Everyone who flies is familiar with the cockpit crew, the cabin crew, the ground crew, the commissary crew and ticketing/check-in crew. But, there is one more crew sequestered deep inside the airline operations center. These airline professionals are legally 50% responsible for the safety of every flight. They must demonstrate extensive knowledge of meteorology and of aviation in general to qualify and demonstrate competence to a level comparable of the holder of an Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP) in order to be certified and licensed. These professionals plan the flight path, taking into account weather, weight and balance, fuel needs, and airspace utilization and brief the cockpit crew prior to every flight. Prior to computers these tasks were accomplished with slide rules and sharp pencils. These airline professionals are the airline dispatchers.
This is one Pan Am airline dispatcher’s story:
Robert W. (Bob) Gray was born 1918 and raised in San Jose, California. He took his first job at the age of 14 and dreamed of going to college. He graduated High School and attended San Jose State College prior to his acceptance into Stanford University. He graduated from Stanford with an Economics degree just as World War II was in full bloom. He married his school sweetheart at the Stanford Chapel.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was sent to Texas for flight training. He commanded his training wing and graduated a certified multi-engine pilot. He was sent to Europe and flew B 25 Bombers out of Italy until the European war ended. He trained in the A-26 Invader, but was not deployed in the Pacific because of the Japanese surrender.
He returned to his wife, Dorothy, and to San Jose where he took his pilot’s physical. He was most disappointed when he learned that his eyes were good enough to captain B 25s over Germany, but not good enough to be a commercial airline pilot for Pan American. He was recruited to be a treasury agent (T-Man) for the US government, but after a couple of months he could not keep flying off his mind. He agreed to take a position as an airline dispatcher for Pan American in late 1945.
His early years were spent stationed in Los Angeles and San Francisco. A review of his passports and travel documents indicate that he was also sent to the territory of Hawaii, Wake Island, Guam, the Philippines and Japan in 1946 and 1947 in preparation for Pan American reestablishing Pacific routes after WWII. These documents also provided information that he was authorized to carry and receive classified documents and information. On the Island of Guam, he was met with rifle fire and later with Japanese soldiers coming out the mountains to surrender to American Marines months after the peace treaty was signed.
From his station in San Francisco, he was assigned the responsibility to pioneer commercial aviation into the territory of Alaska, so he moved his family to Juneau. Alaska was an interesting assignment. In the beginning, there was no tower so when a plane reported in on final he would go outside, plug in a microphone to the exterior wall and talk the flight in though “the notch”. Anyone who has flown into Juneau is familiar with the notch. While flying with his family (two sons) we learned that he preferred to ride in the jump seat. Every time he was invited to “come up to the cockpit”, he took it. It was also all the time. He really did love flying.
After nearly five years in Juneau he was transferred to Seattle in 1950 and served as the senior flight controller. During this time in Seattle he spent weeks in New York at the Pan Am building as a negotiator for the American Airline Dispatcher’s Association (ALDA) with Pan Am management. When the TWU (Transport Workers Union) went on strike supporting the flight attendants, he used that situation to teach his older son a lesson. I was working as a custodian in the hangers for a summer job. When I asked for his advice, he told me the TWU was my union and I should join the picket line. He had negotiated a picket line pass in his ALDA negotiations for himself to protect Pan American property. He crossed the picket line each day with the TWU picket captain escorting him to work while I walked the line.
He was then transferred to Miami in the mid-1960’s and began serving as the Flight Control Manager for Latin America. He was so dedicated to his position that he went to night school at the local community college for two years to learn Spanish at the age of 55. While in Miami he was selected by Pan Am to lead a group of managers from other airlines to negotiate landing rights for United States airlines into the counties in South and Central America. His wife, Dorothy, joined him on many of his trips to Latin America. They were received by Latin American heads of state and treated with grandeur, even though many countries were very poor. Again, he spent most of his on-board time in the cockpit jump seat. He also served as the coordinator of the multi-airline emergency council, whose responsibility was to reposition all aircraft during the threat of hurricanes to Florida and the SE part of the United States.
1968 Miami: Pan Am golfers from the north and south met on the rolling fairways of the Doral Country Club in the annual North-South Golf Tournament. The Miami team, shown in the top photo, walked off with the laurels and the trophy in Classes A and B but lost in Class C. They are, left to right: Gil Jennings and Frank Schmidt, Class A; Bob Gray and Bill Hendrick, Class B, and Charlie Schilb and Art Austin, Class C.
Robert "Bob" Gray retired from Pan American in the early 80’s following an offer of early retirement because of the merger with National Airlines. He moved to Lake Wildwood in the Sierra Nevada foothills and joined a number of other Pan Am expats. He played golf three days a week for 20 years. He moved to Portland Oregon to be closer to family and was elected the president of the resident’s council at his retirement home where he lived and served for over a dozen years. He passed away at the age of 98. His wife often noted that “he never sought leadership positions, but leadership positions always found him”.
Bob Gray was a great husband, father and professional. He loved Pan American and spoke often of the history of Pan American. Captain Robert Ford was a dinner guest many times. And, he read and studied everything he could find about the Pan American’s early years, especially in Miami. I’m not sure he totally understood how much a part of history was made possible because of his role with Pan Am. He was always the unknown professional and a really good one at that.
Pan Am Museum thanks Robert "Bob" Gray's son, Roger Gray, for submitting this story. Here is Roger pictured in the August 1950 Pan American World Airways employee newspaper, "Clipper".
Competence, confidence, professionalism, calm & leadership, that's what Pan Am Airlines tried to project in their pilot uniforms when they first created it in the 1930s. With the purpose to make nervous passengers feel more confident about flying. Mostly inspired from US navy officers uniform. 90 years later almost all airliners are sticking to Pan Am's initial design with few or no changes at all.
Just as with naval officers, the stripes on a pilot's uniform denote the rank of the wearer. There are slight variations from one airline to another but most commonly a captain gets four stripes on their sleeves and epaulettes. Three stripes for a first officer and two for a second officer (or a junior first officer). While one stripe identifies a trainee pilot. With gold as the most common colour for stripes.
