The flying boat dominated international airline service in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Pan Am Clippers were the most famous of all.
Pan Am chief Juan Trippe called the airplanes “clippers” to link his airline with the maritime heritage of the world’s great ocean liners.
Although aerodynamically less efficient than streamlined landplanes, flying boats could provide service to any city with a sheltered harbor, which made them the ideal international airliner at a time when few cities had runways capable of handling large land planes.
The era of the flying boat reached its height with the luxurious Boeing B-314 Clipper, with which Pan American Airways inaugurated the first scheduled transatlantic airline service between Europe and America in 1939.
The first Pan American plane to be called a “Clipper,” the S-40 grew out of Juan Trippe and Charles Lindbergh’s desire for a strong, sturdy, high-capacity four-engined transport to serve as an ocean liner of [...]
The Development of the S-42 The Sikorsky S-40 had laid the groundwork for Pan Am’s Latin American route system, but Pan Am was never fully satisfied with its compromise design,. Even before the S-40 first [...]
The Martin M-130 is the airliner that gave Pan Am the true ability to span the world’s oceans. Often called a “China Clipper” after the most famous of the three M-130’s built for Pan American, [...]
The Boeing clipper is widely regarded at the summit of flying boat technology. It inaugurated the world’s first transatlantic heavier-than-air service, and carried passengers and cargo around the globe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Large, [...]
My family flew me from Miami to Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1941 as a six-month-old to take up a post as a United Church missionary in Trinidad. I don’t remember that trip, but I do remember coming back as a 3 1/2-year old in 1944. Speficially, I remember the heavy green drapes used to partition off the sleeping compartments. My mother said I learned to walk on a PanAm clipper. I also seem to remember a slope to the passageway, although I may be wrong about that.
My grandmother was married to Henry Spenceley in the 1960’s who was an American who grew up in France in his mother’s ancestral home in Brittany. He left France in 1941 with his parents after the Nazis occupation France before Germany declared war on the U.S. and travelled to New York City via Lisbon by ship. In NYC his father Arthur Spenceley who worked in Paris for the American APL shipping company got a job with Pan Am and also a job for his son as a Pan Am ground crew maintenance for Boeing B-314 Flying Clippers. Henry worked in… Read more »
To Larry Rioberts, My Dad Tom White Sr (I am Junior) was a Pan Am pilot stationed in Brownsville in 1940. I was born in April 1940 in Brownsville – two and one half weeks after the first Boeing 307 was delivered to Pan Am in Brownsville. I suspect, but don’t know whether my Dad flew that plane. In the photo that shows the crew of a 307- who is in the photo. Also at Pan Am at the time in Brownsville was Kris Kristoferson Senior (father of the famous singer/songwriter/actor). Another Pan Am pilot in Brownsville at the time… Read more »
As a young boy in San Francisco, I remember watching the Clippers taxi out from treasure Island. Took them quite a while to get airborne, made a heck of a noise, and flew under the Golden gate on their way West. Enjoying the comments on this site.
Great fun reading these posts. Many names are familiar to me. My father, Dutch Dysinger, was a Flight Engineer for Pan Am for 34 yrs. He retired 1974. I have been trying to find a home for his memorabilia. I have flight books, cufflinks, pins, alarm clock, lots of history books, a personal letter to my father from Juan Trippe, pictures of every plan he flew. If any of you can steer me in the right direction I would appreciate it. I personally have a collection of Pan Am posters and pictures also. Thanks. lin dysinger
In 1956 I flew from San Francisco to Honolulu on what I remember as a Pan Am flying boat. It was a four prop plane. I clearly recall landing on water. Yet as far as I can see, all flying boats had been decommissioned by this time. Anyone have any ideas?
My father was a Naval Officer and our family lived in Honolulu. We experienced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As my mother was pregnant with my to be sister, my mother, brother and I were flown about a week after the attack to the mainland. I was 4 years old and remember the attack and flight vividly. We flew on a Pan American Clipper Ship to San Francisco and put on a train for my grand parents home in Trafford, Pennsylvania. As I cannot travel to Hawaii to see a Clipper Ship I was wondering if there are any… Read more »
What was a typical airfare on a clipper flight? E.g., trams-Atlantic)
Another pilot from that era is Bill Nash. I think he is about 96 years old. I quoted him in a post to my blog “The Pan Am Series” and he is also a contributor to a book I co-edited, Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People.
