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RTW80 Leg 25. San Francisco – Los Angeles. KSFO-KLAX.


An afternoon on Continental Airlines. Right through the late 1970s, Continental was known as a "high quality, high service" airline. After deregulation, it became a poster boy for the airline as a financial enterprise in which one gambled on small margins and in which one could win or lose the entire airline depending on the vagaries of chance. At the end, it was not only finance but also quality that mattered.

Climbing out over KSFO

The airline's beginning was initiated by Walter Varney. After selling his first airline to what became United, he started his second in 1934. The new Varney Speed Lines meant Varney flying a Lockheed Vega on a single route between El Paso, Texas and Pueblo, Colorado. In 1936, Varney left the company and it soon fell into the hands of Robert Six, an outgoing and intensely-driven young pilot who had modest previous experience in commercial aviation. Six changed the name to "Continental Air Lines" to reflect his ambitions and moved its headquarters to Denver, Colorado.

Turning south and leaving San Francisco behind

Continental, led by Six, was able to accumulate profits as it ran transport for the military during the war (as well as operate a maintenance shop for military aircraft). Those wartime profits went into a post-war modernization of the fleet with DC-3 and Convair 240/340 aircraft. In 1953, Continental merged with Pioneer and gained access to more cities in Texas and New Mexico.

Santa Cruz and a calm Pacific to the west

Robert Six, a forceful personality, "bigger than life", continued to lobby the CAB for more routes and was able to expand its route structure. By the end of the 1950s, it had added Chicago, Kansas City and Los Angeles to its network. Six surprised the industry by being an early advocate for price reductions rather than price increases – under the expectation that airlines' best path forward was an increase in the number of customers rather than an increase in the tariff their customers paid. He introduced economy fares and his profits climbed. And in the early 1960s, Six moved its headquarters to Los Angeles and became an early adopter of jet aircraft. The Continental route structure now added Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix, Tucson, San Jose, Seattle, Portland and Honolulu. The airline had grown 500 percent in a decade.

Six was a charismatic hands-on manager. He could be found mingling over beers with Continental pilots and he often ate meals in the employees cafeteria.

The Coastal Range with the San Joaquin Valley in the background

In the 1970s, Continental was a launch airline for the B747 and its service and meals gained accolades. When asked why he flew Continental, Hollywood legend Henry Fonda remarked, "This operation is class, strictly class!" (The B747 gave way to the DC-10 as a better match for Continental's route structure and passenger loads.) After he retired in 1982, Six noted the 1977 was the last year of service in airlines as it was the year before deregulation.

Supersonic flight and Continental's
optimistic view of the future in 1971

With deregulation, Continental became a target for Frank Lorenzo, an airline industry entrepreneur. He initiated a battle with Robert Six and the current management for control of Continental. The labor unions joined with the management as they appreciated Lorenzo's poor reputation in labor relations. Lorenzo prevailed and his smaller Texas International merged into Continental Airlines. The company moved to Houston, the home of Texas International, and it came under new management.

Smithsonian Airline Historian REG Davis: "Unfortunately, the policies that had been successful for more than forty years under Six's cavalier style of management were suddenly laid bare as the cold winds of airline deregulation changed all the rules."

Approaching the LA Basin with Malibu and Santa Monica in view

When the new Lorenzo team took over, they committed to reducing Continental's cost structure. Through the early-1980s, they fought with the pilots, flight attendants, and machinists. In 1983 management filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and freed itself from contractual obligations – and imposed new labor agreements on its workers. It emerged from Chapter 11 with reduced costs and began to expand. It acquired financially troubled Frontier and People Express and opened a hub at Newark.

In 1990, with the rise in jet fuel, Continental again filed for bankruptcy. The law had changed and this time Lorenzo could not cancel contracts and reimpose his own terms. The airline was bought out by a different set of ownership groups (Frank Lorenzo left the company) and again emerged three years later, cutting routes and services and eliminating the Denver hub.

On finals into LAX Runway 25R

Continental then appointed Gordon Bethune as president and CEO to turn things around. (Bethune was an avionics technician in the Navy, a maintenance manager with Braniff and Western, operations manager for Piedmont, and responsible for production of the B737 and B757 for Boeing. He held a commercial pilot certificate with type ratings in the DC-3, the B757 and B767. Not a wizard of finance.) Bethune focused on employee morale and emphasized teamwork and the quality of the product. In the next decade, Continental went from last in most performance categories to winning more JD Power awards than any other airline. Its stock rose from $2 to $50 per share. Fortune ranked Continental as 2004's No. 1 Most Admired Airline, an award it earned for five years consecutively.

Continental became a truly international airline. From its hubs, it developed service to Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Zurich, and London. And then Hong Kong, New Delhi and Mumbai.

Following the turbulence of the 2000s, in 2008 Continental and United developed a cooperative alliance and engaged in merger talks. In 2010, the stock-swap deal combined them into the (then) world's largest airline. The new airline was called United Airlines and its headquarters based in United's hometown Chicago. Continental owners received a premium on their stock and the new management team was led by Continental's CEO. 

Taxiing to the gate at LAX

The new airline is now the third largest after American and Delta (who have now merged with other airlines).

Date: 2022-02-27
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 1:28
Leg Distance: 340nm
Total Time: 58:03
Total Distance: 14,785m


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RTW80 Leg 26. Los Angeles - Albuquerque. KLAX-KABQ.


Our English gentleman, the fellow with the stopwatch who has somehow become rather mellow, asked if we could see the stars of Hollywood. Happily, our Western Airlines friends who are headquartered here, volunteered to show off their home city. They wrangled invitations to an Opening Night for a new picture show, with all the stars and all the glittering pizzazz. Needless to say, everyone in our party was just thrilled to be part of such a gala event.


This morning our Western crew will take us through the American Southwest. After our 2017 trip through Salt Lake City, following Phileas Phogg's original itinerary, we shall do something different and take the "southern route" this year.

Western DC-6B departing KLAX

Just as the US Postal Service began to give airlines contracts to carry airmail, Western Airlines was first incorporated in 1925 as Western Air Express. (For a decade, airlines made their money on mail and regarded passengers as a useful but not sufficient revenue stream.) The first "passengers" were two men perched atop mail sacks on an eight-hour mail delivery flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in 1926. In a couple of years the company reincorporated and merged with Transcontinental Air Transport to form Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA, later Trans World Airlines).

Still climbing over snow-tinged Big Bear

In 1934, Western Air Express separated from TWA and started its own route, this time from San Diego to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. In 1937 it merged with National Parks Airways and extended its route structure northward to Lethbridge, Alberta. In 1941 it became Western Air Lines (and later Western Airlines). By the end of the 1940s, the route pattern was from Seattle to San Diego, Los Angeles to Salt Lake to Edmonton, and south to Denver and north to Minneapolis.

Over the beautiful Mojave Desert

During the 1950s, Western added longer-distance flights (with the DC-6B) such as Minneapolis or Denver direct to Los Angeles, as well as Los Angeles to Mexico City.

