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Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats

Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats

by James Trautman

Paperback(Second Edition, Revised and Expanded)

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Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on October 1, 2019

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780228102304
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Edition description: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

James Trautman is a regular contributor to North American magazines and newspapers, including Antique Week, and has been featured on CBC TV shows on the history of sports cards, games and other collectibles. He is now working on a project to uncover the wreckage of one of the Pan Am Clippers lost in World War II. A native New Yorker, he lives in southern Ontario.

Table of Contents


  1. The History of the Pan American Clipper Flying Boats (1931-1946)
  2. The Pan American Clippers
  3. Plotting the Air Routes
  4. The First Transpacific Flight
  5. Constructing the Bases
  6. The Mysterious Disappearances of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, and Captain Edwin C. Musick
  7. The Mystery of the Hawaii Clipper
  8. World War II and the Clipper's Exploits
  9. The Magic of the Pan American Clippers
  10. Overnight to Hawaii and Onward to Wake Island
  • Performance Data on the Sikorsky, Martin and Boeing Flying Boats
Pan American Airways Flying Boats
  • Pan American Clipper Accidents
  • Pan American Early Firsts
  • Remembering the Pan American Clippers
  • USS Avocet (AVP-4)
  • The Legacy of the Pan American Airports
  • Other Flights
  • Requiem for the Clipper




One may challenge the above quote [not included in this excerpt], but the early years of aviation in the 1920s would fit nicely into The Great Gatsby and its old wealth mixing with the new self-made millionaires of the Roaring Twenties. Much of this new wealth had been made through war production during World War I. World War II would alter civilian aviation and create a climate for the expansion of cheaper air travel for the masses. But that was in the future, and in the 1920s and 1930s, international air travel would be for the more elite. The early days of civilian air travel had only one type of passenger class: first class.

Juan Trippe would take over the fledgling Pan American Airways and turn it into a worldwide airline. His family was old wealth, having made their money in the great Clipper sailing ships of the 1800s.

Another key figure in the formative years of aviation and Pan American Airways was Harry Guggenheim, who would become Charles Lindbergh's mentor. The two met prior to Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris. Guggenheim told Lindbergh they would get together once he returned from his epic venture. Whether he believed that Lindbergh would make it back or not is open to debate. The Guggenheim family made their wealth in mining and reinvested in the future of the United States by establishing many foundations, including the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. This foundation would be responsible for the development of blind instrument flying, the establishment of the Safe Aircraft Competition and, most importantly, the establishment of major centers of aeronautical engineering throughout the UnitedStates.

Harry Guggenheim was true to his word, and Lindbergh was introduced to the wealthy and connected of the United States at parties in the Hamptons, people like Dwight Morrow and Thomas Lamont of the J. P. Morgan bank, Juan Trippe, Orville Wright, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and Herbert Hoover. The groups that met at the parties were the foundation that would push the development of American aviation, including the concept of passenger travel. Dwight Morrow would eventually become Lindbergh's father-in-law, and Harry Guggenheim would appoint Lindbergh as a consultant to the Guggenheim Aeronautical Fund at a salary of $25,000 per year.

Juan Trippe would operate Pan American Airways until his retirement in 1968, experiencing years that would bring glory and almost total defeat. At a Pan American Airways board meeting on March 14, 1939, Trippe would lose most of his power. The China Clipper routes were in the red and the board was not sold on the Atlantic routes to Europe. Eventually, Trippe would take back his power, but the routes would continue to be money losers. At some times, more flights were cancelled due to inclement weather than were flying.

The arrival of World War II and the end of the Golden Age of Flying Boats may have been a blessing to Pan American Airways.