These gentlemen were known as “Skygods”…..
I remember an old black and white flim from maybe the 20s -40s about someone starting a flying boat service out of florida, I’ve always wanted to see that film again. Can you tell me the name of that film? I thought that since you people love Flying Boats maybe you knew of it.
Dinner Key Auditorium Coral Gables now used as City Of Miami City Hall was the original Pan Am Seaplane Hangar in the 40s
Trying to identify this large 2′ x 3′ publicity photo of a Pan Am Clipper flying over a 19th c clipper ship at anchor in front of a shipwreck with palm trees /island to the left. It’s a a Siskorsky S42 and the Pan Am logo is much further toward the nose than the other examples I’ve seen. It is in it’s original 1930’s frame. I’ve not opened it yet to look for the printer. It is a half tone from the original photo. I have a pic but can’t figure out how to post. Many thanks.
I have a photograph of the Pan Am crew taken by my father in the late 1930’s. It was taken on the Western Union Telegraph Company property, Horta, Faial, Azores where the crew used to stay during lay-over while crossing the Atlantic. Horta was the mid-way re-fueling point between the UK and America.
John Hitchcock (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eric: I was a FRO for Pan Am on those NATS routes from Honolulu to Brisbane. We flew either the Consolidated PB2Y3 or the Martin Mariner PBM. The route was from Honolulu to Palmyra Island, Canton, Suva, Noumea and Brisbane. Also some alternate routes to Funafuti in the Ellice Islands (now Kiribati) and Espiritu Santos (now Vanuatu). I did some temporary ground duty as radio operator at Pearl City, Noumea, Funafuti and Espiritu Santos. The B314s and the Martin M130s were limited to flying between Honolulu and San Francisco, with an alternate route via San Pedro to Honolulu. I do… Read more »
The current address for Bob Stubbs is 1700 10th St, anacortes, WA 98221. I don’t have a phone number. Tom Kewin
Give Don my best regards. We flew together many times, including the last flight of a PAA flying boat in April of 1946. Tom Kewin
You can reach me at (email@example.com) I will send you a book today.
R.H. McCrory, PO Box 1383, Ardmore, OK 73402. If you will include your email address I’ll upload my memoir, too big for here – some 900 KB without its pix. Small world – that paths cross after a lifetime.
Bob Stubbs was hired as a Flight Engineer at Treasure Island shortly after I was in March, 1943. When he started a foundation to restore the Boeing Stratoliner I was his Vice-President. Last address I have for Bob is; 1700 10th St, Anacortes, WA, 98221
Mac; Give me a mail address and I will send you my book.
Beats me. I do recall changing a cylinder in BCN but that’s about all. I did my share of ‘expedient’ fixes. One a few weeks before in Stuttgart, DC4, Nbr 3 dropped a valve, punched a neat hole in the piston. I got up a neat piece out just sitting ready to drop into the sump. Didn’t look like any missing material. I changed the cyl, ran it up twice and didn’t get any fine stuff in the screen & cleared the aircraft. Phoned ahead to Munich & Vienna to check sumps & screen. Airplane finished its yo-yo from LON-VIE… Read more »
Between Nice and Barcelona # 3 engine started running rough and lost a bit of power. The analyzer showed a dead short on one of the cylinders, which meant it probably had a piston land failure and the bits of aluminum hammered the plug points closed. I feathered the engine and radioed ahead that we would need a cylinder replacement. You did the job overnight and we forged on to Lisbon the next morning. A few weeks later I got a note from Jim Etchison, the Chief F.E. in LGA. He asked me to see him when convenient. He asked… Read more »
Just a Memorial Note that Miller Logan went to his reward April 1, 2012.. Had a long PA career from Africa Limited, L-49 Constellation shakedown operation, Chief Mech London, Supt Line Maintenance Atlantic and Executive. Rest in Peace, Good Friend.
