Rarely has a single aircraft been so famous and at the same time so notorious as the Pan Am 747-121 N736PA 'Clipper Victor'. No other airline has done so much to change long-haul aviation as Pan Am however in the swansong of his career Juan Trippe bit off more than his airline could chew with the Jumbo. In April 1966 Pan Am placed an order for twenty five 747s at a cost of the staggering sum of $525 million. The huge debt this created for Pan Am was something that exposed the airline when the expected growth in passenger numbers failed to arise and the Oil Crisis struck. And so began the long decline of the world's greatest international airline.
Anyway back to this airframe. N736PA ‘Clipper Victor’ was the first 747 to enter scheduled service on January 22, 1970 after its sister-ship ‘Clipper Young America’ developed engine troubles hours ahead of the inaugural New York – Heathrow flight. She was renamed ‘Clipper Young America’ herself but had a troubled career. Within her first year of service, on August 2nd, she was hijacked and flown to Cuba. After this she regained her original name of ‘Clipper Victor’.
Worse was to come. 'Clipper Victor' was lost in March 1977 in the deadliest aviation crash in history when she was hit by a KLM 747 (PH-BUF) attempting to take off in thick fog at Tenerife. All 248 aboard the KLM flight were killed whilst 335 of the passengers aboard the Pan Am 747 also perished. There were only 61 survivors.
Pan Am's delivery scheme for their 747s has always struck me as being a bit odd as the titles were tiny. This would be addressed in the 1976 refresh of the Globe scheme when they were enlarged. However this refresh itself was very minor (the flag on the tail was slanted too) and during the early 70s there appears to have been a conflict within the airline regarding its branding. A new Helvetica logo was trialled but abandoned in 1973.
As for Pan Am's 747 fleet it quickly outgrew the original 25 orders. By June 1971 there were thirty two in the fleet consisting of: N652PA-N658PA, N731PA-N744PA, N747PA-N755PA, N770PA-N771PA - though they were not delivered in this sequence. The thirty third and last 747-121, N659PA, to enter service was oddly delivered as late as December 1973. Though fine aircraft the series 100 was never as capable as the 747-200, which Pan Am could never afford to buy new (except for a pair of freighters). The 747 fleet was added to in the 1980s with second-hand aircraft but by the late 80s they were old and inefficient compared to the competition.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: