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Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was the "flagship" international airline of the United States from the 1930s until its collapse on December 4, 1991. Founded in 1927 as a scheduled air mail and passenger service operating between Floridamarker (Key Westmarker, and later Miamimarker) and Havanamarker, Cubamarker, the airline became a major company credited with many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jet, 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.



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 Cubamarker, 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 who included William A. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. Their operation had the all-important landing rights for Havanamarker, having acquired a small airline established in 1926 by John K. Montgomery and Richard B. Bevier as a seaplane service from Key Westmarker, Florida to Havana, and carried mail over the route for the first time on October 19, 1927.

The Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean Airways company was established on October 11, 1927, by New York Citymarker 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.

Flown cover carried from Key West, FL, to Havana, Cuba, on the first contract air mail flight operated by Pan American Airways, Oct 19, 1927(Signed by pilot Cy Caldwell)

The U.S. government approved the original Pan Am's mail delivery contract with little objection, out of fears that the German-owned Colombianmarker 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 internationally, benefiting from a virtual monopoly on foreign routes.

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 along the west coast of South America to Perumarker. 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 Airesmarker, Argentinamarker, and westbound to Santiago, Chilemarker. Its Brazilian subsidiary NYRBA do Brasil was later renamed as 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 destinations 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 Exchangemarker 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. In April 1929, Trippe and his associates reached an agreement with United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC) to segregate Pan Am operations to south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in exchange for UATC taking a large shareholder stake (UATC was the parent company of what are now Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and United Airlines).

Pan Am and its flight crews

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 a 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 on 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

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PAA's "Clipper" routes in "The Americas"(1936)
1941 advertising mailer for Pan Am's "Flying Clipper Cruises" to South America

While Pan Am was developing its South American network, it also negotiated with Bernt Balchen, of the Norwegianmarker airline DNL, in 1937 for a cooperative Trans-Atlantic flight to Europe. The agreement was for Pan Am to use its Clippers on flights from New York to Reykjavíkmarker, Icelandmarker; DNL would then take over with their Sikorsky S-43 aircraft onwards to Bergenmarker, Norwaymarker. This plan was dropped when Pan Am pulled out and instead turned to Britain and France to begin seaplane service between the United States and Europe. Britainmarker'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 Norfolkmarker, Virginiamarker, to Europe via Bermudamarker and the Azores using Sikorsky S-40 flying boats. Starting in June 1937, a joint service from the U.S. mainland to Bermuda was inaugurated, with Pan Am using Sikorsky flying boats and Imperial Airways using C class flying boat RMA Cavalier.

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 Botwoodmarker in the Bay of Exploits in Newfoundlandmarker from Port Washington, New Yorkmarker, via Shediac, New Brunswickmarker. The next day Pan Am Clipper III left Botwood forFoynesmarker 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.

PAA's China Clipper service cut the time of a transpacific crossing from as much as six weeks by sea to just six days by air.

Pan Am planned to start land plane service over Alaskamarker to Japan and China, and sent Lindbergh on a survey flight in 1930; the ongoing political upheaval in the Soviet Union and Japan made the route nonviable. Trippe then decided to start a service from San Franciscomarker to Honolulumarker, and from there to Hong Kongmarker and Aucklandmarker following existing steamship routes. After negotiating rights in 1934 to land at Pearl Harbormarker, Midway Islandmarker, Wake Islandmarker, Guammarker, and Subic Baymarker (Manilamarker), 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 and operated its first commercial flight carrying mail and express in a Martin M-130 from Alamedamarker to Manilamarker amid massive media fanfare on November 22, 1935. The five-leg, 8,000-mile (12,875 km) flight arrived in the Philippine capital on November 29 and returned to San Francisco on December 6, cutting the time of travel over that by steamship by more than a full month. (Both the United States and Philippine Islands issued special stamps for the two flights.) The first passenger flight over this route left Alameda on October 21, 1936. The fare from San Francisco to both Manila and Hong Kong in 1937 was $950 one way and $1,710 round trip.

Stamps issued by the United States and Philippine Islands for Air Mail carried on the first flights in each direction of PAA's Transpacific "China Clipper" service between San Francisco, CA, and Manila, PI.
(November 22 - December 6, 1935)

On August 6, 1937, Juan Trippe accepted U.S aviation's highest annual prize, the Collier Trophy, on behalf of PAA from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the company's "establishment of the transpacific airline and the successful execution of extended overwater navigation and the regular operations thereof." 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, co-owned with the Chinese government. Pan Am flew to Singaporemarker 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 used on transatlantic routes starting in 1939.

Flown cover carried around the world on PAA Boeing 314 Clippers and by Imperial Airways, June 24-July 28, 1939

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 Southamptonmarker. The single fare was $375 — equivalent to $5,300 today. After 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 flew over ninety million miles worldwide in support of military operations.

