Pan Am Series – Part XLVIII: Skygods

Skygods

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 * * *

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

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

Click Here for the Entire Story about Jerry Mahan

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

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

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

Jun 1940 Timetable0001   Jun 1940 Timetable0002

 

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Bill Nash (Courtesy Bill Nash)

Captain Bill Nash (Courtesy Bill Nash)

 

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

Oct 1945 Timetable0001   Oct 1945 Timetable0003

 

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

“’Back in the Boat Days. . .’” 

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

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

s42_afloat     China Clipper

New Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“’We’re going to Tehran.’”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13-Skygodincockpit   gandt formation

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

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The Pan Am Series – Part 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 XLVI: The Last Clipper

The Last Clipper

“Any pilot’s final flight is traumatic, but when it’s the last for an American Icon, it becomes a part of history.”

Pan American Boeing 727-235 - Same Aircraft type as Clipper Goodwill (Photo by Pedro Aragão)

Pan American Boeing 727-235 – same Aircraft type as “The Last Clipper”. (Photo by Pedro Aragão)

TWENTY-THREE years ago today, Pan American World Airways ceased all operations and thus ended a glorious existence that included pioneering events that shaped what international commercial aviation is today. Last year this Series featured the story of the last Pan Am 747 to South America piloted by John Marshall. This year will feature the story by Mark Pyle of the Last Clipper to carry revenue passengers from Barbados to Miami. He was also the pilot of that flight and his story is featured in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People. Here it is in its entirety:         

“At one time, I subscribed to Aviation Quarterly, which was remarkable in its quality, its appreciation of aviation, and its unrelenting pursuit of excellence. It was hardbound and worthy of being perused in my favorite lounge chair as I enjoyed a snifter of choice brandy. I was a life-time charter member, but it is now defunct and belongs to history. Nothing is forever!

“My airline now belongs to the past as surely does my aging lot of forgotten magazines. Pan American World Airways is lost–lost to corporate ineptitude, governmental indifference, and an inability to change with the world it helped to bring together.

“’It looks like a beautiful day to go flying,’ First Officer Robert Knox of Greensboro, N.C., said as we began our ritual of checking the weather along our route of flight. Flight 219, bound for Bridgetowne, Barbados, was one hour from departure. We completed the paperwork that would ensure that the trip would meet all legal requirements for performance and weight and balance. We were more than businesslike, because CNN had reported the night before that Delta Air Lines had withdrawn its support for our newly proposed company.

“On most occasions, we would have made a comment or two about sports or hobbies at a predeparture briefing. Individuals who had not flown together before would use such small talk to break the ice of unfamiliarity. This morning was certainly different–an air of finality hung about everyone at our counter. The fact that it was 6 a.m. further depressed the atmosphere. The engineer, Chuck Foreman of Washington, D.C., was poring over the fuel figures. He had just returned to the Boeing 727 from its much larger cousin, the jumbo Boeing 747.

“We walked briskly to our aircraft, ship No. 368, one of the newest Boeing 727s in the fleet and quite a pleasure to fly with its more powerful engines and spirited performance. Pan Am had many Boeing 727s, but most were older. Their engines were always adequate but would not produce the kick in the seat of this newer model. I stowed my gear in the cockpit with a feeling of quiet pride, generated by command of such a machine. I then walked aft to greet the flight attendants who would complete our ship’s company on this beautiful New York morning.

“Immediately, the purser raised the question of Delta’s withdrawal, and my answer was the same as it would be to my cockpit crew members: ‘Whatever the day holds, we will make it a good trip.’ All agreed that it would be, whether as the first of many, as the promised ‘born again’ Pan Am with roots in Miami, or as the last of many.

“We acknowledged the push-back clearance from our ground team, or what had been our ground team. Now that they were attired in their Delta uniforms, we felt a sense of unreality as we left the gate. Our aircraft responded in its usual marvelous manner–the engines whined to life as though longing to push onward into the promise of this cloudless morning. The ground team gave us a salute, and we were off. The navigational computer engaged, and we took our place on the runway as the final checklist items, routine with years of repetition, were completed.”

Clipper Goodwill

“As we gathered speed, I marveled at what fine engines the wonderful folks at Pratt and Whitney had provided for us. Gently, I eased the nose of this beautiful airplane skyward. The sound of rushing wind and whirring instruments added to what is always a magic moment in every pilot’s life. The ground fell rapidly away, and the sky above beckoned. Both man and machine were happy to oblige. We turned away from the familiar Manhattan skyline and pointed the nose of Clipper Goodwill south–toward Barbados.

