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

Twenty-six years ago today Pan American World Airways flight 103 was destroyed by a terrorist act over Lockerbie, Scotland. The story was posted in the Pan Am Series last year on the 25th anniversary. It is re-posted today with additional material toward the end of the posting.

JPB Transportation

“Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance”

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

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Services

48-First RTW

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

 Setting the Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Schedules

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

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

1948 RTW

Constellation-1     DC-4

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

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

1952 RTW    Boeing 377-n

“Strato Clipper” (right, PAA photograph).

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

1954 RTW    DC-6B

DC-6B (right, PAA photograph).

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

RTW 1956

377-3 RA Scholefield   DC-7B-n2

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

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

1959 RTW

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

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

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

1966 RTW   1971-72 RTW

1981 RTW

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

747 at LAX Bob Proctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48- kids and clipper    48-On board

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

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

 

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXII: Technical Assistance Like No Other – 2

Technical Assistance for Tajik Air – 1993

Part Two

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

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

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

N149UA-2   747SP at DYU-1

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

From Captain Carr:

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

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

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

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

Snow Leopard-1a-comp

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

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

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

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

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

McMillan House-1 Cyrus and Eni    McMillan House-3

McMillan House-2

 

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

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

From Gunilla Crawford:

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

Cabin Crew Sked-2

 

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

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

The food service to be offered was superb.

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

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

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

Gunilla Feb 19   Gunilla Feb 12    Gunilla Feb 10-cropped

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

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

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

 

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

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

Cabin Crew-2a    Cabin Crew-1a

Crew-1    Cabin Crew-1

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

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

DYU Reception-2

Gunilla Feb 03    Gunilla Feb 01    Gunilla Feb 02

From Tania Anderson:

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

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

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

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

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

Inaugural at DYU-1

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

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

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

N149UA-1a     N540PA-1

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

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

EVENT REMINDERS:

Aircraft Accident Workshop, 31 May 2014 in San Francisco.

Click here for info or registration.

Pan Am’s Worldwide Family Reunion

31 July – 3 August  2014

New York/Long Island City

Click here for info and registration.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

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

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pan Am Series – Part XXXI – Technical Assistance Like No Other

Technical Assistance for Tajik Air – 1993

Part One

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

Even though Pan American World Airways ceased operations on 4 December 1991, those of the flying staff who remained to the end continued flying in whatever assignment they could get. Some flew on Hajj charters; some went overseas to teach Korean pilots and others took any job so long as it involved flying. The possibility of ever joining together again as a team seemed like a remote possibility. However, the “Pan American Spirit” remained in the hearts of many Pan Amers and manifested itself in late 1993.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990 was the breakup of its national airline, Aeroflot. The once behemoth was divided up among the newly independent republics who immediately set out to form their own national airlines. One airline was formed in the new Republic of Tajikistan, “Tajik Air”. Its fleet consisted largely of old Soviet TU-154s that were operated to points within the old Soviet Union. The idea of operating long-haul intercontinental flights was nothing more than a dream.

TU-154s   Tajik_Air_Tupolev_Tu-154M_Dvurekov

Tajik Air TU-154s (Photo on left by Gunilla Crawford; on right by Igor Dvurekov)

Then something profound happened. A group of businessmen in London, England saw the potential of doing business in Tajikistan and formed the Tajikistan Development Agency, headquartered in London. The group came to a quick realization that there was a serious lack of air transportation between the UK (or anywhere in Europe) and Tajikistan. Then came an idea: Why not expand the operations of Tajik Air so that it can offer flights between London and Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan?

Starting a new service in any market requires a great deal of research and planning.  There must be a suitable aircraft.  Government approvals must be in place.  Airport access, slots (if required), ground handling services and airport facilities (check-in desks, etc) must be obtained.  On the commercial side, the new service needs to be marketed, publicized and tickets sold.  Other details include setting up the ticket and operations offices, arranging catering, publishing an In-Flight magazine and printing safety information cards, timetables, paper tickets, baggage tickets, promotional materials and stationary.

For Tajik Air, however, there was one very important requirement missing: an operating base in London and sufficient infrastructure to crew and maintain an aircraft operating the long-haul route between Dushanbe and London.  That presented a huge problem as the civil aviation structure of Tajikistan was completely inexperienced in intercontinental operations. Setting up a London base would seem impossible to achieve given the limited resources of Tajikistan.  However, through the foresight and creativeness of a few airline experts in London, a unique solution to the problem was hatched: Establish a third-party UK management company to operate the route.

