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Pan Am: Serving the Early Jet Set & Chartering Commercial Flight History

The creation of Pan American World Airways was the beginning of a new era; travel was no longer restricted by railways, boats, and automobiles. With the invention of the commercial aircraft people could now travel with ease, comfort, and accessibility. Pan Am was not only used as a commercial airline for “average Joe’s” and celebrities, but also contributed to war efforts made by the U.S. Although Pan Am started off successfully, the downfall of the company was tragic and eventually routes were sold off to Delta, American Airlines, and United.

Founding and Early History

Pan Am was founded by Juan Terry Trippe in Key West, Florida in October of 1927. The airline began as a mail carrier service whose route went from the U.S. to Cuba and back. However, the goal of Trippes was to always become a commercial airline that would provide affordable transportation to a large number of people. In January of 1928, the first commercial flight was flown from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba making the historical trip of only 90 miles with just seven passengers on board. In 1939, Pan Am made history by embarking on the first commercial flight across the Pacific Ocean flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong.

  • The Early Days of Pan American World Airways- A detailed summary on the rise of Pan Am is provided along with information about its first flights.
  • Pan Am- The information contains details about the flights that put Pan Am on the map such as the first commercial transcontinental flight.
  • The Beginnings of Commercial Transatlantic Services- A deeper look into the journeys of Pan Am aircrafts that were the first to travel not only across the Pacific Ocean but the Atlantic as well.
  • Pan Am: First in the Industry- A historical timeline is presented of Pan Am’s accomplishments in the airline industry and growth into a commercial airline.
  • Juan Trippe: Pilot of the Jet Age- A glance into the success of the founder of Pan Am and what he contributed to the growth of the company.

Pan Am Aircrafts

With fourteen different aircrafts in use, Pan Am set a high standard for other airlines to follow. One of the most popular aircrafts was called a Boeing, which had ten different models. Pan American aircrafts ranged from the first aircraft, Fairchild, which sat only six passengers all the way to the Airbus, which could accommodate 254 people comfortably. The creation of the Airbus was one of Pan Am’s last attempts to try to revive their service before their downfall in 1991.

  • Pan Am Clippers- A comprehensive history of some of Pan Am’s most treasured and useful aircrafts along with pictures and stories associated with them.
  • Pan American Aircrafts- The Smithsonian explains the differences and the unique traits that a few of the Pan Am aircrafts possess like the Sikorsky S-40 flying boat, Sikorsky S-42, and the Boeing 314.

Pan Am Use in WWII & Vietnam

While commercial travel faced a lot of troubles during WWII, Pam Am was anything but slowing down. In November of 1940 the airline used its resources to provide aircrafts to the U.S. government that were used for transportation between the United States and areas such as Africa and the Middle East. During WWII, Pan American Airways was the only domestic airline able to fly transcontinental routes. This didn’t last forever though because after the war ended the ability to travel abroad was permitted to all domestic airlines. Pan Am didn’t take a break during the Vietnam War either; they continually provided soldiers with rest and relaxation flights while they were stationed overseas. Pan Am even went to great efforts during the Vietnam War to airlift orphans out of Vietnam. However, the efforts made by Pan Am during the Vietnam War received some backlash from protestors disagreeing with America’s involvement; this resulted in several boycotts.

Celebrities on Pan Am

While the purpose of Pan Am was to provide modern and convenient transportation that didn’t stop those who were famous from enjoying and taking advantage of the new way to travel. With the growing desire for transcontinental travel, Pan Am accommodated people such as James Dean and even the press corps for President Kennedy. Also, very few people can forget the first day that the Beatles flew into JFK Airport on Pan Am Flight 101 in a Boeing 707 aircraft, making a historic day for not only the airline but for America in general.

  • “A First Class Story”- Tales from a flight attendant’s experiences with celebrities while working for Pan Am.
  • Meet the Beatles- Time Magazine takes a look into Beatlemania that arrived on the back of a Boeing 707 from Pan American World Airways.

Contributions to Commercial Air Travel

Pan Am influenced commercial air travel like no other airline before. Juan Trippe’s desire to make his business succeed provided mass transportation to the general population and celebrities alike, and more airlines emerged with the same desire. With the creation of “American Clipper”, which was a Boeing 707 aircraft, planes could now accommodate over 100 people on a single flight. It is reported that in 1970, Pan Am traveled nearly 20 billion miles with an estimated 11 million passengers. Due to Pan Am’s ever growing business more routes were being created and the ability to travel abroad became a possibility to the average American. In addition to setting such a high example of mileage traveled, Pan Am also created one of the most successful and idealized flight crews of its time. The standards of its pilots and flight attendants and the extent in which they will cater to their passengers surpassed any other airline of its time.

  • Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records- An analysis of the influence that Pan Am has had on the Commercial Air Travel industry as well information about its history and photographs is provided by the University of Miami.
  • Pam Am Flight Attendants- Flight attendants explain how strict the requirements were for employment and procedures used to accommodate their passengers.

The End of Pan American World Airways

One of the first events that led to the downfall of Pan Am was the 1973 Oil Crisis; this was because the Boeing 747 (one of the most popular aircrafts) required so much fuel and the cost was so high that it was a financial burden on Pan Am. In addition, the disastrous crash of the Flight 1736 aircraft resulted in the death of 248 people on board the plane and even more on the ground, impacting people’s desire to travel. The deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 forced Pan Am into lowering their fees and the entire industry became extremely competitive. With so many financial burdens facing the airline the final straw was the horrific tragedy of the Lockerbie crash that took place on Pan Am Flight 103. Pan Am could not recover from these setbacks and eventually they sold their Pacific routes to United Airlines and the Atlantic routes to Delta and American Airlines. This ended their reign as king of the sky.




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