Aviation Regulation – History and Practice – Part 4

Aviation Regulation – History and Practice

Part Four

This part covers the Post-War and the Regulated and Protectionist Era and the Role of Government in International Civil Aviation with a focus on the Cold War Era.

POST-WAR AND THE REGULATED AND PROTECTIONIST ERA 

United States Commercial Aviation

Often referred to as the “glory days of airline travel”, the Post-War and the Regulated and Protectionist Era witnessed the manufacture of large capacity, long-haul, piston driven aircraft, the introduction of and transition to commercial jet airliners that ushered in the “Jet Age”, and finally the development of high capacity, wide-bodied aircraft that started the path toward the end to economic regulation of the privately-owned U.S. airlines.

ConstellationIn the United States, the trunk carriers began the transition to peace-time operations, enjoying the technology developed during the war. There was a surplus of former military transport and bomber aircraft that were acquired by the trunk airlines and modified for commercial service. These surplus aircraft were also purchased by entrepreneurs who began to transport people and cargo on an ad hoc basis, with no fixed routes or schedules. Thus emerged a new type air carrier to be known as the non-scheduled or “non-skeds” to the public or as “large irregular carriers” to the CAB, which was powerless to regulate them under the current statutes. This was remedied by an amendment to the Civil Aeronautics Act that created supplemental air carriers and supplemental air transportation requiring these carriers to possess certificates of public convenience and necessity in order to operate as an air carrier.

In addition, the post-war years witnessed the granting of new “feeder” routes by the CAB. Although the trunk carriers claimed a right to these routes under their grandfather rights, the CAB nevertheless granted these new routes to another new class of air carrier known as “Local Service Carriers”, each with a regionally centered route system. Airlines such as Allegheny, Mohawk, Lake Central, Frontier, Bonanza, Ozark and Southern were all certificated during the 1945-1951 period. Because of the thin markets served by these carriers, they were awarded subsidies to keep operating in these markets.

These new air carriers, added to the already existing trunk carriers, meant an overcrowding of American airspace, and the regulation in place for air traffic control was soon considered antiquated.

In 1956, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Edward Peck Curtis as Special Assistant for Aviation and was named to head a commission to study the dramatic increase in airline traffic and to propose ways to deal with airplane traffic jams at airports. This was followed by and event, however, that shook the very foundation of air traffic control.

800px-1956_Grand_Canyon_mid-air_collisionOn the morning of 30 June 1956, United Airlines flight 718 collided with TWA flight 2 over the Grand Canyon. With 128 fatalities this was at the time the largest loss of life in an aviation accident. This high profile accident, which took place in uncontrolled airspace, raised public concern for airline safety.

As a result, in 1957, Congress passed the Airways Modernization Act that established the Airways Modernization Board (AMB) headed by General Elwood Quesada.  The mandate of the Board was the development and modernization of the national system of navigation and air traffic control facilities to serve the present and future needs of civil and military aviation.

Two subsequent mid-air collisions between military aircraft and commercial airliners, one near Las Vegas, Nevada (United Airlines flight 736) on April 21, 1958, where 49 died, and another involving Capital Airlines over Brunswick, Maryland a month later on May 20 that cost 11 lives, showed further imperfections in the regulation of air traffic, particularly the need for unified control of airspace for civil and military flights.

The day after the Brunswick collision, Senator Mike Monroney and Representative Oren Harris introduced the Federal Aviation Act and two days after Brunswick, a stopgap presidential proclamation was issued that (1) required military jet aircraft to fly by Instrument Flight Rules while in the civil airways below 25,000 ft. (later reduced to 20,000 ft.) and (2) prohibited jet penetration swoops from high to low altitudes through civil airways.

Citing “recent midair collisions of aircraft occasioning tragic losses of human life,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the White House’s support of the legislation on 13 June 1958. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 passed Congress and was signed into law by Eisenhower on 23 August.

Taking a comprehensive approach to the federal role in fostering and regulating civilNewsign aeronautics and air commerce, the new law repealed the Air Commerce Act of 1926, the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, the Airways Modernization Act of 1957, and those portions of various presidential plans dealing with civil aviation. The legislation assigned the functions exercised under these repealed laws to two independent agencies — a new Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and a Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

Provisions of the Act included:

Established the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA, later Federal Aviation Administration).

Abolished the CAA, and empowered the FAA to oversee and regulate safety in the airline industry and the use of American airspace by both military and civilian aircraft.

CAB continued as an independent agency and retained jurisdiction over route allocation, accident investigation and fare applications.

International routes subject to bilateral agreements between the US and the country involved and the CAB designated the carrier to operate the route.

DOT-FAA_Headquarters_by_Matthew_BisanzThe twenty years following the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was characterized as an era of strict economic regulation in the United States and government protectionism in the rest of the world. The privately owned U.S. flagged airlines were restricted by the CAB as to where they could operate and what fares they could charge. Routes were awarded after long and costly proceedings where a carrier needed to prove the market applied for11.Wash-CAB actually needed the service. Fares were also subject to board approval and were calculated using a formula known as the Standard Industry Fare Level (SIFL). A small handful U.S. carriers operated international routes, most notably Pan American, TWA and Northwest, with Pan American being the dominant carrier and considered the “Chosen Instrument” for the United States.

Below are the regulated-era route systems and typical aircraft of the U.S. carriers American, Pan American, TWA and United:

AA 1976

MAP 1966 Sep

TWA 1978

UAL 74

DC-7B-N339AA-SAN-122562-860x539proctor

707-123B-N7522A-SAN-1263-860x486proctor

Electra - Proctor

DC-9 Mark Hansen

707 inaugural flight Orly

377-3 RA Scholefield

1049G-N7108C-LAX-564-860x461 proctor

707-131-N743TW-LAX-41863-870x504 proctor

DC-8 at LAX

DC-7-N6331C-SAN-dupe-860x503 proctor

On 15 October 1966, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) was established as the federal Cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation. It began operation on April 1, 1967 and is headed by the United States Secretary of Transportation.

Prior to its establishment, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation administered the functions now associated with it. In 1965, Najeeb Halaby, then Administrator of the FAA, suggested to President Lyndon B. Johnson that transportation be elevated to a cabinet-level post, and that the FAA be folded into the DOT.

DOT’s mission is to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”

Usdot_headquarters

Provisions related to air transportation include:

The FAA became an agency within the department.

The CAB remained an independent regulatory agency with jurisdiction over economic matters (routes and rates/tariffs).

Established the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that took over the CAB’s accident investigatory function. NTSB was severed from DOT by the Independent Safety Board Act of 1974.

