Skygods: A Mirror to The Rise & Fall of…

Skygods is an interesting book but more… it  is a mirror reflecting the rise and fall of a generational wave.

We can use these mirrors to see crests and troughs as the natural rhythm of things.   Understanding these up and down paths can help us better understand how to be in the right place at exactly the right time.

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Read about Skygods the fall of Pan Am here

Skygods is a great book. Am autographed copy sits in my library.   Yet,  “Skygods” is much more than a book.

A low pass.  Absolutely. So that’s what he did.  Low.  He brought Clipper Goodwill right down the center line of runway 12, low enough for the folks on the ground to count the rivits.

The line above from “Skygods” describes Flight 219 New York JFK International to Bridgetown, Barbados, on its return… flown by Captain Mark Pyle… Pan Am’s last flight and the end of an era.

“Skygods” tells the story of a special time and situation that I know especially well… having lived through a big part of it.   This reflection is a more like a partial recording of my life and 60 million others who gained from that special golden era.

We can profit in numerous ways by analyzing the rise and fall of Pan Am from three views.

View #1  is a reflection on government intervention.

Skygods is the tale of the rise and fall of Pan American Airways… from its beginnings… until its end. Pan Am was founded through the rigmarole of government intervention.

Here is an excerpt from page 14 and 15 of “Skygods” which tells how Juan Trippe was involved in forming an airline called Aviation Corporation of America.  He intended to bid on a proposed airmail route between Key West and Havana.  The book says:   Pan American was the dream child of Major Henry “Hap” Arnold of the Army Air Corp. In 1927 he incorporated Pan American Airways and filed its application for the Key West-Havana airmail route. 

Meanwhile yet another consortium headed by a financier named Richard F. Hoyt, Chairman of Wright Aeronautical Corporation applied for the Havana route. 

That made three applicants competing for the Key West-Havana route including Trippe’s Aviation Corporation of America.  At the urging of Assistant Postmaster General W. Irving Glover, the three groups were persuaded to merge. On July 19, 1927 the U.S. Post Office awarded FAM 4, the foreign airmail route from Key West to Havana to Pan American World Airways. After much backroom finagling and manipulation of stock Hoyt emerged as Chairman of the Board.  Twenty-eight-year-old Juan Trippe became president and general manager.

Government intervention had a lot to do with Pan Am’s start… its rise and its fall.  Pan Am’s story begins on the upside of a bell curve called the Jet Age… when transoceanic flying was glamorous… exciting and something new.  Pan Am had a huge head start with government blessed route protection as the only US overseas airline.  Gandt tells how government intervention began to build clear back in the 1930s when Joseph P.  Kennedy headed the Maritime Commission.   Kennedy was opposed to Pan Am’s monopoly in international commerce but Trippe used all his political clout to effect passage of the 1938 Civil Aeronautics Act, thus snatching control of the airlines from Kennedy’s commission and to a separate agency.

Government intervention is a double edge sword. Kennedy became Trippe’s implacable enemy and this spilled into the 1960s when JFK became President of the United States.  Trippe rubbed further salt into this wound by ordering six French Concordes after JFK has asked him to postpone any action until JFK’s decision about the US Super Sonic Transport.   JFK and LBJ were both on the phone furious and saying they were double crossed.  JFK’s parting words on the matter were “Tell Mr. Trippe we will not forget this.”

“Skygods” explains: Times had changed. What used to work back in the pre jet days didn’t work anymore.  The era when Trippe could pickup a phone and influence a route decision was not only over, it had left a lasting resentment against Pan Am.

Domestic airlines were allowed overseas routes, but Pan Am was not allowed domestic routes and this was a big part of its decline.  Support did not get better in the Nixon era.  In the 1970s Pan Am and TWA, which had similar problems, tried to merge.  The Nixon administration did not want such a large airline that could once again would raise the old bugaboo about monopoly and unfair competition so it stonewalled the merger.   Pan Am had not been a contributor to Nixon’s reelection campaign so the merger and a later  request for subsidies by Pan Am to the government were also ignored.

The Carter administration did not help either.  Stimulating competition meant giving away more overseas routes that hurt Pan Am.  Carter’s appointee to the Civil Aeronautic Board, Alfred E. Kahn, summed up his feelings one day when after hearing about Pan Am’s problems he told the press… “Pan Am can go to hell.”

Government intervention helped launch Pan Am and turn it into a behemoth. Then the same forces thwarted the airline when in trouble again and again.   Government intervention did not do it all… or cause the rise or fall.

The lesson is that Pan Am was a dinosaur… the perfect survival machine  in its time.  Then as the climate changed, the company became a lumbering mess.

The lesson is that government intervention can do this to any of us.  When we get used to feeding at someone else’s trough it is hard to relearn how to feed ourselves if that trough is removed.

gant-skygods tags:

I flew millions of miles on 707s mostly on Pan Am.

If you are running an airline it’s pretty hard… perhaps impossible to not be politically inclined.  We with micro businesses can often enjoy pretty good profits and not have to mess with… but can take advantage of  the politicos.

This is especially true if the micro business is in writing… or speaking… because we as writers are guaranteed freedom of the press.

Here is an excerpt from a forthcoming lesson about “Skygods” in our online course, Self Publishing 202:

View #2 “Skygods” is as a story. Sensing where society is at any particular time is vital for writers.  We all have a story to tell. We all want to enhance change and somehow make the world better through our words.  These are vital traits in a writer but capturing and keeping a reader’s attention is important as well… perhaps more important that the rest.

