The Pan Am Boeing Boeing 707 That Brought “Beatlemania” To The US

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Beatlemania was running wild during the 1960s. Fans across the globe were obsessed with The Beatles during the British band’s record-breaking rise in the music industry. 57 years ago today, the group disembarked a Boeing 707 operating Pan American World Airways Flight 101 to John F. Kennedy International Airport from London. This trip was the band’s first-ever visit to the United States.

The Beatles 1964 707
The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein joins John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison to greet fans following their arrival in New York from London. Photo: Getty Images

A grand tour

Between February 7th and February 22nd, 1964, The Beatles had an incredibly busy run of appearances. They performed at the Washington Coliseum and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Additionally, they appeared twice on The Ed Sullivan Show, garnering over 70 million viewers.

According to AeroTime Hub, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr arrived at New York JFK at 13:20 and were welcomed by 4,000 fans and 200 members of the press. The aircraft that made this landmark event possible was a Boeing 707-331 with registration number N704PA. In true Pan Am fashion, the plane was nicknamed Jet Clipper Defiance.

The Beatles photoall at London Heathrow Airport, 7th February 1964.
The Beatles posing with BEA and Pan Am bags in London ahead of the United States tour. Photo: Getty Images

The right transport

The four-engine jet aircraft had a flight crew of four members, including the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and flight engineer. The 707-331’s wing is notably different from the initial 707-120 series. It was longer and had different flaps and spoilers. The engines are mounted further outboard. Meanwhile, the vertical fin is taller while the horizontal tailplane has a greater span. It also has a ventral fin to improve “longitudinal stability.”

The -331’s Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3 turbofan engines helped it hit ranges of up to 4,298 mi (6,920 km) at speeds of up to 552 mph (889 km/h).

Starship Boeing 720
The Boeing 707 was designated the 720 when it was modified to conduct short- to medium-range operations. Photo: Getty Images

Altogether, the 707 would help transform the way people around the world traveled. Boeing initially intended for the plane to be focused on medium-haul routes. However, the type was soon heading on transcontinental and transatlantic missions. Overall, Boeing delivered 856 707s in all variants between 1957 and 1994.

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Registration N704PA held serial number 17683 and performed its first flight on March 3rd, 1959. PlaneLogger reports that first arrived at Pan Am’s holdings a year later. World Airways then operated the unit from March 1972 before returning it to Pan Am in December of that year. However, the legacy carrier would pass it to Vietnam Air in March 1973 before taking it back again in August 1975. The aircraft subsequently left the fleet and was scrapped after arriving at Aerotron AC’s facilities at the end of that year.

Pan Am 707
Pan Am commercially launched the Boeing 707 in 1958, six years before the arrival of The Beatles in the US. Photo: Getty Images

Time to head back

Following the end of The Beatles’ tour, Jane Luna Euler was a Pan Am flight attendant that was invited to work on The Beatles’ return trip to London on February 22nd. At the airport, she witnessed thousands of fans screaming from behind barricades.

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“The noise was incredible. Medical staff had been assigned to stand in the aisle created by the barricades to accept those fans who fainted in the crush of people and who were over-excited at the opportunity of seeing the Beatles. Those who fainted, both girls and boys, were forwarded to the medical staff hand-over-hand to the barricade aisle,” Euler said, as shared by The Pan Am Historical Foundation.

“On entering the aircraft another memorable sight awaited us. The entire First Class lounge was filled with hundreds/thousands of gifts of all sorts – large flowers arrangements, bouquets, drawings and paintings of a favorite Beatle, cakes, written tributes and poems, photos, and other tributes from their fans. There was an amazing assortment of these items.”

Euler adds that the band members were very courteous and pleasant during the flight, and despite enjoying some downtime with a cocktail of Scotch and milk, they were willing to sign autographs for those that asked.

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The Beatles At London Airport
The Boeing 707 was originally registered to Trans World Airways(TWA) as N771TW, but it was not delivered to the carrier. Photo: Getty Images

An unmatched legacy

Altogether, this trip across the pond would long leave a mark on the music industry. Moreover, pop culture as a whole was revolutionized.

“The Beatles’ first American tour left a major imprint in the nation’s cultural memory. With American youth poised to break away from the culturally rigid landscape of the 1950s, the Beatles, with their exuberant music and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift,” HISTORY shares.

“Their singles and albums sold millions of records, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs. By the time the Beatles first feature-film, A Hard Day’s Night, was released in August, Beatlemania was epidemic the world over. Later that month, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold-out arenas across the country.”

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Beatles on Tour 707
The calm before the storm on board the Pan Am Boeing 707 before landing at New York JFK from London Heathrow. Photo: Getty Images

A unique time

Meet the Beatles! was the group’s second album released in the US. It debuted at #92 on the album chart for the week ending February 1st, 1964. Two weeks later, it peaked at #1 and remained there for eleven consecutive weeks.

The Beatles may have already been popular before their physical arrival to the US. However, after flying in on Pan Am’s Boeing 707 for their first visit to the country, their presence was undoubtedly cemented. This event was just one of the thousands of memories made thanks to the help of Pan Am in the middle of the 20th century.

What are your thoughts about The Beatles’ arrival to the United States on a Pan American Boeing 707 aircraft? Do you have any memories of this time period? Also, did you ever fly on the type over the years? Let us know what you think of the event and the aircraft in the comment section.

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