Arizonan desert over the Colorado River Basin

And in the 1960s Western Airlines turned to jets to keep up with the competition: B707s and then B727s and B737s. In 1967, it acquired Pacific Northern and eventually integrated Anchorage into its route structure. And in the 1970s, it added DC-10 "Spaceships" for longer flights such as Los Angeles to Miami or Honolulu. At its peak, Western flew to many cities (large and small) across the western US, as well as multiple destinations in Mexico, Canada, and Alaska. It eventually added major cities in the East, Midwest and South.

Sedona off the nose with Flagstaff in the distance. Must have stimulated the right karma as the high altitude winds shifted markedly to increase our airspeed.

Western was headquartered in Los Angeles. With deregulation, and the associated economic shocks, it reduced its hubs to LAX and Salt Lake City.

In the late 1970s, Western Airlines and Continental Airlines agreed to merge. A dispute broke out over what to call the combined airline: Western-Continental or Continental-Western. An infamous coin toss occurred. Bob Six, the colorful founder of CAL, demanded that Continental be "tails" in deference to their marketing slogan "We Really Move Our Tail for You! Continental Airlines: the Proud Bird with the Golden Tail". The coin flip turned up "heads". Six was so disappointed he called the merger off.

After the difficult early 1980s, Western Airlines agreed to merge with Delta Air Lines in 1986. The Western brand disappeared and its employees and aircraft were merged into Delta. The traditional Western centers Salt Lake City and Los Angeles became major and minor hubs for Delta.

On the ramp at Albuquerque

Date: 2022-03-08
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 2:21
Leg Distance: 594nm
Total Time: 60:24
Total Distance: 15,379m


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RTW80 Leg 27. Albuquerque – Oklahoma City. KABQ-KOKC.


Oklahoma City is our next destination. This was the original home of Braniff International Airways, so we shall take one of their flights. (The poster is for Texas. But the Oil Theme applies to Oklahoma as well.)

Braniff International Airways ready to leave Albuquerque for Oklahoma City

The Braniff brothers (Thomas and Paul) began the airline as a one-plane venture on the Oklahoma City-Tulsa line in 1928. They sold out (and that company got amalgamated into what became American Airlines). But they returned to the business in 1930 with a Lockheed Vega. Selling seats during the Great Depression was tough and their airline was about to go under when Paul managed to lobby for the Chicago-Dallas Air Mail route – and the air mail subsidy would be enough to save the company. Paul left for other fields and Thomas took over and engineered steady growth by merging with several small carriers and adding postal routes. By 1940 Braniff had changed to the new DC-3s but soon turned them over for military use. The company moved its headquarters to Dallas Love Field and operated its Midwestern routes from the Great Lakes to Texas. And it flew supplies along the "Banana Route" to Panama and the Canal Zone.

In its patriotic Red, White, and Blue colors, Braniff DC-6 climbs over the snow-packed mountains

After the War, Braniff was awarded a route from Dallas to the Caribbean, Central America and then South America. The US government wanted to increase competition on the South American routes and Braniff now competed directly with Pan Am's Panagra Line. (Pan American's Juan Trippe was not thrilled.) Braniff began in 1948 flying to Havana and then Lima. It added Rio de Janeiro and then Buenos Aires so that it eventually covered the continent north to south. The company changed its name to Braniff International Airways and its route extension gave it special cache. Yet, the new Latin America Division really did not make money until 1965. But then, in 1967 it acquired the Panagra routes to become the premier American carrier in South America.

West Texas is very very flat. As far as the eye can see.

Unhappily, Thomas Braniff died in a private plane crash on a hunting trip in 1954. While the existing management team continued the growth and transformed to jets in the 1960s, the family decided to sell out. Braniff was acquired in 1964 by Greatamerica Insurance who saw the airline as an investment opportunity. (The airline's careful conservative management had been purchasing its aircraft – rather than leasing them and instead using the capital for more speculative ventures. The investors placed their bets on faster growth.)

The new ownership lured Harding Lawrence from Continental Airlines (where he had engineered a 500 percent growth over the prior years) to become the new president. The dynamic young Lawrence, at age 44, decided to remake the airline's image by using  a promotional campaign designed to catapult Braniff into the world's spotlight. He hired an advertising agency to design the campaign and it was (soon-to-be advertising legend) Mary Wells who took charge. The old staid conservative red-white-and-blue colors were retired. It its place, the "End of the Plain Plane" campaign employed famous designers to create new Space Age uniforms for flight personnel and new external liveries from a palette of bright and vibrant colors that were complemented by similarly colorful interiors. "Flying on Braniff was stylish and exciting and the rest of the industry followed." (Lawrence and Wells were happily married a few years later.)


With the increased public attention, Braniff began a non-stop period of growth in traffic and profits for the next 14 years. When the Hawaii route was acquired, in 1971 the new B747 was painted bright orange and it became the flagship of the fleet. The plane acquired the nickname "The Great Pumpkin" and attracted extensive publicity. (Subsequent 747s sported the same distinctive hue.) In 1973, Alexander Calder was commissioned to paint aircraft; he created some stunningly brilliant liveries, including the spectacular Flying Colors of South America on a DC-8. In 1977, American couturier Halston was hired to bring an elegant and refined feel to Braniff. The new color schemes of "The Ultra Look" featured deeper dark and elegant colors with light brown leather interiors. This new "Elegance Campaign" was designed to show the maturing of Braniff as well the look and feel of opulence. The airline had translated this special cultural appeal into economic success, despite its running much lower load factors than the competition.


With airline deregulation in 1978, Harding Lawrence and Braniff responded aggressively with new routes and new aircraft acquisitions. With rising customer appeal and profitability, Braniff was poised to take advantage of new markets by making a massive investment in aircraft and increasing in its services – a seemingly good gamble for taking on debt.

Hmm. Not the expected oil wells but wind farms instead.

However, the unexpected Iranian revolution and the subsequent skyrocketing fuel prices put Braniff (and other airlines) under financial pressure. Between 1979 and 1980 the price of fuel more than doubled and became the key to the cost crisis. The subsequent recession, the worst in decades, further stressed the airline by diminishing its core business-class customer base. The board forced Lawrence to retire. And the new managers struggled as revenues plummeted and costs soared. Their attempts to move the airline down-market simply failed. They did sell the Latin America operations to Eastern. That was not enough. Braniff International Airways ceased all operations in 1982.  

Deplaning at Oklahoma City. Where Braniff began its story.

Date: 2022-03-08
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 1:38
Leg Distance: 456nm
Total Time: 62:02
Total Distance: 15,835m


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RTW80 Leg 28. Oklahoma City – Chicago Midway. KOKC-KMDW.


Chicago, the city of big shoulders. We fly on American Airlines who, along with United Airlines, stood in the first rank of US airlines for most of the past century. Today it is the largest airline in the world, carrying 200 million passengers anually with an average of more than 500,000 passengers daily.

