The Boeing 314 Clipper
was a long-range flying boat
produced by the Boeing Airplane Company
and 1941 and is comparable to the British Short S.26
. One of the largest aircraft of the time, it
used the massive wing of Boeing’s earlier XB-15 bomber prototype to achieve the range
necessary for flights across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Twelve Clippers were built for Pan Am,
three of which were sold to BOAC
in 1941 before
Design and development
The 314 was a response to Pan American's request for a flying boat
with unprecedented range capability that could augment the
airline's trans-Pacific Martin M-130
Boeing's bid was successful and on July 21, 1936, Pan American
signed a contract for six. Boeing engineers adapted the cancelled
XB-15's 149 foot (45.5 m) wing, and replaced the original 850 hp
(640 kW) Pratt &
Whitney Twin Wasp
with the more powerful
1,600 hp (1,194 kW) Wright
. The first flight was
carried out with a single, conventional tail before experiments
with twin tail
and triple tail
configurations led to Boeing settling on the triple tail to provide
more rudder area for controllability. Pan Am ordered an additional
six aircraft with increased engine power and a larger carrying
capacity of 77 daytime passengers as the Boeing 314A. The first
prototype of the series flew on March 20, 1941.
Internally, the 314 used a series of heavy ribs
and spars to create a robust fuselage
and cantilevered wing
. This sturdy
structure negated the need for external drag-inducing struts to
brace the wings, something other flying boats of the day could not
boast. Boeing addressed the flying boats' other drag-inducing
issue, stabilizing pontoons, by incorporating Dornier
into the hull structure. The sponsons,
which were broad lateral extensions placed at the water line, on
both the port and starboard sides of the hull, served several
purposes: they provided a wide platform to stabilize the craft
while floating on water, they acted as an entryway for passengers
boarding the flying boat and they were shaped to contribute
additional lift in flight. With weight an extremely sensitive
concern, passengers and their baggage were weighed, with each
passenger allowed up to 77 lb free baggage allowance (in the later
314 series) but then charged $3.25 per lb for exceeding the limit.
To fly the long ranges needed for trans-Pacific service, the 314
carried 4,246 US gallons (16,100 L) of gasoline. The later 314A
model carried a further 1,200 US gallons (4,540 L). To quench the
radial engines’ thirst for oil, a capacity of 300 US gallons (1,135
L) was required.
Model of the Pan Am "Clipper"
Pan Am's "Clippers" were built for "one-class" luxury air travel, a
necessity given the long duration of transoceanic flights. The
seats could be converted into 36 bunks for overnight accommodation;
with a cruise speed of only 188 mph (300 km/h) (typically
flights at maximum gross weight were carried out at 155 mph), many
flights lasted over 12 hours. The 314s had a lounge and dining
area, and the galleys were crewed by chefs from four-star hotels.
Men and women were provided with separate dressing rooms, and
white-coated stewards served five and six-course meals with
gleaming silver service. Although the transatlantic flights were only
operated for three months in 1939, their standard of luxury has not
been matched by heavier-than-air transport since then; they were a
form of travel for the super-rich, at $675 return from New York to Southampton, comparable to a round trip aboard Concorde in 2006. Most of the flights
were transpacific with a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Hong
Kong, via the "stepping-stone" islands posted at $760
(or $1,368 round-trip).
Equally critical to the 314's success was the proficiency of its
Pan Am flight crews, who were extremely skilled at long-distance,
over-water flight operations and navigation. For training, many of
the transpacific flights carried a second crew. Only the very best
and most experienced flight crews were assigned Boeing 314 flying
boat duty. Before coming aboard, all Pan Am captains as well as
first and second officers had thousands of hours of flight time in
other seaplanes and flying boats. Rigorous training in dead
reckoning, timed turns, judging drift from sea current, astral
navigation, and radio navigation were conducted. In conditions of
poor or no visibility, pilots sometimes made successful landings at
fogged-in harbors by landing out to sea, then taxiing the Clipper
Flown cover carried around the world
on PAA Boeing 314 Clippers and Imperial Airways Short S23 flying
boats June 24–July 28, 1939 (The Cooper Collections
314, Honolulu Clipper, entered regular service on the
Francisco-Hong Kong route in January 1939.
Boeing 314 in US Navy colors, c.
A one-way trip on
this route took over six days to complete. Commercial passenger
service lasted less than three years, ending when the United States
entered World War II
At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the Pacific Clipper
was enroute to New
Zealand. Rather than risk flying back to Honolulu and being shot
down by Japanese fighters, it was decided to fly west to New York.
on December 8, 1941 at Auckland, New Zealand, the Pacific
Clipper covered over 8,500 miles via such exotic locales as
Surabaya, Karachi, Bahrain, Khartoum and Leopoldville. The Pacific Clipper landed at Pan
Field seaplane base at 7:12 on the morning of January 6,
Yankee Clipper flew across
the Atlantic on a route from Southampton to New York with
intermediate stops at Foynes,
Ireland, Botwood, Newfoundland, and Shediac, New
The inaugural trip occurred on June 24,
fleet was pressed into military service during
World War II, and the flying boats were used for ferrying personnel
and equipment to the European and Pacific fronts. In actual fact,
only the markings on the aircraft changed: the Clippers continued
to be flown by their experienced Pan Am civilian crews. American
military cargo was carried via Natal, Brazil to Liberia, to supply
the British forces at Cairo and even the Russians, via Teheran. The
Model 314 was then the only aircraft in the world that could make
the 2,150 statute-mile crossing over water. and were given the
military designation C-98
. Since the Pan Am pilots
and crews had extensive expertise in using flying boats for extreme
long-distance, over-water flights, the company's pilots and
navigators continued to serve as flight crew. In 1943, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt
traveled to the Casablanca Conference
in a Pan-Am
crewed Boeing 314. Winston
also flew on them several times adding to the
Clippers’ fame during the war.
After the war, several Clippers were returned to Pan American
hands. However, even before hostilities had ended, the Clipper had
become obsolete. The introduction of long-range airliners such as
the Lockheed Constellation
and Douglas DC-4
, together with a
prodigious wartime runway construction program, made the flying
boat all but obsolete. The new landplanes were relatively easy to
fly, and did not require the extensive pilot training programs
required for seaplane operations. One of the 314's most experienced
pilots said, "We were indeed glad to change to DC-4s and I argued
daily for eliminating all flying boats. The landplanes were much
safer. No one in the operations department... had any idea of the
hazards of flying boat operations. The main problem now was lack of
the very high level of experience and competence required of
314 to be retired in 1946, the California Clipper NC18602,
had accumulated more than a million flight miles.Of the 12 Boeing
314 Clippers built, three were lost to accidents, although only one
of those resulted in fatalities with 24 fatalities among passengers
and crew aboard the "Yankee Clipper" NC18603 in a landing accident
at Lisbon, Portugal, on February 22, 1943. The 314 was removed
from scheduled service in 1946 and the seven serviceable B-314s
were purchased by a start-up airline called New World Airways,
although they sat for long time on San Diego's Lindbergh
Field before all were eventually sold for scrap in
The last of the fleet, the Anzac Clipper
NC18611(A) was resold and scrapped in late 1951 in Baltimore,
- Model 314
- Initial production version with 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) Double
Cyclone engines, six built
- Model 314A
- Improved version with 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) Double Cyclones with
larger-diameter propellers, additional 1,200 US gal (4,542 litres)
fuel capacity, and revised interior, six built
- Five Model 314s impressed into military service with the US
- Four Model 314s impressed into military service with the US
Army Air Force
Aircraft operated by Pan Am
||Crashed into a US Navy vessel taking it
under tow and had to be scuttled on
November 14, 1945 in the Pacific.
||Sold to World Airways after the War and was scrapped in
||Started Transatlantic mail service. Crashed and written
off February 22, 1943 in Lisbon, Portugal.
||Purchased by the US Navy in 1942, but operated by Pan Am.
