Pan Am’s luxurious Boeing aircraft, the Romance of the Skies, took off on November 8, 1957, embarking on a round-the-world trip. The journey would take the plane westward from San Francisco all the way to Philadelphia, with stops along the way. But the craft never arrived at its first destination, Honolulu – and no one has ever figured out why.
Just as World War II came to a close, the aircraft maufacturer Boeing realized something. Many of its military designs designs could do double-duty as commercial aircraft. Indeed, the large, long-range planes could work just as well as carrying passengers around the world, and the company’s engineers could outfit the vessels for luxurious long-haul treks.
The President of the Boeing Company, William Allen, ordered 50 of the new airplanes, called Stratocruisers. He did so in spite of an economic depression and without any orders for the craft from an airline. Indeed, the aviation boss hoped that customers themselves would boost demand for the planes, intrigued by the one-of-a-kind flying experience they offered.