In 1940, Pan Am, TWA, and Northwest Airlines 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 Boeing 307's airline service proved short-lived, as all five models built were commandeered for military service at the outbreak of World War II.

The "Clippers" — the name hearkened 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. The China Clipper became well-known for its South Seas routings.

In 1942, while waiting at Foynes, County Limerick, Ireland for a Pan Am Clipper flight to New York, passengers were served a drink today known as Irish coffee by Chef Joe Sheridan.

During World War II, most of the Clippers were pressed into the military, and Pan Am flight crews operated the aircraft under contract. During this era, Pan Am pioneered a new air route across western and central Africa to Iranmarker, 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 Syriamarker on June 19, 1947.

Postwar developments

Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Clipper Seven Seas at London Heathrow in 1954

After the war, Pan American's fleet was quickly replaced by faster and longer range airliners, such as the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Douglas DC-6B, and Lockheed Constellation. For almost 40 years, Pan Am westbound round-the-world route was Flight 001 originating in San Francisco with stops including Honolulumarker, Tokyomarker, Hong Kongmarker, Bangkokmarker, Manilamarker, Kolkatamarker, Delhimarker, Beirutmarker, Istanbulmarker, Frankfurtmarker, Londonmarker, and finally New Yorkmarker. The westbound flight lasted 46 hours after its first takeoff. Meanwhile, Pan Am Flight 002 circled the globe eastbound.

Although Pan Am lobbied to gain protection of its position as America's major international airline, it encountered increasing competition — first from American Overseas Airlines, and later from 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 aircraft and wide-body types. 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 the launch customer of the Boeing 747, and it initially ordered 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 Airportmarker 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, resulting in a substitution to a second 747 which completed the route to London's Heathrow Airportmarker.

Pan Am was 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 purchase the supersonic jet. Pan Am also was the first U.S. airline to sign for the Boeing 2707, the American supersonic transport project, with15 delivery positions reserved; these aircraft never saw service after Congress voted against additional funding in 1971.

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 occupied the fourth floor of the Pan Am Buildingmarker, which was the largest commercial office building in the world for some time. The airline also built Worldportmarker, a terminal building at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New Yorkmarker 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 during the early 1970s, Pan Am's advertised under the slogan, "World's Most Experienced Airline.", and was providing scheduled service to every continent except for Antarcticamarker, and as many as 160 nations. Most of its routes were between New Yorkmarker, Europe, and South America, and between Miamimarker and the Caribbeanmarker. 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, 727 (which replaced the 720s), 737, 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 A310. 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 operating a nuclear-engine testing laboratory in Nevadamarker.

The airline also participated in several notable humanitarian flights. Pan Am operated 650 flights a week between West Germanymarker 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 Kongmarker, Tokyomarker, and other Asian cities.

It is said that the airline was well regarded for its modern fleet and experienced and professional 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 Parismarker, 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 Boeing 747s with the expectation that demand for air travel would continue to rise, which was not the case.

A Pan Am flight attendant in 1970s uniform

On September 23, 1974, a group of Pan Am employees published an ad inThe 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 Sydneymarker, 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 Trans World Airlines. 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 began competing with Pan Am internationally.

In order to acquire domestic routes, Pan Am, 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 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 Pan Am's balance sheet, which was already suffering from its buying binge of its Boeing 747 aircraft fleet. Complicating 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 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 Buildingmarker to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for $400 million. In 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.

Clipper Spreeathen (N70724) at Zurich in 1985

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 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 Bostonmarker, New York Citymarker, and Washington, D.C.marker 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." 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 Tristar airplanes which ended up with the Royal Air Force.

Pan Am's iconic image also made it a target for terrorist. 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. The security situation was further exacerbated by financial concerns, and 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 was exposed to be falling apart, following the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Pakistanmarker, 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 the company's 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 Lockerbiemarker, 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 Departmentmarker. 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 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. 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.


Clipper Miles Standish (N805PA), an Airbus A310

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 Worldportmarker at John F. Kennedy International Airportmarker, 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 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. In October 1991, former Douglas Aircraft executive Russell Ray, Jr. was hired as Pan Am's new chairman and CEO. During 1991 Pan Am moved out of the Pan Am Buildingmarker in New York City and relocated its headquarters to the Miamimarker area.

Clipper Spark of the Ocean (N735PA) in Pan Am's final "billboard" style livery

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. 7,500 Pan Am employees lost their jobs; thousands of them had worked in the New York Citymarker area and were preparing to move to the Miami area to work at Pan Am's new headquarters by Miami International Airportmarker. Economists predicted that 9,000 jobs in the Miami area, including jobs outside of the airline dependent on the airline's presence, would be lost after Pan Am folded. The carrier's last flown scheduled operation was Pan Am Flight 436 which departed from Bridgetown, Barbadosmarker, that day at 2 pm (EST) for Miamimarker under the command of Captain Mark Pyle flying Clipper Goodwill, a Boeing 727-200 (N368PA). 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. 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 shutdown 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 sued Delta. In December 1995, a U.S. federal judge ruled in favor of Delta, concluding that it was not liable for Pan Am's demise. Pan Am was the third major airline to shut down in 1991, after Eastern Airlines and Midway Airlines.

