Juan Trippe

By: Mandy Leonard

Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan Am, is generally accredited with bringing the world into the jet age with his ambitious visions of the future. Witnessing Wilbur Wright's historic flight around the Statue of Liberty, he grew up with a fascination of flying. Eventually this led him to invest in the Aviation Company of the Americas.

Trippe won a U.S. government contract through his persuasive salesmanship and in 1926 began carrying U.S. mail by air between Boston and New York. By 1930, the company now called Pan American Airways, was the world's largest airline, being the first airline to cross the pacific with their famous Clipper planes.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was in realizing his vision of affordable air travel for all by creating "Tourist Class". Originally, the aviation industry was so against this that England closed it's airports to Pan Am, forcing them to reroute to Ireland. Adopting the 707s allowed Pan Am to introduce lower fairs and fly with more passengers. When Trippe asked Bill Allen to create a plane larger than the 707, the 747 was born, the iconic image of today's international air travel. Even in the collapse of Pan Am we are able to see a valuable lesson.

Juan Trippe was continuously innovating - always envisioning the future. However, he was unable to adapt his company to the fast changing aviation industry. It was this inability to change in the face of a shifting market that contributed to the downfall of one of the world's largest and most pioneering airlines.