Who Was The First to Provide International Airline Service in The U.S.? - October 18, 2013

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Who Was The First to Provide International Airline Service in The U.S.? – October 18, 2013

By Douglas O'Brien from Canada - IMGP2543, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41150509


October 18, 2013

Good Morning and Happy Friday,

This week we are going to talk about the importance of being a free thinker and understanding the game that historians play with the writing of, or should I say rewriting of, history to conform to current political, or social, preferences. So, let’s get started………….

In today’s world we are constantly being bombarded by the talking heads on TV who tell us the facts, surrounding current events, based on their viewpoint, Corporate America  tells you what you need to wear, and say, to be acceptable in today’s society, and for everything else the banks have given you a MasterCard. I know that for some of you there is little substance in that found on TV, nor is there any substitute for cash; however, you are in the minority but I do think people are slowly starting to learn that there is a better way. Change will be slow and trust me when I say that Corporate America will maintain a close grip on the airwaves in order to control your thinking and their bottom line.

History also suffers from what is referred to as the politically correct version, based on current political and social pressures, and today we are going to talk about the politically connected Juan Trippe and how he was able to become the aviation pioneer who provided the US with the it’s first international airline – at least that is the way the story goes.

Now that you know my opinion on objective analysis when viewing current events, or reading history, I want to tell you about who was really the first international carrier to fly the mail to Havana and why Pan Am’s initial success was a byproduct of this companies success.

Let’s talk first about how history views Juan Trippe and Pan Am:

Juan Trippe and Pan Am

Possibly the greatest aviation story of all time is the Pan Am story, and sadly enough one of the greatest debacles in business history. However, history will always show Juan Trippe, the founder, as one of the most astute, political savvy, and venturesome business leaders of the 20th century.

Juan Trippe was named after his mother’s stepfather who was Cuban, and never really liked his name though it proved to a plus for his career. The Trippe family had English roots, and had migrated to the US in 1663. Trippe was born in Sea Bright, New Jersey, June 27, 1899, where his family had recently moved from Maryland.

Juan’s father, an engineer, became a player on Wall Street heading up the investment banking firm of Trippe & Co. When his father died suddenly the family learned that Mr. Trippe did not have the fortune they believed he had. He left behind an estate of $30,000.00 and a company on the verge of collapse. As a consequence, Juan, a Yale graduate, was confronted with the fact that he would not exactly be leading a life of leisure and had to go to work.

After a brief work experience on Wall Street Trippe decided to do something with his first love which was aviation. He had learned to fly during World War One, but never saw combat, and wanted to turn this passion into a business.

Trippe’s first venture into the airline business was when he teamed up with a partner, and purchased some surplus Navy seaplanes at approximately $500.00 each. The concept was to launch a charter service between New York and the Long Island Resorts catering to the rich and famous. However, their success was limited. This was just the beginning for this aviation visionary who continued forward with a string of new companies and ultimately merged one of his aviation companies, Aviation Corporation of America, with Pan American Airways, which was controlled and managed by World War One aces Eddie Rickenbacker and Hap Arnold. Trippe became president of the combined operations. It should be noted that Pan American Airways was incorporated in March of 1927 and the airline flew its first flight in October of 1927 in an airplane provided by Trippe. The airplane was a Fairchild FC-2 floatplane, and the first flight was Key West to Havana delivering mail. Regular scheduled service began later that same month.

The relationship between the partners at Pan American Airways soon became an issue, and Eddie Rickenbacker ultimately ended up at the helm of Eastern Airlines, which was owned by General Motors. Hap Arnold continued his career in the Army Air Corps and served as the commander of the Army Air Forces in World War II. He was the only air commander ever to attain the rank of five-star general.

Trippe ran Pan American Airways, later called just Pan Am, until 1968 when he retired and turned the reigns over to Harold Gray, his long time second in command. Juan Trippe died on April 3, 1981 at the age of 81. His vision and accomplishments will never be duplicated…or will they?

There is no doubt in my mind that Juan Trippe was indeed an aviation pioneer and what Pan Am did for aviation in the US, and around the world, was a monumental task that moved the US to the forefront and kept us there. However, Juan Trippe had some help. Trippe was a Yale graduate and so was the Postmaster General of the U.S. – so the politically/socially connected Trippe was awarded his first contract for international mail service to Havana before he even had an airplane, or pilot, to fly the contract.  Nice way to do business, if you can get that sort of preferential treatment, but then again there are many similar stories hidden in the history books. However, let’s talk about who was really the first to make history as a contacted carrier to the US Post Office flying mail to Havana.

