Accidental International Incident
Mary Hamilton Howard

I have a somewhat unique story to tell. I was from a Pan Am "family". My father, who was with Pan Am almost from its inception, retired as Director of Supply. He knew Juan Trippe and was invited to his Christmas Party at his NYC apartment every year. Both of my sisters (and myself) worked for Pan Am, two of us as Flight Attendants and our oldest sister worked as a reservations specialist during college. The middle sister had been a nun, left the convent and became the "flying nun"! (she is still flying for Delta)

I started flying right after college in 1969. I quickly became a Purser, then Senior Recruiter from NYC, interviewing all around the world. During one such trip to Beirut, I met a young Pan Am agent whose job it was to assist me while there and an international incident was the result of this relationship. He took his job very seriously I guess because he invited me to his home where I met his entire family, he asked me for my address so that his little sister could be my pen pal. He invited me to a pre-nuptial party for 2 friends of his and otherwise stayed by my side every working minute of the week-long trip. One night, at a discotheque on a beach he made overtures, which I rejected. I ran away towards a waiting taxi asking to be brought back to my hotel, but the taxi driver refused to leave. My host, who had run after me, got into the taxi and the driver obligingly followed his command. He then told me that he was in love with me and wished to marry me! He also revealed that he would "blow the plane up" if I did not remain in Beirut and marry him! I was scheduled to return to my home base of NYC the next day and had every intention of doing it. That evening, after I "agreed" to meet him the next day to meet with his parents and get their approval of this hastily planned marriage, I stayed up all night in my hotel room, scared to death. When the morning came, I called the Captain to tell him of this Lebanese gentleman's threat, the Captain called the airport and the flight was indefinitely delayed, the man in question was carried away under (loud) protests from his desk at the Beirut Airport and questioned by police. The Captain told me to ride with him from the hotel to the airport and then I was whisked through security by the Airport Services Manager and questioned by airport personnel. All luggage was removed from the plane, searched (as was the plane) and we eventually departed for New York about 6 hours late. After this incident and a very threatening letter from the father of this man, the Company exempted me from flying into Beirut ever again.

Aside from this interesting experience, I was selected, along with one other Pan Am F/A by the Public Relations Department to represent Pan Am during a 3 week around the world 747 tour during which we met the President of Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister, the top management of Boeing, including the President of the commercial aviation division, and delivered CARE packages from the US Government to Pakistan's monsoon ravaged countryside.

I also had a passenger die on board the aircraft but not before I watched our Purser try valiantly, courageously and tirelessly to give mouth to mouth for 20 or so minutes....an image I shall never forget...with sweat pouring from the Purser's face, her face red with stress and exhaustion.

I remember accompanied a German woman to the hospital after her husband suffered a heart attack on board the a/c. Took her home with me and brought her back to the hospital the next day only to learn that her husband had expired during the night. I made arrangements for the woman's daughter to join her in New York.

Flying for Pan Am was by far the most wonderful experience of my life and it grieves me that such a wonderful airline, indeed the World's most experienced, is no longer.

By the way, that is a picture of me that you have on your website's homepage, in the upper deck of Pan Am's first 747!!

Mary Hamilton Howard