Uniforms are very powerful working tools, whenever you are a pilot or not, keeping your uniform up to shape is very important, because you're not only representing yourself and your company, but also all the guys who share the same working dress as you.
I remember myself as a kid, I was always fascinated by the flight crews walking to the airport terminal, and that was pushing me to work hard so I can be one of them one day. Today it's a big honour and proud moment every time I put my uniform on before going to work, hoping that I'm carrying the same image I was seeing as a kid, and making my passengers as confident and relaxed as the Pan Am's designers were aiming for.
Please meet SalahEddine Benbetka.
pictured in his Air Algerie First Officer Uniform
Photo credit @omar_dib_photography
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A personal account of the times by a newly hired stewardess
On July 20, 1969, it was the power of silence that marked my memory that day, at the Pan Am Stewardess College. The lunar module Eagle was about to land on the surface of the Moon, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong and Edwin A. “Buzz” Aldrin. I was living a momentous moment in history as the US raced for technological superiority with their Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. The serious expression of two Pan Am pilots caught my attention. The tenacious determination in their eyes, for success at any cost, made me think of their dogfight attitude that earned them the title of “Sky Gods.” How small the world suddenly seemed as I stared at the Moon’s surface. In that moment, I wanted to be an explorer. One who is brave enough to venture off the beaten path, not to follow others, but to find my own unique way to happiness and success. I thought of my Italian grandmother when she would point to the full moon and say. “Listen mia cara, there is a time for everything. You are your thoughts so the energy you give them creates your experiences. The moon will always listen to you and it will follow you wherever you go. It is the keeper of what is in your heart.” Loud cheers shattered my thoughts, as Armstrong became the first human to step on the Moon. He would come home with samples and scientific observations, but in that moment as he moved across its surface, studded with craters and strewn with rock and dust, I wondered what private message he would leave behind?
On September 1, 1969, I opened the Pan Am Clipper newspaper and read. “KNOW ALL YE BY THESE PRESENTS, that Dora Dudby has become a certified member of Pan Am’s First Moon Flights’ Club.” On the back of the card was Pan Am’s signature saying, “Pan Am makes the going great.” All you had to do was call Pan Am reservations and book a flight for the first lunar space tourism travel. Pan Am would handle the reservation with the same care and efficiency that you would expect from the most experienced airline in the world. Some 40,000, would-be moon flight passengers, had already signed up. At the end of the article titled “Give The Lady Her Ticket, Please!” was another article. In that story an overzealous lady in Sidney, Australia had called Pan Am reservations to book for the first commercial flight to Mars.
Pan American Airways Captain Robert Thomas Born joined the company in the early 1940s. The first stewardesses were also hired around that time, and the Captain was quite smitten with one of them.
An article written by one of those first stewardesses appeared in the October / November 1944 edition of the company magazine "New Horizons"
A few months after their first working flight together, that stewardess, Genevieve Baker married that pilot, and their aeromance lasted their whole lives.
Pan Am Museum thanks their daughter for submitting the personal images, and sharing their family's story.
Are you enjoying these "PAN AM'S WORLD" stories?
Eugene "Gene" Dunning asked his fellow Pan Amers to share their favorite "Pan Am Stories" which he gathered and complied. We encourage you to visit the EBAY site and purchase the book, "Voices of My Peers".
The Dunning Family has kindly indicated 50% of the sales price will benefit Pan Am Museum.
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The year was 1966. The war in southeast Asia had been simmering, percolating just below the boil for more years than we cared to count. By 1966 enough troops and material had been amassed in that poor and backward corner of the Third World that it was time for the commanders to seriously look at relief for some of the longer serving units. It only made good sense that instead of rotating entire units back stateside they would be given a hiatus from the awful conditions under which they lived and fought, and the war-weary GIs would be afforded the opportunity to sample the cultural diversities of the cities of east Asia. The operation was to be called "R & R," standing for Rest and Recuperation. It would require the use of enough commercial airliners to carry GIs out of Vietnam to the bright lights and flesh-pots of Asia, set them down for a week, and return them to the war zone to fight again. It was one of the only sensible decisions made by American commanders in that most unfortunate of wars.
Pan American Airways at the time was in a transition of equipment from the venerable propeller-driven transports of the fifties and early sixties to the jets which would eventually take over the skies. The last hurrah for the DC-6 at Pan Am was the Internal German Service, based in Berlin, and even now that venerable airliner was rapidly being replaced in Germany by the sparkling new B-727s. As the 6's were replaced they would be headed for the backwaters of aviation; to South America and Africa, there to spend their dying years carrying livestock, heavy equipment for distant oil fields, or worse; ending up forgotten and decaying in the corner of some airplane boneyard.
There was indeed one more mission, one more humanitarian task they could perform. Pan Am's DC-6s were offered to the government under contract to carry GIs to R & R for cost plus a dollar. How could any sane government functionary (an oxymoron?) refuse?
As so it came to pass that the old Douglas's made a slight detour on their way to pasture. They would rumble out to Hong Kong where they would form the backbone of Pan Am's contribution to the war effort. Since the only DC-6-qualified airmen in Pan Am's system were those in Berlin, flying out the days of the last pistons, it fell to us to man the new operation while newly-hired crews were trained and sent to Asia. We jumped at the chance to escape the dreary northern European weather and sample the exotica of Asia and the Pacific rim.
After a flurry of government-mandated paperwork, mostly involving visas, inoculations and other tiresome functions , we departed in twos and threes, embarking for the long tortuous flight aboard Pan Am's famous Flight Two, boarding at Frankfurt and finally coming to ground many sleepless hours later on another planet. We were in Hong Kong!
Our entry was not without its drama, however. Before our departure from Berlin we were assured that our lack of possession of a Hong Kong visa would present no problem; we would be admitted to the Crown Colony and then at our leisure we would pursue the intricacies of the visa experience. With eager anticipation we deplaned the shiny 707 and stood in line at the immigration desk. When we finally approached the grim, non-smiling functionary, passports in hand, we stood smiling, eager for the formality to be completed, and we would begin our Asian adventure. Not so fast!
