Beautifully engraved Certificate from the Aviation Corporation of America issued
in 1929 - 1930. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it. This item has the printed signatures of the company's President (Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney) and its Secretary. This certificate is over 72 years old. The company changed its name to Pan American Airways Corporation in 1931.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (1899-1992). Whitney was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and William C. Whitney, as well as the son of Harry Payne Whitney. He was a financier who co-founded the Aviation Corporation of the Americas and Pan American Airways, and co-produced Gone With The Wind. He subsequenty became the Chairman of Pan American Airways.
The name Pan Am is truly synonomous with aviation. For over 60 years it pioneered transocean and intercontinental flying. It was the launch platform for aircraft types that set the standard by which all that came later were to be measured. For a period, as the quasi-official "Chosen Instrument", it represented America's commercial aviation policy overseas (and some would even claim it's foreign policy). Without Pan American the world's air transport would surely be different, and even the destinies of some nations would be changed. Pan American World Airways began life in 1927 with a vision, some single engine aircraft and a single route from Key West to Havana. From this beginning came the airline that would literally open the world to aviation. Pan Am launched more new aircraft development than any other airline in history. It pioneered routes across the world's oceans and continents, eventually operating daily flights circling the globe.
Then, in 1991 after 64 years of pioneering, Pan Am finally sucumbed to years of crushing financial pressures.
Pan Am almost didn't happen Early commercial aviation in the United States was driven by exclusive Air Mail contracts tendered by the Post Office. Juan Trippe, Pan Am's founder, had received the contract for US-Cuba mail service and in order to hold this crucial Air Mail contract, Pan Am had to fly the Key West-Havana mail route no later than October 19, 1927.
Unfortunately, the selected aircraft, a Fokker F-7 was not even due to be delivered until September 30th. And, Meacham Field, the new airfield at Key West, was not ready either.
But, fate stepped in, as it often did with Pan Am, when it was learned that a single engine Fairchild belonging to West Indian Aerial Express of the Dominican Republic was in Key West awaiting word on a possible hurricane in the Caribbean. For the modest sum of $145.50 this aircraft was chartered by Pan American to fly the mail to Havana. And Pan Am was off and running.
Key West lays claim to the original home of Pan Am, but it was chosen primarily because it was within the practical operating range of the aircraft of the day. With the eventual arrival of the longer range Fokker F-10 Trimotors, Key West's location no longer served an overriding need and the company's operations were moved to Miami.
A Mexican Adventure In July, 1921 Compania Mexicana de Transportacion (CMTA) was established by two Americans living in Mexico. Originally intended to fly a route from Mexico City to the US border, the owners soon realized that a much more lucrative use was to serve the new oil fields around Tampico. The booming oil business soon spawned other airlines, including Compania Mexicana de Aviation (CMA), now known as Mexicana, which eventually purchased CMTA.
In January 1929, the US Post Office advertised for bids on a foreign air mail contract from the US to Mexico City. Pan American was the successful bidder and immediately proceeded to purchase the entire assets of Mexicana.
The F-10 Trimotors saw service with the Mexican subsidiaries
Around the Caribbean Additional growth came in the Caribbean through the winning of other Post Office mail contracts. Early 1929 saw additional routes throught Cuba and Hispaniola to Puerto Rico. At the same time, in Central America, routes were being extended from Mexico to Panama. Later in 1929, routes were added to Cartagena and Mariacaibo in South America, and the islands as far south as Port-of-Spain and to then to Paramaribo. The Caribbean loop was closed in 1930 and 1931 with the addition of routes to Curacao and Maracay.
Early route surveys of this area had been conducted for Pan Am by Charles Lindbergh. Although Lindbergh favored landplanes, it was clear to him that amphibians were better suited to the undeveloped nature of the region. Trippe contracted Igor Sikorsky for a number of the as yet unproven S-38, a twin engine 8 seat aircraft. Eventually, Pan American would operate 38 of these airplanes, either directly or through subsidiaries in Latin America and China.
The Pan American Grace Era The shortest route to Buenos Aires, Trippe's ultimate objective in South America, was down the west coast. But the way was blocked by the W.R. Grace Corporation, a powerful American trading company operating from Panama to Santiago. Grace's power often rivaled, and may have exceeded, the power of many of the governments where it operated.
So Trippe tried to outflank Grace by creating or acquiring new rights. Trippe acquired a half-interest in Peruvian Airways, conveniently established just 12 days earlier by an American owned aerial crop dusting firm that had already acquired Peruvian air traffic rights. Several months later, the permits were fully acquired by Trippe.
To further pressure Grace, toward the end of December, 1928, Chilean Airways was founded but never operated. The combination of Peruvian and Chilean air rights soon pressured Grace to compromise and in January, 1929 Pan American-Grace Corporation (PANAGRA) was organized.
