With growing competition on many of its routes, Pan Am began investing in such upcoming innovations as the new jet airliners and widebody types.
A Boeing 707–120 at the Pan Am Worldport in 1961. The terminal was once the center of the airline's New York operations; it was sold to Delta Air Lines in 1991. Delta is demolishing the terminal.
Pan Am was the launch customer of the Boeing 707, placing an order for 20 in October 1955. It also ordered 25 of Douglas's DC-8 for additional revenue-generating capacity due to this type's ability to seat six across (as opposed to five-abreast seating Boeing had originally offered on its 707). The combined order value was $269 million. To maintain its competitive lead as the first U.S. aircraft manufacturer to offer a jetliner and meet its rival's competitive challenge, Boeing modified the initial design of the 707's fuselage to seat six passengers across as well. The airline inaugurated transatlantic jet service from New York Idlewild to Paris Le Bourget (stopping at Gander to refuel) on October 26, 1958, with Boeing 707–121 Clipper America (N711PA) with 111 passengers.
Introduction of the 320 "Intercontinental" series 707 in 1959, and the Douglas DC-8 in March 1960, enabled non-stop transatlantic crossings with a viable payload in both directions. The later 707s' increased capacity reduced seat-mile costs, helping Pan Am dominate the transatlantic market.
Pan Am was the launch customer of the Boeing 747, placing a $525 million order for 25 in April 1966. On January 15, 1970 First Lady Pat Nixon christened a Pan Am Boeing 747 Clipper Young America at Washington Dulles in the presence of Pan Am president Najeeb Halaby. During the next few days Pan Am flew several 747s to major airports in the United States as a public relations effort, allowing the public to tour the airplanes. Pan Am began its final preparations for the first 747 service on the evening of January 21, 1970, when Clipper Young America was scheduled to fly from New York John F. Kennedy to London Heathrow. An engine failure delayed the inaugural flight's departure by several hours, necessitating the substitution of another 747 which eventually flew to London Heathrow. Passengers cheered and drank champagne as the jet finally lifted off from the runway at John F. Kennedy Airport.
Pan Am carried 11 million passengers over 20 billion miles (32,186,880,000 km) in 1970, the year it revolutionized air travel with the first widebodied airliner.
Pan Am was one of the first three airlines to sign options for the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde, but like other airlines that took out options – with the exception of BOAC and Air France — it did not purchase the supersonic jet. Pan Am was the first U.S. airline to sign for the Boeing 2707, the American supersonic transport (SST) project, with 15 delivery positions reserved; these aircraft never saw service after Congress voted against additional funding in 1971.
Computerized reservations, Pan Am Building and Worldport
Pan Am commissioned IBM to build PANAMAC, a large computer that booked airline and hotel reservations, which was installed in 1964. It also held large amounts of information about cities, countries, airports, aircraft, hotels, and restaurants.
The computer occupied the fourth floor of the Pan Am Building, which was the largest commercial office building in the world for some time.
The airline also built Worldport, a terminal building at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. It was distinguished by its elliptical, four-acre (16,000 m²) roof, suspended far from the outside columns of the terminal below by 32 sets of steel posts and cables. The terminal was designed to allow passengers to board and disembark via stairs without getting wet by parking the nose of the aircraft under the overhang. The introduction of the jetbridge made this feature obsolete. Pan Am built a gilded training building in the style of Edward Durell Stone designed by Steward-Skinner Architects in Miami.