A quick riff through the passports laid bare our horrible deficiency, and the immigration officer, no barrel of laughs in the first place, became more and more agitated, gesturing and waving excitedly at another no-nonsense officer, who approached and carefully examined our passports. A crowd of important-looking functionaries appeared like magic, and seriously took our case in hand. I didn’t think we looked much like terrorists bent on serious mischief, and my curiosity and amusement soon turned to worry…these guys were serious! I began looking around frantically for anyone in a blue Pan Am uniform. It wasn’t long before a tiny, diminutive woman in Pan Am blue appeared and soon was surrounded by this government bureaucracy, a little blue dot in a sea of grey officialdom. Serious negotiations ensued, with my wife and I hovering at the perimeter of this little knot of Asian efficiency, anxious to know our fate, but even more we were anticipating settling in to our hotel and finding a cold one.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Pan Am girl turned to us and smiled. We were graciously being allowed to enter the Hong Kong Crown Colony, provided we could provide proof of an onward booking, which was soon provided, in the form of an ersatz hastily scrawled ticket to Tokyo, with tomorrow’s date. We were to present ourselves in the morning at the visa office in Victoria to settle that little problem. At last we were in a taxi on our way to the Empress Hotel in Cameron Road, which would be our home for the next three months.
After a suitable period of decompression and recovery from a first degree case of jet lag, we were ready and raring to go. The mission was deceptively simple. Battle-hardened and frazzled GIs were pulled from the war zones and sent to one of several embarkation points. Danang, Cam Ranh Bay, Nha Trang, and Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon were the most prominent. The men were loaded aboard and flown to any one of a number of Asian cities for a week's R and R. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, and Singapore were the initial destinations; other cities were added as the program grew. Through a complex set of negotiations with the governments involved, immigration and customs formalities were kept to a minimum. Once the operation was up and running it was simply a matter of taking a load out of Vietnam, and bringing a load back. Needless to say the mood in the cabin peaked at wide extremes depending on whether the trip was headed out or back. The airline pulled out all the stops in the catering department. Kobe beef steaks, French fries, lots of cold milk and all the ice cream one could possibly eat made up the meal of choice. The flight crews dined on the same fare, but even for us such extravagant cuisine paled after a while. On about the third day of a six day trip we began to wish for chicken, or even fish -- anything to break the monotony of such sumptuous gluttony.
After a quick course in long-range operation of the airplane, we were thrown into the fray, and embarked on our first trips. None of us flight engineers had flown the airplane on a leg longer than two hours; in Europe the fuel requirements and the short flights in the '6 were simplicity itself. Some gas in the mains, off you go, and Bob's your uncle. But hidden perils lurked behind the innocent conduct of a flight from Hong Kong to anywhere. Any reader who has ever had a passing acquaintance with Mr. Douglas' piston airplanes knows what a labyrinthine maze their fuel systems could be. I learned the hard way early on.
On a flight from Saigon to Taipei we carried fuel not only in the mains, but in the auxiliaries and reserves as well. (Ancient piston drivers, bear with me. Memory may not serve with total accuracy the nomenclature of the tanks, but you get the idea.) After top of climb we settled into the cruise routine for the long flight across the South China Sea and the western Pacific. Mixtures were carefully leaned and spark advance set. After a bit it was time to reset the fuel panel. This was located in front of the center pedestal, behind the throttles and propeller controls. There were long levers which controlled the shutoff valves in each tank, and depending on the fuel load, there were a stupefying number of combinations with which to set the tank feed. The flight engineer (me) had to lean way over the pedestal in order to reach the controls. The captain on this trip was a laid-back old-timer who smoked a pipe (still acceptable in those days) and he leaned back in his seat and watched my efforts carefully. Tendrils of blue smoke curled gently from the smoldering briar and wafted over my shoulder. Finally satisfied, I sat back smugly.
It wasn't long before the skipper disengaged himself from his seat and disappeared aft. I clamored up onto his throne and settled in to enjoy the view from the best seat in the house. The sea below was a shimmering slate, and the sky ahead was dotted with puffy cumulus. How could life get any better than this? I was soon to find out.
Half an hour passed, and the flight deck settled comfortably into the ennui of a lengthy overwater trip. The first officer was absorbed in a manual of some sort, and I gazed out the window at my side. The captain was a garrulous sort, and had not returned from the passenger cabin. Suddenly our reverie was rudely shattered by the barking cough of the number 1 engine, followed by a series of backfires in quick succession. We shot bolt upright in our seats as the number 4 quickly followed suit. I reached down and slammed the mixtures to full rich, while staring at the panel of engine instruments. The fuel pressure gauges caught my eye, primarily because the needles on the outboard engines were wildly careening around the dials. The first officer grabbed the wheel and disconnected the autopilot, at the same time exclaiming, "Fuel panel! Check the fuel panel!" Startled, I reached over and slammed all the fuel valve levers to the forward position, opening all of them. After an eternity, while we gently massaged the throttles and mixtures, the outboards finally caught and resumed their healthy roar. My heart settled down to a trip-hammer rate, and I wiped beads of sweat from my brow. In a moment I was composed enough to get out the book and carefully reset the fuel feed.
Suddenly I realized that the captain had not reappeared. I looked aft through the open cockpit door and saw him slowly sauntering forward. He stopped in the entrance and shifted the pipe from one side of his mouth to the other. He gazed at me without saying anything. "Little screw-up in the fuel sequencing," I stammered, shame-faced. I unfolded myself from his seat to let him back in.
"Well," he drawled, after he had settled himself. "I didn't think it looked exactly right, but I figured you probably knew what you were doing, so I didn't say anything." It was an abrupt and exciting initiation into the oceanic operation.
I took a healthy ribbing from the flight attendants on our way to the hotel in Taipei. They were a venerable, uninhibited bunch, not above exploiting the chinks in the veneer of cockpit crew perfection with mirth and enjoyment. The following night the wet-behind-the-ears flight engineer was to have another adventure, although nowhere near as heart-stopping as starving two of the airplane's four engines of fuel.