PANAGRA quickly extended its operation, eventually reaching Buenos Aires later in 1929. Although constantly troubled at the Board of Directors level, it nonetheless was a very successful airline operation. PANAGRA continued this success for many years and was eventually sold to Braniff in 1968
The East Coast of South America
The New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA) was organized in 1929 to operate the east coast of South America. Minor operations were conducted in 1929, but the grand inaugual was in February, 1930. Using the graceful Consolidated Commodore, a sleek, 22 seat flying boat with a range of 1000 miles, NYRBA launched it's first major Argentine mail contract flight from Buenos Aires to Miami. However, the real money was in the lucrative US Air Mail contracts, and NYRBA was grooming itself to win those.
But, that was not to be. Confident that Pan American would receive the US Mail contracts, Trippe made a hostile takeover bid for NYRBA in late 1930. In fact, Trippe was so certain of his position he even listed the sought after mail contract as a Pan American asset when negotiating the merger!
The merger was completed on September 15, 1930 and, true to form, nine days later Pan American was awarded the US Mail contract for the east coast of South America.
Some Strange Colombian Dealings In 1919 a group of German and Colombian businessmen had created Sociadad Colombo-Alemana de Transportes Aereos (SCADTA). SCADTA quickly opened service from Barranquilla to Bogota and went on to rapidly add additional domestic service. Aided by the export ambitions of the German aircraft industy, it quickly expanded into international operations and soon found itself operating into Cristobal in the Panama Canal Zone and Guayaquil. SCDTA even dispatched a mission to the US to investigate opening a trans-Caribbean service linking North and South America.
All of this presented Trippe with clear problems. He had recently negotiated the PANAGRA deal and now found himself face to face with another growing airline in his path. Colombia and the US had negotiated an aviation treaty, but it gave the new PANAGRA little more than overflight privileges.
So, Trippe resorted to the method that had worked so well with Grace -- he created La Sociedad Anonima Colombo-America de Aviacion as a thinly veiled threat. With this he approached the German owner of SCADTA, whom he knew was in serious financial difficulty after the Wall Street Crash. The result was an unpublicized "gentleman's agreement" by which Pan American acquired the majority interest in SCADTA.
SCADTA quickly halted operations at Cristobal and in Ecudaor, thus giving PANAGRA free rein. Pan American's presence was also quickly felt in the internal operations of SCADTA, not necessarily to their detriment. The Pan Am presence brought with it more modern Sikorsky, Ford and Boeing aircraft. And there were significant traffic advantages to being part of the Pan American-PANAGRA network. As a result, SCADTA prospered, probably far more than it could have otherwise.
But all of this was not without eventual problems. As World War II broke out in Europe, the US was nervous about a German-owned airline (even at this time the "gentlemen's agreement" was still undisclosed) operating so close to the Panama Canal.
Under pressure from the US, Colombia began looking more closely at SCADTA. When the President of Colombia found out about the secret agreement with Trippe, SCADTA was nationalized and merged with another Colombian airline, SACO. The resulting new company, AVIANCA, because of its roots in SCADTA, can lay claim to being the oldest airline in the Western Hemisphere.
But, in spite of the scandal over the secret agreement, Trippe once again landed on his feet -- Pan American ended up with 64% of the stock in the new AVIANCA, and continued to supply aircraft and operating expertise to it for many years after the war.
An Atlantic Opening In July 1931, Boston-Maine Airways began operating a mail route from Boston to Halifax. Boston-Maine was created by the Maine Central and Boston and Maine Railroads but operated under contract by Pan American. This was an ideal situation for Trippe . Not only did his company gain additional operating experience in northern climates, headed in a direction he wanted to go anyway, but he got paid for it as well.
Shortly after service began, Trippe signaled his intentions when he sent a letter to the major aircraft manufacturers seeking a "high speed multi-motor flying boat having a cruising range of 2500 miles against 30-mile headwinds, and providing accomodations for a crew of four, together with at least 300 pounds of mail".
The door to the Atlantic was opening.
Throughout its life, Pan Am was a pioneer. Most of the services and technology that we take for granted in the aviation industry find their roots in Pan Am. Pan Am built airports, established air navigation systems, trained local nationals, etc., wherever it went. This is a partial list of some of Pan Am's "firsts" and the dates that Pan Am started service in many cities around the world.
