During the administration of Calvin Coolidge, the US government looked to Pan Am as an extension of US foreign policy which would allow economic expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean. The US government “awarded Pan Am every foreign airmail route for with bids were invited”. The success of Pan Am was largely attributed to the diplomatic genius of the company’s founder and visionary, Juan Trippe, and the Foreign Mail Act. This Act, passed with the purpose of regulating the international mail service, stipulated that only airlines capable of operating with scale while upholding the dignity of the United States would be allowed to carry mail. Not only that, the Act stated that contracts would only be granted to companies that were given invitations by Latin American Countries. Trippe maintained good relations with leaders of these countries thereby securing air routes.
In the early 1930s, Juan Trippe had his eyes fixed on Buenos Aires in Argentina which was the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. He aimed to secure air routes to the city to enter the rapidly growing passenger aviation market. But the road was not easy. Pan Am faced opposition from Grace shipping which eventually resulted in a merger to form Pan American-Grace Airways,Inc. with each side contributing 50% of capital. The new corporation then pressured New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA) and few other companies into being bought over. Always the opportunist, Juan Trippe engaged the services of Charles Lindbergh who in 1927 made the historic flight from New York to Paris, as the company’s technical adviser. These shrewd deals as well as the enthusiasm for flying that sprung forth following the Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight contributed greatly to the growth of commercial aviation. The Clipper flying boats also made its way into popular culture as the pinnacle of luxury through the 1936 film China Clipper.
The inauguration flight of the Pan Am service from Cuba to Argentina was flown by famed aviator Charles Lindbergh who piloted a Sikorsky flying boat the “American Clipper” on the 17th November 1931.