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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pan Am Series – Part XVI: What is Pan Am

What is Pan Am and Why Should We Care?

Every Thanksgiving millions of Americans take to the air to visit loved ones for what has become a four-day weekend. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest day of the year for airline travel. And the nation’s airlines gear up for the onslaught of passengers at the nation’s airports. For the past twenty-two years one airline has been missing: Pan American World Airways.

For the past 15 weeks this “Pan Am Series” has been written and shared with the purpose of keeping the Pan Am story alive. Many born in the 1980s and later probably don’t remember Pan Am and maybe never ever heard of it. For those who do not know, or know very little, about Pan Am, the words and illustrations below will be an introduction to one of the greatest airlines ever.

Below are two articles: The first from the Pan Am Historical Foundation explaining who is Pan Am and why it is important; and the second, a “from the heart” retrospective on Pan Am logos, symbols and slogans, from a former Pan Am Captain who flew one of the airline’s last flights.

From the Pan Am Historical Foundation:

“For those who flew internationally for business or pleasure before 1991, the words Pan Am will provoke memories that range from a peripheral awareness of an airline that is no more to vivid recollections of an American company that achieved archetypal status as an icon of the 20th century.

“For those in the commercial aviation and air transport industries, Pan Am resonates as the prototypical intercontinental carrier that drew the blueprints and set the foundation for the global air transport system of today. Driven, dominant, fiercely competitive—loved, hated, or envied—the company’s long list of trailblazing firsts is an indelible record of operational achievement. All the while, its corporate identity exuded a sense of style and élan that remains legendary. The Pan Am identity projects a highest standard and its mark stood worldwide above all others.

“For those whose fate depended on a desperate flight to freedom, and to the many more who never boarded an airplane, Pan Am brought the ideals of the nation and the support of a caring world community to the teeming shores of five continents.

“The safety and affordability of air travel today enjoyed by many millions of the world’s mobile society can be traced directly back to Pan Am. The ability of the company leadership in the formative years of air travel to structure such an industry and open its markets, and to move so quickly on multiple fronts of technology, finance, diplomacy, and human resources remains a model of entrepreneurship. The same can be said for its brand of patriotism and service to the national interest in both peacetime and in war.

“Air travel is a complex experience today. Nevertheless, in the industrialized world it has become an entitlement, an expectation that we can be in London one day and in Hong Kong the next. Something only a Jules Verne could imagine a few generations ago. The ancient dream of flight was passed from the grasp of a few intrepid experimenters into the hands of a globe-trotting public via Pan Am in just a few decades.

“A complete corporate history of Pan American World Airways from 1927 to 1991 could fill ten volumes. The following points and milestones, however, are some of the broad brush strokes in the colorful history of this unique company and its lasting significance.

“Pan Am was not “another airline.” In transport by fixed wing aircraft Pan Am had no equal in either domestic or foreign rivalry. First across the Pacific, the Atlantic, and round-the-world with regular scheduled and sustained service.

“It all began in South Florida. While domestic, overland airline development evolved coast-to-coast, the state of aeronautics and geography dictated that of all the world’s continental configurations the ninety-five-mile gap from the extreme tip of the Sunshine State across the Florida Straits to Cuba was just right for attempting a first foray of over water international air service. Furthermore, this location was a natural gateway for linking the Americas and to begin building an aerial network to unify the Western Hemisphere.

“The first principals of Pan Am, its holding company, and subsidiaries were leading experts and visionaries in aeronautics, finance, business, governmental affairs, and international diplomacy. These executives were able to identify and gain access to like minded individuals and foster a culture of competence. The same caliber of recruitment was carried out at the engineering and operational levels. While standard business practices of the day were employed organizationally, close coordination and many cross-over skills kept the pyramid from being overly hierarchical in the early years. Professionalism, from the boardroom to the flight crews and maintenance departments changed the face of the airline business. As things progressed, an esprit de corps evolved best summed up by the catchphrase “Clipper Glory.”

“With European nations leading in aeronautics after WWI and pressing their efforts in scheduled ocean air transport, it was Pan Am that achieved the breakthrough with China Clipper service to Asia propelling the US to the forefront of the air age. Its proprietary radio direction finding technology and long-range, multi-engine aircraft, which it had demanded of manufacturers, set it apart from all other of the world’s fleets.

