Episode 6: Return of the Jet Age

Fine dining, large seats, and pleasant service. Times of the past, a brighter day when the new jet planes designed for soaring amongst the clouds were formed around luxury and care. Back when competition fostered quality air travel as airliners fought tooth and nail to keep loyal customers flying. With international flight becoming more and more regular for a modern world, and Detente between the Soviet Union and the United States, air travel was about to get a lot more interesting.

On December 3, 1967, a Pan American Boeing 707 landed at Sheremetyevo Airport, one of the major airports that served the capital city of Moscow. The flight originated from New York and carried various American officials into the Soviet Union. One of which was Vice-President of Pan American Airways Samuel Miller. Miller was sent to ensure the smooth cooperation for the new direct flight between New York and Moscow. This flight was just the beginning of a new era between America’s Pan Am and the Soviet service Aeroflot. This test flight was the last, and soon after the go-ahead was given, regular flights, once a week in the winter and twice in the summer, would begin between the two countries in January of 1968.

Jet Age

Life Magazine with articles covering the new direct flight between the two countries

As Aeroflot became more and more important to the cultural expansion of the Soviet Union, its range of mobility was destined to expand. By 1970, Aeroflot had flights traveling to Japan, to Europe, and even a newly created trans-Siberian route that utilized new radio communications for important weather information. The Soviet press expressed its vast growth, “Aeroflot’s share in all world air transport operations amounts to about 25%. Its airplanes carry as many as 400, 000 passengers a day in summer.”

It is ironic that during the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, Pan Am would be the airliner unable to survive the modernizing air travel industry. Aeroflot proved resilient to the collapse and is still Russia’s number one airliner. It’s kind of funny how capitalism and the free market ultimately led to the failure of Pan Am, while Aeroflot survived due to its communist upbringing and its control over the Soviet airline market….

10 thoughts on “Episode 6: Return of the Jet Age

  1. You point out a very interesting point in your post about how Areoflot survived under communism and Pan Am failed under capitalism. I found this to be a very thought provoking statement. Under the Communist state were their other major airline companies to go along with Areoflot, if so did they survive the fall of the Soviet Union a well? Great post!

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  2. Frank Sinatra meets Star Wars! I am one of those people who really loved PanAm — Flight 30 was the JFK-Sheremetevo flight, and taking it was quite the adventure. The route (and flight number) outlived the airline. Delta inherited both (although Flight 30 has since been re-assigned, it is still a trans-Atlantic flight). But the real point in all of this, of course, is that the direct flight supported a level of interaction and exchange that proved vital to cultivating relationships — “iron curtain” or no. (p.s. not sure all of your links are working — i.e. NYT?).
    Also, check out James’ post on Pan Am from a couple week ago: https://behindtheironcurtain171813019.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/come-fly-with-us/

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  3. Great post – I always like the Star Wars theme! It is an interesting contradiction that Aeroflot survived the collapse of communism because the benefits of the communist system allowed it to.

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  4. That is a really cool NYT article! I feel like the importance of international travel is diminished because it is cheaper and faster. This post really shows how important something like a new plane route is to the interconnectedness of two countries. Good work!

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  5. Nice job focusing in on this subject. The economic relationship between the Soviet Union and the rest of the globe is pretty interesting, and I’m surprised at how the system thrived in the communist system. I think we really see the merging of the higher quality of life with communism and how this enabled many people to afford international flight. Also, big issue, your plug-in doesn’t work, and this is a deal breaker for me. Thanks .

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  6. Generally when you learn about the Cold War you never hear about flights between the two opposing countries. I think it’s really cool how both sides let the other side into their country even though they were enemies. Also, like everyone else said, it’s interesting how the communist company survived and the capitalist company failed in the end.

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  7. Wow, the opposite of what the United States taught us during the Cold War! In this case, communism worked and capitalism was the one that failed. That is so interesting. Very good post! I didn’t know the story of Aeroflot but I knew a little about Pan Am, thank you for blogging about this and giving me a mini history lesson.

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  8. It’s interesting to see the differences that can be brought up between the Soviet Union and the United States within this post. I agree with Claire in that capitalism failed while communism prospered in this instance. Anyways, keep up the great work!

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  9. Ethan, I thought your post was cool since it felt somewhat like a human interest piece that hints to a broader political landscape. It really shows how so many things can be influenced by politics and government, like PanAm failing, while Aeroflot survived. I thought your post was really neat, and made me wonder more about if there were tensions between American flights to Russia/what considerations had to be made since it was during the Cold War.

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  10. Really great post. It is super counter intuitive, I think to us, that pan am would fail and aeroflot would take off. This post made me wonder about the prevalence of international travel for Soviet citizens?

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