Climbing out of Oklahoma City headed for Chicago Midway

American has its roots in the 1920s carriers Robertson Aircraft Corporation and Colonial Air Transport. (St. Louis-based Robertson employed Charles Lindbergh as a chief airmail pilot in 1926. And they then hired the great Slonnie Sloniger as his successor – he became the chief pilot for American in its early days.) Robertson and Colonial merged into a holding company which aggregated some eighty smaller operations into American Airways during the years 1930-1934.

After the airmail scandal of 1934, E.L. Cord acquired the company and hired hard-driving Texas businessman C.R. Smith to run the business. In accord with the terms of the scandal's resolution, companies "reconstituted" themselves essentially by adopting new names. American Airways became American Airlines. The airline operated a transcontinental route network serving 72 cities mostly in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southwest.

High and fast over the Midwest.

How fast? With 89kts tailwind, we were scooting along at 361kts ground speed.

Smith made an historic move when, in a marathon phone call, he convinced Donald Douglas to develop a sleeper aircraft based on the highly promising DC-2. This would require a new wider fuselage for the sleeper berths and thus a redesign of the aircraft's fundamental structure. The clincher was Smith's agreement to buy 20 such aircraft. The planes were delivered and put into service in 1936. The extra width turned out to be revolutionary not for sleepers but instead because it increased the aircraft's regular passenger capacity from 14 to 21 – enough to allow carriers to make a profit transporting passengers alone without having to rely on government airmail contracts. The DC-3 became one of the most important aircraft of all time.

With the DC-3, American began calling its planes "Flagships" – flying an admiral's pennant outside the cockpit window when the aircraft was parked. It established an "Admirals Club" for valued passengers. Membership was originally "by invitation only" but later incorporated anyone who was willing to pay the dues.

In 1939 American initiated overnight transcontinental flights between New York and Los Angeles. The current connection between JFK and LAX averages six hours. In 1939 the flight departed from Newark at 7:10am Eastern Time and landed at Glendale airport in suburban Los Angeles at 12:29am Pacific Time. It took 20 hours 19 minutes to complete, and included eight intermediate stops and one change of planes from a DC-2 to a DC-3 "Flagship Sleeper". Anyone with means could now cross the continent within a single day.


After the War, American acquired American Export Airlines, renamed it American Overseas Airlines, and proceeded to compete directly with Juan Trippe's established Pan American Airways. Again, the US government wanted US competition on the critical North Atlantic routes. In 1950, American sold out to Pan Am to concentrate on the more lucrative domestic market. Nevertheless, right through the 1950s American Airlines was the United States' largest air carrier, the world's second-largest after Aeroflot.

American (along with United) was a launch customer for the first DC-6 in November 1946. The next year, a series of inflight fires, including a fatal crash, grounded the country's DC-6 fleet for four months until modifications were completed. While there was some loss of confidence, Douglas successfully assured the public and by 1949 most of the larger domestic airlines and a number of international airlines had put the DC-6 into service.


In addition, American's C.R. Smith asked Donald Douglas for the larger, faster, and longer-ranged DC-7 to be developed. Just as he had for the DC-3. He wanted an aircraft to fly non-stop coast-to-coast in the USA within eight hours. (Regulations limited aircrews to 8 hours flight time.) Again, Douglas was reluctant but, again, Douglas was persuaded by Smith's order of 25 aircraft at a cost of $40 million. (This was enough to cover Douglas' development costs.) American received their first DC-7 in November 1953 and immediately inaugurated the first non-stop east-coast-to-west-coast service in the country. (TWA responded in kind with their Super Constellations.) Both aircraft frequently experienced inflight engine failures – possibly due to pushing the powerful but complex engines to meet ambitious time schedules.

The company was also quick to seek jets. American was first interested in the de Havilland Comet but understandably turned to being an early customer for Boeing's 707. Starting in 1959, American introduced the jets into their transcontinental service and, within three years, had already committed $440 million toward its jet fleet.

Over the western St. Louis suburbs, I can sort of identify my street of 25 years ago.

In the 1960s, American worked with IBM to produce an electronic booking capacity and produced the SABRE system. This replaced a manual system in which operators gathered around a card deck and physically worked through each aircraft's flight seats to make reservations. (The actual project was started in 1953 when a high-ranking IBM salesman Blair Smith and American's CEO C.R. Smith happened to sit next to each other on a transcontinental flight. They put together IBM's information processing with American's technical needs and understood that automated booking was a possibility.) The SABRE system came on board in the 1960s for American and was eventually expanded to include almost all airlines and travel agents. American was correctly identified as using the booking system to favor its own flights over the competition. Robert Crandall, president of American bluntly replied, "The preferential display of our flights, and the corresponding increase in our market share, is the competitive raison d'etre for having created the system in the first place." Unimpressed, the United States government outlawed screen bias. SABRE and American separated in 2000 and SABRE (in one form or another) remains an important player in international bookings.

An American "true story"

And in the late-1960s American pushed for a widebody transport smaller than a B747 but capable of long-range routes into smaller airports. The result was becoming a launch partner for the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. By the 1970s American had flights from New York, Chicago and St. Louis to Honolulu and then on to Auckland.

One striking feature of Midway is its small footprint. Airliners land right over local South Side neighborhoods. This is more intimate that you expect.

American handled the disruptions of deregulation better than most. It moved its headquarters to Fort Worth, Texas from New York City in 1979. And it changed to a hub-and-spoke system in 1981 with Dallas/Fort Worth International as its first hub. (This experimental move was a little lucky. The new DFW was underutilized and made the hub system work unusually well there.) It added a second hub at Chicago's O'Hare in 1982.

In 1989 American bought the South American operations from troubled Eastern Airlines. [These were the fruits of decades-long developments by Pan Am and Braniff, each of which were sold due to bankruptcy pressures. And the operations were available in 1989 due to Eastern's bankruptcy pressures.] Since then, American has established a very strong position as the primary international carrier on the continent.

Turning off the runway with a great view of the Chicago Skyline

American took further advantage of the deregulation dislocations when, in 1991, it purchased TWA's London Heathrow operations in order to gain (with United) exclusive US access to the London route. And then, in 2001, it bought the near-bankrupt TWA itself. (A decade earlier, TWA had been purchased and its assets stripped for personal profit by the self-serving venture capitalist Carl Ichan.)

Of course American was not immune to the economic effects of the 21st century. It was hit by the impact of the 911 attacks and airline recession. And it was more seriously wounded by the 2008 financial crisis. It cut flights and reduced its hubs, it fired flight attendants, and it abandoned a number of older MD-80s. In 2011, American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and began serious capacity cuts. Then, in 2012-2013, American and US Airways announced a merger (in the process it was revealed that American was financially in debt to US Airways). The new airline would carry the "American Airlines" name and brand equity. The headquarters would be in Fort Worth. But, notably, the US Airways' management team would take most of the operational management positions. The merger created the world's largest airline, which along with United and Delta would control three-quarters of the US market.