After much discussion with Tajikistan’s civil aviation authority, a contract was signed and Tajik Air Limited was formed. It would build the the necessary infrastructure and operate flights to/from London on behalf of Tajik Air.  The company would obtain and maintain the aircraft and crew, organize the marketing and selling of the flights and essentially operate the flights.  This would be accomplished using Tajikistan’s Air Operator’s Certificate and Tajik Air’s call-sign and airline code.   Tajikistan committed to funding the new service and also obtaining the required government permissions for the operation.

How would this operation be viable and profitable?  The route of primary interest to Tajik Air was the London (Heathrow) (“LHR”)-Dushanbe (“DYU”) sector.  Operating that sector as an Origin-Destination route presented problems in that there was little, if any, traffic between the two points.  The question was how to fill the aircraft?  The answer:  Offer service between LHR and points beyond DYU.  The beyond points selected were Delhi, India (“DEL”) and Karachi, Pakistan (“KHI”).  This was to be accomplished using rights under the Sixth Freedom of the Air, made possible by Tajik Air using Tajikistan’s Third and Fourth Freedom rights under agreements with the UK, India and Pakistan.  DYU would be the “hub” for traffic between LHR and DEL/KHI.

The schedule would work like this:  Tajik Air departs from LHR with a planeload of passengers on a Fourth Freedom flight to DYU.  Upon arrival in DYU, those few passengers destined for DYU disembark and the rest stay on board.  The flight then departs DYU with a new flight number on a Third Freedom flight for DEL or KHI.  Upon turning around in DEL/KHI, with a new planeload of passengers, the flight becomes a Fourth Freedom to DYU and from DYU, with another flight number, Third Freedom to LHR.  By operating this schedule, Tajik Air could fill the seats of the aircraft, and compete in a highly competitive market by offering good service with low fares.

The next question was what type of aircraft and this is where the spirit of Pan American first came on the scene: The selection of the Boeing 747SP for the operation. The aircraft acquired was first delivered to Pan American on May 11, 1979 registered as N540PA and named Clipper White Falcon.  It was renamed Clipper Flying Arrow on August 1, 1979 and later renamed Clipper Star of the Union on January 1, 1980. One year later, on January 1, 1981, the aircraft became China Clipper.

On February 12, 1986, as part of Pan Am’s sale of its Pacific Routes, N540PA was acquired by United Airlines.  The registration was changed to N149UA on June 1, 1986.  It was under this registration that the aircraft operated for Tajik Air, pictured below:

747SP Snow Leopard-cropped

Once the 747SP was secured, a call went out for crews to operate it. This was the second instance of the Pan American spirit in the new operation: The selection of former Pan Am crews to operate the service.

Because of the aircraft choice and their availability, it was decided to hire former pilots of Pan American.  The decision was perfectly logical in that Pan Am pilots had many hours of experience in the 747SP – some had actually flown the aircraft when it was with Pan Am – had experience operating in the geographic area of the intended operation, and had the savvy and know-how in dealing with unexpected circumstances or conditions inherent in such an operation.

Captain Sherman Carr, an experienced Pan Am pilot was one who received a call from a former colleague about an opportunity to be “an aviation pioneer again”.  According to Carr, the offer was to operate a new 747 service for the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan.  He was told the route to be flown and that the pay would be minimal but with generous per diem and off-time.  After some research he made his decision.  He learned that Tajikistan

“. . .is magnificently beautiful with a major fertile valley with a mild climate that grows cotton  surrounded by majestic peaks rising 18 to 20 thousand feet and populated by their national symbol, the snow leopard. I also learned that (the capital) Dushanbe is on the old “Silk Road” route used by Marco Polo when he brought the secrets of making spaghetti from China to Italy. The neighboring cities of Tashkent and Samarkand conjured up images of wondrous bazaars and really old world treasures of the Mongol Empire and kabobs made from Yak. I was hooked. Like the line from the Clint Eastwood movie: “do you feel lucky?” I did. I called back and signed up”

It was the same for all the pilots who received “the call”.  A chance to be an aviation pioneer was too great an opportunity to turn down.

