Monday, November 22, 2010

Pan Am China Clipper • 75 Years Ago • San Francisco to Manila

Seaplanes have always fascinated me. As a boy in Hawaii, surrounded by water, these flying boats held me in awe! Sometimes on the weekends, my dad would drive us down to the area around the Honolulu Airport, near Pearl Harbor, and we would watch the planes come and go. I especially loved it when one of the Navy's Mars seaplanes was around. These majestic machines were used by the U.S. Navy from WWII through the mid-1950s, mostly on routes from San Francisco to Honolulu.

The Pan Am Clipper was an earlier seaplane that launched the first regularly scheduled trans-Pacific 75 years ago. After a test cargo flight from San Francisco to Honolulu and back, the Clipper service started commercially with a 59 hour flight from San Francisco to Manila, making four stops along the way. The celebrated San Francisco to Honolulu flight took around 18 hours.

The San Francisco Airport's SFO Museum has an exhibit celebrating the China Clipper service that will be on view until early 2011. It's a gotta see if you like planes and pre-WWII nostalgia.

The San Francisco Aeronautical Society is also planning a "series of events commemorating the greatest milestone in air transport history."

Over the years the Clipper flights have spawned many collecting trends. Posters, in-flight memorabilia, Pan American Airlines items and postage stamps and covers, are several that come to mind. I have a nice collection of Clipper flight postal covers. Here is a small gallery for your enjoyment.

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