Trippe believed that one of his unique responsibilities was to assure that aviation would serve every person on every continent by bringing international air travel within the means of the average person. He said, “The true objective is to bring to the life of the average man those things which were once the privilege of the fortunate few.”
- In 1923, Trippe organized his first airline: Long Island Airways.
- Formed Pan American Airways in 1927, their first route was flown between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba.
- One of Trippe’s greatest successes was the spanning of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the 1930s. These routes were pioneered in mighty Boeing and Martin Clippers.
- After the war, his company flew the first commercial Pan Am plane flight around the world, thus opening up more flights to various countries.
- Trippe ordered the first super jets that went into service in 1970.
- Pan Am purchased National Airlines in 1974, acquiring domestic routes for the first time, meeting one of his goals before his death.
Juan Terry Trippe was born in Seabright, New Jersey, on June 27th, 1899. Trippe began his career in aviation initially in the domestic air transport business. After serving as a naval aviator during World War I, Trippe graduated from Yale University in 1922. He first joined an investment banking firm. Then, he founded Long Island Airways in 1923. In 1924 he helped organize the Colonial Air Transport and served as its first managing director. Colonial was awarded the first domestic airmail route by the Federal Government, which linked Boston, Hartford, and New York. Trippe held mail pilot license number 58 as a backup for the company’s regular pilots.
In 1926 Trippe sought to extend Colonial to the west and to the Caribbean stockholders overruled him. Enraged, Trippe and his associates, nearly all World War I pilots, resigned and founded Pan American Airways. This company was the first international airline, and which initially operated between Florida and Cuba.
A year later, in 1927, a Fokker trimotor took off from Florida for the Caribbean to inaugurate international air service under the American flag. He expanded the route into Central and South America in 1928-29, and pioneered in connecting service for railroads, use of multi-engine landplanes, two-way radioes, weather reporting, onboard navigators and cabin attendants, multiple flight crews, and hot meals served aloft. In 1931, Trippe had the great circle route across the Pacific explored, launched the first of a series of “clipper” flying boats, and began service to East Asia in 1936. The first scheduled transatlantic flight was made in 1938. In 1935, Juan Trippe was the first to inaugurate air service over a major ocean (the Pacific) for mail, passengers, and cargo. Martin Flying Boats maintained scheduled service to Hawaii, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. Two years later he inaugurated service to distant Australia. In 1939, he was the first to inaugurate air service across the Atlantic. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the company continued service over both major oceans. During World War II, the company established service across the South Pacific to carry men and materiel to the fighting fronts, and in 1942 a Pan Am plane made the first commercial flight around the world. He introduced around-the-world service in 1947, direct flights to South America in 1948, low-cost tourist fares in 1952, transatlantic jets in 1958, around-the-world jets in 1959, and jet air freighters in 1963. In 1955, Trippe was the first to place orders for the big jets that have revolutionized air travel. Three years later, these American-built jet transports inaugurated service across the Atlantic and the Pacific, to Latin America and Africa and around the world. In later years, Trippe was the first to order the supersonic Concorde. He also reserved deliveries for the largest fleet of American SSTs. Trippe placed the first and to date by far the largest, order for the huge 500-passenger subsonic jets.
When he retired, Pan Am served 85 nations on six continents, and he was the nation’s most decorated citizen. He received many foreign government decorations, 23 in all. These decorations have been conferred on him by numerous nations of Europe and South America, the Middle East and East Asia.
On behalf of his own grateful nation President Truman awarded Trippe the Legion of Merit for his work during World War II. He also received four major aviation awards: the Guggenheim Medal, the Collier Trophy, the Harmon Trophy and the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.
Juan Trippe married Betty Stettinius on June 16th, 1928 and made his home in New York City until his death in April of 1981.
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