Captain Carr also had this is to say about the 747SP:

“The airplane that was to be used for this operation was a Boeing 747SP.  The SP stands for special performance. The plane was originally developed for Pan Am to be able to operate non-stop from the U.S. to Hong Kong and be able to stay aloft for over 15 hours. It was actually a regular 747 with upstairs lounge seating but shortened by about 48 feet to make it lighter and additional fuel tanks for longer range. If it’s not loaded with full fuel for extended range flights, the aircraft actually scoots like a hot rod and will outperform any WWII or Korean conflict fighter aircraft and is a lot of fun to fly. It will roll or loop or do most of the maneuvers you see at an airshow but of course this is not authorized so no pilot would ever tell you he had done those things. For Dushanbe, surrounded by mountains in all directions, it was the perfect choice due to its ability to climb quickly, safely and be on its way in a timely manner and still carry about 260 people with an extended first class.”

Once the group was assembled, refresher training began at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Miami, Florida.  Most of the Pan American pilots were over 60 years of age.  While that would present a problem in the United States, it did not for Tajikistan.  And as is well known, pilots over the age of 60 have a near zero accident rate.

 

PAIFA exterior

At the academy was a 747SP simulator and the pilots were put through training that brought them up to speed on changes to the aircraft, flight rules and also fined-tuned their instrument piloting skills.  At the same time, flight attendants from Tajik Air were undergoing training for the 747SP.  These flight attendants were supposedly the “cream of the crop” from Tajik Air but with experience limited to smaller aircraft such as the TU-154.

While the pilots were progressing well in the refresher training, it was not the case for the flight attendants.

A former Pan Am purser, Gunilla Crawford, was working in contracts at the Flight Academy when she heard that Tajik Air flight attendants were to receive training on the 747SP.  Upon their arrival, she immediately discovered a serious problem:  their English speaking ability was extremely limited!  :

“I had created a training program for the Tajik flight attendants and we started with the 747SP aircraft:  the doors, how to arm, disarm, open and close in normal and emergency mode. The first day was spent studying the manual; the second day in the mock- up; the third day back in the classroom.  But I soon realized it would take five days to learn the doors and it would take months to teach procedures.

 “Nothing I tried worked with the students, mainly because of the language barrier, and partly because of the size of the aircraft. The 747 SP had two aisles vs. the TU-154 single aisle; oxygen masks in the overhead on the 747SP vs. two 5 foot tall oxygen tanks standing in the aft of the TU-154 cabin!”

A flight academy employee who spoke Russian eventually acted as an interpreter, but it became painfully clear that this group would not be able to staff a 747SP.  Although kind, interested and friendly, they were overwhelmed by the size of the 747SP.

This problem was not only a concern to Crawford, but also to the pilots who were undergoing refresher training and who had observed the Tajik flight attendants first hand.  A solution to the problem was needed, and after consultations with Tajik officials present, it was decided to hire some “real” flight attendants from the former Pan Am.  Crawford, was in contact with a group of “experienced and adventurous” former colleagues, and very soon a lot of familiar faces began appearing at the Flight Academy.

Training went into full swing for all concerned and soon it was finished.  For the cabin crew, it was decided that two or three experienced Pan Am flight attendants would be assigned to each flight.  The remaining cabin crew positions would be filled by the Tajik Air flight attendants as “trainees”.  The goal, under the supervision and direction of the Pan Am crew, was the Tajik crew to become qualified on a 747SP.

However, there was one more thing:  Teamwork

From Captain Carr:

Being on a flight crew is a wonderful thing. It is a team effort. Pan Am had always encouraged working as a team. That teamwork was designed to save lives. Although the duties of the cabin staff is the care of passengers, their real job is to save lives in an emergency. They operate the emergency equipment and are trained to get people out of the aircraft as quickly as possible. Good communication is essential. As a pilot, I always appreciated the job the flight attendants do and made sure they knew it”.

 In observing the training of the Tajik flight attendants, good communication was non-existent.  To alleviate this problem, Captain Carr suggested the Tajiks should see more of America other than their hotel and the flight academy and invited them and his fellow pilots to a luncheon at his home.  During the luncheon he made a very important observation:

“[At] almost any cookout in America, guests would pitch in to help with the food and drinks and have a party. Not so with the Tajiks. It became apparent that the concept of initiative did not exist in their culture. They would smile and do anything we asked of them but took no initiative. In an airplane emergency, this can be deadly so we proceeded to see what we could do about it. This was the first chance the pilots and cabin staff had the opportunity to talk in an informal setting. We encouraged them to help themselves and to pass things along to their fellow crew members.