At the gate in Chicago's Midway.

Since the merger, American has underperformed it rivals and has ranked down the list on several quality ratings (alongside United). And it is the most-indebted major US airline. Also, the largest.

An inside view of our craft at the gate.

Legendary American CEO Robert Crandall on "The Airline as Investment" in 2006:

During this time, concern over airline bankruptcies and falling stock prices brought a warning from American's CEO Robert Crandall. "I've never invested in any airline", Crandall said. "I'm an airline manager. I don't invest in airlines. And I always said to the employees of American, 'This is not an appropriate investment. It's a great place to work and it's a great company that does important work. But airlines are not an investment.'" Crandall noted that since airline deregulation of the 1970s, 150 airlines had gone out of business. "A lot of people came into the airline business. Most of them promptly exited, minus their money," he said.

Date: 2022-03-09
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 2:01
Leg Distance: 633nm
Total Time: 64:03
Total Distance: 16,468m


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RTW80 Leg 29. Chicago Midway – Washington National (Reagan). KMDW-KDCA.


Now on to Washington, D.C. Our traveling party wants to see the monuments and the nation's capital. I'm afraid that this is too early in the season for the cherry blossoms, but we'll see.

We were scheduled on a Capital Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington. But the aircraft is unavailable. In its place, we shall hop aboard a Delta Air Lines craft that is going our way.

Departing Midway and leaving Chicago behind.

Delta started out in the early 1920s as an experimental aerial crop dusting operation in Macon, Georgia and then Monroe, Louisiana. It was designed by researchers at a US Department of Agriculture field laboratory to combine developments in entomology with modern aviation technology in order to combat the boll weevil infestation that was destroying cotton crops. In 1928, C.E. Woolman left his position at LSU's Agricultural Extension Department and, after some further practical testing in Peru, bought the company and incorporated it as Delta Air Service, named after the Mississippi Delta region that the company served.

Dark clouds over Indiana.

After a period of crop dusting and passenger transport, the company was losing money and was sold. Woolman bought back the crop dusting part and, in 1934 after the Air Mail scandal, Woolman obtained an Air Mail route necessary for financial stability. His company flew as Delta Air Lines in Stinson Trimotors. They carried the mail and passengers along a route running from Fort Worth to Charleston. (The name was officially changed in 1945.)

Above the weather at FL210. Love the pressurized DC-6B.

In 1941, Woolman's Delta moved to Atlanta, the fastest-growing city in the South. The route system (now employing new DC-2s and DC-3s) was expanded to include direct passenger service to Fort Worth, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Charleston and Savannah. And in a couple of years it added New Orleans, Chicago, and Miami. In the 1950s Delta acquired Chicago and Southern Airlines to add north-south routes from Chicago and Detroit to Houston and New Orleans. And then it added Washington and New York (first Newark and then Idlewild). The company had been a southern airline with a de facto hub-and-spoke system with the hub in Atlanta. (The regional saying was, "If you're going to Heaven, you've got to go through Atlanta.") By the end of the 1950s, Delta was a southern-based system which extended to much of the eastern half of the country.

Over West Virginia, we encountered light turbulence. No worries.

With the arrival of jets in the 1960s, Delta added DC-8s with Delta's new red, white, and blue triangle logo (the "widget" meant to capture the shape of swept-back wings). Convair 880s followed and then DC-9s. Afterwards, somewhat delayed, came the Lockheed L-1011 which became the backbone of the airline's long-distance fleet. Delta became an all-jet airline in 1970s. In 1972, Delta acquired Northeast Airlines and thus an entry to Boston and New England and the lucrative routes between the Northeast and Florida.

C.E. Woolman died in 1966. Delta ceased crop-dusting operations.

Flying the River Visual Approach down the Potomac River. A little high and a little off course. Here is Memorial Bridge and built-up Rosslyn.

The management team weathered the disruptions of deregulation and added B737s, as well as its first B757s and B767s. In 1987 the company merged with Western Airlines and then initiated its first Trans-Pacific service from Atlanta to Portland to Tokyo. Delta's reach then expanded dramatically when it purchased most of Pan Am's European routes after Pan Am declared bankruptcy in 1991. (The total price for these assets was $1.3 billion.) This purchase gave Delta the largest transatlantic operational system among US airlines.

A quick glance down the Mall.  The State Department (busy place on the left), the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and to the right, the Jefferson Memorial.

Short finals with Lincoln Memorial, Kennedy Center, National Cathedral (in the distance), White House, Washington Monument & Jefferson Memorial

In the early 2000s, Delta attempted to deal with the disruptions of 911 and the fuel crisis by dropping some flights, concentrating on Atlanta operations, and instituting some job cuts. It simplified the fleet by replacing its trijets (L-1011 and MD-11) with twinjets (B767 and B777). It sold one of its Delta Connection carriers. But in the end, Delta filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2005. The company cut salaries for non-union workers, for executives, for pilots, and most dramatically for CEO Gerald Grinstein. It laid off fifteen percent of its employees. It returned to profitability, fended off a hostile takeover bid (from US Airways) and emerged from bankruptcy protection, in 2007.

Gate at Washington National Airport. This terminal and adjacent hangars are on the National Register of Historic places. (The airport is now dominated by the newer terminal buildings, opened in 1997, and it was renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport in 1998. Most residents call it simply "National".)

This is the original building, built in 1941 as Roosevelt pushed this project through Congressional objections. In the 1950s, the main carriers were Eastern, American, and Capital (headquartered at National).

In 2008 Northwest and Delta, both just then out of bankruptcy, announced that they would merge under the Delta name. After governmental approval, operations were integrated by 2012. Delta Air Lines now is the second largest (passengers) or third largest (fleet size) airline in the United States and the world.

Familiar view for older Washingtonians for whom National's main terminal was an iconic point of arrival and departure.

From a personal point of view, I was particularly happy to fly Delta Air Lines on this leg. In 1958, as a nine-year-old boy, I flew via Delta from Montgomery, Alabama to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to New York. (From looking at timetables, this was probably in a DC-3 and then a DC-7.) I remember this experience fondly. As a youngster I got to visit the DC-7 cockpit to sit in the right hand seat and "fly the aircraft". I was surprised to learn that the aircraft was slow to respond to aileron inputs and that it was difficult to adjust to the delayed inputs. The experience does not seem to have made me a better pilot.

Date: 2022-03-11
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 1:44
Leg Distance: 522nm
Total Time: 65:47
Total Distance: 16,990m


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Great narrative and interesting history lesson as usual.  Really like the way the Art Deco motif in the old main terminal is depicted.  One small correction though, "Key Bridge" connects Rosslyn and Georgetown, "Memorial Bridge" is a bit further down river and connects the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery.

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RTW80 Leg 30. Washington National (Reagan) – New York LaGuardia. KDCA-KLGA.


Then New York City. We make our way to the Eastern Airlines gate to take a quick "shuttle" to LaGuardia.

