Pan Am Series – Part XLVII: The Douglas DC-3

DC-30009

 

The Douglas DC-3

Ron Davies, who authored Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft, described the Douglas DC-3 as “The Old Indestructible” that “has more nearly approached immortality than any other aircraft, military or civil.” This is no exaggeration. Since before World War II, more than 13,000 were built, and many are still flying today, some nearly 70 years old. The type has never been grounded.

Some History

The DC-3 was the culmination of a development effort that began with a request from Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) to the Douglas Aircraft Company to design and build an aircraft to allow TWA to compete with United Airlines, who was starting service with the new Boeing 247. The request was made because Boeing, due to its close association with United, was unable to sell to TWA or any other airline until United’s order for 60 aircraft had been filled. At the time, the 247 was the most advanced aircraft on the market, indeed it was the “first modern airliner”. It was an all-metal airplane with two NACA-cowled Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, giving it speeds in excess of 165 mph. It had a gyro panel for instrument flying, an autopilot, pneumatically operated de-icing equipment, a variable-pitch propeller and retractable landing gear. Jack Frye, TWA’s vice-president of operations wanted an airliner that was ten percent better than the 247 in speed, range, size and airfield performance. From these requirements came the Douglas Commercial Model One (DC-1). Only one was built, as the designers quickly realized that a simple modification would allow for two extra seats, leading to the DC-2 in 1934. The DC-2 was a success and it stopped sales of the 247 to all airlines except United.

Although Pan American did not participate in the initial introduction of either the Boeing 247 or the DC-2, the airline did order eighteen DC-2’s that were deployed entirely on the routes of its associate companies China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), Mexicana and Panagra.

United Airlines' Boeing 247 (SDASM Archives)

United Airlines’ Boeing 247 (SDASM Archives)

The DC-3 was developed after American Airlines CEO C.R. Smith persuaded Douglas to design a sleeper aircraft based on the DC-2 to replace American’s Curtiss Condor II biplanes. Douglas agreed to go ahead with development only after Smith signaled his intent to purchase twenty aircraft. The new aircraft was engineered by a team led by chief engineer Arthur E. Raymond and the prototype DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport) first flew on 17 December 1935. A version with 21 seats instead of the 14-16 sleeping berths of the DST was given the designation DC-3. There was no prototype DC-3; the first DC-3 built followed seven DSTs off the production line and was delivered to American, which inaugurated passenger service in 1936. American, along with United, TWA and Eastern, eventually ordered over 400 aircraft of this type. These fleets paved the way for the modern American air travel industry quickly replacing trains as the favored means of long-distance travel across the United States.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was the first foreign air carrier to receive the DC-3, delivered in 1936 and used on its Amsterdam-Sydney route, via Batavia (now Jakarta). At the time, it was the longest scheduled route in the world.

The first airline in Latin America to use the DC-3 was Cubana de Aviación. The aircraft was first deployed in domestic operations and later used to inaugurate its first scheduled international service from Havana to Miami in 1945.

Douglas_DC-3,_American_Airlines_JP7076904 Jon Proctor   KLMN DC-3 (RuthAS)   Cubana DC-3 Pichs Collection

Top: American Airlines DC-3 (Jon Proctor)(left) and KLM DC-3 (RuthAS)(right).  Above: Cubana DC-3 (Pichs Collection).

Pan American and the DC-3

Pan American’s Juan Trippe, according to Davies, was in no hurry to follow American Airlines in ordering the DC-3. Douglas had already received orders from the U.S. domestic airlines and from four European airlines before Pan American, with its associate Panagra, joined the queue.

However, says Davies, “[Pan American] soon made up for lost time. After the first one was delivered on 1 October 1937, eight more were added to the fleet before the end of the year, and two more in 1939. These were powered by the popular Wright Cyclone engine, as were most of the early production DSTs (Douglas Sleeper Transports) and DC-3s, but thereafter, the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engines were preferred.”

Pan American DC-3 at Santo Domingo (Dax M Roman photo)

Pan American DC-3 at Santo Domingo (Dax M Roman photo)

Pan American deployed the DC-3 on its important Miami-Buenos Aires route as shown in the September 1939 Latin America timetable below.

