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.

Learn how to create airliner art

My easy-to-follow video course is the ultimate guide for learning how to create stunning airliner art – even if you have no experience!

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!

Similar Posts


  1. You hit it on the mail here. Looking down history lane, there s nothing close to what Pan Am has accomplished… for their time. This was such a classy livery. The white belly accentuated the blue cheatline. The billboard lacked elegance.

    1. I actually didn’t mind the billboard livery all that much – it’s what they were using just as I was really getting into airliner stuff, and it’s the livery I think of first whenever someone says “Pan Am”.

  2. Pan Am definitely had a great livery with the initial “globe” design. The only other airline I believe can match the Pan Am color scheme is the Air New Zealand livery of the 1970s to early 80s. It looked great on both their DC-10s and later 747s.

    1. I agree. I consider the original Pan Am livery to be my favorite of all time. Not only because of the way it looks, but because of the memories it invokes. As an 80s child, that livery was all over TV (and in the movies)!

    1. Hey John – I’ve got to find the time to illustrate the Constellation first. It’s a beautiful aircraft that would look great in the Qantas livery!

  3. Do you know what white was used in the Pan Am livery?

    I am building a larger scale model of the Orion III Space Clipper from 2001 A Space Odyssey. The filming model was a light grey with slightly different color panels (to simulate deterioration from usage). I can’t imagine that if Pan Am is its prime were actually flying something like that that it would a different livery from their planes or that they would let the panels become discolored, so I won’t be painting it to match the filming model.

    1. That’s a very good question Alan – I always assumed it was pure white. Even now, when looking at a high resolution well-lit photos of Pan Am aircraft, it looks as white as snow. There was likely a technical reason for using gray during filming (perhaps to enhance the discoloration thing you mentioned).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *