After a three-week break in San Francisco, I was able to pick up this model which I’d had posted there, rather than shipped at ludicrous cost to the UK, so it’s time to take a look at this complete, but welcome fantasy 748i of a legendary brand:
Ask any aviation enthusiast old enough to remember, and Pan Am would probably be at the top of their list of airlines they’d like to see still flying. Quite why JCW decided to make this, who knows, but I know it’s one that people said they’d like to see, although that doesn’t always relate to models sold. What people say they’d buy and actually do are often as far apart as its possible to get.
One thing is for sure, not many seem to have been made, few made it to Europe. Prices when they’ve been available have hit the £150 mark – and they sold, but I’ve since seen one retailer selling them for £38.50! Mine cost $50 so I’m fine with that, at the time I couldn’t get one anywhere.
I grew up with an Airfix plastic kit of a Pan Am 747 that was given me for Christmas in about 1970. It accompanied a 3ft high Saturn V rocket and the pair sat pride of place in my bedroom for years.
Pan Am remains one of the most recognised brands in the world, years after it’s demise. A serious plan to revive the business internationally was laid out in 2008. Pan Am Systems of Dover, New Hampshire (who own the brand rights), was the business backer behind Pan Am’s appearance in the technically brilliant, but one season TV wonder Pan Am, in 2012. The company, which operates railways based in New England (known as Pan Am Railways), used to be known as Guilford Transportation Industries before buying Pan Am out of bankruptcy in 1998.
The Pan Am brand flew for ten years (1998-2008) on US East Coast coastal routes, though largely unnoticed. Plans were laid out to begin a cargo service to South America and full intercontinental passenger travel by 2012. The financial devastation of the 2009 collapse ended that.
It’s just coming up to 26 years since Pan Am as we all knew it ceased. The final flights from London to New York when those routes were sold to United in 1990 with a host of tearful employees waving off the final aircraft are hard to forget. By then the airline was almost a parody of inefficiency and bad management decisions had reduced it to the point of its demise, but it wasn’t always that way.
It’s golden years were the 1960’s & 1970’s and it revolutionised aviation by pushing Boeing to build the 747. In many ways that aircraft undermined the very service levels and style that had made Pan Am the pinnacle of the then glamorous “Jet set” world, epitomised in multi-A list film star movies like 1963’s The V.I.P.’s.
Stars wanted to be seen connected with aviation, it was Pan Am that made it that way. The 2003 film “Catch Me If You Can” further emphasised the legendary status of Pan Am and its employees, who were so revered in the 1960’s they could cash company pay cheques, unquestioned, anywhere. Pan Am was the ultimate employer, a Pan Am hostess was the career target of almost every female school leaver, and being a Pan Am pilot opened every door, and a lot more besides.
Films like the 1968 sci-fi classic 2001:A Space Odyssey further enhanced its reputation and image – it was seen as the future. Even in 1980, Harrison Ford stands or flies past a flashing Pan Am sign in Blade Runner at least twice – and that was set, rather ominously in 2019.
Pan Am went through some major livery changes in its 30 odd years of jet age operations. The one chosen for the model is an earlier, classic version but with blue lettering rather than black, that seems to go back to the 707 era. Frankly it’s been hard to find a complete time line list of liveries and when they were introduced.
However it seems not be an actual livery imposed upon a current aircraft, but a mix of a Pan Am 747-200 Stripe livery and the 747F Pan Am World Cargo blue lettering, rather than black.
Does it matter? Not really.
The bottom half is a wonderful high-polish bare metal, and it’s been done really well. The cargo doors are all printed into it so it looks pretty good all round.
The white upper paint is excellent and meets the polished lower half without incident. The thick blue stripe through the passenger deck windows is superbly managed and printed, with clear windows, neat frames and black centres, all of which appear to be perfectly done.
Up top are two well painted and well seated aerials, with a single white one in the polished lower under door one.
The upper deck windows are perfectly executed, along with all of the superbly neat high quality print doors and markings.
The Pan Am logo lettering is accurate in terms of font and colour but not really the right size, being either too small or too big, depending on your preference. I’m not marking it down for this, it is after all, fantasy, but the style of livery would have suggested black lettering to be more appropriate. In all honesty I like the blue better, so I’m not bothered!
2.Wings and landing gear
Wings are superbly fitted, a nice light grey with good markings. bordering on being over-painted but not quite.
Silver leading edges are light enough to look aluminium .
All four sets of main gear rotate in the horizontal plane, all the wheels rotate and they’re the latest iteration of the type. However the quality of the seals and clasps is pretty low, especially at the back.
Nose gear is neat and fully functional.
The four GE units are all spot on, with excellent rims, excellent fans, good colours. the exhaust is a bit shiny but passable. No technical problems at all. Very neat.
The black nose tip looks great and appropriate enough, the flight deck windows are excellent. Picot tubes and sensors are there for all to see, though only just visible on the polished metal.
You can clearly read the “Clipper Crest of The Wave” tile.
The vertical stabilizer fit on the starboard side is a little rough, and it notices because of the glossy white paint on it and the fuselage. Its a much better finish on the port side.
The Pan Am logo is excellent, the US flag above it also looks superb. Both horizontal stabilizers are excellent in their fit and finish, as is the APU exhaust.
7.Score and conclusions
- -4 for the tail/vertical stabilizer fit – it’s not as neat as it should be
- -4 for the rough landing gear seals and clasps, quite unsightly
- 92% is an excellent score.
Overall it’s a really nice model, marvellously fantastical and at the same time credible. It isn’t the livery I’d have chosen though, but only because my memories are fixed more on the big billboard livery here:
It’s a fascinating model, pointless, interesting, amusing, memorable and different. I’m delighted with it. Do us a 787 and an A350 and it’s a viable fleet in the display cabinet, and at Leonard Nimoy International!
My recommendation: if you can get one cheaply enough it’s a buy, but don’t over-pay for it.