Salvaged for parts.
||Started transatlantic passenger service, later sold to World
Airways. Scrapped 1950.
||Later sold to World Airways. Scrapped 1950.
||Temporarily named California Clipper to replace 18602
that was being moved to Atlantic service, renamed Pacific
Clipper in 1942. Later sold to Universal Airlines. Damaged by storm and
salvaged for parts.
||Sold to Universal Airlines 1946, American International
Airways 1947, World Airways 1948. Sold privately 1951,
destroyed at Baltimore, Maryland 1951.
||Cape Town Clipper
||Sold to: US Navy - 1942, Sold to: American International
Airways - 1947, Sunk at sea by the United States Coast Guard on
October 14, 1947.
Aircraft operated by British Overseas Airways
||Originally NC18607, sold to General Phoenix Corporation,
Baltimore as NC18607 in 1948
||Originally NC18608, sold to General Phoenix Corporation,
Baltimore as NC18608 in 1948
||Originally NC18610, sold to General Phoenix Corporation,
Baltimore as NC18610 in 1948
None of the dozen Boeing 314s built between 1939 and 1941 survived
beyond 1951 with all 12 having been scrapped, scuttled,
cannibalized for parts, or otherwise written off. In 2005,
Underwater Admiralty Sciences, a non-profit oceanographic
exploration and science research organization based of Kirkland,
Washington, US announced plans to survey, photograph, and possibly
also recover the remains of the hulls of two sunken 314s: NC18601
) scuttled in the Pacific Ocean in 1945,
and NC18612 (Bermuda Sky Queen
, formerly Cape Town
) which was sunk in the Atlantic by the Coast Guard in
a life-size Boeing 314 mock-up at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum,
The museum is situated at the site of the original
transatlantic flying-boat terminus.
Specifications (314A Clipper)
The Boeing 314 "Pan Am Clipper" has been featured in many instances
of pop culture.
novels have featured 314s, including:The Night of the
Triffids, where the main character flies one at an altitude of
100 feet into New York
City at night, Night
Over Water, by British author Ken Follett, The
Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk and The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan
The film Raiders of the Lost
featured a Short Solent
Mark III flying boat modified by matte
effects to resemble a Boeing 314
and which is now on exhibit at the Western Aerospace Museum on the
grounds of the Oakland airport The 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film
features the 314 in a pivotal and exciting
inflight disaster and rescue on the water scene. The Boeing 314
also appears in the film Wake Island
before the Japanese attack on the island and where it is both seen
and spoken about by William Bendix's character.
- Bowers, Peter M. "The Great Clippers, Part I."
Airpower, Volume 7, No. 6, November 1977.
- Bowers, Peter M. "The Great Clippers, Part II." Wings,
Volume 7, No. 6, December 1977.
- Bridgeman, Leonard. “The Boeing 314-A Clipper.” Jane's
Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN
- Brock, Horace. Flying the Oceans: A Pilot's Story of Pan
Am, 1935-1955. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc., 3d edition:
1978, ISBN 0-87668-632-3.
- Dorr, Robert F. Air Force One. New York: Zenith
Imprint, 2002. ISBN 0-76031-055-6.
- Dover, Ed. The Long Way Home - Revised Edition. McLean,
Virginia: Paladwr Press, 2008. ISBN 0-61521-472-X.
- Hardesty, Von. Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the
Modern Presidency. Chanhassen, Minnesota: Northword Press,
2003. ISBN 1-55971-894-3.
- Klaás, M.D. "Clipper Across the Pacific, Part One." Air
Classics, Volume 25, No. 12, December 1989.
- Klaás, M.D. "Clipper Across the Pacific, Part Two." Air
Classics, Volume 26, No. 1, January 1990.
- Klaás, M.D. "Clipper Flight 9035." Air Classics,
Volume 29, No. 2, February 1993.
- Klaás, M.D. "The Incredible Clippers." Air Classics,
Volume 5, No. 5, June 1969.
- Klaás, M.D. "When the Clippers Went to War" Air
Classics, Volume 27, No. 4, April 1991.