TWA Express

Pan American World Airways

Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal international airline of the United States from the 1930s until its collapse on December 4, 1991. Founded as a seaplane service out of Key West, Florida, the airline became a major company credited with many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets, and computerized reservation systems. Identified by its blue globe logo (widely known as "the blue ball") and the use of the word "Clipper" in aircraft names and call signs, the airline was a cultural icon of the 20th century, and the unofficial flag carrier of the United States.

The Pan Am brand was resurrected four times after 1991, although the reincarnations were related to Pan Am in name only. The first operated from 1996 to 1998, with a focus on low-cost, long-distance flights between the U.S. and the Caribbean with the IATA airline designator PN. The second was unrelated to the first and was a small regional carrier based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that operated between 1998 and 2004. It used the IATA code PA, and the ICAO code PAA. Boston-Maine Airways, a sister company of the second reincarnation, operated the "Pan Am Clipper Connection" brand from 2004 to February 2008. Since 2006, the Pan Am brand, colors, and logos have been used by Pan Am Railways, a regional railroad operating in northern New England. The second reincarnation of Pan American Airways, Boston-Maine Airways, and Pan Am Railways were owned by Pan Am Systems.



Pan American Airways Incorporated was founded on March 14, 1927, by Major Henry H. "Hap" Arnold and partners. Their shell company was able to obtain the U.S. mail delivery contract to Cuba, but lacked the physical assets to do the job. On June 2, 1927, Juan Trippe formed the Aviation Corporation of America with the backing of powerful and politically-connected financiers which included William A. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. Their operation had the all-important landing rights for Havana, having acquired a small airline established in 1926 by John K. Montgomery and Richard B. Bevier as a seaplane service from Key West, Florida to Havana. The Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean Airways company was established on October 11, 1927, by New York City investment banker Richard Hoyt, who served as president. The three companies merged into a holding company called the Aviation Corporation of the Americas on June 23, 1928. Richard Hoyt was named as chairman of the new company, but Trippe and his partners held forty percent of the equity and Whitney was made president. Trippe became the operational head of the new Pan American Airways Incorporated, created as the primary operating subsidiary of Aviation Corporation of the Americas.

The U.S. government had approved the original Pan Am's mail delivery contract with little objection, out of fears that the German-owned Colombian carrier SCADTA (currently Avianca) would have no competition in bidding for routes between Latin America and the United States. The government further helped Pan Am by insulating it from its American competitors, seeing the airline as the "chosen instrument" for U.S. foreign air routes. The airline expanded, due in part to its virtual monopoly on foreign airmail contracts.

Trippe and his associates planned to extend Pan Am's network through all of Central and South America. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Pan Am purchased a number of ailing or defunct airlines in Central and South America, and negotiated with postal officials to win most of the government's airmail contracts to the region. In September 1929, Trippe toured Latin America with Charles Lindbergh to negotiate landing rights in a number of countries, including SCADTA's home turf of Colombia. By the end of the year, Pan Am offered flights down the west coast of South America to Peru. The following year, Pan Am purchased the New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA), giving it a seaplane route along the east coast of South America to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and westbound to Santiago, Chile, and renaming it Panair do Brasil. Pan Am also partnered with Grace Shipping Company in 1929 to form Pan American-Grace Airways, better known as Panagra, to gain a foothold to Andes countries in South America.

Pan Am's holding company, the Aviation Corporation of the Americas, was one of the hottest stocks on the New York Curb Exchange in 1929, and flurries of speculation surrounded each of its new route awards. On a single day in March, its stock rose 50% in value. Trippe and his associates had to fight off a takeover attempt by the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation to keep their control over Pan Am (UATC was the parent company of what are now Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and United Airlines).

Pan Am and its Flight Crews

In the early days of Pan Am, even domestic air travel was fraught with danger. Bad weather, poor pilot training, and inadequate planes and equipment conspired to make air travel a risky endeavor during the 1920s and early 1930s. Outside the U.S. mainland, things were even worse; an almost complete lack of radio beacons and modern aids to navigation could be found on flights to many international destinations. It soon became clear to Pan Am management that an over-water seaplane service to the Caribbean, Europe, and the Far East would require rigorous training and a high set of standards in order to ensure a reasonable degree of safety for the new airline's passengers.