1927 First American airline to operate a permanent international air service
1927 First American airline to operate land airplanes over water on a regulary scheduled basis
1927 First American airline to operate multi-engine aircraft permanently in scheduled service
1927 Service Started: Key West, Havana
1928 First American airline to use radio communications
1928 First American airline to carry emergency lifesaving equipment
1928 First American airline to use multiple flight crews
1928 First American airline to develop an airport and airways traffic control system
1928 First American airline to to order and purchase aircraft built to its own specifications, the Sikorsky S-38
1928 Service Started: Miami
1929 First American airline to to employ cabin attendants and serve meals aloft
1929 First airline to develop and use instrument flight techniques
1929 First American airline to develop a complete aviation weather service
1929 Service Started: Nassau, Port of Spain, Santo Domingo, St.Thomas, Guatemala City, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago
1930 First American airline to offer international air express service
1930 Service Started: St. Lucia, Caracas, Maracaibo, Rio de Janeiro
1931 First American airline to develop and operate four engine flying boats
1932 First airline to sell all-expense international air tours
1932 Service Started: Port-Au-Prince
1933 Service Started: Tampa
1934 Service Started: Orlando, Los Angeles
1935 First airline to develop and employ long range weather forecasting
1935 First American airline to install facilities for heating food aboard an aircraft
1935 First airline to operate scheduled transpacific passenger and mail service
1935 Service Started: San Francisco, Honolulu
1937 Service Started: New York, Bermuda, Sao Paulo
1939 First airline to operate scheduled transatlantic passenger and mail service
1940 Service Started: Seattle/Tacoma
1942 First airline to complete a round-the-world flight
1942 First airline to operate international service with all-cargo aircraft
1942 Service Started: Monrovia
1943 Service Started: Dakar
1944 First airline to propose a plan for low cost, mass transportation on a worldwide basis
1945 First airline to use high-speed commercial land planes on a transatlantic route, the Douglas DC-4
1945 Service Started: Philadelphia, London, Shannon
1946 First airline to operate non-stop scheduled service between Miami and New York (National)
1946 First American airline to install GCA, Ground Controlled Approach, in overseas operations
1946 Service Started: Houston, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Prague
1947 First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world service
1947 Service Started: Boston, Washington, Istanbul, Karachi
1948 First airline to provide tourist-class service outside the continental US
1948 Service Started: Munich, Delhi
1949 Pan Am is the launch customer for Boeing's B-377 Stratocruiser
1949 Service Started: St.Croix, Nice
1950 First airline with low-cost day and night coach service on the East Coast (National)
1950 First commercial airline to enter the Korean airlift
1950 Service Started: Amsterdam, Hamburg, Helsinki, Oslo, Paris,Stockholm
1951 Service Started: Rome
1952 First airline to use aircraft built specifically for tourist-class service in transatlantic service, the Douglas DC-6B
1954 Service Started: Chicago, Detroit, Nuremburg
1955 Pan Am specifies and orders the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8
1957 Service Started: Barbados
1958 Taking advantage of jets, Pan Am introduces Economy fares
1958 Pan Am's Boeing 707 Clipper America starts the jet age with the first scheduled transatlantic service in American built jets
1958 First airline to operate jets with the continental US (National)
1959 First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world jet service
1960 Pan Am initiates first Douglas DC-8 jet service
1961 First airline to offer a worldwide marketing service to shippers and importers around the world
1961 Service Started: Lagos
1962 First airline to operate 100,000 transatlantic flights
1962 First airline to develop a global computer reservation systems (PANAMAC)
1962 Service Started: St.Maarten
1963 First airline to operate the Boeing 707-321C jet freighter
1963 Service Started: Belgrade
1964 First all-jet airline (National)
1964 First airline to relay inflight messages via satellite
1965 First airline to operate round the world jet freighter service
1965 Service Started: Nairobi
1966 Pan Am specifies and orders the Boeing 747
1967 First airline to make a fully automatic approach and landing in scheduled service
1968 First airline to transmit engine data and position information from the aircraft to the ground using a air-ground data link system
1968 First American airline to operate scheduled service in Russian airspace
1968 Service Started: Moscow
1969 First airline to receive FAA approval for regular use of the Carousel IV inertial navigation system
1969 First airline to install onboard computers for in-flight engine performance analysis and reporting
1970 First airline to operate the Boeing 747 in regular scheduled service
1970 First airline with scheduled non-stop Miami-London service (National)
1970 First airline to operate production-model air-ground satellite communications system
1970 First airline to test and operate Data-Link automated aircraft identification and position system
1971 First airline to open a major maintenance facility designed specifically for jumbo jets (JFK JetCenter)
1971 First airline to operate round-the-world service with the Boeing 747
1971 Service Started: Bucharest, Warsaw
1972 First airline to operate FAA-certified Visual Approach Monitor heads-up pilot display system
1972 Pan Am builds the world's largest single air terminal, JFK WorldPort
1972 First airline to employ electronic passenger security screening equipment
1973 First airline to offer upper deck dining service on the 747
1973 First airline to order the Boeing 747SP
1974 First airline to install and operate FAA-certified fleetwide Ground Proximity Warning System
1975 First airline to create major Travel Agent incentive plan
1975 Service Started: Dallas/Ft.Worth, Budapest
1976 First airline to operate the Boeing 747SP
1976 Record setting round-the-world revenue flight with Boeing 747SP
1977 First revenue round-the-world Polar flight - celebrating Pan Am's 50th anniversary
1977 Service Started: Zurich
1978 First airline to offer scheduled non-stop Miami-Paris service (National)
1978 World's first round-the-world under $1000 excursion fare
1978 First airline to introduce a new, separate class of service for business and full-fare economy passengers, Clipper Class
1978 Service Started: Bombay
1980 First airline to operate aircraft with fuel-saving "active controls", the Lockheed L1011-500
1980 Service Started: Dubai
1981 First American airline to re-establish scheduled service to People's Republic of China
1981 Service Started: Beijing, Shanghai
1982 Service Started: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City, Freeport, Milan
1983 Service Started: Charlotte, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Austin, San Antonio, St.Kitts, Dubrovnik, Geneva, Zagreb
1985 Service Started: Grand Turk, Providenciales, Athens, Tel Aviv
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