“After leveling at 31,000 feet, the routine of monitoring powerplant and navigational instruments settled in. The conversation once again turned to what we felt to be the abandonment of our airline by what we had all thought was a corporate good guy. Not a visionary by any means, I had detailed my fears along these same lines from the day the agreement was finalized. ‘The Delta promises were necessary to cement the agreement and nothing more,’ I had said, and all along I had hoped I was wrong! I, like many of my friends, was not fortunate enough to transfer, or more correctly, I was not on the right airplane–the Airbus A310. (Delta wanted only certain groups of pilots, based primarily on airplane qualification.)

“We flew over Bermuda, that incredible 21-square-mile piece of volcanic rock, where I had spent my last Christmas on layover. I have many happy memories of Bermuda and of other places–all associated with destinations on what had been a world carrier. Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Manila, Beijing, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Venice, Oslo, Istanbul, and many other cities–destinations previous Pan Am employees largely pioneered–all hold memories for many more Pan Am employees.

“Only a few puffy cumulus clouds–airborne cotton balls–blocked our way to Bridgetowne as we began our descent. The approach along the western coast of Barbados is surreal. The island is truly a multicolored jewel set in a background of turquoise sea. We landed to the east, as the trade winds nearly always dictate, touching down 4 hours 30 minutes after our departure from New York. We taxied to the gate and shut down our engines as we had done hundreds of times before. This time there would be a difference, a notable difference! In the four and one‑half hours of our flight, tragic history had been made.”

Pan Am Ceases Operations

“The station manager approached as he always did and greeted the inbound passengers. He then stepped into our office (the cockpit) and greeted us cordially, explaining he had some bad news. I quickly responded that I thought we could guess the nature of his grim tidings. He produced a message from New York operations in a very familiar format. This content, however, had never before in its 64-year history been inscribed on any Pan American document. Pan Am, as of 9 a.m. on Dec. 4, 1991, had ceased operations. None of our flight attendants could restrain their emotions, or their tears. All were at least 20-year veterans with Pan American or National Airlines. They vented their disbelief and their resentment of the Delta decision; consoling them prevented those of us in the cockpit from showing our own pent-up feelings.

“Our station manager asked us if we would operate the trip to Miami. He would find a way to buy fuel. Many passengers were stranded, and some Pan Am employees were packing to leave their stations and their jobs. We informed our station manager that we would delay as long as possible. This would ensure that all those wishing to return to Miami had time to board. We waited more than two hours in mostly silent thought while the passengers gathered from their hotels and employees packed their belongings.

Last timetable0001     Last timetable0002     Last timetable0003-1

“At one point, the local airport employees who had served Pan Am so well, and whom Pan Am had so well served, came to the aircraft. A tearful ceremony followed. Flowers and good wishes were exchanged. The local television news media requested interviews. Airport employees barraged the Clipper Goodwill for last pictures, which would adorn family scrapbooks.

“At 2 p.m. EST, the wheels came up on Clipper 436, hailing from Bridgetowne, Barbados, and bound for the city of Pan Am’s birth. We flew with silent thought, exchanging few words as time passed. San Juan Center cleared our flight direct to Miami, and I punched in the navigational coordinates for Miami International a final time. Little could be said in the face of a solemn reality–the certain knowledge of dead-end careers. What happened can best be described as a death in our immediate family. Pan American was my family in every sense. It was the corporate family to thousands.

“The engineer interrupted my thoughts as we began our descent into Miami: ‘Should I call in range?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘someone will surely still be there. The airplanes must be put to bed.’

The engineer spoke again in my direction very softly, so softly I could not understand.

‘Pardon me?’ I said.

 This veteran engineer of more than 25 years choked back tears through clouded eyes. He said, ‘Mark, we’re the last flight–the final flight.’ That circumstance had not occurred to me. He continued, ‘They want us to make a low pass over the field.’

I said, ‘You’re kidding, right? They’re joking!’ Privately, I thought it might be a friend who had landed before me, now pulling my leg.

‘No joke,’ he said, ‘they are going to be there to meet us–some kind of ceremony.’

