When Flying Boats Ruled the Air and the Waves

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “The Yankee Clipper, circa 1939.”)

The Globe and Mail’s “Moment in Time” for May 20, the year 1939:

Yankee Clipper offers first regular transatlantic postal service [scroll down at link]

Twelve years to the day after Charles Lindbergh took off on the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight, and seven years after Amelia Earhart embarked on her historic solo jaunt, the Yankee Clipper made history of its own. The plane, a Boeing 314 owned by Pan Am, was a behemoth weighing 38 tonnes and featured a dining room and three lounges for passengers. U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt had christened it in March, 1939, with a champagne bottle filled with water from the seven seas. On this day the same year, the plane was loaded with more than 100,000 pieces of mail and inaugurated the U.S. Postal Service’s transatlantic airmail service. The Clipper took off from Manhasset Bay, Long Island, N.Y., and flew over the heads of crowds at the New York World’s Fair on its way to Marseille, France, with stops in the Azores and Lisbon. The trip took 26½ hours. It was far faster than the only other option – the record for an ocean liner crossing at the time was four days. It’s a long way from the Clipper to how we send messages by e-mail at lightning speed today, but the driving impulse is the same: faster, faster, faster. Dave McGinn

More details on transatlantic air mail service here:

Item #MA1804 – First Trans-Atlantic Airmail Service First Flight Cover.

The start of passenger service soon followed:

Pan American’s Dixie Clipper Makes First Regular Trans-Atlantic Passenger Service to Europe

June 28th marks the 81st anniversary of the first regular trans-Atlantic passenger service via Pan Am’s Boeing 314 ‘Dixie Clipper’. The aircraft left Port Washington, New York with 22 passengers on the southern route to Horta, Lisbon, and Marseilles…

This flight began the era of the heavier-than-air trans-Atlantic passenger service. Later, on July 8, the Yankee Clipper would launch Pan Am service across the Atlantic on the northern route, carrying 17 passengers to England.

The aircraft flew the southern route across the Atlantic, landing in Lisbon the next afternoon after a flight of approximately 27 hours (which included a stop at Horta in the Azores), and then flew to its final destination in Marseilles, France the next day…

And here’s an excellent website on the Boeing 314, “The Airborne Palace”:

That is one airplane I dearly wish I could have travelled on. Some tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

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