“Our Mission at the Pan Am Museum Foundation is for us to educate, celebrate, and inspire present and future generations by preserving historical and diverse personal stories of Pan American World Airways.”
To employees, Pan Am meant more than a paycheck. It was a home. And co-workers were family. Because of those relationships, many former employees recall their Pan Am years as the best of their lives.
After the last Pan Am planes landed on December 4, 1991, the employee community never lost their love for the venerable institution that was Pan American World Airways.
In 1992, a group of volunteers led by Ed Trippe, son of Pan Am’s President and CEO Juan Trippe, founded the Pan Am Historical Foundation. They acquired the company’s remaining assets, including 64 years’ worth of documents, photographs, and audio/visual material — and archived them at the University of Miami.
In 2015, several former Pan Am flight attendants and members of World Wings International had the idea of expanding on the Historical Foundation’s work. They recognized that with the community of former employees aging, the first-hand accounts and oral history of Pan Am were in danger of being lost forever.
That’s when Andrea Sidor, Linda Freire, Joanne Swift, Ruth Lowenstein, Julie Watson, Bruce Gately, and Phillip Keene joined forces to establish a permanent museum dedicated to Pan Am. An additional catalyst fueled their mission because many “family” members were still reeling from the 2013 demolition of Pan Am’s Worldport at JFK International Airport.
As long as that building had remained standing, former employees still felt like they had a tangible place to call home. With it gone, they craved a new place to gather and remember.
After securing a $5,000 seed loan from World Wings International and obtaining 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status, the group’s newly seated board of directors started searching for a museum location. The board settled on Long Island’s Cradle of Aviation Museum, which is located on the former Mitchel Field Air Force Base site and is known for its preservation of Long Island aviation history.