“Miami lay before us. A cold front had just passed, and fog followed the coastline, extending out to sea almost to the Bahamas. Miami sat on the other side of the fog bank, eerie and beautiful at the same time. Dinner Key lay nestled in the fog. My mind raced at the finality of what I was doing. This wasn’t just the end of my career! This airline’s fading into history far surpassed the end of any individual’s career. Franklin Roosevelt had left from that same Dinner Key aboard Dixie Clipper, bound for Casablanca in 1943, the first American President to fly while in office.

“Pan Am had not been just a part of history, it had made history for all of its 64 years. It was always there when the government needed it. Indeed, Pan American Clippers had many scars as mementos from encounters with enemies of the United States. From Japanese bullet holes a lumbering clipper received as it evacuated key military personnel from Wake Island during the early stages of World War II, to the terrorist bombing of “Clipper 103.” More recently Pan Am pilots and airplanes aided in Operation Desert Storm. A Pan American Clipper brought me home from Vietnam. Now Pan Am had only Clipper Goodwill and this last crew–this final flight.

“With the passengers briefed carefully as to our intentions, I called for flaps 15. We descended on the electronic glideslope that had so often guided me to Miami. We now executed the requested low pass–my first since I left the Navy many years ago. As we flew down the centerline of Runway 12, I noted the lineup of American Airlines aircraft that would soon take our place. As we completed the low pass, the tower issued a final statement: ‘Outstanding, Clipper!’

“Pulling up and turning downwind for our final approach and landing, I looked at the beautiful Miami Airport and the city it serves. We all realized this would be the last time. Again, the finality of the moment slammed my senses. Our wheels touched for the last time in a Pan American aircraft –the last time for a scheduled revenue flight of any kind for this historic airline.

“Approaching the taxiway, we began to see the reception that stretched before us. Airport vehicles of every description–police and security vehicles, port authority and fire equipment–lined the taxiway, and video cameras abounded. Lines of individuals in semi-military formation were everywhere.”

Salute to History

 “As we taxied past the first formations, men and women came to brisk attention and saluted ‘the last of the Clippers.’ Tears welled up in my eyes then for the first time. Many rows of people and machines–all smartly formed–all saluted. I returned the salute just as crisply, fully knowing that their salutes were to this “machine” and to all the ‘machines’ that bore the title ‘Clipper’ for 64 years. Their salute was to the history that this ship represented and to all that had gone before.

“We passed the line of fire equipment, and the water cannon was fired over the aircraft. My emotions reeled under the weight of this tribute to Pan Am’s last flight. I engaged the windshield wiper to clear water that was on the windscreen, but that did little good for the water in my eyes. My first officer fought back his tears. He had worn Pan Am blue for 23 years.

“One final formation–all Pan American ground personnel–tendered their last salute. We approached the gate and set the brakes for the last time. We shut down systems for the last time and secured the faithful engines. Sadly gathering our belongings, we shook hands. Our final fight was over. No eyes in the cockpit were dry. Many of the departing passengers shared our moment of grief. The tears for Pan Am will continue.

69-blocking in-1

“Upon returning to my home, our 13-year-old son presented me with a letter. Through his own tears, he named me Pan Am’s greatest pilot. For one brief moment, on one tearful occasion.”

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 XLV: The Boeing 707 – 2

 

720 Machat

 

The Boeing 720B

With the launch of the Jet Age with its 707-100 series, Boeing soon found itself at a competitive disadvantage with Douglas, who already had an established world-wide network of agents, representatives and salesmen to market its DC-8 jet. To counter this, according to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, Boeing produced what it called “a family of airliners, focusing on the commonality of parts between the various models”. Davies also noted that “although this did not look like a family until the Boeing 727 was launched in 1963, the idea was nevertheless effective, even though the 707s seemed to look the same”.  According to Davies, Boeing “made much of its willingness to meet a customer’s precise requirements, whereas Douglas was inclined to be more rigid, offering a choice of DC-8 series but reluctant to deviate from the basic specifications of each series.”

Out of this came the Boeing 720.

As described in its website, while the 707-100 series was being introduced and the long-range 707-300 series was being planned, Boeing also decided to develop a 707 derivative with increased performance for short-to-medium range routes, allowing the plane to operate from shorter runways. Initially the plane was identified as the 707-020, was later changed to 717-020 and, with input from launch customer United Airlines, was eventually designated the 720.