Critical to Pan Am's success as an airline was the proficiency of its flight crews, who were rigorously trained in long-distance flight, seaplane anchorage and berthing operations, over-water navigation, radio procedure, aircraft repair, and marine tides. During the day, use of the compass while judging drift from sea currents was normal procedure; at night, all flight crews were trained to use astral navigation. In bad weather, pilots used dead reckoning and timed turns, making successful landings at fogged-in harbors by landing out to sea, then taxiing the plane into port. By the time a man became pilot at Pan Am, he had first gained years of practical experience, not only in flying seaplanes, but in anchoring, sea tides, engine repair, astral, radio, and dead-reckoning navigation. Many had merchant marine certifications and radio licenses as well as pilot certificates. A Pan Am flight captain would normally begin his career years earlier as a radio operator or even mechanic, steadily gaining his licenses and working his way up the flight crew roster to navigator, second officer, and first officer. Before the war, it was not unusual to see a Pan Am first officer or captain changing a cylinder head or other engine part while the plane rocked at a floating berth in a remote anchorage.

Pan Am's mechanics and support staff were similarly trained. Newly hired applicants were frequently paired with experienced flight mechanics in several areas of the company until they had achieved proficiency in all aircraft types. Emphasis was placed learning to maintain and overhaul aircraft in harsh seaborne environments when faced with logistical difficulties, as might be expected in a small foreign port without an aviation infrastructure or even an adequate road network. Many crews supported repair operations by flying in spare parts to planes stranded overseas, in some cases performing repairs themselves.

The Clipper Era

While Pan Am was developing its South American network, it also negotiated with Bernt Balchen, of the Norwegian airline DNL, in 1937 for a co-operative Trans-Atlantic flight to Europe. The agreement was for Pan Am to use its Clippers on flights from New York to Reykjavík, Iceland; DNL would then take over with their Sikorsky S-43 aircraft onwards to Bergen, Norway. This idea was dropped when Pan Am pulled out and instead turned to Britain and France to begin seaplane service between the United States and Europe. Britain's state-owned Imperial Airways was eager to cooperate with Pan Am, but France was less willing to help, because its state carrier Aéropostale was a major player in Latin America and a Pan Am competitor on some routes. Eventually, Pan Am reached an agreement with both countries to offer service from Norfolk, Virginia, to Europe via Bermuda and the Azores using Sikorsky S-40 flying boats. This service was not put into operation in its entirety, but from June 16, 1937, a joint service from New York to Bermuda was inaugurated, with Pan Am using the Bermuda Clipper, a Sikorsky S-42, and Imperial Airways using C class flying boat RMA Cavalier. Pan Am also procured an airmail contract from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

On July 5, 1937, the first commercial survey flights across the North Atlantic were conducted. The Pan Am Clipper III, a Sikorsky S-42, landed at Botwood in the Bay of Exploits in Newfoundland and Labrador from Port Washington, New York, via Shediac, New Brunswick. The next day Pan Am Clipper III left Botwood for Foynes in Ireland. The same day a Short Empire C-Class flying boat, the Caledonia left Foynes for Botwood and landed July 6, 1937, reaching Montreal on July 8 and New York on July 9. These test flights marked the first steps toward the beginning of commercial transatlantic flights.

A fleet of six large long range Boeing 314 flying boats was delivered to Pan Am in early 1939. The new type enabled commencement of a regular weekly transatlantic passenger and air mail service between the United States and Britain on June 24, 1939. The route was from New York via Shediac, Botwood, and Foynes to Southampton. The single fare was $375 — equivalent to $5,300 today. From the outbreak of World War II, the terminal became Foynes until the service ceased for the winter on October 5. Throughout the war, Pan Am's Boeing 314s frequently flew over the central Atlantic and worldwide in support of military operations.

In 1940, Pan Am, along with TWA, began using the Boeing 307 Stratocruiser for passenger services. It was the first pressurized airliner to go into commercial service and the first to include a flight engineer as a member of the crew. The aircraft proved to be unreliable and was taken out of airline service a little over a year after it entered service.

Pan Am planned to start land plane service over Alaska to Japan and China, and sent Lindbergh on a survey flight in 1930; however, the ongoing political upheaval in the Soviet Union and Japan made the route nonviable. Trippe then decided to start a service from San Francisco to Honolulu, and from there to Hong Kong and Auckland following existing steamship routes. After negotiating rights in 1934 to land at Pearl Harbor, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, and Subic Bay (Manila), Pan Am shipped $500,000 worth of aeronautical equipment westward in March 1935 and ran its first survey flight to Honolulu in April with a Sikorsky S-42 flying boat. The airline won the contract for a San Francisco-Canton mail route later that year, running its first commercial flight in a Martin M-130 on November 22 to massive media fanfare. Later, Pan Am used Boeing 314 flying boats for the Pacific route: in China, passengers could connect to domestic flights on the Pan Am-operated China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) network. Pan Am flew to Singapore for the first time in 1941, starting a semimonthly service which reduced San Francisco-Singapore travel times from 25 days to 6 days. The Boeing 314s were also used on transatlantic routes starting in 1939.

