Photo left by Steve Shay. Cake photo right by Brian Baum.
Alki's Brian Baum took Pan Am's special flight over the North & South Poles on its 50th Anniversary flight in 1977. He will give a talk Saturday, OCt. 27, 2:00 p.m. at the Museum of Flight. He holds his out-of-print book about the flight. Right, cake was served to the passengers for Pan Am's birthday. It was provided by Pan Am at the departure lounge at San Francisco.
Pan Am flew Alki's Brian Baum over North & South Poles; He will speak at Museum of Flight
Pan American World Airways, or "Pan Am" as most recall it, dominated the skies until 1991. Its first commercial flight carried passengers and mail from Key West to Havana, about 90 miles, Oct. 28, 1927. Lucky passengers has a close-up and personal sea view on a Fairchild FC2 floatplane.
Fifty years later, Pan Am celebrated its inaugural jaunt with another historic flight, circling the world, flying over the North and South Pole, and in record time. It flew 26,230 miles in 48 hours, 3 minutes. The entire flight, including stops, took 54 hours and 7 minutes. The stubby "Junior Jumbo", a Boeing 747SP, was about 47 feet shorter than a standard 747, while equipped with the same engines and wingspan, allowing it to fly longer distances between fueling.
Alki resident Brian Baum, now 53, was one of the 172 passengers on that flight. And while most of us define a good flight as one that is routine, with no surprises, Baum's experience was quite the opposite, thrilling, and one he will never forget. A former employee of the Museum of Flight, he will share his memories of his Pan Am trip with photos and possibly some video at the museum Saturday, Oct. 27, at 2:00 p.m. The public is invited. There is no charge other than admission to the museum. Members can attend free.
He recalled how he landed a seat on Flight 50.
"I was graduating high school in Edmonds, getting ready for college, and I had a two-week trip to Hawaii planned," said Baum, now Public Relations Specialist with the Washington State Convention Center. "Then my father came up with a clipping out of the Seattle PI saying there was going to be a flight around the Poles to celebrate Pan Am's 50th anniversary. His point was you can never do that again, but you can always go to Hawaii. I thought that was probably good (advice). I went to Hawaii the following year.
"Emmet Watson had a regular column and that day he was off and so they ran an article about Pan Am wanting to set this record and were selling tickets for this flight, $2,222 for coach, $3.333 for first class," he said. "I flew coach, still probably more than my whole budget for the Hawaii trip."
Brian's father, Howard, now 80, worked for Boeing. He is pictured in Brian's book, "Great Airliners Volume Three, Boeing 747SP" posed by a wind tunnel flutter model of the Boeing 777.
"That's where I got my interest in aviation," said Brian of his dad. "I dedicated my book to him. There he is (pictured) with Tex Johnston the test pilot, who rolled the Boeing 367-80 prototype of the 707 (over Lake Washington in a 1955 demonstration). Tex was the first pilot to fly the B52, and 707 prototype."
On Flight 50, Baum took off from San Fransisco, flew over the North Pole at night, and landed in London for two hours. He continued on to Capetown, then flew over the South Pole in daylight, landing in Auckland. Two hours later it was non-stop back to San Francisco.
"There were small celebrations at each stop," he recalled, including local dignitaries and performers, including Maori dancers in New Zealand. He said he got little sleep on board considering professional models appeared in a Gucci fashion show, sporting the latest leather fashions up and down the aisles. Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe were also on board.
"Admiral Byrd's grandson was seated just a couple rows in front of me," he enthused. Admiral Richard Byrd held expeditions to both Poles, and claimed he flew, on different instances, over each, although some scientists dispute this.
There were four flight attendant crews, one per leg. Rita Pickley-Adragna, pictured in Baum's book grinning widely, holding a large wine bottle and glasses, was handpicked by Pan Am to work the Capetown to Auckland leg. They flew her to South Africa from Honolulu, where she was based.
She is a long-time real estate agent with RE/MAX 5TH AVENUE in Sequim. We reached her by phone.
She recalled that because many passengers slept between London and Capetown, they were wide awake and perky when she boarded, so she was always busy.
"I bought a menu from the flight on eBay," she said, and recited the dinner she served. "Rock lobster tail cocktails, saddle of springbok- roasted native springbok antelope, roast duckling garnished with green and black olives, king clip meuniere, a filet of South Africa's most renowned fish."
She recalled the champagne toast over the South Pole.
"That's where I got my gold wings," she said pridefully. The crew made a nice presentation to her over the Pole. "When you're first hired you get your silver wings. After six months, the probation period, if they keep you on you get gold wings. I still have my wings."
(This story was updated with color cake photo & a few technical corrections. Thank you.)