Home Airlines The One Active Division of Pan Am That’s Still Up & Running

The One Active Division of Pan Am That’s Still Up & Running

by SharonKurheg

During “the golden age of flying,” the U.S. had 3 iconic airlines among others: Eastern Air Lines, Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). They were all immensely popular for decades, but all three eventually fell prey to changing times, increased competition, and rising costs in the latter quarter of the 20th century.

  • Founded in 1926, Eastern was one of the earliest major U.S. air carriers. It was headquartered in Miami, and was even headed by famous WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker for a while. From 1930 through 1950, Eastern enjoyed a near-monopoly on passenger air travel along the Florida to New York corridor. The airline also pioneered air shuttle service, which they established between New York and Washington, D.C., as well as New York and Boston. But the good times couldn’t last forever. Loaded with debt, Eastern filed for bankruptcy in the late 1980s and was extinct by 1991.
  • TWA was founded as two companies – in1926 as Western Air Express, and in 1928 as Transcontinental Air Transport. The two merged in 1930 to become Transcontinental & Western Air, which eventually changed its name to Trans World Airlines. TWA became a major international carrier after its acquisition by billionaire Howard Hughes in 1940. The airline was known as a luxury carrier and considered to be at the cutting edge of technological innovation in air travel into the 1960s. Like Eastern, TWA had increased financial problems in the 1980s. It was forced into bankruptcy in 2001 and was acquired by American Airlines.
  • Pan Am, founded in 1927, was once one of the most recognized airlines in the world. Pan Am was a founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and was also the main international air carrier in the United States from 1927 to 1991. Like TWA, Pan Am was considered one of the most luxurious airlines to fly during the 1950s and 1960s. However, it became a victim of deregulation in the 1970s and went into a spiral of debt before closing up shop in late 1992.

Both Eastern and TWA are 100% “gone” gone, although there have been a few nods to each. Pan Am has even more than that:

Eastern

In 2011, a group purchased the intellectual property of Eastern Air Lines, including its trademarked material, and formed the Eastern Air Lines Group. Once it had all its aviation ducks in a row, the new airline began service through charter and wet-lease flights out of Miami International Airport in late 2014, complete with Boeing 737-800 jetliners painted in the classic Eastern “hockey stick” livery.

Beginning in 2015, Eastern operated charter flights for a variety of college and professional sports teams. It also operated scheduled charter operations to Cuba – Joe and I got to enjoy a round trip of their flights to/from Havana in March 2016.

In 2017, SwiftAir acquired Eastern Airlines. The Eastern name was transferred to Dynamic International Airways, an airline co-owned by Swift ownership. It now operates as Eastern Airlines, LLC. But they didn’t keep the old Eastern logo. 🙁

TWA

Following being absorbed by American Airlines, TWA continued to exist as an LLC under American Airlines until July 1, 2003.

On December 16, 2013, Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines Group, announced that TWA heritage aircraft would be added in the future. On November 16, 2015, American painted a 737-823 in the TWA livery (with American title).

However, (what I consider to be) best of all, the TWA Hotel opened at JFK Airport in May, 2019. It utilizes the head house of the TWA Flight Center, designed in 1962 by the architect Eero Saarinen, and they added one building on each side of the existing head house for the hotel rooms. The TWA Hotels contains a total of 512 rooms, as well as conference space, several restaurants, and an aviation history museum. And don’t forget the Lockheed L-1649A “Super Star” Constellation parked at the TWA Hotel! They turned her into a bar named “Connie.”

Joe and I have stayed at the TWA Hotel twice:

Pan Am

Pan Am may arguably have had the most happening in terms of “winks” and “hat tips” since it declared bankruptcy and ceased operations:

— It was the subject of a TV series that ran from 2011 to 2012, which, in turn, spawned all sorts of cool, retro merchandise.

— The airline’s first office is still standing in Key West, FL and has been converted into a restaurant. We visited in Spring of 2021 and it’s lovely.

Its brand is still available for licensing.

— The Pan Am Experience is currently closed due to COVID. But it’s typically, “a weekly retro-themed event for aviation enthusiasts and people looking for a new fine-dining experience.” Debuting in 2014, its co-founded by Anthony Toth (a self-proclaimed Pan Am superfan), and Talaat Captan – founder and CEO of Air Hollywood. Here’s a good explanation of the Pan Am Experience. And this is our review of when Joe and I went.

But I saved the best for last, because Pan Am also has one special thing that Eastern and TWA don’t – there is one last vestige of the ORIGINAL Pan Am, that never went out of business.

Pan Am Flight Academy. They bill themselves as the world’s most experienced aviation training company.

From their website:

Pan Am Flight Academy being the leading provider of training support for regional, national, and international airlines and aviation professionals. Pan Am Flight Academy is the only surviving division of original Pan American World Airways, Pan Am Flight Academy can trace its instruction heritage to the earliest days of airline flight training.

The Academy’s story began in the early 1960s as an airline, Pan American World Airways. In 1980 Pan American Airways opened its pilot training facility in Miami, Florida, still its base of operations today. Presently, Pan Am has more years of airline training experience than any other aviation training school in the world.

Pan Am Flight Academy provides a professional training experience at the best price with a corporate commitment to meet private and commercial customer objectives.

Purchased by All Nippon Airways around 2013, the Japanese company has poured money into the academy, allowing it to enjoy continued growth.

Pan Am Flight Academy currently owns and operates more than 70 simulators and trains on the Boeing 707, Boeing 737, Boeing 747-200/400, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Airbus A320 family, and Saab 340. They also allow the use of their flight simulators and professional aviators for TV shows and films.