Eastern ready for a quick trip to New York's LaGuardia.

Clement Keys (a former finance editor for the Wall Street Journal) bought Philadelphia-based Pitcairn Aviation with its New York-Atlanta-Miami airmail route. He sold it into his larger holding company North American Aviation, changed its name to Eastern Air Transport and explored the possibility of passenger flights along the New York-Philadelphia-Washington-Richmond line. In the event, Keys lost a fortune in the market and General Motors gained control of the company. After the Airmail Act of 1934, it became Eastern Air Lines and received its prior share of airmail subsidies up and down the East Coast. The fleet included Ford Trimotors, Fokker F-X, and Curtiss Condors. Importantly, World War I ace and racecar driver Eddie Rickenbacker became the general manager of Eastern.

Climbing out of National.

While most of the major airlines focused on transcontinental flights, Eastern's specialty was the East Coast. The airline adopted the tagline "Number one to the sun" while it acquired contracts for a number of routes spanning the coast from New York to Miami. It catered to the high demand for quick passenger travel between the northeastern states and the vacation areas of Florida.

In 1938, Rickenbacker, with the help of associates, bought Eastern Air Lines. The complex deal was concluded when Rickenbacker presented General Motors' Alfred P. Sloan with a certified check for $3,500,000 (equivalent to $64,350,000 in 2020).

Rickenbacker was responsible for Eastern's Great Silver Fleet, a fleet of DC-2s and DC-3s  that operated on the East Coast. One was the first commercial airplane to touch down at Washington's new National Airport in 1941. Eastern had 15 weekday departures from Newark to Washington, Miami, Richmond, Houston, and San Antonio, two from Chicago to Miami, and one from Tampa to Atlanta and Tallahassee to Memphis. These (and their returns) made Eastern the fourth largest airline in the country in 1939.

Baltimore Harbor

After the War, Eastern became even stronger. The company ordered Lockheed Constellations and Douglas DC-4/DC-6/DC-7s. It expanded to Canadian cities such as Montreal and Ottawa and it diversified to Mexico City. It opened its own terminal at New York's Idlewild Airport. It was the most profitable airline in post-war times and never required any government subsidies.

Cruising over eastern Maryland with fierce tailwinds. Making good time.

The man who made Eastern what it was, Eddie Rickenbacker, was a man of incredible character and self-confidence. He had his own views on aviation. During the 1940s and 1950s, he insisted that his new aircraft not have autopilots. He believed that Eastern pilots should be in complete active control of their aircraft. He disliked providing fancy in-flight amenities such as gourmet meals and wines. Transportation efficiency was important, courtesy and friendly service was not a prerequisite. And critically, he refused to buy expensive jet aircraft. He did not believe that they would be successful. Rickenbacker was eventually ousted as CEO, though he did remain as Chairman of the Board until 1963 after leading the company for 25 years.

Passing Philadelphia and preparing for descent. A short flight today. Ready to relax and enjoy New York finest.

After the delay on pursuing jets, Eastern raced to catch up. In 1960 it acquired the first of 16 DC-8s and in 1962 it began operating the B720. In 1964 it became a launch customer for the B727 of which it went on to operate a fleet of 75.

In 1961, Eastern pioneered the hourly air shuttle service between New York, Washington, and Boston. The Shuttle emphasized convenience and simplicity, a revolution in an era when air travel was considered a luxury. This move proved to be one of the best money-making ventures in the history of aviation.

By the late 1960s it was flying DC-9s. Then it turned to widebody jets, the Lockheed L_1011 and the Airbus A300. It expanded its operations in the Caribbean including a center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The L‑1011 TriStar became known in the Caribbean as El Grandote (the huge one).

Famous Eastern Air Lines "Psychedelic Butterfly" poster.
Horizontal: a butterfly. Vertical: men in sailing boats.
The 1970s right here.

However, the late-1970s proved a challenge. It got into a costly price war with Delta with whom it shared Atlanta as a hub. And deregulation caused more pressure as low cost carriers encroached on its territory. And an enormous investment in the B757's fuel efficiency did not pay off as fuel prices fell.

Hmm. Locked into the ILS for Runway 13 at 3000 ft. METAR reports winds at 9kts out of 160 degrees. Surprisingly, the heretofore delightful tailwinds have persisted down to the ground so that we are crabbing into a 65kts crosswind landing. Not a safe situation. At all.

So broke off the ILS approach and diverted over Yankee Stadium and the Bronx. Runway 22 will at least have a direct headwind. But what will happen to the winds' velocity?

Hmm. As we descended below 1500 ft, the winds steadily diminished to about 9kts as indicated in the METAR. Landing was a piece of cake. Nice views of Manhattan...not that we noticed at the time.

Eastern did not fare well in the 1980s. It was in deep trouble because of major disagreements between Frank Borman's management team and the labor unions, especially the machinists. It was threatened by the massive debt from aircraft purchases in the late 1970s. Eastern began to rack up year-after-year of loses until 1985 when it had a debt of $3.5 billion. It was paying more than $700,000 a day before any flights had taken off.

Then in 1986 Frank Lorenzo (whose Texas Air had previously purchased Continental) was able to gain control of Eastern for only $277 million. The new management cut flights and laid off employees. Lorenzo tried to break the unions, provoking anger and distrust. Labor disputes were rife, ending in a crippling strike of 1989. All the while, Lorenzo sold or transferred Eastern's core assets to his other airlines, finding ways to make money for his other properties. Eastern ran out of money.

In 1991, Eastern Air Lines ceased operations.

LaGuardia. Safely parked at the gate. Today's flight was more "fascinating" than desired.

Date: 2022-03-11
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 0:47
Leg Distance: 195nm
Total Time: 67:14
Total Distance: 17,185m


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RTW80 Leg 31. New York LaGuardia – Boston Logan. KLGA-KBOS.


A quick walk through the terminals to catch a Northeast flight up to Boston. One of their Miami flights is stopping to discharge New York passengers. They have empty seats and extra tickets available for the final leg to Boston.

Leaving New York

During the 1930s, Northeast pioneered service from its Boston base throughout New England and into Canada. It partnered with local railroads to form Boston-Maine Airways in 1931 and operated under contract to Pan American Airways. Then a tragic  crash and the airline stopped. It was restarted in 1933, this time under contract to National Airways (among whose founders was Amelia Earhart). In 1937, the fledgling airline bought its independence and soon renamed itself Northeast Airlines.

After the war, Northeast expanded to service cities all over New England. And it set up an "Every Hour on the Hour" shuttle service (in DC-4s) between New York and Boston. It applied for passenger service over the Atlantic, but was denied in favor of Pan American and TWA. Not really ready to compete with the big boys. In the mid-1950s, Northeast was awarded temporaray authority for flights to Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville for which it purchased a fleet of DC-6Bs.

Over Long Island Sound headed for Boston

With the rise of the jet age, Northeast was an early adopter when it put a B707 on the New York-Miami route in 1959. (It was also the first to operate a B727-200 in 1967.)