 “We also found out why they didn’t talk to each other. They were all from Tajikistan but some were from various mountain tribes that were at odds with each other. Others were Russian, or Iranian or Tajik valley people. Apparently they had been chosen not because of their good English or flying experience but because they were related to government officials.  This was also meant to be a representative group of the Tajik population. While I thought this was a very democratic move, I later learned this diversity was meant to make it less likely that a jealous faction would [cause problems with the operation].

 “The lunch went very well and the English phrases, “more beer”, “more vodka” were pronounced much better. I also chartered a water taxi for a cruise to see the Bahia Mar Yachting Center and also homes along the waterway.  At the end of the tour and before returning to Miami, the Tajiks stopped by our home to thank us. Much to my relief they were all smiling and talking to each other and acting like a flight crew. That lunch was one of the best investments I ever made.

With the training finished and the Tajiks fresh from their team-building experience, everyone began leaving Miami for London to start the operation.  Captain Carr was asked to make the “acceptance flight” of Tajik Air’s Boeing 747SP.  He accepted.

END OF PART ONE

Stay tuned for Part Two: The acceptance flight and applying the “Pan Am Experience” to the first flights of Tajik Air.

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 XIX: Clipper Maid of the Seas

“Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance”

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

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

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

Clipper Maid of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo by Steve Priske)

Clipper Maid of the Seas (photo by Steve Priske)

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

Jocelyn Reina (courtesy of Steve Priske)

Jocelyn Reina (courtesy of Steve Priske)

 

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

The Demise of Clipper Maid of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

That never came.

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

This book is available through eBay or Amazon.

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

CoverFinalDesign.Book1-June2011

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

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

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

The Pan Am Series – Part X: Flight 100

Flying from New York to London – Pan Am’s Flight 100

707 bw

PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT, COMPETITIVE AND DENSE INTERNATIONAL ROUTE in any form of transportation is the North Atlantic. Today, hundreds of flights make the crossing daily between the major cities of the United States and those of Europe. However, it was not always that way. For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the principal market was between New York and London. These two cities for all intents and purposes were the main gateways to the United States and Europe respectively, and more passengers and cargo passed through these cities than any others. This article will focus on that market and highlight a major player in it, Pan American World Airways and its signature flight, Clipper 100, one of the most prestigious of airline lore.

But first, a little history. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, crossing the Atlantic was by sail, and the trip was often perilous and time-consuming, often several months. With the advent of the steamship, travel times were greatly reduced and safety and reliability noticeably improved. The Cunard and White Star Lines pioneered these routes and developed the great ocean liners that were national and company symbols. The “grand” ocean liner became a staple in the North Atlantic passenger trade at the beginning of the 20th Century as the technology improved to allow construction of mammoth (at the time) ships with large passenger capacity. The liners competed in the luxury market offering opulent accommodations designed to please the most discerning of passengers. They also competed in speed and comfort. Until the jet age, the liners were the transportation of choice for many a trans-Atlantic passenger. In the US-UK market, the names are legendary: Acquitania, MauretaniaQueen MaryQueen Elizabeth and United States, to name just a few.

(Note: To enlarge any of the images below, simply click on it)

Aquitania   Mauretania I

Queen Mary   Queen Elizabeth

SS United States

SS United States

Commercial travel by air in the trans-Atlantic market did not really play a role in transAtlantic commerce until after World War II. The first commercial flights were pioneered by Pan Am. In 20 May 1939 the first transAtlantic mail service was inaugurated when the Yankee Clipper, a Boeing 314 flying boat, flew from New York to Marseilles, France via Horta, Azores and Lisbon, Portugal. About a month later, on 24 June 1939, the Yankee Clipper established the first airmail service from New York to Southampton, England. In June 1939, the Dixie Clipper, also a Boeing 314, inaugurated passenger service between New York and Marseilles, and in July, passenger service was inaugurated between New York and Southampton. These services were suspended during World War II and it was not until 1945 that passenger service resumed.

As best can be determined, flights were not numbered in the timetables until the ending of the War. In the October 1945 Pan Am timetable, flights were numbered and the flight between New York and the United Kingdom was identified as “Flight 100”, a Boeing 314. It departed New York’s La Guardia Airport on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 a.m. for Foynes, Ireland with stops in Shediac, Canada and Botwood, Newfoundland. At Foynes, passengers connected with a BOAC DC-3 for London (Croydon), arriving at 3 p.m. the next day. By the October 1948 timetable, the equipment had been changed to a Lockheed Constellation and offered a daily non-stop service departing La Guardia at 4 p.m.  and arriving at London Airport at 11 a.m. the next day.