Scan0001   Scan0002

Wartime Production and Post-War Deployment

With the onset of World War II, Douglas switched to wartime production and the C-47 and C-53 military versions were developed. By the end of the war, over 10,000 had been built at Douglas’ Santa Monica, California, Long Beach, California, and Oklahoma City plants.

Overseas some were built by Fokker and 487 Mitsubishi Kinsei-engined aircraft were built by Showa and Nakajima in Japan as the L2D Type 0 transport.  In the Soviet Union, 4,937 were built under license as the Lisunov Li-2.

After the war, according to Davies, “Pan American did something it had never done before: it bought second-hand aircraft – DC-3s. No doubt its engineering staff ensured that it had the cream of the crop of war surplus C-47s, C-53s, and other varieties of the basic breed, but the fact of the matter was that even Pan American could not pass up the opportunity to acquire perfectly serviceable workhorse airliners for about $5000-$8000 each.”

Pan American’s post-war DC-3 operations were primarily in Latin America and Europe as shown in the timetables below. By 1948, however, DC-4’s and Constellations were being delivered to Pan American’s fleet, replacing the DC-3 on key routes.

Scan0003   Scan0004   Scan0005

Scan0006   Scan0007   DC-30001

Into the 1950’s the liveries of the likes of Avianca, Cubana, Mexicana and Panagra became more evident on the DC-3 in Latin America as Pan American eventually phased out the aircraft from it own fleet. The timetable examples below show the DC-3 deployment by Pan American’s affiliates:

DC-30002   DC-30003

DC-30004   DC-30005   DC-30006

DC-30007   DC-30008

In sum, for Pan American, the DC-3 was an important aircraft on many Latin American routes operated by its affiliates and was a prominent fixture well into the late 1950’s and even the early 1960’s. Said Davies, “[i]t is sufficient to state that Pan American and its cohorts probably owned, at one time or another, about 90 DC-3s, including ex-military conversions, and that is a substantial number, by any standards.”

DC-3 in "Blue Ball" Livery

DC-3 in “Blue Ball” Livery

Still Flying

Today, a restored DC-3, named Clipper Tabitha May is, according to its Facebook Page “dedicated to honoring the history of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation and Pan American World Airways. [The owners and operators] hope that seeing this magnificent, restored airliner will ignite the imagination of young visitors while encouraging others to share their memories and experiences of two iconic American aviation companies.”

Clipper Tabitha May-4

Clipper Tabitha May-1

Clipper Tabitha May-6   Clipper Tabitha May-2

Photos of Clipper Tabitha May from her Facebook Page. The bottom pictures were taken during a recent trip to Cambridge-Dorchester (Maryland) Airport (KCGE). She was seen that day flying over the River Marsh Golf Club of the Cambridge Hyatt Regency.
See more about Clipper Tabitha May on her Facebook Page: Clipper Tabitha May
The DC-3 may not have had the glamour or fame of Pan American’s more prominent airliners, but she was a workhorse and fulfilled vital air transportation needs along Pan American’s Latin America routes during World War II and after. For this, she will be remembered.

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 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 XLIV: The Boeing 707 – 1

PA 707 LAX-eb

 

“One of the Great Airliners of All Time”

Part 1

The Boeing 707-120

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

The Aircraft

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

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

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

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

Boeing 367-80 Roll-Out (NASM Archives)

Boeing 367-80 Roll-Out (NASM Archives)

From the Boeing website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pan American Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1stRollout P st John Turner-1

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

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

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

 

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

 

707 Family Day at New York Idlewild Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXXIX: The S-42

 

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

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

The Airliner that Changed Aviation History

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

Sikorsky_S-42_PAA_taking_off_in_1930s

The Aircraft

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

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

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

Specs

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

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

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

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

The “Nautical Airliner”

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

 s42_panam_cabin3     s42_cabin

s-42-interior

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

planes_47

S-42_Cockpit    s42_boarding

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

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

1939 Sept Timetable

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

Sikorsky S-42A - Ed Coates Collection

Sikorsky S-42A  (Ed Coates Collection).

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

Samoan Clipper

Sikorsky S-42B – Samoan Clipper

Survey Flights

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

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

Juan Trippe’s Trans-Oceanic Ambitions

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

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

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

Clipper_NC_823M_S-42 Nick grant adventures com

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

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

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

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

Sowed the Seeds for Chicago?