Tom Kewin, I remember you as a Rocket Ranger at Pearl City. I don’t think we have met since but I have seen you in pix a time or two as well as other refs. I was in the Accessory Shop at P.C. & later to Keehee Lagoon, later NAS HNL. I was in BCN for a few weeks doing vacation relief Oct-Nov ’50. Had just got married in Nice and we then went to ACC, LEO & DKR for a year, 10 months of it in LEO. Still married and both in good health. Glad to hear from you.… Read more »
Bob, (the golden egg?) I was an FEO from early ’43 to ’83. Weren’t you in Barcelona in 1951, or 1952? I have a story to tell you…
I’m guessing your dad and mine (Ralph Conly, FRO, 1940-50) knew each other(?)=)…Dad flew with the Africa-Orient Division (Air Transport Command) during WW2, and (I’m sure, like your dad) didn’t get ‘recognition’ for being a part of the U.S. military until the 90s. I also wish I’d spent more time talking about he PAA days w/Dad (he died in May ’10), but I’m thankful for the times we did talk about it…and I have Lots of files/papers of his (incl. letters from x-FRO’s) to look thru still, that Dad collected for decades (intending to ‘write a book’ someday ;p) (I… Read more »
I’m pretty sure my dad has the same photo w/signatures…He was a FRO from 1940 to 1950, as well. 🙂
Hi David, Just happen to be browsing the clipperflyingboats.com site, again, and saw your post about your restaurant. I can’t promise I’ll get back to you ‘soon’ (I’m a horrible procrastinator);p, but my dad (Ralph Conly) was a FRO for Pan Am from 1940 to 1950–He passed away in May 2010. I’ve got a ‘room full ‘of Pan Am files of his to go thru, still, most of which will probably be donated to the SF Airport Air Museum…But I know he collected letters from retired Flight Radio Operators/Officers for years (and kept-up a PAA retirees mail list for FROs… Read more »
Dear Mr. Wilson,
I have just written to Mr. Vienneau about the Pan Am stop in Horta Fayal Azores on its way from the US to England. However, I forgot to mention that one of my recently published books named “Antonia” described Horta, and the island of Fayal in some detail. You can find it on amazon.com Kindle under my name, book title with code number B005DGB2VC. Hope this is helpful.
Dear Mr. Vienneau, I have just come across this website and read all the comments. The one mid-way stopping place on the route across the Atlantic from the US to England was Horta, Faial Azores. I lived there till I was twelve and the Pan Am crews lived, during lay-overs, in the Western Union Telegraph Company’s single mens’ mess which has now been converted into “The Hotel Fayal” which you can find on Google. I have at least one photo of a PA Clipper anchored in our harbour with the small city in the background. I had gone back to… Read more »
My father Robert C. Wilson Sr. flew as navigator and radio operator during the war years for Pan Am. He flew on the Sikorskys out of Dinner Key and also taught Celestial Navigation and code. I still have in my possession one of the study books that he wrote on Celestial Navigation and a large star chart that was handed out to each student. My father plotted the stars on the chart and my mother drew in the constellation graphics. My dad died in 2002 and I wish I had spent more time talking about the amazing times he must… Read more »
sorry, I didn’t see the email address post so here it is. firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks again David Borowiec Culinary Institute of America Graduate 1978.
Hi Liz, I’m a chef working on opening up a restaurant concept based on the romantic period of the Clippers. I lived and worked on Midway Island (one of the stops) and the Caribbean (USVI). The stories from the few still alive to tell would be kept alive in this establishment. I am gathering resources and would be very interested in ALL stories your father has to tell. My phone number is 248-894-9289. I have a facebook page and here is my email address. I hope to hear from you in the future! Thank you. peace, David Borowiec
Yes, Pan Am continued using the Treasure Island base after the fair closed. But by the time of Pearl Harbor it was taken over by the Navy and all operations were under contract to the Naval Air Transport Service. I was hired as a Flight Radio Officer in November, 1942 and received my initial training at Treasure Island. All Pan Am flight crews were inducted into the Naval Reserve and assigned ranks in accordance with their education and work history. As a FCC licensed radio operator I received the rank of Navy Radioman 1st class. My first assignment as a… Read more »
Dear Mr. Vienneau,
Delighted to hear of plans for a museum on Pan Am flights to/from Shediac.
