Juan Trippe was the founder and guiding hand behind Pan American Airways, one of the most successful and famous airlines in U.S. aviation history.
Juan Terry Trippe was born on June 27, 1899, in Sea Bright, New Jersey, a descendent of English seafarers who had come to Maryland in the 17th century. He never liked his first name Juan, although he did not formally change it. He had been named Juan by his mother in honor of his aunt Juanita. Trippe graduated from Yale in 1921. By that time he was thoroughly fascinated by aviation. Using an inheritance, he began Long Island Airways in New York in 1923. When that venture failed, he joined forces with some other businessmen and invested in Colonial Air Transport, which flew the New York-Boston mail route.
Trippe was interested in bigger things, though, and set his sights on the Caribbean and South America. He formed a new company in June 1927 known as Aviation Corporation of America, which, a year later, merged with two other competitors to become the Aviation Corporation of the Americas. The operating division of the new company was known as Pan American Airways.
Trippe was the architect behind Pan American's rapid growth in the 1930s, as it expanded into the Caribbean, South America, the South Atlantic, and the Pacific. He showed an uncanny understanding of both the politics and economics necessary to operate a large airline. He was one of the first to see the importance of cultivating good relations with airplane builders, politicians, and consumers. It was under his direction that Pan American launched its Clipper Ships service that revolutionized the quality of service in passenger aviation.
Through the 1940s and 1950s, Trippe continually maintained Pan American's leading edge as the world's most famous and largest international airline. For example, he played a personal role in the introduction of jet airliners such as the Boeing 707 and DC-8 into the commercial aviation industry in the 1950s. He was also a big supporter of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet that Pan American adopted in 1970. Trippe officially resigned as the president of Pan Am in 1968.
Tripped married Betty Stettinius on June 16, 1928, and made his home in New York City. He died at his home on April 3, 1981, at the age of 81.