In almost every respect Pan Am was a picture of conservatism. This was most visible in their livery which since 1958 had featured the Globe on the tail and had stayed virtually unchanged throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The introduction of the 747 had seen the Pan American name shortened to Pan Am however the rest of the livery was unaltered and didn't fit the 747 well with the tiny titles. In 1976 this had been rectified with larger titling and a modified slanting flag however it was still effectively the same scheme introduced on the first 707s. Into the 1980s and it was finally time for a change...
Pan Am had somehow managed to dig itself out of the hole it had created with its huge 747 order and the shock of the early 70s oil crisis and during the late 1970s was even turning a profit. This didn't last long though due to the ill-fated buyout of National in 1980, which was a disaster that the airline would never recover from. Still in 1982 Pan Am took some timeout from its mounting issues and started looking for a new scheme. As several of the US majors had done already (United, Continental and TWA) and would do so in the future (Northwest) they decided to test out some new livery variants on actual in service aircraft.
Two different schemes were trialled from 1982 onwards both with substantially larger fuselage titles and a thicker cheatline.
The version worn by N735PA ‘Clipper Spark of the Ocean’ only, had such large titles that they broke the cheatline whereas that worn by N724PA and N748PA had an unbroken cheatline. N735PA wore her colours at least until august 1987 by which time the final Billboard scheme was three years old. This frame had been leased to Eastern from Nov 1970 until April 1972. In 1992 she was converted to a freighter and became VR-HKB with Air Hong Kong. She joined Polar Air Cargo in 1993 but was stored from 1995.
The version worn by N748PA ‘Clipper Crest of the Wave’, and also N724PA, had an unbroken cheatline and larger titles. N748PA wore her colours at least until August 1989 by which time the final Billboard scheme was five years old and Pan An was effectively out of time. This frame served her entire career with Pan Am and though it seemed she might be scheduled for a freighter conversion she was instead parted out from August 1993 onwards.
On the livery front Pan Am, for once overcame its conservatism and, opted to ditch the cheatline and go full Billboard in 1984. An iconic scheme that sadly never graced a 747-400, MD-11 or A340.
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: