Pan Am placed on record its wish to start transatlantic services in letters to the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1935 and they received a permit in September 1936.
A base was established at Port Washington, Long Island and long discussions were entered into with the Portugese government regarding access to the Azores as well as with the French government for access to Marseilles.
Whilst these protracted negotiations dragged on, a plan to operate from Copenhagen to Iceland was looked at with the idea that this would be extended to New York by 1938. Both the Danish and Norwegian national airlines were involved but discussions became mired and the plans were abandoned.
On February 22 1937 the UK and US authorised Pan American and Imperial Airways to start a service from London to New York and vv via Newfoundland and Bermuda, for 15 years at the rate of 2 round trips per week. Eire, Canada and Bermuda joined the agreement and on May 25 1937 Pan American began a survey flight with a Sikorsky S-42B from Long Island to Bermuda whilst Imperial Airways flew the reciprocal from Bermuda. This became a weekly service (one per airline) until January 1939 when Imperial withdrew after an accident due to icing. Pan American carried on alone and supplemented the Sikorsky with a Boeing B314 that spring.
Pan American ordered both the B307 Stratoliner which it intended to use in Alaska and, as it didn't have the range for passenger flights between Newfoundland and Ireland, as a mail plane for services to London and, for passengers the B314 flying boat.
After a series of survey flights out of both Long Island and Baltimore using S-42Bs both the northern (New York, Shediac, Botwood, Foynes, Southampton) and the mid Atlantic (Bermuda, Azores, Lisbon, Marseilles, Southampton) routes were declared feasible.
The range of political, communications and operational protocols which were involved are too deep to go into here but, on March 26 1939, the first B314 made its first transatlantic flight. On May 20 the first scheduled flight was made from New York to Marseilles followed on June 24 by a flight on the northern route to Southampton.
Both these flights carried only VIPs, the first fare paying passengers were carried to Marseilles on June 28, followed by Southampton on July 8.
The outbreak of European hostilities brought the civilian service to a close but Pan American did not withdraw from the Atlantic.
In 1940, Lend Lease aircraft were being ferried to the UK and on June 21 1941 Atlantic Airways was formed by Pan American and BOAC and started by flying aircraft to Africa via the Caribbean and South Atlantic. Pan American Africa Ltd and Pan American Air ferries Inc were established, the former using B-24s on a scheduled cargo, return of ferry pilots service to Cairo, the latter ferrying aircraft to Khartoum.
Meanwhile the B314s fleet was split, some going to Imperial Airway's successor, BOAC, others appearing in quasi civilian guise, all continuing to serve Lisbon and Foynes/Southampton but the wartime need to ferry land based aircraft across the Atlantic on a routine and safe basis led to the building of runways at Gander, Goose Bay, Prestwick and, for different reasons, at Shannon and in Iceland.
The flying boats, whilst providing regular communications between the allies on both sides of the pond - under the guise of quasi civilian operation (the US aircraft had ostensibly Pan American pilots, the UK ones BOAC crew) to suite the neutrality of Portugal and Eire - proved to be too slow and the need for calm tideways and special handling became ever more unwieldy.
The die was cast for a postwar change to land based aircraft.
Prior to the US entry into the war, TWA had been involved with the design of the Constellation. With no need for over water capability the aircraft was designed for transcontinental service and Howard Hughes made sure that no competitor would have the aircraft until his company had established a dominance. Those plans came to nought when the aircraft were delivered to the USAAF.
Douglas had developed the unwieldy DC-4E to compete but the only example was over size, over weight and unwanted.
The redesigned DC4 quickly established itself with the military as the C-54 and this, converted to civil standards, was Pan American's first post war aircraft on the Atlantic.
But the scene had changed. During the war American Export Airlines (the overseas arm of American Airlines) had flown flying boat services between new York and Foynes with Sikorsky VS
-44s and on June 1 1945 the CAB announced it and TWA would be licensed to join Pan American on the Atlantic for a period of seven years.
The first scheduled passenger flight by landplane was an AEA DC4 which left New York for Hurn (Heathrow not being ready) on October 24 1945. The Sikorskys were retired.
TWA, having taken delivery of some L-049 Constellations flew a proving flight to Paris in November 1945 then flew schedules from early 1946 which were extended to Cairo.
TWA had, however problems to face. Fuel leaks causing fires on the L-049s and the fact that they had not shielded their position in terms of delivery slots as had been the case with their first orders, meant that Pan American took delivery of L-049s and actually started using them on the Atlantic three weeks before TWA. American Overseas (renamed from AEA) started their L-049s in June that year.
Apart from the TWA L-749s, that was it - almost. Except that Pan American and American Overseas were both determined to beat TWA and the Constellation with something better and both ordered the Boeing Stratocruiser, PA's first appearing on the Atlantic on April 15 1949 to Bermuda and to London on June 2. AOA started with theirs on August 17. Too few Starocruisers were ordered to affect the dominance of the Constellation and TWA, long haul, became a totally Constellation airline until its first 707s arrived.
The DC6 didn't appear on Pan American's Atlantic services until 1952 in the form of the DC6B.
In the 1940s, all east and westbound landplane civil flights were multi sector with stops in one or more of Gander, Goose Bay, Lajes, Shannon or Prestwick.
As for the L-049 making eastbound nonstop runs - hardly!
With a payload reduced from a standard 18,400 lbs to a totally uneconomic 7,800 lbs the 049E could make 3,600 miles in still air. The shortest, totally Great Circle, route between New York and London (almost impossible to attain and fly under commercial conditions in the 1940s) is 3451 miles, leaving no operating margin for error.
Pan American introduced the first non stops with a Stratocruiser fitted with extra tanks on 15 November 1954 and the DC7B took over the service in 1955.