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Juan Trippe (left) and Charles Lindbergh (right), 1929.
Pan Am’s founder, Juan Trippe and Charles Lindbergh stand with a Fokker F-10 at the dedication of Pan Am’s 36th Street Airport in Miami in 1929. As a boy growing up in Manhattan, Trippe saw pictures of a French pilot’s airplane that crashed while attempting to cross the English Channel in 1909. He built a wooden model of it, powered it with rubber bands, and flew it in Central Park. While studying engineering at Yale, he became a pilot and began racing planes. Trippe was standing in the crowd on May 20, 1927, when Charles Lindbergh left Roosevelt Field on Long Island to cross the Atlantic. After “Lucky Lindy” touched down in Paris, he became the hero of the century. Trippe, who had just founded Pan Am, invited Lindbergh to join him as a technological advisor. In 1927, Pan American Airways began flying the mail from Key West to Havana, Cuba. Together Trippe and Lindbergh opened up routes throughout South America, Asia, and Europe. Both men shared a global vision for aviation and remained friends for life.

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Harken Back to the Golden Age of Travel: A Pan American Retrospective

Pan American World Airways wasn’t merely a successful airline, it was THE aviation company that helped create what Time publisher Henry Luce called, “The American Century”. The life of this company encompasses not just the story of twentieth century commercial aviation, but America’s rise to world dominance.

Great as it was, Pan Am fell prey to unfair international tariffs, government interference, internal corporate blunders, and a 1988 terrorist bombing. The airline filed for bankruptcy in 1991. Today, we think of Pan Am’s trademark blue globe as a bold American symbol of traveling in style—the way we remember the legendary trans-Atlantic ocean liners, or the fabled railcars of the Orient Express.

We take a look at some of Pan Am’s most memorable moments. (Photos provided by- Pan Am: An Aviation Legend by Barnaby Conrad)