Celebrate a Legacy Honoree William J. Mullahey
Bill Mullahey served as airport manager for Pan American World Airways in Hawaiʻi from 1936-1939, when air travel was exotic and the Pan Am Clipper was legendary. Though he was born on the mainland, Bill was raised in Hawaiʻi, becoming a world class surfer. With his love for both aviation and the islands, Bill foresaw a role Hawaiʻi as an important element of Pan Am’s plans to develop an around-the-world flight. In November, 1935 Pan Am launched the first scheduled trans-Pacific air service to the Hawaiian Islands with its fleet of Clippers. As Pan Am expanded its Pacific routes beyond Hawaiʻi, Bill helped build channels for the Clippers to land in remote locations like Wake and Midway islands. Bill’s responsibilities grew as he became regional director for Pan Am in the early 1940s. But, Hawaiʻi remained in Bill’s – and Pan Am’s – heart as Pan Am promoted the islands far in excess of the modest marketing programs of the Hawaiʻi Visitors Bureau.
Recognizing the potential of the market for travel throughout the Pacific region, Bill was an architect of the Pacific Area Travel Association (now the Pacific Asia Travel Association). The Association started with twenty five Pacific nations as members and has grown to become the dominant travel organization for the region. As Bill worked to expand travel for Pan Am, he earned the nickname “Mr. Pacific.”
Although Pan American World Airways no longer flies, it was a dominant force in Hawaiʻi tourism under Bill Mullahey’s leadership.