Juan Terry Trippe (June 27 1899 – April 3 1981) was a U.S. airline entrepreneur and pioneer, and the founder of Pan American World Airways. Born in Sea Bright, New Jersey, Trippe graduated from The Hill School in 1917, and then Yale in 1921. He began working on Wall Street, but soon became bored. After receiving an inheritance he started working with New York Airways, an air-taxi service for the rich and powerful.
Pan Am's first flight took off on October 19, 1927, from Key West to Havana in a hired Fairchild FC-2 floatplane being delivered to West Indian Aerial Express in the Dominican Republic. The return flight from Havana to Key West, in a Pan Am Fokker F.VII, took place Oct. 29, being delayed from the 28th by rain.
Later, Trippe bought the China National Aviation Corporation to provide domestic air service in the Republic of China, and became a partner in Panagra. In the 1930s. Pan Am became the first airline to cross the Pacific with the famous Clipper flying boats.
Trippe served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the airline for all but about two years between the founding of the company and the Second World War. "Sonny" Whitney, a stockholder, managed to seize this position. He later regretted his action and allowed Trippe to retake it. Trippe failed to pardon Whitney for a long time. At one point, he even agreed to meet Whitney for lunch for a reconciliation but changed his mind and returned shortly after departing from his office in the Chrysler Building.
Pan Am continued to expand worldwide throughout World War II, being one of the few airlines that was largely unaffected by the war.
Trippe is responsible for several innovations in the airline world. A firm believer in the idea of air travel for all, Trippe is credited as the father of the tourist class in the airline industry, and was the driving force behind Pan Am's formation of the InterContinental hotel group.
Trippe quickly recognized the opportunities presented by jet aircraft and ordered several Boeing 707 and McDonnell Douglas DC-8 airplanes. Pan Am's first jet flight was operated in October, 1958 by a 707 out of Idlewild International Airport (now JFK) to Paris. The new jets allowed Pan Am to introduce lower fares and fly more passengers.
Originally, Trippe believed the 747 would ultimately be destined to haul cargo only and would be replaced by faster, supersonic aircraft which were then being developed. The supersonic airliners failed to materialize with the exception of the Concorde and Tupolev Tu-144 and the 747 became the iconic image of international travel.
Trippe gave up presidency of the airline in 1968. He continued to attend meetings of the Board of Directors and maintained an office in the company's Park Avenue office building. His first replacement, Harold Gray, retired soon after becoming Chairman due to cancer. Najeeb Halaby, the next Chairman, was seen as overly aggressive and impulsive by many of the directors and was subsequently fired. General William Seawell was the next Chairman in line and Trippe died during his tenure in Los Angeles in 1981 and is buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.
Although it is commonly believed Trippe was Cuban in whole or part, he was actually Northern European in ancestry. He was named after his mother's Cuban stepfather. Reportedly, Juan Trippe did not like his name and even considered changing it, but relented when it provided him an advantage when negotiating in Latin America, since people thought he was Hispanic.
His wife, Elizabeth "Betty" Stettinius Trippe (1904-1983) was the sister of United States Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.. They had 4 children, Elizabeth ("Betsy"), John Terry, Charles White, and Edward Stettinius Trippe.