We were the same crew, departing Taipei just at dusk for the five-hour flight to Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo. By the time we leveled off in cruise full darkness had fallen. We flew in an ocean of black, the sky above dimpled with stars that shed just enough light to outline the occasional cloud formation. After dinner the skipper again went back into the cabin to socialize, and once again I occupied the left seat. This time I had made double sure of the fuel feed sequence, and the four big Pratts rumbled along contentedly. I gazed below into the blackness, and then sat abruptly upright in the seat, heart pounding. Now I am pretty good at world geography, and I knew without really thinking that if one flew straight from Taipei to Tokyo the trip was all over water. But here we were over land, and there was a major city below us, or at least a good-sized town. Good God, we had strayed over mainland China! A curious tingling sensation began between my shoulder blades, in immediate anticipation of a barrage of .50-caliber bullets that I was sure any second would slam into the defenseless Douglas. We would fall victim to the Red Guards and the Cultural Revolution! I looked over at the first officer. His eyes were closed and his head nodded on his chest. "Clyde!" I fairly shouted. "Get your charts out! Where in the hell are we?"
Eyes opened wide in startled surprise, Clyde looked around hurriedly, straining to get his bearings. I pointed frantically downward at the thousands of lights that stretched to the horizon. Before I could say anything more, he looked over the side for a long moment, then settled wearily back in his seat. A long sigh escaped his lips. "Fishing fleet, John. Just fishing boats. They're all over the ocean around here." In a moment his head nodded chestward and silence once again engulfed the cockpit.
Operating in and out of Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport was an experience unto itself. It was like no other airport in the world. While the other strips that we flew out of were primarily military bases, the airport at Saigon wore many faces. It bravely attempted to be a commercial airport like any other, with everyday airline operations trying valiantly to pretend that things were normal, coexisting with the maelstrom of military hardware fighting a war swirling around them. Even Pan American sent its 707 round-the-world flights One and Two into Tan Son Nhut on a weekly basis. Most of the time the airport made O'Hare look like a sleepy country strip. The ramp was an overwhelming place. 707s and DC-8s under military charter carried troops and materiel in and out; military C-130s from countless different squadrons and with just as many esoteric missions kept up a steady stream as they taxied to and fro, their unique rumble trembling the gut as they passed. Helicopters of every description, led by the workhorse Hueys, buzzed like malevolent insects. There were Vietnamese Air Force fighter units based there as well, flying ancient hardware that has a habit of trickling down to the Third World. Venerable C-47s and C-46s completed the mix, along with the occasional B-26.
The airport had intersecting runways, which proved to be a mere annoyance, as operations were conducted simultaneously on both. Controllers took great pride in threading the needle at the intersection, seeing just how close they could cut it. Occasionally a flight of fighters would return with one or more of their number shot up, requiring the controllers to break out all the existing traffic until the wounded had safely landed. This resulted in a fur-ball of major proportions orbiting near the field, each pilot jockeying for position when the field re-opened. The controllers were native Vietnamese, some with limited language and/or controller skills. The sheer volume of traffic would have been daunting to an experienced journeyman, and at times the local controllers were simply overwhelmed. It was then that the down-home drawl of a GI controller would come on the mike, and laconically unravel the havoc. When things had returned to some semblance of normal (a relative term), back came the Asian controller to begin the process all over again.
The normal entry into Tan Son Nhut used by the big transports was called a "Canyon Approach." It called for the initial approach to be made at 5,000 feet above the field, an altitude safely out of range of snipers perched off the end of the runway. Once the runway had nearly disappeared under the nose, gear and full flaps went down, and the props into fine pitch. Over went the nose, pointing straight at the touchdown zone. It was a maneuver that demanded great skill and the courage to wait until the very last minute to complete. It was exciting to sit through, particularly the last few feet before the flare.
Once safely on the ground and disembarked, Tan Son Nhut assaulted all the senses. The heat and humidity were unlike any other in Southeast Asia, and the noise and clamor and hubbub were nearly disorienting in their sheer intensity. Quickly in and quickly out was the name of the game; not only was ramp space at a precious premium, but the longer on the ground the greater exposure to dangers unknown.
The operation lasted the better part of three years with the venerable DC-6. Eventually the 707s and the new B-727s took over the job, and the old Douglas finally flew into the sunset as part of Pan American's fleet. Many ended up in Latin America and Africa, and not a few simply expired in the boneyards of the world. Their last hurrah was a stirring and exciting one, a fitting climax to the old girls' career.
Pan Am Museum is especially thankful that Captain John Marshall is an active and respected member of Pan Am Museum Foundation's Board of Directors.
Boarding Pan American Airways Super 6 Douglas DC-6B "Clipper Ponce de Leon" in 1955. Their father, R.H. Roschelau, was the Airport Manager at Helsinki Airport. One sister grew up to become a Pan Am Stewardess.
We celebrate Pan Am People & History here at the museum. We thank Pamela Constance Ruschelau-Enari and her sister, Susie Ruschelau, for sharing this moment with us.
Mr Ruschelau's career as an airport manager took him all over the world.
"Recently, I read an article concerning “Ball Lightning” written by Dr. Graham K. Hubler, Ph.D. The article reminded me of an unforgettable experienced I had in the late 1960’s during one of my Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) Boeing 707 flights as a stewardess. At that time, Pan Am was the principal and largest international airline in the United States.
In the late 1960’s stewardesses were privileged with unrestricted access within the airplane. Unfortunately, subsequent to the tragic 9/11 event the aviation industry has changed forever. In the 1960’s the cockpit was not locked and with the captain’s consent we could sit on the pilot jump-seat during take-offs and landings. Presently, the cockpit is securely locked and jump-seats are limited to deadheading pilots returning to their home base.
This event occurred during the glamorous era when Pan Am was at its pinnacle in the airline industry. Private planes were an unrealistic expectation and Pan Am tickets were an extravagant expense.
Pan Am welcomes Class #26, to the International Stewardess College in Miami! Their graduation date --July 25, 1967. Women from Mexico, England, Sweden, Germany, and many states across the U.S. are represented here. We thank stewardess Najla (Evelyn Tanous, first row, first on left) for sharing these with Pan Am Museum.
