Pan American Airways

Pan American Airways

An American airline founded by Juan Trippe in 1927. Originally, the airline was a one-route mail carrier flying from Miami to Havana, Cuba. Its premiere flight was on a chartered Fairchild airplane. In 1929, Pan Am began flying the mail route from the United States to Mexico City. The company then won other contracts to fly to the Caribbean and South America and, in 1931, from Boston to Maine. Within a short time of being founded, the company began using seaplanes, which were ideally suited for some of its more difficult routes. After buying planes from the CO., Pan Am began offering a cross-Pacific service on its Pacific Clipper. When a flight was interrupted by war in the Pacific, the plane had to return to New York by circling the globe, becoming the first commercial flight to do so. During the war, the The Panama Canal under construction (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS) airline did long-distance contract flying for the government, reinforcing its credentials as the most experienced long-haul airline in the country.

After the war, when jet engines became easier to produce, Trippe was the first customer for them, anticipating the commercial possibilities of flying customers to distant locations as quickly as possible. In 1958, Pan Am’s clipper America inaugurated jet service to Paris from New York using a Boeing 707 and became the first commercial jet service. Pan Am’s jet services, plus its use of the Boeing 747, the original jumbo jet, opened the market for relatively inexpensive jet service to all and gave Pan Am the unofficial designation as America’s flagship air carrier. The company’s success could be clearly seen in Manhattan, where the towered above Grand Central Station in midtown, with a heliport on its roof.

The airline also used Boeing 727s to help evacuate American personnel from Vietnam at the fall of Saigon. The plane blown up by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 was Pan Am Flight 103, and the company was severely affected by the incident. It continued to fly but only with increasing financial difficulties. The company remained the country’s best-known international airline until 1991, when those financial problems forced it to shut down operations.

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