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jetjeanes
Topic Author
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Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:35 pm

Maybe someone can confirm this, I played golf in the late 70,s with a retired Pa captain, while in conversation he told me for years starting with 707, L1011,747,s there were several planes that had a small hydralic door in the rear of the planes,
that had a camera mounted inside. And at certain waypoints a captn would flip a switch and the panel would open and start recording (similar to Google earth)? and would close the door when it reached another area? He said the gov had it own crews come out and remove the film and discreetly leave. How could rampers, or anyone on the apron not notice this.

He said it was something never really spoken about and he thought Twa did the same as he had noticed the panel on some of their 747,s while behind one while holding for takeoff. Any Thoughts or proof
i can see for 80 miles
 
flyDTW1992
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:41 pm

On one hand, that totally sounds like something the Cold War-Era intelligence community would try to pull off. On the other, it sounds pretty wild and far fetched.

I imagine it wouldn't be a technical impossibility by any means, any of those aircraft could probably spare a small space for a camera in the belly, especially when requested by the US government in the midst of the Cold War.

Now as for rampers, etc. not noticing--if this sort of thing did indeed occur--I'm sure some did, but knowing the CIA (particularly in those days) there were probably rather elaborate cover stories at the ready.
Now you're flying smart
 
rlwynn
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:43 pm

Where would they have flown that such a thing would be needed?
I can drive faster than you
 
BravoOne
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:45 pm

I seriously doubt this is true. Old Capt's like to toss these stories around to make themselves feel important 
 
Luftymatt
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:46 pm

Quoting rlwynn (Reply 2):

Over East Germany probably, for starters.
chase the sun
 
jetjeanes
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:48 pm

He just said on some of the Europeon routes and charters, at 19 to me Europe was anything across the pond..
i can see for 80 miles
 
flyDTW1992
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:49 pm

Quoting rlwynn (Reply 2):
Where would they have flown that such a thing would be needed?

In the days before readily available satellite reconnaissance? Lots and lots of places. Anywhere and everywhere the USSR exerted even a touch of influence, I would imagine. Latin America and Eastern Europe come to mind.
Now you're flying smart
 
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longhauler
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:03 pm

While it is plausible. Did the US Government really want military activity aboard a civilian airliner carrying passengers? Of course you don't want military action against a passenger aircraft ... do you want justifiable action against an airliner carrying passengers??

Look in the past where an airliner carrying passengers was shot down. The world was horrified, because it was never justified. What if the world found out the US was doing spy missions with passengers as decoys!

I am going to guess this is just urban legend. Especially as the US already had very capable spy aircraft already flying spy missions.
Just because I stopped arguing, doesn't mean I think you are right. It just means I gave up!
 
lancelot07
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:12 pm

Quoting longhauler (Reply 7):
What if the world found out the US was doing spy missions with passengers as decoys!

Just one more story from the cold war. Btw, it is strongly suspected that the Soviet Union did just that with Aeroflot planes that sometimes strayed off their designated route.

For the US, civilian jets became available about the same time as satellites, and they did not fly much in soviet bloc airspace. And going off the route there was extremely dangerous.
 
georgiabill
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:14 pm

I remember hearing rumors while growing up that aeroflot and other eastern bloc carriers were prohibited from flying over certain sensitive areas because they had cameras and other spying equipment. The game was for aeroflot or other carriers to claim navigation errors when they strayed to close to sensitive areas like Groton Ct.
Truth or myth I have zero proof either way. But made for good conversation.
 
aviationaware
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:57 pm

I think somebody would have noticed feds walking up to the plane and remove the film.
 
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lightsaber
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 8:05 pm

I would have heard something about this. I haven't, therefor I expect the answer is no.

Quoting AviationAware (Reply 10):

I think somebody would have noticed feds walking up to the plane and remove the film.

The Soviets would have jumped on this. Adding a hydraulic door would have been obvious. Too obvious.

This is the first I've heard of this.
I've heard of many possible scenarios, but nothing more than someone taking out a camera and filming during flight.

Quoting longhauler (Reply 7):
I am going to guess this is just urban legend. Especially as the US already had very capable spy aircraft already flying spy missions.

You also had political entities competing for funding to do recon flights. I doubt they would share the funds.

Quoting longhauler (Reply 7):
Look in the past where an airliner carrying passengers was shot down. The world was horrified, because it was never justified. What if the world found out the US was doing spy missions with passengers as decoys!

