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Panair do Brasil, a Pan American subsidiary, had undertaken at Belem and Natal the development with ADP funds of facilities destined to serve as major ferrying and transport bases along the South Atlantic route. Other bases that would be used principally for defensive purposed, but which provided emergency landing fields for transient aircraft, were constructed through Pan American agencies in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.

On 29 May 1941, an agreement between Atlantic Airways, Ltd., and the British government was drawn up for delivery of the twenty transports. The British agreed to meet all expenses and to furnish the navigators. Atlantic Airways obtained the pilots from several sources, principally from the Lockheed Company on a loan basis. A sufficient number were found to ferry the planes to Africa in flights of ten or less.

On the night of 21 June 1941 the first flight of ten transports took off from Miami, Florida, bound for Port of Spain, Trinidad. The next stop was at Belem, Brazil. Here the crews were arrested and held for three days. Although the Brazilian government had readily granted consent for the planes to cross its territory, it was with the understanding that they show American registry. Ownership of the planes had been transferred to the British government at Miami, at the request of Atlantic Airways.

Brazil, a neutral, had no desire to compromise her neutrality; and, as a result of the incident, transfer of ownership of the remaining planes was delayed until they reached Africa. From Belem, the ten transports proceeded to Natal and thence across the Atlantic to Bathurst. All made the overwater crossing safely. The crews took the planes as far as Lagos before returning to the United States.

Seven of the remaining ten planes left Miami in late July and were delivered on the 30th. The last three of the twenty were delivered in September, completing successfully and without loss the first ferrying operation from the United States to Africa.

While the movement of the first flight of ferried aircraft over the southeastern route was still under way, steps were taken by the American and British governments to establish a contract ferrying service to the Middle East on a more permanent basis. The two governments turned logically to Pan American Airways. Preliminary plans were drawn up at a conference in General Arnold's office on 26 June 1941, with representatives of the British Air Commission and the Pan American organization in attendance.

At that time, it was expected that some 400 Glenn Martin medium bombers of the Baltimore type, purchased by the British prior to the passage of the Lend-Lease Act, would be ready within a few months to start moving from the factory to the Middle East front and that these would be followed by a steadily increasing flow of lend-lease aircraft.

Agreements reached at the June conference provided that Pan American would establish both a ferrying service and an air transport service to the west coast of Africa, and would also take over the British ferrying and transport operations across central Africa from Takoradi to Khartoum. The United States assumed the obligation of financing the contract services. An estimated total of $20,588,528 was required, of which $17,788,528 could be shared to lend-lease. The remainder was allocated from the emergency fund provided by the executive offices appropriation act of 5 April 1941. 

Three subsidiary corporations were organized by Pan American Airways, Inc., the parent organization, in order to carry out the agreements reached. Pan American Air Ferries, Inc., was set up to operate the ferrying service all the way from Miami to Khartoum in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The Pan American Airways Co. came into being to establish a flying boat transport service from the United States to West Africa.

Pan American Airways-Africa, Ltd., was organized to take over the existing British trans-African transport service. ON 12 August 1941 five contracts were signed by representatives of Pan American and its subsidiaries, the United States government, and the British government.

Three of the contract, those between the United States and units of the Pan American organization, provided for the ferrying and transport services. The British signed agreements with Pan American Airways-Africa and Pan American Air Ferries, by which full operational rights were assured along the trans-Africa route. In considering the Pan American agreements, it should be borne in mind that the United States and Britain were interested primarily in the ferrying service.

The transport services were of secondary importance and existed primarily for support of the ferrying operation. Thus, when the President announced publicly on 18 August 1941 that the agreements with Pan American had been concluded, stress was placed on the importance of speeding delivery of aircraft to the British. The transport services, the President stated, were to "supplement the ferry system by returning ferry personnel and carrying spare plane parts and items essential to effective delivery of aircraft to the Middle East."

Not until after the United States entered the war, and acquired thereby heavy military commitments of its own that went far beyond the prewar lend-lease obligations, did the South Atlantic transport service assume outstanding importance as a support to combat operations. At its inception, it was considered merely an adjunct to ferrying.

