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Boeing 314 Clipper
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 built 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 XB-15 bomber prototype to achieve the range needed to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Twelve were built; nine flew for Pan Am and were later transferred to the U.S. military.[2] The other three were sold to BOAC by Pan Am and delivered in early 1941. (BOAC's three Short S.26 flying boats had been requisitioned by the RAF).

Design and development

Yankee Clipper in 1939

Pan American had requested a flying boat with more range and payload than its 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 feet (45 m) wing and replaced the 850 horsepower (630 kW) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines with the 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW) Wright Twin Cyclone.[3] Pan Am ordered six more aircraft with 1600 hp engines as the Boeing 314A.

The huge flying boat was assembled at Boeing's Plant 1 on the Duwamish River 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 needed more 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 the centerline vertical fin was restored.[4]

The 314 used heavy ribs and spars in a robust fuselage and cantilevered wing that didn't need drag-inducing struts to brace it. Boeing used Dornier-style sponsons,[5] short wings at the waterline on each side of the hull that stabilized the craft on the water, was an entryway for passengers and contributed 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 were charged 1% of their fare for each kilogram beyond that.[6] The 314 carried 4,246 US gallons (16,070 l; 3,536 imp gal) of gasoline; the later 314A carried 5,400 US gallons (20,000 l; 4,500 imp gal). 300 US gallons (1,100 l; 250 imp gal) of oil was carried for the radial engines.

California Clipper at Cavite, the Philippines, 1940

Pan Am's "Clippers" were built for luxury travel. The seats could be converted into 36 bunks; flights at maximum weight cruised at 135–150 miles per hour (217–241 km/h)) so Pan Am's schedule San Francisco to Honolulu in 1940 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 had separate dressing rooms, and white-coated stewards served five and six-course meals with gleaming silver service. The luxury on Pan American's Boeing 314s has rarely been matched on air transport; fare was $675 return from New York to Southampton, comparable to a round trip aboard Concorde in 2006.[7] A one-way ticket from San Francisco to Hong Kong cost $760 ($1,368 round-trip).[8] Transatlantic flights continued to neutral Lisbon and Éire (Ireland) after war broke out in Europe in September 1939 (and until 1945) but military passengers and cargo got priority and the service was more spartan.

Critical to the 314's success were Pan Am flight crews, skilled at long-distance, over-water flights. For training, many transpacific flights carried a second crew.[9] Only the best and most experienced crews were assigned to the Boeing 314. Before coming aboard, captains as well as first and second officers had thousands of hours of flight time in other seaplanes and flying boats. Training in dead reckoning, timed turns, judging drift from sea current, astral navigation, and radio navigation were conducted. In poor visibility, pilots sometimes made successful landings at fogged-in harbors by landing out to sea, then taxiing the 314 into port.[10]


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 Boeing test flight across the Pacific left San Francisco on February 23, 1939. The first 314, Honolulu Clipper, happened to be in Manila near the end of March when the CAA approved revenue passenger flights, so the first paying passengers on a 314 flew Manila to Hong Kong. Regular weekly flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong began on March 29.[11][12] A one-way trip took over six days, as it had on the Martins. Scheduled flights lasted less than three years, ending when the United States entered World War II in December 1941.

Passenger flights across the Atlantic began on June 28, 1939, from Port Washington, New York to Lisbon and Marseilles; the first flight to Southampton left Port Washington on July 8. The northern route stopped at Shediac, New Brunswick, Botwood, Newfoundland, and Foynes, Ireland; the southern route was via Horta, in the Azores, and Bermuda if needed. In August the weekly Southampton trip was scheduled 24 hr 30 min eastward and 29 hr westward.

Pan Am found that a 314 at full weight could not be expected to take off when waves were more than three feet high— it couldn't gain enough speed hitting such a swell, which in winter was common at Horta. After delays and cancellations in winter 1939-40 Pan Am gave up on winter flights to Horta; after February 1941 winter departures from Lisbon flew south to Bolama, in Portuguese Guinea, then west to Trinidad and north. Thousands of extra miles, but reliability was better.

