Amaury Albert Sanchez
Say hello to a confirmed photo of Amaury Sanchez!
When Amaury Albert Sanchez accepted a position with Pan American Airways to become a steward, one can only wonder if he knew he was securing a place in aviation history. Pan American Airways was just beginning; Juan Trippe was about to change the world. Charles Lindbergh completed his first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis, taking off from Roosevelt Field, L.I. on May 20th, 1927 and landing at Le Bourget Field, Paris, some 33 hours, later, on May 21st. The aviation industry was taking off!
In stark contrast to the importance of his place in Pan American flight attendant history, not much was known about him.
Val Lester, a former Pan American flight attendant, chronicled much of Pan American flight attendant history, including information on Amaury Sanchez, in her book “Fasten your Seatbelts – History and Heroism In The Pan Am Cabin” .
Phil Tiemeyer’s comprehensive book “Plane Queer – Labor, Sexuality and AIDS in the History of the Male Flight Attendants” provides information on Amaury as well.
Amy Linn published a personal interview with Amaury Sanchez “He Earned his Wings as First of his Kind” in the 10 June 1980 Miami Herald. This interview was the first time in over 50 years that Amaury Sanchez received recognition of his place in aviation history.
Here is what we knew:
He was the first Pan American steward.
No identifiable, confirmed photos of him have ever surfaced until now.
He began working for $100 a month, and his job was to calm passengers, keep them happy and provide service.
He worked the first scheduled Pan American passenger flight from Key West to Havana, Cuba, with seven passengers aboard on January 16, 1928. The tri-motor Fokker F-7 took one hour to make the 90-mile trip. Captain Hugh Wells was at the helm. Clipper Crew provides the date of this trip based on information in existence.
This inaugural passenger flight is also depicted in the featured photo on this page by artist John T. McCoy who was commissioned to paint “Historic Flights of Pan American Clippers”. Our featured photo is a reproduced print of a painting that was used as a menu cover. John McCoy consulted with Charles Lindbergh regarding each painting. Phil Tiemeyer noted in his book Plane Queer – Labor, Sexuality and AIDS in the History of the Male Flight Attendants that Sanchez is supposed to be the steward in the black and white uniform, greeting passengers. What was that first flight like? What were his thoughts the first time he viewed a city from aloft? How did it feel to take off in a Fokker F7, constructed of a plywood laminate and fly across an ocean?
The over one thousand boxes or so of Pan Am memorabilia and records currently held by Richter Library are in an off-campus storage facility. Richter wrote us that the collection did not typically contain employee personnel records. In some instances, it is possible to find mention or documentation of individual employees.
Phil Tiemeyer, in an interview with “Process“, gives a description of the beginning of his research at the Archives: “ I started my research in the Pan American Airways Archives at the University of Miami, one of the very best troves of materials on civil aviation. The collection, as I recall, even has an entire box of materials on stewardesses, detailing their uniforms, their work rules, and their gradual efforts to attain better pay and less sexist work rules. But within that big box, only one small folder covered the men in the career. The materials in that modest folder were actually pretty impressive: mention that all Pan Am flight attendants before World War II were men, that they then were replaced exclusively by women in the 1950s, and that the airline was sued in the late 1960s by an aspirant male flight attendant whose court case ultimately forced all U.S. airlines to hire men. “
The Story Behind The Photo
Determined and undaunted we searched the internet. After weeks of work, and gathering information we also located Amaury’s family who graciously shared family photos and let us interview them. It is with great happiness and pride for our first Pan American steward that we are able to add to his history.
On July 6, 1909, Amaury Albert Vazquez was born in Manhattan to a Venezuelan father and Puerto Rican mother. Vazquez, his mother’s surname, was used by him until the late 1920s when he eventually chose to use Sanchez, his father’s name. Amaury’s mother came to the United States to teach piano and give music lessons. After his birth, she went back to Puerto Rico to live with her family, so Amaury spent many years of his youth in Puerto Rico. At the age of 16, he was back in New York and hard at work as a bell hop in the hotel industry in New York City. Family members say he never particularly cared for the name Amaury and chose instead to be known as Albert or Alberto, which was his middle name. We will honor his choice from this point forward.
“He was a 19-year-old native of Puerto Rico and was working in a New York fraternity club when Pan American’s general traffic manager approached him about a new job. Admiring Sanchez’s competence and easy manner with the club members, the manager invited him to work as a steward out of Pan American’s brand new base in Miami. He offered him $100 a month and the rare opportunity to fly.” “Fasten Your Seatbelts – History and Heroism In The Pan Am Cabin” by Val Lester.
