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Pan Am's History  
User currently offlineStevenjehly From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5729 times:

Good day all. While browsing the Aviation Safety Network web site I ran across some disturbing (and interesting) data about Pan Am. It can be located at ASN Aviation Safety Database. It seems that Pan Am had a pretty bad safety record - my opinion. The database lists 76 occurrences between July 1938 - December 1988; some with dire consequences. That struck me as a large number; or, is this in fact, not a large number? I have always had the greatest respect for, and interest in, Pan Am. They were pioneers in long-haul, over water routs. Their work into and out of Viet Nam is legendary. Their list of firsts is long. I have always regarded Pan American as one of the world's best airlines.
Maybe it is because of this pioneering effort they incurred a great number of "incidents". I have not compared their record with any other airline. Aviation in those early days was far from a safe undertaking. I marveled at those Martin M-130's and Boeing 314's hopscotching down the Pacific.
Was Pan Am's safety record any worse than other airlines? Maybe some of you out there can shed some light on how it was back then. I would also be interested in good books about the history of Pan Am. Regards to all.

30 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineJfk777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 8375 posts, RR: 7
Reply 1, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5700 times:
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The definitive Pan Am history is a book called," The Chosen Instrument" which was written in teh early 1980's when many Pan AM pioneers were still alive.

User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6907 posts, RR: 46
Reply 2, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5708 times:

You should read "Skygods" by Robert Gandt. He was a Pan Am pilot, and goes into great detail about the culture of "captain as God" culture that led to a spate of crashes in the 70's, when most airlines were improving their safety record. The FAA came down hard on Pan Am and it resulted in them instituting a form of CRM before it became widespread; in fact, it is my opinion that because of this if the planes at Tenerife had been reversed, and it had been the Pan Am plane that was about to take off without clearance the other crew members would have stepped up and stopped it. As to the earlier record, do not forget that prior to the jet age accidents were pretty much a fact of life, and Pan Am did fly to many places that nobody else did, and some of them were hazardous.
I do not share your nostalgia for Pan Am. It was built on the back of Juan Trippe's political machinations much more than by technical or business excellence, and the number of backroom deals that sabotaged would-be competitors was incalculable. For an example read Ernest Gann's "Fate is the Hunter"; Ernest Gann flew for Matson Airlines until they were scuttled by Pan Am's political chicanery. Only Howard Hughes was able to successfully defy Trippe; the recent movie "The Aviator" gives what I believe a fairly accurate depiction of how Trippe tried to sabotage TWA. And once Trippe departed the scene, Pan Am had all of Trippe's enemies working against it and none of its former friends, and so its fall was almost inevitable. Coupled with the fact that Trippe had not shared leadership and did not groom a successor, and Pan Am ended up with a string of inept leaders, it is no surprise that it collapsed. One interesting note: Pan Am flew a daily 707 to the island where Trippe retired to for years; it was nearly empty every time. It did have one very important mission, however; to deliver Trippe's copy of the Wall Street Journal.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineKaitak From Ireland, joined Aug 1999, 12472 posts, RR: 37
Reply 3, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5669 times:

Yes, PAA had a lot of accidents, but then again, so did most airlines; look at KLM, BEA/BOAC, other US carriers; I don't think PA was alone in having a bad accident record. Other factors do need to be considered:

1) Society then was a lot less litigious than now; airlines could survive accidents much moreso than now; arguably, the cost of PA 103 in 1988, its last crash, helped to destroy it, although most of the damage had been done by then;
2) Navigational aids were a lot less advanced;
3) PA was a trailblazer; it was the first to operate many types, so it ran into problems sooner, although it has to be said that PA wasn't the first to lose a 707.
4) Some of PA's experiences - again because it was among the first - led to changes, for example one of its first 707 losses, the explosion over Elkton, Maryland, resulted in the use of JP4 fuel being banned for airlines - changing to the less volatile Jet A1
5) PA did have quite a few types which never suffered accidents, such as the L1011, DC8 (I think), Airbus A310 and A300.
6) Some PA operations were inherently more "dangerous" - for example the IGS services during the cold war (splendid article on this in a recent Airways article); one of their 727s (and a think a DC4 as well) was shot down.
7) Because PA was perceived as being the US flag carrier, it was a target for terrorists and hijackers, which is how it lost its first 747 (and its last) and was targeted in other hijackings.


User currently offlineCatIII From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 3031 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5650 times:



Quoting Kaitak (Reply 3):
for example the IGS services during the cold war (splendid article on this in a recent Airways article); one of their 727s (and a think a DC4 as well) was shot down.

Are you talking about the 708 crash? It was specualted it was shot down, but never proven...