The "Clippers" — the name harking back to the 19th century clipper ships — were the only American passenger aircraft of the time capable of intercontinental travel. To compete with ocean liners, the airline offered first-class seats on such flights, and the style of flight crews became more formal. Instead of being leather-jacketed, silk-scarved airmail pilots, the crews of the "Clippers" wore naval-style uniforms and adopted a set procession when boarding the aircraft. However, during World War II most of the Clippers were pressed into the military, with Pan Am flight crews operating the aircraft under contract. During this era, Pan Am pioneered a new air route across western and central Africa to Iran, and in early 1942, the airline became the first to operate a route circumnavigating the globe. Another first was in January 1943, when Franklin Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to fly abroad, in the Dixie Clipper. It was also during this period that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a Clipper pilot. He was aboard the Clipper Eclipse when it crashed in Syria on June 19, 1947.

Postwar developments

After the war, Pan American's fleet was quickly replaced by faster aircraft, such as the Boeing 377, Douglas DC-6, and Lockheed Constellation. For almost 40 years, Pan Am Flight 001 ruled all westbound air travel with a flight that originated in San Francisco and stopped around the world. These stops included Honolulu, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kolkata, Delhi, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt, London, and finally New York. The westbound flight lasted 46 hours after its first take-off. Meanwhile, Pan Am Flight 002 circled the globe eastbound.

Although Pan Am lobbied intensively to enhance its position as America's international airline, it lost that distinction — first to American Overseas Airlines, and later to a number of carriers designated to compete with Pan Am in certain markets, such as TWA to Europe, Braniff to South America, American Airlines and United Airlines for domestic flights, and Northwest Orient to East Asia. In 1950, shortly after starting an around-the-world service and developing the concept of "economy class" passenger service, Pan American Airways, Inc. was renamed Pan American World Airways, Inc.

With strong competition on many of its routes, Pan Am began investing in innovations such as jet and wide-body aircraft. Pan Am purchased the DC-8 and the Boeing 707, which Boeing modified to seat six passengers across instead of five under pressure from Pan Am. The airline inaugurated transatlantic jet service from New York to Paris on October 26, 1958, with a Boeing 707 named the Clipper America.

Pan Am was a launch customer of the Boeing 747, initially ordering 25 of them in April 1966. On January 15, 1970, First Lady Pat Nixon officially christened a Pan Am Boeing 747 at Washington Dulles International Airport in the presence of Pan Am chairman Najeeb Halaby. Rather than breaking a bottle of champagne, Mrs. Nixon pulled a lever which sprayed red, white, and blue water on the aircraft. During the next few days Pan Am flew several of their 747 jets to various major airports in the U.S. as part of a public relations effort, allowing the public to tour the airplanes. Pan Am then began operation of the first commercially scheduled 747 service on the evening of January 21, 1970, when Clipper Young America flew from New York to London. An engine failure caused a delayed departure of several hours on this first flight, but passengers still cheered and drank champagne as the jet finally lifted off from the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Pan Am was also one of the first three airlines to sign options for the Concorde, but like other airlines that took out options — with the exception of British Overseas Airways Corporation and Air France — it did not actually purchase the supersonic jet. It was also a potential customer for the abandoned Boeing 2707, the American supersonic project that never saw service.

With traffic increasing in 1962, Pan Am commissioned IBM to build PANAMAC, a large computer that booked airline and hotel reservations. It also held large amounts of information about cities, countries, airports, aircraft, hotels, and restaurants. The computer came to occupy the fourth floor of the Pan Am Building, which was then under construction in midtown Manhattan and was to be the largest commercial office building in the world for some time. The airline also built Worldport, a terminal building at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York that was the world's largest airline terminal for many years. It was distinguished by its elliptical, four-acre (16,000 m²) roof, suspended far from the outside columns of the terminal below by 32 sets of steel posts and cables. The terminal was designed to allow passengers to board and disembark via stairs without getting wet by parking the nose of the aircraft under the overhang. The introduction of the jetbridge made this feature obsolete. Continuing the airline's tradition of bold architecture, Pan Am built a gilded training building in the style of Edward Durell Stone designed by Steward-Skinner Architects in Miami.

At its peak, Pan Am was providing scheduled service to every continent except for Antarctica. Many of its routes were between New York, Europe, and South America, and between Miami and the Caribbean. Starting in 1964, the airline was providing helicopter service between New York's major airports and Manhattan. Aside from the DC-8, the Boeing 707 and 747, the Pan Am jet fleet also included Boeing 720s, 727s (which replaced the 720s), 737s, and Boeing 747SPs, which allowed Pan Am to fly nonstop flights from New York to Tokyo. The airline also operated Lockheed L-1011s, DC-10s, and Airbus A300s and A310s. Pan Am was also involved in other businesses that included a hotel chain, the InterContinental Hotel, and a business jet, the Falcon. The airline was involved in creating a missile-tracking range in the South Atlantic, and in operating a nuclear-engine testing laboratory in Nevada.

