Pan Am Airways Date Line Crossing Certificate, dated June 10, 1948, at 13:30 GCT. The certificate was awarded to Tsuyee Pei, for crossing the International Date Line by “Father Time” (with a Jester as a bonus) and attested by Captain K. V. Beer. This certificate was a recent generous donation by our Board of Trustees member Patricia Pei, daughter of Mr. Tsuyee Pei.
This document is a piece of ‘40s aviation history, a period seen by many as the “Golden Age” of commercial aviation when transatlantic passenger flights were becoming more prevalent. By the time of the creation of this certificate, Pan Am had already become a major player in both transatlantic and transpacific travel; Pan Am had also established business relations with China that would continue into the late 20th century. The MOCA collections have some items documenting the relations between Pan Am Airways and China, including a booklet celebrating the 30th anniversary of the inaugural flight of the China Clipper (1966) which details the first transpacific commercial flight of the China Clipper from California into China. Another interesting piece in our collection, entitled “About Pan American World Airways”(circa 1973) is a document detailing Pan Am and its operations worldwide presented to the Civil Aviation Administration of China to broker business with China. Both documents were generous donations from our Board Officer, Roy Delbyck in 2018.
The passenger and the captain named on this certificate are also individuals who were pioneers in their field, with careers spanning decades in finance and aviation, respectively. Passenger Tsuyee Pei was a significant contributor to the modernization of the Chinese banking system through the development of foreign exchange operations and currency reform during his time as director at Shanghai’s Bank of China central office. Throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s, Pei was instrumental in stabilizing the Chinese currency and acted as a representative of China on numerous international organizations and delegations. Mr. Pei would move on to become director of C.V. Starr & Co. in 1952 and then director of the Shanghai Commercial Bank of Hong Kong from 1962 to 1973. His son I.M. Pei was one of the most renowned architects of the 20th and early 21st centuries, known for signature projects such as the Louvre Pyramid and the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing.
Mr. Kenneth Van Beer, the pilot named in this certificate, was the 26th pilot to join Pan Am and flew for the company between 1929 and 1963. By the ‘50s, Captain Beer was a senior pilot at Pan Am with over 20 thousand of flight hours and has authored flight manuals for instrument flight in 1931/32 and seaplanes in the early ‘40s. He is also famously known as the captain of the Honolulu Clipper—the sister plane of the China Clipper—during its first Trans-Pacific flight on March 16, 1939. Captain Beer would have conducted flights all throughout the Americas and Asia, to cities such as Panama, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, and Manila.