Three Decades After Ceasing Operations, Pan Am Lives On at the Pan Am Museum



PRESS RELEASE – After more than 64 years in business, the world’s most iconic airline, Pan American World Airways (also known around the world as Pan Am), ceased operations on December 4, 1991. A perfect storm of terrorism, rising fuel costs, and an economic downturn resulted in the closure of the “World’s Most Experienced Airline.” However, thirty years later, the airline lives on at the Pan Am Museum in Garden City, New York (Long Island).

On December 5, 2021, from 5 pm to 7:30 pm, the Pan Am Museum Foundation will host a public event to celebrate the unrivaled legacy which they all helped to build by unveiling its newest exhibit: The Pan Am Saga – from its beginnings in 1927 to Its Slow Demise and Eventual Fall in 1991. The cost per person is $30 and tickets can be purchased by clicking HERE. The museum is located at One Davis Avenue, Garden City, NY 11530. Parking for the event is complimentary.

The Pan Am Clipper was a type of transoceanic airplane flown by Pan American Airways. Designed as a flying boat, the planes used the water to take off and land, bypassing the need to build concrete runways. Named after the clipper ships of the 1800’s, known for their speed, they were first commercial passenger transoceanic flights, linking the world in the 1930s and 1940s in luxurious comfort. During World War II, they were used for military transport. Photo via Wikipedia

After the last Pan Am planes landed on December 4, 1991, the employee community never lost their love for the venerable institution that was Pan American World Airways. In 1992, a group of volunteers led by Ed Trippe, son of Pan Am’s former President and CEO Juan Trippe, founded the Pan Am Historical Foundation. They acquired the company’s remaining assets, including 64 years’ worth of documents, photographs, and audio/visual material — and archived them at the University of Miami.

In 2015, several former Pan Am flight attendants and members of World Wings International had the idea of expanding on the Historical Foundation’s work. They recognized that with the community of former employees aging, the first-hand accounts and oral history of Pan Am were in danger of being lost forever.

That’s when Andrea Sidor, Linda Freire, Joanne Swift, Ruth Lowenstein, Julie Watson, Bruce Gately, and Phillip Keene joined forces to establish a permanent museum dedicated to Pan Am. An additional catalyst fueled their mission, because many “family” members were still reeling from the 2013 demolition of Pan Am’s Worldport at JFK International Airport. As long as that building had remained standing, former employees still felt like they had a tangible place to call home. With its loss, they craved a new place to gather and remember.

A Boeing 707-120 at the Pan Am Worldport in 1961. The terminal was once the center of the airline’s New York operations. Image via Wikipedia

After securing a $5,000 seed loan from World Wings International and obtaining 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status, the group’s newly seated board of directors started searching for a museum location. The board settled on Long Island’s Cradle of Aviation Museum, which is located on the former Mitchel Field Air Force Base site and is known for its preservation of Long Island-related aviation history.

Founded in 2015, the Pan Am Museum Foundation is the only institution with a permanent and physical location solely dedicated to Pan American World Airways. With a mission to “educate and inspire future generations by preserving the diverse and historical institutional and personal stories of Pan American World Airways,” the Museum explores the rich history and culture of the airline and its personnel. Through permanent installments, digital content, such as social media and podcasts, and through partnerships with other institutions, the Pan Am Museum Foundation brings the under-celebrated history of the airline to life through educational storytelling and programming. For more information about the museum, visit www.thepanammuseum.org

About Pan American World Airways

30 years ago, on December 4th, 1991, Pan American World Airways ceased operations. Founded in 1927, the airline flew for over 64 years; its closing marked the end of an era for commercial aviation. Pan American pioneered air travel and luxury in the skies while cementing itself as a fixture in popular culture throughout the world. As the airline of choice for the Beatles, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Hollywood stars, corporate executives, and politicians, tourists and families, Pan Am remains present in the hearts and minds of millions of people across the globe. The skies today feel absent and solemn without Pan Am’s signature caviar, fine wines, delicious food, and exceptional service. Although the airline is no longer with us, the legacy of Pan Am is still alive and well at a Long Island Museum bearing its name.



7 Comments

  1. “World’s Most Experienced Airline.” -that has to be a joke surely. QANTAS is just as iconic, is older than Pan Am and is still flying. BTW – There is also a museum dedicated to QANTAS, it is located in the town where the airline itself was founded.

    • While there is no disputing QANTAS’ present-day relevance, nor its place in history, it wasn’t the subject of this article – if you worry about our coverage of the airline’s museum, however, a quick look through our archives will reveal numerous articles about their activities. We love them. But as for Pan American’s relevance, they were a linchpin in establishing transoceanic air travel, and indeed the global air routes we use today. The airline and its personnel also served a vital role during WWII as well, since their experience in route-proving was essential to establishing the global logistics network so necessary to the successful prosecution of the war. With no disrespect to QANTAS, their influence during the genesis and growth of international air travel was not on the same scale as Pan Am… not even close. But as you say, QANTAS yet prevails, something to be proud of indeed. There is more than enough room to celebrate both airlines.

  2. Thank you so much for mentioning us in this great article about the 30 years we’ve been preserving Pan Am’s history! The Pan Am Historical Foundation (PAHF) — still going strong — locates, collects and digitally presents historic media and in-depth narratives to spark appreciation of Pan Am’s rich legacy. PAHF continues to empower research and worldwide enthusiasm about Pan American’s history. You can visit us online at https://www.panam.org

    • It is a delight to see Pan Am’s legacy being preserved properly. Bravo to you and the team for working so hard towards this end. I have very fond memories of the airline, having made numerous transatlantic flights with the carrier during the 80s. I was sad to see the journey end for such a storied company. Richard Mallory Allnutt (editor)

  3. It was a pleasure to see you refute Mr. Brown for his shady comments. Maybe, the reason QANTAS is still around could be that the Australian Aviation industry is not like the USA’s. in that, it has never had competition or enough airlines to have the government deregulate the industry. As an AAL retiree, I have always wanted to see the Pan Am reorganize and fly again. I know someone tried it once but it never got going. Still, it would be great to see it come back.

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