China Clipper


November 11, 1935...Pan American Airway's China Clipper piloted by Captain Edwin C. Musick, made the first transpacific airmail flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, and Manila, The Philippines.

Photos: First Commercial Clipper Flight across the Pacific

California State Historic Landmark 968 - Pan American World Airways fabled China Clipper (Martin M/130 Flying Boat) left Alameda Marina on November 22, 1935. Under the command of Captain Edwin C. Musick, the flight would reach Manila via Honolulu, Midway, Wake, and Guam. The inauguration of ocean airmail service and commercial airflight across the Pacific was a significant event for both California and the world.

November 23, 1935 - China Clipper arrives in Pearl Harbor. 3,000 people showed up to watch the arrival of the Pan Am China Clipper. --STRINGING THE PEARL growing up in the 20's and '30s

CLIPPER LANDS AT WAKE ISLE; PUTS ON SPEED - San Francisco Examiner November 26, 1935

In 1935 the San Francisco Museum of Art opens, the City College of San Francsico is established and Eastman-Kodak develops Kodachrome color film.


The Martin M-130 (better known as the China Clipper) first carried passengers on October 21, 1936. Although it was the largest flying boat ever, it gave a feeling of grace and style. The Clipper's central lounge, which was wider than a Pullman club car, was fitted with broad armchairs, and its meal service included china and silverware. The first nine passengers paid $1,438.20 for a round trip from San Francisco to Manila. It cruised at 150 miles per hour and had a range of 3,200 miles.

Humphry Bogart and Pat O'Brian starred in a film called China Clipper. Released in 1936


June 7, 1938: First flight of the Model 314 Clipper transoceanic flying boat. Boeing built 12 Model 314s between 1938 and 1941. Wing Span: 152 feet Length: 106 feet Gross weight: 84,000 pounds Top speed: 199 mph Cruising speed: 184 mph Range: 5,200 miles Ceiling: 19,600 feet Power: Four 1,600-horsepower Wright Twin Cyclone engines Accommodation: 10 crew, 74 passengers

July 29, 1938 - Hawaii Clipper is hi-jacked by Imperial Japanese Naval Aviators? See:


Pan American Airways Clipper at Treasure Island - 1939 - photos at

Martin 130 China Clipper

Martin's three "China Clipper" flying boats were the first true intercontinental airliners. They originated in a request made in 1931 by Pan American Airways for seagoing airliners to fly the Atlantic. In 1933 Martin and Sikorsky were selected to build six airliners for new North and South Atlantic routes. But the British government blocked Pan Am's use of intermediate bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda until a British competitor was ready - and there were none. [more]

All the same, the new clippers succeeded so well that Pan Am contracted for even larger ones in the summer of 1936. In response Martin developed designs for Models 152 through 157. Eventually the Model 157 was submitted, a scaled-up 70,000-pound, 57-seat version of the Model 130. It lost out to Boeing's 82,000-pound Model 314. Martin had been so eager to obtain Pan Am's business back in 1933 that the Model 130's had been offered at a loss-leader price of only $417,000 each - far below their true cost. Without follow-on contracts to absorb them, development costs of $500,000 had to be written off. Ill fated in the air as on the balance sheet, all three Martin clippers were eventually involved in fatal crashes. In July 1938, the Hawaii Clipper simply disappeared on her scheduled flight between Guam and Manila. The Philippine Clipper managed to survive the Japanese attack on Wake Island just after Pearl Harbor, but in 1943 she hit a mountainside coming in to San Francisco. Appropriately, the China Clipper survived longest. After a spell of Navy service, Pan Am assigned her to its South Atlantic service between Miami and Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo (Zaire); uranium ore for the Manhattan Project was one of the clipper's most important "passengers." A botched landing off Trinidad in 1945 destroyed the final Model 130, after she had flown more than three million miles. [more]

Boeing 314 Clipper

[The Airborne Palace - The Boeing 314 @] - - includes 314 Data Sheet

Boeing 314 Clipper - photos

As airplane travel became popular during the mid-1930s, passengers wanted to fly across the ocean, so Pan American Airlines asked for a long-range, four-engine flying boat. In response, Boeing developed the Model 314, nicknamed the "Clipper" after the great oceangoing sailing ships. It used the wings and engine nacelles of the giant Boeing XB-15 bomber. New Wright 1,500 horsepower Double Cyclone engines eliminated the lack of power that handicapped the XB-15. With a nose similar to that of the modern 747, the Clipper was the "jumbo" airplane of its time. [more]

The Pan American clippers were named after the far-ranging sailing ships of the 19th century. PAA aircrew wore naval-style uniforms and bore naval ranks; ship's bells rang the hours on Pan American clippers. [more] When the Going Was Good - The Golden Age of Commercial Air Travel

Both U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill enjoyed making use of the 314 during World War II. FDR flew in a 314 to meet Churchill at Casablanca in 1943, and the 314 was Churchill's favorite aircraft for his many wartime flights. [more]

Of the 12 built - 9 were purchased and operated by Pan American World Airways

Routes of the Pan American Flying Clipper ships

Pan American World Airways 1927-1991

Clippers Manufactured



Pan American Clipper Planes 1935-1945, Wings to the Orient
By Stan Cohen [amazon]
ISBN 0-933126-61-1 - $14.95
Published 1985 - Pictorial Histories Publishing Company

A must have book for those interested in Clipper history. Lots of photos.

Images from the book: S-42 Cockpit - Edwin C. Musick on left - M-130 Interior sleeping quarters - dining & lounge - 25 Cent Postage - Trans Pacific Air Mail, 1935 - Boeing Plant No. 1 - south of Seattle where all 314's were built - The DC 2 1/2 - Treasure Island being built in San Francisco Bay

China Clipper : The Age of the Great Flying Boats
by Robert L. Gandt 1991 [amazon]
Author's website:

"China Clipper was published in 1991 by the Naval Institute Press. It traces the development of the commercial flying boat, from the ponderous craft of Glenn Curtiss and Igor Sikorsky and Claudius Dornier, to the magnificent Boeing B-314 and the Latecoere 600."

The Long Way Home
by Ed Dover [amazon]
Author's website:

"The Long Way Home" is a dramatized true account of Captain Robert Ford's famous flight around the world westbound in the Boeing B314 Pacific Clipper following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.

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