the United Kingdom during the early 1930s. As mentioned above, the British were not going to let the United States (Pan American) display its superiority in air transportation on its soil until they had an aircraft of similar capabilities.

Another important point is that Juan Trippe was doing the negotiating for the landing concessions (as he had done in the past). In this case, he was dealing with Imperial Airways (the predecessor of BOAC and British Airways), which was a creature of its own government as opposed to a private enterprise, as was Pan American. In a sense, Trippe was negotiating with the British government. And this prompted the question from the British as to why the U.S. government was not doing the bidding for Pan American. This opened the door to U.S. government involvement in negotiating with foreign governments for landing rights, ending Juan Trippe’s role as a “shadow foreign minister for aviation”. Government-to-government negotiations for landing rights became U.S. policy toward the end of World War II.

As the war was winding down,there was no doubt that the United States was by far the strongest aviation power in the world, prompting significant worries from the British. This could have been made possible by an agreement between the U.S. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill during the war, whereby the U.S. would focus on development of long-range bombers and transports while the Allies focused on fighters and light bombers. As a result, at the end of the War, the U.S. had a decided advantage in capacity and range. What the British had, however, was control of one end of a large number of international journeys, something of great interest to Pan American, who had visions of operating flights to the European continent and Asia. Nevertheless, the U.S. was in a position similar to the proverbial elephant, who, while dancing through a chicken yard, cried, “everyone for himself!”

As the war was winding down it became increasingly clear that a meeting be held to resolve issues of international aviation and most importantly the issues between the U.S. and the British. Eventually, the U.S. sent out invitations to the Allied Nations and the neutral countries of Europe and Asia to meet in Chicago on 1 November 1944.

   chicago-conference-photo4     Chicago_Convention_Titelseite

And all of this, because of an airliner created during a Pan American flight on the back of a menu by Charles Lindbergh and Igor Sikorsky: The S-42.

s42_afloat    s42_mia2

As a postscript, it should be noted that at the end of the Chicago Convention, economic issues, largely issues between the U.S. and Britain, were still unresolved. The U.S. (Pan American) wanted authority to pick up passengers in Britain for travel beyond (“beyond rights” as provided for in the 5th Freedom of the Air, promulgated at Chicago) and the British balked. Finally this was resolved with the U.S. (Pan American) getting the coveted beyond rights in the Bermuda Agreement of 1946 an air services agreement between the U.S. and Britain that also became the model for future air services agreements the world over.

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 XXXIV: R&R in Vietnam War

Pan American’s Rest and Recuperation Airlift – Vietnam War

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

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

It is well known that over the years Pan American World Airways’ Chief Executive Juan T. Trippe might have held differing views with respect to United States government policy toward his airline. However, notwithstanding his personal feelings, he always made his airline available for service to the country. This went back to the earliest days of the airline and carried on throughout its existence.

One of the biggest operations in support of the country was during the Vietnam War, when Pan American Clippers carried troops and cargo between home and the war. As noted in the 1965 Annual Report, Pan American was providing approximately “40 flights every week between California and Saigon for the support of the military”. In March 1966 Pan American helped boost morale when it began a massive airlift of troops between Vietnam and rest and recuperation areas initially in Southeast Asia and Japan, and later the addition of Australia and Hawaii. Pan American was, according to the 1967 Annual Report, “the only airline providing this service. . . .[and in] two years more than 500,000 round-trip passengers used the Rest and Recuperation Airlift. Each has enjoyed full First Class amenities on these flights”.

As government needs for airlift increased as the war progressed, the 1968 Annual Report highlighted the fact that operations in support of the military increased dramatically:

“Pan Am provided a larger portion than any other airline of civil airlift of medical supplies, matériel and personnel across the Pacific in support of the armed forces in Southeast Asia. As of March 1, 1969, approximately 12 percent of Pan Am’s long range jet fleet was assigned to military support services. [The airline’s] transpacific airlift provides up to six flights a day to Vietnam.

“Pan Am conducts the airlift of troops between Vietnam and rest-and-recuperation sites. Since the start of this program in March, 1966, Pan Am has carried more than 800,000 round-trip passengers on the Rest and Recuperation Airlift.

During the Tet offensive beginning February, 1968, Pan Am responded to the urgent request of the Department of Defense and assigned a total of 18 Boeing 707-321’s to the emergency airlift. Additional cargo and passenger expansion capability was also provided on regularly scheduled services.

“On July 1, in response to a Government request, Pan Am opened seven Sales/Service offices in Vietnam.”

Soldier and FA Saigon    Cargo

Two former Pan American Flight Attendants (then Stewardess) worked on the R&R flights during 1967 – 1968 and generously share their experiences in the following two stories. The first, by Anne Sweeney, originally appeared in the Pan American Historical Foundation’s newsletter, Clipper:

“The tropical sun shone through the window of the DC-6 and on to the baby face of the young blond soldier sleeping off five days of R&R in the bars and brothels of Bangkok. His stubble was sparse and soft in the morning light.

