I have just completed the first podcast episode of my Father’s book, Talking To The World From Pan Am’s Clippers.  Dad was a Flight Radio Officer for Pan Am during the period 1939 to 1949 and published this memoir in 1994.  I will be reading episodes from his book during the period while I am completing the fifth Mr. Wugidgem Children’s Fantasy.  I hope you enjoy this retro adventure.

As a departure from my regular audio only presentation, I am including the text of the reading as well.  You will find it below the link.

From The Flying Clippers Archive



This memoir I am writing about concerns real life memories of my worldwide flying adventures aboard Pan American Airways Clippers as a Flight Radio Officer from 1939 to 1949.  This was when President Juan Trippe was expanding his airline into Central and South America and even the rest of the world.  The arrival of World War II helped PAA’s explosive expansion and his company quickly became know as America’s “Chosen Instrument.”  Trippe’s ambition and vision along with his international diplomacy and intrigue plus his financial manipulations helped make Pan Am the world’s largest and greatest International airline.

Millions of memories have I, that float around in my head.  But at times a simple fact that I really know well, will drift away like a cloud in a breeze.  So when this happens, when fact slips into fiction, please forgive this lapse; the story must go on.

This memoir is written in 1994, as a chronological diary, but covers my memories of 1939-1949.  I’ve described the very rapid technological advance in radio equipment and improved performance of 14 different aircraft Clippers from the Sikorsky S-38 twin engined 8 passenger seaplane that flew at 105 MPH, through to the Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser four engined 86 passenger landplane that flew at 275 MPH.

I’ve written this for my children Allan, Kenneth, Jeanne, and Connie, as well as my wife Jean and the rest of my extended family.  But also it’s for my old Pan American friends and to all aviation history buffs.

There are two stars in the memoir, my beautiful former wife Florence Ann Rodgers Chapman and Pan American Airways (PAA).  I’ve tried to tell you how I felt way back when.  There are a jillion or more loving times I enjoyed with Florence Ann, in my Pan American days.  She was my inspiration and I dedicate this memoir to her.

Blended along with those lovely memories are a hundred or two thrilling flights with PAA that took me into another dimension.  The MAGIC MOMENT of takeoff on each flight was some kind of ethereal experience for me that continues to this day.  I hope the reader gets a touch of those early sensations that I’ll try hard to faithfully describe.  I did the background research on my story at the University of Massachusetts library.  Robert Daley’s book titled An American Saga – Juan Trippe and his Pan Am Empire filled my needs best.  Daley extensively characterized Pan Am’s President Juan Trippe along with Andre Priester and Hugo Leuteritz.  I’ve quoted a few excerpts about the Communications and Navagations equipment Radio Engineering Expert Hugo Leuteritz developed for PAA.

Hopefully, his experiences will show why dependable two way radio and Navagational direction finding (DF) equipment was a must on all over-ocean flights and should be operated by professional Flight Radio Officers (FRO).  This would provide the proper elements to help assure safer flights in case of any emergencies or adverse weather conditions that might arise.

One of my writing goals is to show the Flight Radio Officers’ point of view, in relation to the rest of the smoothly operating flight cockpit crew.  Our essential tasks were to provide good in-flight two way communication with ground control radio stations giving aircraft progress reports, direction finding aids and weather.  I have quoted from President Trippe’s 1941 Royal Academy “Ocean Air Transport” speech in London that illustrated this well.

“The Flight Radio Officer is responsible for the operation of the plane’s complete radio equipment and for maintenance of constant communication with the radio control stations ashore.  On duty he is a rather busy airman.  At a minimum, he must contact his watch ground station every fifteen minutes.  On the half hour and on the hour, in addition to position, a complete report on its navigation and progress, the track made good, winds, weather, and general conditions.  He constantly receives weather reports, bearings from ground stations and in turn himself taking radio bearings upon surface stations or upon any available ships within range.”

“Radio equipment carried by a Clipper consists of two completely interchangeable telegraph and telephone transmitters, which can operate on either high or low frequency, thereby providing for communications with surface vessels as well as the ground control stations.  The ship also has two receivers, the function of which are interchangeable, and which cover frequency bands of 200 to 18,000 kcs.  There is also an automatic direction finder which can be manually operated.  An additional receiver for radio telephone operation, controllable from the pilot’s seat, is carried for use within 60 miles of the terminal stations, in conjunction with the regular transmitters.  For ground to air and point to point communications, the ground control stations are equipped with from three to five transmitters, of various power outputs, together with the necessary receiving equipment.  Each station, in addition, is usually equipped with radio navigation facilities.  Normal communication ranges are in the neighborhood of 3,600 miles.”

Please join me again next week for Episode 2, First Stop Havana.

Allan Chapman


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