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

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

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

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

   chicago-conference-photo4     Chicago_Convention_Titelseite

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

s42_afloat    s42_mia2

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

Pan Am Series – Part XXXVII: The DC-6B

Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am - An Airline and its Aircraft by Ron Davies

Drawing by Mike Machat in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft by Ron Davies

The Workhorse of the Fleet

During the heyday of Pan American World Airways’ prop-era and well into the jet age, one particular airplane figured prominently in its operations around the world: The Douglas DC-6B “Super Six Clipper”.

According to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and its Aircraft, Pan American ordered a total of forty-five of the aircraft that were delivered between February 1952 and June 1954. During its deployment in Pan American’s fleet, the Super Six performed just about every duty conceivable. It could be configured in an all-first class service with 44 seats, all tourist from 88 to 109 seats and in a dual configuration with 82 seats.

The Super Six, however, played a very important part in Pan American’s history when Clipper Liberty Bell inaugurated  all-tourist Rainbow service on the prestigious New York-London route. This was a significant accomplishment in Pan American’s effort to bring air travel to the mass market.

Pan American announces the new Rainbow Service with the Super Six in the april 1952 timetable.

Pan American announces the new Rainbow Service with the Super Six in the April 1952 timetable.

Clipper Liberty Bell. This aircraft inaugurated the all-tourist Rainbow Service on the New York-London Route (Allen Clarke photo)

Clipper Liberty Bell (Allen Clarke photo)

The all-tourist Rainbow Services in the Atlantic are shown below in a page from the June 1954 timetable. In the same timetable Super Sixes were also operating on the round the world routes, the Africa service as well as in Latin America. “Sleeperette” seats (fully reclining with leg rests) were also available in some aircraft.

1954 June

Clipper Viking at Leopoldville (Connie Heggblom photo)

Clipper Viking at Leopoldville (Connie Heggblom photo)

By 1956, the Super Sixes were operating extensively on all of Pan Americans world-wide routes with the aircraft in various configurations, including dual first and tourist class service in the Atlantic, Pacific and round-the-world services, all-first class in the Alaska operation and all-tourist (with all-first on some routes) in Latin America. In 1959, the Super Sixes were seen in the Atlantic, Pacific and Latin America. DC-7C’s replaced the “Sixes” on the Africa route, and in the New York-San Juan route, the aircraft was offered in a high density Clipper “Thrift” service with 106 seats. Examples of these services are illustrated in pages in the April 1956 and April 1959 timetables.

Atlantic and Pacific services from the April 1956 timetable (below).

1956 April   1956 April-a

DC-6B-1

The Super Six Clipper (Ed Coates)

Clipper Liberty Bell (Ed Coates)

The Super Six was also the mainstay of Pan American’s Latin America operations, serving Central America, South America and the Caribbean, offering all-first class, dual-service and all tourist.

Portfolio-1   Portfolio-2

Atlantic and Latin America services from the April 1959 timetable (below). Note the San Juan service offerings with the 106-seat configuration for “Clipper Thrift Service” (bottom).

1959 April   1959 April-a  1959 April-b

By 1961, the Sixes were no longer on the round-the-world and Pacific service. Most were deployed in the Internal German Service out of Berlin while some remained operating in Latin America and on the Alaska service in an all-first class configuration. By 1966, the Boeing 727 began replacing the Sixes in Berlin. However, the Sixes returned to the Pacific, having been given a new life as rest and recuperation charters for the U.S. military serving in Southeast Asia.

Latin America and Internal German Services(IGS) from the September 1961 timetable (below).

1961 Sept   1961 Sept-a

Phasing out the DC-6B service from the IGS in the September 1966 timetable (below).

1966 Sept

A DC-6B in Berlin (Ralf Manteufel photo).

A DC-6B in Berlin (Ralf Manteufel photo).

Boeing 727-100 landing at Berlin (Ralf photo).

Boeing 727-100 landing at Berlin (Ralf Manteufel photo).