“I moved to the next row- two brothers with Darth Vader shades and a shy, slight Puerto Rican kid. Their meals were always the same on the R&R flights – steak, home fries, green beans, fresh milk, ice cream – and ketchup. On everything but the ice cream.


“They were typical R&R passengers – young kids, from the ghettos, barrios and backwaters of America – LeRoy, Manuel, Billy Bob.


“Our Pan Am crews were based in Hong Kong and we worked these R&R flights, exclusively, flying troops from Saigon, Cam Rahn Bay and Da Nang to for five days of “Rest & Recuperation” in places like Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong. In support of the war effort and to gain government favor, Pan Am organized and operated these flights for $1 a year plus costs. The aircraft were old DC-6s; propeller planes phased out from the company’s Berlin operation by new 727s.


“We did our best to make them comfortable on the flights – to chat, smile and bring extra milk or ice cream. The soldiers were polite and deferential. ‘Where are you from in the world, ma’am?’ The world was anywhere outside Vietnam; a country few of them knew existed until their draft boards set them straight.


The plane started its approach into Cam Rahn Bay. Miles of blue and green water and beaches were covered from end to end with military equipment. Scrap metal, artillery, jeeps and tires rotted and rusted in the tropical heat. Cahn Rahn Bay was an Air Force Base. We unloaded one group of soldiers, the aircraft was cleaned and provisioned, another group quickly boarded and we were aloft, headed home to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport. Landing at Kai Tak was actually more perilous than landing in Vietnam

“My Christmas was waiting to begin across the harbor in a modern flat overlooking the South China Sea. It would be like no other Christmas for this small town girl from Rhode Island.

“When I got there, a Japanese Spruce tree would be hung with handmade ornaments, and Ah Nee, my houseboy, would be busy with preparations for Christmas Dinner. Ten people were coming – friends from Pan Am, my next-door neighbor, an Englishman I’d been seeing, plus friends of his from the British Navy whose ship was in port. There was room for more. I invited two young GI’s, Mike and Ted, from the flight.

“As soon as we were off-duty I headed for the Star Ferry and home. I loved the ferry at sunset. Violet dusk settled over the harbor and the lights came up on both sides of the port. Behind me, in Kowloon, the white Colonial façade of the Peninsula Hotel glowed in the last light and the deck lamps of the luxury liner SS Rotterdam were lit. Junks, sampans, pleasure craft, tankers, and freighters, military ships from aircraft carriers to supply boats, plied the harbor or rested at its piers. Up ahead on the Hong Kong side, a portrait of Chairman Mao stared from the towers of the Bank of China..

“On the Peak, lights glimmered in the great houses of the Tai Pans and along the Tramway that slowly climbed the steep hills.

“The Hong Kong Hilton yacht, Wan Fu, in full sail, glided by. A cocktail party was in progress; the well-heeled passengers, flying their colors of bright silks and navy blazers, sipping Tanqueray martinis and Tattinger Champagne.

“We docked, and within minutes, a taxi was speeding me up and over the hills and home for Christmas.

“The next morning was overcast, its chill mitigated by some of Ah Nee’s homemade and hot rice wine. Guest arrived at 2 – pilots, stewardess, naval officers and the two young soldiers from the plane. The Brits brought some very fine Scotch and Roger’s mother has sent a plum pudding from Fortnum’s. The festivities were interrupted briefly at 3 when Roger insisted we listen to the Queen’s Speech, broadcast at 3 o’clock on Christmas Day throughout the Commonwealth. Her Majesty’s high, clipped voice wished us all a Happy Christmas just before Ah Nee, who could cook in several languages, presented a perfect turkey with all the trimmings.

“In the midst of the meal, the phone rang. It was my father, calling me from Rhode Island. How was I, he asked. Had it been a lonely day? No, no, I assured him. We had made our own Christmas.

“‘You know what I always told you,’ he said, his voice cracking over the time zones and tears. ‘That there would always be cake and ale and Christmas.’

“Gathered around the table, strangers and friends, we found a glad holiday, however far from home. Thankfully, we didn’t know what the future held. Those at the table would scatter and lose touch. The war would be lost. Pan Am would one day fold its proud wings. The Queen would send her son to preside at the return of Hong Kong to China. One of the young soldiers would die on another holiday a few weeks later in what became known as the Tet Offensive, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

“But on that Christmas Day, all seemed merry and bright. Carols rang out. Toasts were raised to the season. The plum pudding flamed in a brandied glow. There was indeed, cake and ale and Christmas, and I knew then there always would be.”

