Important Airline in Aviation History Term Paper

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Pan Am Airline

Important Airline in Aviation History: Pan American Airlines

The United States is the nation commonly noted to be the place where powered aviation began. There were many attempts around the world to accomplish actual flight, but until Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their powered glider in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, NC, it had never been successfully done. As with many important accomplishments, it was not long until others had also flown successfully (many with the help of the Wright brothers), and the age of aviation began. The U.S. has been the ground for many of the firsts in aviation and the nation has also fostered some pioneering aviation companies whose fame encompassed the globe. It can probably be safely said that Pan American Airlines was the foremost of these, specifically early in the history of passenger and freight flight. This paper examines how Pan Am started, important innovations the airline was party to, and why it was considered instrumental for the successful beginnings of the international airline industry.


The company was founded in 1927 by a trio of Air Corps majors (one of whom, Major Henry "Hap" Arnold would go on to become the first five star general of the Air Force) who wanted to ensure that a German owned airline which operated in Columbia would not be able to gain the rights to fly in the United States (Pan Am Historical Foundation, 2012). SCADTA, the German owned airline, and Pan Am competed for the rights to fly international air mail from Florida into Havana, Cuba. SCADTA had the inside track for the contracts, even though it was a German-based company because they had been operating since 1920. However, the majors found backers for their airline and quickly turned it over to Juan Trippe and a group of investors. This group was able to sell enough stock, $250,000 worth, to be able to lease and buy airplanes and the rights which another American company had gained to land in Cuba (Pan Am Historical Foundation, 2012). With this infrastructure in place it was not long before the company was awarded the contract as the first U.S.-based international air mail company.

The original contracts that Pan American's board was able to secure meant that they had the inside track on any others that would come available (PBS, 2012). This ability to acquire air mail contracts meant that the company expanded very quickly. The president of the company worked with Charles Lindbergh to secure contracts from various countries in Central and South America and went throughout these areas securing landing rights also. During this time they also worked in the United States to ensure that they were able to acquire more mail contracts at home also. Although the chief cargo these planes carried was mail, the planes also offered the first international passengers flights on their air mail planes also (Pan Am Historical Foundation, 2012).


Pan American was an early entrant into the air transport world, so they were forced to come up with many new ideas to make sure that they were able to expand and keep flying. One of the first things they pioneered was pilots who were able to multitask (Pan American Airlines, 2012). Most Pan Am pilots were among the pioneers of aviation themselves and they had been forced to become mechanics as well as pilots during the early years of flight. Planes were about as reliable as cars in those days and it took a very inventive mechanic to keep them flying. Some reports had Pan Am first officers changing engines and other parts of the place while they were sitting docked waiting for the next wave of passengers or mail. Pilots also had to expert navigators as…

Sources Used in Documents:


Pan Am Historical Foundation. (2012). About the foundation. Retrieved from

Pan American Airlines. (2012). About us. Retrieved from

PBS. (2012). Chasing the sun: Pan Am. Retrieved from

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