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1927 First American airline to operate a permanent international air service, First American airline to operate land airplanes over water on a regulary scheduled basis, and First American airline to operate multi-engine aircraft permanently in scheduled service

1927 Service Started: Key West, Havana

1928 First American airline to use radio communications

1928 First American airline to carry emergency lifesaving equipment

1928 First American airline to use multiple flight crews

1928 First American airline to develop an airport and airways traffic control system

1928 First American airline to to order and purchase aircraft built to its own specifications, the Sikorsky S-38

1929 First American airline to to employ cabin attendants and serve meals aloft

1929 First airline to develop and use instrument flight techniques

1929 First American airline to develop a complete aviation weather service

1929 Service Started: Nassau, Port of Spain, Santo Domingo, St.Thomas, Guatemala City, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago

1930 First American airline to offer international air express service

1930 Service Started: St. Lucia, Caracas, Maracaibo, Rio de Janeiro

1931 First American airline to develop and operate four engine flying boats

1932 First airline to sell all-expense international air tours
1932 Service Started: Port-Au-Prince

1933 Service Started: Tampa

1934 Service Started: Orlando, Los Angeles

1935 First airline to develop and employ long range weather forecasting

1935 First American airline to install facilities for heating food aboard an aircraft

1935 First airline to operate scheduled transpacific passenger and mail service

1935 Service Started: San Francisco, Honolulu

1937 Service Started: New York, Bermuda, Sao Paulo

1939 First airline to operate scheduled transatlantic passenger and mail service

1940 Service Started: Seattle/Tacoma

1942 First airline to complete a round-the-world flight

1942 First airline to operate international service with all-cargo aircraft

1942 Service Started: Monrovia

1943 Service Started: Dakar

1944 First airline to propose a plan for low cost, mass transportation on a worldwide basis

1945 First airline to use high-speed commercial land planes on a transatlantic route, the Douglas DC-4

1945 Service Started: Philadelphia, London, Shannon

1946 First airline to operate non-stop scheduled service between Miami and New York (National)

1946 First American airline to install GCA, Ground Controlled Approach, in overseas operations

1946 Service Started: Houston, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Prague

1947 First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world service

1947 Service Started: Boston, Washington, Istanbul, Karachi

1948 First airline to provide tourist-class service outside the continental US

1949 Pan Am is the launch customer for Boeing's B-377 Stratocruiser

1950 First airline with low-cost day and night coach service on the East Coast (National)

1950 First to enter the Korean airlift

1950 Service Started: Amsterdam, Hamburg, Helsinki, Oslo, Paris,Stockholm

1952 First airline to use aircraft built specifically for tourist-class service in transatlantic service, the Douglas DC-6B

1954 Service Started: Chicago, Detroit, Nuremburg

1955 Pan Am specifies and orders the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8

1958 Pan Am introduces Economy fares

1958 Pan Am's Boeing 707 Clipper America starts the jet age with the first scheduled transatlantic service in American built jets

1958 First airline to operate jets within the continental US (National)

1959 First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world jet service

1960 Pan Am initiates first Douglas DC-8 jet service

1961 First airline to offer a freight marketing service to shippers and importers around the world

1962 First airline to operate 100,000 transatlantic flights

1962 First airline to develop a global computer reservation systems (PANAMAC)

1963 First airline to operate the Boeing 707-321C jet freighter





The Corona Zephyr Typewriter was chosen as the official typewriter of Pan Am's Transatlantic Clippers


Pan Am Logos header art

Brith of A Romantic Icon
Few images of the Golden Age of Radio era evoke the visceral feeling of the times than that of the famous Pan-American World Airways Clippers; the first American airline to demonstrate the world-wide reach of American commercial flight technology. Pan Am's Clippers evoked romance, adventure, class, and the enduring promise of American success and wealth.


