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Boeing 314

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314 Clipper
A Boeing 314 “Clipper” on the water.
Type Flying boat airliner
Manufacturer Boeing Airplane Company
Maiden flight 1938-06-07
Introduced 1939
Retired 1946
Status No intact examples
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 and is comparable to the British Short Empire. 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 American World Airways, three of which were sold to BOAC in 1941 before delivery.

Design and development

The Boeing 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 Pan American signed a contract for six aircraft on 21 July 1936. Boeing engineers adapted the cancelled XB-15's 149 foot (45.5 m) wing, and replaced that bomber's 850 hp (640 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial engines with the more powerful 1,600 hp (1,194 kW) Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone. The Clipper's triple tail was chosen after Boeing had tested conventional and twin tails which did not provide enough controllability for safe flight.

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 - namely stabilizing pontoons - by incorporating 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 aircraft and they were shaped to contribute lift while the plane was in flight. To fly the long ranges needed for trans-Pacific service, the 314 carried 4,246 US gallons (19,300 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.

Pan Am's "Clippers" were built for luxury, 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), many flights lasted over twelve hours. The aircraft 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. 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 (about $9,590 in year 2006 dollars[1]). Compare the Concorde, which was priced at around $10,000 for a round trip.[2]

Operational history

The first 314, the Honolulu Clipper, entered regular service on the San Francisco-Hong Kong 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 aircraft, 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 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 Southamption to 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 aircraft were used for ferrying personnel and equipment to the European and Pacific fronts. American military cargo was carried via Natal, Brazil to Liberia, to supply the British forces at Cairo and even the Russians, via Teheran.[3] These shuttle aircraft were given the military designation C-98. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to the Casablanca Conference in a Boeing 314. Winston Churchill also flew on the aircraft several times, adding to its fame during the war era.

After the war several Clippers were returned to Pan American, but the type had been made obsolete by new long-range land planes, such as the Douglas DC-4 and Lockheed Constellation, and by the wartime construction of a network of landing strips that gave access to nearly the entire world. The 314 was removed from scheduled service in 1946 and grounded permanently in 1950. Of the twelve aircraft built, three were lost to accidents, although only one of those resulted in fatalities, with 24 perishing in Lisbon, Portugal, February 22 1943.

Except for some bits of scrap metal housed in museums, nothing remains of the twelve Boeing 314 aircraft.

Diverted flight of Pacific Clipper

The Pacific Clipper was a Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat famous for having completed Pan American World Airways' first flight between California and New York the long way by traveling West. The flight began December 2, 1941 at the Pan Am base on Treasure Island, California for its scheduled passenger service to Auckland, New Zealand.[4][5]

The Clipper made scheduled stops in San Pedro, California, Honolulu, Hawaii, Canton Island, Suva, Fiji and Nouméa, New Caledonia. The aircraft was en route to Auckland when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Cut off from the United States and commanding a valuable military asset, Captain Robert Ford was directed to strip company markings, registration and insignia from the aircraft and proceed in secret to the Marine Terminal, LaGuardia Field, New York.

Ford and his crew successfully flew over 31,500 miles to home via:

At Surabaya Captain Ford had to refuel with automobile grade gasoline. Ford said, "We took off from Surabaya on the 100 octane, climbed a couple of thousand feet, and pulled back the power to cool off the engines," said Ford. "Then we switched to the automobile gas and held our breaths. The engines almost jumped out of their mounts, but they ran. We figured it was either that or leave the airplane to the Japs."

On the way to Trincomalee, they were confronted by a Japanese submarine and Ford had to jam the throttle to climb out of range of the submarine's guns. On Christmas Eve, when they took off, black oil began gushing out of the number three engine and pouring back over the wing. Ford shut down the engine and returned to Trincomalee. He discovered that one of the engine's cylinders had failed.

When Captain Ford was planning his flight from Bahrain, he was warned by the British authorities not to fly across Arabia. Ford said, "The Saudis had apparently already caught some British fliers who had been forced down there. The natives had dug a hole, buried them in it up to their necks, and just left them." But Ford flew right over Mecca because the Saudis did not have anti-aircraft guns.

A Pan American Airport Manager and a Radio Officer had been dispatched to meet the Clipper at Leopoldville. When Ford landed they handed him a cold beer. Ford said, "That was one of the high points of the whole trip." Captain Bob Ford and most of his crew spent the war flying contract missions for the US Armed Forces. After the war Ford continued flying for Pan American, which was actively expanding its routes across the Pacific and around the world. He left the airline in 1952 to pursue other aviation interests.


Model 314 Clipper
Initial production version with 1500 hp (1119 kW) Wright R-2600 Double Cyclone engines, 6 built
Model 314A Clipper
Improved version with 1600 hp (1193 kW) Double Cyclone engines with a larger propeller, additional 1,200 US gal (4542 litres) fuel capacity and a revised interior, 6 built


Aircraft operated by Pan Am
Registration Type Name In service Remarks
NC18601 314 Honolulu Clipper 1939-1945 Sunk by US Navy
NC18602 314 California Clipper 1939-1950 Later renamed Pacific Clipper and sold to World Airways. Scrapped 1950.
NC18603 314 Yankee Clipper 1939-1943 Started Transatlantic mail service. Crashed February 22, 1943 in Lisbon, Portugal.
NC18604 314 Atlantic Clipper 1939-1946 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 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: U.S. 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
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
G-AGCB 314A (#2084) Bangor 1941-1948 Originally NC18610, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as NC18610 in 1948

Specifications (314A Clipper)

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[6]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 11, including 2 cabin stewards
  • Capacity:
    • Daytime: 68 passengers
    • Nighttime: 36 passengers
  • Payload: 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of mail and cargo
  • Length: 106 ft 0 in (32.33 m)
  • Wingspan: 152 ft 0 in (46.36 m)
  • Height: 20 ft 4½ in (6.22 m)
  • Wing area: ft² (m²)
  • Empty weight: 48,400 lb (21,900 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 84,000 lb (38,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:Wright R-2600-3 radial engines, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) each


Popular culture

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


  1. Inflation Calculator. Bank of Canada. Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
  2. British Airways Concorde. Travel Scholar. Sound Message, LLC. Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
  3. The Clipper was the only aircraft in the world that could make the 2,150 statute-mile crossing over water. See Horace Brock, Flying the Oceans: A Pilot's Story of Pan Am, 1935-1955 (3d edn, New York: Jason Aronson, Inc.: 1978.), ch. VI.
  4. Dover, Ed (1999). The Long Way Home. Paladwr Press. ISBN 1-888962-00-3
  5. Cohen, Stan (1985). Wings to the Orient, Pan-Am Clipper Planes 1935-1945. Pictorial Histories. ISBN 0-933126-61-1
  6. Jane, Fred T. “The Boeing 314-A Clipper.” Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. p. 211. ISBN 1 85170 493 0.
  7. The Raider's Flying Boat. Indy Gear (2006-08-19). Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
  8. Story of Our Boeing B-314 (retrieved December 2, 2007)
  1. Inflation calculation based on Canadian inflation rate ([1])

External links

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Boeing 314".