International Commercial Aviation

In the international arena, the foreign flagged airlines in the Post War era were largelyAir France state-owned and were controlled by their respective civil aviation authorities. International routes were governed by bilateral agreements between the countries involved and fares were agreed to at Traffic Conferences organized by IATA. The airline of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot, and airlines of Eastern European countries were also state-owned.

Tu114 Pereslautsev Alex

Foreign-flag carriers operating international routes were generally identified as being the “Chosen Instrument” of their owning countries.

377_boac

DC-7C-JA6302-LAX-3460-860x554 proctor

Government Role in International Civil Aviation

One very important factor during this era was the government role in international civil aviation, best illustrated by how governments dealt with aviation issues in three main areas: ICAO, IATA and bilateral Air Services Agreements (ASA). This era was dominated by the Cold War, and the international airline industry was in many respects, though not obviously, a pawn in the struggle between the super powers at the time.

Political considerations became apparent early, when, in 1947, ICAO became an agency ofIberia the United Nations.  In one case, as a condition of acceptance of ICAO into the UN, the Soviet Union demanded the expulsion of Spain from ICAO.  Spain was then considered a key terminal and a source or destination for a substantial amount of traffic, and its expulsion hampered the development of air facilities and aids to navigation that were essential to orderly air transport. In another case involving South Africa, thirty-one African nations demanded the expulsion of that country because of its apartheid policy. The attempt failed because of failure to meet the required advance notice.

Government involvement in IATA activities, although a non-governmental organization, was also prevalent. Under its Articles of Association, traffic or rate conferences were called whenever necessary. Each member had one vote, and each member had veto rights. These conferences made a variety of decisions, but only those that were unanimously agreed on and expressed in the form of a resolution were binding. However, because most international airlines at the time were state-owned, these resolutions would not be binding on the international airline until its government approved. Further, a member would not be bound if it certified the resolution was not coincident with the laws or official policy of its government. Despite these restrictions, however, government approval of IATA resolutions during this period was overwhelming. This can be attributed to the fact that most international airlines received instructions prior to attending the conferences and in some cases, airline representatives were actually state or government employees disguised as officials of the state-owned airline.

The government role in the industry, however, was most intense and interesting at the bilateral level. This was particularly true during the Cold War and the role of government was interpreted in terms of foreign policy. The international airline could either be an instrument of foreign policy or it could reflect or parallel the foreign policy of a country. A country may also use its international airline to gain political favors from other countries. Here, the key to successful negotiations was bargaining power, or the ability to influence other countries in a way that would contribute to the economic success of the home country’s airline. It was also entirely possible that an airline’s profitability could be damaged because something of value to a national airline could be traded away by government to meet a governmental objective.

For the most part the countries of the international airlines exchanged routes on a reciprocal basis and when both had equal bargaining power. A country with greater power, however, can demand more for its routes. In a 1957 case, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines appliedDC-7C-PH-DSC-KLM-IDL-661-Bob-Proctor-860x499 for additional routes in the United States. The U.S. government was not prepared to grant these additional routes because the Netherlands had nothing to offer in return. To the Dutch, KLM was one of the Netherlands’ biggest industries that was a symbol of Dutch internationalism and initiative. Thus, to obtain the desired routes, the Dutch offered a continuing cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This was acceptable to the US and the routes were granted. The granting of airline rights to foreign governments in exchange for political support, military bases or troop contributions to NATO were regular bargaining tools of the U.S. in order to maintain its military superiority over the Soviet Union.

ASAs can also be subject to disputes between the parties and at times an injured party might resort to counter-measures to protect its interests. This was illustrated in a case between Pan American and Air France in connection with the bilateral ASA between the U.S. and France. Under that agreement Pan American was authorized a scheduled service between Paris and London. However, because of the aggressive subsidies being provided 747-121-N740PA-LAX-102184-860x509proctorby the French government to Air France, Pan American decided to substitute a smaller, more economical  aircraft for the 747 already scheduled on that route (gauge change). The French government refused on the basis ranging from assertions of national honor (Pan American flying anything smaller than a 747 into Paris would be an affront) to the more pragmatic reason that Air France would enjoy the prospect of forcing its competitor to run a grossly unprofitable route (with the 747). Finally, the French compelled Pan American to cease its flights to Paris. The U.S. government proposed arbitration to resolve the dispute, but for two years the French refused. The U.S. eventually made a reprisal by suspending Air France’s Paris-Los Angeles route, long established under the ASA.

This got the French government’s attention and France agreed to arbitration. The issues were (1) whether Pan American could change gauge and (2) whether the U.S. could unilaterally suspend Air France’s route to Los Angeles. The first issue was resolved in favor of Pan American. In the case of the second issue, the French argued that as the ASA provided for arbitration, it was impermissible for the U.S. to engage in unilateral self-help measures. The arbitrator ruled, however, that it was France that had been setting up707-328-AF-LAX-760-Bob-Proctor-860x474 barriers by not agreeing to arbitration and that it was only the U.S.’s retaliatory move terminating the Los Angeles route that brought France to the table. In short, the arbitrator ruled that counter-measures were a necessary part of the punch and counter-punch often needed to get parties to submit their disputes to arbitration or other method of binding settlement.

One point made in this case was that in any use of counter-measures, there could always be a risk of escalation. France could have cut off Pan American’s New York-Paris route and then the U.S. could have retaliated by economic or other sanctions outside the air transport sector, and so on. The point here is that although the underlying reasons for the dispute were aviation related, there could have been other non-aviation factors driving the actions of the French government.

Beyond the government role in ASAs, and as alluded to above, an international airline during this era could be a reflection of or parallel the foreign policy of its country. A good example of this is Aeroflot, then the only international airline of the Soviet Union. As previously mentioned the Soviet Union did not attend the Chicago Convention. The Soviet policy at the time was that of isolationism and civil aviation was kept at a low priority. This changed in the 1950s when the Soviet government switched to a more internationalist policy in relation to the Eastern Bloc countries, and it was reflected in Aeroflot’s opening of new routes to capitals in Eastern Europe. The 1960s also witnessed some dramatic changes after the switch from the Khrushchev regime to the Brezhnev-Kosygin regime. Here the policy changed to greater flexibility toward the Western powers, and Aeroflot began operating to countries outside the Soviet bloc and by 1967 almost all Western European capitals. In 1968, after several years of negotiations, service was inaugurated between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The agreement best illustrates the concepts of political considerations in bilateral negotiations and the notion of the “Chosen Instrument”. The airlines involved were Pan American and Aeroflot.