Outwardly the model 720 resembled the 707, but it was a very different airplane. It had a much lighter structure and was 9 feet (2.74 meters) shorter than the 707-100. It also had an increased wing sweep on the leading edge between the fuselage and inboard engines as well as full-span Krueger leading edge flaps. The 720 carried less fuel than the 707-100. Combined with its lighter structure, this gave the plane a lower gross weight, increased takeoff performance and a higher top speed.

The 720 went into service on 5 July 1960 with United Airlines. Boeing built 65 model 720s. The only variant of the 720 was the 720B which first flew on 6 October 1960.  The main difference on the 720B was the installation of Pratt and Whitney JT3D Turbofan engines that increased the takeoff and climb performance as well as cruise speed of the plane. These engines also increased the range to 4000 miles, which, for a short time, was the longest range for any commercial airliner. Boeing built a total of 89 720Bs.

Pan American operated nine 720Bs, delivered between 1963 and 1965. They were mainly used in the Caribbean and Latin America and were eventually disposed of by 1974.

Boeing 720B, Clipper Flying Arrow (Jon Proctor)

Boeing 720B, Clipper Flying Arrow (Jon Proctor)

The 720 proved to be an economical plane to operate and was a favorite of pilots, passengers and operators alike. However, the rapid pace of technology soon caught up with it as the more capable 727 replaced the 720 as the leader in the medium-range, high-performance market.

 

The Boeing 707-321

“One of the Great Airliners of All Time”

In his seminal book, Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, Ron Davies referred to the Boeing 707-320 Series as “one for the great airliners of all time”. While this airliner may have later been overshadowed by her bigger and more powerful sisters, this statement remains true. Pan American began taking deliveries of the Boeing 707-321 (-321 indicated Pan American service) in 1959. However, the impact of the aircraft was really felt during the following decade.

The 1960s, in particular the years 1963-1968, represented the pinnacle of Pan American’s success. Pan American dominated the international airline arena like no other airline during that decade, a period when the volume of air traffic quadrupled.

During that time, Pan American could do no wrong. By the middle of 1962, it was the first airline to complete 100,000 transatlantic flights, a figure, according to Davies, “not even approached by any other airline at that time”.  On 7 March 1963, Pan American moved into a new building that towered over Grand Central Station in New York City, with the “Pan Am” abbreviation in huge letters on the top, visible for miles up and down Park Avenue. As Robert Daley said, in An American Saga, “The once tiny airline had become the world’s biggest and most famous”.

In the airline’s 1965 Annual Report, it was announced the retirement from regular service the last of its piston fleet, making Pan American an “all-jet airline”.  The 1967 Annual Report, which, by some accounts, detailed Pan American’s most successful year in its history, highlighted the delivery of 32 jet aircraft in 1967 with an additional 31 “present generation jets” on order for delivery in 1968-69 and announced airline’s $600,000,000 order for 25 Boeing 747 “Superjets”, and in doing so, “led the industry to a new generation of heavy duty transports”. It was also announced that “Pan Am will be the first American-flag airline to operate [Anglo-French Concorde] supersonic jets”, while also reserving “substantially more delivery positions for American SSTs than any other airline”. The report also noted that “Pan Am made the first fully automatic approach and landing in scheduled service” and in the year since, has “completed over 100 of these approaches and landings”.

1965 Annual Report     1967 Annual Report

 

The Boeing 707-321 was in the center of it all. It flew everywhere on Pan American’s routes, and all together 120 of this variant were operated, in addition to the eight 707-121’s and nine 720B’s.

The 707-300 series had a longer fuselage, bigger wings and higher-powered engines. With these improvements, which allowed increased fuel capacity from 15,000 gallons to more than 23,000 gallons, the 707 had a truly intercontinental range of over 4,000 miles in a 141-seat (mixed class) seating configuration. The aircraft was later fitted with Pratt & Whitney JT3D turbofan engines that provided for  lower fuel consumption, reduced noise and further increased its range to about 6,000 miles.

The 707 quickly became the most popular jetliner of its time, and its popularity led to rapid developments in airport terminals, runways, airline catering, baggage handling, reservations systems, and other air transport infrastructure. The advent of the 707 also led to the upgrading of air traffic control systems to prevent interference with military jet operations.

