A Gentleman and a Rogue

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Look at Pan Am - the tv show & airline

I love to fly. My first flight was in July 1986 from Boston to Atlanta, GA on my way to Ft. McClellan, AL for my Basic and AIT Military training for the US Army.

What did I love about it? The whole ambience: being in the clouds and looking down at the ground, marveling at nature from the air. I was excited to go to another state because I loved learning about the differences. I still love learning and traveling. In fact, I had signed up to go to a travel school in Florida before deciding the Army was for me.

Since 1986, the aviation industry has taken its lumps, but if it wasn't for Pan Am Airways and its ground setting accomplishments, aviation might have taken a different turn, especially in America.

When I heard there was going to be a TV drama called "Pan Am" it stirred my restless soul – that part which loved traveling to new places, and learning about different cultures. I had to watch and see what the show was about. Quite honestly, I hadn't been this excited about a TV show in a long time.

Pan Am, the TV series, appears to be in a good hands with Jack Orman (writer, ER) and Thomas Schlame (writer, The West Wing). The episodes I've seen strike a nice balance between drama and depicting a historical way of life. The show captures the excitement of early air travel, mystery, danger, and romance. What resonates with me, as a viewer, is how the stewardesses (the 1960's term for flight attendant) embody that sense of adventure that I had when I joined the Army in 1986. The stewardesses are smart women with strengths and weaknesses I can identify with. These women looked 1960's conversations in the face and side stepped them. In fact to be a Pan Am stewardess you had to speak a second language and have medical/nursing training.

I enjoy all the characters on the show, but the one that I like the most is Colette Valois, played by Karine Vanasse. Colette is French, speaks French and German, and grew up in Nazi occupied France. Colette speaks to my French roots, proud, yet vulnerable, sweet, yet tough when the occasion requires, and achingly human when she enters into an affair with a married man. Colette breaks off the affair, but there's no mistaking her wounded heart.

Colete Valois

Another character on the show, Kate, is recruited by the CIA to be a courier. I found this interesting considering the Cold War was a deep freeze and the East and West were always spying on each other.

Kate's sister, Laura is on the show. Laura is drop dead gorgeous, but what really appeals to me is that she's a runaway bride. She didn't want to be married, pregnant and a dutiful wife at her age. She wanted to go out and do something for her so she finally made a choice and ran out on her wedding. It took a lot of courage to do that.

Maggie is played by Christina Ricci. She's a fun loving character who has a penchant to get into trouble. She's always pushing the boundaries of the time.

For those who watch, do you have a favorite character? Why or why not?

Enjoy these "Pan Am" facts:

For the TV series, Sony licensed the rights to the Pan Am name and logo from a New Hampshire railroad company who had acquired the rights/brand in 1998.

Pan Am was established in 1927 with a focus on air travel routes to Key West, Havana, and the Panama Canal.

Juan Trippe became Pan Am's first CEO. His guidance led the airway in several innovations.

In the early days of aviation, Pan Am pilots were trained in long distance flight, over water navigation, aircraft repair, and maritime tides. Flight crews learned celestial navigation in bad weather. They used dead reckoning and timed turns in fog.

In 1936, the fare from Oakland Alameda to Manila (and Hong Kong) was $1,710 round trip (approx 26,300 in 2010 currency) and took 4-5 days.

Pan Am named the aircraft clippers, after the 19th Century clipper ships which could travel long distances.

In the 1940's Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, was a Clipper pilot.

Pan Am was the first to order the Boeing 747 in 1966.

Pan Am had an option to purchase the Concorde, but did not.

Pan Am built PANAMAC, a large computer in 1964 to help book flights.

Pan Am reached its peak in the early 1970's.

From 1950-90, Pan Am operated flights from West Germany to West Berlin.

Pan Am's cabin staff were multilingual, college graduates with nursing training.

In the early 1980's, a series of bad economic decisions along with poor security measures led to the airline's downfall.

Pan Am fled for bankruptcy in Jan 1991.

Enjoy this trailer:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HspOM_QWUqc&feature=related


  1. I am hooked to the Pan Am show. It's a lot for me, considering the only other shows I watch are Gray's Antomy and the reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. Pan Am reminds me of my many business trips to Russia on Delta. My DH was selling aircraft engines and was often in the cockpit watching the plane's performance and asking pilots and hotesses for feedback. When I traveled he always managed to upgrade me to business of first-class. These were the days my friends, we thought....

  2. I've watched it but not always because of the late time. I have several shows I am already committed to at 10 p.m. My daughters with special needs won't go to bed if I stay up late. LOL We have to get up early for their programs. I wish I had DVR.

    I enjoyed your post - you did an outstanding job describing it. And I agree about the nice balance and I liked how they explore the daughter-mother relationships and their different expectations of what a woman during that time period should do.

  3. Mona, sounds like you had fun flying on airplanes and that's what it's all about. hehe

    Diane, I just got a DVR when we bundled with AT & T and I still don't know how to use it. I'm just lucky my days off falls on Sunday from time to time.

    It's a fun show. I hope it sticks around. Time will tell.

  4. I've always wanted to be a flight attendant, it looks like so much fun!