airlinerJets is a blog site specialising in aviation and aircraft photography. However, before you roll your eyes and wonder what on earth could possibly be so interesting about aircraft that someone would bother to create a whole blog about it, let me say that I try ro make my photos interesting and varied, not just the standard ‘side on shot’ that is often seen.
Other stuff like earth sciences, photography and astronomy are also on my list of interests, and so I’ll be adding content in those categories too, plus more besides.
So, if you like the idea of a bit of a mish-mash of topics and are interested in hearing the views and opinions of a reasonably sane person living in Perth, Australia, then check out what’s here. Who knows, you might just catch the plane-spotter bug while you’re at it!
The main topic of this site though is aviation, and even as a young boy I had an interest in aircraft. I distinctly remember getting a birthday present from a very good family friend, Bob, who was Canadian, in the form of an airport diorama set, complete with aircraft, terminal, control tower, refuelling trucks and other vehicles. My father also bought me, and made for me, a Boeing 707 Airfix kit and, later, an Airfix Concorde.
So, the interest in aircraft started at an early age, but it wasn’t until April 1972 that things really took-off, so to speak. That’s when I went on a school trip to London’s Heathrow Airport. My best friend at the time, Carl Thomas, was already big into planes, and he said I should go along on the trip as I would probably enjoy it. So I did, and the rest, as they always say, is history. I was immediately fascinated by all of the aircraft and loved the sounds, smells, colours and excitement that is a busy airport. The Boeing 747 had only recently gone into service, and my eyes were glued to them whenever one came in to land or took off.
Since that day, aircraft, and airliners in particular, have been a major part of my life. Imagine then my surprise to discover that I was born on the day the 707 went into service! I still remember the shock at reading it in a book I bought as a teenager. It was almost as if the whole thing was planned . . . then again, maybe it was.
The 707 entered service on 26 October 1958, with a Pan Am flight from New York’s Idlewild (later JFK) Airport to Paris. Although not the first jet airliner service in the world (that distinction belongs to the British built Comet in 1956 with British Overseas Airways Corporation – BOAC), the start of 707 service really was the beginning of the modern jet era that brought ever-cheaper air transport within reach of the ordinary person.
Pan American Airways started flying mail between Florida and Cuba in 1927. In 1950, following the start of round-the-world services, it became Pan American World Airways, and finally became simply Pan Am in the early 1970’s. Pan Am has the distinction of having been one of the driving forces of the airline industry, especially during the late 1950’s and through the ’60’s when it was launch customer first for the Boeing 707 and then , later, the Boeing 747. At its height in the 1970’s, Pan Am was the world’s second most recognised brand after Coca-Cola and had staff in 26 countries.
Pan Am’s call sign was ‘Clipper’, and it’s aircraft all incorporated the word in their names, such as ‘Clipper Northern Light’ (N885PA, Boeing 707-321B) and ‘Clipper Star of the Union’ (N744PA, Boeing 747-121). That first 707 service from New York to Paris was operated by N711PA, Clipper Mayflower.
Pan Am operated a total of 128 Boeing 707’s, with final production numbers reaching 1,010 civilian aircraft, plus hundreds of military 707’s in various guises, such as the KC-135 tanker and E-5 AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System). As of 2010, very few 707’s remain in civilian operation, although a few continue on in passenger service in Iran and as cargo planes in Africa and South America. Their military cousins, on the other hand, are still going strong, and will be around for a good few years yet serving with the air forces of such countries as France, Brazil, Israel, Spain, and, of course, the United States.
What then became of Pan Am? Well, their sizeable fleet of 747’s resulted in a significant debt that they never really fully recovered from. The Oil Crisis and subsequent economic downturn of the mid-70’s resulted in substantially higher fuel costs for all airlines at a time when passenger numbers slumped. Pan Am had expected passenger numbers to continue to rise and so suffered particularly hard when their large 747’s where flying with uneconomic loads. Also, in 1980 they made an ill-conceived merger with fellow American airline National Airlines. Not only did Pan Am pay over the odds for National, but National’s route network overlapped in many respects with Pan Am’s, and so the expected benefits of the merger never really materialised.
Pan Am finally went broke in 1991, and in a twist of fate befitting any good novel, to this day they owe me money! In December 1990 my wife and I flew from Frankfurt to Heathrow with Pan Am for Christmas, and while we were there we managed to lose our tickets. When we came to fly back to Frankfurt, the Pan Am agent at Heathrow was adamant that we could only fly if we bought new tickets. No problem, she said, if the tickets don’t turn up in six months we could apply to have the money for the new tickets refunded . . . A couple of weeks later Pan Am was bankrupt, closed down, and we never got our money back.
airlinerJets then is a very personal thing for me and seems most appropriate in the context of a blog and website that’s primarily about me, planes, and things I’m interested in. I hope you’ll enjoy it and come back regularly to check for updates.