 

Boeing 707-321, Clipper (Michel Gilliand)

Boeing 707-321B, Clipper Emerald Isle (Michel Gilliand)

Boeing 707-213, Clipper Gem of the Skies, at New York Kennedy Airport (Peter Black, courtesy of Jon Proctor)

Boeing 707-321B, Clipper Gem of the Skies, at New York Kennedy Airport (Peter Black, courtesy of Jon Proctor)

Boeing 707-321 at Los Angeles (Jon Proctor)

Boeing 707-321, Clipper Lark, at Los Angeles International Airport (Jon Proctor)

Boeing 707-321, Clipper (Michel Gilliand)

Boeing 707-321B, Clipper Northern Eagle (Michel Gilliand)

Boeing 707-321 at Fairbanks (Jon Proctor)

Boeing 707-321 at Fairbanks (Jon Proctor)

Below is the cover, inside cover, round-the-world schedules and route map from the September 1967 timetable. This is a small example of the extent of Pan American’s operations in the 1960s.

1967 Timetable -0003-11967 Timetable - 1

1967 Timetable -0001-11967 Timetable -0002-1

1967 Timetable -0004-21967 Timetable -0005-1

As the 1960s drew to a close, the exponential growth in air travel led to the 707’s being a victim of its own success. The 707 was now too small to handle the increased passenger densities on the routes for which it was designed. Stretching the fuselage was not a viable option because the installation of larger, more powerful engines would in turn need a larger undercarriage, which was not feasible given the design’s limited ground clearance. The answer to the problem was the first twin-aisle airliner—the Boeing 747. The 707’s first-generation engine technology was also rapidly becoming obsolete in the areas of noise and fuel economy, especially after the 1973 oil crisis.

The Boeing 707 brought Pan American to the highest levels of international commercial aviation. It made international travel accessible to more and more travelers and was seen in all corners of the globe. It was, to many of Pan American’s pilots and flight attendants, their favorite airliner, and is cherished in their memories.

N496PA_Boeing_707-321B_Andrew Thomas   Scrapyard_at_Tucson_-_Davis-Monthan_AFB_Andrew Thomas

Pan American’s Boeing 707’s in their final resting place. (Andrew Thomas)

TWA and Pan American 707s at Los Angeles International Airport (Jamie  Baldwin)

TWA and Pan American 707s at Los Angeles International Airport, circa 1968 (Jamie Baldwin)

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 XLII: Flying to the USSR – 2

Москва – часть вторая

In the previous posting, the story of how Pan American World Airways began operations to the Soviet Union were detailed from the early negotiations to the first flight on 15 July 1968. For the next ten years, Pan American operated at least a weekly flight between New York and Moscow using Boeing 707 equipment. In 1978, the service was suspended largely due to commercial reasons.

Initially, Pan American’s Moscow service was operated by flight 44 eastbound and flight 45 westbound, with Boeing 707 equipment. In the September 1969 timetable, the service was twice a week, flight 44 operating on Mondays and Fridays, and the return flight 45 on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The route included a stop in Copenhagen, although no local traffic was permitted between that city and Moscow. This service is illustrated below:

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

By October, 1971, the service was changed to flights 102 (eastbound) and 103 (westbound), with a stopover in London. This was a once a week rotation, with the eastbound flight departing New York on Friday and the westbound from Moscow on Sunday. No local traffic was permitted between London and Moscow. The flights were operated with Boeing 707 equipment.

1971 - Oct cover   1971 - Oct

This service continued through October 1973, although the timetable did not indicate any restrictions on local traffic between London and Moscow.

1973 - Oct cover   1973 - Oct

By 1975, the original flights 44/45 returned to the schedule, with a once weekly service between New York and Moscow, eastbound on Saturday and westbound on Sunday with Boeing 707 equipment. The stopover in Copenhagen was re-instated and there was no indication that there were restrictions on local traffic in the December 1975 timetable. Flights 44/45 also made a New York-Copenhagen-Warsaw rotation on Sundays and Thursdays, returning on  Mondays and Fridays with Boeing 707 equipment.

1975 - Dec cover   1975 - Dec

By August 1978, the last year of operations between New York and Moscow, the service was operated by flight 66 eastbound and flight 67 westbound, using Boeing 747 equipment between New York and Frankfurt and Boeing 727 equipment between Frankfurt and Moscow. The rotation operated twice a week, Mondays and Fridays eastbound and Wednesdays and Sundays westbound. There appeared to be no restrictions on local traffic between Frankfurt and Moscow.

During this ten year period, the US and the USSR. signed an agreement on joint cooperation in the field of transportation calling for exchanges of information in areas that included the safety and efficiency of civil aviation. As a result of the pact, FAA officials and their Soviet counterparts held meetings on a variety of technical subjects. The agreement was one of a series signed by officials during a summit meeting between President Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The last of these agreements, signed on 23 June 1973, provided for an expansion of direct airline flights between the two countries. Previously, Pan American and Aeroflot had each been allowed two round-trip flights per week between New York and Moscow. The two airlines were now permitted up to three flights per week, and Pan Am received authorization to land at Leningrad, and Aeroflot at Washington. The new authority was never inaugurated on a scheduled basis.

In 1978, Pan American discontinued operations in the USSR as part of a cutback on its European flights. The load factors were low and this was largely attributed to its inability to gain market share. Quite simply, Soviet citizens could not buy Pan Am tickets. In order to obtain their papers to travel abroad, Soviet citizens were required to hold Aeroflot tickets. In addition, Aeroflot would undersell Western airlines to earn hard currency.

After Pan American discontinued operations, Aeroflot continued its Moscow-New York service. However, under President Carter, Aeroflot service was reduced to two flights per week, effective January 13, 1980, as part of a response to Soviet military actions in Afghanistan.

George Hambleton was closely involved in the inauguration of Pan American’s service to Moscow. In the previous posting, he related is experiences related to the first flight. He also spent time on the ground in Moscow involved with the protocol on the commercial side of the operation. Below are his recollections, taken from his story in the book  Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:

“The first New York-Moscow flights made one stop on the way – Montreal for Aeroflot and Copenhagen for Pan Am.  Shortly before Pan Am’s first scheduled flight, another Pan American 707 “protocol” flight, with Government officials and VIP guests took off.  I remember suggesting to New York that the person with the most impact possible to be invited as an inaugural guest would be Jacqueline Onassis.  Secretly, the Russians loved John F. Kennedy.  He had stood up to Khrushchev and made him back down!  Jackie Onassis would have been a sensation.

 “Pan Am’s initial weekly flights were 10 hours 50 minutes eastbound – 11 hours 45 minutes westbound.  First class fares were $584 one way, and $1,109 round trip.  Economy fares were $384 one way off season — $429 during the summer peak.

 “Aeroflot’s inaugural ‘protocol’ flight was led by the Deputy Minister of Civil Aviation.  The Russians had taken our inaugural guests to the Bolshoi in Moscow, so we felt obligated to reciprocate.  Finding forty seats to the ballet in New York was not easy.  We arranged for dinner at a very nice restaurant near the Lincoln Center.  The restaurant had made a major effort to look old fashioned – bare brick walls, with gas lights protruding from the walls.  When the Russian Deputy Minister saw the gas lights, he said, ‘In Moscow we have electricity!’

 “Pan Am’s operation, very efficiently led by Airport Manager, Walter Nelson, at Sheremetyevo, had a much greater impact than its relatively low initial schedules would have indicated.  An analysis of the flights to Moscow by themselves could show a money losing “National Interest” route, but if incremental trans-Atlantic traffic, connecting over other gateways, was added, the Moscow operation was quite successful.  Most connecting passengers would not have called Pan Am if we had not been serving Moscow.

 “In spite of constant ‘stealing’ of our passengers by rank and file Aeroflot employees, we managed to generate more Moscow originating trans-Atlantic traffic than other western airlines.  Aeroflot would not help pending passengers until the long exit and entry visa processes were completed.  The wife of the US Consul came to work for Pan Am, giving us access to visa applications.  We were able to help Russian passengers early in the visa process.  Many of them had prepaid tickets, paid for by relatives in the U.S.

“All tickets had to be issued by Aeroflot’s Moscow reservations office.  It was called the Central International Agency – until I pointed out that was ‘CIA’  They changed the name!

* * *

“No advertising signs were permitted on the outside of buildings in Moscow in those days.  Our corner office on the second floor of the turn of the century Metropol Hotel had two huge bay windows.  We ordered two large signs (white squares, with huge Pan Am blue balls, some seven or eight feet across), and mounted them on the inside of the large bay windows, directly across a square from the Bolshoi Ballet, in the center of Moscow.  With no other advertising signs, and, particularly, no other American signs, in the center of the city, this caused quite a stir. 

“Moscow city officials were bemused, but chagrined.  We were not advertising on the outside of the building in violation of their regulations, and they empathized with this ‘manipulation of the system.’  ‘We see what you’re doing!’ Moscow bureaucrats did not know much about New York.  We assured them, if they let us keep our signs, we’d make sure that Vladimir Samaroukov, Aeroflot’s manager in New York, would be permitted to put up Aeroflot signs there!  We waited a month or so before turning on the lighted Pan Am signs.  By then it was clear to all that an American Company was firmly ensconced in the heart of Moscow – unheard of until that time.  To help cement the arrangement, we may have asked the bureaucrats to help us distribute a few boxes of Pan Am calendars.

***

“As a symbol of confidence, Pan Am had a custom of bringing the entire Board of Directors, with the wives or husbands, on the same airplane for board meetings at different locations around the world.  The Board decided to come to Moscow.  Preparations were exhaustive.  We even had my good wife, Janet, do a survey of ladies’ rooms in areas we planned to take the Board.  Intourist was helpful, but, as the Russians say, the reason Napoleon failed in Russia was because his plans were made by Intourist!

“We arranged a private meeting between Minister Loginov and Juan Trippe.  I was privileged to attend.  Although nothing had yet leaked to the press, Mr. Trippe confided to Marshal Loginov that Pan Am had decided not to go forward with supersonic operations, but, instead, to develop widebody aircraft.  Loginov was stunned.  Aeroflot and the Russians had clearly put all their emphasis into developing their version of the supersonic Concorde.  Suddenly, they feared being left behind by the airlines of the world following Pan Am with wide-bodies.

“In spite of continuing tight controls of the Breshnev era – small cracks in the Kremlin walls – (hardly noticeable at the time) – were beginning to appear.  Alya Andersen, wife of New York Times bureau chief, Ray Andersen, worked in the Pan Am office.  She said quietly one day that her father, who lived in Ryazan, a closed area south of Moscow, had devoted his life to this great cause, communism, which he thought was the answer to everything.  In his late forties, he began to realize it was not working – it was all a big mistake.  Alya said he was totally frustrated – he was afraid to discuss it with anybody – but felt he had wasted his life.  There must have been millions of others like him, waiting for glasnost and perestroika, which did not come until Gorbachov, a couple of decades later.”

A Young George Hambleton at Moscow with a Pan American 707

A young George Hambleton at Moscow with a Pan American 707

Once the flights were started, there was a requirement for Russian-speaking flight attendants (then, stewardesses). Ilona Duncan, a flight attendant from that era, was one who was sent to Moscow for a four week course in Russian. Not only did she learn Russian, but also about the Soviet society at the time. Her story also appears in the book Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People, excerpted below:

“The afternoon of January 12, 1971, as the Pan Am Clipper flight 44 makes its final approach to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, I glance down at snow-covered fields framed by dark lifeless bushes and trees.  Here and there I can make out a house forlorn in the vast wintry Russian landscape exuding the melancholic mood of the Russian soul so often described in the works of Tolstoy and Pushkin.  Tired from an all-night flight starting in New York via Copenhagen, a sense of excitement drives away my feeling of drowsiness.  I am one of 31 Pan American stewardesses, who signed up for a Russian language course in Moscow.  To alleviate the shortage of Russian speaking cabin personnel since Pan Am started operating flights to the Soviet Union in 1968, Pan American arranged this 4-week program at minimal cost of hotel and meal expenses to us, while we agreed to an unpaid leave-of-absence.  Within our group of eleven nationalities, (French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Israeli, Yugoslavian, Argentinean, Honduran, Uruguayan, Dutch and American,) I am one of the few with a background of studying Russian at Hunter College, in the hope of eventually adding it to the other four languages (French, Italian, Dutch and German) I am qualified to speak on board.  Federal Air Regulations required at least one person to be able to communicate in the language spoken at the destination country of every flight.

“We arrive at the Hotel National in time for dinner, served from 6:30-7:30 p.m.  A babushka (grandmother) who occupies a desk on every floor hands me the room key and, as we observe from then on, notes down every one of our movements, an outcome of the ongoing Cold War.  My room, which I share with my Swedish friend, consists of two single beds separated by a table.  Heavy curtains hide the view from the window.  A single light bulb dangles from the high ceiling and gives off enough light to reveal the cracks in the lime green walls.  When I go to take a long bath, I discover no stop in the tub, and a shower head is non-existent.

