The Heyday of Propeller Airliners(1941-1958)

Pan Am World Airways

"A world of neighbors"

-Pan American World Airways brochure

International Service

Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Pan American Airways was the nation's sole international airline before World War II. After the war, other domestic airlines were allowed to open international routes.

During the war, Pan Am helped build a worldwide network of paved runways, enabling the airline to replace its luxurious but inefficient flying boats with four-engine landplanes. Pan Am gained much wartime experience delivering high-priority passengers and cargo as well. Thus, it was strongly positioned to dominate postwar international service.

However, presidents Roosevelt and Truman both felt it would serve the nation best to have several overseas airlines. So after the war, the Civil Aeronautics Board ended Pan Am's monopoly.

TWA "Welcome Aboard"  Brochure
Reprinted courtesy American Airlines, Inc.

New Competition for Pan Am

Transcontinental and Western Air, with its well-developed domestic network and proven record of overseas war service, quickly became a serious competitor to Pan Am. To reflect the airline's new international status, majority shareholder Howard Hughes changed the airline's name to Trans World Airlines.

Northwest Orient expanded across the Pacific to the Far East. Braniff Airways extended into South America. American Airlines also began international service, but withdrew a few years later.

Howard Hughes
National Air and Space Museum Archives
Brazil Airport
National Air and Space Museum Archives

In the early 1940s, Pan American flew through the airport at Barreiras in the Brazilian interior to save two days of travel time between Miami and Rio de Janeiro. Using Douglas DC-3s (shown here) and Boeing 307s, Pan Am no longer had to fly the longer route along the Atlantic coast.