 

DC-6B Vietnam-1

DC-6B on Rest and Recuperation mission in Vietnam (courtesy everythingpanam.com)

An all-freighter version of the DC-6B, the DC-6A, was also purchased by Pan American for use in its all-cargo operations. These aircraft operated all over the world and continued operations through 1966 when they were replaced by the DC-7C and jet aircraft.

DC-6A freighter (photo by Jon Proctor).

DC-6A freighter (photo Van Wickler/Proctor).

 

Retired Pan American captain John Marshall flew the DC-6A while assigned to Pan American’s Internal German Service stationed in Berlin during the early days of his career. He wrote about his experiences in a story “Flying the ‘6’” that appeared in Airways Magazine. Below are excerpts:

“In the early days of my airline career, I cut my teeth at the flight engineer’s station of one of the most venerable airliners of the time, the Douglas DC-6B. My class of newly hired, neophyte would-be airline pilots were assigned to the company’s Internal German Service, stationed in Berlin. We were handed over to the care . . . of the Assistant Chief Flight Engineer. He was a baleful, somber figure. . . a great hulk of a man . . . [who] walked with an ambling, rolling gait as though he were treading the deck of a ship in heavy sea. Out of hearing we called him the Cinnamon Bear, with awe and trepidation at first . . . and then . . . with great respect and affection.

“It was my fate to be assigned the nightly freighter as my perpetual training flight. This was the only flight that was operated by our aging DC-6A freighter, affectionately known as Nineteen Charlie. She was a battle-scarred veteran of milk runs into the Caribbean and Central America, squatting on sun-baked strips carved from bug-infested jungles. She had hopped from island to island carrying coconuts and bananas, and now she was carrying mail into and out of Berlin. * * * Every night except Sunday, the blue and yellow trucks of the German Bundespost would begin to gather at the cargo depot at the far end of the big hanger. . . [and] by 10:30 [p.m.] hundreds of  sacks of mail and other assorted cargo would be loaded aboard Nineteen Charlie. She left for Frankfurt at 11 p.m. and you could set your watch by her.

1965 IGS-1

Page from April 1965 timetable showing the Berlin-Frankfurt DC-6A freighter service.

“The flight crew sauntered down leisurely from operations around ten-thirty. Everything on the airport was quiet now, the last flights having arrived from the West by ten. * * *  The flight engineer was always the first to arrive and in my case, new at the game and anxious to absorb all the quirks and tricks of the trade, ‘early’ meant at the airplane an hour and a half before departure, with the hulking figure of my instructor never far from my side.

“Precisely at 11 p.m. the four big Pratt & Whitneys were cranked into sputtering life, and we slowly taxied out to the end of the runway. With the exhausts glowing an angry orange-red and the propellers straining to a pulsing song we roared the length of runway 27 Left, lifted off and careening over the railway station, we were off into the night. Upon arrival in Frankfurt the mail flight became part of a carefully orchestrated scenario that turned the Frankfurt Airport into a central mail depot for all of West Germany. Flights from all over the Republic were arriving within minutes of each other, bound for the same rendezvous. Sacks of mail were unloaded, sorted, exchanged and reloaded, and two hours later the same planes dispersed, bound for the cities from whence they came. It was one of the original hub-and-spoke cities.

“During the two-hour layover the pilots took pillows and blankets to the Operations Office and were able to snatch forty winks while the loading was completed, but I did not join them. The DC-6 was a sleek-looking creature from a distance, but up close she was mottled with dozens of orifices — some large, others the size of soda straws. We would be asked the function of each on our final check, and the check engineers were sure we were well drilled. The entire layover was spent walking around the airplane, flashlight in hand, instructor at my side, poking and peering into the nether regions of the airplane. I saw valves, pipes and cables in my sleep for weeks afterward.

“Then it was back aboard for the flight back through the south corridor to Berlin. It was nearly 3 a.m., and the sparkling lights of the East German towns were about half the size they had been earlier. The country slept. Finally the glow of Berlin appeared on the horizon ahead, and soon we could see the blackness of Tempelhof, like a hole on the middle of the city. The tires squeaked onto the runway at 3:30, give or take a few minutes, and the day’s flying was finally done.”

