Friday, March 22, 2013

Flying Clipper service: Only six days from Miami to Buenos Aires

Pan Am flight routes 1936
By Jane Feehan

For those who bemoan flights today over the Atlantic to reach Europe or parts of South America in mere hours, note this:  the world was abuzz in the 1930s about Pan American Airlines Flying Clipper ships that took six days instead of eight to reach Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After test flights from California to Hawaii, Pan Am initiated air mail and passenger service Oct. 31, 1935 from Miami to Buenos Aires on Sikorsky S-42 “flying boats.” It was a trip with a route 3,200 miles east and 3,000 miles south of Miami.  The schedule would have dismayed today’s flyer.

Sikorsky S-42
The plane would leave from Dinner Key in Miami at 8 a.m., arriving in Port Au Prince, Haiti for lunch. From there the Flying Clipper would fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in time for dinner followed by an overnight stay. The next morning the plane would travel to St. Thomas, St. Johns, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Trinidad.  The third day would be a flight from Trinidad, across the Guyanas (southeast of Venezuela) to the mouth of the Amazon. On the fourth day, the clipper would go around the “hump of Brazil” to Recife, the eastern most point of South America, only 1,600 miles from the African Coast. Flight on the fifth day was from Recife to 
Rio de Janeiro. On the sixth and final day, passengers could expect to reach Buenos Aires after crossing Uruguay.

Pan Am’s Flying Clipper fleet also included the Martin M-130, built in Baltimore, MD. The airline captured headlines during those years for their first class, white glove service to Ireland and Europe. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first president to fly abroad in 1943 on another Pan Am plane, the Dixie Clipper.  Flying Clippers were pressed into military service by 1942, ending a colorful chapter of flying history. They really moved their tails …

Miami News, Oct 27, 1935
Bramson, Seth H.  Miami, the Magic City. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing (2007).
Wikipedia (photos)

Tags: Miami airlines history, Miami history, flying clippers, Sikorsky S-42,  historical researcher

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