If there was any route in Pan American’s history that could be designated as a “Chosen Instrument” route, the U.S.-U.S.S.R. could be that route. Pan American was the selected airline because it was recognized as the primary U.S.-flag carrier as manifested by the So16A-Hambletonviet Union’s aviation officials making the initial contact directly with Juan Trippe. After reporting the contact to the U.S. State Department and the Civil Aeronautics Board, Trippe was authorized to negotiate with the Soviets on key issues for an ASA between the two countries. However, given the political climate, it can be reasonably inferred that political considerations also played a role in formulation of the final agreement between the two countries and both Pan American and Aeroflot were instruments of those considerations, and therefore instruments of both countries’ foreign policy, hence,  “Chosen Instruments”.

For Pan American, a private enterprise as opposed to the state-owned Aeroflot, the operation was a money loser and the competition was not on a level playing field. Quite simply, Pan American could not sell tickets in the Soviet Union and was at a tremendous economic disadvantage. Unfortunately, there was no provision for a subsidy to a U.S. flag carrier operating at an economic disadvantage in an international market at the government’s bidding. Pan American eventually suspended the losing operation but did so when U.S.-Soviet relations were souring. It was not until relations began to improve between the two countries in the mid to late 1980s did the service resume, in 1986, later crowned with a non-stop 747 service in 1988.

59-IL-62-cropped

From the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Aeroflot grew rapidly and by 1973, had set a record for route expansion, operating under sixty-five bilateral agreements with other countries. These changes from isolation to a world-wide presence could be considered a reflection of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy at the time, or it could have been viewed as a challenge to the U.S. superiority in air transport. Whatever the case, the Soviet policy of détente was based on political and economic weakness. There were three basic reasons for this: (1) the Sino-Soviet Conflict, in which China had survived the Cultural Revolution and gained strength in the international arena; (2) the avoidance of Western European unity, which could be a strategic threat and a threat in itself to Eastern Europe and the Soviet control of Eastern Europe; and (3) the weakened Soviet economy, which had found the Soviets lagging behind the U.S., especially in consumer goods. The policy was designed to effect technological cooperation with the West, avoid a political struggle on two fronts (China at one end, the West at the other) and increase political influence in Europe. In 1973, Aeroflot concluded a Trans-Siberian route exchange (connecting Europe and Japan through Moscow, thereby saving time and mileage) with Japan Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France.

The Trans-Siberian route was considered important because it impacted the bargaining power of both the U.S., where travel between Japan and Europe was through Anchorage, Alaska, and the Middle East, which had bargaining power with Fifth Freedom rights. By IL62 JAP Aeroflot Malcolm Nasongranting this route to Japan Airlines and the European airlines, the Soviet Union effectively diminished the U.S. and Middle East bargaining power in this market. In addition, this Soviet move made possible increased influence in both Japan and Western Europe.

Whether the Soviet activities at the time were a threat to U.S. leadership is questionable. First, the Soviet aircraft were well behind those of the U.S. technologically and were more expensive to operate; secondly, the airline service offered was not consumer-oriented and was reputed to be deplorable; and third, Aeroflot was not a member of IATA at the time. However, the view at the time was that the rapid Soviet growth was a bid to engage in a contest for national prestige and political influence, by using aviation as a means to an end.

One other event during this era, which occurred on board the fishing boat Wild Goose in the Puget Sound, would set in motion a series of events that would rock the very foundation of the industry:

As legend has it, Pan American’s Juan Trippe asked, “Would you build it if I bought it?” to which Bill Allen of Boeing responded, “Would you buy it if I built it?”

What was “it”? The Boeing 747

END OF PART FOUR

The next installment of this story, Part 5, will cover Deregulation and Open Skies.

 

 

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Pan Am Series – Part XLIII: Flying to the USSR – 3

Москва Часть третья

RESUMING SERVICE TO MOSCOW

After suspending service to Moscow in 1978, Pan American World Airways resumed operations in 1986 under a new bilateral agreement with the USSR signed in January of that year. Negotiations between the US and the USSR had been ongoing prior to the signing and were most difficult due to the shooting down of a Korean airliner by a Soviet interceptor. Eventually the two parties came to an agreement with Pan American getting four flights per week (Aeroflot got two) between New York and Moscow, the right to serve Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) on the same route and a street-level office in the International Trade Building in Moscow. The agreement also gave Pan American First Freedom (overfly) rights over Soviet territory on flights between Europe and the Indian Subcontinent and also provided a revenue balancing feature whereby upon reaching a 12,000 passenger threshold, Pan American, Aeroflot or both would pay each other $350 per passenger exceeding that threshold.

Х.Мирка, А.Хартман и О.Смирнов

 In the presence of the US Ambassador to the USSR, Arthur Hartman (center) and Deputy Minister of Civil Aviation of the USSR Oleg Smirnov (right), Hans Mirka (left) cuts a red tape after the resumption of air links between the USSR and the USA at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Aiport on 29 April 1986. (Photo Boris Babanov RIA Novosti)
 

The route was operated by flight 74 with Boeing 747 equipment between New York and Frankfurt and a Boeing 727-200 between Moscow and Leningrad. The return was operated by flight 65, originating in Leningrad. The service, illustrated below from the October 1986 timetable, was operated twice a week.

 1986 - Oct0003     1986 - Oct0004     1986 - Oct0005

pan_am_19861

 

  727 Clipper Invincible Moscow

Boeing 727-235 N4745 Clipper Invincible at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport having arrived on Pan American’s first flight from Frankfurt am Main 29 April 1986. (Photo Boris Babanov RIA Novosti)

727 Moscow

Boeing 727-200 at Moscow, 1987. (Photo Daniel Frohriep-Ichihara)

THE BOEING 747 NONSTOP SERVICE

Pan American continued this service until a major breakthrough in 1988: the inauguration of non-stop service between New York and Moscow with the Boeing 747.  According to James Yenckel in an article in The Washington Post, the new service was an unusual arrangement whereby both Pan American and Aeroflot offered non-stop Boeing 747 service using Pan American metal operated by a Pan American flight crew and were able to sell up to half the passenger and cargo space each, charging fares at their own rates. Each flight would also carry up to three Aeroflot flight attendants to assist Soviet passengers who could not speak English.

The service was hailed by an Aeroflot official as a “friendship air bridge” and came about as a result of the then improving business climate between the US and the USSR. The new nonstop service did not replace the existing narrow-body service that also included the stop in Leningrad.

On 14 May 1988 Clipper Moscow Express a Boeing 747-121 (N733PA) departed New York in the late afternoon and arrived during the morning hours the next day at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

1988 - April -0001   1988 - April 0003   1988 - April -0002

The April 1988 time table listing the new Moscow service effective 14 May 1988.

747 Clipper Moscow Express arr Moscow

747 Clipper Moscow Express arr Moscow crew

Clipper Moscow Express arrives at Moscow (top) and the flight crew poses after the historic flight (bottom). (Photos from miniaviamodel.ru)

pan3   Ticket office Leningrad Arthur Rindner photo

Pan American promoted the service with advertisements like the above (left). (Image from miniaviamodel.ru) In addition, a ticket office was up and running in Leningrad (right). (Courtesy of Arthur Rindner).