The airline also participated in several notable humanitarian flights. Pan Am operated 650 flights a week between West Germany and West Berlin, first with the DC-6B and, in 1966, with the Boeing 727. Pan Am also flew R&R (Rest and Recreation) flights during the Vietnam War. These flights carried American service personnel for R&R leaves in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and other Asian cities.

At its height during the early 1970s, Pan Am's advertising made the airline well known for its trademark slogan, "World's Most Experienced Airline. At this time it was well regarded for its state-of-the-art aircraft and the destinations it served in as many as 160 nations. The airline was respected for the experience and professionalism of its crews; cabin staff were multilingual and usually college graduates, frequently with nursing training. During this period Pan Am's onboard service and cuisine, inspired by Maxim's de Paris, were delivered "with a personal flair that has rarely been equaled.


The 1973 energy crisis significantly affected Pan Am's operational costs. In addition to high fuel prices, low demand for air travel and an oversupply in the international air travel market (partly caused by federal route awards to other airlines, such as the Transpacific Route Case) reduced the number of passengers Pan Am carried, as well as its profit margins. Like other major airlines, Pan Am had invested in a large fleet of new 747s with the expectation that demand for air travel would continue to rise, which was not the case.

On September 23, 1974, a group of Pan Am employees published an ad in the New York Times to register their disagreement over federal policies which they felt were harming the financial viability of their employer. The ad cited discrepancies in airport landing fees, such as Pan Am paying $4,200 to land a plane in Sydney, Australia, while the Australian carrier, Qantas, paid only $178 to land a jet in Los Angeles. The ad also contended that the U.S. Postal Service was paying foreign airlines five times as much to carry U.S. mail in comparison to Pan Am. Finally, the ad questioned why the Export-Import Bank of the United States loaned money to Japan, France, and Saudi Arabia at six percent interest while Pan Am paid twelve percent.

Since the 1930s, Juan Trippe coveted domestic routes for Pan Am, and throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s the airline attempted to merge with American Airlines, Eastern Airlines, and TWA. The airline was repeatedly denied permission from the Civil Aeronautics Board to operate within the United States, and Pan Am remained as an American carrier operating international routes only. When the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 became law, it contained two clauses. "Clause A" allowed domestic carriers to begin operating on international routes while "Clause B" allowed Pan Am to operate domestically. Only "Clause A" was put into effect as the other airlines convinced Congress that Pan Am would monopolize all U.S. air routes, though the last time Pan Am was permitted to merge with another airline was in 1950 when Pan Am was permitted to purchase American Overseas Airlines from American Airlines. As a result, U.S. domestic airlines were now competing with Pan Am internationally.

In order to acquire domestic routes the airline, under Chairman William Seawell, set its eyes on National Airlines. Pan Am wound up in a bidding war with Frank Lorenzo, which greatly raised the price of National's stock. Nevertheless, Pan Am was finally granted permission to buy National in 1980 in what was described as the "Coup of the Decade." The acquisition of National Airlines at $400 million hurt the balance sheet at Pan Am, which was already suffering from its buying binge of its Boeing 747 aircraft fleet. Compounding the merger, the majority of employees from National were bitter about adapting to Pan Am's corporate culture. While the merger enabled Pan Am to post income of $4 billion in 1980 (from its pre-merger income of $2.5 billion a year earlier), the integration was poorly handled by Pan Am management. Although revenues increased by 62% from 1979 to 1980, fuel costs from the merger increased by 157% during a weak economic climate. Further "miscellaneous expenses" increased by 74%. As 1980 progressed and the airline's financial fortunes worsened, Seawell began selling several of Pan Am's assets. The first asset to be sold off was the airline's 50% interest in Falcon Jet Corporation in August. Later in November, Pan Am sold the Pan Am Building to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for $400 million. By September 1981, Pan Am sold off its Inter-Continental Hotel chain. Before this transaction closed, Seawell was replaced by C. Edward Acker, a former executive from Air Florida and Braniff International.

