Posted by: blogengeezer | February 13, 2010

Pan Am Capt. Ralph W Savory




Savory, Ralph Walter

Ralph W. Savory passed away peacefully in his sleep at Spring Lake Village January, 8, 2010.  Ralph was born on Chandler Ranch in Bennett Valley on October 14, 1909.  Ralph’s mother. Lillian Frances Philips, and his father, Walter Adrian Savory, were both from families who came to Sonoma County via Conestoga wagons and horseback in the mid 1900s.  Ralph Graduated from Santa Rosa High School In 1928 and attended SRJC studying agriculture.  Ralph grew up a country boy and made money working on neighboring farms.  By the time he got to high school, he had a milk delivery route for a neighbor’s dairy.  In May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight from New York to Paris and electrified the country and inspired enthusiastic interest in aviation. From that time forward, Ralph knew he was destined to fly.

In 1928 he was the first president of the Santa Rosa High School Aeronautics Club.  After graduating from SRHS and attending SRJC for a while, Ralph moved to San Francisco and worked as an auto mechanic and a stove installer. He saved to pay for flying lessons. He learned to fly in 1929 at Speed Johnson’s Flying School in San Mateo and received his Private License in August of that year. In 1930, Ralph and a friend bought a six passenger Curtis Thrush and flew It out of Oakland Airport until 1934.  Ralph earned his Commercial License In 1933.  In March of 1935 Ralph bought the Curtis Thrush and flew it to Seattle.  He took the wings off the plane and put it on a ship and sailed to Cordova, Alaska.  In Cordova he reassembled the plane and flew to Anchorage.

Ralph spent most of 1935 mastering the art of bush flying and becoming acquainted with Alaska.  In early 1936, Ralph got a job With Star Air Service (founding company for Alaska Airlines) and flew for Star until late October 1938.  In 1938, Pacific Alaska Airways, a predecessor company of Pan American needed a pilot; Ralph took the job and moved to Fairbanks, getting in on the ground floor of Pan Am’s efforts to build an Alaskan airline.  In November of 1944, Ralph earned his certification as a Master Pilot. Captain Ralph W. Savory helped pioneer commercial air service in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. He became One of Pan Am’s top pilots with a number of interesting flying assignments.  For instance, he was the first to land a commercial flight (Boeing Stratocruiser) on the ice at McMurdo, Antarctica in connection with the International Geophysical Year in 1957.

Ralph was one of the first group of pilots selected to train and fly for Pan American’s 707 program at its inception in October, 1958.  In 1960. he ranked among the 20 top commercial pilots in the world in the amount of jet transport flying time.  He flew over much of the globe in the Boeing 707 jets, serving on the Transatlantic, transpacific and Alaska runs. He also flew to Moscow in connection with Vice President Richard Nixon’s visit there in 1959. Ralph was assigned to Seattle as Chief Pilot since 1946, except for temporary tours of duty elsewhere.  He retired In 1969 with homes in Palm Desert, CA and Blakely Island, WA.  In 1987 he moved back to Santa Rosa and in 2009 moved to Spring Lake Village.

Military Service: In 1941,when the war in the Pacific heated up, Juan Trippe offered Pan Am to the military. Pan Am operated Navy Air Transport {NAT) and Army Air Transport (ATC) until the end of the war. Cockpit crews were commissioned in Navy Reserve. Captain Savory flew behind enemy lines in the Aleutians, he flew “flying boats in the South Pacific; he flew UNRA charters from San Francisco to Shanghai in Lockheed Constellations in 1946; and was in Japan with General MacArthur for the mop-up operation. He was a member of OX5 Aviation Pioneers, Alaska Yukon Pioneers and Pan American Clipper Pioneers. He was married to Ida Koffer from 1934 until her passing in 1992 and they had one daughter, Diane Savory (Santa Rosa).  In 1994 he married Gladys T. Crum; she passed away in 2000.

He has been interviewed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library Archives Department and is included In their Oral History archives.  Survivors: One daughter, Diane Savory of Santa Rosa.

He requested that there be no service or memorial gathering. Donations may be made to the Pacific Air Museum in his memory, or to the Doyle Scholarship Fund. –



  1. God looking over him and he is now flying with angels

  2. I am sorry to hear of the passing of Capt Ralph Savory. I worked in Panam Ops in Anchorage from June 1963 to Nov 1965, and although Ralph was then based in Seattle, I met him thru our Panam Maint Spvr, Bob Morris when Savory came to ANC. On one occaseion, my wife and I were flying from FAI to SEA, we sat in economy, when he learned we were onboard, he came back and took us to first class, plus I sat in the cockpit for the entire flight to SEA, so that was a special treat in those days when OPS people could get into cockpits and no great security back then. He was a really nice person as well as a great Chief Pilot at Seattle.

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