So it was that shortly after the Comet’s first flight, Trippe placed an order for three for Pan Am. Among these were rivals National Airlines, headed by George Baker, and Eastern Airlines, headed by WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. He thus proposed leasing two of Pan Am’s new Boeing 707s for the 1958-1959 winter season. On hearing this offer Trippe’s jaw must have hit the floor, for exercising that option would have given Pan Am a controlling interest in National Airlines. Desperate to save their advanced new aircraft, Avro turned to an unusual ally: eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.