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Boeing 314 Clipper


Boeing 314 Clipper

Boeing 314 Clipper
A Boeing 314 flying low
Role Flying boat airliner
Manufacturer Boeing Airplane Company
First flight June 7, 1938
Introduction 1939
Retired 1946
Status Retired (Foynes Flying Boat Museum, County Limerick, Ireland, has a replica)[1]
Primary users Pan American World Airways
British Overseas Airways Corporation
United States Navy
Produced 1938–1941
Number built 12

The 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.[2] The remaining three were sold to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) by Pan Am and delivered in early 1941. (BOAC's 3 Short S.26 transoceanic flying-boats had been requisitioned by the RAF).


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
    • Retirement 2.1
  • Variants 3
  • Operators 4
  • Surviving aircraft 5
  • Specifications (314A Clipper) 6
  • Popular culture 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

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 for six. 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.[3] Pan Am ordered six more aircraft with increased engine power and capacity for 77 daytime passengers as the Boeing 314A.

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.[4]

The 314 used a series of heavy ribs and spars to create a robust fuselage and cantilevered wing, obviating the need for external drag-inducing struts to brace the wings. Boeing also incorporated Dornier-style sponsons into the hull structure.[5] 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 were shaped to contribute additional 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.[6] 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 engines.

The 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 (comparable to a round trip aboard Concorde in 2006).[7] 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).[8] 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 Éire (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.[9] 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.[10]

Operational history

Flown "triptych" cover carried around the world on PAA Boeing 314 Clippers and Imperial Airways Short S23 flying boats June 24–July 28, 1939
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 Air Mail service beginning on March 29.[11][12] 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 en route 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 31,500 miles (50,694 km) via such exotic locales as Surabaya, Karachi, Bahrain, Khartoum and Leopoldville. The 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 Southampton to 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,[13] 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.[2]

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 was 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 from Winston Churchill and lengthy debate by the Cabinet over the propriety of the purchase.[14] Churchill later flew on the Bristol and Berwick,[2] which he praised intensely,[14] adding to the Clippers’ fame during the war.[15]

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.[2] 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".[16]


BOAC Clipper Berwick landing at Lagos, Nigeria.

The last Pan Am 314 to be retired, the California Clipper NC18602, in 1946, had accumulated more than a million flight miles.[17] 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 film/TV actress Jane Froman, who was seriously injured.[18]

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.[19]


Model 314
Initial production version with 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW) Twin Cyclone engines, six built for Pan Am.
Model 314A
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.[20] Six built, three for Pan Am and three sold to BOAC.
Five Model 314s impressed into military service with the U.S. Navy
Four Model 314s impressed into military service with the U.S. Army Air Forces
Model 306
A concept aircraft using a Model 314 fuselage with a tailless delta-wing planform. No examples built.


 United States
 United Kingdom
Aircraft operated by Pan Am
Registration Type Name In service Remarks
NC18601 314 Honolulu Clipper 1939–1945 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.[4]
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 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.[21]
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. First presidential flight for the Casablanca Conference. 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, Maryland 1951.
NC18612 314A Cape Town Clipper 1941–1946 Sold to 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.[22]
Aircraft operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation
Registration Type Name In service Remarks
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. 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 plane.[23]
G-AGCB 314A (#2084) Bangor 1941–1948 Originally NC18610, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as NC18610 in 1948

Surviving aircraft

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,

  • The Boeing 314
  • Pan American Clippers 1931-1946
  • Boeing 314
  • Boeing 314
  • Boeing 314
  • [2] LIFE colour photo camouflaged Clipper La Guardia Marine Terminal ca.1942
  • [3] LIFE photo essay (comprehensive)'Pan American Clipper Ship' includes NC18605 in a glass doored hangar 1940
  • [4] LIFE photo Pan Am skipper flying the 314
  • [5] LIFE photo essay 'Pan American Clipper'includes Eve Curie leading pax off Clipper at Lisbon 1940
  • [6][7] 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
  • , August 1937, early article on Pan American Airways new airliner for trans-ocean flightPopular Mechanics"Three Deck Clipper Has Aisle In Wings",
  • May 1939, large article with cutaway drawing of interiorPopular Mechanics"New York To Europe By Clipper",
  • , December 1940, detailed article with photos on flight deck operations of the Boeing 314Popular Mechanics"Sailors of the Sky",