My dad was a WWII American US Marine/civilian courier who flew on the
Clippers to Europe, often stopping at Shediac, Newfoundland, Iceland I
believe. I have little info from him (he has passed on) or others of the details of
these flights and his courier duties. I am researching his exploits now.
Can you direct me to any Canadian sources which may have records of
passengers of these flights, 1940-1945, or general info about the
facilities and layovers at that time? Thanks for your help.
In the UK the Short Bros “Empire Boats” of Imperial airways operated from Southampton or Poole Harbour to Cairo via Italy, then on to Karachi Calcutta Singapore where the Australian airline QANTAS took over. The other routes were down through East Africa to Johannesburg. There was a landplane line which flew from the Sudan to Nigeria and the Gold Coast[now Ghana] South America was served by the Dornier flying boats of Lufthansa. During the war the line operated from Cairo. The Sudan branch became a route for supplying aircraft to the RAF desert airforce in N. Africa. While the Australia… Read more »
My father, Donadl D. Bond, joined Pan American in late 1944 and flew the Boeing 314s out of Treasure Island SFO. He was transfered to New York early in his career and retired as Captain on 747s in 1979. He now lives in Pheonix AZ. Not long after his recent move to an independent living facility another Pan American pilot moved in, Captain Ray Conn. Ray began with Pan American in 1943 and flew Clippers out of SFO. The two have become fast friends, discovering that they were both junior crew on the last Pan American flight to remove company… Read more »
Dear T Carter Page: Do you have time to email me the story of the Bermuda Clipper?
I’m getting close to finishing the book and would really appreciate some detail on the event.
Best Regards, Doug
I ran accross a letter you wrote me back in 1995, it got me thinking of you so I ran a google and found a comment you made abput that clipper plane,anyway it’s nice to know your still kicking, last time i was in washington was for Don’s funeral I did the Ulogy (spelling??) that was the best I could do to make up with the old grump,(I say that with affection)
Email me if youd like email@example.com Dave
I am if you went fishing with cantanchous old Don out of Gig Harbor. There was 6-7 of us that flew out to Kafognak (or something like that) on a float plane out of Kodiac. Had a most excellent trip.
Is that you?
I date in PA 1943-80, M-130 to 747. Started in maintenance, Treasure Island SFO, Hawaii Pearl City to NAS-HNL for a year. Xfer to NY Atlantic Div ’45, to Africa Belgian Congo ’46, Germany ’47-’49, Africa again ’50, Istanbul ’52, NY ’52(hepatitis), Then 20 years as Airline Maint Inspector, traveled 100days/yr outside US, later a PA bureaucrat, retired 9/’80. Never saw in the above mention that PA Pacific people were in the US Navy on inactive status, PA operating 15 4 engine PB2Y3R US Navy flying boats from San Francisco to Honolulu to Austraiia and 7 two engine PBM-3Rs based… Read more »
is this the ernie i went to alaska with?
T. Carter Page: Any chance you have time for me?
I’ve really appreciate your help with the Bermuda Clipper. If you would give permission, I’d do a side bar on your father within the book.
Best Always, Douglas Westfall
Dear T. Carter Page — any chance you can send me that story on the Bermuda Clipper?
Best Always, Douglas Westfall
I tried to send the copies of my dad’s log book and the board of inquiry document, but I do not know how to attach anything to this “reply”. I tried a regular email, but the link address associated with your name appears to be a website. Can you send me your email address, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear T. Carter: Oh bless you. I have searched every archive, CAB, you name — nada on this Clipper. I’ll give you a citation and send you a copy of the book.
I am back in my normal work schedule. I’ll try and send you copies of what I have tonight.
Dear T. Carter Page: This is Douglas Westfall, historical publisher. If you can, I’d really like to know what happened to the Bermuda Clipper when it burned up the Amazon in 1943.