Acker inherited an airline with incompatible fleets (Pan Am had L-1011s with Rolls-Royce engines while National used DC-10s with GE engines), incompatible route networks (National's operations concentrated on Florida), increased labor costs at National as a result of harmonizing pay scales with Pan Am, and incompatible corporate cultures. Given the airline's dire situation, Acker sold off Pan Am's entire Pacific Division (which consisted of 25% of Pan Am's entire route system) to United Airlines for $750 million. Acker also placed an order for new aircraft such as the Airbus A300, A310, and A320, although the A320s were never delivered. The airline then spent $100 million to purchase New York Air's shuttle service between Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, the purchase of the re-named "Pan Am Shuttle" did not address the lack of a strong domestic route network. In 1986 Pan Am bought Ransome, a Pennsylvania-based commuter airline for $65 million. Pan Am renamed the airline "Pan Am Express." From the start Pan Am Express operated commuter routes from New York, Los Angeles and San Diego in the United States and Berlin in Germany. The commuter airline started Miami services during the following spring. However, the airline provided only an incremental feed to Pan Am's international route system, which was now focused on the Atlantic Division. Pan Am later sold aircraft to other companies and countries, including three Tristar airplanes to the Royal Air Force. Pan Am's iconic image also made it a target for terrorists. In an attempt to convince the public that the airline was safe to fly with and to address lapses in its own security, Pan Am created a security system called Alert Management Systems in 1986. The new system did little to improve security. This was further exacerbated by financial concerns, in which the airline decided to keep security at a minimum so as to not inconvenience its passengers and lose business during departure. The FAA fined Pan Am for nineteen security failures, out of the 236 that were detected amongst 29 airlines in December 1988.

The airline began to fall apart following the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Pakistan, in which 20 passengers and crew were killed and 120 injured. Acker was replaced by Thomas G. Plaskett, a Continental and American Airlines executive, in January 1988. While a program to refurbish Pan Am Aircraft and improve its on-time performance began showing positive results (in fact, Pan Am's most profitable quarter ever was third quarter '88), on December 21, 1988, the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland, resulted in 270 fatalities. Many travelers avoided booking on Pan Am as they had begun to associate the airline with danger; customer complaints of rude or unhelpful customer service rose as well. Faced with a $300 million lawsuit filed by more than 100 families of the PA103 victims, the airline subpoenaed records of six U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the State Department. Though the records suggested that the U.S. government was aware of warnings of a bombing and failed to pass the information to the airline, the families claimed that Pan Am was attempting to shift the blame.

In June 1989, Plaskett presented Northwest Airlines with a $2.7 billion takeover bid that was backed by Bankers Trust, Morgan Guaranty Trust, Citicorp and Prudential-Bache. The merger would produce annual savings of $240 million. Unfortunately for Pan Am, Al Checchi presented Northwest's directors with a proposal that surpassed Pan Am's. The Gulf War, which began in August 1990, brought transatlantic air traffic to a trickle, and in October 23, 1990, Pan Am sold its profitable London Heathrow routes, arguably Pan Am's biggest international destination, to United Airlines. This left Pan Am with its only London flights being two daily flights to Gatwick. In late 1989, Pan Am also sold its IGS (Internal German System) routes to Berlin to Lufthansa, and in September 1990 the airline announced that it would eliminate 2,500 jobs (8.6% of its work force) by October of that year. Pan Am World Services, a supplier of technical services, was also sold; however, the airline kept Pan Am Express operations.


Pan Am was forced to declare bankruptcy on January 8, 1991. Delta Air Lines purchased the remaining profitable assets of Pan Am, including its remaining European routes and the Pan Am Worldport at JFK Airport, and injected $100 million as a 45% owner of a reorganized, but smaller Pan Am serving the Caribbean, Central and South America from a hub in Miami. The airline's creditors would hold the other 55%. During that time, Pan Am began to relocate its offices to Miami. The new airline would have operated approximately 60 aircraft and generated about $1.2 billion in annual revenues with 7,500 employees. During this interim period, Pan Am continued to sustain heavy losses as Wall Street, the traveling public and even Delta became less confident in the reorganization plan. Revenue shortfalls materialized throughout October and November of 1991. The Boston-New York LaGuardia-Washington National shuttle service was taken over by Delta in September 1991. Delta later obtained all of Pan Am's remaining transatlantic rights, except Miami to Paris and London, in November 1991. Plaskett was replaced by Russell Ray, Jr. as Pan Am's new chairman and CEO.

Pan Am ceased operations on December 4, 1991, when Delta's CEO Ron Allen and other senior executives reached a decision to cut off its scheduled final payment due to Pan Am of $25 million the weekend after Thanksgiving. This was at a time when Pan Am's senior executives outlined a projected shortfall of between $100 and possibly $200 million, with the airline requiring a $25 million installment just to fly through the following week. On the evening of December 3, Pan Am's Creditors Committee advised U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Cornelius Blackshear that it was close to convincing an airline (TWA) to invest $15 million to keep Pan Am operating. However, the following morning a deal with TWA owner Carl Icahn could not be struck. Pan Am opened for business at 9:00 AM and within the hour, Ray was forced to withdraw Pan Am's plan of reorganization and execute an immediate shut-down plan for Pan Am. Over 9,000 employees lost their jobs. As a result of this action, Delta was sued for more than $2.5 billion on December 9, 1991 by the Pan Am Creditors Committee. Shortly thereafter, a large group of former Pan Am employees also sued Delta. Delta was able to combine and move the cases from New York to Atlanta, and the lawsuits were later dismissed.