While in route cruise, the Aileron Trim Tabs decided to misbehave and put the craft into an unanticipated roll.

Nasty look in the office. Dialed in some compensating rudder trim and hand-flew the rest of the way with what amounted to cross-controlled flight. Made for a slow and tedious journey. Happily, the skilled Northeast team in Boston can take a look and make her right as rain.

Howard Hughes acquired control of the airline in 1962. However, the CAB then cancelled the Miami route and Hughes exited the company. Northeast regained the Miami route via a three year public relations campaign. Storer Broadcasting bought the Hughes shares and tried to rejuvenate the airline in 1966 with a new marketing campaign and new aircraft. It acquired a fleet of B727s, DC-9s, and Fairchild FH-227s. Northeast then cultivated a new public image when they adopted a yellow-white livery and became known all over New England as the "Yellowbirds". In the late 1960s, Northeast added routes to the Bahamas and Bermuda as well as domestic destinations Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago.

Happy to reach finals on Runway 22L. Note "The Hub" in the background.

However, Northeast's financial problems failed to improve. In 1969 Northeast announced an intention to merge into Northwest Airlines – but the negotiations fell apart. In 1972, Northeast merged with Delta to become the (then) fifth largest US carrier. Importantly, Delta acquired the Boston market and added the profitable routes between Boston & New York and the vacation destinations in Florida.

Done for the day. A quick visit with Northeast's engineers seems in order.

Date: 2022-03-14
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 0:54
Leg Distance: 224nm
Total Time: 67:28
Total Distance: 17,409m


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vor 1 Stunde schrieb PleinCrazy:

I have really enjoyed your historical perspective and graphics throughout this adventure. You kept it interesting, informative and fun.  Great job with this! :)



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RTW80 Leg 32. Boston Logan – Gander. KBOS-CYQX.


For our trip across the North Atlantic, we board the Pan American Clipper Liberty Bell. Mr. Trippe has managed to have this transatlantic flight stop over at Boston just to pick up our party. Something about the English gentleman having connections with the Harriman family.

Tower, Clipper Liberty Bell ready for takeoff.

In the history of American aviation, there is no airline that was more important, more influential, or better known than Pan American Airways. While certainly not the first, or the largest, or the most profitable airline, it represented the new spirit of the United States as it was seen throughout the world.

Departing Logan with Boston in the background.

Pan Am's history was, for it first fifty years, the history of Juan Trippe. A young former Navy pilot with social connections from his Yale days, Trippe tried to get into aviation right after WWI – without much success. He then shifted focus toward the Caribbean and Latin America. He obtained formidable financial backing, and started a company to offer services into the Caribbean. There, in 1927, he formed a partnership with two other small ventures to create Pan American Airways. It ran scheduled air mail service from Key West to Havana. Trippe utilized his personal business acumen and negotiating skills to eventually gain control of the company.

The US government was very interested in establishing air mail service to Latin America and offered bids for a wide-ranging network all across the continent. It was the wish of the Coolidge administration (and its Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover) to champion airlines capable operating at a scale and in a manner that would project the dignity of the United States in Latin America. In addition, contracts would be given only to companies that had been invited by the individual connecting countries. Juan Trippe aggressively pursued friendly relations with most countries across the region and often personally met with foreign leaders. Trippe was also the kind of entrepreneur who emphasized elegance and grandeur in operating his airline. Importantly, he convinced the world-famous Charles Lindbergh to serve as a technical advisor to Pan Am. Lindbergh (flying) and Trippe toured Latin America to negotiate landing rights in a number of countries. In the event, Pan Am won almost all these air mail service contracts and their implicit subsidies. The United States government came to see Pan American as the "chosen instrument" for US-based international air routes.

Beautiful day for a routine flight up the New England coastline. Helping tailwind with little turbulence.

Trippe managed to dominate his competition. Often, he was able to buy-out other airlines. In the case of Grace shipping company, he formed a partnership to create Pan American-Grace Airways (Panagra) which created the main airline operations on the west coast of South America (eventually defeating German-originated companies as a matter of geopolitics). He simply out-competed others (such as NYRBA on the critical US-Rio air route). On the technical side, Pan Am had to create an aviation infrastructure out of nothing. South America had only three weather stations and no radio network suitable for aviation. By 1940 Pan Am had put together a system to serve the continent with both flying boats and modern airliners such as the DC-3 and the pressurized Boeing 307 Stratoliner. For the next thirty years, Pan American and its partnerships and subsidiaries were the major commercial aviation players in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Bay of Fundy. Whale watchers depart from Westport, Nova Scotia – on the small island off the tip of the long peninsula above.

Juan Trippe was equally active in developing a strategy for the Pacific Ocean. Thwarted by British denial of landing rights over the Atlantic, he noted that he could operate a transpacific route connecting San Francisco to China via bases on American-controlled islands (at Midway, Wake Island, and Guam). He put in motion plans to purchase powerful seaplanes (Martin's M-130 and Boeing's B314) and build the required seaplane facilities, hotels, and radio and weather stations. The project needed the support of the US government which Trippe achieved in alliance with the US Navy and its strategic interest in the Pacific. Exploratory flights began in 1935. (Flying the Pacific proved a challenge. The aircraft were not completely reliable. Navigation over the vast seas was inherently risky. The nature of the weather systems was completely unknown and fierce winds and storms made for a dangerous proposition. During these early years, ships were lost.) Commercial passenger flights began in late 1936 and more regularly in 1937. For a substantial price, individuals could fly a seaplane from San Francisco, via the islands, to the Philippines and eventually to Hong Kong. All in four days compared to several weeks by steamship. These magnificent flying boats were the "China Clippers" – known around the world.

We get a good look at the beautiful bogs of Newfoundland.

Trippe knew that the ultimate Asian destination had to be Shanghai – then the "Paris of the East" and the financial capital of Asia. However, China' aviation was closed to foreigners (in an attempt to prevent Imperial Japan's commercial ventures subverting the weak Chinese government). Accordingly, Trippe developed business relationships in China to create, supply, and operate China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), a jointly owned company that would connect Shanghai with Hong Kong. (While Trippe completed his air route, the Japanese war eliminated the operation within a couple of years.)

Turning to final at Gander. Earlier today the heavy snow showers were a problem for aviation. Now, Gander Tower reports, we can expect good visibility on the ground.

Finally coming to a reciprocal agreement with the British in 1937, Pan Am and Imperial Airways started exploratory flights (in Sikorsky S-42s and Short Empires) over the North Atlantic via Ireland and Newfoundland. Then, in early 1939, PAA received six large long-range Boeing 314 flying boats. In March, the Yankee Clipper made the first-ever transatlantic passenger flight from Baltimore via the Azores to Lisbon. The route was expanded to Marseilles and conducted regular weekly return-service for passengers and mail. In June, the Yankee Clipper (again) established northern transatlantic service, via Shediac (New Brunswick), Botwood (Newfoundland) and Foynes (Ireland) to Southampton. Each trip took about 24 hours. Again, a weekly return service was established. However, the rise of WWII stopped this civilian air traffic.