41-Anne Sweeney-1   41-A Sweeney today

A former Pan Am flight attendant, Anne Sweeney also worked in the corporate communications department at Pan American World Airways. She was based in Hong Kong from 1967-68, flying the company’s R&R flights for US troops, taking soldiers from Vietnam to cities throughout Asia. She is president of Anne Sweeney Public Relations in South Brunswick, NJ

 The second story, by Dr. Helen Davey, is featured in the book  Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:

 “I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Vietnam. It was the spring of 1968, after the disastrous Tet Offensive had resulted in an escalation of the war.  I was flying my first volunteer flight as a Pan Am stewardess into Saigon to pick up American soldiers and deliver them to their R & R’ (rest and recreation) destination.  Glued to the airplane window as we approached Tan Son Nhut airport, I was astonished to see actual bomb craters and smoke rising from scattered skirmishes on the ground. I had to give myself a reality check: was this really me, and was I really seeing this, and were American men really being killed right below me? I thought I had seen it all on the nightly newscasts at home, but somehow I was shocked to see this vision of hell first hand.

“As we had been briefed, the pilots made the steepest descent I had ever experienced in an airplane.  I remember thinking about all the stories of bullets being found in the fuselage of Pan Am airplanes, and the jokes about Pan Am pilots sitting on their manuals for a little extra protection while flying in and out of Vietnam. In my purse, I carried the paper that awarded Pan Am stewardesses Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force status, which meant that under Geneva Convention rules we would be treated as officers in the event of capture.  Used to providing elegant in-flight service to our passengers in a rather formal atmosphere, I was about to experience the most surreal flight I had encountered to date. We had been told that ‘almost nothing was by the book,’ but only the male purser on our flight and the pilots who had flown many flights to Vietnam knew what that meant.

“As we taxied around the airport, I felt overwhelmed to see the sheer numbers of war machines of all types buzzing around seemingly everywhere. As we swung the door open, the noise was deafening, and the hot humid air enveloped me, taking my breath away. Our stewardess uniforms were made of fabric that was supposed to be ‘all weather, which really meant that it was too hot in summer and too thin in winter. Add to that the fact that we were still required to wear stockings and girdles, and I think you can imagine our discomfort. As I stared out of the open door, I became aware of the pallets of aluminum coffins lined up on the tarmac – each one containing somebody’s precious husband or son or father or boyfriend or uncle or friend.    

“I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the sight of the soldiers that boarded our airplane. I was expecting to see excited young men ready for a new adventure, laughing and joking with each other, and relieved to get away from the war. But as the men quietly filed aboard the airplane, I clearly saw the faces of trauma.  Many were strangely quiet, with expressionless ‘masks’, and most of them stared at our ’round eyes’ as if trying to take in a bit of home. I had no idea how young these men would be, but I wasn’t expecting them to look like they should be in high school! Twenty-five at the time, I wasn’t used to being called ‘Ma’am,’ and I felt strangely old. I’m convinced that my experiences with these traumatized men helped fuel my later professional interest in the study of trauma.      

“The Pan Am pilots, mostly ex-military men, felt deep empathy for these soldiers, and their announcements reflected it.  And here’s where our very talented male purser came in. As funny as any stand-up comedian, he knew exactly how to handle these traumatized men. Totally throwing aside our traditional announcements, he used colorful language that I had never heard uttered on a Pan Am intercom. He spoke right to the men, as if he were waking them up from their nightmare. And he loved to tease the stewardesses! As we were doing our regular emergency demonstrations, we were supposed to point overhead to the forward, center, and aft life rafts in the ceiling. During the part where he was supposed to say ‘forward, center, and aft life rafts,’ he mixed it up and said, ‘aft, center, and forward.’ By rote, all of us stewardesses pointed out the rafts in their normal sequence. He said, ‘So you see, guys, our young ladies don’t seem to know their ‘forward’ from their ‘aft!’ The soldiers exploded in laughter, and the tone was set for helping to relieve these young men’s burdens for a short time. By the end of the flight, some of the soldiers seemed less robotic, and their eyes were coming alive.     

“Nothing about this flight felt familiar. Several of the men got up and helped with the serving of meals, leaving us stewardesses with more time to talk to the homesick men. Some of them wanted to ask about what was happening at home, especially about the escalation of protests. One of them asked me to call his mother when I got home, which I did. They showed us pictures of family, children, girlfriends, and wives. They wanted to know all about our crew, where everybody was from ‘in the world.’  One Vietnam vet wrote about Pan Am stewardesses that we were ‘some of the sweetest, caring women I’ve ever known and need to be recognized for their contribution. Nurse, psychiatrist, mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, confessor, sex object – they wore all the hats.’

“So hungry for a touch of home, their eyes pleaded for just a little conversation. I learned on that first flight that if anybody had gone to sleep due to exhaustion, we had to be very careful in waking them up; they would awaken in an extremely startled state, arms flailing, reaching for their imaginary guns. I didn’t realize at the time that I was witnessing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which might stay with them for the rest of their lives. I picked out one particularly vulnerable looking soldier who was very shy, and as we talked, I decided to become his pen pal. I knew that having a Pan Am stewardess as a pen pal would qualify any soldier to be regarded as a ‘rock star.’

