Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21, 1988, the beginning of the end of Pan American World Airways.

Some say it was the Airline Deregulation Act that was pushed through during the Jimmy Carter administration that signaled the end of Pan Am. As a political comment, it always seems that Democrats have a unique talent for mucking things up, supposedly for the benefit of the people but in the end for the benefit of no one. When something works don't try to fix it.  Before that dramatic change Pan Am was a profitable company content on flying its international routes but Pan Am was much more than just an international airline. During its glorious history Pan American World Airways was a pioneer company that explored airline routes across the globe and, literally, built some of the airports it would fly into in many far away places. Pan Am’s influence was behind the development of jet travel with, first, the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8 and later, the Boeing B747 jumbo jet.

Pan American World Airways began in 1927, founded and run by Juan Trippe. I only came on board in 1962 and am proud to have been a part of this great company for almost half of its life as I stayed until the end in 1991. I felt the pride shared by my fellow employees as being part of the world’s most experienced airline. I felt the pride in working for a company that had the highest brand recognition second only to Coca Cola and the first in almost every new achievement in aviation history, as pointed out by former Pan Am Stewardess Helen Davey in her story Collapse of a World on the Huffington Post.
“On December 4th of this year, former Pan Am employees all over the world sadly acknowledged the twentieth anniversary of the death of their beloved company. And on December 21, they, along with the families and loved ones of the victims of Flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, will be remembering that sad day when their lives were forever changed. For Pan Am employees, that day 23 years ago has been called, "the day that the heart of Pan American died" (Gandt,1995).”
I felt the pride when Stanley Kubrick portrayed Pan Am as the operator of the Space Shuttle Orion in his film.

I also felt the pain that our historic significance around the world made us a symbol of the United States of America and a target of every Middle Eastern terrorist who wanted to fight our government and chose us as the most convenient target. Such it was on December 21, 1988 when Libyan terrorists working for dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi constructed a bomb that was put in a baggage container on board Pan Am Flt 103 that was detonated at 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Wikipedia account of the the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103

“Until 2003 Libya had never formally admitted carrying out the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. On 16 August 2003 Libya formally admitted responsibility (but did not admit guilt) for Pan Am Flight 103 in a letter presented to the president of the United Nations Security Council. Felicity Barringer of The New York Times said that the letter had "general language that lacked any expression of remorse" for the people killed in the bombing. The letter stated that it "accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials".”

Claims of responsibility

"According to a CIA analysis dated 22 December 1988, several groups were quick to claim responsibility in telephone calls in the United States and Europe:

    * A male caller claimed that a group called the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution had destroyed the plane in retaliation for the U.S. shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in the Persian Gulf the previous July.
    * A caller claiming to represent the Islamic Jihad Organization told ABC News in New York that the group had planted the bomb.

After finishing this list, the author stated, "We consider the claims from the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution as the most credible one received so far". The analysis concluded, "We cannot assign responsibility for this tragedy to any terrorist group at this time. We anticipate that, as often happens, many groups will seek to claim credit"."
    * On 22 February 2011 during the 2011 Libyan civil war, the ex Minister of Justice Mustafa Abdul Jalil stated in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen that Muammar Gaddafi had personally ordered the bombing."
Former Pan Am employees are now scattered around the globe, most are retired as I am, but they all share our pride of once being part of such a great enterprise. We acknowledge that Pan Am is gone but not forgotten.


1 comment:

  1. Dropped by to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, Oldironsides!

    I haven't been blogging or even commenting for some time now. Hopefully next week I will be back in the saddle again.

    Take care.


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