The passengers have left the aircraft for some food and rest before our early-morning departure to cross the North Atlantic. Gander was famous as a stopover for transatlantic flights in the 1940s and 1950s. In that era, transatlantic aircraft who arrived to poor visibility (a frequent condition in wintertime) relied on radar-assisted Ground Controlled Approach techniques. We fly through Gander to honor the early days of transatlantic aviation.

By the time of Pearl Harbor, Pan American operated in 52 countries with 8,750 employees, 162 aircraft, 192 radio/weather stations and 300 airports. During the war it pioneered connections, built airports, and developed operations for an indirect air supply and ferry route through the Caribbean and Brazil, over the South Atlantic, and through West Africa and Egypt to support Allied forces in the Mediterranean and South Asia. It trained 5000 navigators for the US & British forces. Pan Am pilots flew the first "Hump" missions over the Himalayas to supply China. These experiences set the company for success in the post-war aviation world.

Date: 2022-03-15
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 2:39
Leg Distance: 816nm
Total Time: 70:07
Total Distance: 18,225m

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RTW80 Leg 33. Gander - Shannon. CYQX-EINN.


An early morning departure from Gander should get us to Shannon with plenty of time to enjoy beautiful Ireland.

Full Moon over Newfoundland

After the war, Pan Am faced an unwelcome challenge. The US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) instituted a policy of establishing competition along the main air routes in the United States and abroad. One of Juan Trippe's strategies had been to eliminate his competition (primarily via acquisition). In addition, he was committed to developing and maintaining personal relationships with government officials in the United States and abroad – all to protect his operations. He believed that a risky venture such as an international airline had to have control over its environment in order to attract capital and invest in increasingly capable aircraft and novel technology. And he had delivered in ways that went beyond the company's bottom line. His innovations in technology and his investment in other nations' aviation systems had generated path-breaking developments all around the world.

The sun creeps up over the Atlantic. Always a welcome sight for the long distance aviator.

Sunrise and Moonlight, together.

Now Pan American would face direct American competition in the North Atlantic from American Overseas Airlines (AOA) [previously American Export Airlines, bought by C.R. Smith's American Airlines and rebranded] and Howard Hughes' aggressive TWA. In South America, Braniff was the designated competitor. And in the Pacific, it was United Airlines on the Honolulu route and Northwest Orient Airlines on the routes to Asia. The list includes three of the "big four" domestic lines who naturally had substantial capital as well as feeder connections to their international flights. Trippe would face up to the immediate challenge.

Flying high at 21,000 feet "over the weather" was great until things changed. The North Atlantic weather can be mercurial.

In the postwar decades, Pan American's most important routes would be those over the North Atlantic. Regular Pan Am transatlantic service began with DC-4s with multiple refueling stops. But, anticipating moves by recently authorized competitor TWA, Trippe purchased new pressurized longer-ranged Lockheed L-049 Constellations. In January 1946, Pan Am put them onto the transatlantic routes just weeks before TWA got going.


In 1949, Pan Am introduced the impressive but expensive (to purchase and maintain) and notoriously unreliable Boeing 377 Stratocruiser to the North Atlantic route. The double-decked spacious cabin provided a luxurious way to cross the ocean. For a very short time, the 377 ruled the Atlantic skies in the colors of Pan Am, American Overseas Airlines (AOA), and BOAC. In 1950, Trippe acquired competitor AOA from American Airlines. But TWA (and of course BOAC as well as Air France) would continue to compete vigorously on the transatlantic routes between North America and Europe.


Also in 1950, Pan Am (now Pan American World Airways) ordered 45 Douglas DC-6Bs. Up until then, air travel was the province of government officials, high level businessmen, and wealthy travelers. Trippe had long argued with regulators for lower fares to increase access for a much wider customer base. Now, he instituted an all-tourist class "Rainbow" service between New York and London in 1952. The first aircraft was (our) DC-6B Clipper Liberty Bell (N6518C). This transformational gamble proved a real success. Juan Trippe had democratized international air travel so that it became an experience available to millions of ordinary people around the globe.

Heavy weather at FL210 but some breaks below.

Dropped down to finds some clear air between the cloud layers.

Pan Am briefly had two complementary services, the first class "President" service in double-decked Boeing 377 Stratocruisers and the tourist class "Rainbow" service in the DC-6Bs. By 1956-1958, the company had replaced these with Douglas DC-7Cs ("Seven Seas") which could fly nonstop from New York to London and compete with the best of TWA and BOAC. By August 1958, Pan Am operated 65 flights a week east from New York to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Blue skies at last.

Pan Am reopened its Pacific flights after the war, first with DC-4s to Honolulu and then island-hopping to Tokyo and Singapore. In 1949 the company changed to the new B377 whose accommodations made it ideal for long-distance travel over the Pacific. Its sleeping berths and lower-deck lounge helped it compete with rivals United and Northwest Orient. (The extended routes allowed charging higher first class fares which compensated for the higher costs of operating the Stratocruiser. Its unreliability, however, remained a safety problem.)

Approaching the Irish Coast and the Cliffs of Moher.

And PAA continued its Latin American routes, now with competition from Braniff. The Constellations were shifted to the Caribbean and the eastern routes to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires. (The Connie became the aircraft of choice for Panair do Brasil, PAA's highly respected Brazilian partner who would eventually become Latin America's premier airline – until Brazil's military dictatorship destroyed it for political purposes.) West Coast Panagra shifted to the Douglas options, the DC‑6 and DC‑7.

Short finals on a beautiful Irish day.

In June 1947, Pan American initiated its iconic round-the-world airline flight. The first schedule had DC-4s leaving San Francisco on Thursday and flying through Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, Manila, Bangkok and Calcutta. Passengers would then transfer to a Constellation (from New York) and fly through Karachi, Istanbul, London, Shannon, and Gander to arrive in New York LaGuardia on the next Thursday. The DC-4 would return to San Francisco with passengers from the Connie. These regularly scheduled flights would involve a plane-change until Boeing 707s took over in 1960. And they became daily in 1963, making different enroute stops on different days of the week. When B747s replaced the B707s, almost all stops were served daily in each direction.

While perhaps not the most profitable part of the business, the scheduled round-the-world flight represented the spirit of Pan American. In an aspirational sense, it united the world in air travel in a way that was a matter of dreams only a decade before it began.

The gates at Shannon.

Well-deserved break after crossing the North Atlantic.

Here is a little story about transatlantic aviation and its unexpected contributions to civilization. (Taken from the 2017 RTW80 Diary of my first "80 Days" trip.)