“This was the first of four soldiers that I eventually agreed to have as pen pals.  When I began to receive notices, one by one, that each one had been killed, I started to regard myself as a jinx and stopped writing letters.  Now I regret this, but at the time it just became too painful for me to be able to put a face to the names of dying men.       

“Music is where my memory of Vietnam lives, and this time of my life comes with its own special sound track; Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Marvin Gaye, Ike and Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills & Nash, Otis Redding, the Animals, Aretha Franklin, and Edwin Star who sang ‘War’ (‘War! Huh! Good God, y’all! What’s it good for? Absolutely nothing!’) The music describes wartime — especially the ambivalence about this particular war — better than words can convey. When I hear it, I feel as if I were back there.  I think that any of us Pan Am employees who flew into Vietnam feel that we, too, were a part of that war.  At the time, many of our regular destination cities in Asia were teeming with American soldiers, and wherever there were American soldiers, there was the music, blaring and insistent.

“In a bizarre conclusion to my first flight to Vietnam, I asked the Captain if I could sit in the cockpit for landing.  He said, ‘Of course.’ Again, since all rules were mostly suspended, the Captain decided to generously allow the engineer, who never really got to fly the airplane, to help with the landing.  On final approach, just before touchdown, the left wing of the airplane dipped way too close to the runway.  At the last moment, the Captain grabbed the controls back, and I think that every person in that airplane knew that we probably narrowly escaped disaster. Nobody in the cockpit spoke. I could tell that the blood had drained from the pilots’ faces, and the engineer was shaking     

Trembling from what had just happened, I stumbled out of the cockpit. The purser was up to his old tricks, and was just waiting for me to step through the door. He had signaled to the men, and when I appeared, a soldier yelled, ‘Nice landing, Ma’am!’ Again, everyone exploded in laughter. After all, what was a little ‘near crash’ to them? These brave men were facing death every day anyway. I sat down by the purser on the jumpseat and said, ‘We were just in the middle of a battle, and we almost crashed!’ He replied with a phrase that I was to hear often:

“’Well, welcome to war!‘”

15-Helen707-1    15-Helen Davey today

Dr. Helen Davey is a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist in private practice in West Los Angeles and a former Pan Am Stewardess. Her doctoral dissertation, A Psychoanalytic Exploration of the Fall of Pan American World Airways, is a study of the trauma experienced by Pan Am employees when the airline collapsed.  She published an article entitled “The Effects of the Trauma of 9/11” for airline employees following the terrorist attack.  She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

Below is a YouTube Video of Pan American’s Rest and Recuperation Airlift:

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 XXIII: Panagra

Pan American-Grace Airways

Logo

It might come as a surprise, but probably one of the most unknown of U.S. international airlines pioneered one of the key segments in Juan Trippe’s quest to circle South America with airline routes. That airline was Pan American-Grace Airways.

Once Pan American Airways began operations in 1928, it soon became clear that Juan Trippe was intent on operating routes south of the Caribbean and around the entire continent of South America. His most important destination, according to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, was Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America”. The plan, according to Robert Daley in An American Saga – Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, were two lines in South America itself. One down the west coast to Santiago, Chile and the other down the east coast to Buenos Aires. The shortest route to Buenos Aires, however, was by the west coast, and Juan Trippe needed the landing and traffic rights to set up that route. He was faced with a formidable challenge. And if it was not for Pan American-Grace Airways, Panagra, that west coast passage would not have been possible.

It all started in Peru.

In 1854, William R. Grace, the son of an Irish immigrant, founded the W. R. Grace and Company in Peru, where he worked as a ship’s chandler. In 1865 his brother Michael joined the business and the company name was changed to Grace Brothers & Co with head offices in New York City. The company was incorporated in 1865. Later a third brother joined and the three consolidated their holdings into a new private company, W. R. Grace & Company. The consolidation involved W. R. Grace & Co. of New York, Grace Brothers & Co. of Lima, Peru, Grace & Co. of Valparaiso, Chile, William R. Grace & Co. of London and J. W. Grace & Co. of San Francisco.

One of Grace’s main business was shipping. To get products from Peru to North America and Europe, William Grace founded the shipping division and service began in 1882. The shipping operation grew and Grace Line ships became a regular presence in the shipping lanes of the west coast of South America. They were known as the “Santa” ships and carried both passengers and cargo. The shipping operation, tied with an extensive business presence, including investment and ownership of piers, warehouses and real estate, gave W. R. Grace & Co. a powerful presence in the region.

In the meantime, in 1928, also in Peru, another historic event took place: A tiny single-engined Peruvian Airways Fairchild FC-2 with four passengers and mail took off from a racetrack in Lima and landed in a soccer field in Talara, Peru, 550 miles away. For all intents and purposes, this represented the beginning commercial air transportation along the west cost of South America. Another company, Huff-Daland Dusters, a crop-dusting specialist, had, on the initiative of its local representatives Harold Harris and C. E. Woolman, obtained full Peruvian traffic rights. Harris was also founder of Peruvian Airways.

