Skygods

The Fall of Pan Am
Narrated by: Thomas Block
Length: 11 hrs and 1 min
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (298 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Originally published by Wm. Morrow, in 1995, Skygods is the saga of America's most glamorous airline - from its meteoric ascent to its plunge to extinction. Pan Am blazed the way across the world's oceans with its magnificent Clipper ships, launched the first international jet service, was the first to fly the behemoth 747, was the lead customer for America's SST and the Concorde, and was even taking reservations for the first commercial flights to the moon. 

Told from multiple viewpoints - pilots, stewardesses, management executives - Skygods is the life story of an American icon.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2012 Robert Gandt (P)2014 Robert Gandt

What listeners say about Skygods

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An Absorbing Slice of Social History

At the risk of dating myself, I only flew on a Pan Am aircraft once - which is somewhat amazing, as growing up I flew a fair bit. But I'll chalk that up to being Canadian, and therefore I typically flew Canada's carriers. But I distinctly remember that trip - and the awe when I saw that I'd be flying from the Orient to LA on. . . Pan Am. It had a mystique that was unshared by other airlines. For a few years, I parked that memory; but there have been many times, as an adult still travelling internationally, as I've looked at the liveries of the aircraft in Charles de Gaulle or Heathrow, that I've wondered, what whatever happened to Pan Am?

This audio book answers that question. It's a fascinating social history of Pan Am, in an easily digestible, captivating narrative. When I first heard the sound bite, I was concerned about the narrator - but I quickly came to realize he was an inspired choice. At times the book is almost "campy" - the Sky Gods and the Imperial Sky God. But this really fits the story. And the narrator, with his slow, at time exaggerated drawl - perfects the tone of the book.

This was a really enjoyable audio book about a subject that has piqued my interest many times since that first flight. It's very easy to listen to: have a little patience with the narrator to start and you'll soon realize his genius for this book. For those who are interested in the history of aviation - and were taken in by the mythical aura of Pan Am - this will be very enjoyable.

5 people found this helpful

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Compelling read, great narration

Attention Aviation History Enthusiasts, former and current Airline employees and anyone who likes to read a good true story about American history this book is a must read for you. Brilliantly narrated by Thomas Block, this book is hard to stop listening to, I found myself driving around my block just so I could finish a Chapter before parking. A compelling, interesting book, even though it is very detailed. Fast moving story tied to American history and Aviation development.

2 people found this helpful

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Decent Book with Mangled Narration

I bought this book as a companion to Joe Sutter's thoroughly engaging book about the 747 jumbo jet. Pan Am was a crucial Boeing customer for both the 707 and the 747. This book is not bad, but somewhat disappointing.

A book about the rise and fall of an iconic American business has the potential for an interesting story. Mr. Gandt does a decent job, but left me feeling it could have been better. It would have been interesting to have more discussion of the "boat days" (the 1930s era of the flying boats which marked Pan Am's rise), including more information about what flying on those "clippers" was like. It would have been interesting to have a more detailed biographic sketch of Juan Trippe, the original "Sky God." We get a decent outline of all of this, but no more.

Instead, the book is loosely organized around the careers of so-called "new hire" Pan Am pilots from the mid-1960s. When hired, these talented pilots were told they would command SSTs. In reality, they ended up working for an airline that faced one struggle after another while their careers languished. Although this is interesting in some respects, it almost seems like Mr. Gandt chose to focus on a less compelling aspect of Pan Am's history than he might have.

Ultimately, this is a story of hubris. Pan Am was run by Mr. Trippe, and then others, with little input, and certainly not constructive criticism. Pan Am's other executives and Board failed to ask the tough questions and make the proper corrections. As a result, a business empire was ultimately forced to dismantle itself piece by piece. From this perspective, Mr. Gandt offers an important cautionary tale.