Foynes, just across the Shannon Estuary across from Shannon Airport, had a important moment in aviation history. When Pan American and Imperial Airways agreed to conduct commercial transatlantic flights in the 1930s, they employed flying boats. On the northern route, the two chosen refueling stops were Botwood in Newfoundland and Foynes in the Irish Free State. The Irish seaplane base hosted American B-314s and British Shorts Empire and Sunderland flying boats. This airlink was the first truly regular transatlantic flying and it lasted right through 1945.

The original Irish Coffee was made here

One serendipitous product of this venture is the world famous beverage Irish coffee. In 1943, sophisticated and ambitious Brendan O'Regan was assigned the restaurant concession in the Foynes terminal. He made a point of hiring well-educated staff because he understood that Ireland's reputation would be influenced by the opinion-leaders flying over the Atlantic. He hired Joe Sheridan as his chef.

Late one night in the winter of 1943, a flight left Foynes for New York. After flying several hours in bad weather, the captain decided to return to Foynes to wait for better weather. The staff were called back. Sheridan was inspired to prepare something special for the weary passengers: he put some good Irish whiskey in their coffee. One passenger thanked him for the wonderful drink and asked if he used Brazilian coffee. Sheridan jokingly answered, "No, it was Irish coffee!"

Post-war, O'Regan and Sheridan transferred to the new Shannon Airport and operated the airport restaurant. Sheridan's Irish Coffee began to gain quite a following with stopover passengers and developed a world-wide reputation. Later, in 1952, Sheridan was recruited by Jack Koeppler, the owner of San Francisco's cosmopolitan Buena Vista Café, to replicate his recipe for the Bay area. (He spent the rest of his life there.) On another front, in 1951 O'Regan opened up the first "Duty Free" shop, another idea that spread around the world.

In 1956, playwright Arthur Miller and his spouse (an actress named Marilyn Monroe) enjoy an Irish Coffee at Shannon.

Date: 2022-03-17
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 6:03
Leg Distance: 1,746
Total Time: 76:10
Total Distance: 19,971m


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RTW80 Leg 34. Shannon – London Heathrow. EINN-EGLL.


Our final leg takes us from Shannon to London's Heathrow. We departed London more than two months ago and it will be with pleasure that we shall be able to finish the challenge.


Pan American's Juan Trippe quickly recognized the opportunities offered by jet aircraft. He considered and then passed on the de Havilland Comet. Instead, he became Boeing's launch customer when he ordered 20 Boeing 707s in 1955. And he followed up with an order for 25 Douglas DC-8s. [The B707 seated five passengers abreast, the DC-8 seated six. Boeing had to redesign the 707 to compete. A comparison of the B247 and DC-3 might have been mentioned.] Pan Am's first scheduled jet flight was in 1958 by the B707‑121 Clipper America from New York Idlewild to Paris Le Bourget. Within about a year, the newer B707-320 and the DC-8 enabled nonstop crossings. The jets allowed Pan Am to cut the flight time nearly in half, introduce lower fares, and fly many more passengers in total.

At cruise altitude over the Irish countryside

In 1965, Trippe asked his friend Bill Allen at Boeing to produce an airplane much larger than the 707. The result was the Boeing 747, and Pan Am was the launch customer here as well. As with other new promising aircraft, Trippe "bet the company" on the future by ordering 25 aircraft in 1966 for $525 million (about $4.6 billion today). The first commercial flight was in 1970 from New York to London – passengers quaffed champagne to celebrate.

Crossing St George's Channel heading for Great Britain

Originally, Trippe believed the Boeing 747 would be destined to haul cargo only and would be replaced by faster, supersonic aircraft which were then being developed. Pan Am was one of the first airlines to sign an option on the Concorde but did not purchase it. Instead, it reserved slots for the Boeing 2707, the American supersonic transport. The promise of these aircraft failed to materialize. For a quarter century, the Being 747 remained the public image of international travel.

Juan Trippe retired in 1968.

Wales and the uplands of Brecon Beacons National Park.

At its height in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pan Am advertised as the "World's Most Experienced Airline." Its 150 jets flew to 86 countries on all continents other than Antarctica. Most routes were between New York and Europe and South America or from Miami to the Caribbean. Pan Am began a helicopter shuttle between lower Manhattan and JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. It operated a comprehensive network of high frequency flights between Berlin and West Germany. [More passengers boarded Pan Am flights in Tempelhof than any other airport.] It owned the InterContinental Hotel chain (originally built to give Pan Am travelers a dependable place to stay). It had developed a computerized travel bookings system. And it owned the Pan Am building in midtown Manhattan, then world's largest commercial office building. The company was profitable with cash reserves of $1 billion.

Pan Am was on top of the world. But this would not last.

Gathering mist over the Severn

The next two decades would mark a decline in Pan Am's fortunes and then a collapse into bankruptcy. Trippe had gambled his company on increasing trends in air travel. However, the 1973 oil crisis crushed these expectations. The price of fuel increased suddenly. Perhaps more important, the ensuing years of malaise and stagflation depressed international air travel. Pan Am was especially vulnerable as its high-overhead operations and decentralized infrastructure – which had powered the company for decades – now made it more susceptible to these large economic shocks. Further, it was a private international airline without domestic routes or government support: its success depended entirely on the vagaries of the international environment. The new management responded by trimming the network by 25 percent, cutting the work force by 30 percent, reducing the size of the fleet, and restructuring the debt.

Finals into Heathrow with an unusual East wind.

After the 1978 airline deregulation, more US carriers began to compete with Pan Am internationally. Pan Am responded by taking over National Airlines in order to provide a domestic feeder network for its international flights. Revenues increased, but that was not enough. In the early 1980s, the company sold non-core assets such as the Pan Am Building and the InterContinental hotel chain. Then the airline instituted operational cutbacks. The most prominent of these was the discontinuation of the iconic round-the-world service.

Following British Airways to the gate at Heathrow

For the next decade, different management teams tried to handle the debt and the shocks of world events. Pan Am sold the Pacific division to United. The 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, led to a $300 million lawsuit. And the 1990-1991 Gulf War caused fuel prices to rise and depressed global economic activity. Pan Am sold its London Heathrow routes to United. And then it sold the remainder of its European routes and operational infrastructure to Delta.

Pan Am ceased operations in December 1991.

End of a delightful journey.


The above poster touts Pan Am's celebrated Round-the-World scheduled passenger route. The kite reads: Hong Kong, Bangkok, Calcutta, Istanbul, San Francisco, Tokyo, Rome, Honolulu, Paris, London and New York. For this Round-the-World in Eighty Days expedition, we visited all these great cities except Istanbul.

Thanks to Mathijs Kok and Aerosoft for hosting this event for the second time. This challenge represents a wonderful opportunity for all sorts of flightsimmers to get together and celebrate what we have. We have all done different sorts of things. And it has been a great pleasure to read so many of my fellow travelers' tales of their great adventures.

Best to everyone.

Date: 2022-03-19
Aircraft: DC-6B [PMDG MFS]
Leg Time: 1:27
Leg Distance: 321
Total Time: 77:37
Total Distance: 20,292m



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