May 30, 2017

1956. Exploratory Talks to Expand U.S.-Russia Commercial Flights

Soviet Embassy in Talks with Pan American World Airways
Pan Am passenger terminal in Miami, Florida in 1940 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Washington

May 17, 1956

CBS News learned today that discussions are underway here in Washington which might open the Moscow airport to US commercial airlines and possible produce an agreement wherein commercial planes of the Soviet Union would also be allowed to land at international airports in America.

Within the past ten days officials in the Russian embassy approached the Pan American World Airways expressing interest in the possibility of PAA passenger flights extending their schedules to Moscow.

Pan American Airways is the only US airline presently "certificated" by the Civil Aeronautics Administration to fly to Russia. The company has had its application for permission to fly to the Soviet Union for many years.

The company notified the State Department of the new Soviet interest and initial discussions were begun. It is emphasized that these talks are entirely exploratory and have not yet reached a ministerial or ambassadorial level.

It is understood that the Russians are asking for a reciprocal agreement wherein Pan American would be allowed a certain number of weekly flights to Moscow in exchange for a similar number of Russian commercial flights to America.

Usually such reciprocal agreements are signed in commercial treaties between governments which specify the landing rights, number of permitted flights, and commercial privileges allowed by both parties.

This situation is complicated by the fact that the Soviet government is dealing with a private American company. At the present time, the US State Department is not officially involved in the discussions, although it is acting in a consultant capacity and is being advised of all developments.

The proposition comes within agreements reached at the Big Four summit conference in Geneva wherein President Eisenhower concurred with the proposition of greater cultural exchange and exchanges between peoples.

However, the proposal also is likely to create widespread opposition, not only among anticommunist groups but also from the military who would oppose Russian transatlantic flights as giving Soviet fliers technical training over the North Atlantic aerial routes now regarded as a vulnerable path for aerial invasion or attack of the North American continent.

Officials of the State Department and the Pan American Airways are reluctant to talk of their negotiations with the Soviet embassy attachés because they now regard any detailed discussion of the proposal at this stage as premature.