Pan Am Makes a Comeback with an ABC Show: Did It Ever Go Away?

Posted Feb 28th 2011 04:30 PMUpdated Feb 28th 2011 04:41 PM


Pam Ann

Pan American World Airways, which travelers fondly called Pan Am, may be flying back into the zeitgeist this year. CNN reports that ABC has officially ordered a pilot called Pan Am, a prime-time celebration of stewardess life in the 1960s. The show will be based on the experiences of executive producer Nancy Hult Ganis, who was a flight attendant on the airline for seven years.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Christina Ricci is in talks to play a lead role and Australian actress Margot Robbie will make her American debut as one of the sexy stewardesses. Ganis's major producing credit to date was the 2006 family film Akeelah and the Bee. Thomas Schlamme, a veteran of series including The West Wing and Sports Night, is reportedly attached as a director.

A revival of that high-skirted, pastel-hued Pan Am era has been percolating in entertainment for years. One of the bigger hits on Broadway and London in recent seasons was a revival of the 1965 play Boeing Boeing, a sexual farce set in the free-spirited world of the Jet Age flight attendant.

Then there's Pam Ann (pictured), the ribald air hostess played by Australian comic Caroline Reid. In addition to appearing as video in-flight entertainment on British Airways and Qantas, Pam Ann has brought her act, complete with logo and costumes ripped directly from the vanished airline's livery, around the world, including runs in New York and London's West End.

Pan Am the airline began life as a single route in 1927 between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. Its original offices still stands, and attracts aviation nerds with a case of memorabilia. It's now Kelly's, a bar originally owned by Top Gun actress Kelly McGillis.

In truth, the Jet Age of the 1960s was the second Golden Age for Pan Am. In the 1930s, the airline was renowned for its use of "Clipper" propeller aircraft to bring travlers around the world. In the 1940s, it was the first commercial airline to offer a route that went around the planet.

By the 1970s, Pan Am was one of the most widespread airlines in the world. There was even a New York City skyscraper above Park Avenue emblazoned with its logo. In 1991, the airline declared bankruptcy. Its Manhattan skyscraper was rebranded for MetLife insurance, and its old Worldport terminal was handed over to Delta Air Lines.

After it was grounded for good, its name was parceled off to a New Hampshire company that licenses its name for official products and runs assorted transportation companies, but doesn't fly commercially under the esteemed name. Affection for the Pan Am brand, though, still sustains fan sites including and

In addition to some mod '60s fashion and design, the series, if it's picked up, should be fodder for plenty of political and sexual story lines. In pre-feminism America, women rarely chose to be jet-setters. "It was in a time when very few people in the U.S. even had passports," Ganis told CNN. "So suddenly, it was just this exciting adventure, and I really wanted it."

ABC will decide whether to pick up the series for a full run after the pilot, produced by Sony Pictures TV, is finished.
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Taichleach, I am very sorry for your loss and your pain. I did not know Patricia Reilly, but I met her sister Kathy through a mutual friend in 1970-71, in my junior-senior year at CHS. As your post states, the NTSB report makes clear the tragic circumstances of the crash and the heroic efforts of the flight attendants to save lives.

July 24 2011 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pan Am Hater, I too am sorry for your loss and the pain you have had to suffer, but I also believe
you should check your facts before making statements with inaccurate information, for you can
easily insult the memory of those who gave their lives trying to save others and in this case you
have done just that, done a grave injustice and tarnished the memory of my friend and classmate, Patricia Reilly, a flight attendant, who died that day while working to save the lives of the passengers.

As for the show. Big deal, they used the Pan Am brand. It is not about Pan Am, but about flight
attendants of the 60s. the original Pan Am company is long dead. What if they had used the brands
of American, or United Airlines, would you have no one watch because their airplanes were used in
the September 11 attacks that resulted almost 3,000 deaths?

The following statement you made shows assumption and ignorance, "The 70's Pan Am stewardesses were not educated in passenger safety or life preservation, and in case of a crash landing, they were rendered incapable of saving lives, which should have been first and foremost their job."

