Come Fly With Us

The 1960’s was an era of precarious relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The decade started out with proxy clashes by the two superpowers, followed by near nuclear war, and various other close calls. However, this turbulent period of hostility started to change and move towards a detente between the two sworn enemies; this was, in part, due to Khruschev’s sweeping economic, cultural, and political reforms taking place in conjunction with De-Stalinization.

One often overlooked cultural “reform” that played a great role in “normalizing” relations between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the wake of earlier crises was the establishment of the Moscow to New York route by Aeroflot and Pan-American Airways. A concept that originally came to fruition under the De-Stalinizing USSR in 1958, the partnership between the Russian Aerospace company Aeroflot and U.S. based Pan-American took nearly a decade to materialize, as detailed below in a clipping from a FLIGHT international magazine in July 1968.

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In 1966, the U.S. signed into effect the US-USSR Air Service Agreement that allowed for bilateral air service between the two countries; and on July 15 1968, the first inaugural flight from Moscow landed in New York at JFK Airport. For the first time since the dawn of the Cold War, an opportunity was presented to Americans and Soviets alike (albeit very limited) to experience the other side’s world in a direct manner. It opened up a broad new world of cultural exchange that could only come to fruition by way of radical political reform, which would have never happened without De-Stalinization (Harris). While not an economically beneficial venture, the significance of this “airline diplomacy” was worth all the costs incurred by Aeroflot and Pan AM.












The agreement between the airlines had a clause that allowed distribution of advertisement materials within the US and USSR- this became a weapon, in a sense, for the U.S. because it allowed PAN AM to distribute its famous beautiful and worldly calendars in the Soviet Union. This gave a glimpse to Soviet citizens of the glamorous and exotic fruits of capitalism that they had so long heard demonized by their Government (Baldwin). It could be argued that because of the Aeroflot and PanAM agreement and their advertising campaigns, this agreement helped influence culture and reshape the perception of the West in the Soviet Union and help de-demonize Soviets to the American people .



The bi-weekly service between the Moscow and New York continued until the 1980s when there was a cooling of relations between the US and USSR over Afghanistan, and ended in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR and Pan-American Airlines as well. Ultimately, the introduction of flights between New York and Moscow and the partnership between a Russian and American airline company, ushered in a new era of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and USSR while impacting and even inspiring reform of the cultural, political and economic landscapes of both nations.

Sources/Works Cited:

Baldwin, J. P., & Kriendler, J. (2011). Pan American World Airways: Aviation history through the words of its people. Saint Augustine, FL: BluewaterPress.

Harris, S. (2015, August 31). Aeroflot and Pan Am. Retrieved April 09, 2018, from

International, F. (n.d.). MOSCOW-NEW YORK AT LAST. Retrieved April 09, 2018, from – 1275.html

Pan Am Series – Part XLI: Flying to the USSR – 1. (2014, July 19). Retrieved April 09, 2018, from



11 thoughts on “Come Fly With Us

  1. Zane, this was a great post! I think it’s interesting how something that seems so simple, such as a flight, had so many diplomatic and cultural implications. I like how you mentioned that it wasn’t really the flights themselves, but their symbolism which was important at the time. I also like how you talked about the cultural exchange that occurred due to this, especially in terms of the Soviet people being exposed to US culture and capitalism. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting and informative post! Its clear that this was a major channel for cultural exchange during the 1960s and a big milestone for both the United States and the Soviet Union. It marked a significant point of detente in the relationship between the two superpowers.


  3. I thought your post was well thought out and crafted! It was interesting to me to see how private companies could help diplomacy as well as impact their own finances. I do wonder though, who was allowed to travel to the United States and Soviet Union? I understand from previous classes that groups of people like scientists were limited in travel. Did the USSR or US put any restrictions on who could travel to the opposing country?


  4. Very Interesting Post, I knew about this. It just goes to show the types of political and cultural reforms the Soviet Union was undergoing with de-Stalinization. It seems that this kind of opened the eyes of the Russian people to what life was really like in a Capitalist society instead of the propaganda that the government was feeding the people. I wonder if this had any long-term effect on internal trust of the Soviet governments by the people.


  5. Zane, I really enjoyed this post and learning how a flight between Moscow and New York could be so impactful. It was neat to learn how it impacted the culture so much, and opened up a door to introduce the Russian people to Capitalism. Not everything between the two states is a competition, glad to learn that the US and Soviet Union were able to work together for a time being.


  6. Here, here! I was a huge fan of Pan Am #30 (the JFK to Moscow flight back in the day). When Delta took over that route when Pan Am collapsed, they kept the number — Delta #30. I really like how you’ve stressed the significance of cultural exchange — which of course went both ways.


  7. Hard to imagine the Soviets and the US doing a lot of cooperation in corporations with their differences. Was this a stand alone thing, the Soviet and American corporations working together, or did they do this in other departments as well? Also curious to know how much impact this had on the common American since the impact on the Soviets could be quite easily known.


  8. This is the kind of stuff that I almost never think about, today you can take a flight from somewhere in America to somewhere in Russia I just take that for granted. It’s crazy how many different ways the Soviets and Americans competed with each other, the space race, proxy wars, propaganda, even who could produce more agriculturally.


  9. I’d never really thought about it, but it makes sense that there would be no direct flights from the USSR to the USA. Considering how glamorous Pan Am has been portrayed as, I’m not surprised that it was a significant tool in convincing good communists of the glory of capitalism.


  10. Great post, I really enjoyed the in-depth background you gave to your post. The pictures were an added bonus for sure. I think it is really cool how Pan Am used this opportunity to show off the capitalist ideology of America. It is curious how effective this was in the political relationship between the two countries.


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