• Short Summary

    Just 30 years ago--on November 22, 1935, one of those pioneering events took place which serve as a milestone in man's history--the first commercial flight across the Pacific Ocean.

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    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Just 30 years ago--on November 22, 1935, one of those pioneering events took place which serve as a milestone in man's history--the first commercial flight across the Pacific Ocean.

    The flight of the Pan American Airways China Clipper stirred the public's imagination in 1935 as do the exploits of the astronauts in 1965. The old flying boat made the trail-blazing flight in island-hopping stages at the then-astounding speed of 130 miles per hour ni contrast to the 575 miles per hour of today's jets.

    Some 25,000 people watched the Clipper rise from San Francisco Bay, head westward and fade into the distance en route to Manila and the first crossing by a commercial airliner of a major ocean. The New York Times captioned its picture of the takeoff, "The Lindbergh dream ... comes true."
    At the departure ceremony, James A. Farley, the Postmaster General, read a message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Even at this distance I thrill to the wonder of it all." By shortwave, Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippine Commonwealth, said the flying Clippers would sweep away the "barrier of time and space forever".

    President Quezon's forecast proved to be amazingly accurate. Three decades later, international air travel has become the mainstay of political, commercial and cultural interchange among the peoples of the world.

    Following the China Clipper's dramatic flight across the Pacific in 1935 came the first transatlantic flight, made by Pan Am in 1939, and the wartime transocean airlifts which these pioneering Pacific and Atlantic flights made possible. Then came the first transocean flight with high-speed commercial land planes, made by Pan Am in 1945, the first scheduled round-the-world airline flight, made by Pan Am in 1947; and the first scheduled transatlantic jet flight, made by Pan Am in 1958.

    Pan Am's present-day jet Clippers cross the Pacific 185 times a week. Since the China Clipper's flight, Pan Am has made 91,017 transpacific crossings. In 1964, nearly 150,000,000 passengers travelled on the world's schedule international airlines.

    The China Clipper carried a crew of seven, three pilots, two flight engineers, navigator and radio operator. On board the flight were 1,837 pounds of first flight mail-passenger service was inaugurated a year later.

    The aircraft had been designed for the job. Built by Glenn L. Martin Co. to Pan Am's specifications, it was huge for its day. It had a 130-foot wing span and fuselage length of 90 feet, seven inches. With an empty weight of 25,000 pounds it could carry, including fuel, 27,000 pounds at cruising speeds up to 130 miles an hour.

    The China Clipper, a Martin four-engine flying boat, made the Honolulu leg of the trip in 21 hours, 33 minutes, (compared to today's jet time of 4 hours, 55 minutes). The following day it left for Midway, then Wake Island and Guam and finally arrived in Manila on November 29 after having flown 8,210 miles in 59 hours, 48 minutes. (Jet Clippers now make the San Francisco to Manila trip in 16 hours, 5 minutes.)
    On December 2, the China Clipper started home along the same island-hopping route, and arrived before a welcoming throng in San Francisco on December 6. The roundtrip had covered 16,420 miles in routine fashion in 124 hours, 12 minutes flying time.

    The China Clipper and other flying boats plied Pacific air routes until 1941 when the flying boats went to war to operate special missions for the U.S. Navy. Landplanes took over the 1946 and in the following year the Pacific Clipper routes were linked with the Atlantic to form Pan American's round-the-world service. In September, 1959, Pan American inaugurated trans-pacific Jet Clipper service to the Orient.

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