On Dec. 8, 1953, 23-year-old Pam Martin, a Chicago ad copywriter, set a speed record for a round-the-world passenger flight. Sponsored by a travel agency, which paid her $1,751 fare, she set out from Chicago with a hat-box, makeup kit and one small suitcase. She traveled on four different airlines, changed planes six times and flew the 21,878 miles in less than 91 hours.
Now the wife of William Sarnoff, chairman of the board of Warner Publications, and the mother of three teenagers, Pam lives in New York City. When she read in an ad that Pan American Airlines was attempting a round-the-world record-setting flight, she made her reservation. This time her sponsor was husband William. Her ticket cost $1,865.
On May 1, holding on to a horseshoe-shaped money clip—the good luck piece she had carried in 1953—Pam Sarnoff joined 97 others at New York’s Kennedy Airport. At 5 p.m. the group boarded Pan Am’s Clipper 200-Liberty Bell Express.
Having circled the globe, it returned to New York at 3:50 p.m. on May 3 with a new record of 46 hours, 50 seconds. This time the plane made only two stops—New Delhi and Tokyo. In 1953, 17 stops had been necessary.
“Progress has turned what was once a great adventure into a delightful aunt,” reports Pam. In spite of a moment of crisis at Tokyo airport—the plane was surrounded by a striking ground crew and held captive for an hour and a half—the trip was an entertainment festival. Eight films were shown, a folk singer sang and fellow travelers danced in the aisles. “And this time I was able to eat meals in sequence,” remembers Pam. “On my first trip I just kept eating breakfast.”