By late 1945, Pan American World Airways had regularly scheduled flights across the Atlantic by way of Gander Airport, Newfoundland.
One of those working the flights was James J. Rice. His career with Pan American World Airways will last decades, and will find him all over the world.
But perhaps a bit of his heart always remained in that somewhat remote, northern airport. Please meet his wife, Kaye, pictured in the snow boots, in front of her BOAC employee housing, at Gander Airport where they met.
On October 16, 1956, Pan American Flight 6, Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, “Sovereign of the Skies” departed Honolulu and headed northeast towards San Francisco.
“Pan Am 90943, Flight 6, declaring an emergency over the Pacific” radioed Captain Richard Ogg.
Who received that call for help?
U.S. Coast Guard Radioman Doak Walker, onboard the Cutter Pontchartrain.
With a heavy heart we announce the passing of Mr. Doak Walker, January 6, 2019, a true hero, a Pan Am Museum Honoree and Friend.
What happened to the flight crew and passengers of the "Sovereign of the Skies"? Watch the ditch landing and rescue in the video below. An interview with Mr. Walker, click his photo.
A crowd of thousands was present to witness the historical event. It must have been everybody in Vienna, able to move, who was there. After the welcome ceremony by dignitaries, the crowd was invited to enter the airplane aft, to exit at the front door. It took a long time until everybody had completed the walk through.
The Press and TV of Austria was invited to a flight around their country and every seat was occupied. Two Pan Am stewardesses where assigned to help us serve Champagne and hors d'oeuvres for the one hour trip. I must have been opening Champagne bottles close to 100 and the popping corks sounded like a little fireworks all of my own!
For the landing, I grabbed one of the TV cameras and filmed the landing at Vienna from the cockpit. I was not able to turn off the camera and walked back to the man I took the big heavy contraption from. He turned it off and thanked me with a lot of gratitude, all in German of course, which I speak and have done so in all the announcements of the flight. Later on another trip to Vienna, I learned that the whole episode of my taping was broadcasted the same evening on Austrian television, including my walk back from the cockpit to the camera man, whereby I had held the camera to capture the highly impressed faces of passengers.
Harry W Frahm
Vice President Miami Chapter
* Pan Am historical records show introduction of jet service to Vienna was 12/22/1959. Vienna International Airport history reads that a runway extension was built to accommodate this arrival.
“Ha! The question is more like where aren’t we going to fly,” he said. “All over the Caribbean, all those islands. Down through Mexico, there’s some wonderful places in Central America you know. And then to Buenos Aires, me boy . . . Argentina. Enchanted place. Buenos Aires is going to be the next Paris, just you watch.”
“It all seems so far,” I offered.
“Far? Oliver, mark my words. In ten years you’ll be able to get on a plane in New York and fly to London, or Paris, or even Rome. You’ll fly in a big, beautiful bird drinking the best wine and eating the best food. You’ll make a trip in a day that now takes almost a week. And from California we’ll send up flights that will go to Hawaii, and from there we can get to the Orient. China, Japan—a world most people have only dreamed of,” Mister Trippe said.
He leaned back in his wicker chair.
“The oceans, sir?” I said. “Taking people all the way across? Lindbergh barely made it, and it was just him.”
Mister Trippe turned to me again.
“Nobody believes it can be done more than Lindbergh,” he said.
Then he turned and looked out his window, sipping his rum and puffing on his cigar.
"Flying Conquistadors" is reality inspired fiction.
Book available on www.smile.amazon.com
Please choose Pan Am Museum Foundation as the not-for-profit organization you support when ordering.
Copyright 2016 by Michael Scott Bertrand.
No part of this excerpt shall be reproduced or transmitted without the express consent of the copyright holder.
"I loved the company that I worked [for]. I like to say we had the ragged end of the glory days. We were a little tattered; there wasn’t as much shine left on the silver. It was really devastating to me when the company went bankrupt and I lost my job because so many of those people were like my family. In fact, anywhere we would fly to in the world, we would have a place to stay. We always had someone somewhere in the world to show us the way. When that was taken away from me it was like I had lost my entire family."
Phillip P Keene, Actor, on Pan American World Airways, Board Member, Pan Am Museum
During this flight (Flight 114 departing New York to France), our captain was notified that France was on a national strike. We were only an hour away from Paris. The airport tower and air controllers were included in this national strike. The captain quickly made a general announcement over the speaker “all passengers fasten your seat belts immediately”. The key word “immediately” in the announcement was a code word to alert the crew of a major issue.
We systematically assembled in the galley near the cockpit of our 707 Boeing. The captain informed us of the national strike and the lack of fuel for a diverted landing. The captain was then instructed to land at a French military base outside Paris. We returned to our duties and waited for further instructions.
