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

 

 

The Pan Am Series – Part XXII: The Boeing 747

Boeing 747 Machat

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

“Would you build it if I bought it?”

“Would you buy it if I built it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

747 Cargo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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