Pan American Research Grant into the history of Airline Food

I am honoured to have been awarded the annual Dave Abrams and Gene Banning Pan American Research Grant for research in the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection at the University of Miami Libraries Special Collections in Coral Gables, Florida.

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The grant, generously provided by the Pan Am Historical Foundation, honours two of Pan Am’s most avid historians, Dave Abrams and Gene Banning. Abrams, a University of Miami graduate, joined Pan American Airways and worked for forty-two years as a meteorologist, navigator, and Director of Flight Operations for Latin America. He was instrumental in the formation of the Pan Am Historical Foundation after the company shut its doors in 1991, and in finding a home for the Pan Am’s archives and memorabilia. Banning was one of the longest serving pilots for Pan Am. His aviation days started with the infamous flying boats in 1941 and ended with Boeing 747s in 1978. An avid researcher, Banning was a guiding member of the Pan Am Historical Foundation from its inception and the author of Airlines of Pan American since 1927.

The grant has been awarded since 2008, and has resulted in a variety of articles, theses-related work, book chapters, and a wide array of research projects. As this year’s award winner, I will receive $1,500 to support my scholarly research using the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection. As part of this year’s award, Special Collections will be hosting an Abrams-Banning grant talk, an opportunity for me to share my research and discoveries to interested scholars and community members and answer questions about the project.

The Project: Pan Am, A Gastronomic History

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People today are generally dismissive of airplane food but, at the same time, ignorant of its history.

Pan-Am, once the largest international air carrier in the world, performed a pioneering role in airline food service.

Nostalgia for Pan-Am’s distinctive food service is now such that a Los Angeles film studio hosts a retro dinner on a stage set up to look like a Pan Am double-decker 747 at which patrons divest themselves of upwards of $200 to dine ‘airline’!

But this gourmet glamour was underpinned by both serious science and attention to the detail of fine dining culture.

Food tastes differ at high altitudes and in low humidity the sense of smell is less acute and the scent sharper; dryness of air and low air pressure ensures our taste buds are hindered, rendering seasoned dishes bland. Pan-Am led the way in scientific innovation around these problems, while maintaining high class dining rituals.

This research project explores the changing science and culture attached to food during Pan Am’s global reign, providing the first serious academic study to highlight the company’s gastronomic history.

Before the serious stuff starts I’ll also be checking out the TV series (below) for a few initial pointers!

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7 responses to “Pan American Research Grant into the history of Airline Food

  1. Excellent Bryce. Well done on the award. Looks like a really cool piece of research!

  2. This looks like a great subject, I’ve just completed a Masters for which the dissertation was primarily based around the Boeing B-314 and its interior design, this included a limited discussion of facilities and meals – you can find the paper at if its of any use. I have quite a few papers and some images from Foynes which I would be very happy to share.

    • Hi Tony,

      Many thanks for your kind words and for the link. I look forward to reading your work. I will be sure to send you mine when complete. I’m contactable at

      Kind regards,


    • John Clegg

      Hi Tony, I am in the final stages of completing my own Masters in History of Design, and your research into the Boeing B-314 was actually recommended as reading. I am currently researching how the idea of comfort relates to the interiors of the Imperial Airways flying boats in the 1930’s. Thanks for linking to the paper. I would be very intrigued to have further dialogue with you, if you could pass your email to me. You can reach me at

  3. Marina

    Hi, do you know the name of the flight attendant in the picture? thank you 🙂

  4. Jene' Evans McCracken

    Hello Dr. Evans,
    I just now found this PanAm library site and am overjoyed.
    I am trying to track down a photo of my father being served a meal in a training session. The photo was taken in color.
    I’m interested in airline food having flown PAA, TEAL, Saudia etc. (saved menus). We lived in Miami, Rio ( birthplace) , HongKong to name a few. My father was a Pan Am pilot (WW11, Brownsville, Tx. and Miami.) Lindbergh sat in the cockpit on a few occassions and signed a book for him. I enjoyed my dad talking about the Windsors. Well, I could go on and on but your website and the UM Archive have given me hope to track down the photo.
    All the best,
    Jene’ Evans McCracken

  5. Great to hear from you, Jene, I’m available at if you wish to chat more. Warm regards

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