Because of the power of the W. R. Grace, Juan Trippe encountered a huge obstacle. The company was run by Trippe’s father’s college roommate, W. R. Grace. That was no help, however, as the company saw no reason why Pan American should be allowed to operate in its domain. As Grace was a shipping company, there was also no need for an airline to move mail and passengers faster than its ships did.

To counter the power of Grace, Trippe sought to “exercise a political flanking movement”, according to Davies, by establishing airlines in Peru and Chile.  As Peruvian Airways already existed, he purchased half interest in it on 16 September 1928 and on 28 November acquired the Peruvian air permits held by Huff-Daland Dusters. In Chile, Chilean Airlines was formed on 21 December 1928, but never operated. The formation, a “tactical move” by Trippe, put pressure on Grace.

As a result, a compromise was reached and on 25 January 1929, Pan American-Grace Corporation (Panagra) was formed. Capitalization was $ 1 million (according to Daley; according to Davies, each side contributed $1 million), split 50-50. One month later, Panagra acquired Peruvian Airways. Panagra was incorporated on 21 February 1929 and on 2 March, won the FAM No. 9, Panama to Chile airmail contract, with a provision to cross the Andes to Buenos Aires and Montevideo. On 15 May, Panagra started its own service with a leased S-38 from Pan American. It picked up mail from Miami at Cristóbal (Panama) and carried it to Talara, where a FC-2 took it to Mollendo, Peru. The route was extended to Santiago on 21 July, and on 12 October, a Panagra Ford Tri-Motor made the first commercial flight across the Andes, reaching an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and establishing a mail route between Santiago and Buenos Aires.

The route extended some 4,200 miles and what is often overlooked is that the flying distance it represented was virtually unheard of during that time. In less than a year from its inception, Panagra had linked Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay with the United States. According to Daley, no domestic airline in the US  had even managed to span the country, yet, with this route, and the eventual development of the east coast route, Juan Trippe and his Pan American empire was looking at pushing planes along ten thousand miles of routes.

As Panagra expanded it achieved a number of firsts. For example: In 1933, Panagra was the first to install radio and weather stations in the Andes between Chile and Argentina; in 1946, it was first to use South American flight hostesses; in 1947, it was first to introduce DC-6 service in South America and to provide sleeper service; in 1952, it was first to introduce DC-6Bs and inaugurate tourist-class services in South America; in 1954, it was first to use the latest airborne weather radar in regularly scheduled service; and in 1955, it was first to introduce DC-7B service between the US and Argentina. Panagra was also first to introduce the DC-8 to South America.

Besides its firsts, Panagra was also noted for other achievements in support of other non-aviation events. Just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when war with the Axis was imminent, Panagra, with the assistance of the respective South American governments and at the request of the US State Department, first paralleled and then replaced the services of German controlled SEDTA in Ecuador and Lufthansa in Peru and Bolivia. This was designed to remove the Nazi threat in the region. In the humanitarian area, Panagra provided relief after earthquakes in Chile (1939 and 1961) and Peru (1948) and its planes were often sent on mercy missions, carrying, for example, vital life-saving medicine for a dying man, an iron lung to a girl stricken with polio and a shipment of drugs to arrest the spread of an epidemic.

Panagra remained a presence on the west coast of South America through the decade of the 1950s. Its “El Pacifico” tourist service and “El Interamericano” first class service were the staple for travel from the United States to cities such as Guayaquil, Lima, Antofagasta, Santiago and Buenos Aires. When Braniff was awarded authority to operate in competition with Panagra, Panagra extended its operations up to Miami and New York, in a thru-plane interchange service with Pan American and National Airlines. Braniff operated from Dallas and also offered similar service to Miami and New York with an interchange with Eastern Airlines.

By the 1960’s Braniff was in negotiations to acquire the 50% interest of W. R Grace and in December 1965, a deal was made to purchase these shares. On 17 March 1966, the remaining 50% interest was acquired from Pan American. In July 1966, the acquisition was approved by the US Civil Aeronautics Board and by February 1967, Panagra’s operations were fully integrated into Braniff.

Panagra’s operations during its life can be best illustrated with timetables. As Panagra was a major part of Pan American’s operations in South America, some of Pan Am’s timetables are used. A 1939 timetable shows operations with a Pan American S-42 flying from Miami to Panama and then a Panagra DC-2 or DC-3 from Panama south to Buenos Aires.

In the Pan Am 1948 and 1952 timetables, Panagra DC-6’s operated the “El Interamericano” first class service offering sleeper berths and the “Fiesta Lounge”. DC-4’s were also in the 1952 schedule offering “El Especial” tourist service. DC-3s were used in local services in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.