As customary, the Pan Am Purser (lead cabin crew member) was provided with a copy of the manifest of passengers prior to their embarkation. With this pearl of knowledge, the purser apprised the cabin crew of “Who’s Who” on the flight. This information assured Pan Am that the crew’s demeanor would be composed and sophisticated when welcoming aboard a famous passenger such as a member of a royal family, famous movie actors, high ranking politicians etc.
The gourmet meal service consisted of several courses and was catered by one of the most famous restaurants of its time in the world, Maxim’s of Paris. The numerous courses were served on fine china, crystal glasses, and silver plated flatware with the Pan Am logo. Once the meal service was complete the satiated passengers started to get comfortable with their complimentary Pan Am socks and blankets in anticipation of a long nap until the breakfast service. At that time, the cabin crew would dim the cabin lights dark enough to encourage the passengers to sleep. (no TV, music or internet).
After the meal service, the protocol allowed for some of the stewardesses to rest in the back of the plane until the preparation of the breakfast service. On this particular flight I was one of the crew members on night watch.
As soon as everyone appeared settled, with occasional snoring, I started to walk up the aisle from the back of the plane to insure that every passenger had their seat-belt buckled as we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. BANG! Our airplane was hit by lightning. All of a sudden, this flight became one of my more momentous transatlantic flights.
At that time, I was unaware that thunderstorms were very stressful and anxious moments for the pilots. Evidently, on December 8, 1963, a Boeing 707 Pan Am flight 214 was in a holding pattern waiting for permission to land when a lightning hit the plane and it exploded. Also, in 1967, was the last confirmed civilian aircraft to have been hit by lightning and crash, according to Lightning Technologies. Presently, there have been many changes to insure that such catastrophes no longer occur.
Within a few seconds of the lighting strike, I could see a bright ball of light about two feet wide, originating from the cockpit. The light illuminated the cabin as it levitated down the aisle towards me. I froze as the bright ball of light flew right through me and exited through the tail of the plane. It lasted a matter of seconds. Several passengers lifted up their heads, did not see anything and went back to sleep. I tried to maintain a calm demeanor as I “rushed” to the cockpit. Upon entering I saw the pilots faces were distressed and ashen in color. I asked what happened and they informed me with relief that we were hit by lightning, however, we were lucky to be safe. They lamented how no one knows why some lightning strikes explode airplanes and others do not. One pilot expressed that it could be the altitude or barometric pressure that makes the difference, however, no one knows.
I thank Dr. Graham K. Hubler, Ph.D., a nuclear physicist who worked 40 years for the Naval Research Laboratory, and presently is the Director of the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance at Missouri University, for giving me the reason and knowledge to write this article regarding an incident that happened to me so many decades ago. Dr. Hubler, is a prolific scientist, writing over 100 journal articles and procuring numerous patents. He has been fascinated with Ball Lightnings since he was a teenager as you will note in the attached YouTube. I believe that Ball Lightning still remains an unknown phenomenon."
"I am attaching the clip where another stewardess had a similar experience on a flight with a Ball Lightning, however, she did not have any physical contact with it."
Mid 1980’s. Flight 188.
"Our crew had just had a 3 day layover in Monrovia, Liberia. We boarded our B-747-100 early that morning for what was to be a routine day flying to Nairobi with a stop in Lagos, Nigeria. We departed Roberts Field (Monrovia) on time at 8:15am for the 2:10 flight to Lagos. All was normal until we descended below 14,000 ft. The crew was preparing the cabin for landing and I was in the galley between L2/R2 finishing up paperwork.
The 747 started vibrating in an unusual way. I at first thought it was just the descent however several of us looked at each other but didn’t speak. In a split second all my paperwork flew out of the galley never to be found. The cabin filled with so much dust i could not see the back of the airplane. Then a loud banging. The L2 door had cracked open ever so slightly and created a whirlwind effect moving everything around in the cabin. No masked dropped as we were now well below 14,000 ft. I immediately called the cockpit but no answer. I got on the PA and asked the FA’s to take the closet seat and stay. I went to the upper deck and opened the cockpit door. I immediately saw the red light on the L2 door lit up on the flight engineers panel. I said “we have a serious issue”. He was a tall lanky older engineer and proceeded to tell me the door can’t crack open and it was most likely a short in the panel.
I told (didn’t ask) him to get up and look in the cabin. As he walked out the cockpit door into the upper deck area I heard oh ($@?&). He immediately went back into the cockpit. The captain then made an announcement.
Not being able to see through the cabin, Jeanette French remembers me on the PA saying “I need to hear from my FA’s”. Everyone was accounted for but 1. At this point we are all strapped in the jumpseats with no one at L2. The missing FA had backed herself in between two carts in the galley.
After we landed in Lagos we took a delay while operations brought a cable onboard and tied the door handle down. We moved all passengers around as there was a 50 seat rule if you have an inoperative door.
We then left for our 5:00 flight to Nairobi. The following day we boarded the plane for our return to Lagos and Monrovia. Door still inoperative. The 747 flew back to JFK with the inoperative door.
Weeks later after the door had been repaired we heard of another crew experiencing the same issue on the same 747.
I loved flying back in the day."
"I miss the PanAm Building.
Atop Murray Hill early this morning, I found myself profoundly missing the Pan Am Building. Well, I don’t miss the building per se since it still stands with MetLife emblazoned at its top. When it was graced with “Pan Am” at its sleek international style crown and the Pan Am globe logo festooned atop its tapered sides, 200 Park Avenue seemed…romantic.
When I looked up at the Pan Am Building, I was inspired to look outward, to travel to Dubrovnik, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Bangkok and everywhere else that airline’s planes landed. Moreover, I looked forward to seeing the travelers from all those places right here in New York City.
More than figurative, romance inspired by Pan Am was real. On a solo flight from Madrid to New York in the airline’s waning heyday, I caught the eye of not one but two flight attendants, one female and the other male. Although I was seated in the 747’s coach cabin, the two attendants plied me with flutes of champagne from the forward cabins throughout the flight. Who wouldn’t love being the object of that game? Within days of landing, a brief but memorable affair ensued with one of the two.
