Juan Terry Trippe (June 27, 1899 – April 3, 1981) was a bored but bright and wealthy Yale graduate ( the son of a Wall Street banker and a real estate speculator ) who, with an eye on the main chance created the Aviation Company of the Americas , which became, eventually, Pan Am.
Key West International Airport will be holding a modest celebration next week to celebrate the first International Flight over sea which took off on Jan 16th 1928 by Trippes fledgling Pan American Airways - he had started out carrying U.S. mail by air between Boston and New York.
The Dutch designed , and built in America by Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, tri-motor Fokker F - VII had 8 passengers lazily reclining in white wicker chairs for the 80 mile flight.
They were no ordinary passengers, Trippe had hired a smart hired a marketing person, Vick Chenea, who ldentified the key demographics - passengers who boarded the trains running from mainland Florida to Key West who the conductor (suitably paid) discovered were booked onward for the sea rip to Havana. The passengers didn't hi-jack the plane to Cuba - Trippe effectively hi-jacked them.
Besides Trippe the passenger list included Jorge Ponce, the Cuban consul to Key West, and John Loudon, an aide to President Calvin Coolidge.
Pan Am later went on pioneering trans pacific routes in glistening Martin Clippers and continued growing throughout World War 2 because of its global services and experience, to whom the Government turned to lead the establishment of aircraft ferry routes with bases in all theatres of operations, the carrying of ultra-priority personnel, and freight to the fighting fronts.
Pan American was the first airline to fly across the Pacific, first to cross the Atlantic.
With the advent of prressurised jet passenger aircraft ( Boeing lagged the British aircraft industry by many years in this) Pan Am's first jet flight was operated in October, 1958 by a Boeing 707 flying from Idlewild International Airport (now New York City's JFK) to Paris. The new jets allowed Pan Am to introduce lower fares and fly more passengers.
Later Pan Am were the first airline to order the Boeing 747.
Trippe, was married to the sister of US Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, JrUS Secretary of State to both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He died in 1981 and was in 1985, posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.
(Photo courtesy of Monroe County / January 8, 2008)