The Boeing 747 was popular with plane spotters in Moscow, as illustrated by the pictures from the website miniaviamodel.ru.

747 Clipper Neptune's Favorite 1991   747 Clipper Fairwind

747 Clipper Pride of the Sea Moscow   747 Clipper Gem of the Ocean

Clockwise from top left: Clipper Neptune’s Favorite, Clipper Fairwind, Clipper Pride of the Sea and Clipper Gem of the Ocean.

The cabin crew also enjoyed the flights (from miniaviamodel.ru):

Crew-1   Crew-2

Crew-3   Crew-4

 

PROMOTING THE 747 OPERATION: A PERSONAL RECOLLECTION

Elizabeth Hlinko Margulies was working in Pan American’s Public Relations Department and was involved with the initial promotion of the nonstop 747 service. She wrote about her experiences in Pan American World Airways – Aviation history through the Words of its People.  Below is an excerpt from her story, “Glasnost Comes to Pan Am”:

“In 1988, Pan Am and Aeroflot joined forces on a partnership in which the two airlines jointly marketed and operated nonstop  Boeing 747 flights between New York and Moscow.  The Pan Am planes were staffed by Pan Am pilots and cabin crews, while Aeroflot placed flight attendants on board to serve as interpreters and provide branding for Aeroflot.  To promote the service, my job was to help organize a media tour of key cities in the United States.

“This was the type of history-making project that, as a recent college graduate working in the Public Relations department, I both relished and found surprising.   I use the term “surprising” because unlike my Mom who began working for Pan Am during its magnificent rise, I knew that I was working for an airline that was rapidly on its final descent and we were all holding on for dear life. * * *

“When I was first given the assignment to coordinate this project, I was gently ‘warned’ by some of our Eastern European experts that my life would likely be gone over with a fine tooth comb and that I shouldn’t be surprised if I noticed government type agents following me.  I would, after all, be hosting possible Communists in the U.S.  To this day I have no idea if that was a real warning or paranoia from colleagues, but since I didn’t have anything to hide the idea never really bothered me.  In those days, I didn’t know if satellite media tours even existed, or if they did, I’m sure they were too costly to consider for promotional projects like this, so ours was a good old fashioned, pound the pavement series of in-person TV and radio interviews in various cities.  A Pan Am flight attendant and an Aeroflot flight attendant were chosen to represent the partnership.  The Aeroflot flight attendant was accompanied by her ‘escort’…a marketing executive from Aeroflot in Moscow, and I was the Pan Am organizer. 

“The tour itself was a success, generating substantial media coverage for the partnership.  I would like to think that the friendship between the two flight attendants from different worlds came across loud and clear during the interviews.  I’d also like to think that their camaraderie helped to convince people to travel to the U.S.S.R. on this Pan Am-Aeroflot joint venture. 

“The story could end here…a successful U.S. media tour, good media coverage…but it doesn’t.  In the new era of open discussion and free dissemination of news and information, Aeroflot informed us that they wanted to host a similar media tour of the Soviet Union.  For me, this truly was an experience of a lifetime.  * * *

“Imagine my surprise when during the first press conference in Moscow, the reporters turned to me and asked questions like, ‘how much money do you make?’ and ‘are you married?’  I truly was not prepared for these questions, or for having my photo and interview appear in Russian newspapers.  But, after all, this was still the early stages of a new freedom for the Russian people, so looking back now I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at some of the questions.

“The rest of the trip was both remarkable and eye opening.  I remember being in a hotel room in Moscow with the Pan Am flight attendant as we discussed how much we would like to find some fresh flowers to cheer up the room.  We went out for a walk, looking for flowers only to find vases with fresh flowers in our rooms when we returned.  It certainly felt like Big Brother was watching! 

“Another memory that’s etched into my brain is when the Aeroflot marketing executive slipped me a couple of dollars and asked me to go into one of the hard currency stores to buy film so she could take photos of us on the trip.  Apparently it was illegal for Russians to have hard currency or even go into a hard currency store.  Truly eye opening.

” * * *I can say is that I was extremely grateful for the fact that Pan Am operated those joint venture flights…especially the flight that carried me back to New York after my amazing Russian experience.”

Pan American continued operating the non-stop service as well as the 727 service to Moscow and Leningrad until November 1991 when Delta took over Pan American’s European operations.

THE 1990 US-USSR BILATERAL AGREEMENT

During 1990, negotiations between the US and the USSR resulted in a new bilateral air services agreement that opened new destinations at both ends and including both transpacific and transatlantic services. The new destinations included Anchorage, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami in the US and on the USSR side, the Ukrainian city of Kiev, Magadan and Khabarovsk in the Soviet Far East, Tbilisi in Soviet Georgia and Riga in Latvia.

The new agreement also provided that, after 1 April 1991, up to four additional US passenger airlines and up to two all-cargo airlines would be authorized to fly to the Soviet Union, and also provided that the USSR expand Aeroflot’s schedule or establish new airlines to compete with Aeroflot on the US routes.

PAN AMERICAN: THE “CHOSEN INSTRUMENT”

If there was any route in Pan American’s history that could be designated as a “Chosen Instrument” route, the US-USSR could be that route. Pan American was the selected airline because it was recognized as the primary US-flag carrier as exemplified by the USSR’s aviation officials making the initial contact directly with Juan Trippe. After reporting the contact to the US State Department and the Civil Aeronautics Board, Trippe was authorized to negotiate with the Soviets on key issues on an air services agreement between the two countries. However, it can be reasonably concluded that in the end, political considerations were the basis for the final agreement between the two countries and both Pan American and Aeroflot were instruments of those considerations, and therefore instruments of both countries’ foreign policy, hence, the “Chosen Instrument”.

For Pan American, a private enterprise as opposed to the state-owned Aeroflot, the operation was a money loser and the competition was not on a level playing field. Quite simply, Pan American could not sell tickets in the USSR. Under the Airline Deregulation Act, there was a provision for airlines to receive a subsidy for operating into small markets, known as the “essential air services” subsidy. Unfortunately, there was no similar provision for a US flag carrier operating at an economic disadvantage in an international market at the government’s bidding. Pan American was never subsidized and eventually suspended the losing operation but did so when US-USSR relations were souring. It was not until relations began to improve between the two countries in the late 1980s, did the service resume in 1986, crowned with the 747 non-stop service in 1988.

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

Pan Am Series – Part XLII: Flying to the USSR – 2

Москва – часть вторая

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

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

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

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

1971 - Oct cover   1971 - Oct

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

1973 - Oct cover   1973 - Oct

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

1975 - Dec cover   1975 - Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

***

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

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

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

A Young George Hambleton at Moscow with a Pan American 707

A young George Hambleton at Moscow with a Pan American 707

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

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

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

* * * 

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

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

* * *

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

* * * 

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

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

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

“’No Russians allowed in this hotel.’