1940s Pan American Airways flight wings
1940s Pan American Airways flight wings

1940s Pan American Airways Cap emblem
1940s Pan American Airways Cap emblem

One of Pan Am's Boeing 314 Amphibious Cllippers over San Francisco's Bay Bridge
One of Pan Am's Boeing 314 Amphibious Clippers
over San Francisco's Bay Bridge

During it's heyday, Pan Am had become so ubiquitous as an icon of air travel that the movie '2001' showcased Pan Am as the only plausible likely survivor of air travel competition by the year 2001.

2001 Pan Am Orion Clipper

"The Clipper" was referred to in hundreds of radio shows, films, and television episodes throughout The Golden Age as the American symbol of international reach, intrigue, romance and adventure. As with all other aspects of the imagery that Radio aroused in us, the mere mention of 'The Clipper' evoked an immediate visual--and intensely visceral--image of romantic, adventurous, international flight.

An International Icon emerges
Pan American World Airways emerged in 1927, the culmination of one man's unique vision, a few single-engine airframes and a single route--Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba. This humble beginning evolved into the airline that both figuratively and literally opened the entire world to commercial, international aviation. Pan Am was responsible for launching more new airframe development, competition and commerce than any other airline in world aviation history. Pan Am pioneered routes across the world's oceans, seas, cultures and continents, ultimately conducting daily flight operations literally circling the globe.

There are no distant lands. . .

Juan 'Terry' Trippe, Pan Am's founder, embarked on this historic American journey in 1927, with a tenuous contract to deliver mail to Havana, Cuba. Airmail delivery was the life's blood of early aviation and the primary economic driver in the fledgling industry.

Juan Trippe Time Magazine Cover July 1933
Juan Trippe Time Magazine Cover July 1933

The contract required successful delivery of mail from Key West to Havana by October 19, 1927. Trippe beat the deadline by the skin of his teeth by leasing a single engine Fairchild from Indian Aerial Express of the Dominican Republic for $145.50. Trippe had banked the success of the contract--and his company--on the delivery of three Fokker F-7 tri-motor airframes. The F-7's arrived late, but Pan American World Airways was off to a successful, if not uneventful, start.

However, it was the famous Fokker F-10 Tri-Motor that really got the airline off the ground, with vastly increased range, and demonstrated reliability. Within three years, Pan American World Airways was successfully navigating two continents and The Caribbean.

Pan American Airways to Havana, Nassau and Latin America

This rapid growth didn't come easy to the young airline, especially the development of the South American routes during which Trippe had to contend with none other than the W.R. Grace, Corporation, an American corporation arguably as powerful as all of the South American governments combined. But young Pan Am negotiated a necessary pact with the devil, spawning Panagra, an amalgam of Pan American World Airways and The Grace Corporation from which Pan American World Airways gained South American routes crucial to it's early success, and Grace Corporation fended off competition from Chilean and Peruvian Airline concerns, making Panagra a going concern well into the 60's, at which time they were bought by Braniff.

Pan American World Airways continued to out-negotiate their early competitors throughout Central America and South America, forming alliances along the way with Colombia's Avianca Airlines (the western hemisphere's oldest operating airline, tracing it's foundation to 1919), and eventually acquiring 64% of Avianca's stock.

Pan American Airways Ventures Across the Pacific

July 1931 marked the inauguration of Boston-Maine Airways' mail route between Boston, Massachusetts and Halifax, Nova Scotia. This also marked Juan Trippe's first excursion into Atlantic and northern routes, Pan American World Airways having successfully negotiated to be the prime contractor for Boston-Maine. This inspired Trippe to submit feelers to the airframe industry for a "high speed, multi-motor, flying boat having a cruising range of 2500 miles against 30-mile headwinds, and providing accommodations for a crew of four, together with at least 300 pounds of mail". Thus was born the nexus of Trippe's grand plan to conquer The Atlantic.