 1945 Timetable -0002-c   1945 Timetable -0001-c

October 1945 Timetable

 314a-oct 13Interior 314-n

 1948 timetable -0001-c   1948 timetable -0002-c

October 1948 Timetable

Interior constellation annual report 1945 Pan American L749 Constellation

In the 1950’s Flight 100 switched to the Boeing 377.  In the June 1954 timetable, the flight departed New York’s Idlewild daily at 4 p.m. arriving London at 9:30 a.m. the next day. On Fridays “The President Special” service was available, which, according to the timetable, was “the ultimate in luxury service”, featuring “Sleeperette” chairs that provided “bed-length sleeping comfort”. Also included was special food service and extra cabin attendants. “President Staterooms” with berths were also a feature of the service. In the October 1957 timetable, the equipment was upgraded to a specially configured Boeing 377 designated a “Super Stratocruiser”.  “The President Special” was offered on Fridays. By 1959, a Boeing 707 was operating the service and in the April 1959 timetable, a 707 departed daily at 8 p.m., arriving London at 7:35 a.m. the following day.  “The President Special” service was offered daily. It should be noted that in the timetable effective 26 October 1958, which included the first jet service, Flight 100 had a 10 a.m. departure from New York, arriving in London at 9:35 p.m. The service was started on 16 November. On 15 November, the all-First class Super Stratocruiser service was discontinued. The new jet service was later changed to the evening departure.

1954 timetable -0001-c   1954 timetable -0002

June 1954 Timetable

 1954 Pres Stateroom cover only 2  1954 Pres Stateroom    377-n

1957 timetable -0001-c   1957 timetable -0002

October 1957 Timetable

 Strat Lounge   377 bw

Page from 26 October timetable (above) showing the start of jet service. For the first time, flight 100 included two-class service, Deluxe President Special and Economy.

 1959 timetable -0001-c   1959 timetable -0002

April 1959 Timetable

 1959 timetable inside-c   707 postcard

By the 1960’s, Flight 100 was a daylight flight departing New York at 10 a.m. and arriving at London at 9:45 p.m., as shown in the September 1961 timetable. In the 1970’s, the Boeing 747 was introduced to the route, as shown in the January/February 1971 timetable, and continued operating the same daylight flight through the decade as shown in the Summer 1978 timetable.

 1961 timetable -0001-c   1961 timetable - 0002

September 1961 Timetable

 707 inflight pres special pahf   707 Main Cabin

1971 timetable -0001-c   1971 timetable -0002

January/February 1971 Timetable

 747-121 postcard   first class 1 300

1978 timetable -0001-c   1978 timetable -0002

Summer 1978 Timetable

With the merger of Pan Am and National in 1980, Flight 100 was discontinued as shown in the Spring/Summer 1980 timetable. All New York-London services were overnight flights and none were numbered “100”. In the timetable that became effective 24 April 1983, Flight 100 returned, operating a daytime flight with a Boeing 747SP. The flight offered 3-class service with “Clipper Class” in a separate cabin, departing at 10 a.m. and arriving in London at 9:40 p.m. Interestingly enough, the timetable announced it as a “New Daily Daylight Service”.

After the sale of Pan Am’s Pacific routes, which included the 747SP fleet, the equipment was changed back to a 747. In the timetable effective 26 October 1986 the 10 a.m. departure was changed to 9 a.m., with an 8:40 p.m. arrival. With the sale of the London Heathrow routes to United, Flight 100 came off the timetable. In addition, as shown in the May 1991 timetable, Pan Am no longer operated the New York-London route. Ironically, the cover of that timetable boasted “More Nonstops Across The Atlantic Than Any Other Airline!”. Little did anyone know that six months later, Pan Am would have no transAtlantic routes except for a 3-times weekly Miami-Paris flight.

