For some reason, going back in time in aviation history fascinates me. It used to be that air travel was an adventure, one where you were expected to dress and behave with class. Planes came with actual tables for meals, and you had sleeping bunks much like trains. Now, it's mostly a cattle car experience, seen as a necessary evil to get from one point to another in a reasonable amount of time. Given that mindset, I looked forward to reading Pan American World Airways: Images of a Great Airline by James Patrick Baldwin when I saw it appear at our library. Unfortunately, it didn't quite measure up to my expectations. There *are* some unique pictures in the book, pictures of items that have been lost and forgotten over time. But due to repetition and undersized images, the book went from "savor" to "scan" in short order.
Contents: Beginnings; War Years; Piston Era; Jet Age; Top of the World - Boeing 747; End of an American Icon
Baldwin starts each of the sections with a bulleted list of Pan American firsts and key events. I learned such things as Pam Am being the first to use cabin attendants and serve meals in 1929. They were also the first airline to take delivery of the Boeing 747 in 1969. That may be why I always tend to link 747s and Pam Am in my mind. The rest of the section then consists of various images of planes and items associated with the airline. There are luggage tags starting in the 1950s and going up to the last luggage tag issued for their final flight in 1991. The covers of the annual reports from 1930 through 1978 make an appearance, as well as the route maps and schedule brochures over the years. The various styles and designs are interesting, as you see Pam Am expand, mature, and speak to various classes of travelers. The images also reminded me of how much of the travel experience is now digital, as baggage tags are just barcoded strips of paper and time tables change online continuously.
Where I was disappointed was in the execution of the layout and choice of material. The luggage tags became repetitive, and I was just glancing at those by the end. The bigger problem came with the time tables, maps, and various brochures and publications. The annual report covers didn't change a lot in the early years, and I found myself wishing I could have seen some content from each one. Time table brochures were *very* small, which made reading anything on them nearly impossible. Yeah, I could have found a magnifying class and deciphered much of the text, but I wasn't up to that level of effort just to read the book. It's too bad that those images weren't made larger, as seeing the reduction in flight times and fuel stops over the years would have been interesting. Since the book is only 112 pages long, I understand why the images were smaller. In this case, more pages (or less repetition) would have been better, so that the detailed images could have been larger. That change would have doubled (at least) the amount of time I spent with this book.
Pan American World Airways: Images of a Great Airline was a great concept that would have benefited from larger pictures and more pages. Now with the prevalence of e-books, I'd love to see this book redone without the restriction of page count and printing costs. I'm guessing the results would be outstanding.