This is where writing and quantum science come together.   Perfect words, not read, remain scalar energy… just potential.   The conversion of potential into vector energy manifestation comes from the reading.  This recalls an age old question…” if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, is there sound?”   This leads us to ask… if a book is written… and no one reads it… is there a book?

We can be sure at the much grosser material level is that if no one reads it there will be no profit… except for perhaps the satisfaction of getting the words out!

Since our courses are about how to write to sell we describe writing as more than words.  Our definition of a publication is “writing and a paying audience”.

If thoughts are too far out of phase with current thinking… the words will not be read… or if read not understood or even worse misunderstood.

Current thinking includes language… time… and personification.

To communicate well, we have to be in tune with the language of the paying audience.

For a growing segment of the population the sentence… 4COL,  2moro, Ill B ther 4 U.  B4N would be easily understood.  In text talk this means “for crying out loud, tomorrow, I’ll be there for you. Bye for now”.

However who would understand what this means?  “Woulds’t thou be prithee to an answer? Verily, verily I say unto thee,  go thither and yon and test ye site”.

Writing in Old English is fine for an extremely small group in really tightly governed circumstances (scholars, aficionados or medieval recreators such as… but most of us will pass on this.

The fast pace of our times forces most people to focus their greatest transformative energy through their Beta brain waves… the logical linear part of thinking that looks after what is exactly in front of us.

In today’s time most successful writing begins by aligning with and capturing that energy. Then the words shift and aim at the more emotional brain waves… the ones that rule intuition, hope… dreams and the heart.

Notice how many books today start with an event… something bad or good happens and the event ends with a mystery… something the logic cannot handle.  The event is often very evil…a death… an accident… a conspiracy… bad… attention… grabbing stuff.

The next chapter brings on the personification… a hero… a sympathetic character striving for a worthwhile goal… the man, woman, animal or group who is a caricature of goodness who will win the heart… not the brain.

Once the mind and the heart are captured, the writer cannot let either escape.  The words must contain human, emotional elements that move the story along.

This is what Gandt does so well in “Skygods”… as well as his other non fiction books such as the “Twilight Warriors”.  He takes what could be dry history and weaves in the human touch.

For example the first sentence in “Skygods” humanizes the history. Here it is:

“The image would remain fixed in Rob Martinside’s memory for the next twenty five years: brushed aluminum fuselages, sleek tails slanting skyward, blue-on-white paint schemes gleaming in the morning sun.”

The story becomes more than the history of Pan Am.  This is the tale of the impact of Pan Am’s rise and fall on Rob Martinside and others as well.  Clear through the story we read about how Pan Am affects him. At the end of the book, Gandt tells how Delta took on many of the Pan Am pilots… and the fate of those it did not accept.

He writes on page 300, “Rob Martinside was one of the lucky ones. He was among the seven hundred, roughly a third of the Pan Am pilots, who made the list. With his fellow inductees, Martinside stepped off the shuttle bus one October morning at the Delta headquarters complex. And then he stopped with his mouth opened.”

Skygods keeps you reading because the history…  a reflection of the rise and fall of the first aero industry era is seen and felt through people.  From beginning to end the reader is caught up in Rob Martinside’s story.

Gandt tells the story of the battle of Okinawa… 95 days of the most ferocious history seen through the eyes of Roy Erickson who is introduced on page one and is last heard from on page 348 of this 348 page book.

gant-skygods tags:

I flew on Pan Am's first San Francisco London 747 flight. What a change... and a mess getting baggage at Heathrow. Now that's as story to tell.

The third view of Skygods is of its form… a book in great color and paper that a day before was just a digital form.

Gandt autographed my copy of  “Skygods”:   For Gary and Merri- An example of the new era of publishing – My best wishes, Bob Gandt.

Gandt owns the copyright of his book and though it was first published in print by William Morrow, Gandt now offers it himself in digital form for Kindle and Print on Demand.  There is no inventory and when an order arrives the book can be printed in just a day.

This ability to avoid the printing and distribution costs creates a huge benefit for new writers and self publishers.


There is one other lesson we can gain from Gandt’s books. One of the reviews at says: I am a pilot for American airlines and think this is a must read for anyone in the airline industry. If you think your company couldn’t fold, you need to read what happened to Pan Am. It’s also an entertaining read. I highly recommend this book.

My comment is:  If any of us think our idea…our business…our company… our government… our way of life cannot fold… beware.  This is dinosaur thinking… a logic that grows increasingly dangerous as global change increases its pace.

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The world is changing quickly. My children were booked on and flew on Pan Am 103 the day after this terrorist attack so I have a very visceral understanding of what global change can mean.



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Bob Gandt says: Aviation journalist and pilot Gandt interweaves the complex and interesting story of Pan Am’s rise under founder and visionary Juan Trippe with American business and politics. Trippe molded Pan Am from the glory days of flying boats and the opening of Pacific routes to new piston-driven airliners and the transition to jets. In 1965 Pan Am was the world’s preeminent airline, boasting 40,000 employees, 143 airliners, and over $1 billion in revenues; it was also the torchbearer for new aircraft designs. How Trippe achieved this and influenced Presidents Kennedy and Johnson reveal the workings of American business and politics. In 1968 foreign carriers increased, revenues declined, and Trippe resigned. In the Seventies a series of catastrophic accidents, increasing competition, rising fuel costs, and a strike started the downward spiral exacerbated by the 1988 Lockerbie tragedy and Chapter 11 proceedings. A fascinating commentary on aviation and American business.

Order Skygods at here


Learn more about Bob Gandt’s Twilight Warrior here

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