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The Clipper had a stunning maximum gross weight of 84,000 pounds. Their wide boat hulls had enormous room for passengers & cargo. Their wings were so thick that the flight engineer could crawl out to the engines and service them in flight. They would be the widest passenger aircraft until the Boeing 747.  By way of comparison, the dominant passenger airliner at the time was the twin-engine Douglas DC-2, which carried 14 passengers over routes nearing 1,000 miles and cost about $80,000. In contrast, the Boeings cost $620,000 apiece—just under ten million of today’s dollars. 1  

When the Japanese attacked on December 7, one Pan Am Clipper was about an hour away from landing in Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, it was warned and diverted to Hilo.  A few hours later, a Martin M-130 Clipper was called back to Wake Island to make a patrol flight toward Midway to try to locate the Japanese fleet. As it was refueling for the mission, the Japanese bombed the island by air. The Clipper received 97 bullet holes, but it could fly well enough to evacuate 56 Pan Am employees.

Throughout the war, Pan Am flew across the Atlantic carrying high-priority passengers and critical cargo. A Dixie Clipper took President Roosevelt to the Casablanca Conference and brought him home again. President Roosevelt, who thus became the first president of fly, celebrated his birthday in the Clipper’s dining room.

In 1945, the Honolulu Clipper lost two engines and had to land on the ocean 650 miles east of Hawaii. The passengers and crew were evacuated by ships in the area. The seaplane tender San Pablo attempted to take the Clipper in tow, but it accidentally ran into the Clipper, damaging it beyond repair. The San Pablo sunk the Clipper with 20 mm cannon fire, but it took 1,200 rounds and 30 minutes of fire to finally sink the aircraft.

After the war, the government offered to sell the Clippers back to Pan Am, but the company declined. The war had brought many more airports around the world, and four-engine landplanes could fly faster than the fat Clipper flying boats. DC-4s and Boeing 307s had begun to appear even before the war. Shortly after the war, Pan Am Lockheed Constellations, DC-5s, and Boeing 377s took over the routes that the Clippers had pioneered. Other companies bought the remaining Clippers from the military, but in 1951, the last of the huge Boeing Clippers reached the end of its career. None of these beautiful and historic aircraft remain except in old travel posters and cherished photographs.

Credits to excerpts from Wikipedia and Pacific Aviation Museum.

        Pan Am Clipper Flying Boats

         Dolly Ozols  808 209 4444

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