External links

  • 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 0-7603-1055-6.
  • Dover, Ed. The Long Way Home: A Journey into History with Captain Robert Ford. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Amazon POD, Revised Edition 2010, First edition 2008. ISBN 978-0-615-21472-6.
  • 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.
  • "Towards the Flying Ship - Details of the Boeing 314 or Atlantic Clipper: A 100-passenger Successor?" Flight, July 21, 1938, pp. 67–68.
  1. ^ "Flying Boat Museum | Our Replica". Foynes, Limerick: Foynes Flying Boat Museum. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d  
  3. ^ Bowers December 1977, pp. 14–15.
  4. ^ a b Bogash, Robert A. "In Search of an Icon: The Hunt for a Boeing B-314 Flying Boat, Pan American NC18601 - the Honolulu Clipper" Retrieved: July 31, 2011.
  5. ^ Bowers November 1977, pp. 28–35, 60–61.
  6. ^ Klaás 1989, pp. 17, 20.
  7. ^ "British Airways Concorde." Travel Scholar, Sound Message, LLC. Retrieved: August 19, 2006.
  8. ^ Klaás 1989, p. 20.
  9. ^ Klaás 1989, p. 64.
  10. ^ Masland, William M. (1984). Through the Back Doors Of The World In A Ship That Had Wings. New York:  
  11. ^ Transoceanic Travel and the Pan American Clippers"
  12. ^ "Boeing's Model 314 Clipper Flying Boat"
  13. ^ Brock 1978, ch. VI.
  14. ^ a b  
  15. ^ Hardesty 2003, pp. 37–41.
  16. ^ Brock 1978, p. 224. Brock also reports cheap postwar availability to Pan Am of DC-4s and "Connies" was an important factor.
  17. ^ Klaás 1990, p. 78.
  18. ^ Klaás 1993, pp. 16–18.
  19. ^ "BOAC" Corporations Annual Reports. Flight 25 November 1948. p634
  20. ^ "From Pan Am To Boa: First of three Boeing 214—As now on British Empire Routes." Flight, June 26, 1941. Retrieved: August 2, 2011.
  21. ^ "Accident Report: Boeing 314." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: August 2, 2011.
  22. ^ Morris, Ted. "Air-Sea Rescue at Ocean Station Charlie: The Bibb & Bermuda Sky Queen." Retrieved: July 31, 2011.
  23. ^ Lavery, Brian. “A Flying Hotel in the Fog.” Churchill Goes to War: Winston's Wartime Journeys (Annapolis, MD: The Naval Institute Press, 2007), p. 94; Rogers Kelly, John C. (Capt). "The Churchill Flight: His Pilot Reports the Trip to England" Life Magazine, February 2, 1942. pp. 28-30
  24. ^ Johnston, Jeff. "Project Update." Clipper Discovery Update: The UAS Chronicles of the Honolulu Clipper and Bermuda Sky Queen Discovery Project, Underwater Admiralty Sciences Newsletter, November 2005, pp. 1, 12. Retrieved: September 16, 2009.
  25. ^ Johnston, Jeff. "Project Update."Clipper Discovery Update: The UAS Chronicles of the Honolulu Clipper and Bermuda Sky Queen Discovery Project, Newsletter, Underwater Admiralty Sciences, July 2007. pp. 1, 9. Retrieved: September 16, 2009.
  26. ^ Bartly, Nancy. [1]Money sought to retrieve submerged Boeing Flying Clippers The Seattle Times, September 25, 2011.
  27. ^ "Foynes Flying Boat Museum." Retrieved: December 2, 2007.
  28. ^ Bridgeman 1946, p. 211.
  29. ^ Verschuere, Gilles. "The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark: Concluding the Adventure." The Raider.Net, 2009. Retrieved: September 16, 2009.


Related lists
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related development

See also

The 314 has been featured many times in pop culture, including several novels. The 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film Foreign Correspondent features the 314 in a pivotal in-flight disaster. The best-known example, in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, actually used a Short Solent Mark III made to resemble a 314 by use of matte effects.[29] The 1991 novel Night Over Water by author Ken Follett centers around a 314 flight from Southampton to New York during the outbreak of World War II.

Popular culture


  • 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) each
General characteristics

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[28]

Specifications (314A Clipper)

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.[27]

[26] 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 underway.[25][24]

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