Finance rules NYC more than ever now, as the MetLife Building reminds us. While finance business is global, there is little romantic in being plied with actuarial life tables or credit default swap terms. Then again, perhaps I am lacking in imagination as money is quite romantic for some.
So, yeah, I miss the Pan Am Building although not for the “Mad Men” period in which it rose – I would be just another invisible man in that world. No, I miss the Pan Am building for what it inspired us to be – outward looking and accepting. That loss in the shelter-in-place moment in which we find ourselves seems even greater now."
Shared with permission, thegverse@Instagram, Glenn Davis.
"One bright day I got home from the machine shop and there was a penny post card from aviation school saying I could have a job with Pan American Airways (PAA), provided I could pass the physical. I started on May 5, 1941 in the sheet metal shop; and the first job on aircraft was to drill a stop hole in a little crack in the forward bulkhead of the Sikorsky S-42. Boy, did I fall in love with the PAA aircraft."
He certainly did. Henry "Hank" Anholzer stayed with Pan American World Airways forty-one years. His retirement plaque is home here at the museum.
1979: Pan American World Airways' employees Mr Hank Anholzer and Mr Emil Feroldi, pictured along with another volunteer, working on restoring aircraft at a newly formed air and space museum on Long Island, New York. Pan Am also donated the paint and tools used.
Pictured today, that same aircraft, flying above, in a hangar at that same, bigger and bolder Cradle of Aviation Museum. It's our home too -- third floor wing visit Pan Am Museum Foundation, Inc.
Faced with impending collapse, South Vietnam braced for the incoming communist army.
At Tan Son Nhut (Saigon) Airport, Pan American World Airways Station Manager's main concern was how to get the employees, their families and as many others, out of Vietnam.
Scrambling for legal paperwork, aircraft, crews, a destination, and a plan, the airport Station Manager coordinated the evacuation of more than 300 Vietnamese Pan Am employees and their families on April 24, 1975. The week before, he helped coordinate Operation Baby Lift evacuating over 600 orphaned babies.
On May 1st, 1975, Saigon fell.
Pan American World Airways Saigon Station Manager Mr Al Topping and a few of his Vietnamese staff honored at Pan Am Museum’s 2019 Gala. Mr Topping was involved with Operation Babylift and we encourage you to watch the based on actual events movie, about that Pan Am flight on April 25, 1975, the “Last Flight Out”. Mr Topping is played by James Earl Jones.
A yellowed & faded image of Pan American World Airways Stewardess (Purser) Ms Mary Butterworth was carefully placed in a scrapbook. When asked, the memory of her was not faded, it was crisp and fresh like a winter morning.
She was a co-worker, she was beautiful, she was a wonderful woman, she...she...she... The man’s eye’s swelled with tears.
Ms Mary Butterworth went down with Pan American World Airways Flight 812 on April 22, 1974. The Boeing 707 crashed into the mountainous region of Indonesia, just some miles from the airport. The area was inaccessible, the rescue and recovery was hampered. No one survived and not everyone’s remains were recovered.
In 2014, a Pan American Memorial was restored and rededicated to the victims of the crash. It is in Padang Galak. Ms Mary Butterworth, and the others, are not forgotten.
A FRIEND AND FELLOW PAN AMERS MEMORY:
Margie Perry "Thank you for honoring the crew on flight 812 and posting this story. I want to share my story with you. I was flying for Pan Am out of Los Angeles as Purser. There were two Pursers on each flight (in charge of each cabin). We would fly together for a month and could “team bid.” You became good friends quickly. LAX was small and many Pursers and Flight Attendants flew together often. In 1974, My cabin crew and I went up the side of our 707 on a scaffolding type of stairs. When we got to the top there was already a crew onboard. The crew were my good friends. I had just flown a month with the Chief Purser, Mary Butterworth. I said, “You’re on my plane, are you going to London with us???” “No, this is our plane, we’re going to Hong Kong.” After a few minutes of talking and laughing I realized we were on the wrong plane. We hugged goodbye, wished each other a good trip and looked forward to seeing each other again in two weeks.
Mary, the Chief Purser on the HKG flight was engaged to marry her fiancé, a lawyer. I was to be at the wedding.
Several days later people started calling me, “Are you OK? “ I was but my dear friends were not. Their flight slammed into a mountain in Bali and they were all killed. For the next year I flew to Bali. Not because I chose it, but because I was junior and nobody wanted to go there. Every trip I would stand on the tarmac and talk to the “trees” and tell them how angry I was that they left me. To this day, I see their smiling faces in the FICL door. I will always miss them, and I will always have them in my heart. I think of them so often, to this day, and I’m thankful they were part of my life. I will never forget, and my heart is heavy when I think of them. I tear up so easily. But, I try to focus on the fabulous trips and layovers we shared. Friends forever."
March 26, 1955. Pan American World Airways Boeing 377 N1032V “Clipper United States” departs Seattle headed to Australia with 8 crew and 15 passengers.
About one hour into the flight 10,000 feet above the unforgiving Pacific Ocean, engine number three began to violently vibrate, and broke off from the wing, plummeting to the ocean floor. The Boeing 377 will soon follow.
Captain Herman S. Joslyn ditched the aircraft with a hard landing on the surface of the ocean. Life rafts were quickly inflated as there are survivors.
Purser Natalie Parker was thrown upon impact with the water, she is injured but dutifully continued her role in getting survivors out of the aircraft onto life rafts. Some passengers had jumped from the now sinking aircraft. It is noted that Natalie swam after a distressed passenger bringing him to the life raft.
The USS Bayfield rushed to the scene and rescued 19 passengers and crew out of the total 23 that were on board. Sadly Flight Officer Angus Gustavus Hendrick Junior and Flight Engineer Donald Read Fowler, after successfully ditching the aircraft, were among those lost.
Part One: March 16, 1963 Pan American World Airways N758PA Boeing 707 "Clipper Resolute's" one-hundred-eleven passengers are seated, the doors close, and the aircraft begins its departure from Tokyo to Honolulu.