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25332 posts, RR: 22
Reply 5, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 5442 times:

Quoting Kaitak (Reply 3):
Yes, PAA had a lot of accidents, but then again, so did most airlines; look at KLM, BEA/BOAC, other US carriers; I

Yes, look at BOAC. Their safety record in the modern era (including successor BA) can't be compared with Pan Am's. If you ignore early accidents in the propeller era and count only the period since 1958 when Pan Am put the first 707 into service, and BOAC the first Comet 4, Pan Am's record is much worse, especially when you consider that both carriers had similar very extensive worldwide networks.

Pan Am wrote off 20 jets in 25 years (1963-1988),with a total of 1,271 fatalities (4 of the hull losses were non-fatal). The hull losses included 5 747s, 12 707s and 3 727s. Pan Am had 5 fatal 707 accidents in 9 months in 1973-74. I can't think of any major (or even minor) airlines with so many fatal accidents in such a short peirod.

Since 1959, the combined BOAC/BA (not counting BEA which was a separate company prior to the 1974 merger with BOAC) has only had 3 fatal accidents with a total of 192 fatalites, and the last one was 36 years ago, plus a small number of non-fatal hull losses. Even if you add the 55 fatalities in the 737 fire at MAN in 1985, involving BA's charter subsidiary British Airtours, their safety record is far better than Pan Am's.

[Edited 2010-01-20 14:17:03]

[Edited 2010-01-20 15:02:42]

[Edited 2010-01-20 15:04:49]

User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6907 posts, RR: 46
Reply 6, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 5420 times:



Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 5):
Pan Am had 5 fatal 707 accidents in 9 months in 1973-74.

These are the accidents that I referred to in my earlier post. It is noteworthy that after these accidents Pan Am did turn their safety record around; they only had two fatal accidents after that, and both of those (Tenerife and Lockerbie) were very clearly not Pan Am's fault. So they were the guinea pigs for CRM, and it worked for them just as it has worked for the rest of the industry, but they got a head start.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineCrosswind From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2000, 2598 posts, RR: 58
Reply 7, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 5377 times:
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Quoting SEPilot (Reply 6):
These are the accidents that I referred to in my earlier post. It is noteworthy that after these accidents Pan Am did turn their safety record around; they only had two fatal accidents after that, and both of those (Tenerife and Lockerbie) were very clearly not Pan Am's fault. So they were the guinea pigs for CRM, and it worked for them just as it has worked for the rest of the industry, but they got a head start.

On all my CRM courses, United has been credited with being the first airline to implement CRM training, in 1980 as a response to the 1978 DC-8 fuel starvation crash at Portland.

The Tenerife accident is widely cited as one of the catalysts for CRM training, but I've never heard Pan Am noted as being a pioneer of CRM training.

Regards
CROSSWIND


User currently offlineDenverDanny From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 263 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 5315 times:

Check out this older thread on the topic.
Pan Am: The Deadliest Airline? (by Dr.DTW Nov 27 2008 in Civil Aviation)
Some answers and discussion there.

[Edited 2010-01-20 15:06:49]

User currently offlineFlyingSicilian From Italy, joined Mar 2009, 1332 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 5293 times:



Quoting Jfk777 (Reply 1):
The definitive Pan Am history is a book called," The Chosen Instrument" which was written in teh early 1980's when many Pan AM pioneers were still alive

There is also a little Pan Am "museum" house in Key West that traces some original history of the airline. It is just a block or two off Duval near the post office



“Without seeing Sicily it is impossible to understand Italy.Sicily is the key of everything.”-Goethe "Journey to Italy"
User currently offlineStevenjehly From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 5231 times:

I appreciate all the comments and the time spent in replying to my original posting. Extremely interesting reading. And thank you.
What struck me when reading about the 76 occurrences between July 1938 - December 1988 on the ASN website was the frequency of the accidents; rarely a year went by that an accident did not occur. That is what got my attention.
I've read all of Ernest Gann and will definitely look for the Robert Gandt book. Thank you for that recommendation.
In reference to the comment about the PAA culture; my neighbor, who is a retired NWA captain, said that some of the PAA crews had an "off putting" aura about themselves when their paths crossed at hotels. His comments, not mine. Perhaps, as some have commented above, this had something to do with the high rate of occurrences. Regards to all.


User currently onlinePA515 From New Zealand, joined Nov 2007, 882 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 5024 times:



Quoting Stevenjehly (Thread starter):
One interesting note: Pan Am flew a daily 707 to the island where Trippe retired to for years; it was nearly empty every time. It did have one very important mission, however; to deliver Trippe's copy of the Wall Street Journal.

Which island did Trippe retire to? Thanks.

