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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

PAN AM Flying the company

Air travel, even today, remain an adventure. But it surpising that after a generation since its demise in 1991 , there remains so much interest in Pan Am, "the world most experience airline".
The memorabillia website http://www.panamair.org/ has 24,000 unique visitors a month / 770 a day

What promted me to research and create this blog was a story forwarded by Trish Stevens. It is a really inspiring story of resourcefulness and determination of these aviators and an interesting read.
http://computing.cis.rit.edu/~jsapci/RUFF/Flight%20of%20the%20Pacific%20Clipper.pdf


As student of business performance, PAN AM is one of sheer amazement of being so bad and yet lasting so long. In one of our MBA groups a couple of few years ago I asked my students to research “whatever happened to… “The Dutch East India Company” and more recently “PAN AM”?.

You may be interested my students were eager to research theses interesting cases. But they had to dig hard to research the 200 year old Dutch trading company giant with a very interesting success path before its eventually demise when it was declared bankrupt and would up in 1800. They were conversely surprised to find the plethora of information on PAN AM which is so well documented on the web.

The Fall of Pan Am

The PAN AM business story is about a pioneer and world ICON who’s business and marketing machine was so brilliant but whose aviation management and safety track record was so appalling. It just seemed business growth at any cost was justified, as year on year the PAN AM customer service machine boasted world class success while in reality operationally it continued to fail miserably. It continued like that for years and the if the penny dropped for some it was masked and overshadowed by its mass market marketing machine that boasted (The world most experienced airline) as it added new routes and markets all the time.

In the end the terrorist action that caused the disaster of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie in Scotland killing 270 people from 21 countries, including 11 people in the Lockerbie town, was so catastrophic that it become the final straw that finally brought down this giant, like all the planes it had lost and the people killed.

Pan American World Airways began life in 1927 with a vision, some single engine aircraft and a single route from Key West to Havana. From this beginning came the airline that would literally open the world to aviation. Pan Am launched more new aircraft development than any other airline in history. It pioneered routes across the world's oceans and continents, eventually operating daily flights circling the globe.

After 64 years of pioneering at the expenses of countess lives over decades of aviation accidents, a truly shocking track record, Pan Am, the company, finally crashed into oblivion itself in 1991.


PAN AM operations history records a litany of accidents. So just as well it failed before it killed any more people. I am surprised anyone ever went on one of their planes. In the end of course that was the case.

The Lockerbie crash hurt the airline already in trouble. Passengers were scarce and Pan Am was flying empty planes. Pan Am found itself unable to pay its employees. The only option left to sell what it still had.

Pan Am created a plan for a reconstructed Pan AM with routes in the Caribbean and South America but funds were depleted and the plan failed. Pacific routes were sold to Delta, and workshops at JFK airport in New York were re-created as the delta center after the sale of Pan American World Airlines to Delta.


Accident Record
Lockerbie was the last straw but take a look at the pages and pages of accidents.
http://www.panamair.org/accidents/accidents.htm