One example would make every Western commercial jet a legitimate target. That makes this very unlikely. For East Germany, the Air Force regularly flew the allowed corridors to take photos. There are films out there showing East German fighters flying very close to the planes to scare them off. But as long as they kept in the approved cooridors, they could film all they wanted. Why risk a commercial plane?


Lightsaber
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AAR90
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sat Jan 16, 2016 8:54 pm

Not true.

At least according to my father who is a retired B707/B747 Captain w/36 years at Pan Am. He got a good laugh when he heard the story though. Paraphrasing him: Sounds like something the CIA would have tried on the Vietnam R&R flights, but since Pan Am operated those twice daily trips with the same airframes (one dedicated B707 & B727) for many years and I flew 67 of those missions. There was no special switch in the cockpit, no extra doors on the airframe and nothing unusual about the operations --except the nightly maintenance in HKG to patch the shrapnel holes.
*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
 
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Ty134A
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 12:46 am

highly doubt it, since local aviation authorities are allowed to check foreign airliners (with the exception of military and diplomatic flights). i guess so that the DDR or CCCP authorities were entitled to do the same... hence would have been able to spot this!

same goes for the in western media published lies about russian tupolevs being able to spy through the glazed nose! but the nose of a tu-134 if glazed really has an amazing view (at the prize of fried balls - the ones in the know understand hihihi!)!
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ridgid727
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 2:34 am

Apparently the USSR used Aeroflot aircraft as Spy aircraft in the 70's and 80's . The article below describes it.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articl...-jets-as-spy-planes-u-k-files-show
 
penguins
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 3:07 am

Given that the Corona spy satellite was already in use by the introduction of the 707, I don't see the upsides of using a civilian plane. I think the risk of a justified civilan shoot down (like a justified KAL 007) would outweigh the risk of potential cheaper intel.
 
FrmrKSEngr
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 3:42 am

Quoting ridgid727 (Reply 14):
Apparently the USSR used Aeroflot aircraft as Spy aircraft in the 70's and 80's .

I recall that in the early 80s, Cubana was denied US overflight rights for the Havana - Montreal flight due to the suspision of spying on Griffis AFB.
 
skywaymanaz
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 1:21 pm

Quoting lancelot07 (Reply 8):
Btw, it is strongly suspected that the Soviet Union did just that with Aeroflot planes that sometimes strayed off their designated route.

I remember hearing around the time of the KAL 007 shoot down that part of the justification for banning Aeroflot from the US in retaliation was this suspicion. There had been an unauthorized overflight of the Groton, CT Submarine Base by an Aeroflot plane that was mentioned in the Bloomberg article above. It was publicly cited at the time by the Reagan administration. I wouldn't say it was impossible to believe the CIA may have done something similar. Perhaps they even put out feelers to Pan Am or TWA, but it seems far more likely the Soviets would do it than US or NATO countries. The US had for the time very sophisticated spy planes and satellites in the 60's and 70's. The Soviets were always playing catch up to a lot of what the US was doing. Space was traditionally seen as an area the Soviets had us beat for a long time. The US though did things with unmanned missions the Soviets initially couldn't match. Some of the first Soviet Salyut space stations were designed to be spy platforms until the Soviets had capable spy satellites of their own. The US didn’t need to go to that extreme as cited above by the U2 flights, Corona, and later Key Hole missions.
 
Toni_
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 1:29 pm

I find this very unlikely with civilian aircraft. There's just too many parties involved in order to keep it a secret. It's a bit like the chemtrail nonsense. The only way you can hide a system on civilian aircraft is to have dedicated staff, secret procedures and secured locations to install/maintain/service the system.

Nowadays I just leave chemtrails believers walk around with their lil' tin foil hats on, but this is the point I'd always try to make. If you have anything hidden on civilian aircraft that are "out in the open", it eventually will be discovered, questions will be asked, and consequently people will talk. Or to put it in today's terms with the selfie-generation, people will take pictures and post them on facebook, youtube, snapchat and instagram.

With this particular story you have the switch in the cockpit and the hidden panel that was hidden enough that the captain could even see it on TWA aircraft that taxied in front of him. The switch would ask for all flight crews that operated the aircraft to be in hush-hush mode, and the panel from every single employee or unit that came close to it. It all just seems too far-fetched to me.
 
