Few airlines capture the romance of air travel’s golden age more than Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am. Founded by Juan T. Trippe in 1927 and originally connecting the U.S. with Latin America, Pan Am grew to serve a worldwide network of destinations, first with large flying boats and later with jets.
In the late 1960s, Pan Am worked closely with Boeing on the design of the 747, the original Jumbo Jet and one of the world’s most recognizable aircraft. but after Trippe’s retirement in 1968, Pan Am began to fall on hard times. The oil crisis of the 1970s lowered demand for travel, and airline deregulation brought increased competition. Pan Am sold off most of its assets before finally declaring bankruptcy and ceasing operations in December 1991.
While Pan Am airplanes no longer crisscross the skies, its iconic brand and legacy live on. Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Catch Me If You Can prominently feature the airline. The airline also lives on in subtler ways: the reason why the pilot in command of an airliner is referred to as “captain,” for example, traces its roots to Pan Am and its magnificent flying boats.
The third floor of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, Long Island, is known as Pan Am Museum, operated by the Pan Am Museum Foundation. It tells the story of the airline’s 64-year history with original artifacts and scale models, as well as artwork. Those who never got the chance to fly aboard a Pan Am Clipper can be transported back in time to the heart of the jet age at the Pan Am Museum.
Know Before You Go
Admission to the Pan Am Museum is included as part of admission to the Cradle of Aviation Museum. The Pan Am Museum is on the third floor.