At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific Pacific Clipper was en route to New Zealand. Rather than risk returning to Honolulu, 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 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 Clipper fleet went into military service during the war, carrying 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 Pan Am civil 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 314 was given the military designation C-98. In 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to the Casablanca Conference in Dixie Clipper.[2]

The success of the first six Clippers led Pan Am to order six improved 314As to be delivered in 1941, with the goal of doubling the service across the Atlantic and Pacific. The fall of France in 1940 caused doubt about whether the Atlantic service could continue; passenger numbers had already dropped due to the war, and if Spain or Portugal joined the Axis, flights to Lisbon would have to end. Pan Am considered 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 mainly 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 profit for Pan Am - priced at cost plus 5% - and provided a vital communications link for Britain, but was politically controversial. 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.[13] Churchill later flew on the Bristol and Berwick,[2] which he praised highly,[13] adding to the Clippers’ fame during the war.[14]

After the war several Clippers returned to Pan American, but they were obsolete. The flying boats didn't require long concrete runways, but many such runways had been built during the war for heavy bombers.[2] New long-range airliners such as the Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-4 were developed. The new landplanes were faster and more efficient, and did not require the pilot training needed for seaplanes. 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".[15]


BOAC Clipper Berwick landing at Lagos, Nigeria

The last Pan Am 314 to be retired in 1946, the California Clipper NC18602, had accumulated more than a million flight miles.[16] Of the 12 Boeing 314 Clippers built three were lost to accidents, but only one resulted in fatalities: 24 passengers and crew aboard the Yankee Clipper NC18603 lost their lives in a landing accident at 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.[17]

Pan-Am's 314 was removed from scheduled service in 1945-46 and the seven serviceable B-314s were purchased by start-up New World Airways. These sat at San Diego's Lindbergh Field until all were sold for scrap in 1950. The last, 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.[18]


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.[19] 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
  • British Overseas Airways Corporation
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 3 November 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 14 November 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 when a wing hit the water during a turn on landing at Lisbon Portugal. A total of 24 of 39 on board were killed.[20]
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, Sold to: 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.[21]
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 do a trans-Atlantic crossing by plane.[22][23]
G-AGCB 314A (#2084) Bangor 1941–1948 Originally NC18610, sold to General Phoenix Corporation, Baltimore as NC18610 in 1948

Surviving Aircraft

File:CountyLimerick FoynesFlyingBoatMuseum.jpg

The full-size replica of a Boeing 314 flying boat 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 having been 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.[24][25] 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.[26]

A life-size 314 mockup is at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, Foynes, County Limerick, Ireland. The museum is at the site of the original transatlantic flying-boat port.[27]

Specifications (314A)

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

General characteristics

  • 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


  • 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)

Popular culture

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.

See also


  1. "Flying Boat Museum | Our Replica". Foynes, Limerick: Foynes Flying Boat Museum. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Follett, Ken (1991). "Author's Note". Night over water. New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 399. ISBN 0-688-04660-6. LCCN 91017701. 
  3. Bowers December 1977, pp. 14–15.
  4. 4.0 4.1 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: Vantage Press. ISBN 0-533-05818-X. 
  11. Transoceanic Travel and the Pan American Clippers"
  12. "Boeing's Model 314 Clipper Flying Boat"
  13. 13.0 13.1 Balfour, Harold (1973). Wings over Westminster. London: Hutchinson. pp. 141–155. ISBN 0091143705. 
  14. Hardesty 2003, pp. 37–41.
  15. Brock 1978, p. 224. Brock also reports cheap postwar availability to Pan Am of DC-4s and "Connies" was an important factor.
  16. Klaás 1990, p. 78.
  17. Klaás 1993, pp. 16–18.
  18. "BOAC" Corporations Annual Reports. Flight 25 November 1948. p634
  19. "From Pan Am To Boa: First of three Boeing 214—As now on British Empire Routes." Flight, June 26, 1941. Retrieved: August 2, 2011.
  20. "Accident Report: Boeing 314." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: August 2, 2011.
  21. Morris, Ted. "Air-Sea Rescue at Ocean Station Charlie: The Bibb & Bermuda Sky Queen." Retrieved: July 31, 2011.
  22. 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
  23. 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.
  • 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.

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