* * * 

“Our daily schedule allows for little idle time, starting with breakfast between 9 and 9:45, lessons at the department for foreign students at Moscow State University from 10 to 1, followed by lunch from 1:30-2:30, and excursions on most afternoons.  Bus transportation is provided by Moscow’s Intourist Office.  Every second day drivers are exchanged for fear we might become too friendly with them.

“We attend a fashion show where we get an authentic taste of life in the Soviet Union, where Russian models present lackluster and unappealing outfits.  We visit Moscow’s Wedding Palace to witness a line-up of grooms in dark suits and brides in frilly white dresses ready to take their vows.  We sleep in bunk beds on a night train for a weekend in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and wonder what is so important to hide from our view, that the windows had been boarded shut.  

* * *

“Although interchange with Russians is strongly discouraged, we attract the curiosity of young people.  Among the drab colors worn by everyone in Moscow we stand out in our fashionable attire .

* * * 

“Others want to practice their foreign languages with us. After meeting students at a café, I suggest: ‘Why don’t we all go to my hotel and sit in the lobby?’

“The minute we climb the stairs to the main hall, two men emerge, grab the young students by their arms, shouting in Russian: ‘Rusky nyet’ (No Russians).

“’All we want to do is talk,’ I plead.

“’No Russians allowed in this hotel.’

“One afternoon, my roommate and I walk up to the roof-top terrace on the 23rd floor of the Russia Hotel for a postcard view of Saint Basil‘s Cathedral and Red Square.  Raising my camera for a photo, a male voice screams from behind: ‘Stop, or you will be arrested.’  In a frenzy we make a run for a lady’s room where I quickly remove the film before a uniformed man enters. Terrified we endure a tirade of reprimands. Finding my camera empty he lets us go.  I had forgotten that we are never to take photos from high places. 

* * *

“Despite some anxious moments, the highlights of our stay are the cultural events. Every evening we occupy the best seats at one of the theaters or concert halls. During intermission at the Bolshoi or Kremlin Theatre we savor dishes of mushrooms in cream sauce or ice-cream topped with loganberries.  Never again will I see a performance rising to the level of perfection and beauty as at the Bolshoi Theater. 

“On our last day of school we receive a certificate of attendance.  Our teacher has tried her utmost to drill some basic Russian into our brains. But without prior knowledge most of the students have trouble understanding her and reading the alphabet.  Back in New York, a few months later, I become qualified as Russian speaker on Pan Am flights thrilled to return to Moscow.”

16B-IlonaatAeroflotFlightAcademy-1   16B-IlonaatAeroflotFlightAcademy-2

Ilona Duncan at the Aeroflot Flight Academy

In the next posting, Pan American re-instates its Moscow service in 1986 and introduces a 747 nonstop rotation in 1988.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

Pan Am Series – Part XLI: Flying to the USSR – 1

Москва

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

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

USA and USSR Flag

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

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

Bob Henriques 1959 magnumphotos.com

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

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

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

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

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

US_Air_Force_U-2_(2139646280)    Khrushchev_U2

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

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

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

Berlin_Wall_1961-11-20     640px-Kennedy_in_Berlin

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

american-and-russian-military-  Bettmann CORBIS

Cuban Missile Crisis (Credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Regular Moscow-New York Flight     Boarding

PAA 707 off to Moscow

PAA 707 off to Moscow-2     PAA 707 arrive Moscow

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

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

Pan American 707 departing New York for Moscow (middle)

Pan American 707 arrival at Moscow (bottom)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eventually service began. 

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Services

48-First RTW

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

 Setting the Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pan American’s Round-the-World Schedules

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

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

1948 RTW

Constellation-1     DC-4

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

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

1952 RTW    Boeing 377-n

“Strato Clipper” (right, PAA photograph).

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

1954 RTW    DC-6B

DC-6B (right, PAA photograph).

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

RTW 1956

377-3 RA Scholefield   DC-7B-n2

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

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

1959 RTW

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

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

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

1966 RTW   1971-72 RTW

1981 RTW

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

747 at LAX Bob Proctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48- kids and clipper    48-On board

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

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

 

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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