PanAm1971
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 3:09 pm

This is slightly in my area of past experience. Doors on airliners for spy cameras? Highly unlikely. On the other hand "baggage" containing signals intelligence devices? I'm sure that might have happened quite a bit. And while such devices would not at all be as effective as a dedicated ELINT aircraft they could help fill out full picture of Soviet/eastern block signals activity. And the "baggage" could simply be taken off the aircraft without any special effort or drama... and no secret doors.
 
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rj968
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 3:32 pm

This is slightly in my area of past experience. Doors on airliners for spy cameras? Highly unlikely. On the other hand "baggage" containing signals intelligence devices? I'm sure that might have happened quite a bit. And while such devices would not at all be as effective as a dedicated ELINT aircraft they could help fill out full picture of Soviet/eastern block signals activity. And the "baggage" could simply be taken off the aircraft without any special effort or drama... and no secret doors.

Take a look at any ELINT aircraft. Many, many external antennas. Your not going to do much intel gathering from inside the belly.

RJ
 
BravoOne
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 4:05 pm

Quoting Luftymatt (Reply 4):
Over East Germany probably, for starters.

I'm sitting next to a former Berlin based Pan Am pilot. He says he has never heard of anything like that.
 
canyonblue17
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 4:59 pm

Usually the stories that are denied the most wind up having the most truth to them. Just my observation of history.
negative ghostrider the pattern is full
 
26point2
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 5:18 pm

Didn't the Soviets claim KAL 007 was spying on a Kamchatka airbase and thus the shoot down was justified?

The Pan Am story sounds a bit like the more recent "chem trail" conspiracy...good for the late night radio audience but not much to it.
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 5:22 pm

Very unlikely, as the aircraft would have had to undergo regular maintenance at civilian facilities, and it would have been impossible to keep such things secret.
Western Allied military aircraft did such missions, e.g. the RAF in West Berlin had two DHC-1 Chipmunk trainers, supposed for keeping the RAF pilots fresh in aerobatics, but they were used by the British military mission to check on Russian and GDR activities within the Berlin air control zone and the air corridors (sometimes straying a bit out of them). There would be a pilot and an observer with a handheld SLR with a long tele lens.
On the other hand trucks of the East German trucking company Deutrans often happened to pass close to NATO training exercises. It also has been rumoured that the drivers were actually tank commanders, familiarising themselves with the terrain they might have to attack.
The western Allied military missions did more or less the same in the GDR and the Soviet military missions in Western Germany.

I know a guy, who used to be a captain in the British military mission (BRIXMIS) back in the 1980s, and his stories are very interesting.

Jan
Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussi
 
McG1967
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 5:28 pm

Quoting ridgid727 (Reply 14):

Aeroflot used to fly into GLA quite a bit in the 80's, which is closest airport to the Royal Navy nuclear submarine base at Faslane.
Rumour was they would fly a very wide turn on the departure routing to get them closer to the base.
I believe they flew TU-134, TU-154 and IL-62 into GLA under the guise of doing crew changeovers on the big industrial fishing boats.
 
canyonblue17
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 5:40 pm

Wouldn't be the first time a government used civilian transport for military purposes....the RMS Lusitania comes to mind.
negative ghostrider the pattern is full
 
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JetBuddy
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 6:11 pm

I know the Russians did this, it wouldn't surprise me if it happened on US planes as well. More weird things than this has been done with civilian airliners.
 
WIederling
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 6:28 pm

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 11):
Why risk a commercial plane?

No idea. But especially the US spy community inspired by Dulles
seems to have lived in a completely separate reality.

No holds barred to stick it to the Ruskies.
Playing with fire seems to have been the norm. See KAL007.

Or just plain overbearing carelessness like the Iran Air shoot down?
( That one must have been like the "Norfolk Incident" Movie on board
of the Vincennes. More sinister if it actually was a desired outcome)
Murphy is an optimist
 
iRISH251
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 6:34 pm

Quoting McG1967 (Reply 25):
I believe they flew TU-134, TU-154 and IL-62 into GLA under the guise of doing crew changeovers on the big industrial fishing boats.

Interflug certainly did - and it was with ships' crews.

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WIederling
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 6:47 pm

Quoting irish251 (Reply 29):

The GDR used to have one of the biggest deep sea trawling fleets worldwide in their time.
Murphy is an optimist
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 8:23 pm

The PanAm Inner German fleet (first DC-6, later B727, followed by A300s) was maintained by mostly German mechanics. It would have been impossible to keep such a modification secret.

Jan
Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussi
 
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rj968
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Sun Jan 17, 2016 8:35 pm

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 31):

As you said, no reason to use PanAm. The USAF flew the same routes on the "Berlin Corridor" and around Germany at the time. Now I did see an OK IL -18 at FRA back in the 60's that had a lot of antennas for a civil aircraft   

RJ
 
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Ty134A
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:47 am

Quoting JetBuddy (Reply 27):

I know the Russians did this, it wouldn't surprise me if it happened on US planes as well. More weird things than this has been done with civilian airliners.

ouch!!! that hurts as much as WMD in saddam's hands! maybe they did take some pictures out of their windows with professional cameras provided by certain sources, which makes sense. other than that, i don't think any aeroflot or any other eastern block airline had modified civil airliner spy planes. just imagine how the polish for example would have already made this public... poland is meanwhile more part of the US than the EU, and there are no such claims from there!

so this sound like dull c**p.

by the way, my grandfather still believes that the soviets can change a tupolev into a bomber, that's why they have the glazed nose.... yep, but only the SH version was made for bomb training and never served aeroflot...

so there are many myths out there fed by lies from western media, as there are myths fed from the same kind of lies from eastern media. what's endangering all this??? usage of the own brain!!!!
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avek00
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:31 am

Without opining on the specific claim mentioned in this thread...commercial aviation has always had (and will continue to have) substantial linkages with the world of espionage.
Live life to the fullest.
 
AR385
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:48 am

Quoting WIederling (Reply 28):
Playing with fire seems to have been the norm. See KAL007.

What´s there to see about KAL 007 ?
 
WIederling
Posts: 10043
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2015 2:15 pm

RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Mon Jan 18, 2016 8:30 am

Quoting AR385 (Reply 35):

Looks like it was very carefully set up shell game.
KAL007 and the RC-135 crossed courses
While KAL007 then continued on the wrong course
the RC-135 took over the expected course of KAL007.
this seems to have been planned.
( Remember S-Korea was still a military US-Best-Buddy dictatorship at the time.)
From the Soviet view a US Elint plane entered their airspace and continued
into a very sensitive area. Peng.
And like with MH17 recently Reagan was "instant on" about the bad, bad Soviets
spawn from hell ... ( though Japanese documents seem to show that the US
was completely aware on the why this had happened. )
Murphy is an optimist
 
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Thunderboltdrgn
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RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Mon Jan 18, 2016 9:59 am

Quoting JetBuddy (Reply 27):
I know the Russians did this

I don't know about aircrafts but the Soviets very frequently used (or are claimed to have used) so
called "TIR-trucks" to spy on military installations and/or exercises.

"TIR-trucks" is regular cargo trucks who uses the TIR Convention to enter a country without
the need to declare their cargo to the customs when they pass the borders of a country.

These trucks would then "get lost" or have "breakdowns" in the vicinity of said military installations / exercises.
Some claim these trucks had some kind of surveillance equipment others claimed that they
"only" were "observing".
Like a thunderbolt of lightning the Dragon roars across the sky. Il Drago Ruggente
 
WIederling
Posts: 10043
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2015 2:15 pm

RE: Pan Am Spy Planes

Mon Jan 18, 2016 11:45 am

Quoting thunderboltdrgn (Reply 37):
These trucks would then "get lost" or have "breakdowns" in the vicinity of said military installations / exercises.
Some claim these trucks had some kind of surveillance equipment others claimed that they
"only" were "observing".

I remember those. Early on they used Soviet made trucks and had breakdowns all the time
and it looked like the drivers were expected to fix things on their own.
So you saw some trucks on German Autobahn A2 standing on the hard shoulder,
engine or gearbox in pieces along the road a frustrated guy sitting by his open fire.
Poor beasty.

2 years later all these trucks were swapped out for brand new Volvos with spoilers and everything.
.. and no further breakdowns.

I use to do documentation transfers between the partnering forwarder in Brunswik, some stamping government entitity in Hannover and the Soviet Trucking Station at the Helmstedt Border Station.
Actually rather nice people there.
Murphy is an optimist

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