Boeing 314 Clipper was a long-range flying boat produced by the
Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 and 1941. 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;
nine were brought into service for
Pan Am and later transferred to the
U.S. military. The remaining three were sold to British Overseas
Airways Corporation (BOAC) by
Pan Am and delivered in early 1941.
1 Design and development
2 Operational history
5 Surviving aircraft
6 Specifications (314A Clipper)
7 See also
9 External links
Design and development
The Yankee Clipper in 1939
Pan American had requested a flying boat with unprecedented range 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
Boeing engineers adapted the cancelled XB-15's 149 ft
(45 m) wing, and replaced the 850 hp (630 kW) Pratt
& Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines with the 1,600 hp
(1,200 kW) Wright Twin Cyclone.
Pan Am ordered six more
aircraft with increased engine power and capacity for 77 daytime
passengers as the
The huge flying boat was assembled at Boeing's Plant 1 on the Duwamish
River in Seattle, and towed to
Elliott Bay for taxi and flight tests.
The first flight was on June 7, 1938, piloted by Edmund T. "Eddie"
Allen. At first the aircraft had a single vertical tail, and Allen
found he had inadequate directional control. The aircraft returned to
the factory and was fitted with the endplates on the ends of the
horizontal tail in place of the single vertical fin. This too was
found to be lacking and finally the centerline vertical fin was
restored, after which the aircraft flew satisfactorily.
The 314 used a series of heavy ribs and spars to create a robust
fuselage and cantilevered wing, eliminating the need for external
drag-inducing struts to brace the wings.
Boeing also incorporated
Dornier-style sponsons into the hull structure. The sponsons, broad
lateral extensions at the waterline on both 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 possessed intentional shaping to
contribute additional aerodynamic lift in flight. Passengers and their
baggage were weighed, with each passenger allowed up to 77 pounds
(35 kg) free baggage allowance (in the later 314 series) but then
charged $3.25 per lb ($7.15/kg) for exceeding the limit. To fly the
long ranges needed for trans-Pacific service, the 314 carried 4,246 US
gallons (16,070 l; 3,536 imp gal) of gasoline. The
later 314A model carried a further 1,200 US gallons (4,500 l;
1,000 imp gal). A capacity of 300 US gallons (1,100 l;
250 imp gal) of oil was required for operation of the radial
California Clipper at Cavite, the Philippines, 1940
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
cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (303 km/h) (typically
flights at maximum gross weight were flown at 155 miles per hour
(249 km/h)) in 1940 Pan Am's schedule
San Francisco to Honolulu
was 19 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. The
standard of luxury on Pan American's
Boeing 314s has rarely been
matched on heavier-than-air transport since then; they were a form of
travel for the super-rich, priced at $675 return from New York to
Southampton. Most of the flights were transpacific, with a one-way
San Francisco to
Hong Kong via the "stepping-stone"
islands posted at $760 (or $1,368 round-trip). The
Pan Am Boeing
314 Clippers brought exotic destinations like the Far East within
reach of air travelers and came to represent the romance of flight.
Transatlantic flights to neutral
Lisbon and Ireland continued after
war broke out in Europe in September 1939 (and until 1945), but
military passengers and cargoes necessarily got priority, and the
service was more spartan.
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 314 into port.
Flown "triptych" cover carried around the world on PAA
Clippers and Imperial Airways Short S23 flying boats June 24 – July
Boeing 314 in
US Navy colors, c. 1942
The first 314 flight on the San Francisco-
Hong Kong route left Alameda
on February 23, 1939 with regular passenger and Foreign Air Mail Route
#14 service beginning on March 29. 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
World War II in December 1941.
At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the
Pacific Clipper was en
route to New Zealand. Rather than risk flying back to
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 31,500 miles (50,694 km) via such
exotic locales as Surabaya, Karachi, Bahrain,
Pacific Clipper landed at Pan American's LaGuardia
Field seaplane base at 7:12 on the morning of January 6, 1942.
The Yankee Clipper flew across the Atlantic on a route from
Port Washington, New York
Port Washington, New York with intermediate stops at
Foynes, Ireland, Botwood, Newfoundland, and Shediac, New Brunswick.
