Final Flight Review by President of American Air Mail Society

by David S. BallPresident of the American Air Mail Society

June 16, 2021 | Massive, sumptuous, jaw-dropping. How would you describe the Pacific Ocean or the Pan American Clippers that sailed them? Then again, it could characterize Jon Krupnick opus Final Flight, the last of a trilogy on the intersection of aviation, far flung destinations, and the mail.

Every part of this story is supersized. His canvas covers a third of the entire Earth’s surface and half the world’s water. The airline was a behemoth as massive as the flying boats it flew. And the philatelic story of FAM 14 and FAM 19, as well as the precursor Survey flights, are as rich and intricate as one might hope for. If your goal was to take the largest, most challenging bite at the exhibition apple you would choose this.

I first met Jon as a philatelic judge evaluating his award-winning Aloha…The 80 Cent Diamond Head Stamp of 1952. In typical Krupnick style, Jon attacked the subject with a laser focused ferocity few can match. The material was par excellence. The personal research stellar. Then he rounded it out with a great story and appealing presentation. It is from this vantage point that I learned of this latest work.

Final Flight comes in two sizes. The 11x17 version ($125 - See Jon’s website for FINAL FLIGHT: the same size as 10 frame exhibit pages. There is no eye strain and in spite of the packed rate tables and considerable text, the result can only be described as spacious.

For those who want to leave room for a cup of coffee on the coffee table there is a smaller version - 7.25 x 11 inch ($75).  Had I started with the smaller size I would have no doubt preferred it. It is less expensive and something I might carry to a stamp show as a reference, but once you start with spacious 11 x 17 book anything smaller (7.25 x 11) looks cramped. 

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The Introduction in which the author recalls the decision to pen the book is misleading. He describes, perhaps out of modesty, Sarasota as a local show. Actually, the Sarasota National Stamp Exhibition, one of the 32 American Philatelic Society World Series of Philately (WSP) venues, is one of the most competitive shows in the nation. That he received a Large Gold (96) and swept all the high-power exhibits was nothing less than extraordinary.

The book blends a folksy, scrapbook feel in which he shares his excitement at meeting Jimmy Buffet or corresponding with Warren Buffet, with a dead serious world-class Aerophilatelic presentation. As a Describer for Kelleher Auctions, I was pleased to see a catalog cover from our sale a few years back from Warren Buffet’s stamp partner, Thomas Knapp. More gratifying was Jon’s statement to entrust his Pan Am collection to Kelleher for sale. At this writing that is exactly what is transpiring.

Krupnick’s great strength is a love of research. He sought out and befriended Pacific pioneers. By chronicling their stories and collecting their letters and envelopes Jon connected the dots not unlike how Pan American used Martin and Boeing Clippers to string together disparate islands. In doing so he has established a living link between contributions to aviation more than 75 years ago and today. Even his current hunt for Radio Operator John Krupnick is fun.

A few shortcomings are worth mentioning. As a philatelic judge we call this “padding”. He shows the massive envelope addressed to FDR and the photo of Capt Musick signing it in the Introduction only to repeat both just four pages later at the beginning of the exhibit. Similarly, he duplicates his list of chapters and excellent illustrations of flying boats on the last page of the Introduction and then repeats it on the very next page. It also would have been nice if the envelopes were removed from the corner mounts before being photographed.

That said, the author does a masterful job with maps and rate tables and manages a fine line between displaying philatelic knowledge with text and letting the material do the talking. It also speaks well of the author that he took, even after besting his competition, the jury’s suggestions and made his exhibit even better. No matter how good we are, there are a few more points to pick up when we accept constructive criticism and make the extra effort.

The best stamp exhibits tell a story with a logical beginning and ending in addition to a golden thread that connects them. Final Flight accomplishes this task in spades.