How exciting it must have been to receive an employment offer from Pan American! According to his family, Albert had a natural affinity for languages, was fluent in at least five different dialects of Spanish and was an excellent worker no matter which job he performed in the hotel industry. He delighted in working with people.
The family says “Pan Am” was always talked of, but unfortunately, they have no mementos from his time there. We don’t know the exact date he left New York for Miami to begin his career with Pan American Airways. Regular passenger service between Key West and Havana, Cuba began in January 1928. The first inaugural passenger flight for service to other parts of the Caribbean would happen in January 1929 when Pan Am inaugurated regular passenger service to Nassau, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and Latin America.
We don’t know how long he worked for Pan Am. The 1930 census of New York shows him working as an “aviator” in “Flying Field” in Queens, New York. The family says they believe he worked at La Guardia, which was located in Queens, New York, and/or in Brooklyn at Floyd Bennett Field. Clipper Crew is fairly certain it was La Guardia because when La Guardia first opened in 1929, it was transformed from an amusement park/beach area(North Beach) into a 105 acre private “flying field”. Even though it was first named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport, sometimes it was called “Flying Field”. Pan Am’s Flying Boats would ultimately move to La Guardia from Port Washington in 1940. Unfortunately, we are unable to confirm if Albert was still with Pan American. In 1940 he was listed as being a clerk in an aviation office – still in the business!
Albert lived in Queens, New York with his family. He enlisted in the army in June 1943. Interestingly enough, while serving in the military he was placed in TWA’s Intercontinental Division (ICD) during the war years. Five stratoliners that TWA had received were drafted for the purpose of flying weather flights over the North Atlantic and transporting people to South America and Africa, as well as to the Atlantic. This division, formed during the war, was the impetus for TWA acquiring expanded international routes and changing its name to Trans World Airlines. Records from crew manifests show him arriving on a TWA flight to LGA New York, then called “Flying Field” from Stephenville, Newfoundland.
The larger image below is of Albert when he was 23 years old and taken when he worked for TWA’s ICD Division in 1942. Although comparisons with smaller sized photos are difficult to make, and we regret we do not have the original to enlarge, we nonetheless offer this photo of an unknown steward (possibly Amaury) from Val Lester’s book “Fasten Your Seatbelts – History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin” for comparison. Notice the light spot on the chins in both pictures.
After the war, Albert remained in the airline industry taking a job with Peruvian International Airways (PIA), as a passenger agent, from about 1946 to 1949 when PIA ceased operations. Peruvian International Airways operated under Pan American Grace Airways. We found him listed on a Pan Am Passenger Manifest dated 7 February 1948, AC 88897, departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Miami, Florida! Possibly he was on his way to work? Another passenger manifest from Peruvian International Airways dated 14 September 1948 PIA Flight 11 from New York to Santiago, Chile lists him traveling with his entire family as nonrevenue because of his employee status. Evidence the time-honored airline discount, treasured by all flight attendants, was in existence! Lots of stops along the way back then: DCA, HAV, PTY, TYL, LIM, and TIA.
His daughter has fond memories of him calling home and saying “This is Albert with PIA” . Her memories were so fond, in fact, he nick-named her Pia. He was a meticulous packer, and taught his daughter how to pack, and she, in turn, taught her son.
Albert re-enlisted with the Air Force around 1950 and worked as a steward on Military Air Transport Service (MATS) flights. Still a voyager, one record shows his flight’s itinerary as Miami, Newfoundland, Iceland, Greenland, Paris, Italy, North Africa and returning to Mitchell Field, New York in 1951. He was a Staff Sargeant. Pan Amers from earlier years will be gratified to know the record indicates the plane was sprayed with an aerosol bomb to disinfect it before entry! Many times he had dignitaries on board; it was no coincidence that they requested him as their steward. It was widely known that Albert and his wife were excellent cooks; they ran a side catering business. When he worked, he always brought delicious home cooked food to serve to everyone. After retirement from the Air Force, he worked as a security guard for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the Washington, D.C. area.
Amaury Albert Sanchez died in 1993 and was buried at Quantico, Virginia. Oddly enough, when the family looked up his military records it only showed his active wartime service. The family has a belief the records of his most recent military service, were lost with millions of other records, in the vast fire at the St. Louis repository of records.
Clipper Crew extends its heartfelt thanks to the family of Amaury Albert Sanchez for the time spent speaking with us and researching his important role in the history of Pan American.
We welcome additional information, corrections and/or comments. We are aware that dates may differ depending upon the source.