The airline's last scheduled flight was Pan Am Flight 436 from Bridgetown, Barbados, to Miami under the command of Captain Mark Pyle. The plane was a Boeing 727-200 named Clipper Goodwill with the registration N368PA. After serving only two months as Pan Am's CEO, Ray was replaced by Peter McHugh to supervise the sale of Pan Am's remaining assets by Pan Am's Creditor's Committee. Pan Am's last remaining hub at Miami International Airport was split during the following years between United Airlines and American Airlines. TWA's Carl Icahn purchased Pan Am Express at a court ordered bankruptcy auction for $13 million and promptly renamed it "TWA Express." The Pan Am brand was sold to Charles Cobb, CEO of Cobb Partners and former United States Ambassador to the Republic of Iceland under President George H.W. Bush and Under Secretary of the US Department of Commerce under President Reagan. Cobb, along with Hanna-Frost partners invested in a new Pan American World Airways headed by veteran airline executive Martin R. Shugrue, Jr, a well regarded former Continental president and Vice Chairman of the original Pan Am.

In his book, Pan Am: An Aviation Legend, Barnaby Conrad contends that the collapse of the original Pan Am was a combination of corporate mismanagement, government indifference to protecting its prime international carrier, and flawed regulatory policy. He cites an observation made by former Pan Am Vice President for External Affairs, Stanley Gewirtz:

Record-setting flights

During the mid-1970s, there were two Pan Am flights operated around the world to set or break previous around-the-world flying records. Liberty Bell Express, a Boeing 747SP-21 named Clipper Liberty Bell with registration number N533PA, broke the commercial plane around-the-world record set by a Flying Tiger Line Boeing 707, with the new record of 46 hours, 50 seconds. The flight left New York-JFK on May 1, 1976, and came back on May 3, 1976. The flight made only two stopovers during the journey, one in New Delhi and the other in Tokyo-Haneda, where a two-hour delay was made because of a strike among the airport workers. Nevertheless, the flight beat the Flying Tiger Line's old record by 16 hours and 24 minutes.

In order to commemorate Pan Am's 50th birthday, the airline organized yet another around-the-world flight over the North Pole and the South Pole, this time with three stopovers in London-Heathrow, Cape Town and Auckland before going back to its origin—San Francisco. The 747SP-21 used this time, Clipper New Horizons, is actually the former Liberty Bell, making the plane the only one to go around the globe over the Equator (as Liberty Bell) and the Poles (as New Horizons). The flight made it in 54 hours, 7 minutes, and 12 seconds, creating six new world records certified by the FAI. The captain who commanded this flight also commanded the Liberty Bell Express flight.

Popular culture

Pan Am held a lofty position in the popular culture of the Cold War era. One of the most famous images of the company was The Beatles' 1964 arrival at John F. Kennedy Airport aboard a Pan Am Boeing 707-321, Clipper Defiance.

From 1964 to 1968, con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr., masqueraded as a Pan Am pilot, dead-heading to many destinations in the cockpit jump seat. He also used Pan Am's preferred hotels, paid the bills with bogus checks, and later cashed fake payroll checks in Pan Am's name. He documented this stage in the novel Catch Me if You Can, which became a movie in 2002. Abagnale called Pan Am the "Ritz-Carlton of airlines" and noted that the days of luxury in airline travel are over.

In the 1960s, Pan Am established a waiting list for future flights to the moon, issuing free "First Moon Flights Club" membership cards to those who requested them. A fictional Pan Am "Space Clipper," a commercial spaceplane called the Orion III, had a prominent role in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, featured in the movie's poster. Plastic models of the 2001 Pan Am Space Clipper went on sale by the Aurora Company at the time of the film's release in 1968. A satire of the movie by Mad magazine in 1968 showed Pan Am female flight attendants in "Actionwear by Monsanto" outfits as they joked about the problems their passengers faced while vomiting in zero gravity. The film's sequel, 2010, also featured Pan Am in a background television commercial in the home of David Bowman's widow with the slogan, "At Pan Am, the sky is no longer the limit." In the recent sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica, one of the ships in the rag-tag fleet of survivors wandering the cosmos is a "Pan Galactic" or "Pan Gal" starliner. The ship bears Pan Am colors and the Pan Gal logo is nearly identical to Pan American's old logo.

The airline appeared in other movies, notably in several James Bond films. The company's Boeing 707s were featured in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and the well-known parody Casino Royale, while a Pan Am 747 and the Worldport appeared in Live and Let Die. The airline's logo was featured in Licence to Kill, where James Bond checks in for a Pan Am flight that he ultimately does not board.

