Bluegrass Virtual Airlines
by Bill Odell and Bill Von Sennet
A Pan American B-314 Clipper flies over the PanAm Dinner Key terminal at Coconut Grove, FL The skyline of Miami is visible in the background. Crowds of on-lookers often gathered at the terminal to await the arrival of the “flying boats” in the early evening just before sunset.
The name Clipper is synonymous with Pan American. Pan American had been slowly charting its future with routes through the Caribbean utilizing Commodore flying boats. These flying boats proved to be very successful and Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American, commissioned Igor Sikorsky to develop a larger plane capable of carrying larger passenger, baggage and freight loads. The four engine S-40 Clipper was born. These “Clippers” proved to be very successful, but were slow and had a short range. They were soon relegated to the shorter routes with the birth of the S-42 Clipper.
We have tried to portray a bit of this history with our rendition of the Clipper. We will use the Boeing 314. There are several routes to be flown with four being trans-Atlantic The first from New York to Foynes, Ireland via Shediak, New Brunswick and Botwood, Newfoundland. The second from New York to Lisbon via Bermuda and Horta, Azores. The northern route to Foynes was flown in the summer. In the winter the route to Lisbon was extended to Foynes. The very first flights continued on to Southampton, but the outbreak of World War II put an end to that. Horta, Azores was a disaster with out a suitable harbor, the clippers landed on the open sea. After the first year, westbound trips were routed south to Bolama (then Portugese New Guinea) then west to Belem, Brazil and north to Trinidad and Bermuda enroute to Baltimore and New York. Flights from Miami went to Trinidad, Belem and Natal, Brazil before crossing the Atlantic to Fisherman’s Lake, Liberia. Most all of the passengers and cargo were of a military nature. At Natal, Brazil passengers could transfer to other aircraft and continue down the coast of South America, but the Boeing B-314 clippers never went further south. The entire operation was flexible and run much like a charter airline with the US Military being the customer. Other routes were sometimes used that included Lisbon to Bathurst, Gambia (now known as Banjul, Gambia) to Lagos Nigeria, then across the Atlantic to Belem.
Take your time on the flights as there are plenty of stopping spots. There are Marine Terminals at each of the stops with NDB’s that are active for quite a distance.
The aircraft being utilized in this program is the Boeing B-314, more commonly referred to as “Boeing Clippers”. A total twelve were built, six as 314's and six as 314A’s. The 314A had increased passenger accommodations. It had two decks, upper or control deck and main passenger deck. Its passenger capacity was sixty-eight day passengers and 36 sleeping passengers. It had a range of 3,685 miles.
Specifications: Wing span 152', Length 106', Height 27'7", Weight empty 48,545 lbs, Useful load 33,995 lbs, Fuel 4200 gals, Oil 300 gals.
Performance: Four twin-row Wright Cyclones rated at 1599 h.p. Engine access during the flight was through wing companion ways. Hamilton full-feathering constant speed propellers. The fuel tanks were in the wings and hydro stabilizers.
The cruising speed is 158 knots, however a balance has to be made between passenger and cargo load, fuel load and cruising speed. Flights where long range was needed were flown with as few as 20 passengers. Speed was not a major consideration, and in fact on many of the overnight flights, speed must be reduced to prevent arriving before dawn. The optimum efficiency cruising speed is in the range of 105-115 knots.
British Imperial Airways operated the Southampton, Foynes, Botwood to Montreal route using Short S-23 Empire flying boats. In order to cross the Atlantic they had an increased fuel capacity, but had to fly with a very low payload.
The age of the large passenger flying boats came to an end in 1946. They were no longer needed as airports had been constructed around the world and faster, more efficient aircraft were available. The Boeing B-314 had a service life of only ten years or less, but it had a dramatic effect of making the world a smaller place.