Pan Am Clipper over the Golden Gate
Pan Am Clipper over the Golden Gate



Here's some of the earliest (silent) footage of Pan American Airways' famous Sikorsky C-42 'China Clipper' in flight from March 1935


The World's Greatest Air Transportation System circa 1930
The World's Greatest Air Transportation System
circa 1930


Pan American World Airways Ad circa 1933
Pan American World Airways Ad circa 1933
(Click for larger Image)

Reaching Across the Pacific and Beyond

Within three years, Pan American World Airways engineers were gathering all available information on the Tradewinds and climatology throughout the Trans-Pacific region. 1935 marked Pan Am's inauguration of pan-Pacific flight operations and Sikorsky S-42b's became Pan American World Airways' first "Clippers", sporting spacious interiors and 4 powerful, ocean-crossing engines.

But it was the more powerful, streamlined Martin 130's and Boeing 314's that are most long remembered as the 'Pan Am Clippers' of adventure and romance. These were the Clippers of lore that captured the imagination through those Radio shows of the era that referred to them in their stories of adventure and intrigue.

B314 Cross Section from Life magazine circa 1937
B314 Cross Section from Life magazine circa 1937



Enjoy Part 1 of this Pan Am promotional short, 'Flying the Lindbergh Trail' from 1937


And here's Part 2 of the Pan Am promotional short, 'Flying the Lindbergh Trail' from 1937


San Francisco to Hawaii Overnight
(Click for larger Image)


Pan American Airways Inaugurates Strato-Clipper Service to Rio for 'only $650', from New Yorker Magazine
Pan American Airways Inaugurates Strato-Clipper Service to Rio for 'only $650', from New Yorker Magazine, 1940
(Click for larger Image)

To Rio or New Zealand
(Click for larger Image)


'Another Clipper Extra' from 1948
'Another Clipper Extra' from 1948


1950s Pan American Sleeprette ad
1950s Pan American Sleeprette ad


Enjoy this Pan Am promotional short, 'Visit USA' from 1960


Pan Am's 1960s ads were a bit more sophisticated and laid back. (Click for larger image)
Pan Am's 1960s ads were a bit more sophisticated and laid back. (Click for larger image)

(Click for larger image)
(Click for larger image)


Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Atwater Kent Advertising
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Burma Shave Advertising
Take me to Spotlight on Advertising
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Campbell's Advertising
Take me to Golden Age Radio History Spotlight on Canada Dry Advertising
Take me to Spotlight on the Golden Age
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Dr Pepper Advertising
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Dr Pepper Advertising
Take me to Spotlight on Networks
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Jello Advertising
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Kelloggs Advertising
Take me to Spotlight on Personalities
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Pan-Am Advertising
Take me to Golden Age Spotlight on Patriotic Advertising Take me to Spotlight on Technology

Asserting International Dominance

Juan Trippe was an absolutely ruthless tactician and strategist. By the time the United States entered World War II, Trippe had already established Pan American Airways as America's most far-reaching international air carrier. Jockeying for air routes had become a desperate attempt by all of the U.S. air carriers to carve out their own 'exclusive' air routes literally criss-crossing the planet. But as the graphic below shows, by 1943 Pan American had begun to reign supreme in international air routes:

LIFE magazine's 'Who Will Fly Where' graphic from November 1st 1943 illustrates how United States air carriers were differentiating their international air routes. (Click for larger image)
LIFE magazine's 'Who Will Fly Where' graphic from November 1st 1943 illustrates how United States air carriers were differentiating their international air routes. (Click for larger image)

Pan Am Ad from December 1944
Pan Am Ad from December 1944

Dateline Crossing Certificate c. 1948
Dateline Crossing Certificate, c. 1948
(Click for larger Image)

LIFE magazine cutaway illustration of neLIFE magazine cutaway illustration of new Pan Am B-377 Stratocruiser from 1948. (Click for larger image)
LIFE magazine cutaway illustration of new Pan Am B-377 Stratocruiser from 1948. (Click for larger image)

1945 Boeing promotional photo of interior of lower lounge of Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
1945 Boeing promotional photo of interior of lower lounge of Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