But Mrs Shek Ong Yeun has carried aboard more than just her carry-on, she is carrying, she is pregnant, but realizes not for much longer.
She quietly presses the stewardess call button.
The flight crew jump into action. Purser Philip Jones and stewardesses Astrid Lee and Claudia Laudon, along with fellow passenger cardiac surgeon Dr Djan Raj Mahajan and leading Swedish obgyn Dr Ake Kjessler begin to help with the delivery.
History shows very few babies have been born in flight. "Clipper Resolute" is now 35,000 feet above the vast and unforgiving Pacific Ocean. Past the point of no return.
A baby girl cries. Five pounds and fourteen ounces, she is the last to board today's flight. Her parents promptly name her "Fan Mei", which in their first language, translates to "Pan Am". We truly are honored.
Part Two: Skyborn is used to identify babies born on board an aircraft inflight. History shows there are actually very few of these babies.
In our history, Pan American World Airways has known a few. Pictured is Pan Am DTSM (Station Manager) Honolulu Mr Ernest Albercht presenting Mr & Mrs Shek Hong Yeun with a "Certificate Born on Aircraft" for their baby daughter Fan Mei who just arrived on the "Clipper Resolute", March 16,1963.
Pictured is nineteen year old Fan Mei (which by the way translates to Pan Am) as she and her mother board a Pan American World Airways flight to attend a family reunion in Hong Kong, 1982.
PART ONE: 1962, Fiji Islands, a beautiful place for a layover. The crew set out on a 22 foot sloop for a day of skin diving and fishing. Pan American World Airways Captain John Willis Adriance, Co-Pilot W. Keene Langhorne, Stewardesses Stella Navarro, Gudrun Meisner and Peggy Kircher expect this to be a three hour tour.
The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. A gust of wind capsizes the boat. Everyone on board was tossed into the Pacific Ocean, miles from shore.
Clinging to the overturned boat, a role call is shouted out. Are we all here? Is anyone hurt? The sun sets, and the dark of night has begun.
PART TWO: Fiji Islands, on layover a Pan American World Airways crew takes a day trip on a 22 foot sloop. But the boat capsizes, and the first search aircraft do not spot them in the dark of night.
The sun rises. Morning role call. Everyone is accounted for - all tied together with a rope the ship's captain had retrieved from the overturned boat they now cling to.
A second search plane misses them. A decision is made to swim.
Five hours later, needing at some point to fend off sharks, the crew makes landfall on a deserted island. Twenty-two hours. Burned skin and dehydration. Will another search plane pass overhead?
One does. Pan American World Airways Captain John Willis Adriance, Co-Pilot W. Keene Langhorne, Stewardesses Stella Navarro, Gudrun Meisner and Peggy Kircher, along with the crew of the ship "Levuka" live to tell the tale.
EPILOGUE: Katie Adriance Rippentrop I have never heard about this! Captain Adriance is my father! So interesting! This happened the year that my brother was born...1962! I’m so surprised my mother never told me about this! Maybe he never told her? 😐
He reported for work at Fiumicino International Airport, (Leonardo DiVinci Airport, Rome) like any other day, but this would not be. It is December 17, 1973, and Pan American World Airways N407PA Boeing 707 "Clipper Celestial" was fully loaded with passengers and crew. Lead Mechanic and Supervising Engineer Servilio "Silvio" Galletti was on the flight deck, signing off on the logbook when terrorists boarded and exploded a bomb into the aircraft.
Hit by shrapnel and injured, Silvio opened the cockpit door and fully entered the smoke filled and burning aircraft to assist crew in opening the emergency exit door over the wing, and getting the remaining passengers out of the jet.
No one in the front of the plane survived. All other passengers escaped, with the guidance of the crew and Mr Galletti.
Diego Galletti "I remember very well that day: I was at school and my mother came to pick me up earlier...Once out of the building, she told me that my dad was in the hospital after he survived a terrorist attack at the airport. I am very proud of what he did that day: he kept saying he wanted to help more people to egress , but for some the startle and the fear blocked every action...and they perished...I remember he wanted to leave the hospital earlier in order to spend the Christmas holiday with the family, but being wounded by schrapnel, I volunteered to clean its scars and wounds every day ...it was the best Christmas Eve I can remember...And I feel very sorry for the ones who did not have the same luck and lost their beloved ones..."
We thank his son who followed in his fathers aviation footsteps (diego7675 Instagram) for sharing the personal photographs.
PART ONE: December 3, 1987: A US Air Force military family checked in, and checked their luggage, including one Cargo Pet Carrier, with Felix the Cat as its passenger. Leaving Frankfurt to a base in California, the family boarded the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
When arriving in LAX, Felix's pet carrier was empty. The family burst into tears. A paper report was written, lost luggage, but that piece of paper could not tell of the grief.
N727PA "Clipper Belle of the Sky" had a very busy schedule. She flies the world: LAX, Dulles, New York, Frankfurt, London, Nice, Rome, Madrid, Zurich and back. The Boeing 747 cargo hold is vast, and an aircraft this size has many places a small stowaway can hide. Is Felix still on board? Is that a cat the cargo handlers spot while loading the plane in Heathrow?
Just before the new year rang in, Felix was coaxed from her hiding spot on the aircraft, and immediately put into quarantine due to the United Kingdom's laws. Three days is given for the owner to pick her up, or Felix is doomed. But Pan Am in Heathrow have no idea where, or when, this cat got onboard. Is it a passengers? If so, who? The cat isn't speaking....
"Jane Ford ...I know exactly what happened next ...."
PART TWO: A frightened cat has just been coaxed from the cargo belly of Boeing 747 "Clipper Belle of the Sky". She's a bit skinny, and does not have baggage tag attached, so who does she belong to? Pan Am has three days before the cat loses its last life to United Kingdom's unclaimed animal quarantine laws.
Pan Am employee Jane Ford was compelled to act. She put out a wire to the worldwide network of Pan Am employees who raised the money necessary to keep the cat alive, in quarantine, at least for a little while longer.
A Pan Am employee across the pond saw the wire. Phyliss Seskin, assigned to the central tracing unit, manually read all the recent lost baggage paper claims and found the one about Felix. She contacted the family in California.
