MANILA, AUGUST 1, 2006 (STAR) (An enduring symbol of RP-US partnership By Dr. Lucio C. Tan, Chairman & CEO, Philippine Airlines The Philippine Star 08/01/2006)

(Keynote message delivered at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the first Pacific crossing by Philippine Airlines, July 28, 2006, Century Park Hotel)

I am honored to join you tonight as we celebrate a major milestone in aviation – the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean by an Asian carrier. This was achieved by Philippine Airlines on July 31, 1946, 60 years ago on Monday.

This feat brought honor not only to our company but also to the new born Philippine Republic, which was then less than a month old.

It proved that the newly independent nation could mount a viable commercial air service across the vast Pacific.

As well, that maiden PAL flight from Manila to Oakland – the first by a Philippine carrier to a destination beyond the country’s borders – established a reliable air link with the United States that has flourished over the decades.

Today, this air link is one of the enduring symbols of Philippine-American partnership, fostering trade, tourism, investment and people-to-people exchanges.

Indeed, the Philippines has a rich and proud aviation history. Much of it is due to the significant assistance of the United States.

Our country benefited greatly from the transfer of technology starting in the early 1900s, when the Philippines became a US colony.

One Feb. 21, 1911, American barnstormer James "Bud" Mars made the first airplane flight over Manila in his Shriver Skylark biplane.

Six days later, on Feb. 27, 1911, Capt. Thomas Baldwin made the first cross-country flight by flying 10 miles out of Manila in his Red Devil biplane.

It is remarkable that these seminal events in Philippine aviation occurred just seven years after the Wright brother flew the Kitty Hawk in the world’s first controlled flight in December 1903.

America had seen fit to quickly introduce aviation to its outpost in the Far East and the Philippines was better off because of it.

By the early 1920s, Filipino aviators were already flying military and commercial aircraft across the country, while most of our Asian neighbors were still in the steamship age.

In the 1920s and 30s, aviation schools, aeronautics clubs and air-taxi companies sprouted throughout Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Finally, in February 1941, Philippine Airlines was founded as Asia’s first airline. American nationals played significant roles in the company during PAL’s early years.

The pilots at the controls of PAL’s first flight in March 1941, Paul Gunn and Emil Scott, were Americans.

Until well into the 1950s, Americans comprised majority of PAL’S flight deck crew as the handful of Filipino pilots were still earning their wings.

Key operational and commercial departments of the airline were also headed by Americans.

PAL quickly grew to become the premier airline in this part of the world. By the end of the 1940s, PAL ranked as one of the top 10 international airlines in terms of unduplicated mileage.

Our routes then covered three-fourths of the globe, stretching from Asia to America, Europe, North Africa and Australia.

Unquestionably, all these would not have come to pass without the active role of the United States in jumpstarting and nurturing the aviation industry in this country.

We in the local industry thus owe the American aviation pioneers an enormous debt of gratitude for their foresight, fortitude and patience in bringing the marvel of aviation to our country.

We Filipinos have a term for it: pagmalasakit. A solicitous concern for a friend that goes the extra mile.

On behalf of Philippine Airlines and the aviation community in the Philippines, may I say, ‘thank you’ to our friends in America for your pagmamalasakit for us.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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