Please let me know.
Best Always, Doug
I have just stumbled across this blog and read your entry.
I am an Australian (in Canberra) and flew aboard TEAL Solents across the Tasman (Rose Bay to Auckland) in 1953 as a boy. During the 1960s I lived close to the Rose Bay flying-boat base. In the 1970s I flew aboard Ansett’s ‘boat (can’t reca,l which one) to Lake Eucumbene & return (Rose Bay) as part of an Aviation Historical Society trip.
If you are interested I can provide personal accounts.
My father Al Fallon from the Bay Area flew for different airlines in Congo, Central America, Congo etc..he died in an instrument landing in 1964. Our family is trying to find out anything at all about the 1950’s when he was flying there and elsewhere…would you happen to know any resources? Thank you so much. Jean
Is there anyone out there that can lead me to a photograph of the Yankee Clipper…preferable with a background that can be regognized as NY?
The date was July 27, 1943 at Manaos. THE CREW GOT AN ENGINE FIRE ON START UP AND THE WRONG HANDLE WAS PULLED IN THE COCKPIT. fUEL WAS DUMPED ONTO THE WATER, CAUGHT FIRE AND THE AIRCRAFT BURNED TO THE WATER LINE. The aircraft was NC16736
Mrs. Cooke’s name was Izelle (sp?)
Dear T. Carter Page: I would be interested in your photos as well. I’m still looking for information on the Bermuda Clipper, that burned in Manaus Brazil in 1943. Can you help me?
Please contact me when you can.
Best Regards, Douglas.
The Paragon Agency, Publishers
P.O. Box 1281 Orange, CA 92856
I would love to see it, thanks, mabosa.
Liz, ask you dad if he remembers a pilot named Charles (Charlie) Marquois (pronounced marquar). He was a friend of my dad’s who lived in CT and also flew Clippers up to 747’s. A wonderful man. He passed away a number of years ago, and I always regret I did not spend more time with him speaking of his experiences.
In talking with my mom recently she relayed the story of her brother Clipper Captain Robert “Boo” McCleer being interviewed by the press in Australia many years ago. The interview was read by some of the McCleer clan who have lived Down Under since the 1800’s. With Pan Am’s help they then tracked down their lost relatives in Berkeley. My mom’s family came from the McCleer’s of shipbuilding fame. She still has stories it just takes a while to sort them out but I would be glad to pose questions to her on your behalf.
My uncle flew at the same time as your dad, starting with flying boats and ending on 747’s. Robert “Boo” McCleer from Berkeley, CA was already a pilot when he joined as the youngest ever hire on his 18th birthday. Boo has long since passed but my mom, his sister, still recalls some of his exploits.
Please relay this to your dad in hopes of good memories. Knowing Boo these memories may include a post flight cocktail.
Carter: Thank you — how do I get in touch with you?
The Paragon Agency, Publishers
P.O. Box 1281 Orange, CA 92856
Good site. Glad to hear of it… Keep up the good work. Ref the Boeing 307 at the Dulles Annex of the National Air and Space Museum. My dad’s photo album has a print showing that aircraft, signed by all crew members (including him as the FRO – Edmund L. Roberts) on a trip to Rio in 1940.
My guess would be that it was the Martin Mars flying boat. Originally intended as a patrol bomber, by the time it first flew, probably after the war was over, Navy ordered six as large transports. Two of them still fly as aerial tankers for forest firefighting, normally based in British Columbia. Fairly easy to find that operation via Google or youtube. Pretty impressive airplanes…
Don’t remember the title or author, but I read that book. The aircraft was actually a British Empire-class flying boat, not a Pan Am clipper. A bit fanciful in that the aircraft purported to be the pursuing aircraft was identified as a modified Supermarine S6B, modified with a couple machine guns. Read somewhere that the S6B was the first aircraft clocked at 400 MPH; it had an early model Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, of Spitfire, Mustang, and Lancaster fame.