Before Pan American Air Ferries (PAAF) could begin operations on an extensive scale, a greatly enlarged organization had to be developed from the limited personnel and meager facilities inherited from Atlantic Airways. For the first four or five months, the efforts of the company were expended principally in setting up a training program at Miami.

Some former commercial and airline pilots were recruited, but for the most part the trainees were recent graduates of the civilian pilot training program, who had at best several hundred hours of flying time.

Because of the shortage or nonexistence of airplane mechanics in the labor market, the company found it necessary also to set up organized courses of instruction in all types of airplane maintenance and mechanical work. Pan American Air Ferries actually delivered only a dozen aircraft prior to Pearl Harbor, and all of these were transports for use on the trans-African run. After the United States entered the war, deliveries by PAAF pilots increased month by month.

By the time the personnel and facilities of the organization were militarized at the end of 1942, some 464 planes had been delivered over the South Atlantic to the Middle East and the Far East by PAAF crews.  In order to establish the flying boat service to West Africa, the United States purchased for the sum of $900,000 one of Pan American's famous four-engine Clippers, a Boeing B-314A withdrawn from the Pacific. It was then leased to the contractor for the nominal fee of one dollar.

The plane accommodated a crew of eleven and sixty-eighty day passengers or thirty-six sleeping passengers with mail and cargo holds having a total capacity of approximately five tons. Only one trip over the route, a survey flight, was made before 7 December. Soon after the United States entered the war, the Clipper fleet was increased and a regular service was established over the route: Miami-San Juan (Puerto Rico)-Port of Spain (Trinidad)-Belem-Natal-Fisherman's Lake (Liberia)-Lagos (Nigeria), with occasional trips as far as Leopoldville (Belgian Congo).

Perhaps the most important link in the whole system of Pan American ferrying and transport services was the operation across central Africa. In providing a transport service and in maintaining the bases, Pan American Airways-Africa supported the movement across the continent of aircraft arriving from both the United States and Great Britain. Terminal points were established by terms of the contract at Bathurst on the west coast and at Khartoum in eastern Africa, but after 7 December the service was extended to Cairo and beyond.

Before operations could begin, Pan American was faced with the problem of assembling in the United States an administrative staff, employing some hundreds of technicians, recruiting and training the pilots, and transporting all of these, together with tons of material, a third of the way around the world to Africa. The headquarters was established at the main base at Accra on 8 October 1941.

This step was followed by the gradual taking over of other bases on the route during October, November, and December as additional personnel arrived to staff them. On 21 October, a DC-3 took off on the first scheduled flight from Accra to Khartoum; and by the end of that month, seven aircraft and thirty pilots were maintaining regular scheduled operations.

Plans formulated during the summer of 1941 for the opening of the South Atlantic route to the Middle East went no further than the establishment of the contract services. But in the fall of that year a significant development of policy brought about the inauguration of a military ferrying service and a military transport service, for which in both instances the Ferrying Command assumed responsibility.

As the Germans in 1941 turned from the west to the east, gong to the assistance of the Italians in Africa, driving victoriously through the Balkans into Greece and Crete, and hurling the main weight of their military might against the Russians during the summer, support of the British position in the Middle East had come to be a main concern of those charged with administration of America's lend-lease policy.

Not only was it there that the British were now hardest pressed, but the extension of lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union following the German attack in June had given new significance to the defense of all that general area which controlled approaches to a line of supply leading up from the Persian Gulf through Iran to Russia

One of the first models used by the legendary Panair do Brasil.

Consolidated Catalina, the most successful aircraft of Panair do Brasil inventory. It served the remote Amazon region until mid in 60's.

Sikorski S 43 both aligned at Santos dumont airport Rio de Janeiro

Lockheed Lodestar. The versatile 12 seat land plane was used as an embryo of the future  shuttle service between Rio and Sao Paulo, the largest cities in Southeastern Brazil.

DC-3. With the establishment of US bases in several points of Brazilian coastline, Panair extended their routes. In the picture one plane is seen when refuelling at  Manaus. Photo

Transcribed by Patrick Clancey - Hyper War Foundation



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