As a further cautionary tale, beware of Mr. Block's narration. I found it absolutely grating, although apparently some others have liked it. Mr. Block sounds like a grizzled uncle (or perhaps a chatty bartender) from one of the boroughs of New York (or perhaps Jersey or Philly). He repeatedly mangles pronunciations. You can hear where the producers have apparently gone back and dubbed over mispronunciations of names. Unfortunately, it is just impossible to correct everything that is wrong with this narration, which I would characterize as amateurish. That said, listen to the sample. Some (inexplicably to me) seem to like him. I will not buy another book that he has narrated.



2 people found this helpful

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Amazing story of an American institution

The book covered details and provided facts previously unknown regarding PAN AM's key to success and its eventual demise. Such an amazing American icon's story is a must read for anyone interested in American and/ or aviation history.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent aviation book

Would you listen to Skygods again? Why?

Yes I would. As an Air Traffic Controller in Miami during the 1980s and 90s I personally witnessed many of the aspect of this writing. The clear and meaningful flavor of Mr. Gandt's writing puts new spin on many of the things I was part of as they happened.

What did you like best about this story?

The subtle humor that is reminiscent of J Moore's "The Wrong Stuff: flying on the edge of disaster"

Have you listened to any of Thomas Block’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I've listened to several of Mr Blocks works and this one actually exceeds the excellent quality that I've come to expect.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I wouldn't. Aviation movies always get it wrong and I wouldn't subject a great work like this to that trash heap.

1 person found this helpful

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Great story of a once-great airline

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

For much of the 20th century Pan Am was THE airline. It was the gold standard. How did it go from that lofty perch to just being a memory ? If a friend was interested in aviation or history, it's worth it.

What other book might you compare Skygods to and why?

Non-fiction version of numerous airline/ airplane dramas.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Yes, absolutely. Sounds like it was recorded in his basement. He clearly knows aviation, but so what. Pan Am's history is fascinating, dramatic and , at times, heart wrenching. I got none of that from this narrator.

Do you think Skygods needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No. There was only one Pan Am.

Any additional comments?

Good example of a fascinating story hurt by a lackluster narration.

1 person found this helpful

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Great account of the fall of a once mighty airline

"Skygods" was written with vivid details and anecdotes, and narrated very well in a way which brought those details to life. From being in the cockpit of a 707 during pilot training to being at a board meeting during times of crisis, the descriptions make us feel that we were there, feeling the emotions and thoughts of those in the cockpit or boardroom. Pan Am may be gone, but it's legacy and image live on, and this book gives great detail, much of it surprising and insightful, of why such an iconic airline cannot be seen at airports today.

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Good Book

An interesting look into the past, aviation, business and Pan American Airways. Performed quite well.

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A great rundown of Pan Am

This is right on the money for any pilot or aviation enthusiast. I knew snippets about Pan Am, but this gave me a brilliant overview of the success and ultimate failure of history’s most iconic airline.

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Wow, best aviation story of an iconic giant!

Great story. Don’t understand why the reader would say Americer in stead of America, or meteor instead of media? Confusing.

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  • Chris
  • 09-26-18

Great read

For anyone with an interest in aviation, this is a good read/listen. Not too technical but interesting overview of the history of the airline from a corporate and personal view. Excellent.

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  • Adrian
  • 05-22-14

Surprisingly Fascinating

I bought this book having read something similar about Lockheed some years ago. This feels more like a novel, in a way, than hiatory. The book is broken up into nice short chapters, each with a complete story of it's own, which add to make a fascinating tale of corporate hubris. I ended up unable to stop myself from listening virtually non stop.
I would, however, recommend that you listen to a sample. I found that I liked the narrator but I can imagine that his drawl may annoy some.
For me though, one I am glad to have in my library, and one that will bear another listen.

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  • Vaughan
  • 08-01-19

Trials and tribulations of a corporation which succeeded - and then failed!

Whatever happened to Pan Am always interested me, because as a child in New Zealand, they always seemed glamorous from the extensive travel advertising. The book did answer my whatever happened question and in a way which highlighted that regardlss - aviation is about the people. Narration was sometimes stentor`an with strangely emphasised chapter announcements. A superb story line well written, which fell slightly short due to narration quirkiness.