Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pan Am Article Series

The first airline that I can accurately recall hearing of was Pan American World Airways. I can't say why, because my place of residence has never been close to Pan Am service, even after their acquisition of National Airlines in the early 1980s. The first toy airplane that I can remember is, likewise, a Pan Am Boeing 747-100 (or -200), purchased when my family went to Washington, D.C., for a visit. I was never a passenger on a Pan Am flight, but it's remained one of my favorite airlines my entire life.1 Reading about Juan T. Trippe, the founder and autocrat of PAA for decades, has only served to interest me more in the once-great aviation giant. As a less historically minded friend of mine once said, "Your sad devotion to these ancient transportation companies hasn't helped you conjur up their stolen market share, or given you clairvoyance enough to reignite public interest in---" I found his lack of faith disturbing. Ahem. Jollies aside, I've found something worth noting, and it's a tribute to the power of the individualist publisher who writes what he will, in the hopes that someone somewhere will read it and find it interesting. Comes now No Such Blog, which has a series of short articles on various topics of Pan Am history. I suggest starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with the article on Pan Am's genesis.2 They're interesting articles, and I enjoyed reading them all. That I was almost late for an appointment as a result is a testament to their quality. The best one, from a "ooh, secret files" sense is about the loss of the Hawaii Clipper. It's tantalizing enough to be potentially accurate. You've got to love the secret history---hijacking or no---of the United States and her government in the years prior to World War II. It's compelling stuff. NB: Pan Am lives. Yes, that's right. In 2005, the Pan Am Clipper Connection serves routes on the East Coast. A bit of delicious irony: The Clipper Connection is operated by Boston-Maine Airways. Why do I care and why is this notable? Because the owner of it all is one Timothy Mellon, who happens to be the head honcho of Guilford Transportation Industries. GTI operates the Guilford Rail System, of which the Boston & Maine Railroad is a component. That's synergy, friends and neighbors. To wit, GTI/GRS has painted approximately 250 Boston & Maine/Maine Central boxcars in a Pan Am livery, doing so some time in March 2005. If you've got the July 2005 issue of Trains, turn to page 13. As is usual, GTI/GRS hasn't commented upon the project. Getting information out of them is apparently like pulling teeth from a baleen whale. 1 If you care, the others are Cathay Pacific Airways, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Delta Air Lines. If Eastern hadn't been a direct competitor to the Pennsylvania Railroad's Northeast Corridor passenger service (i.e. the Morning/Afternoon Congressional and the Senator), then perhaps I'd like them as well. I've had a passing interest in the Soviet airline, Aeroflot, as well for a couple of years. I vaguely remember thinking that they were funny because they wrote what looked like "A3POCPAOT" on the side of their planes. Our dreaded enemy, unable to spell their airline's name. At the time, nobody told me that there was such a thing as the Cyrillic alphabet. 2 As sung by the delightfully beautiful and oh-so-British Julie Andrews. The only time I've ever stood slack-jawed in a Disney Store was when they had Mary Poppins on, and she'd just arrived on screen. Talk about an arresting beauty! The girl I was in the store with came back by, figured out what was going on, and snapped, "Another pale-skinned, blue-eyed blond with a British accent. You're so predictable!" Credit for this find is split evenly; Sheila O'Malley posted comments at The Llama Butchers; going to her site gave me this bit of direction.


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