A visual history of the Pan Am livery

By Norebbo •  4 min read

When it comes to vintage airlines and aircraft, the Pan Am livery has pretty much been at the top of my “cool” list for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the 80’s, Pan Am was the pinnacle of what I considered to be a true international airline. With their huge fleet of (then) modern wide body aircraft, five star onboard service, and a very impressive global route network, I considered them to be the best (which was a pretty big deal in my little 10 year old brain).

This ultimately (foolishly?) led me to compare them to everyone else – never mind the fact that I was just a boy and I (nor anyone I knew) had ever once stepped foot on any Pan American aircraft. All I knew was that this was the airline that I saw all over TV and the movies, taking my heroes to destinations all over the world to fight crime and do amazing things.

Pan Am “Globe” livery: 1958-1984

Designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes and Charles Forberg (an architect), the ironic  “Globe” livery is the one that I think of whenever I think of Pan Am. There were many versions of it, but to me, the original one introduced in 1958 is the best.

original Pan Am Globe livery

The Pan Am Globe livery over top of my Boeing 707 template. Two things to note about this illustration: First, the original version of this livery had titles which spelled out “Pan American” – this version (introduced in 1973) was shortened to “Pan Am”. Second, the white paint on the forward section of the fuselage swoops down, which came several years after this livery was introduced.

While the Boeing 747 probably seems the most “Pan Am” to me, I tend to like this livery on the DC-10 just as much. This combination just screams “1970s” to me, which speaking in airline terms, is actually a good thing. Yeah, that was a time when air travel was still considered luxurious and somewhat extravagant – and I’m totally bummed that I never got to experience any of it. Does anyone have a time machine I can borrow?

Pan Am livery on the DC-10-30

The Pan Am livery on my DC-10-30 template – featuring the shortened “Pan Am” titles and the straight cut line which separated the white paint and bare aluminum.

Shortly after putting the final touches on my Airbus A320 templates, I couldn’t resist the temptation to paint this classic version of the Pan Am livery on it. Why not, right?

Pan Am Airbus A320

The Pan Am Globe livery on the Airbus A320 looks ok (it was a fun experiment) but it really exposes how conservative it is – at least when compared to the TWA livery of the same time period.

I did have to take a few artistic liberties with it, namely painting the engines white instead of keeping them bare metal (which was common back in the day). I’m not sure why, but an A320 with bare metal engines just looks…odd. I also made the conscious choice to use cfm56 engines. And of course, it just had to have sharklets.

As far as fantasy liveries go, I almost like this one better than the Saul Bass United 787 I created.

Pan Am Billboard livery: 1984-1991

Pan Am later switched to an all-new livery in the 1984 which featured larger PAN AM titles on the forward section of the fuselage, while retaining the original globe logo. That was one of the first “billboard” liveries ever done in the airline industry, and while nice, I don’t think it had the class and subtlety of the previous livery design. Gotta love the classics.

first version of the Pan Am Billboard livery

This is what the first version of the Pan Am Billboard livery looked like (as shown on my Boeing 727 template)

Pan Am billboard livery on the 727

This was the second version (notice the abrupt end of the silver / bare aluminum bottom at the nosecone)

Pan Am all white billboard livery

This is the final version (all white without the exposed aluminum bottom). RIP Pan Am!


My name is Scott, and I started in the design industry over 20 years ago with a bachelors degree in Industrial Design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI. I have an extensive background in both 2D and 3D illustration, and these days, I spend a majority of my time creating aircraft templates and airliner art. I’m basically an airplane dork.

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