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Juan Terry Trippe

Juan Terry Trippe

Juan Terry Trippe (1899-1981), the undisputed pioneer of the American overseas aviation industry, led Pan American Airways from 1927 to 1968. Having opened up Latin America, the African periphery, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia during the 1930s, Pan American played an important role in World War II before spearheading mass, low-cost tourism across the North Atlantic to Western Europe in the 1950s.

Juan Trippe was born on June 27, 1899, to a well-off New York family, which, despite his first name, had no significant Hispanic connections. He attended the Hill School and entered Yale University in 1917. Trippe and some classmates became Navy pilots after America entered World War I, but they saw no combat. He later returned to Yale, graduated in 1921, and became a Wall Street bond salesman.

But Trippe and his wealthy associates were fascinated by aviation, whose future seemed rich with possibilities. Having bought some surplus Navy planes in 1923, they organized Long Island Airways before creating Colonial Air Transport in 1924 to fly between New York and Boston. Aviation attracted little business, however, until the federal government intervened to control entries, routes, and franchises, while also providing airmail contracts as virtual subsidies. After a dispute within Colonial over extending it to Miami, Trippe resigned in 1926 and formed a new corporation, which merged in 1927 with Pan American Airways. He became president and general manager.

Beginning with a 90-mile airmail route from Key West to Havana, Trippe spearheaded Pan American's spectacular expansion into the coastal cities of Latin America and established 11, 000 miles of routes by late 1929. He secured the indispensable U.S. airmail contracts and began lobbying for Pan American's position as a "chosen instrument" of American policy in South America, a continent of vast distances, impenetrable terrain, and many U.S. strategic and economic interests. State Department backing often bolstered his negotiations with foreign governments for routes, landing rights, terminals, and customs' privileges.

In 1929 W. R. Grace & Co. and Pan American organized Panagra (Pan American and Grace Airways) to operate on the west coast of Latin America. By the early 1930s Pan American had largely overshadowed its competitors in the region. In return for its government-sponsored quasi-monopoly abroad, Pan American followed Washington's tight regulatory policies by shunning the American market.

Pan American expanded rapidly despite the Great Depression and gained prestige by employing Charles Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle" of public acclaim, and by turning what had been the adventure of flight into a safe, reliable, and profitable business venture. Trippe built an elaborate infrastructure of weather stations and communications, navigation, and maintenance facilities, first in Latin America and then on Hawaii and other Pacific islands. The Pan American market for long-range aircraft stimulated the American aviation industry, most notably in developing the comfortable, 60-passenger "Clipper, " with which Pan American pioneered service in the mid-1930s both across the Atlantic and via the Pacific to Manila.

Inevitably, Pan American became deeply involved in American foreign policy as World War II approached. There was constant competition over new markets with government-controlled foreign airlines, which contended that Trippe was building a global empire to strengthen American diplomatic and military power. Japan, for example, was angered, first when Trippe bought the China National Aviation Corporation in 1933, and again when he established links to British South Pacific territories after 1939. Simultaneously, the New York-Lisbon Clipper flights became famous, and very lucrative, as one of the few neutral routes into a Europe at war.

Pan American, now linked to the Air Force's global Air Transport Command, became a major contract carrier for the government after Pearl Harbor, particularly in ferrying planes from northeastern Brazil across Africa to the Middle East. Pan American even inaugurated air travel for a president, carrying Franklin D. Roosevelt to and from the Casablanca conference in early 1943. With its German and Italian rivals destroyed, and British and French international airlines greatly weakened financially, Pan American emerged victorious after 1945. But its international monopoly had ended as its American competitors learned the skills of oceanic flight when drafted by Washington into the war effort.

Trippe tried to revivify the "chosen instrument" concept by making Pan American (renamed Pan American World Airways in 1949) into a regulated monopoly, with the federal government owning 49 percent of the stock, but the plan died. In 1950, just as foreign air competitors were reaching American shores, he was refused the right to fly domestically, with the reliable income that this would generate. In 1952 Trippe encouraged mass tourism across the North Atlantic to Western Europe by instituting tourist class fares, with installment purchases after 1954. Volume flights required larger aircraft, and Trippe, having developed commercial jet service in the late 1950s, bought the first Boeing 747s in 1966.

But Trippe's desire to create a vast global system, servicing virtually every airport everywhere without strong regard for volume or profit, combined with a growing foreign and American competition to which Pan American could not adjust. There were major difficulties in the 1960s, with half-filled aircraft and shrinking revenues. Trippe retired in 1968, after 41 years at the helm, and died on April 3, 1981. His empire went downhill. A proposal that the shah of Iran buy it in 1975 was rejected. It filed for bankruptcy early in 1991 and ceased flying later in the year.

Further Reading

Trippe and American overseas aviation in general have attracted much study. Sweeping, popularized biographies are: Charles Kelly, Jr., The Sky's the Limit (1963); Robert Daley, An American Saga: Juan Trippe and His Pan American Empire (1980); and Marylin Bender and Selig Altschul, The Chosen Instrument: Pan Am, Juan Trippe, The Rise and Fall of an American Entrepreneur (1982). More scholarly are Richard Caves, Air Transport and Its Regulators (1962); R. E. G. Davies, A History of the World's Airlines (1964); and Wesley Phillips Newton, The Perilous Sky: U.S. Aviation Diplomacy in Latin America, 1911-1931 (1978). □

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Trippe, Juan Terry

Juan Terry Trippe (trĬp), 1899–1981, pioneering American aviation executive, b. Sea Bright, N.J. A U.S. Navy pilot (1917–18), he graduated (1921) from Yale, and worked briefly on Wall Street. Fascinated with aviation, Trippe founded (1922) a short-lived air taxi service. Two years later he and three friends bought into Colonial Air Transport, soon obtaining a contract for the first U.S. airmail service, from New York to Boston. In 1927 they merged Colonial with two other airlines, establishing Pan American Airways, with Trippe as president, and inaugurated international air service with regular mail flights from Key West to Havana. During the 41 years that Trippe led Pan Am, it became the world's largest commercial airline and was responsible for many important innovations in commercial aviation. In the 1930s Trippe introduced the large flying clipper, facilitating world travel as the airline established routes to South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Pan Am made passenger flight affordable with its tourist class and introduced the Boeing 707 jet (1958) and 747 jumbo jet (1966) commercially. Trippe retired as Pan Am's chief executive officer in 1968 and left its board in 1975. The airline with which his name was virtually synonymous ceased flying in 1991.

See studies by M. Josephson (1972), R. Daley (1980), M. Bender (1982), and B. Conrad (1999).

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"Trippe, Juan Terry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Trippe, Juan Terry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trippe-juan-terry

Trippe, Juan Terry

TRIPPE, JUAN TERRY


Juan Trippe (18991981), a pioneer of the jet age, made Pan American World Airways the world's largest airline in the mid-twentieth century. Trippe, who introduced commercial air service across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the 1930s, made Pan American Airways the first airline to offer affordable tourist class air travel. By the early 1960s Pan Am planes were flying into 86 countries on a route network covering some 80,000 miles.

The son of an investment banker, Trippe graduated from Yale University in 1921. He worked briefly as a bond salesman on Wall Street, intending to enter the family business, Trippe and Company. But his heart was set on planes and flying. Learning that some World War I (19141918) surplus single-engine pontoon Navy biplanes were available for sale, he used an inheritance and help from some wealthy Yale classmates to purchase seven of them. With his small fleet of planes he organized Long Island Airways, a sightseeing and charter service. In 1924 he put together Colonial Air Transport, which flew between Boston, Massachusetts, and New York City with the first U.S. air mail contract ever awarded.

When Trippe tried to expand the company's route beyond the Northeast to Florida and Havana, Cuba, Colonial's stockholders refused. He resigned from the company and, again with the financial help of friends, organized Pan American Airways, Inc. in 1927 from a merger of three rival flying services. He began airmail service from Florida to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Central America. By 1929 Pan Am had 11,000 miles of routes, and passenger flights had been introduced.

After Charles Lindbergh (19021974) became an international hero as a result of his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, Trippe hired him as a consultant to advise Pan Am on creating ocean-going routes. The two men often traveled together over the proposed routes, with Lindbergh as the pilot. Trippe's first great success was the "China Clipper" route to China, inaugurated in the early 1930s. Atlantic routes to Europe followed. During World War II (19391945), the company acted as a contract carrier for the U.S. government, ferrying U.S. troops all over the globe.

After World War II, Trippe lobbied Congress unsuccessfully to establish Pan Am as the United States' exclusive international carrier. At the same time, believing that the future of air travel lay with the ordinary tourist, he introduced "tourist class" travel from New York City to London, England. In a 1944 speech he said, "The average man's holiday has been the prisoner of two grim keepers, money and time," and he sought to change that equation. He cut the usual round-trip fare in half and promoted his air travel campaign in a widely discussed article, "Now You Can Take That Trip Abroad." At first the major international air carriers resisted the idea of two classes of air service (first and tourist), and Great Britain even closed its airports to Pan Am flights with tourist seats. But the concept of low-cost airfares proved to be extremely popular, and, by 1952, all major airlines had posted competitive rates.

Trippe had the vision to see that the next advance in airline travel would be with the big 707 Boeing and the Douglas DC-8 jets. In 1958 Pan Am launched its first 707 route to Paris, France. The big jets flew almost twice as fast as the propeller-driven planes they replaced and carried many more passengers. Trippe ordered as many jets as the airplane manufacturers could produce, and, by the early 1960s, his airline dominated U.S. international air travel. In 1968 Pan Am had assets of over $1 billion.

Trippe, always the visionary, still wasn't satisfied. He became interested in development of the 747, the "jumbo jet" that would carry even more passengers than the 707. Pan Am ordered 25 of the huge planes, at a cost of $450 million and inaugurated their use in the 1960s. Unfortunately, Trippe, this time, was ahead of the curve. A world oil crisis in the early 1970s was particularly hard on airlines, and Pan Am, which had not streamlined its operations to meet increased competition at home and abroad, was no exception. Juan Trippe died in 1981, as his company was still struggling to recovery from the oil crisis. Pan Am continued operations for ten years after its founders death, until it was dissolved in 1991.

See also: Airline Industry


FURTHER READING

Bender, Marilyn and Selig Altschul. The Chosen Instrument: Pan Am, Juan Trippe, The Rise and Fall of an American Entrepreneur. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Branson, Richard. "Juan Trippe: Pilot of the Jet Age." Time, December 7, 1998.

Daley, Robert. An American Saga: Juan Trippe and his Pan Am Empire. New York: Random House, 1980.

Josephson, Matthew. Empire of the Air: Juan Trippe and the Struggle for World Airways. New York: Arno Press, 1972.

Newhouse, John. "A Hole in the Market." The New Yorker, July 5, 1982.

Current Biography 1955. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1955, s.v. "Juan Terry Trippe."

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"Trippe, Juan Terry." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Trippe, Juan Terry." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trippe-juan-terry

"Trippe, Juan Terry." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved July 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/trippe-juan-terry