You see, I know what happened to flight 806 (that crashed near Pago Pago, American Samoa). The NTSB accident report shows that there were some problems after the crash and even though the crash was survivable, 97 people died. Many more could have been saved if a few things happened differently. First a large number of the passengers failed to pay attention to the the pretakeoff briefing and the passenger information pamphlet. Second, some of the passengers rushed toward the front and rear of the cabin before the aircraft stopped, interfering with the flight attendants who were trying to implement emergency
procedures and give instructions to the passengers. Lastly, Reilly did not have to die that day, but as in the process of opening an emergency exit, she was crushed by panicked passengers, preventing the door from opening. At the time, the B707 exit had to be pulled inward first, but all those bodies against her prevented that and they all died. If she had been allowed to open that exit, many more could have been saved.

by saying the flight attendants

July 03 2011 at 7:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is response to Fran.. Maybe it is YOU who should get your facts straight. I'm not saying that you may have received training, however as far as being a safe airline you are WRONG. I lost both my parents in a Pan Am crash, (flight 759) on take off. This was such a well trained airline captain that he took off in a raging thunderstorm and killed everyone aboard and 8 on the ground. This was before Lockerbie, (l982). Oh.. and by the way the airline did admit it was it's fault... so much for stupid statements.

As far as being disgraceful, hopefully you will never find out personally. The underhandedness was unbelievable. I too agree with "Pan Am hater" I plan to boycott this show as well as write to ABC for picking up this program. Why should we glamourize an airline that has killed so many people?

W e are so careful not to step on the toes of the 9/ll families.. but other people who have lost their entire families or parts of their families they see fit to glamorize the party that did all the damage and caused so much heartache.

May 25 2011 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to msnapolixi's comment

Hello how to contact you about Pan Am?

May 30 2012 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been a flight attendant for 19 years! Come from a lineage of stewardesses and think this show is done in humor and entertainment ONLY.We as flight attendants are trained YEARLY and have learned from mistakes in the past.I am sorry for all of your loss and pain this is a look back in history, we learn from our mistakes....IT IS FAR different NOW and I hope you know this!

May 21 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Pan Am hater

I truly emplore anyone who values human life and the loss of such to boycott this show. It is glamorizing an era of complete disregard for the safety of human life. Passengers in the 1970's were issued tickets with the $75000 underwriters value on human life on the back. Individual life was valued as such, even in the case of minor children and dependents. This is, and should never have been, the value of a human life. Growing up in an orphanage should never be an option. Please, do not support this show. It's the plainest example of revisionist history. The 70's Pan Am stewardesses were not educated in passenger safety or life preservation, and in case of a crash landing, they were rendered incapable of saving lives, which should have been first and foremost their job. Pan Am propagated an environment of denial. Look at their website and discover how many people lost their lives at their pilot's hands. Unacceptable. Don't allow anyone to turn the loss of thousands of people into nostalgia. Pan Am was denial at it's utmost. Thank you.

March 02 2011 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bruce Drum

It would nice to see this show on ABC. It is a good idea.

Legally there were several airline versions (that actually flew) using the Pan Am name:

Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) (1st) (1927-1991) (the original Pan Am)
Pan Am (2nd) (1996-1998)
Pan Am (3rd) (Pan American Airways Corporation) (Guilford) (1999-2004)
Pan Am Clipper Connection (4th) (Boston-Maine Airways) (1999-2008)

The last operator was shut down and there are some recent attempts to revive the name again.

Here is a picture of the Boeing 747SP "China Clipper" of the original Pan Am:

Bruce Drum
Airliners Gallery

March 01 2011 at 6:37 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bruce Drum's comment
Pan Am hater

My mother and grandmother were burned alive on a Pan Am flight in 1974 (flight 806), before the 90 second evacuation procedure was developed. All on the flight, 101 people, survived the crash landing on the island of Pango Pango, American Samoa, but all except 4 perished in the resulting fireball. At this time, flight attendants didn't receive training in opening the doors and evacuating the passengers in a timely fashion, and in fact, they weren't even seated near the exits. My 24 year old mother and 45 year old grandmother were burned alive, hopefully after succumbing to smoke inhalation and being rendered unconscious. A short 3 years later, the two 747 accident at Tenerife, also involving a Pan Am jet, occurred, still the worst death toll in aviation history.

To glamorize an airline that went bankrupt from the payouts of it's accident damages is disgraceful and yet another example of how the past is revered no matter how nasty it is.

March 01 2011 at 10:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pan Am hater's comment

Know the history about this airline before you comment ugly, very wrong, posts. I was trained in 1963 by Pan Am, and we even had the slide training for evacuation. We knew how to open the doors, removed the windows...what a stupid statement you made...of course we were trained in all forms of safety procedures. Tenerife was no fault of Pan Am. Are you kidding?
Aside from the mismanagement of the airline, the payouts of damages came about from the bombing of Flight #103 at Lockerbie. That was no fault of Pan Am. How dare you accuse that airline of being in any manner disgraceful. This airline was one of the world's safest ever.

May 19 2011 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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