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

* * *

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

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

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

Ilona Duncan at the Aeroflot Flight Academy

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

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

Москва

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

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

USA and USSR Flag

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

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

Bob Henriques 1959 magnumphotos.com

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

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

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

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

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

US_Air_Force_U-2_(2139646280)    Khrushchev_U2

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

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

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

Berlin_Wall_1961-11-20     640px-Kennedy_in_Berlin

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

american-and-russian-military-  Bettmann CORBIS

Cuban Missile Crisis (Credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Regular Moscow-New York Flight     Boarding

PAA 707 off to Moscow

PAA 707 off to Moscow-2     PAA 707 arrive Moscow

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

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

Pan American 707 departing New York for Moscow (middle)

Pan American 707 arrival at Moscow (bottom)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eventually service began. 

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

 

 

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

Technical Assistance for Tajik Air – 1993

Part One

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

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

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

TU-154s   Tajik_Air_Tupolev_Tu-154M_Dvurekov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

747SP Snow Leopard-cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PAIFA exterior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, there was one more thing:  Teamwork

From Captain Carr:

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

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

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

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

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

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

END OF PART ONE

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

For additional information about Pan American World Airways:

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

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

Also available in a Kindle Edition

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

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

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

The Story of Snow Leopard – Part Four: What Could Have Been

Snow Leopard "blocking" at Delhi

Snow Leopard “blocking” at Delhi

The Story of Snow Leopard from the beginning was the story of a revolutionary idea that should have been hugely successful. Unfortunately the fates would not allow that and countless hours of devotion to a noble project went to waste. If there is blame, it is not worth dwelling on.  Everyone wanted the right outcome.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Nevertheless, the London staff, pilots and cabin crew worked their mightiest to make this project work, using initiative and self-sacrifice to get over what eventually became an insurmountable problem.

Once the regular schedule was established and operating, the flights still presented a challenge to everyone involved and it goes without saying they were up to it.  The Pan Am culture in which the pilots and flight attendants grew up lent itself to innovation and decisiveness in dealing with the everyday issues they confronted while operating Snow Leopard.  A case in point is the first trip of Captain Sherman Carr, who encountered his share of challenges during his first trip as Pilot-in-Command on Snow Leopard.

Flying Snow Leopard to Delhi and Back

Captain Carr, who flew the acceptance flight, arrived in London for his first revenue trip and met with the rest of the flight crews at his hotel who briefed him on the operation.  He also learned that the flights for the next two months were full, “which was a relief to me as I was anxious for my new employers to succeed”.  That evening, he reported with his crew to London’s Heathrow Airport for his trip to Delhi with a short stop in Dushanbe. While completing pre-flight, which included verifying the flight plan, the weather, the fuel load, the passenger load, weight and balance and reviewing the current Notice to Airmen, he learned that the flight was being handled by United Airlines Dispatch in Chicago.

From Captain Carr:

“I reported to the aircraft with my crew and was greeted warmly by the Tajik Air Station Manager and his wife. I briefed the flight service team about our flight time (6 1/2 hours to Dushanbe; 2 1/2 hours to Delhi) and conducted a review of emergency procedures. I checked with catering and baggage handling to ensure things were progressing for an on time departure. All was well. So far.

“The cockpit of a 747 is on the top deck making it difficult to observe the loading progress. So one relies on clues such as all doors closing but one, or the tug getting ready for push-back. As our departure time neared, these things weren’t happening. I could see through the window into the boarding area and saw a huddle of ground personnel talking on cell phones. I contacted flight-ops by radio and found that the United Airlines Dispatch Center had not sent the final weight and balance figures. I said: ‘So what. We have the figures here, we can finish it.’ ‘That’s not the way we do it’, said the United London ops man. We waited at the gate 45 minutes until someone in Chicago sent us our final weight and balance based on the numbers we sent them. I said ‘hmmnnn’ and made a couple of notes.”

The flight was finally cleared and took off for Dushanbe.  For Captain Carr, it was “great to be flying again”.  The route took Snow Leopard over Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia and across the former Soviet Union.  In the flight deck, the pilots were busy with position reports, weather updates and programming the way-points on the route into the Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) on the aircraft.  This system directs the flight as it moves along its route.  Connected to autopilot, it makes piloting the flight effortless.  Except in the former Soviet Union.

From Captain Carr:

“The airways in the USSR were established when airplanes flew about 100 mph with reporting points very close together and in zig zag courses that were established by radio beacons installed along winding roads or rivers that were only accessible by mule or boat. The result was that we found ourselves barely able to stay ahead of the aircraft progress while loading the many way points. We asked the Russian ground controllers if we could fly a straighter route and report every hundred miles or so but this was 1993 and they were still very strict about enforcing their old ways.

The flight, however, made good progress and was on its way for an on-time arrival.  Then there was a problem:  Fluid loss in one of the hydraulic systems that required an alternative procedure to lower the landing gear and made the nose wheel steering inoperative.  This was “no big whoop” to Captain Carr.  These were things pilots were trained to deal with.  The landing in Dushanbe was routine and Captain Carr requested a tug to tow the aircraft to the gate.

From Captain Carr:

“’What tug?’ the tower responded. It turns out there was no tug at Dushanbe capable of moving a 747. The book says you can’t taxi a 747 without the # 1 hydraulic system which is the one we lost, but, as an old Navy Pilot used to a carrier aircraft that didn’t have nose wheel steering anyway, we just went back to basics. Using differential brakes and forward thrust on one side and idle reverse on the other we swung right around and taxied up to the terminal. ‘Kharasho’ (‘no problem’). The Dushanbe passengers deplaned and we asked everyone else to stay on board while we examined the situation.”

After examining the landing gear, the source of the leak was identified and capped.  Repairs would be done in Delhi. The crew determined that the aircraft could continue to Delhi with the landing gear locked down adding about 45 minutes to the flight plan, arriving in Delhi a little late. Communications in Dushanbe, however, was quite primitive, and after several unsuccessful attempts by the operations office to contact London and Chicago, Captain Carr finally reached Chicago by HF frequency from the aircraft.  He explained the situation and got his first taste of United Corporate Culture.

From Captain Carr:

“‘You can’t do that,’ said the United dispatcher in Chicago. ‘We don’t have any such procedure for gear down flights with passengers.’ I explained we had such procedures and that our operating certificate was based on using Pan Am manuals, flight procedures and techniques and the manuals permitted safe operation with the gear down. We had been doing it since the introduction of the first 747. I asked him: ‘Don’t you realize that every flight operates with the gear down at the beginning and end? We were just going to have it down longer.’ He said he didn’t care, he had checked with his bosses and if we attempted to fly with the gear down, they would repossess the aircraft. I had to give the bad news to the local Tajik Air people and two managers from London who were with us. We had to come up with plan B”.

