Although I’m sad there’s not much left in the way of Pan Am as a commercial airline, compared to its past glory as King of the Skies, I’m thrilled that ABC is capturing some of that glory with the launch of Pan Am, the series.

I’ve been fascinated by the airline industry since I was a kid, and Pan Am is a big part of that fascination, in that you never forget your first. Pan Am was my first wide-body.

It was the summer of 1978 and I was 9 years old. I’d already crossed the Atlantic a few times on TWA 707s. But this sunny August day, returning home from the first “divorce summer” visiting my dad, who’d been stationed in Tunisia a few months earlier, knocked me for an amazing loop.

As an anxious child, I was already worried by the time we left that house for the first leg, Tunis to Rome. There were four of us traveling – my college-age brother and sister, and my brother’s fiancée, Cindy. My fear was, in that every plane I’d ever been aboard had three abreast seating, we’d be separated. Who would sit alone? Would it be me? Would my sister and I be seated at one end of the plane, my brother and Cindy at the other? I’m not kidding when I say I was anxious.

For the first short flight, I sort of recall my brother sitting across the aisle from us three. I assumed that would be the case from Rome to JFK as well.

Boarding that Pan Am clipper, however, melted all my fears. I was eager to board just walking the jetway when I realized that this was to be a new sort of adventure entirely. I wish I could remember the particular name given this beautiful jet. I remember seeing the word “Clipper” painted elegantly along the front of the plane from the jetway, but cannot for the life of me remember the words that followed. I do, however, have a vague recollection of it being PA Flight 111. Or was it Flight 1111?

Stepping aboard, I was awestruck by the sheer vastness of the cabin. As a child, planes always seemed to offer plenty of personal space. This, however, just seemed gargantuan. The most thrilling of my first impressions, however, was what some may dread: the four center seats. It was as though that 747 had been designed personally for my party of four.

Other details are firmed in my memory. Among them is Peach Melba. That was the dessert following that afternoon’s lunch. It was new to me and just sweetened the immense novelty of the entire day. And I remember the inflight movie: Mr. Billion, starring Jackie Gleason, Valerie Perrine, and one of my first crushes (thanks to this particular viewing), Terence Hill.

That flight ended up being my only experience on Pan Am. The subsequent trips to visit Dad were on British Caledonian, and as I grew older, the planes seemed to grow smaller. But that Pan Am jumbo-jet flight will forever remain one of my perfect days.

So thank you, Pan Am, for that experience; and thank you, ABC, for bringing back a little bit of that excitement.