Monday, June 4, 2012

Pan Am from Monrovia, Summer 1973

From the early 1970s to the early 1980s was the Golden Age of perhaps a lot of things, especially in commercial and economic terms in Africa, but surely one of them was Monrovia's importance as the hub of Pan Am's African operations as that airline's reach across the continent peaked. Here are two excerpts from a Pan Am timetable from 39 years ago, the April-July schedule of 1973. 

Monrovia enjoys 5 flights a week to New York-JFK, three of which pass via Dakar-Yoff first, and two of which are non-stop. Pan Am's scheduled service splits after Robertsfield, with one flight going on a francophone pinball down the Guinean coast: PA186 Abidjan-Cotonou-Douala-Libreville; a second staying Anglophone and crisscrossing eastward as PA180 Lagos-Nairobi-Dar Es Salaam, a third plunging southward after Accra as PA182 to Kinshasa and Johannesburg; and a fourth as PA184 Accra-Lagos-Kinshasa-Johannesburg. All of this is accomplished with a fleet of B707s-- the photo from the previous post was very likely shows a jet clipper running one of Pan Am's 180-189 African flight numbers. 

I know this can all get very plane-spotting nerdy a very quickly, but part of the reason I find this so interesting is that airline service is a very quick index of the importance of economic, social and political connections between places. Despite the current enthusiasm for the resurgent GDP growth across Africa, in 1973 the continent had fewer than half the people that it has now, and yet somehow supported a much more comprehensive airline service from the US than even Delta provides today. 

Also note that many cities are marked with the bold "I" symbol for Intercontinental Hotels, then still very much a branch of Pan Am's travel empire: in addition to the Ducor, which is prominently displayed at the top of the Monrovia schedule, the hotel chain also administered the massive Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, as well as properties in Kinshasa, Libreville, Nairobi, and two in Zambia, at Lusaka and at Victoria Falls. 

1 comment:

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