“This is Pan Am. A unique American enterprise that did so much to define the twentieth century and an entrepreneurial success story that continues to inspire and point the way to what is possible. The story is multi-layered, and while its complexities draw on many disciplines in science, technology, human factors, international relations, and more, they are all connected by a simple idea—the desire to strive for excellence. Such is the legacy.”

From Captain Don Cooper:

Pan Am Logos and Slogans

“Over six decades, Pan American’s magnitude of operation extended to six continents, and included numerous nations and cities and thus established the company as an international icon,  second only to Coco Cola. Pan American’s pioneering and technological achievements, along with its passenger innovations projected the company’s image to the forefront of the international travel. As its route system expanded, the quality of service and safety improved, generating public confidence in the company and commercial aviation. Because of these outstanding achievements, Pan American became the premier airline of the world insuring its corporate name, clipper call sign, nautical aircraft themes, logo and slogans to be recognized internationally.

“International maritime law requires all aircraft and ships to display the flag of the country of registry. Pan Am prominently and proudly displayed the American flag, sometimes on the fuselage near the nose and at other times on the tail of the aircraft, which symbolized that Pan Am aircraft, at anytime, anywhere in the world, were the sovereign territory of the United States of America.

 

“Pan American’s first logo was an arrow piercing a bracketed shield with the letters ‘PAA’ enclosed. From the top of the shield, lines flowed towards the tail giving an impression of an arrow in express flight. In October 1930, [Chief Engineer] Andre Priester ordered a standard theme for all Pan American aircraft, a logo designed with a hemispheric globe underneath a half wing. This logo eventually evolved into a series of three symbols, which were painted on the nose and near the tail of all its aircraft. The first in the series showed the continents of North and South Americas in the center of the globe. In 1944, several changes were made by placing the letters “PAA” on the wing, incorporating grid lines, and rotating the globe to show portions of the western hemisphere. Later, the grid lines were removed. Navy blue became the official color for aircraft livery. In the same period, the slogan “The System of the Flying Clippers” was introduced.

 “In 1949, with the introduction of the Boeing 377, called the ‘Stratocruiser’, the airline’s most enduring slogan, ‘World’s Most Experienced Airline,’ was adopted.

377-n

“Pan Am’s corporate name changed several times. In 1950, the company’s original name ‘Pan American Airways’ was changed to ‘Pan American World Airways.’ Then on November 1, 1972 the corporate name was changed again to the company’s popular nickname ‘Pan Am.’

 

“Juan Trippe had an affinity for nautical aspects of mid-nineteenth century clipper ships that were developed in the U.S. These ships were sleek and fast sailing vessels and acquired the name ‘Clipper’ from the way they ‘clipped-off’ their miles, dramatically reducing sailing times between distant ports of call. Sailing to Australia in 1854, Donald McKay’s ‘Sovereign of the Seas’ reported the highest rate of speed, 22 knots, ever achieved by a sailing ship. Clipper ships were built for seasonal trade, where early cargo delivery was paramount. These sleek vessels were ideally suited for low-volume, high profit goods, such as tea, spices, gold, opium from China and wool from Australia. Their cargoes could be spectacular in value.

Donald McKay's Sovereign of the Seas

Donald McKay’s Sovereign of the Seas

“In 1930, Trippe made a corporate decision that all Pan American aircraft would adopt a nautical theme. Airspeed would be calculated in knots, time in bells, aircraft interiors would be nautical and a crew’s tour of duty would be referred to as a watch. All company aircraft would be christened ‘Clippers.’ This tradition continued for the life of the company, with the brand name registered to ensure its exclusive use. On Columbus Day 1931, a Sikorsky S 40, was the first aircraft to bear the name ‘Clipper’. It was christened ‘American Clipper’ by Mrs. Herbert Hoover, the President’s wife. Since the law of Prohibition (18th Amendment, later repealed) was in effect, a bottle of Caribbean Sea water was used for the christening instead of a bottle of champagne. Pan American Clippers, the ultimate in aviation technology, were the proud symbols of America’s ability to lead the world in the advancements of commercial aviation.

Sikorsky S-40 - "Southern Clipper" - the first Clipper Ship

Sikorsky S-40 – “Southern Clipper”

 “During this same era, André Priester ordered that cockpit crew members’ uniforms be changed from white trousers and dark blue coats to navy-blue serge uniforms, standard black neck ties and gold wings pinned on the breast of their jackets. These uniforms changes were for all divisions and for certain ground personnel and included the subsidiary companies of Pan American.