1980 timetable -0001-c   1980 timetable -0002

Spring/Summer 1980 Timetable

1983 timetable -0001-c   1983 timetable -0003   1983 timetable -0002-c

April 24, 1983 Timetable

Boeing 747SP (photo by John Wegg, Airways Magazine)

Boeing 747SP (photo by John Wegg, Airways Magazine)

  1986 timetable -0001-c   1986 timetable -0002

October 1986 Timetable

Clipper Pride of the Ocean at London Heathrow

Clipper Pride of the Ocean at London Heathrow

 1991 timetable -0001-c   1991 timetable -0002

May 1991 Timetable

Clipper Belle of the Sky at London Heathrow

Clipper Belle of the Sky at London Heathrow

It is not unreasonable to believe that Flight 100 was Pan Am’s premier passenger flight. Although Pan Am had several lucrative routes in its system, it is fair to say that the New York-London route was the most important. Not only was it Pan Am’s most prestigious route, it could arguably be called its Signature Route. Pan Am put its best foot forward with equipment, in-flight service and scheduling. Nothing was overlooked and as a result, it attracted the passengers who demanded that type of service. According to Carla Marshall, a former Pan Am Purser, “it certainly was our most popular businessman’s flight (few women then).  Always top executives of major companies, both American and European. Nelson Doubleday was a frequent traveler, as was IBM Chairman Thomas Watson. Also NATO General Alexander Haig was often on the 707 flights as was Elizabeth Taylor.”

For Bronwen Roberts, a young flight attendant (then Stewardess) for Pan Am, a very special passenger on Flight 100 was one of the highlights of her 31 year career with Pan Am.

Below is an excerpt from her story about this special passenger in the book, Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:

“When I was hired by Pan Am in February 1958, one of 11 from 5,000 applicants, I could not in my wildest dreams have imagined the exciting life I would lead and the fascinating people I would encounter during my 31 year career.

“In the 1960’s Pan Am was the airline of choice for the rich and famous.  Among the celebrities I had on board were the legendary Charles Lindbergh, films stars Robert Taylor, Warren Beatty, Susan Hayward, Sophia Loren and her husband Carlo Ponti,  Audrey Hepburn and her husband Mel Ferrer.

“However my most memorable flight occurred early in my career. As a child I had been subjected to the terror of air raids over Britain during World War Two and I remember listening to the inspiring speeches given over the radio by our then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. How could I possibly have known then that on April 14th.1961 I would be serving the great man on a Pan Am Clipper flight.  To my everlasting gratitude and indeed to my amazement I was selected to serve Sir Winston on flight 100 from New York along with another British flight attendant, Valerie Wilton, and American purser, Mickey Deangelis.

 “The flight was uneventful and very pleasant with cocktail service followed by a leisurely lunch, with the regular President Special menu consisting of Hors D’oeuvres, including caviar, Terrapin or cream of mushroom soup; entrees, including Lobster Thermidor, Filet of Sole, Himalayan Partridge Sweetbread Financieres, stuffed Rock Cornish game hen, double lamb chops or  Prime Rib of beef, choice of vegetables, salad; and a selection of continental cheeses, desserts and fresh fruit items.   Colmans mustard and horseradish, Stilton cheese, imported teas and crumpets were added.

“After the excitement of the arrival I was taken to be interviewed by the British press and that is how my parents learned in the following morning newspapers that their daughter had had the privilege and honour of serving one of their heroes, something neither I nor they could have ever imagined so many years earlier.”

From the flight deck, Flight 100 was just a regular flight, according to former Pan Am Captain John Marshall, “from the flight deck perspective Clipper 100 was pretty much like any other, except that the scheduling showed us arriving at the hotel downtown around 9 PM, with just time enough to change and get to the pub before last call.  We usually operated flight 101 back the following day departing LHR at 1100.  A very civilized schedule, which is why most of us liked it.”

Because of the attractive scheduling, the most senior and experienced pilots were likely in the cockpit. Thus Flight 100 not only provided the best in the cabin, but in the flight deck as well.

It is fair to say that Pan Am’s Flight 100 set the standard for the ultimate in first class travel. Over the years Pan Am had multiple daily flights between New York and London, but Flight 100 was singled out as the way to travel between the two cities. At that level, the only real competition was the Concorde.

Today, notwithstanding the multiple US cities that have non-stop service to London, New York is still the major departure city from the US to London. Indeed, between New York Kennedy Airport and Newark Airport, there are upwards of 25 daily flights between the two cities. However, credit has to be given to Pan Am for setting the high standards that today’s carriers strive for in that market. Pan Am may be gone, but its not forgotten.