Other famous mentions include:

  • The 1969 film Bullitt features a chase scene at San Francisco International Airport, where Steve McQueen's character runs after the villain on the tarmac while dodging several Pan Am 707s and 727s.
  • Also in 1969, Argentine actress Isabel Sarli checks in and boards a Pan Am 707 flight from Panama City, Panamá, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in Armando Bo's masterpiece Desnuda en la arena.
  • The airline's logo was also seen in the film Blade Runner. Subsequently, Pan Am became one of the victims of the supposed Blade Runner curse on large corporations whose logos were featured in scenes from the film.
  • Pan Am also figured prominently in Scarface (set in the city of Miami, one of Pan Am's major hubs), where the airline's logo and slogan were adopted by criminal overlord Tony Montana.
  • In the I Love Lucy episode "Home from Europe," Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel fly from Europe back to New York on a Pan Am flight.
  • In the mid 60s the Clampetts of "the Beverly Hillbillies" flew on a Pan Am 707 to London to lay claim to a castle they inherited. The family's experience of flying for the first time was shown.
  • In the 1988 film High Spirits, a family of American tourists travels to Peter Plunkett's (Peter O'Toole) Irish castle on a Pan Am 747. The film was one of the last in which an audience would see a 747 in Pan Am's new colors.
  • The airline was also featured in an opening scene of the Robin Williams's film Hook, in which the family is aboard a Pan Am 747-100 to London. Ironically, the movie opened just a week after the airline ceased operations.
  • In The Phantom (1996) a Pan Am Clipper, probably a Sikorsky S-42, tried to make a "non scale" trip between New York and the fictional country of Bengala in Africa, before an attack of air pirates stopped it. Also in the New York Port are ads: "Pan Am Clipper Cargo" and "Via Pan American", both of them with the old Pan Am logo.
  • The airline's logo was also featured in the opening sequence of The Family Man, where Nicolas Cage checks in at the Worldport for a Pan Am 747 flight from New York to London. Some years later his character finds the old Pan Am boarding passes.
  • The battle between Juan Trippe and TWA owner Howard Hughes over Pan Am's transatlantic monopoly was featured prominently in The Aviator.
  • The 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory features a scene with a Pan American airplane delivering Wonka Bars around the world.
  • The airline was also part of the movie and book Catch Me If You Can.
  • The 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams go to Nazca, Peru in a Pan Am DC-3 and a Pan American-Grace Antonov An-2 (In real life Pan Am never used Soviet airplanes).
  • The 1985 film National Lampoon's European Vacation mentioned Pan Am as the Griswolds used the airline on their trip to Europe.

In Japan, Pan Am was a major sponsor of sumo wrestling from 1961 to 1991 (continuing after its exit from the trans-Pacific market). Far East regional manager David Jones, who awarded the Pan American Trophy to the top wrestler at the end of each tournament, was a minor celebrity in the world of Japanese sports. The airline also lent its name and logo to a line of puzzles produced by puzzle manufacturer Tuco in the 1960s and 1970s. The puzzles depicted exotic locales that travelers might reach via Pan Am. Pan Am was also sponsor of major sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup (the only time in 1970) and the Olympic Games (the last time in 1988).

A term used in popular psychology is "Pan American (or Pan Am) Smile." Named after the greeting flight attendants (or at least actresses playing flight attendants on TV advertisements) supposedly gave to passengers, it consists of a perfunctory mouth movement without the activity of facial muscles around the eyes that characterizes a genuine smile. It was parodied periodically throughout the film Toy Story 2, where the Barbie doll was modeled after, and dressed like, a Pan Am flight attendant.

Comedienne Pam Ann, derives her name from the airline, and is known for her send up of flight-attendants. She is commonly seen in her trademark powder-blue uniform with the "Pan Am" logo, albeit modified to "Pam Ann".

Accidents and terrorist events

Pan Am aircraft were involved in 75 notable accidents and other fatal events. The first occurred on July 16, 1932, when a Ford Trimotor crashed into a mountain in Vitacura, Chile. All nine people on board perished.

One of the accidents that involved a Pan Am plane led to the FAA's ordering the installation of safety devices on aircraft. A Pan Am 707, named the Clipper Tradewind and operating as Flight 214, was in a holding pattern on a flight from Baltimore to Philadelphia when it was last seen going down in flames on December 8, 1963. It was determined that lightning had ignited vapors in the plane's fuel tanks. As a result of the disaster, lightning discharge wicks were installed on all commercial airliners.

Another Pan Am 747, the Clipper Victor (which was the first Boeing 747 to have a commercially scheduled flight in 1970) was involved in the Tenerife disaster on March 27, 1977, the deadliest accidental disaster in aviation history. The Clipper Victor, operating as a charter flight from Los Angeles to New York and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, was diverted to Tenerife due to a bomb scare at Las Palmas. A KLM 747 taking off in the mistaken belief they were cleared collided with the Pan Am airplane on the runway. A total of 583 people were killed, 335 of them from the Pan Am airplane. The accident led to reforms including improvements in communications between flight crews and ground control.