The decade of the 1950s featured extensive operations employing the DC-7B in the all-first class “El Interamericano” service, the DC-6B in the tourist “El Pacifico service and the DC-3 and DC-4 in local services in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The Interamericano and El Pacifico flights were a thru-plane interchange service originating in New York. National operated the New York/Washington, DC –  Miami sector and Pan American operated Miami-Panama sector. The Panagra flights also received connecting passengers at Panama from Pan Am’s Central American services. A 1959 Pan Am timetable illustrates these services. Braniff also operated west coast routes with its first class “El Dorado” DC-7C services and tourist class “El Conquistador” DC-6 services. Braniff also offered a trans-continental service from Lima to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

PG - Tags frontPG - Tags back

In 1960 came the jets, and Panagra introduced the DC-8 to its New York to Buenos Aires thru-plane service.

Panagra DC-8 at Panama (Allan Van Wickler)

Panagra DC-8 at Panama (Allan Van Wickler).

By 1967, Braniff’s acquisition of Panagra was complete, although Pan American’s timetables continued to show the service up to 1971.

Afterword:

Gustavo Vidal was with Pan American-Grace Airways at it’s inception in 1929 and was the airline’s first Comptroller. Vidal remained with the airline as Comptroller and Vice President until November 1950. At that time, he assembled a photo album highlighting the early years of Panagra, complete with an accompanying typed list of descriptions of each photo.

When Vidal passed away in 1975 many of his files went into storage. The photo album surfaced again for the first time in 2012, and is presented here in its entirety. To view it, click here.  Also included in this link is Vidal’s Panagra-related personal images and mementos, a confidential docket on “Panagra’s Importance to National Defense” and Panagra’s 30th Anniversary Publicity Kit.

For further information and images of the airline, Chip and Jef Reahard have made an outstanding home for Panagra on the internet. Visit PanAmericanGrace.com for the definitive Panagra website.

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 XXII: The Boeing 747

Boeing 747 Machat

Pan American Goes “Top of the World” With the 747

“Would you build it if I bought it?”

“Would you buy it if I built it?”

As legend has it, these were the utterances between Juan Trippe of Pan American and Bill Allen of Boeing while fishing from the Wild Goose in Puget Sound one summer’s day. By the end of their outing, there was, according to Bob Gandt in Skygods – The Fall of Pan Am, a verbal commitment to build an aircraft  what in Trippe’s mind would be a “stopgap airplane” top fill the void between the first generation jets –  the Boeing 707 and the DC-8 – and the yet-to-be-built Supersonic Transport, the SST.

Pan American had been enjoying unprecedented growth during the decade of the 1960s, with traffic, according to R.E.G. Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, increasing an average of about 15% per year. Business was booming and it was time to move forward. What was the next step? In Robert Daley’s An American Saga, the next step could have been the Supersonic Transport. At the time, the British and French were planning the Concorde. In the US, there were also plans for an SST, but the costs were beyond what the government could afford. Because of that, President Kennedy was put into a position as to whether to back the US project or not, and before he could decide, asked the then head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Najeeb Halaby (who would later become Pan Am’s Chairman) to ask Juan Trippe not to buy the foreign Concorde. Trippe, however, was aware that Kennedy was wavering and decided to force the President’s hand. He traveled to England and France in May 1963 and , according to Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul in The Chosen Instrument, “took an option on eight planes. . . [and] became the first airline other than Air France and B.O.A.C. to order a supersonic airliner”. This did not go over well with the President.

Shortly thereafter, however, President Kennedy “gave the signal for a commercial supersonic program to proceed and Trippe signed up for fifteen [Boeing] S.S.T.s.”

Unfortunately, the SST would not become operational for another ten years, and something needed to be done with the anticipated increase in airline travel. What would that be? According to Ron Davies, “Trippe had always been bolder than his contemporaries in going for larger aircraft; indeed he seemed to have followed a policy of ordering types which were typically twice the size of the previous generation. * * * [and] [t]he only way to increase capacity, apart from adding frequencies –  another method of coping with increased demand, but which was practically impossible, because of airport and airway congestion –  was to increase the aircraft size.” And that resulted in what Bob Gandt referred to as the “Everyman Airplane”: “The first jets had made world travel available to Everyman, not just the rich and elite. Now they had to build an airplane to satisfy the new yearning to travel – an Everyman airplane.” Thus lay the seeds for the Boeing 747.

By cajoling Bill Allen into such a project, according to Davies, “Juan Trippe went for broke.” To Bender and Altschul, it was a “spectacular gamble”. For Bill Allen of Boeing, according to Gandt, “[i]t would be the perfect swan song if he could step down knowing that he had launched the world’s mightiest ship of the sky. It would secure Boeing’s future well into the century. Or it could ruin Boeing“. The same fate faced Juan Trippe, according to Bender and Altschul, “by placing his company, its employees and its shareholders at enormous risk. If he judged correctly and was lucky to boot, Pan Am’s leadership would be maintained. If he was wrong or fate was cruel, the airline might well go bankrupt.”

