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The Boeing 314 Clipper was a long-range flying boat produced by the Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 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 Atlanticmarker and Pacific Oceansmarker. Twelve Clippers were built for Pan Am, three of which were sold to BOAC in 1941 before delivery.

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 radial engines with the more powerful 1,600 hp (1,194 kW) Wright Twin Cyclone. 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-style sponsons 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 Yorkmarker to Southamptonmarker, comparable to a round trip aboard Concorde in 2006. Most of the flights were transpacific with a one-way ticket from San Franciscomarker to Hong Kongmarker, 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 into port.

Operational history

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)
Boeing 314 in US Navy colors, c.
The first 314, Honolulu Clipper, entered regular service on the San Franciscomarker-Hong Kongmarker route in January 1939. 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 in December 1941.

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. Starting on December 8, 1941 at Auckland, New Zealand, the Pacific Clipper covered over 8,500 miles via such exotic locales as Surabayamarker, Karachimarker, Bahrainmarker, Khartoummarker and Leopoldvillemarker. The Pacific Clipper landed at Pan American's LaGuardia Fieldmarker seaplane base at 7:12 on the morning of January 6, 1942.

The Yankee Clipper flew across the Atlantic on a route from Southampton to New York with intermediate stops at Foynes, Irelandmarker, Botwood, Newfoundlandmarker, and Shediac, New Brunswickmarker. The inaugural trip occurred on June 24, 1939.

The Clipper 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 Churchill 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 seaplane pilots"


The last 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 Lisbonmarker, Portugalmarker, 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 Fieldmarker before all were eventually sold for scrap in 1950. The last of the fleet, the Anzac Clipper NC18611(A) was resold and scrapped in late 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland.


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 Navy
Four Model 314s impressed into military service with the US Army Air Force


Aircraft operated by Pan Am



In service


NC18601 314 Honolulu Clipper 1939-1945 Crashed into a US Navy vessel taking it under tow and had to be scuttled on November 14, 1945 in the Pacific.

NC18602 314 California Clipper 1939-1950 Sold to World Airways after the War and was scrapped in 1950.

NC18603 314 Yankee Clipper 1939-1943 Started Transatlantic mail service. Crashed and written off February 22, 1943 in Lisbon, Portugalmarker.

NC18604 314 Atlantic Clipper 1939-1946 Purchased by the US Navy in 1942, but operated by Pan Am. Salvaged for parts.

NC18605 314 Dixie Clipper 1939-1950 Started transatlantic passenger service, later sold to World Airways. Scrapped 1950.

NC18606 314 American Clipper 1939-1946 Later sold to World Airways. Scrapped 1950.

NC18609 314A Pacific Clipper 1941-1946 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.

NC18611 314A Anzac Clipper 1941-1951 Sold to Universal Airlines 1946, American International Airways 1947, World Airways 1948. Sold privately 1951, destroyed at Baltimore, Marylandmarker 1951.

NC18612 314A Cape Town Clipper 1941-1946 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 Corporation



In service


G-AGBZ 314A (#2081) Bristol 1941-1948 Originally NC18607, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as NC18607 in 1948

G-AGCA 314A (#2082) Berwick 1941-1948 Originally NC18608, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as NC18608 in 1948

G-AGCB 314A (#2084) Bangor 1941-1948 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 (Honolulu Clipper) scuttled in the Pacific Ocean in 1945, and NC18612 (Bermuda Sky Queen, formerly Cape Town Clipper) which was sunk in the Atlantic by the Coast Guard in 1947.

There is a life-size Boeing 314 mock-up at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Foynesmarker, County Limerickmarker, Ireland. The museum is situated at the site of the original transatlantic flying-boat terminus.

Specifications (314A Clipper)

Popular culture

The Boeing 314 "Pan Am Clipper" has been featured in many instances of pop culture.

Several 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 Citymarker at night, Night Over Water, by Britishmarker 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 Ark 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 Foreign Correspondent 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 (1942) moments before the Japanese attack on the island and where it is both seen and spoken about by William Bendix's character.

See also




  • 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 1-85170-493-0.
  • 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.

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