” In the summer of 1932, a new uniform insignia was introduced along with standardized pay for all pilots and other employees. Captains received a flat salary of $600 dollar a month. Chief pilots received wings with three stars on a blue bar. Senior pilots wore wings with two stars, co-pilots had one star and junior pilots had none. The title of captain was adopted and implied master of the ship. Originally, crew rank was not indicated on uniforms, but after WW II, four gold braided stripes were added to the sleeves of captain’s uniforms and ‘scrambled eggs’ were placed on hat bills. All other cockpit crew members wore three gold stripes and plain black billed hats.

 “Pan American cabin crews were traditionally male stewards or pursers, modeled in function and appearance after stewards of luxury ocean liners. Their uniforms were white shirts, black neck ties, white waist-length jackets and black trousers. Their work was considered to be too arduous for women, but in 1944, this tradition changed. Pan American hired its first seven stewardesses to fly in their Latin America Division from Miami. The following December, the Alaska Division hired one lady, Marcia Black. On September 15, 1945, the Atlantic Division hired a class of stewardesses to be trained for the Boeing 314 Atlantic service. In March 1946, the Pacific Division hired their first stewardesses.

“After World War II, Pan American Airways hired four unique and very special ladies: Marjory Foster-Munn, Ruth Glaser-Wright-Guhse, Barbara Hart-Kennedy and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Haas-Pfister. During the War, these ladies became members of an elite group called WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). Twenty-five thousand ladies applied, 1830 were accepted and took the oath, but only 1074 completed flight training, freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties. Thirty-eight WASP lost their lives in accidents, 11 in training and 27 fulfilling flight duties. As a group, they flew every aircraft in the military inventory, including fighters and bombers and did a myriad of flying jobs. After serving their country as pilots, Pan American denied these four WASPs employment as pilots because of discriminatory polices at the time. So, they hired on as stewardesses.

 

“In October 1955, Juan Trippe in his typical covert manner, without telling Pan Am employees or other airline executives about what he was up to, started secret talks with aircraft manufactures. He pitted one aircraft manufacture against another for competitive purposes, and brow beat Pratt Whitney, the aircraft engine maker,  for more powerful and fuel efficient jet engines. After clandestine negotiations with Douglas and Boeing for new jet aircraft, Trippe decided to have a cocktail party in his Manhattan apartment over looking the East River to celebrate and announce Pan American future plans. His guests, members of IATA executive committee, were having enjoyable time and praising themselves for ordering new turbo-prop Lockheed Electras to replace their outdated propeller aircraft fleets. When someone ask Trippe what Pan Am’s plans were, he announced that Pan Am was going all jet with an order of 24 Douglas DC-8s and 21 Boeing 707s. That announcement had a chilling effect on his guest and ended the party’s upbeat note. Trippe had just forced the jet age upon his competitors and in the process, they would be forced to dump their propeller aircraft at loss. In the following days, airline executives were headed west to the Boeing and Douglas plants to get in line behind Pan American for their new jets.

 “What followed was a complete revamp of the Pan Am’s image in preparation for the jet age. In 1955, New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes was hired as Pan Am’s consultant designer. He and his associate Charles Forberg revamped the image of the company. The most notable changes were the new 1960 terminal building at JFK fashioned after Berlin’s Tempelhof with an overhanging canopy roof and by replacing the traditional half-wing and hemispheric globe logo with a large clean blue globe over-laid with curved parabolic lines to give an impression of an airline without geographic demarcations.

 

“The jet age arrived on October 26, 1958, with Pan Am’s first Boeing 707 inaugural flight from New York to Paris. The jets were an immediate financial success for Pan Am, along with the blue ball, which became one of the world’s most recognized corporate symbols.

 

“Because Pan Am was a recognized world icon, which represented America’s greatest; Islam terrorist on December 21, 1988 bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland shortly after departing London, killing 269 people. This terrorist action eventually led Pan Am to its demise. On December 4, 1991 Pan Am declared bankruptcy and closed down after sixty-four years of service and the blue ball, along with its patent rights, was sold by court ordered auction for 1.3 million dollars.  In order to circumvent the patent issues of the blue ball logo, a new symbol was created for the 2006 Pan Am/Victoria BC reunion by combining the blue ball and the half wing/hemispheric globe logos into one symbol as seen below. The combined logo truly represents Pan Am’s legendary sixty-four year history, which no other airline can match and all Pan am employees should be proud to have been a part of this extraordinary legacy.”

logo-11

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