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 Airportmarker) 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 "Trans World 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 former Pan Am executive with 20 years of experience at the original carrier.

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:

Reuse of name

The Pan Am brand was resurrected four times after 1991, but the reincarnations were related to the original 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 Caribbeanmarker with the IATA airline designator PN. The second was unrelated to the first and was a small regional carrier based in Portsmouthmarker, New Hampshiremarker, that operated between 1998 and 2004. It used the IATA code PA, and the ICAOmarker 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 Englandmarker. Boston-Maine Airways, Pan Am Railways, and the second reincarnation of Pan American Airways were owned by Pan Am Systems. A domestic airline in the Dominican Republic, descended from the company's first reincarnation, continues to trade as Pan Am Dominicana.

In 1998, Guilford Transportation Industries, a shortline operator of railroad lines assembled from the routes of now defunct railways chiefly in New England, purchased Pan American World Airways and all related naming rights (Pan Am III). The railway is now operated as Pan Am Railways.

Record-setting flights

During the mid-1970s, 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 around-the-world record, set by a Flying Tiger Line Boeing 707, with a new record of 46 hours, 50 seconds. The flight left New Yorkmarker-JFK on May 1, 1976, and returned on May 3, 1976. The flight made only two stopovers during the journey, one in New Delhimarker and the other in Tokyomarker-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 another around-the-world flight, this time over the North Polemarker and the South Polemarker and including three stopovers: in Londonmarker-Heathrow, Cape Townmarker and Aucklandmarker, before going back to its origin—San Franciscomarker. The 747SP-21 used, Clipper New Horizons, was 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 the 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 in which a Pan Am plane formed a backdrop was The Beatles' 1964 arrival at John F. Kennedy Airportmarker 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 very loosely related 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 and was featured in the movie's poster. Plastic models of the 2001 Pan Am Space Clipper were sold by both the Aurora Company and Airfix 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."

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, while a Pan Am 747 and the Worldportmarker appeared in Live and Let Die.

Pan Am and CEO Juan Trippe (as played by Alec Baldwin) figured significantly in the 2004 biographical film The Aviator. The film depicts attempts by Pan Am to enable legislation limiting the ability of TWA and others to compete on their Atlantic routes.

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.

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 Vitacuramarker, Chilemarker. 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 214marker, was in a holding pattern on a flight from Baltimoremarker to Philadelphiamarker 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 disastermarker on March 27, 1977, the deadliest accidental disaster in aviation history. The Clipper Victor, operating as a charter flight from Los Angelesmarker to New Yorkmarker and Las Palmasmarker in the Canary Islandsmarker, was diverted to Tenerifemarker 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 93marker, a Boeing 747 from Amsterdammarker to New York, was hijacked as part of the Dawson's Field hijackingsmarker. Because of its size, the hijackers diverted the flight to Cairomarker 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, Italymarker. 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 Honolulumarker. 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, Pakistanmarker, 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 Airportmarker to New York's JFKmarker. 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 Lockerbiemarker in 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 the September 11, 2001 attacks, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was the second 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 Flight 281

Pan Am Flight 281 was a hijacking from New York to Cuba which occurred in 1968.


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 to PA. First 17 delivered to BN. 5 painted N901BN-N905BN.
Avions de Transport Régional ATR-42 12 Turboprop aircraft Operated by Pan Am Express
BAe Jetstream 31 10 Turboprop aircraft Operated by Pan Am Express
Boeing 307 Stratoliner 3 Propeller aircraft
Boeing 314 9 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 747-100 44 Jet aircraft Launch Customer of the Boeing 747-100 Series.
33 Boeing 747-121 owned by Pan Am.

5 Boeing 747-122 were bought from United Airlines.

4 Boeing 747-123 were bought from American Airlines.

2 Boeing 747-132 were bought from Delta Airlines.

Boeing 747-212B 7 Jet Aircraft All 7 Boeing 747-212B were previously owned and operated by Singapore Airlines.
Boeing 747-273C 1 Cargo Aircraft Operated by Pan Am Cargo.
was previously operated by World Airways.
Boeing 747-221F 2 Cargo Aircraft Operated by Pan Am Cargo.
Boeing 747SP 11 Jet Aircraft Launch Customer of the Boeing 747SP Series.
10 Boeing 747SP-21 owned by Pan Am.

1 Boeing 747SP-27 was bought by Braniff Airways.

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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