The predecessor of the DC-6B, the DC-6, was in response to the challenge by Lockheed to out-class the DC-4, although reliable and route-proven in World War II, not pressurized and an under-performer against the Constellation. For the DC-6, Douglas stretched the fuselage of the DC-4 and pressurized it. The aircraft was further improved when an all-cargo operator ordered the DC-6A, the freighter version. This type was then produced in a passenger version, the DC-6B, five feet longer than the DC-6 and twelve feet longer than the DC-4.

According to Davies, the aircraft was considered marginally more economical to operate than the Constellation, and from an engineering standpoint easier to put through the system of inspection, maintenance and overhaul checks for both the airframe and engines. Said Davies, “[a]lthough later developments of the Douglas line were to outperform the 6B, this was the aircraft that wise old airline folk would refer to as a thoroughbred”.

 DC-6B-2

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 XXIV: The Boeing 377

Pan American’s Boeing 377 – The Stratocruiser

Boeing 377 - Clipper America (Mike Machat)

Boeing 377 – Clipper America (Mike Machat)

One of Pan American World Airways’ most iconic airliners was Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. In the post war years and into the 1950s, it epitomized the ultimate in luxury air travel that was unparalleled at the time and probably never will be.

The Stratocruiser was developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter, a military derivative of the B-29 Superfortress. It was Boeing’s first commercial transport since the Boeing 307 Stratoliner and it possessed all the speed and technical improvements available to bombers at the end of the war.

Like the C-97, the Stratocruiser was developed by grafting a large upper fuselage onto the lower fuselage and wings of the B-29, creating an “inverted-figure-8” double deck fuselage. The aircraft had four huge Pratt & Whitney 4360 radial engines with Hamilton Standard propellers.

According to Ron Davies in Pan Am – An Airline and Its Aircraft, the Stratocruiser “looked as ponderous as the Constellation looked graceful. It seemed to bore its way through the air, defying apparent theories of clean aerodynamics. It was, in fact, as fast as the Constellation, and set many point-to-point records.”

The Stratocruiser set a new standard for luxurious air travel with its tastefully decorated extra-wide passenger cabin and gold-appointed dressing rooms. A circular staircase led to a lower-deck beverage lounge, and flight attendants prepared hot meals for 50 to 100 people in a state-of-the-art galley.  As a sleeper, the Stratocruiser was equipped with 28 upper-and-lower bunk units.

Pan American placed the first order for 20 Stratocruisers, worth $24 million, and they began service between San Francisco and Honolulu in 1949. Fifty-six Stratocruisers were built between 1947 and 1950. In addition to Pan American, the Stratocruiser was also operated by American Overseas Airlines (acquired by Pan American in 1950), United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, B.O.A.C. and others.

The Stratocruiser was most remembered for its lower-deck lounge and staterooms. It was used on Pan American’s most prestigious routes and attracted the most discerning of passengers. Although its operating costs were high, they were offset by high revenue.

The Pan American Stratocruisers saw service all over the world. A “Super” Stratocruiser was deployed on the airline’s most prestigious route, the New York-London flight 100/101 and was operated until replaced by the Boeing 707. The “Strat” was also deployed on the New York-Rio “President Special” service but was eventually replaced by the DC-6B, the DC-7B and the Boeing 707. The aircraft also saw extensive usage on Pan American’s Pacific routes as well as the round-the-world service. The timetable images below illustrate these services:

The aircraft was also a favorite of flight crews, not the least for the fact that many celebrities were passengers. Barbara Sharfstein, a former Pan American purser who started working for the airline 1951 and stayed until 1986, when she went to United Airlines with the sale of Pan American’s Pacific routes, said, in a story in Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People:

“I applied and was hired as a “stewardess” by Pan American World Airways in July, 1951, one month after reaching my 21st birthday and after graduating from college.  About three months later, my friend from home and school, Pat Monahan, joined me and three other new hires in a rented house one block from the Miami Airport.  We started our careers flying to South America and almost all islands in between.  We agreed it was the most amazing, wonderful life imaginable. The types of airplanes we crewed were: Convairs, DC4s, Constellations and our all time favorite, the Boeing- 377 Stratocruiser.  * * *

“[O]ne of the most memorable times in my flying career happened on the Stratocruiser when Louis Armstrong and his band were downstairs in the lounge longing to get to their instruments.   As it happened, there was a door to the cargo compartment right next to the bar.   In fact, the liquor kits were kept in the same compartment as the luggage with only a mesh rope curtain separating us from what they could spot as a few of the instruments.  I can only say it was fortunate for the weight and balance of the airplane that the lounge was centrally located or we might have been in trouble.  Almost all the passengers were in the lounge seats or on steps.  Passengers were helping me serve drinks and neither they nor I will ever forget it.”

