AAL0616 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 272 posts, RR: 4 Posted (5 years 11 months 2 days ago) and read 3312 times:
For Latin America and Miami aviation buffs, today is the 80th anniversary of Pan American Grace Airways, or Panagra.
Pan American Airways and the W. R. Grace Company formed the joint venture to essentially operate service between Panama and Chile via Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Service was then flown over the Andes from Chile to Argentina. Service was also extended north to Miami. Panagra service was promoted and sold in conjunction with Pan American service
The reason for Panagra was simply that Grace, with its strong business and shipping ties up and down the west coast blocked Pan American from developing an independent route system. Nor did Grace have the expertise or interest to run a competitive air carrier, so a compromise was reached.
Panagra flew with markings similar to Pan American, as did other subsidiaries such as Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, Cubana de Aviacion and Panair do Brasil. Panagra's colors were essentially green and gold as opposed to the Pan American blue and silver.
Panagra flew up until the era of DC-8 jet equipment. Earlier, Panagra DC-6 "El Pacifico" and DC-7 "El Interamericano" aircraft were a daily familiar sight at MIA on the then-new Concourse E (now "inner" E). Panagra crew and staff were a distinct community within the Pan American family, with legendary early and harrowing flying experiences in the Andes and flying reliable service into stations such as LPB.
Interchange services were promoted with National Airlines for flights from Miami north to New York, et. al., as well as (for the time) seamless "alliance" connections with Pan Am.
Panagra was sold to Braniff International on January 8, 1967. Her DC-8 fleet was repainted in Braniff's "flying colors." Panagra had operated a quasi "regional" or multinational carrier for the Andes countries. More or less, Grace wanted out and Pan Am was blocked by Washington from buying the Grace share. Braniff was the logical shotgun wedding partner.
Braniff sold the former Panagra business and its own original franchise from Texas to South America (routes in the west that paralleled Panagra) to Eastern when they hit the financial wall soon after US airline deregulation. The "creative" Harding Lawrence and sidekick Ed Acker went crazy flying very thin and odd domestic and international routes, including exotic Asian services with 747-SPs. They "lost their shirt." That is a story for another thread.
Eastern operated the system until it, too, was terminally ill, That is when the current owner,
American and Bob Crandall wisely swooped in, scooped up the franchise and established the company's now mega MIA hub and Latin dominance upon the deaths of Eastern and Pan Am, picking up specific Pan Am routes flying south and over to LHR to completely fit together the puzzle pieces of MIA and thus "Inter-American" dominance as Delta and United essentially abstained.
So that is a thumbnail sketch of Panagra, founded eighty years ago today.