The company I want to tell you about now is Aeromarine and below is a brief history of their accomplishments.

Aeromarine Airways

(1920 to 1924)

Aeromarine West Indies Airways was a United States airline. The original company was formed by a merger between Florida West Indies Airways and Aeromarine Sightseeing and Navigation Company (a subsidiary of the Aeromarine airplane manufacturing company) and was one of the first international airlines in the United States. It commenced operations on 1 November 1920 with a flight from Key West to Havana, and operated flying boats from the US mainland to the Bahamas and Cuba. Transporting passengers, mail, and freight safely and successfully beginning in 1921, it ceased operations in early 1924 due to a freeze on mail contracts by the U.S. Postal Service.

It was reorganized as Aeromarine Airways in spring of 1921 with Inglis Moore Uppercu, A New York Cadillac dealer, as its President. Aeromarine enjoyed many firsts – the first U.S. international air mail service and first scheduled U.S. international passenger service (Key West to Havana, November 1, 1920); first total service U.S. airline (passenger, mail, express cargo); first in-flight movie (Chicago, August 1921); first airline baggage label (1921); and the first U.S. airline ticket office (Cleveland, July 1922). Its slogan was ‘Speed Safety Comfort’ as can be seen on this poster.The overseas flights in seaplanes named the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria brought passengers to popular destinations that still allowed drinking at the start of prohibition. The new metal hulled, six passenger Aeromarine AMC was placed into service in 1924 with only a short period of operation before service ceased.

Source Document

The brief overview above shows how history views Juan Trippe, Pan Am, and Aeromarine, but let’s dig a little deeper and see what else we can discover about who was actually first on the scene and why one man in particular was responsible for Pan Am’s success. Consider the following facts:

1. The company, Aeromarine Airways, was created by a merger between Aeromarine Sightseeing and Navigation Company, and Florida West Indies Airways who had been awarded an airmail contract from the US Post Office for the Key West to Havana route. On November 1, 1920 the resulting company, Aeromarine West Indies Airways, began the first scheduled international passenger and air mail service in the United States.

2. Aeromarine Airways ceased operations in 1924.

3. The archives at the Smithsonian say that one year after Aeromarine terminated its service in 1924, aviation interest was revived when a Colombian delegation, en route to the United States to request operating authority, arrived in Havana and requested authority from the Cubans to operate in and out of their territory, and was granted that authority, prior to proceeding to the US . This new air service was sponsored by the Colombian airline, SCADTA, which wished to start a trans-Caribbean air route in to Miami; however, the U.S. State Department would not grant permission. Nevertheless, the episode stimulated official U.S. interest in foreign air transport, especially for air mail, and this was to lead to the foundation of the U.S. “Chosen Instrument,” Pan American Airways.

4. Pan Am’s first scheduled flight, Miami to Havana, was October 18, 1927, which is almost seven years after Aeromarine accomplished the same service.

5. The first flight for Pan Am was flown by an Aeromarine pilot who had operated over this route routinely while employed by Aeromarine.

6. The man who flew the first flight for Pan Am, Captain Mucick, was the very first pilot hired by Pan Am and also served as Pan Am’s first Chief Pilot.

It is unfortunate that Aeromarine’s accomplishments have been pushed to the side in favor of America’s “Chosen Instrument” Pan Am, but now you know the rest of the story. Pan Am still remains one of my favorite airlines and I consider their accomplishments second to none; however, as my friend, a retired 747 Captain for Pan Am, once told me – Pan Am knew how to spend money but they could never make enough money to cover their expenses. Sad but true.

The pilot, Captain Mucick, who made Pan Am’s first flight is also an aviation pioneer we all should be familiar with. Click HERE for a blog article I wrote last year on this gentleman and follow the link on that blog article to view a complete biography on the life of the man they called “Meticulous Mucick.”

That is it for this week and remember that it has been said that the future is the past returning through a different gate and the only news is the history you have not read. Have a good weekend, keep friends and family close, and fly safe/be safe.

Robert Novell

October 18, 2013