On 22 December 1965, Juan Trippe and Bill Allen signed a Letter of Intent for the Boeing 747. On 13 April 1966, Pan American formally ordered twenty-five airplanes. But before the April agreement, a huge obstacle arose: On 30 March, President Johnson invited the Business Council to a dinner. Both Juan Trippe and Bill Allen were in attendance. During the dinner Johnson pleaded for austerity due to economic problems caused by the war in Southeast Asia. This jolted both Trippe and Allen, whose 747 project was not exactly austere. Was the project in jeopardy? After the dinner, Trippe, who had previously no success in having a personal meeting with Johnson, approached him to press his case. Johnson asked Trippe if anyone knew about the project and Trippe said “no, except for Bill Allen”.  Johnson then asked Trippe to be at the White House the next day “to see someone”. The next day Trippe was taken to the Pentagon to discuss the project with the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. At the time, another large capacity aircraft, known as the C-5A, was being developed for the Pentagon by Lockheed. McNamara pressed Trippe on the possibility of his waiting for a commercial version of the C-5A. Trippe argued his case for the 747 noting the impracticability of creating a commercial version of the C-5A. McNamara agreed and brought Trippe back to the White House where Johnson ordered that they “work it out”.  Both Trippe and Allen hammered it out with the White House and the Pentagon, and then went for approval from their respective Boards of Directors. With Johnson’s approval, the Pan Am directors were convinced. So convinced, that an option for an additional ten planes was authorized for incorporation into the contract, thus making it, according to Bender and Altschul, “the largest single order for a single aircraft model in the history of commercial aviation”.

Retired Pan American Captain John Marshall, who flew for the airline for years, wrote about the development of the Boeing 747 in an article that appeared in Airways Magazine. Below are excerpts from that article:

“Pan Am’s Juan Trippe was a visionary executive who dreamed in only one dimension: big.  Pan Am was the launch customer for the first successful jet transport, the Boeing 707, and it was Trippe who saw the need for an even larger airplane to keep up with the burgeoning growth in air traffic in the early ’70s.  In the mid-60’s, when the 707 was still a novelty in the world’s skies, Trippe took his ideas to Boeing’s Bill Allen.  He and Allen were alumni of the old school, both of them men of courage and daring, and after many long and sometimes contentious meetings between Pan Am’s planners and Boeing’s engineers, the decision was made to go ahead with the giant aircraft. 

“It was a tremendous gamble.  The 747 would embrace new design and technology that up to then had only existed in the dreams of engineers.  The technical hurdles that had to be cleared were enormous.  The new airplane would carry up to 500 passengers; one of the early questions was, how do you evacuate 500 people from an airplane in just 90 seconds?  The FAA, approached by Boeing to relax its 90-second evacuation criteria, dug in its heels and remained firm.  90 seconds was the limit, or the airplane would not be certified.  Engineers wrestled for days with the problem, and eventually redesigned the interior of the cabin to include not just one center aisle, but two, running the entire length of the airplane, with cross-aisles at each of the four main entry doors (there was an additional over-wing escape exit).  The doors were redesigned to permit egress of a staggered two-abreast.

“Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the aircraft’s designers was that of the engines.  While Pratt & Whitney was working on the prototype of the huge JT-9D engine, it had yet to be tested, and it was far from certain that it would be ready in time to mate with the 747.  Boeing had bitter memories of the B-29 bomber and its star-crossed marriage with the Wright Cyclone engines, which had a nasty habit of catching fire and burning off the wing.  The giant JT-9D engine would be the first jet engine mated to an airframe that had not earned its stripes on the wing of a military airplane.  It was an enormous gamble.

“The initial design specifications of the new airplane had the takeoff gross weight pegged at 550,000 pounds.  As the 747 design grew and matured, it put on weight, the bane of every aeronautical engineer.  A massive effort was directed at slimming-down the airplane, and eventually an all-up weight of 710,000 pounds became the final design target.  Four engines, each producing 41,000 pounds of thrust, would be required to get the 747 airborne, and as the airframe design came closer to being finalized, Pratt was way behind the power curve.  Engine development and production proceeded so slowly that the entire project threatened to sink under its own weight.  At one point there were so many engine-less airframes sitting on the ramp at the Everett production facility that their cost exceeded the net worth of the Boeing company.

“The early JT-9D-3 engines that powered the early model 747s were fraught with problems; they suffered from frequent compressor stalls, and would overtemp at the drop of a hat.  It quickly became a procedure that once the engines were running, while the airplane was on the ground at least one of the three cockpit crewmembers had to constantly monitor the engine temperatures for overheat.  Even the first scheduled passenger flight of the giant airplane was delayed several hours because of engine problems, severe enough to force an ignominious change to a backup aircraft.  The sheer weight of the engine and nacelle resulted in a new, heretofore unknown phenomenon, the “ovalizing” of the engine itself.  Its weight was literally pulling the engine out of round.  One of Boeing’s engineers put the situation into cleverly-phrased perspective.  “We have an unround situation,” he said.