Pan Am also experienced a number of notable events that were the result of terrorism. On September 6, 1970, Pan Am Flight 93, a Boeing 747 from Amsterdam to New York, was hijacked as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings. Because of its size, the hijackers diverted the flight to Cairo where, after landing and evacuating the passengers, they detonated explosives on-board and destroyed the aircraft. On December 17, 1973, bombs were thrown by a Palestinian group into Flight 110 (a 707 named the Clipper Celestial) while passengers were boarding in Rome, Italy. The aircraft burned and 30 people were killed. Flight 830 was bombed over the Pacific Ocean on August 11, 1982, killing one passenger before safely landing in Honolulu. A 747 named the Clipper Empress of the Seas, operating as Flight 73, was taken over by hijackers while on a scheduled stop in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 5, 1986. The flight never departed Karachi, but 20 people were killed when the aircraft was stormed on the ground.

Pan Am Flight 103

Pan Am Flight 103 was Pan Am's third daily scheduled transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to New York's JFK. On December 21, 1988, the aircraft flying this route, a Boeing 747-121 registered and named Clipper Maid of the Seas, was blown up as it flew over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK, when approximately 1 lb (450 g) of plastic explosive was detonated in its forward cargo hold, triggering a sequence of events that led to the rapid destruction of the aircraft. The aircraft that crashed was the 15th 747 ever built and was delivered to Pan Am in February 1970.

Until September 11, 2001, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was the deadliest terrorist attack against the United States and it remains the largest terrorist attack on British soil to this day. Totaling 270 fatalities, including 11 in the town of Lockerbie, they came from 21 nations. 180 of the victims were US citizens.


Pan Am Fleet
Aircraft Total Type Notes
Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde 0 Supersonic jet aircraft 6 ordered and 2 more optioned, all cancelled
Airbus A300-B4 13 Jet aircraft 2 more ordered, but never delivered
Airbus A310-224/-324 21 Jet aircraft
Airbus A320-200 0 Jet aircraft 50 ordered, never delivered
Avions de Transport Régional ATR-42 12 Turboprop aircraft Operated by Pan Am Express
BAe Jetstream 31 Turboprop aircraft Operated by Pan Am Express
Boeing 307 Stratoliner 3 Propeller aircraft
Boeing 314 6 Flying boat Carried first Transatlantic Air Mail
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser 28 Propeller aircraft 8 Stratocruiser acquired from AOA
Boeing 707-121/-321 128 Jet aircraft Launch customer of the 707 series.
Boeing 720B 10 Jet aircraft
Boeing 727-121/-221 151 Jet aircraft
Boeing 737-200 16 Jet aircraft
Boeing 747-121/-221/SP-21 65 Jet aircraft Launch customer of the 747 series
Consolidated Commodore 14 Flying boat
Convair CV-240/-340 26 Propeller aircraft
Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando 12 Propeller aircraft
de Havilland Canada Dash 7 8 Turboprop aircraft Operated by Pan Am Express
Douglas Dolphin 2 Flying boat
Douglas DC-2 9 Propeller aircraft
Douglas DC-3 90 Propeller aircraft
Douglas DC-4 22 Propeller aircraft
Douglas DC-6 49 Propeller aircraft
Douglas DC-7 37 Propeller aircraft
Douglas DC-8-32/-62 22 Jet aircraft DC-8-62 just operated one year
Douglas DC-10-10/-30 16 Jet aircraft acquired from National in 1980
Fairchild FC-2 5 Propeller aircraft First aircraft of Pan Am's subsidiary Panagra
Fairchild 71 3 Propeller aircraft
Fairchild 91 2 Propeller aircraft 4 more ordered, but all cancelled
Fokker F-10A 12 Propeller aircraft
Fokker F.VIIa/3m 3 Propeller aircraft First Pan Am owned airplane to carry air mail
Ford Trimotor 11 Propeller aircraft
Lockheed L-9 Orion 2 Propeller aircraft
Lockheed L-10 Electra 4 Propeller aircraft
Lockheed L-049/-149/-748/-1049 Constellation 33 Propeller aircraft
Lockheed L-1011-500 TriStar 12 Jet aircraft
Martin M-130 3 Flying boat Carried first Transpacific Air Mail
Sikorsky S-36 5 Flying boat
Sikorsky S-38 24 Flying boat
Sikorsky S-40 3 Flying boat First aircraft to carry the Clipper name
Sikorsky S-42 10 Flying boat
Sikorsky S-43 Baby Clipper 10 Flying boat

See also



External links

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