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Pan Am The Industry Leader

Pan Am served as an international leader in aviation transportation. Pan Am was a pioneer in aviation equipment, air routes, commercial passenger service, navigation techniques and communication systems.
Charles Lindbergh served at the technical advisor for 45 years and played a huge role in determining Transatlantic routes.


The Jet Age

In 1955 Pan Am ordered 45 jet airliners, 20 Boeing 707s and 25 Douglas dc8s for $269 million. Pan Am only received 18 of those DC8s and ordered 130 more from Boeing.

Until realistic flight simulators were introduced in the late 60s Pan Am pilots took all their training in actual planes, many times in dangerous flying conditions.

October 26, 1958 entered the jet age with a B707-121 named Clipper America. It flew from NY to Paris with 111 passengers and 11 crewmembers for 8 ? hours including a fuel stop at Gander. This flight allowed the introduction of jets and economy fares.

In jet engines unlike piston engines, all parts spun in the same direction. Eliminating vibration and decreased frequency of engine failure.

A once profitable airline, 1961?s annual report boasted $460 million in revenues. In 1970 Pan Am carried 11 million passengers approximately twenty billion miles, and employed 19,000 people in 62 countries.  

January 1980 Pan Am merged with National Airlines. Due to the high price of acquiring National, the purchase was considered Chairman ‘Seawell’s Folly".


Juan Trippe Cocktail Party

Juan Trippe and the name Pan Am were synonymous for forty years, 1927 – 1968. He was not necessary liked by all but was respected by most. There were two eras during Pan Am existence: the prop era and the jet era.

America’s jet age began on the evening of October 26, 1958, when a Boeing 707 inaugurated Pan Am’s first New York to Paris flight. There was as much coverage and excitement about this flight as that of the " China Clipper" flight 23 years before. It came about when Trippe, with out the rest of the airline industry knowing, negotiated with Boeing and Douglas aircraft companies, I should say pitted one company against the other to produce the best jet aircraft. He also cajoled Pratt & Whitney for better and more powerful engines to place on these aircraft. In the end, Pan Am ordered 21 Boeing 707s and 24 Douglas DC-8 aircraft. This order was kept secret from the media and airline industry.
On the evening of October 15,1955, Trippe hosted a cocktail party for members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) executive committee in his Gracie Square apartment in Manhattan. Everyone was having a drink and a grand time enjoying themselves while admiring the view of the East River. The airline executives were patting themselves on the back, because they had secured orders for turbo-prop aircraft for their airlines to replace their propeller fleets. It was at this party that Trippe announced that Pan American was going all jet. Trippe had just forced the jet age upon them, without warning. His 
 guest were stunned and as they grasped the importance of this announcement, they all fell silent. They just realized they had been had, their propeller fleets were obsolete. Now they understood why Trippe had not ordered more propeller planes. All the other airlines would be forced to dump their propeller planes at discounted prices, and take a bath in the process. It was like dropping the mother of all bombs on this gathering. It was as if someone deposited a foreign object in the punch bowl and no one wanted a drink anymore. For most of the guest, the taste of the drinks turned sour and the gourmet hors d’ oeuvres were left uneaten and the party atmosphere turned sullen. Guest left and returned to their hotels to book space on the next day’s flights to Seattle (Boeing) and Santa Monica (Douglas). They wanted to reserve places on the jet production lines, behind Pan American.

Don Cooper


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