Juan Terry Trippe: Founder of Pan Am and Commercial Aviation

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Trippe was the son of a New York banker and broker of English descent, but he was named for Juanita Terry, the wife of a great-uncle. He graduated from Yale University. Three years later he and two former Yale classmates and another friend formed Colonial Air Transport , which began the first airmail contract route between New York City and Boston. In he arranged a merger between Colonial Air and two other small airlines, forming Pan American Airways, with himself as president.

By Pan American was the largest air-transport company in the world and, for many years, flew more route miles than any other airline. By the time Trippe retired as president and executive director of the company in , however, Pan American had lost its preeminence in the industry owing to increased competition from other U. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.

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Juan Terry Trippe Collection, 1917-1968

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Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. One of the employee pilots and a surveyor of new routes was Charles A.

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By the…. Small labels such as…. Under the direction of Juan Trippe, the firm encouraged long distance air travel and secured the technology necessary to achieve international flights. At one time, the company moniker was one of the most recognized trademarks in the world, second only to Coca-Cola. But after eluding total financial ruin several times in the s and s, a combination of bad management, high debt, poor employee relations, and just plain bad luck brought the airline's demise in December of The architect of Pan Am's prominence, and ironically of its later decline, was a man named Juan Terry Trippe.

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Upon graduation from Yale in Trippe worked for a year in his father's bank. Soon thereafter he left the bank in order to pursue a career in the airline business. When his father died suddenly, Trippe used his inheritance to purchase nine Navy "Jennys" for a new endeavor, Long Island Airways. Unable to generate enough business, the company failed. Trippe and two wealthy friends from Yale then organized a second airline after the passage of the Kelly Air Mail Act.

They purchased two three-engine Fokker airplanes the following year which enabled them to transport passengers as well as mail. A dispute among stockholders soon resulted in the sale of the company to what later became known as American Airlines. Trippe and his partners were excluded from both the decision and their airline. Undaunted, Trippe's group purchased Aviation Corporation of the Americas with the intention of bidding on the Key West-Havana mail route.

The new company retained the Pan American name and instituted the first scheduled international commercial destination, to Havana, Cuba. Passengers' often well-founded fears of flying high above 90 miles of open water made it difficult for Pan Am to book all eight seats on each flight. The bravado of the airline's pilots didn't help: some were known to enter Cuban bars and dare American tourists to fly back to Florida. In Miami the company tried a more subtle tack: "Fly with us to Havana, and you can bathe in Bacardi rum four hours from now.

Nonetheless, Pan Am's embrace of such new technologies as directional radio, navigational instruments, and meteorological measurement helped make long-distance air travel safer and more popular. Trippe was now planning Pan Am's expansion in the Caribbean. Due to a lack of airports in the region he supported the development of the water-landing Sikorsky S "flying boat.


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In anticipation of the U. Postal Service opening several new routes, Trippe had his flying boats make survey flights beyond Cuba over routes that, at his insistence, were to be selected for airmail contracts. He also dispatched advance men to secure landing rights, mail contracts, and other concessions so that when the post office finally invited airmail bids Pan Am would be the preferred choice.

The Pan Am Fleet

In this way the company secured routes to Puerto Rico, Panama, and other points throughout the Caribbean. These routes served as a springboard for future business and promoted Pan Am to the world's largest airline and the "chosen instrument" for flying the U. Pan Am's use of flying boats helped consolidate its coverage of the Caribbean and turned its attention to traversing the oceans. The airline used the newly developed China Clipper a Martin M , with a range of miles, to transport passengers and mail from California to the Orient.

Overcoming huge obstacles of diplomacy, financing, and engineering, Pan Am established service to Europe in June of using the larger and faster "Dixie Clipper" aircraft.


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Pan Am's aeronautical pioneering was quite costly. Trippe was said to have been obsessed with the idea of "having a plane in every airport in the world. Whitney, however, was an ineffective manager and proved unable to maintain control of the company. After completing training in June , he was designated as a Naval Aviator and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.

JUAN TRIPPE, 81, DIES; U.S. AVIATION PIONEER - The New York Times

Naval Reserve. Demobilized from active duty, he returned to Yale University , graduating in While at Yale, he was a member of St. Anthony Hall and of the Skull and Bones society. Trippe was treasurer at the first-ever meet of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association in After graduation from Yale, Trippe began working on Wall Street , but soon became bored. In he raised money from his old Yale classmates, selling them stock in his new airline, which he called Long Island Airways, an air-taxi service for the rich and powerful.

VII , took place October 29, being delayed from the 28th by rain.

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In the s. Pan Am became the first airline to cross the Pacific Ocean with the famous Clipper flying boats. Trippe served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the airline for all but about two years between the founding of the company and the Second World War. He later regretted his action and allowed Trippe to retake it.

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