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. The aircraft were
purchased by the War and Navy Departments and leased back to Pan Am
for a dollar, with the understanding that all would be operated by the
Navy once four-engined replacements for the Army's four Clippers were
in service. 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 (3,460 km) crossing over water, and
was 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 Dixie Clipper.
The success of the six initial Clippers had led
Pan Am to place an
order for six improved 314A models to be delivered in 1941, with the
goal of doubling the service on both Atlantic and Pacific routes.
However, the fall of France in 1940 caused some doubt about whether
the Atlantic service could continue; passenger numbers were already
reduced due to the war, and if Spain or
Portugal were to join the
Axis, then the flights to
Lisbon would be forced to stop.
Pan Am began
to consider reducing their order and, in August 1940, reached an
agreement to sell three of the six under construction to the United
Kingdom. The aircraft were to be operated by the British Overseas
Airways Corporation and were primarily intended for the UK – West
Africa route, as existing flying boats could not travel this route
without stopping in Lisbon. The sale made a small net profit for Pan
Am – priced at cost plus 5% – and provided a vital communications
link for Britain, but was politically controversial. In order to
arrange the sale, the junior minister
Harold Balfour had to agree to
the contract with no government approval, leading to stern disapproval
Winston Churchill and lengthy debate by the Cabinet over the
propriety of the purchase. Churchill later flew on the Bristol and
Berwick, which he praised intensely, 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 flying boat's advantage had been that it didn't require
long concrete runways, but during the war a great many such runways
were built for heavy bombers. New long-range airliners such as the
Lockheed Constellation and
Douglas DC-4 were developed. The new
landplanes were relatively easy to fly, and did not require the
extensive pilot training programs mandated 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".
BOAC Clipper Berwick landing at Lagos, Nigeria.
Pan Am 314 to be retired, the
California Clipper NC18602, in
1946, 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: 24 passengers and crew aboard the
Yankee Clipper NC18603 lost their lives in a landing accident at Cabo
Ruivo Seaplane Base, in Lisbon,
Portugal on February 22, 1943. Among
that flight's passengers were prominent American author and war
correspondent Benjamin Robertson, who was killed, and the American
singer and actress Jane Froman, who was seriously injured.
Pan-Am's 314 was removed from scheduled service in 1946 and the seven
serviceable B-314s were purchased by the start-up airline New World
Airways. These sat at San Diego's Lindbergh Field for a long time
before all were eventually sold for scrap in 1950. The last of the
fleet, the Anzac Clipper NC18611(A), was resold and scrapped at
Baltimore, Maryland in late 1951.
BOAC's 314As were withdrawn from the Baltimore-to-
Bermuda route in
January 1948, replaced by Lockheed Constellations flying from New York
and Baltimore to Bermuda.
Initial production version with 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW) Twin
Cyclone engines, six built for Pan Am.
Improved version with 1,600 horsepower (1,200 kW) Twin Cyclones
with larger-diameter propellers, additional 1,200 US gallons
(4,500 l; 1,000 imp gal) fuel capacity, and revised
interior. Still air range approx 4,700 miles. Six built, three for
Pan Am and three sold to BOAC.
Five Model 314s pressed into military service with the U.S. Navy
Four Model 314s pressed into military service with the U.S. Army Air
A concept aircraft using a Model 314 fuselage with a tailless
delta-wing planform. No examples built.
Pan American World Airways
United States Army Air Forces
United States Navy
British Overseas Airways Corporation
Aircraft operated by Pan Am
Successfully landed 650 miles east of Oahu after losing power in two
engines while flying for the
US Navy on November 3, 1945. Aircraft
mechanics from the escort carrier Manila Bay were unable to repair the
engines at sea. The seaplane tender San Pablo attempted tow into port;
but the flying boat was damaged in a collision with the tender and
intentionally sunk on November 14 by perforating the hull with 20mm
Oerlikon gunfire after salvage was deemed impractical.
Sold to World Airways after the War and was scrapped in 1950.
Started transatlantic mail service. Crashed on February 22, 1943, when
a wing hit the water during a turn on landing at Lisbon, Portugal. A
total of 24 of 39 on board were killed.
Purchased by the
US Navy in 1942, but operated by Pan Am; salvaged for
Started transatlantic passenger service, later sold to World Airways.
First presidential flight for the Casablanca Conference. Scrapped
Later sold to World Airways. Scrapped 1950.