PA515


User currently offlineJohnClipper From Hong Kong, joined Aug 2005, 844 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 4983 times:

I thought Shugrue or Plaskett did the same with their JFK-BDA flights. One was scheduled to depart JFK at night for him to take back home to BDA and back in the morning on Monday...must be nice...

User currently offlineAa757first From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 3350 posts, RR: 7
Reply 13, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 4959 times:



Quoting Stevenjehly (Reply 10):
In reference to the comment about the PAA culture; my neighbor, who is a retired NWA captain, said that some of the PAA crews had an "off putting" aura about themselves when their paths crossed at hotels.

Like SEPilot, I recommend Sky Gods. Pan Am pilots were consistently told that they were the best, to the point where a certain aura of invincibility seems to have set in. There was especially a lot of tension between First Officers and Captains. Also, remember that, especially in the early years, one would have to be a bit of a risk seeker to start a pilot career. As the field of commercial aviation matured, it likely attracted more reasonable and cautious aviators.


User currently offlineUSPIT10L From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 3295 posts, RR: 7
Reply 14, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 4936 times:



Quoting PA515 (Reply 11):
Which island did Trippe retire to? Thanks.

Rock Sound, Bahamas (RSD). They flew a daily 707 there until 1973.



It's a Great Day for Hockey!
User currently offlineUSPIT10L From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 3295 posts, RR: 7
Reply 15, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 4936 times:



Quoting JohnClipper (Reply 12):
I thought Shugrue or Plaskett did the same with their JFK-BDA flights. One was scheduled to depart JFK at night for him to take back home to BDA and back in the morning on Monday...must be nice...

Never heard anything about that. It was probably Plaskett, as Shugrue was only a vice-chairman, and never ran all of Pan Am, specifically.



It's a Great Day for Hockey!
User currently offlineWA707atMSP From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 2226 posts, RR: 8
Reply 16, posted (4 years 8 months 2 days ago) and read 4777 times:



Quoting JohnClipper (Reply 12):
I thought Shugrue or Plaskett did the same with their JFK-BDA flights. One was scheduled to depart JFK at night for him to take back home to BDA and back in the morning on Monday...must be nice...

I think it was Ed Acker who had the house in BDA, not Plaskett or Shugrue.



Seaholm Maples are #1!
User currently offlineUSPIT10L From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 3295 posts, RR: 7
Reply 17, posted (4 years 8 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4656 times:



Quoting WA707atMSP (Reply 16):
I think it was Ed Acker who had the house in BDA, not Plaskett or Shugrue.

Sounds more plausible. Marty Shugrue was never more than a vice-chairman, and Plaskett did whatever he could to save money on his account, despite his willingness to spend money pre-103.



It's a Great Day for Hockey!
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25332 posts, RR: 22
Reply 18, posted (4 years 8 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4621 times:



Quoting USPIT10L (Reply 14):
Quoting PA515 (Reply 11):
Which island did Trippe retire to? Thanks.

Rock Sound, Bahamas (RSD). They flew a daily 707 there until 1973.

Rock Sound is the airport. The island is Eleuthera, in the Bahamas. It wasn't just a retirement spot for Trippe. He also frequently commuited between JFK and RSD when he was still running Pan Am. When the Bahamas became independent in 1973, I think the government made private property ownership by foreigners more difficult with new taxes and other restrictions,and many wealthy property owners left. That's no doubt why Pan Am''s JFK-RSD service ended that year.

Trippe often invited his wealthy NYC business friends to his private estate there, called the Cotton Bay Club, and most of them probably flew free.

After being virtually abandoned for many years, the Cotton Bay Club is being resurrected as the base for an upscale hotel and residential development.

This article covers much of the history, including Juan Trippe's involvement in the early days.
http://www.thebahamasinvestor.com/features/eleuthera-bahamas.php

The current Cotton Bay site.
http://www.discovercottonbay.com/


User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6907 posts, RR: 46
Reply 19, posted (4 years 8 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 4533 times:



Quoting Crosswind (Reply 7):
The Tenerife accident is widely cited as one of the catalysts for CRM training, but I've never heard Pan Am noted as being a pioneer of CRM training.