Felix the Cat made headlines WORLDWIDE. Johnny Carson mentioned her in his monologue. It is believed she set records: 29 days as a stowaway, 64 flights, three continents, traveling a total of 179,000 miles.
January 21, 1988, Felix and Jane flew Pan American World Airways First Class with caviar to LAX where the cat's family was there to greet her, along with reporters and photographers, all amazed at her journey.
1941: Walker Air Force Base opens as the Army Air Corps Flying School, but it is generally not known for that. In 1947 a much controversial landing occurred here when it was known as Roswell Army Airfield.
Roswell Army Airfield officially closed with its secrets in 1967.
Two years later another fascinating landing and worldwide news: Pan American World Airways Boeing 747 N733PA “Clipper Young America “. Pan Am used Roswell Airfield (ROW) as the flight training base for those new additions to the aircraft fleet.
We thank Rob pictured with the camera and his father Pan Am Captain Robert C Hummel Junior who was among the first crew of pilots trained at Roswell, for these fantastic personal photographs.
Right Place, Right Time: The Man on the Magazine
The cover of the October 20th, 1941 issue of LIFE magazine is a portrait of the famous Boeing 314 flying boat being serviced by a crew of Pan Am mechanics at LaGuardia Marine Terminal, New York. The photograph was intended to capture the aircraft in such a way to communicate its massive size. Pictured above are seven men performing routine maintenance to the aircraft. What’s interesting about this photograph is the man standing on the hub of the propeller. That man’s name was William “Red” Eberhart. A quiet, yet intelligent man, Bill was given the name “Red” by his co-workers for his auburn colored hair. Red was just 19 years old when he began working for Pan Am in 1939. He would remain with Pan Am for the next 42 years, until his death in 1981.
Red, and other mechanics of the B-314, had the opportunity to work on one of the most advanced pieces of aviation technology of their time. Mechanics of the 314 used to fly with the plane, performing maintenance and repairs when the plane traveled. This was due to the fact that no one else but Pan Am personnel had the know-how, facilities, or the tools to work on these planes. In addition to the exterior access hatches, there were two interior access doors on either side of the flight deck. If needed, the engineer could shut the trouble engine down and a mechanic could climb into the wing and proceed to work on the engine mid-flight.
On the morning these photos were taken, Red was performing a routine maintenance inspection on the engines of the Dixie Clipper. He was pulled away from his task by his foreman who informed him that there were photographers coming by to take pictures of the plane. He was told that in order to show the scale of the plane in the photo, the photographers wanted a tall man standing on the hub of the propeller, next to one of the 6ft long props.
Red, being 6ft tall, was asked to stand in. Red didnt care what the reason was; the only thing he was concerned about was the fact that if he slipped, it was a 25 foot drop before he hit the water. Reluctantly, Red agreed to stand in. Little did he know, this staged photo would be published on the cover of LIFE. It wasn’t until sometime in October of 1941, when Red was walking past a newsstand, did he recognize himself on the cover of the magazine. He promptly bought two copies; kept one at home, and the other at his desk for the next 40 years...
Written by Matt Eberhart, William "Red" Eberhart's grandson and Pan Am Museum valued volunteer
Pan Am Museum is always honored when former employees visit. Meet JFK Worldport Passenger Service Representative Peter Roseen. He came by to donate his uniform, and other treasures.
Later, Mr Roseen invited us to his home, where he shared more of his memories.
"Crouching low to present as small a target as possible, Pan American World Airways deadheading Captain Paul Lachapelle sprinted toward safety down a dimly outlined taxiway.
Suddenly in his path loomed a rickety bus, its lights extinguished and entry door open. Much as he welcomed the protection, the pilot was greatly concerned for the safety of the 747’s crew members, last known to be on the flight deck.
Another burst of machine gun fire motivated him to jump quickly into the bus and dive to the floor, where he found himself alongside of First Officer Pat Levix, Captain John Walter "Jack" Priddy, Flight Engineer Julius Dzuiba, (the Pan Am Flight Crew) plus many passengers and cabin crew members."
This is September 6, 1970, in Cairo, Egypt, the "Clipper Fortune" was hijacked in what is now referred to as the "Dawson Field Hijackings". The aircraft was blown to pieces after landing. We welcomed Captain Paul Lachapelle as a Honoree at the 2019 Pan Am Museum Gala.
How did they survive? Here is the Captain Lachapelle's full recollection:
"Thank you for your dedication to Pan American World Airways. Hopefully others will find some of the items as touching and meaningful as this one letter has been to you. My brother and I are so very happy that this information can now be shared with others in the Pan American family. Again, Thank You for your help."
From Dean Baxter (son of Captain Paul Baxter) and Family
To have the love of your life once, is wonderful. To have three loves, simultaneously, well that's another Pan Am Story.
Pan American World Airways Captain Wayne Poulsen married Manhattan socialite Gladys Olga “Sandy” Kunau, and purchased undeveloped land in a winter wonderland. His career flew sky high, his marriage flourished, and so did the ski area he helped found, Squaw Valley.
Three loves: Skiing, Flying, Sandy. Maybe not in that order.
Captain Wayne Poulsen joined Pan American World Airways in 1943 and stayed 31 years.
July 24, 1915 marks his birthday, Mr Poulsen passed in 1995.
We thank his family for sharing these personal photos.
A two year stint at a community college got this local boy a coveted stint with Pan American World Airways, a job he began in 1961.
He didn't make news breaking flight records, he didn't impress delegates or celebrities by pouring drinks at 35,000 feet, he didn't work at the airport fixing the planes or managing passengers. But he showed up for work everyday, at the newly opened Pan Am Building in New York City, proud to have moved up from the mailroom to Revenue & Statistics, a department he stayed with, til the end, thirty years later, 1991.
Today, I found his missing 20 year service pin among some of his other random items. Frank P. Cattano, Jr. has long passed. He would have loved what I do now. You see, I share his story, all your stories, I am his daughter, and I volunteer for Pan Am Museum.
Deborah Ann Cattano Gaudioso