I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.
October 2, 2004 11:16 AM   Subscribe

OK, OK, we've all heard by now about Virgin Galactic, and their plan to offer customers a markedly suborbital ride and a few underwhelming minutes of zero-G. But some of us know that the future of commercial spaceflight still and always belongs to Pan Am, whose proud (though marred) building still stands in Midtown like a sign pointing to a better, more glamorous future - a future we'd almost stopped beliving in. What a shame that the legendary airline's current, much-reduced incarnation has such humble ambitions: seems to me we need to dream like this, now more than ever.
posted by adamgreenfield (16 comments total)
Wouldn't zero-G be just about the least underwhelming thing one could experience?!!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2004

Sounds like they just sold their 'brand'.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2004

The least underwhelming? I wouldn't go that far, but it would be pretty interesting I think. If I could spare $200k for a few days of fun and it was 2007, I'd definately go.
posted by fvw at 11:42 AM on October 2, 2004

Great post.
posted by inksyndicate at 1:02 PM on October 2, 2004

Watching 2001 and 2010 and seeing Pan Am as the commercial space airline of choice in both films makes me sad. But this post is good.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:22 PM on October 2, 2004

This is a good post but I will eat my fucking hat if the Virgin Group make commercial spaceflight happen.

At present Virgin can't even make a high speed train run on time. Virgin's mobile phone offering has just slumped to its lowest level since floatation and Branson sold 49% of the airline some 5 years ago now.

The Pan Am building really is modernist isn't it? It looks like a monster version of London's Centre Point building, described by its detractors as a giant mouth organ and the 'unacceptable face of capitalism.' I also had no idea that Pan Am were still in business!
posted by dmt at 4:28 PM on October 2, 2004

I'm another one who doesn't find Virgin Galactic at all "underwhelming". I won't be spending $200k on them, but once the price drops by an order of magnitude or so, I'm in. And if VG doesn't get it done, someone else will.

Sure, I'd rather go to the moon, or Mars (or Trantor / Milliways' / Sjandra Kei, for that matter). But I'll take what I can get. As someone who had given up on even getting out of the atmosphere, the prospect of actually making it to space seems pretty exciting, even if it is only for three minutes.

But I do agree that it should always be the Pan Am building, no matter who owns it.
posted by Zonker at 5:02 PM on October 2, 2004

I also had no idea that Pan Am were still in business!

Actually, they're not, really. The current incarnation is really marketing magic -- not a lineal descendent of the old airline. Very sad.
posted by lodurr at 5:06 PM on October 2, 2004

But I do agree that it should always be the Pan Am building, no matter who owns it.

In my nearly 6 years in the New York area I kept referring to it as "the old Panam building" :-)
posted by clevershark at 6:40 PM on October 2, 2004

who runs this current pan am site? what is it? just a fake site for chartered private flights or something?
posted by akmonday at 8:05 PM on October 2, 2004

There was a second Pan Am run by a former executive with the original; when it collapsed the name was sold again to investors connected with the Mellon family of Pittsburgh, and it's been having union troubles.
posted by dhartung at 9:51 PM on October 2, 2004

I just call it "the Pan Am building" and I refuse to look up at that stupid sign someone's stuck on it the last few years. Damn kids and their graffiti.
posted by languagehat at 7:11 AM on October 3, 2004

Thought on looking at the new PanAm site: never seen a 727 with winglets before.
posted by MattD at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2004

... 727 with winglets...

Technically, it's not a B727; it's a Fokker somethingorother (F100?). Boeing appears to have licensed the 727 to Fokker. (I flew on one a couple of times earlier this year; it's definitely a 727 in layout (and NOISE -- I HATE 727s), though.
posted by lodurr at 6:47 AM on October 4, 2004

That plane is a tri-engine, and Fokker doesn't (AFAICT) make a tri-engine; F100's and F28's are twin engine. Both are substantially smaller aircraft than 727's.

Apparently it's a 727-2xx/Adv.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 AM on October 4, 2004

Sorry, I must have been confused. At the time when I was doing all that flying, I was also working really long hours in hostile environments, and the type of airplane is like one of those details from a fever dream. Like the cute Mary Kay sales director who sat next to me on the last leg of a flight home from Dulles, doing her Harvey Mackay thing (filling out note cards) all the way home...

Now that I think of it, though, it does look a lot like a DC-8.

BTW, that site has great pictures -- but is there anywhere that posts descriptions?
posted by lodurr at 10:37 AM on October 4, 2004

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