“Engineers devised a unique, space-age solution.  It required that the largest amount of weight be placed in the smallest package, in the cowling of the engine itself.  The result was the use of one of the densest metals known, spent uranium, which was embedded in the engine cowl.  It solved the problem

“Trippe envisioned the 747 as a bridge aircraft which would carry the airlines through the adolescent years of the jet age until the supersonic transports, or SSTs, came along.  He insisted on the double deck design for the jumbo, with the flight deck perched high above the main level, so that when the airplane had outlived its passenger-carrying days, it could readily be converted into a very economic cargo carrier.  The nose cone would swing upward to reveal a nearly 200-foot straight-in main deck, accommodating cargo of a size and weight that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier.

747 Cargo

“Here the visionary pioneer made a major miscalculation.  The SST would be personified only by the Anglo-French Concorde, and even then only a few would be built.  Esthetic and graceful, it was nearly an economic disaster.  Designed when jet fuel was literally pennies per gallon, by the time it had completed what was then the most exhaustive test program ever devised, the oil crisis of the early ’70s had made the airplane almost prohibitively expensive to operate.  It soon became obvious that there would not be squadrons of supersonic transports gracing the skies, criss-crossing the oceans and continents to the world’s capitals, slicing flying times from hours and hours to hours and minutes.  The United State’s answer to the Angle-French Concorde, Boeing’s 2707, was slain by the stroke of a Congressional pen.  The B-747 would have to carry the transoceanic burden, at least for the foreseeable future.

“The introduction of the Boeing 747 represented a quantum leap in air transport technology and design.  Twice as big as its predecessor the 707, the Jumbo not only dwarfed anything it might encounter on the world’s airport ramps, but provided wonderful grist for anecdotal tales that were told among the airlines that were fortunate to have been at the head of the line to fly her.  Untold numbers of photos were snapped of comely stewardesses (still so-called in the early ’70s) standing in the cowling of the huge Pratt JT-9 engines, surrounded by the great shroud that enclosed the big fans.  “Artist’s renderings” was a fanciful term applied to the surrealistic drawings of the new 747 that appeared in promotional material.  The airplane was parked at a futuristic terminal, with a jetway conveniently nestled against each of her eight main entry doors.  There were piano bars (an innovation that briefly came to pass with at least one jumbo operator) and movie amphitheaters, a Radio City in the sky.  Passengers would be able to pass to and fro, as though attending a wonderful, celestial cocktail party. 

Pan American’s 1967 Annual Report noted that its order for the Boeing 747 “led the airline industry to a new generation of heavy duty transports. . .[and that] new standards of passenger comfort and convenience will be introduced. Simplified ticketing, computerized check-in and automated baggage handling will be provided. Pan Am’s 747s will have two aisles and seat 366 passengers.” In the 1968 Annual Report, Pan American noted that the “year 1969 will mark the beginning of the second stage of the jet age – the time of the Boeing 747 and other wide-bodied, advance-technology jet transports. Pan Am again is the leader. * * * Pan Am will be the first to put it into service to the major world markets we serve. Pan Am’s fleet of thirty-three 747s will be the largest. * * * Pan Am’s operating and marketing plans for the 747 program have already been formulated. Ground facilities are also being prepared. The men and women of Pan Am at home and abroad will be ready to put the plane in service”.

Development of the Boeing 747 as described above, was not without other challenges affecting performance and costs – the addition of a spiral staircase, for example. Building the massive aircraft also required a larger  assembly plant. That was achieved by construction of a new plant at Everett, Washington, near Paine Field.  In addition, Pan Am built a maintenance facility and extended the Pan American terminal to accommodate the big jetliners.

The illustrations below were taken from Pan American’s 1968 annual report.

The first 747 was delivered on time and was christened by the First Lady Pat Nixon on 15 January 1970. Six days later, on 21 January, the first commercial flight of a wide-body jet, Pan American flight 2, was scheduled for departure at 1900 hours for London. Clipper Young America was assigned the duty. Unfortunately, an overheating engine delayed the departure and also required a substitute aircraft, Clipper Constitution.  Never-the-less, at 0152 hours on 22 January, the 747 departed New York and arrived later that morning in London, completing an historic flight, opening the door to new era of commercial airline operations and making the Boeing 747 one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world.

In preparing this article, the following sources were used: John Marshall’s article in Airways Magazine, “The Big Jumbo”; The Chosen Instrument by Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul; An American Saga –  Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, by Robert Daley; Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, by Ron Davies; and Skygods – The Fall of Pan Am, by Robert Gandt; and Pan American’s 1967 and 1968 annual reports.

On interesting side-note:  Pan Am’s order for twenty-five 747s and an option for ten more in 1966 was the biggest ever at the time. In November 2013 Emirates airline rewrote all records in civil aviation with an order for 150 Boeing 777X, comprising 35 Boeing 777-8Xs and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs, plus 50 purchase rights; and an additional 50 Airbus A380 aircraft.

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