Ref the question about Martin and Boeing flying boats only being used as far as Hawaii. I have several reference books that say they went all the way to Manila on the original transPacific routes. The southern route to New Zealand and Australia was route-proven by the S-42Bs but the Boeings in particular were used once regular traffic commenced. In fact, the noted round-the-world trip by Capt Ford came about when the Boeing clipper was diverted west from New Zealand when it was deemed too dangerous to return to Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack. (By the way, my Pan… Read more »
Does anyone have or know where I can get measurements, detailed graphics or scale drawing of the interior conpartments of the B-314? thanks
Carter: Thank you (there was no reply button for yours), I really appreciate your help. Best Always, Doug
The Paragon Agency, Publishers
P.O. Box 1281 Orange, CA 92856
I will be happy to send you what I have, both in terms of historic papers (copies) and oral history from my dad. I am currently out of town on business, and may not have all the papers on my laptop. If I am missing something, I will send what I have now, and send the rest later.
T. Carter Page: This is Douglas Westfall, historic publisher. I’m finishing up a book on the memoirs of a Pan Am 1st Radio Officer who flew Clippers from 1940 to 1946. He’s 92 Each chapter for that year has a panel about each of the Clippers that crashed, exploded, sank, burned, or were lost. I have nothing on the one that burned in Brazil and would really appreciate your help. I do have CABs on many, but not that one. Please feel free to email me. Best Always, Doug
I have my father’s original log book, showing that the boat was lost, but “no lives lost”. I also have a copy of the original report of the court of inquiry.
I think the book you could be referring to is “Imperial 109”
by Richard Doyle….the story of one the British Short flying
boats flying from Cape Town up through Eastern Africa,Khartoum
Egypt via the UK and onto the U.S.A.
Do you require more info.
The flying boat flown by Captain Robert Ford had the tail number: NC18602.
If you liked the book Night over water, there is the factual account of the whole flight written in documentary style by Ed Dover and titled ‘The Long Way Home’
Night over water by Ken Follett its still in print and on sale.
Dear T. Carter Page: I’m looking for information on the Bermuda Clipper, that burned in Manaus Brazil in 1943.
Hope you can help. I’m a historical publisher.
Best Regards, Douglas.
Thanks for the info. I am presently in Tortola BVI for 6 months, so I can’t confirm the tail number on my big print. I feel certain that the last two digits were 02. Surely there is a record out there somewhere about that beautiful bird. How I would have loved to have flown one during that period.
When in Manchuria I met Hal Leith from Golden, CO. He was the OSS agent that parachuted into my dad’s POW compound at Mukden the last day of the war. Hal’s amazing. He speaks 6 languages fluently: Japanese, Russian, Chinese, German, French and English.
When we were there he taught the college kids at Shenyang University how to write Mandarin the old way, pre Mao.
Thank you. If I have any Clipper questions I’ll definitely inquire.
Ron, I am familiar with Sorge. We learned in Intel 101 that he correctly identified the NAZI Operation Barbarossa in the spring of ’41. He had dates, order of battle, times and commanding officers. However, Stalin refused to believe the evidence because of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Guest Stalin never read “Mein Kampf.” I am also familiar with Unit 731. Sounds like your writing a great historical fiction novel. I’ve meet about ten BMDM survivors when I led a team to 2d place in the BMDM memorial 40k ruck march in 1996. Let me know if you need help with the… Read more »
During the Golden Gate International Exhibition in 1939-1940 there was a PAA terminal on Treasure Island. I can remember the Clippers landing on the Bay and taxiing in. Did the terminal remain in operation after the fair closed, and if not, where in the Bay Area was it relocated?
Jamie, No adventure book about China – Japan in the 1930’s would be complete until you read about the case of the Sorge Spy ring (Target Tokyo being only one book of many). My dad was on the Bataan Death March and a POW of the Japanese ending up in Mukden, Sian, Harbin, China. He was freed by Russians in August 1945. His camp of POW’s was experimented on through Unit 731. When I was on Corregidor the 4th Marines had a bunker near one of the gun emplacements that was interesting, a Marine logo I’d never seen before was… Read more »
I just finished Robert Ludlum’s ‘Night Over Water’. It was a fantastic book, and really piqued my interest in flying boats.