Pan Am did not call it CRM, but it involved much of the same elements. As I said, the FAA identified the autocratic attitude of Pan Am captains as being the primary cause of the string of crashes, and ordered them to clean up their act, and backed it up by threatening to ground the airline. I don't recall the exact details, but the actions taken definitely involved empowering other crew members, and followed much of the form of CRM without the name. It probably got little notice at the time because it was instigated under the gun of the FAA, and Pan Am certainly did not want to publicize that. Tenerife was the crash that brought it to public awareness, primarily because it was so crystal clear that VanZanten had taken off without clearance in spite of both of his subordinates realizing it, but they were afraid to contradict him. This may well be why United was willing to publicize their CRM training, even though it was in response to a crash of one of their own planes. Before Tenerife Pan Am was unwilling to publicly acknowledge that their was anything wrong with their procedures or training; so they did it very quietly. But the culture of Captain as God was definitely scuttled even before Tenerife at Pan Am.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineStevenjehly From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (4 years 8 months 16 hours ago) and read 4314 times:

To add to our discussion about PAA and other early carriers and their safety record see the March 2010 Airways. Clayton Taylor covers the subject very well in his article "Good Crossing". He says: "In the Clipper days, crews were pretty much on their own. There was practically no weather reporting and very few navigation aids. When the crews left San Francisco, they knew it would be them against the elements. It was quite possible none of them would ever come back from a trip. In fact, some would say it was probable." Quoting from "Good Crossing" by Clayton Taylor.

User currently offlineOB1783P From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 326 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (4 years 8 months 15 hours ago) and read 4274 times:



Quoting SEPilot (Reply 6):
It is noteworthy that after these accidents Pan Am did turn their safety record around; they only had two fatal accidents after that, and both of those (Tenerife and Lockerbie) were very clearly not Pan Am's fault.

There was also the Kenner wind shear crash.



I've flown thousands of miles and I can tell you it's a lot safer than crossing the street!
User currently offlineJfk777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 8375 posts, RR: 7
Reply 22, posted (4 years 8 months 1 hour ago) and read 4136 times:
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Quoting JohnClipper (Reply 12):
I thought Shugrue or Plaskett did the same with their JFK-BDA flights. One was scheduled to depart JFK at night for him to take back home to BDA and back in the morning on Monday...must be nice...



Quoting WA707atMSP (Reply 16):
I think it was Ed Acker who had the house in BDA, not Plaskett or Shugrue

Acker had the afternoon flight to Bermuda with the plane staying overnight and back in the morning against the traditional Morning to BDA and afternoon back rotation.

But why do so many complain aout this. There are many financial and insurance companies with operations in Bermuda with a need to fly to New York and why isn't a Monday morning flight more convenient, this allows for a same day afternoon or evening return. Having to fly an executive in the day before a meeting waste's valuable time.

Mr. Acker inherited Pan AM after the National Merger and a recession of interest rates near credit card levels. He sold off the Asian routes to United for $750,000,000, that is lots of change in early 1986 then that summer the Cherynobol nuclear disaster dried up tarffic to Europe. He should have purchased something right away but that didn't happen and do to Cherynobol the Asain money was gone. Bad Luck or bad timing so time ran out and so did Pan AM eventually. Acker tried to save Pan AM by making the Airbus deal.


User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6907 posts, RR: 46
Reply 23, posted (4 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 4110 times:



Quoting OB1783P (Reply 21):

There was also the Kenner wind shear crash.

True; I had forgotten that one.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineUSPIT10L From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 3295 posts, RR: 7
Reply 24, posted (4 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 4090 times:



Quoting Jfk777 (Reply 22):
Mr. Acker inherited Pan AM after the National Merger and a recession of interest rates near credit card levels. He sold off the Asian routes to United for $750,000,000, that is lots of change in early 1986 then that summer the Cherynobol nuclear disaster dried up tarffic to Europe. He should have purchased something right away but that didn't happen and do to Cherynobol the Asain money was gone. Bad Luck or bad timing so time ran out and so did Pan AM eventually. Acker tried to save Pan AM by making the Airbus deal.

C. Edward Acker never saved any airline he ran; he just kept making deals until he ran out of money. NONE of the deals he made at PanAm made any logical business sense--PanAm was simply buying time until liquidation. The only reason they lasted as long as they was asset value and the money they got off each sale, starting with the InterContinental hotel chain, PanAm building, Pacific division, LHR routes, Berlin routes, and European routes.



It's a Great Day for Hockey!
25 WA707atmsp : The Kenner crash crew was ex-NA, who were not trained in Pan Am's old "captain is god" culture. However, the crash was at least partly due to crew co
26 Post contains images Zippyjet : Especially Capital Airlines. And they flew domestic routes. As a matter of fact, May 12, 1959 was anything but a red letter day for this carrier. The
27 Argonaut : Try to find the updated edition, published by Paladwr Press. Like other posters here, I thoroughly recommend it. I found it hard to put down. For an
28 Jfk777 : All those liquidations did happen under 3 different CEO's, Acker sold the Asian routes but his successor Tom Plaskett sold LHR and IGS routes in 1991
29 Stevenjehly : I managed to find a copy at the library. Am half way through it. And yes, it is a good read. I am reading the 1995 William Morrow edition. Is there an
30 Post contains links PITrules : Here is a very cool video of Pan Am flying off into the sunset - literally http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=79PTZEDAg-U
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