Pan American was known for many historic “firsts” in commercial flight and the Stratocruiser was no exception, albeit, in one case, in a most unusual way. On 12 October 1957, Captain Don McLennan and crew started the four engines of Clipper America for a special mission. The story follows from the Pan Am Historical Foundation’s website:

“It was a charter flight for the U.S. Navy. The ultimate destination for the flight was just shy of 10,000 miles away, in the Antarctic at 77 degrees 51 minutes S,166 degrees 40 minutes E – the 6,000 ft. runway at the United States Naval Air Facility, McMurdo Sound; operations base for the Navy’s Operation Deep Freeze III. 

“The passengers included thirty-six Navy personnel, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and a New Zealand cabinet minister, some reporters, but public attention was directed mostly towards the flights’ two Pan Am stewardesses, Ruth Kelly and Pat Hepinstall. The pair were about to become the first women to travel that far south, and although the clipper would be “on the ice” for less than four hours, their arrival caused a big stir at the bottom of the world – and a great news story everywhere else. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral George J. Dufek, the polar veteran in charge of the operation had suggested that such a flight might provide a great PR coup for Pan Am. Operation Deep Freeze would be probing the mysteries of the massive Ross Ice Shelf. The Pan Am flight would mark the first commercial airline flight to the Antarctic. But the admiral was also in for a surprise.

“Three kilometers away from McMurdo was New Zealand’s Scott Base, and as the social calendar was fairly wide open at both facilities, invitations were extended to the Kiwis. Many of the personnel at both bases had been there for months, while some were more recent arrivals – “summer people”. But it seems the arrival of the two young women was apparently not appreciated universally.

“According to an article written by Billy-Ace Baker in the Explorer’s Gazette, official publication of the Old Antarctic Explorer’s Association, in 2001:

“Commenting on the report that there would be no women on the proposed Pan Am flight to McMurdo Sound, Rear Admiral Dufek said: ‘If there are any hostesses they’re going to be men.’

“The Admiral, before the flight anyway, was adamant about not opening the gates to other requests to accommodate women in what was – in 1957 – an exclusive male bastion. But apparently, the stewardesses’ arrival created other conflicts, according to Baker:

“The summer tourists made a big fuss over the girls, but some members of the wintering-over party, who had several more months to spend on the ice, ran away and hid. If you haven’t seen a woman in 12 months, it’s not going to do you much good to look at one who will be gone in a couple of hours. That explains why there were only 50 men in attendance.

“During their brief stay, Kelly and Hepinstall were tasked with judging a beard contest (categories included: longest, blackest, reddest, & sexiest) and were participants in a U.S. v New Zealand dog sled race. The latter event was a failure as far as a picking a winner was concerned, as the stopwatch froze up. So did Pan Am Navigator Earl Lemon’s camera, which also froze after getting one picture.

The event was commemorated in a John T. McCoy watercolor, one of his series of Historic Pan Am Firsts:

Clipper America arriving in Antarctica, 15 October 1957 (John T McCoy watercolor).

Clipper America arriving in Antarctica, 15 October 1957 (John T McCoy watercolor).

During its service for Pan American, the Stratocruiser was dressed in three liveries. The most familiar is pictured above. Below are images of the other two, the first, the original livery upon delivery and the second, the “blue ball”, applied toward the end of its service.

The Stratocruiser played an important role in the phenomenal growth of commercial aviation after World War II and remained a presence on the world’s prestige airline routes up to the beginning of the Jet Age. From Ron Davies:

“While the Constellation is remembered with affection as the epitome of elegance of the piston-engined era, and the DC-6B for its reliability and efficiency, the Stratocruiser was the last to be retired from the world’s prestige routes when, first the turboprop Britannia, and then the Comet and the Boeing 707 jets ushered in a new era that became the Jet Age.”

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