By Tim Stack
September 02, 2011 at 06:00 PM EDT

Remember when air travel was glamorous?

No? Then take a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to ABC’s Pan Am, a drama about the sexy stewardesses and pilots crisscrossing the globe on the once-luxurious airline. The biggest star of the series — in all senses — is the life-size re-creation of a Pan Am 707 jet, housed in a hangar near the Brooklyn waterfront.

On this muggy August day, a string of extras in skinny ties and horn-rimmed glasses are lining up, ready to portray journalists en route to President Kennedy’s 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in Germany. Serving them on today’s flight: star Christina Ricci, who plays Maggie, a Greenwich Village bohemian trying her damnedest to worm her way into JFK’s appearance by flirting with the passengers.

“Can I get you anything else to drink, Mr. Manchester?” she asks one, fluttering the lashes around her saucer-size eyes.

Welcome aboard Pan Am, a period drama set in 1963 that aims to take viewers around the world in retro style every week — all while filming in and around New York City.

“We love the ambition of this project,” says ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee. “We’re in a world where people have huge TV screens. Pan Am transports you to a world that is delicious.” Given the ’60s setting, critics have suggested that this show, and NBC’s period offering The Playboy Club, are broadcast networks’ answer to Mad Men. The Pan Am team says such comparisons are weak.

“Is The Good Wife comparable to House because they take place in this decade?” asks creator Jack Orman. “I don’t think so.” Adds Ricci, “The only thing similar is the time period, and the fact that both shows are shot in very cinematic ways.”

For more on Pan Am as well as this season’s other anticipated series, pick up Entertainment Weekly‘s Fall TV Preview, on stands today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack

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