The academy as a whole was even a hero of sorts. From Wikipedia:

On August 17, 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker” of the September 11, 2001, attacks, was arrested after an instructor at Pan Am International Flight Academy became suspicious of him. In a piece in the New York Times, Michael Erlandson, chief of staff on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation is quoted as saying: “The Pan Am people are heroes who worked very diligently to make themselves heard at the FBI.”

So if anybody ever tells you that Pan Am is gone, you set them right. A division of that iconic airline is alive and well in Miami, teaching pilots, flight attendants/cabin crew, and those involved in aviation maintenance to do what they do.

Feature Photo: Aero Icarus / flickr

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15 comments

Miles Rich January 24, 2022 - 1:04 am

I find the first sentence to be a bit melodramatic and also untrue. Eastern Air Lines was no more and I believe less iconic than either United or American. Quite frankly they were known as a schlock airline when compared to the other big four. Eastern did not serve hot meals until 1955 when they first operated DC-7Bs. In the late 40s, they crammed more seats into their Constellations with 5 across seating charging first class fares when other carriers had four across seating. Eastern had many monopoly markets but when other carriers were also awarded those former proprietary routes, Eastern almost always became the 2nd carrier after they had competition. American waa the leading carrier in the USA at the dawn of the Jet age. United overtook American in size in 1961 when they took over Capital which was insolvent. Eastern introduced jets after United and American and really did not have a substantial jet fleet until over 6 years after American introduced the 707 in January of 1959. Eastern’s claim to fame was the Air Shuttle, a very innovative product in the Boston-New York-Washington market, but that hardly makes the airline iconic. Eddie Rickenbacker was a WWI fighter ace and a famous race car driver. He built the airline but his decisions and their long term effects eventually led to its demise.

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stogieguy7 January 24, 2022 - 10:45 am

So glad that Miles Rich made his comment because I was going to say the same thing. Eastern Air Lines is no more iconic than United Air Lines or American Airlines and was – in fact – a regional carrier. Yes, they served LAX but their main area was the East Coast. They didn’t have national coverage. AA and UA, on the other hand, DID have national coverage and UA (along with PanAm) was well known for services to Hawaii.

So, the article starts out with a very flawed assumption.

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M,C.ROSIE ROSENSTEIN January 24, 2022 - 11:00 am

PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS “PAN AM” 1927 / 1991
MADE COMMERCIAL AVIATION WHAT IT IS TODAY IN THE YEAR 2022 BY ALL ITS AIRLINE STAFF
VISIT THE PAN AM MUSEUM FOUNDATION GARDEN CITY NEW YORK AND SEE ITS EXPERIENCE.
M.C. ROSIE ROSENSTEIN PAN AM 1958-1991 SPRING HILL, FLORIDA

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peyeyo12 January 24, 2022 - 1:18 pm

My wife worked in PAN-AM for over ten years. When You speak about PAN-AM she cried.

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Betty Riegel January 24, 2022 - 1:50 pm

Thank you for this information Mr. Rosenstein. The Pan Am Museum on Long Island is on our bucket list. As a former Pan Am stewardess during the golden age of air travel – the 1960’s – we are so eager to see the iconic displays.

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Pat Maginnis January 24, 2022 - 2:03 pm

Pan Am. Greatest Airline ever. Pat Maginnis

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Christian January 24, 2022 - 9:07 pm

+1

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Echo Sierra January 24, 2022 - 3:08 pm

Pan Am was forbidden by the U.S. government from even merging with a domestic air carrier to establish domestic routes. It was forced to remain international and was competing with domestic airlines that expanded to international routes. That along with being targeted by terrorists as the flagship U S. air carrier, hampered it to the point it couldn’t remain competitive. They spent decades getting the inside track from the U.S. regulators, then others following the same tactics did them in.

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ELAINE HOWLETT MOSBURG January 24, 2022 - 8:11 pm

Elaine Howlett AA F/A 1963

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ELAINE HOWLETT MOSBURG 63/1 January 24, 2022 - 8:16 pm

great I was F/A during PAA GOLDEN DAYS IT IS SO sad not to see the white and blue in the air.

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Echo Bravo January 25, 2022 - 7:46 pm

Juan Trippe was a true visionary and aviation innovator. The Pan Am brand was licensed for an extremely clever and evocative boardgame a year or so ago. AvGeeks would appreciate the way in which it captures an era that is gone forever. The game’s time frame is from its founding by Trippe in 1927 until his retirement in 1968.

Also for more of Pan American’s background check out the 2020 documentary biopic “Across the Pacific”.

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Dan Wallace January 25, 2022 - 11:18 pm

I grew up Pan Am. My dad flew those clippers across the seven seas and had a lifetime of world travel stories and adventures. My heart is always with him and Pan Am. What a terrific life he had with them.

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Sister m Heid January 26, 2022 - 8:19 am

So pan am is still alive.

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L.Lee January 27, 2022 - 1:45 pm

35+ year Aviation career because of Pan American Airways. I miss my Dad who worked at hanger 19. I taxied one of there Queens from 19 to the the iconic Terminal at 12 years old, true story. Ex Ramper, Pilot and current Mechanic. I miss Pan Am.

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Nix April 1, 2022 - 7:10 pm

My husband was with Pan Am for 25 years. What and adventure and it was worth it. We mourn the loss, but never the experience. No other airline gave the glorious experienc we had except for Cathay Pacific. Could write our tickets anywhere any time FREE. Could upgrade to 1st class for $25. Caviar, mimosas and wonderful company all the time. It was a different age that nobody now will experience.

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