Bronwen Robert’s story about her experiences on Pan Am Flight 100 with Winston Churchill is one of 71 stories in Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, such as illustrated in this article, see a preview of  the book Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline

It 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

Two Iconic American Institutions

747 Dashing Wave at Ariz    080-ssusstoltenberg-4_3_rx512_c680x510

The Story of Snow Leopard – Part One: The Aircraft and the Operation

Snow Leopard-2comp

6-cat-profile-714

Snow Leopard:  a moderately large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia, mainly in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan (photograph by Steve Winter)

Part One:  The Aircraft and the Operation

The Aircraft

This is the story about an aircraft named Snow Leopard, which was a Boeing 747SP that was leased by Tajik Air, the national airline of the Republic of Tajikistan, then a newly independent former Soviet Republic located in Central Asia. The aircraft was operated exclusively on the international routes of Tajik Air and gave that airline a presence in London, UK, Delhi, India and Karachi, Pakistan.  The operation was controlled and managed by a management company in London, Tajik Air Limited.  This is what made this operation unique.  What also made it unique was that Snow Leopard was crewed by former pilots and flight attendants of Pan American World Airways, the former great airline that ceased operations in December, 1991.

The operation started with Snow Leopard’s departure from London for Dushanbe, Tajikistan in December 1993.  It ended in February 1994 when the aircraft was repossessed by United Airlines, the aircraft’s owner and lessor. What happened during these three months are stories of adventure, bravery, comedy, intrigue, loyalty and teamwork.  And they will be told in the following posts by those who were there, the pilots, flight attendants and the London management staff.

As background, the Boeing 747SP is a modified version of the Boeing 747 which was designed for ultra-long-range flights. The “SP” stands for “Special Performance”.  Compared with its predecessor, the 747-100, the 747SP retains its wide-body four-engine layout, along with its double-deck design, but has a shortened fuselage, larger vertical stabilizer, and simplified trailing edge flaps. The weight saved by the shortened fuselage permits longer range and increased speed relative to other 747 configurations.

Known during development as the short-body 747SB, the 747SP was designed to meet a 1973 joint request from Pan Am and Iran Air, who were looking for a high-capacity airliner with sufficient range to cover Pan Am’s New York–Middle Eastern routes and Iran Air’s planned Tehran–New York route. The aircraft also was intended to provide Boeing with a mid-size wide-body airliner to compete with the DC-10 and L-1011.

The 747SP first entered service with Pan Am in 1976. The aircraft was later acquired by VIP and government customers, but sales did not meet the expected 200 units, and production ultimately totaled 45 aircraft.

While in service, the 747SP set several aeronautical performance records, including three record-setting round-the-world flights, two operated by Pan Am and the third by United.

From Captain Sherman Carr, one of the former Pan Am pilots who flew Snow Leopard:

 “The airplane that was to be used for this operation was a Boeing 747SP.  * * *  The plane was originally developed for Pan Am to be able to operate non-stop from the U.S. to Hong Kong and be able to stay aloft for over 15 hours. It was actually a regular 747 with upstairs lounge seating but shortened by about 48 feet to make it lighter and additional fuel tanks for longer range. If it’s not loaded with full fuel for extended range flights, the aircraft actually scoots like a hot rod and will outperform any WWII or Korean conflict fighter aircraft and is a lot of fun to fly.  It will roll or loop or do most of the maneuvers you see at airshows but of course this is not authorized so no pilot would ever tell you he had done those things. For Dushanbe, surrounded by mountains in all directions, it was the perfect choice due to its ability to climb quickly, safely and be on its way in a timely manner and still carry about 260 people with an extended first class.”

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

On February 12, 1986, as part of Pan Am’s sale of its Pacific Routes, N540PA was acquired by United Airlines.  The registration was changed to N149UA on June 1, 1986.  It was under this registration that the aircraft operated for Tajik Air, pictured below:

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard

After the aircraft was repossessed by United Airlines, it was bought by the Brunei Government and re-registered as V8-JBB.  It was then bought by the Government of Bahrain on December 24, 1998 and registered as A9C-HMH (below, left).  Today Snow Leopard is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, registered as VQ-BMS (below, right, photo by Wong Chi Lam). She is still in operation.

747SP Bahrain Royal Flight     747SP VQ-BMS-Las-Vegas-Sands-Corporation

The Operation

Starting a new service in any market requires a great deal of research and planning.  There must be a suitable aircraft.  Government approvals must be in place.  Airport access, slots (if required), ground handling services and airport facilities (check-in desks, etc) must be obtained.  On the commercial side, the new service needs to be marketed, publicized and tickets sold.  Other details include setting up the ticket and operations offices, arranging catering, publishing an In-Flight magazine and printing safety information cards, timetables, paper tickets, baggage tickets, promotional materials and stationary.