After short time, the chief purser approached me to inform me that I was selected to be the responsible person for the translations of landing instructions by the non-English speaking French military air controllers. Yikes! I was petrified. My initial reaction was all the visions that came to mind during the times I sat in the cockpit jump seat during take-off and landings. I would watch at the faces of the captain and first officer age by at least ten years during those most stressful moments. (The cockpit also staffed a navigator.) Why me? Well, my family moved to France in the late 1940’s after WWII. We lived in France for ten years and my brother, sister and I spoke french as natives.
I was still petrified. Finally, I bravely marched to the cockpit and we landed safely on the French military base in the middle of a parcel of land near their landing strips. For military security reasons we were precluded from leaving the plane until Pan Am sent buses for all passengers and crew.
It happened that my brother Peter and his family were living in Paris at that time. Before disembarking, my first thought was to bring my family provisions. I grabbed all the non-perishable and food items from first class to take to my brother. Agriculture and customs were no where to be seen, therefore, the provisions would be wasted on the plane.
When I finally arrived at their home in Neuilly, Anne, my sister-in law just marvel over all the goodies. It was like an early Christmas. They were so low on food supplies because all the grocery stores etc were also on strike.
Pan Am Story told by the Pan Am Stewardess who lived it,
"Have you seen this Betty?"
The front page of the paper had a story about a Saudi Arabian prince. He was a notorious party animal and playboy, and on this particular trip, it was alleged he had spent the week holed up in his hotel room with a go go dancer. It described how the prince was spotting a dime sized diamond on his ring finger and was going to be leaving Honolulu to go back to the mainland that day.
A few seconds later, one of the ground crew came in. "Just to let you know, there's an important VIP on board today and he has a large entourage with him," he said.
As soon as we saw the handsome young man in his long white robes we all knew straight away it was the prince from the newspaper.
I was working the first class galley that day, and was busy preparing the meal service for the flight when one of his entourage came in. He didn't speak very good English and the only bit I could understand was something about the prince wanting mashed potato.
"I'm dreadfully sorry sir,", I said, "but please tell the prince is potato croquettes with dinner today."
The man looked puzzled and shook his head. "No, no, Prince wants to learn mashed potato."
Then, much to my amusement, he started to knock his knees together in a comical fashion.
"Ah," I smiled. "Well tell His Royal Highness to come up here (first class galley) and I will see what we can do." I gathered all the stewardesses together.
We stood in a circle and started to dance. The Prince thought it was hilarious and soon he joined in with us. God only knows what the other first class passengers must have thought when they saw us all crowded in the galley having an impromptu dance with Saudi Arabian royalty.
reprinted with permission from "Up in the Air", by Betty Riegel
copyright 2013, Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
She was found in a thrift shop, in an unsorted box called "photos". But NC823M tells a story. This Sikorsky S-42 joined the Pan American Airways Fleet in 1934 as a mail & passenger carrier for the Caribbean routes. The photo is hand-dated 1940, Miami.
On August 8, 1944, NC823M, was departing Antilla to return home. She crashed, hitting the sea, shortly after take off. There were 17 fatalities out of the 26 passengers and 5 crew. She remains fully submerged in Bahia de Nipe near the now defunct Antilla airport in Cuba.
Meet the "Hong Kong Clipper": not forgotten, she is home, here at the Pan Am Museum.
November 3, 1945 : Pan American Airways Boeing 314 (NC18601) "Honolulu Clipper" was on a repatriation mission when five hours after departing Hawaii, still flying across the Pacific Ocean, engine number three had trouble. Captain S. E. "Robby" Robinson was at the helm. An experienced pilot, he probably reassured his 26 passengers all would be ok. Then engine number four caught fire.
Well, this is a flying boat. So in the dead of night, about 650 miles east of Oahu, Captain Robinson decided to land the aircraft. Yes, land in the Pacific Ocean.
Thankfully radio contact was maintained throughout the flight and the merchant tanker "Englewood Hills" reached the clipper and removed all the passengers.
The crew choose to remain with the crippled aircraft. What happens next...well...
Pan American Airways Boeing 314 (NC8601) "Honolulu Clipper" was having a bad day. Just yesterday, she had to land in the Pacific Ocean due to engine trouble. Her passengers were safely evacuated, and her crew and other mechanics were working on her at sea with hopes to get her flying again. To no avail.
Ok. Get "Honolulu Clipper" back to safe harbor. The escort carrier "Manila Bay" had been towing her for seven hours...when the line snapped...
What happened next?
Ok. Call in a seaplane tender, the "San Pablo" to bring the now disabled Boeing 314 (NC8601)"Honolulu Clipper" back to the mainland safely.
She's having a bad week. November 3rd, 1945 engine trouble, had to land in Pacific Ocean. November 4th, can't fix the aircraft and the tow line bringing her back to shore, snapped. November 5th and 6th, aircraft floated around waiting for rescue.
November 7th, the "San Pablo" approaches "Honolulu Clipper" when, oh no, the ship and plane collided. The "Honolulu Clipper" was now damaged beyond repair.
November 14th, 1945, 8,000 flying hours, still floating, "Honolulu Clipper" was intentionally sunk to the bottom of the ocean by her rescue crew firing upon her.