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,
Cape Town Clipper
US Navy 1942, American International Airways 1947. As the
Bermuda Sky Queen she ditched at sea on October 14, 1947. After the
rescue of all passengers and crew she was sunk by the United States
Coast Guard as a hazard to navigation.
Aircraft operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation
Originally NC18607, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as
NC18607 in 1948
Originally NC18608, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as
NC18608 in 1948. This aircraft flew both
Winston Churchill and Lord
Beaverbrook (Minister of Aircraft Production) back to the United
Kingdom in mid January, 1942 after the British Prime Minister's
extended stay in the
United States following Pearl Harbor. Churchill
was the first head of government to make a transatlantic crossing by
Originally NC18610, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as
NC18610 in 1948
Full-size replica of a
Boeing 314 at the
Foynes Flying Boat Museum,
County Limerick, Ireland
None of the dozen 314s built between 1939 and 1941 survived beyond
1951, with all 12 being scrapped, scuttled, cannibalized for parts, or
otherwise written off. Underwater Admiralty Sciences, a non-profit
oceanographic exploration and science research organization based in
Kirkland, Washington, announced in 2005, at the 70th Anniversary of
the first China Clipper flight in San Francisco, its plans to survey,
photograph, and possibly 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),
sunk in the Atlantic by the Coast Guard in 1947. UAS has also spent
significant time at
Pan Am reunions and with individual crewmembers
and employees of
Pan Am conducting videotaped interviews for the
mission's companion documentary. However, as of 2014, no
search or recovery had been attempted, with the most recent news from
2011 suggesting that the company was still in need of at least US$8
million to get the plan under way.
There is a life-size 314 mockup at the
Foynes Flying Boat Museum,
Foynes, County Limerick, Ireland. The museum is at the site of the
original transatlantic flying-boat terminus.
Specifications (314A Clipper)
Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II
Crew: 11, including 2 cabin stewards
Capacity: Daytime: 74 passengers, Nighttime: 36 passengers
Payload: 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of mail and cargo
Length: 106 ft (32.33 m)
Wingspan: 152 ft (46.36 m)
Height: 20 ft 4½ in (6.22 m)
Empty weight: 48,400 lb (21,900 kg)
Loaded weight: 84,000 lb (38,000 kg)
Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-2600-3 radial engines, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW)
Maximum speed: 210 mph (180 knots, 340 km/h)
Cruise speed: 188 mph (163 knots, 302 km/h) at 11,000 ft (3,400 m)
Range: 3,685 mi (3,201 nm, 5,896 km) normal cruise
Service ceiling: 19,600 ft (5,980 m)
Notable appearances in Media
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Dornier Do X
List of aircraft of World War II
List of seaplanes and amphibious aircraft
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^ Bowers December 1977, pp. 14–15.
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^ Klaás 1990, p. 78.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Pan American Clippers 1931–1946
 LIFE colour photo camouflaged Clipper La Guardia Marine Terminal
 LIFE photo essay (comprehensive)'Pan American Clipper Ship'
includes NC18605 in a glass doored hangar 1940
 LIFE photo
Pan Am skipper flying the 314
 LIFE photo essay 'Pan American Clipper'includes Eve Curie leading
pax off Clipper at
 LIFE photos NC18602 in Singapore Harbour 1941
China Clipper 75th Anniversary Commemorative Flight (November 2010 –
San Francisco Aeronautical Society)
"Two Day Turn Around", February 1941 article
"Three Deck Clipper Has Aisle In Wings", Popular Mechanics, August
1937, early article on Pan American Airways new airliner for
"New York To Europe By Clipper", Popular MechanicsMay 1939, large
article with cutaway drawing of interior
"Sailors of the Sky", Popular Mechanics, December 1940, detailed
article with photos on flight deck operations of the
Boeing Business Jet
New Midsize Airplane
New Large Airplane
Boeing military aircraft
Patrol and surveillance
Bird of Prey
Boeing model numbers
Boeing Customer Codes
United States military transport aircraft designations, Army/Air Force
and Tri-Service systems
Army/Air Force sequence
Revived original sequence
1 Not assigned
See also: AC-47 • AC-119 • AC-130 • DC-130
• EC-130 • HC-130 • KC-130 •
LC-130 • MC-130 • WC-130 • CT-39 •