1950s 'El Presidente' service to Rio via B-377 Strato Clippers. Ideal for Banana Republic Jefes, Nazi Generals, and their CIA intermediaries of the era. (Click for larger image)
1950s 'El Presidente' service to Rio via B-377 Strato Clippers. Ideal for Banana Republic Jefes, Nazi Generals, and their CIA intermediaries of the era. (Click for larger image)

Lower lounge of a 1950s B-377 Strato Clipper
Lower lounge of a 1950s B-377 Strato Clipper

1956 LIFE magazine ad capitalizes on Mary Martin's recent Stage and Television triumphs as Peter Pan (Click for larger image)
1956 LIFE magazine ad capitalizes on Mary Martin's recent Stage and Television triumphs as Peter Pan
(Click for larger image)

Pan American also touted it's adherence to U.S. Government flight regulations in several of its 1950s ads. (Click for larger image)
Pan American also touted it's adherence to U.S. Government flight regulations in several of its 1950s ads.
(Click for larger image)

'Europe is only a dream away' from 1956 (Click for larger image)
'Europe is only a dream away' from 1956
(Click for larger image)



Norman Rockwell Campaign

The opening salvo of Pan Am's 1956 Norman Rockwell ad series was this two full page ad in LIFE magazine. (Click for larger image)
The opening salvo of Pan Am's 1956 Norman Rockwell ad series was this two full page ad in LIFE magazine.
(Click for larger image)


'My sketch book proves you can see more of EUROPE when you fly Pan American' from 1956 (Click for larger image)
'My sketch book proves you can see more of EUROPE when you fly Pan American' from 1956 (Click for larger image)


'Eyes that see around the world'

'Eyes that see around the world'
(Click for larger Image)

'The heart of London'
'The heart of London'
(Click for larger Image)


'Mechanic John S. Keating'
'Mechanic John S. Keating'
(Click for larger Image)

'Turkish Coffee Seller'
'Turkish Coffee Seller'
(Click for larger Image)

'The thing to do with life is Live it!' from 1956 (Click for larger image)
'The thing to do with life is Live it!' from 1956 (Click for larger image)


Pan Am's fleet of Jet Clippers became overnight icons for international jet travel
Pan Am's fleet of Jet Clippers became overnight icons for international jet travel

The  late 1950s ushered in Pan Am's jet era and its fleet or Boeing 707s and DC-8s
The late 1950s ushered in Pan Am's jet era and its fleet or Boeing 707s and DC-8s



Personal Reflections

Los Angeles by Clipper circa 1959
Los Angeles by Clipper circa 1959

I had the great privilege to fly on Pan American twice before this great American Icon ended service. Thankfully, both flights were international and of great distance. All the better to savor the rich experience even longer. Indeed, one of those long round trips was to fly to my fiancée to be married. And what better way to genuinely experience romance, adventure, and class. In my 23 years in the Marines and Air Force--and another 20 years of business life, there remains for me nothing that has ever compared to Pan American when measured in terms of pure class, professionalism--at every level of service, and a sense of air travel confidence--not to mention history. Northwest and JAL have come tantalizingly close as I've experienced them, but neither remotely compare to Pan Am. If America ever regains it's true character, one of my enduring hopes is that someone would pull out all the stops and revive this great airline--as long as it could be accomplished in the same top drawer manner at which it operated throughout its glorious history. A high bar, indeed, but the only acceptable way to revive such a great airline.

As long as I'm dreaming . . . what perfect irony if , once space travel truly becomes 'routine', that the PanAm logo as envisioned in Arthur Clarke's 2001, might eventually be realized and proven in fact. Throughout my life experience, few things have every truly felt genuinely incomparable. I can count them on the fingers of one hand.

Pan American World Airways was one of that handful of rare exceptions--perhaps the rarest of all.


1964's 'Pan Am adds the Priceless Extra of Experience'
1964's 'Pan Am adds the Priceless Extra of Experience'

Addendum: Pan Am's 'Second Demise' Feb 2008

Gone, but not forgotten

. . . . Gone but not forgotten



Need More? Try these links to learn more about Pan American World Airways