For Tajik Air, however, there was one very important requirement missing: an operating base in London and sufficient infrastructure to crew and maintain a Boeing 747SP aircraft.  That presented a huge problem as the civil aviation structure of Tajkistan was completely inexperienced in intercontinental operations.  In fact, Tajik Air was created by the breaking-up of the Soviet Union and the then national carrier Aeroflot’s leaving of some old Russian-built aircraft (mostly TU-154s) for use by Tajik Air as the new national air carrier of Tajikistan.  Setting up a London base would seem impossible to achieve given the limited resources of Tajikistan.  However, through the foresight and creativeness of a few airline experts in London, the requirement was met.

To establish the necessary infrastructure so that Tajik Air could operate flights to/from London, a third-party UK management company, Tajik Air Limited, was formed.  Its purpose was to operate international flights on behalf of Tajik Air.  The company would obtain and maintain the aircraft and crew, organize the marketing and selling of the flights and essentially operate the flights.  This would be accomplished using Tajikistan’s Air Operator’s Certificate and Tajik Air’s call-sign and airline code.   Tajikistan committed to funding the new service and also obtaining the required government permissions for the operation.

How would this operation be viable and profitable?  The route of primary interest to Tajik Air was the London (Heathrow) (“LHR”)-Dushanbe (“DYU”) sector.  Operating that sector as an Origin-Destination route presented problems in that there was little, if any, traffic between the two points.  The question was how to fill an aircraft with 260 seats?  The answer:  Offer service between LHR and points beyond DYU.  This was to be accomplished using rights under the Sixth Freedom of the Air.

The Freedoms of the Air, established by the Chicago Conference of 1944, are a set of commercial aviation rights granting a country’s airlines the privilege of entering and landing in another country’s airspace.  The table below illustrates these Freedoms of the Air:

airfreedom

In the case of Tajik Air, the Third and Fourth Freedoms were the operative.  The former gives the “Home” (Tajikistan) country the rights to carry commercial traffic (passengers/cargo/mail, etc) to another country; the latter gives the “Home” country the rights to carry commercial traffic from that other country to home.  These rights are generally agreed-to between the “Home” country and the other country in the form of a Bilateral Agreement or an Air Services Agreement.  By using Third and Fourth Freedom rights, a Sixth Freedom operation can be created.  It is similar to a hub operation with the home country being in the middle of the operation between two different countries.

For Tajik Air, the beyond points selected were Delhi, India (“DEL”) and Karachi, Pakistan (“KHI”) due to the large number of Indians and Pakistanis living in the UK.  The schedule would work like this:  Tajik Air departs from LHR with a planeload of passengers on a Fourth Freedom flight to DYU.  Upon arrival in DYU, those few passengers destined for DYU disembark and the rest stay on board.  The flight then departs DYU with a new flight number on a Third Freedom flight for DEL or KHI.  Upon turning around in DEL/KHI, with a new planeload of passengers, the flight becomes a Fourth Freedom to DYU and from DYU, with another flight number, Third Freedom to LHR.  By operating this schedule, Tajik Air could fill the seats of Snow Leopard, and compete in a highly competitive market by offering good service with low fares.  In order to operate this schedule, Bilateral or Air Services agreements were required for scheduled traffic between Tajikistan and India/Pakistan in addition to the UK.

The published timetable shown below illustrates this operation.  Baggage tags are also shown.

Timetable Front     Timetable Inside

Baggage Tags

As outlined above, there were other details necessary for the operation.  For the aircraft, copies of the In-Flight magazine and emergency information cards were printed and are illustrated below:

Inflight Magazine0001     Inflight Magazine0002

Inflight Magazine0003     Inflight Magazine0004

Emergency Card0001comp     Emergency Card0001comp

Additionally, as part of the pre-launch publicity, an article was put in a magazine for business travelers about the new service:

LHR Mag-0001     LHR Mag-0002

For ticket sales, an office was set up in Kensington, London and a general sales agent was appointed in Karachi and Delhi.  In addition a large poster was printed for display at the ticketing offices with an image of Snow Leopard in the air:

Snow Leopard-1a-comp

The next steps in the launch of Tajik Air’s new service to London involved recruiting and training flight crews and taking delivery of the aircraft.  This will be coming in Part Two of the Story of Snow Leopard.

End of Part One