The next problem for Captain Carr was dealing with the passengers still on board going to Delhi. There were no hotels available to put them up overnight. Also, the aircraft heating and electricity was being powered by an on-board auxiliary power unit (APU) that used up fuel and there was no fuel available in Dushanbe. If the APU was kept running, there would not be enough fuel for the flight to Delhi. In addition, the airport was closing and airport personnel were going home.

From Captain Carr:

“The local Tajik Air managers came up with the idea of using one of their Tupolev 154s, which could carry our passengers but not their luggage. The Tupolev crew was called to the airport, their airplane readied, and I was told all we had to do was transfer our passengers to the other aircraft. I learned that wasn’t going to be so easy.

“In London, the BBC had been reporting on the theft of airline baggage. Most of the passengers were Indian Nationals, many of whom carrying as many VCRs, portable TVs and other small appliances as their luggage would bear. When I told them that they would be continuing to Delhi on the Tupolev, but could not take their luggage, there was a near riot. A few began wagging their fingers in my face. I asked the Hindi speaking members of our crew to translate for me so there would be no misunderstanding. I explained there were no hotel rooms, that we had to shut down our aircraft and if they tried to stay, they would freeze to death. I told them we had made arrangements to get them to their destination and their luggage would be arriving the next morning. Their response was underwhelming. To emphasize our security arrangements, I had our guards come aboard the airplane and hold their Kalishnikov machine guns over their heads to show our passengers that their luggage would be well protected. These were not ordinary airport security guards but members of the élite Russian Spetsnaz. I was very glad to see them providing security. And having them behind me to back up my promise to protect the passengers luggage worked very well. Also, no one else wagged a finger in my face.

The Tupolev was brought along side and the passengers began filing from one aircraft to the other in the dark.  Once the transfer was complete I went to the Tupolev to meet the cockpit crew and wish our passengers a bon voyage. I introduced myself to the Captain and his crew. We chatted a bit and their Captain smiled and said: ‘Don’t worry Captain, we’ll take good care of your passengers and crew.’ I was grateful for his recognizing my concern and addressing it. I was very impressed. I thanked him, and went though the cabin thanking all the passengers for their cooperation. I also thanked all our flight service team for all their hard work during a difficult time. They were terrific.”

After spending the night at a hotel in Dushanbe, Captain Carr and his crew returned to Dushanbe Airport to find a “pile of papers that truly impressed me” and that “United in Chicago. . .had come to the conclusion” that he was right and released the aircraft for a ferry flight to Delhi with gear down.

From Captain Carr:

“We boarded the airplane and took off. It was a beautiful day and even with the gear down the SP climbed easily to cross the Hindu Kush and surrounding peaks that rose to about 24,000 feet. We were enjoying the scenery as we cruised at 29,000 feet entering Pakistan. We made our position report to the Pakistan air controller who asked us to confirm our country of registration. No one could believe that Tajikistan had a 747. He asked us for our overflight permit number. Before take-off we had received our en-route clearance but no one had said anything about an overflight permit number. I hadn’t heard of this before and in my years of flying with Pan Am, had never been asked for one. The three of us in the cockpit began searching through the paper work. I began reading the controller numbers we found but they were not the number he wanted. He sounded very unhappy and eventually his supervisor radioed: ‘Tajik Air 801, you have entered Pakistani airspace illegally and are directed to land at Lahore Airport immediately.’ I explained that we were a ferry flight because of a mechanical difficulty and that it would be dangerous to divert and could not comply. He said: ‘You must land immediately.’ I again explained that I am using my authority as Captain for the safety of my aircraft and crew to proceed.  We only had about 5 more minutes until we were out of Pakistan Airspace. I pushed the throttles up as much as I dared and we kept looking out both sides and hoped that if they scrambled fighters, that they would at least do one fly-by before shooting at us. We reached the Indian/Pakistan border and I thanked the Pakistan air controller for his ‘cooperation’.

“We landed at Delhi and taxied to the gate where I could see the smiling passengers looking out the big windows as they waited to get their luggage. Entering the terminal, I spoke with our Senior Purser and mentioned again how glad I was to have thought of the idea of having the Spetsnaz show off their weapons to assure the passengers that their belongings would be well protected. She said: ‘Oh no Captain. They didn’t get off the plane because they thought your were protecting their luggage. They got off because they thought you were going to shoot them.’ I had wondered why the passengers moved so quickly out of my way as I walked down the ramp.”

Pamir Mountains as seen from Snow Leopard.

Captain Carr and his crew stayed in Delhi for a three day layover, during which Snow Leopard made a London-Karachi rotation through Dushanbe.  When Snow Leopard returned to Delhi, he and his crew would take it back to London. At Delhi Airport, he learned that the weather in Dushanbe was “iffy”, adding the requirement of planning a fuel load so that they would be light enough to land in Dushanbe yet have enough to make it to London if they had to bypass Tajikistan. This was resolved by using a “re-dispatch” flight plan that provided for a fuel stop at an alternative airport if necessary.

From Captain Carr:

“We took off on schedule with a full load of passengers, fortunately none bound for Tajikistan, because as we approached Dushanbe, we learned that it was snowing heavily and the runway could not be cleared. We were then informed that we had to deviate north of Azerbaijan due to ‘military activities’. All I could think of was, ‘uh-oh, there goes our fuel and our on-time arrival in London’. The distance from Delhi to London is normally not a problem for a 747SP, but, because we had to limit the amount of fuel we could carry, we had the minimum amount to make it to London and now had to worry about using up our reserves. However, our calculations indicated that we would still have the proper amount of reserve fuel.

“As we progressed west, the weather reports for London kept getting worse.  We were advised by Maastricht Control,(Netherlands), that there were delays for aircraft inbound to Heathrow. We had now been airborne for almost nine hours and were getting close to the minimum fuel that would let us safely proceed to our alternate airport. We were told to enter the holding pattern at Lamborne, less than 20 miles from London’s Heathrow Airport. I knew it could take up to an hour or more to cover those last 20 miles. We were flying in ovals on a specific flight path at a specific altitude separated by 1000 feet from the aircraft above and below.  We were still at 16,000 feet and since the approach normally is not begun until we have worked our way down through the “stack” to 8,000 feet I knew we were going to be doing this for a while and it was quite possible that we would reach our “bingo” fuel, the minimum amount left for us to proceed to our alternate airport. I excused myself and went aft for a stretch and briefed the senior purser that we might have to divert to Stansted Airport.

