December 27, 2014

Struth! Pan Am Clippers the Dux of De Luxe

ALMOST restaurant-like, would you believe that this is the dining area of a
Pan Am 314 Clipper flying boat 75 years ago. (Pan Am Historical Foundation)
MASSIVELY sized for just 74 passengers, and luxurious
aboard by day or night. (Pan Am Historical Foundation)

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says next time you're jammed in the middle seat of the middle row of a 400-something passenger aircraft with 20-odd hours of flying before you, try daydreaming of the days of the Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper flying boats.

For between 1938 and 1941 Pan Am flew a dozen such luxury craft that carried just 74 passengers in spacious seats by day, lounges for socialising – and restaurant-like dining with 4-star hotel chefs offering-up multi- course silver-service meals.

At night passengers had their own bunks, with separate men's and women's dressing areas for passengers to prepare for bed; ten crew served on flights from America to Europe, Southampton, Honolulu, the Philippines, Hong Kong, South America and even New Zealand.

And because they flew so slowly – on average 250km/h but able to crank up to 312km/h if necessary – they could take days to island-hop to their eventual destinations (San Francisco-Honolulu took 19 hours; today it's under 5hrs direct.)

The planes were pressed into US Navy service when America entered WWII and stripped of luxuries to carry hundreds of troops, but still used Pan Am flight crews because the Navy didn't have anyone certificated to fly them.

By war's end flying boats had become pretty-much obsolete and Pan Am which had sold three Clippers earlier to BOAC (later British Airways) and lost three in accidents, sold its remaining six to New World Airways which ultimately scrapped them in 1951.

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