Pan American Airlines

On Oct. 28, 1927, a small wood-and-fabric plane rolled down a dirt runway in Key West, lifted off and headed for Havana to make the first scheduled international flight of a U.S. airline. It was made by a fledgling firm called Pan American Airways. Though it would later be based in New York City, the airline’s links to South Florida were strong, and its presence boosted the world’s awareness of Miami.  The airline was founded by Juan Trippe in Key West. Coconut Grove’s Dinner Key originally served as the base of operations of Pan Am’s “flying boats” or seaplanes, which it called clippers, and it was from there, in 1931, that Charles Lindbergh piloted test flights on Pan Am’s ”American Clipper” to Cienfuegos, Cuba, and to Panama and other points in Central America and the Caribbean. Pan Am pioneered first-class service and in-flight movies and built the field that would become today’s MIA. Even after the company moved its headquarters to New York after World War II, Miami remained a major Pan Am hub. When the airline folded in 1991, it still had 6,500 South Florida workers.

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