“When I returned to the cockpit I was glad to see we had worked our way down to 12,000 feet. We had also been in continuous contact with our Flight Ops to check on Stansted weather. It was okay and the winds were favorable to get there. Nevertheless, I had to tell London Control that we could only make two more turns in the pattern and would then have to divert. At the very last moment, we had worked our way down and were cleared for an approach. The weather had gotten worse and we were faced with zero ceiling and zero visibility, called a ‘zero-zero landing’.

“A 747 can make zero-zero landing if the aircraft and airport are properly equipped, which they were. We committed to making a zero-zero landing, requiring an instrument approach. The aircraft flies where you want it to go with just a caress of the controls. For this landing I decided to make a ‘coupled approach’, on the auto pilot. Even though the autopilot is flying the airplane, the pilot still must follow all the instruments as though flying manually and keep hands on the controls to override just in case. I let the autopilot make the actual touch down and apply the brakes.

“One strange thing about a zero-zero landing is that after you land is when it gets dicey. The trick is to slow the aircraft and keep it on the runway that still can’t be seen. Fortunately, on the runway are ‘center line lights’ embedded in the concrete. But though they are very bright, in low visibility, one can only see a couple at a time and the trick is to run over them with the nose wheel.  Otherwise, if one loses sight of the lights, there is no way to tell if the aircraft is to the right or left, other than instinct, until it runs off the runway.

“Once the aircraft was slow enough, we used the “lead-in lights” to our gate. Following the green lights embedded in the taxi ways and stopping when they turn red is all there is to it. Just before the last red stop light, we saw the bricks of the terminal. We had arrived.”

Dushanbe Airport

The flight attendants also had interesting experiences.  Vince Rossi recalls making “care” packages from the inbound catering overages for the pilots laying over in Dushanbe.  The flight attendants would also set up a buffet for the ground staff and soldiers there.   It was a big event whenever Snow Leopard arrived at Dushanbe.  According to Rossi, “in spite of the bitter winter cold, there were often people watching from the terminal and nearby the airport”.

There were other interesting aspects of operating through Dushanbe Airport.  Capitalism flourished!  At the time of the Snow Leopard operation, ground handling was handled by individual “small businesses”, each performing a single function.  Thus the baggage handling was a “small business” and the worker was paid directly for his services. This was also the case for the passenger stairs, blocking, fueling, cleaning the aircraft and other air-side activities.  One interesting observation was the snow removal operation as described by former Pan Am Purser Gunilla Crawford:

“It was becoming cold and one of our concerns was the lack of de-icing equipment. We were the biggest plane they had ever seen in Dushanbe, and all they had was a three rung ladder and a mop!!!!  We questioned the contents of the bucket, and decided it was probably Vodka.  The wings they could reach from the left and right “3” doors inside the plane, but the tail was another issue. It was just way too high.”

Soon, a cherry-picker appeared to take care of the tail, and it, too, was a small business that was paid directly for its services.

Snowbound Dushanbe Airport

Layovers in Exotic Places

One of the attractions of working for an international airline is the opportunity to visit countries all over the world and explore them during layovers.  Layovers are necessary to ensure flight crew members are not “timed out” and are well rested for their next segment.

In the case of Tajik Air, most layovers were in Delhi, where the hotels were plentiful and there were places to visit. Except, of course, when there is a major holiday and the hotels are fully booked.  This happened to Gunilla Crawford and her crew:

“We got to Delhi and decided to go to a hotel in the airport area, but every hotel was full. We agreed that we had indeed a hotel at the airport ourselves, our plane. 9 bathrooms, 3 galleys and plenty of seats, [and] in First Class the seats reclined pretty flat. For three days we stayed, parked in this cargo area, ordered food, walked on the tarmac for exercise and read books. “

Dushanbe was not considered a layover city, but there were times that a layover was necessary due to operational circumstances.  For the most part, due to the political situation in Tajikistan, the flight attendants kindly declined the opportunity to sample Dushanbe.  The pilots, however, did.  Captain Carr’s first layover was the over-nighter, caused by the landing gear problem.  This was his first experience in a former Soviet Republic.

From Captain Carr:

“We watched the Tupolev taxi out and take off, secured our plane, set our departure for about 10 a.m. the next morning, waved goodbye to the guards and got on our bus to the hotel. As tired as I was, I was now looking forward to actually being in Dushanbe. Some of the Spetsnaz came with us on the bus and explained that we would be traveling after curfew and the roads were not necessarily free of problems. Problems? I didn’t ask what problems. I was cool. Speaking of cool, the bus was very similar to an American school bus circa 1950 and if it was +10 F outside the bus, it was -10 inside. We finally made it to the hotel and I was greatly relieved to see that it looked very nice. This was my first USSR hotel. We were greeted by a giant fellow in a caftan of sorts wearing a beautifully decorated hat that was a cross between a fez and a skull-cap. I didn’t know whether to bow to him or shake his hand but he resolved this by taking our luggage. He was the combination bell man , guard and lobby bouncer. We were told the hotel was full but they would make some rooms available for us. I have never liked giving up my passport at a hotel desk but even though we were crew-members and accompanied by the Tajik Air Dushanbe Station Manager, we were told: ‘no passport, no room.’ I gave up my passport. I asked if we could get something to eat. ‘Breakfast’ was the answer. ‘Now?’ I asked, ‘Morning. No food now.’ We received keys to our rooms and proceeded up in an elevator to our floor. I mentioned that the hotel looked nice from the outside. My first impression was that it may have also looked nice on the inside but I wasn’t absolutely sure because it was so dark.”

The next time Captain Carr visited Dushanbe, he had a chance to have a better view of Dushanbe.  This was a city that was affected by the then ongoing civil war and things were quite unstable.  The country was struggling and its economy was to say the least, precarious.

From Captain Carr:

“My next layover in Dushanbe gave me another jolt of realism. We made arrangements with the Station Manager to take a tour of the Dushanbe area. He was able to provide the same bus that took us to and from the hotel. We drove through some areas with some very grand government buildings with surprisingly attractive architecture. We stopped at a beautiful park with some magnificent statuary. It didn’t take us too long to realize though that something was wrong. No people on the streets. No cars on the roads. The only other humans we saw on our drive were local policemen who stopped our bus, asked for our identification, and extracted a small ‘toll’ for passing through their section of road. I don’t believe they received much else in the way of pay. We headed back to the area of our hotel and stopped at a ‘super market.’ It was quite a large store, larger than most in the U.S. but dramatically different. The shelves were all bare except for one corner of the store where a man dispensed potatoes into burlap bags with a shovel. This was the government store. We did finally find a ‘people’s market’ with fresh vegetables and other marketable foods and goods. We were able to buy some tasty snacks and food to carry us through the evening curfew. I also made my one big purchase of a local item that is my one souvenir of my Tajikistan experience.

“On flights, we were all wearing our old Pan Am uniforms without the Pan Am insignia or hats. I thought it would be nice to have a hat with an emblem indicative of Tajikistan. I found the perfect thing on a peddlers cart. It was a pin-on gold medallion of a beautifully crafted snow leopard. I happily purchased it, stuck it on my beret, and it was my contribution to uniform design and a personal trademark thereafter. I took a little kidding at first but then all the other crew-members wanted one as well.

“The next day, the Engineer, First Officer and I decided to walk over to explore another hotel that we had noticed not too far away. The hotel seemed very attractive from the outside. The lobby was very dark and deserted but after we rang a little bell on the main desk, a clerk eventually appeared. I asked if we could look around and see their rooms. ‘Da’. He pointed to a doorway with a flight of stairs. We went up and came to what appeared to be an airport style security check point with a walk-through metal detector and guards with Kalishnikov machine guns. After we got through we ran into a fellow on the upper landing that seemed to be an American. He asked if he could help us and I explained that we were looking for a better hotel and were hoping to see what the rooms were like here. He said: ‘Sure.’ He told us his name was Stan and we followed him into what appeared to be a suite of 10 or 12 rooms that had its own pantry and kitchen. He invited us to the suite’s lounge and offered chips, dip, and sodas.  We explained that we were the crew for the new Tajik airline’s 747. As we were sitting in the lounge, I finally noticed a big emblem on the wall that read ‘U.S. Embassy’. I asked,’Is this the U. S. Embassy?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you work here?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What do you do?’ ‘I’m the Ambassador.’ Stan, the Ambassador, and his charming wife entertained us for the next hour or so as we swapped stories and local intelligence. I asked him about the information I had gotten about local war lords and border positions. He confirmed most of it. The border fighting that was supposedly 150 miles away was now only 80 miles from the city. He explained that he kept a C-130 Hercules airplane on standby 24 hours a day in case it became necessary to evacuate the embassy staff. 

The hotel where the U.S. Embassy was located.

The hotel where the U.S. Embassy was located.

“That night, the aircraft we were scheduled to fly to Karachi and back overflew Dushanbe because of bad weather. The weather stayed bad and it overflew us again on the way back to London. We were stuck here for another 48 hours. My most immediate concern was to call my wife Mary because she was going to meet me in London. Since I obviously wasn’t going to be back in London in time to meet her, I put in the two-hour-to-wait call through Moscow and was relieved when I finally got through and told her to wait two days and come on the next Tajik Air flight out of London. She would then spend one day with me in Dushanbe and we would continue together to New Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal. 

“Two things I hadn’t counted on happened. The airplane had to overfly one more time and there was a fire fight near our hotel between Russian tanks and rebels with Kalishnikovs and mortars. The rapid fire of modern machine guns is really something. The Russians were using the most modern Gatling gun type that sounded more like an air hose used to clean machine parts except instead of air, it was putting out steel projectiles at a ‘zillion’ per second. Everything was snow covered so the sounds of the skirmish were eerily muffled. The rebels would fire their Kalishnikovs, and the Russians would answer.  I called Mary and told her to stay home.”

The Last Layover

As the flights continued it was quickly becoming clear that the operation was encountering some severe financial problems and getting the flight successfully off was becoming a day-to-day affair.  In addition, there was a mechanical problem with one of the aircraft’s engines and it was taken out of service.  Eventually Snow Leopard was repossessed by United Airlines.  Gunilla Crawford and her crew were on the last rotation.  They were in Delhi when the aircraft was repossessed.

From Gunilla Crawford:

“We arrived in New Delhi on a regular flight, and checked in at the Sheraton where we stayed as Pan Am crew.  A couple of days later as we are getting ready to take the inbound flight back to London, our Captain informed us that there is a delay. I believe the message read ‘buy more beer’ or something to that effect.

“We sat by the pool and eventually it became clear that the plane had been impounded and our adventure probably over. It had lasted a little over 4 months. Our Station Manager was stuck with some  500-700 hundred passengers who had booked flights to London. He counted on the crew as pawns for money from London, as we could not leave and our crew visas would run out. We knew how to quietly go to the authorities and extend the visas without his knowledge. The Station Manager’s assistant was helpful. We did not want the hotel to know the dilemma, after all the company was to pay for our rooms. We asked Vince who was in London to fax an explanation to our situation, in Spanish, so the hotel would not find out. They didn’t and we got the information we wanted. Time to plan our ‘escape’.

The crew waiting in Delhi.

“The problem was to book a flight, we had to buy the tickets right away and not at the airport when we left. Through a friend in Miami, who was a travel agent and who made a few phone calls, we were booked on Air France to Paris with a connection to London and we were able to pay the morning of the departure. Our Captain footed the bill on his credit card!! An incredible man!  On the morning we left we all came down to the lobby, paid our incidentals and went to the airport.  We felt an urge to quickly get through security and immigration, and I remember looking around, like the others, to see if the Station Manager would come running to stop us. He didn’t, and we were back in London several hours later.”

Vince Rossi was in London at the time of the repossession of Snow Leopard.  He wanted to provide as much information as possible to the Delhi crew without compromising them given the financial situation.  He did this by sending information by fax, written in Spanish.  In addition, there were Tajik flight attendants laying over in London.  They were faced with a different problem.

From Vince Rossi:

“The Tajik crew laying over in LHR had purchased MANY frozen chickens to bring home. When it became clear we were not flying that night and it was likely we would not ever fly again, the Tajik flight attendants  approached me and expressed concern about the chickens defrosting. It is highly unlikely that the front desk manager from the Sheraton Skyline had ever received the request I was to make. I approached the front desk and asked for a substantial space in the hotel’s kitchen freezer to store quite a large number of frozen chickens. The chickens remained there frozen until the Embassy of Tajikistan arranged for transport of the Tajik crews and the frozen chickens back to Dushanbe some time later.”

Gunilla Crawford remained in London for a short while, hoping that the affair was “just a hiccup, and all would be solved in due time.”  After a few days the sad truth settled in that it was all over and “maybe it had never meant to be more than what it was.”

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

The gold Snow Leopard medallion is still proudly mounted on Captain Carr’s beret.

Snow Leopard lettering

THE END

Acknowledgements:

Writing this story would not have been possible without the contributions of those Pan Am pilots and flight attendants who were so willing to share their experiences. I would like to personally thank former Pan Am Captain Sherman Carr whose story about his experiences with Snow Leopard played a major part in this story (and the operation) and also former Pan Am Pursers Gunilla Crawford and Vince Rossi. I would also like to thank Ben Daneshmand with whom  I worked in London and also for his recollections of the story he shared with me.