Tag Archives: Pan American Airways System

30 March 1934

Sikorsky S-42 NC822M, Brazilian Clipper, first of three of the initial S-42 variant. (NASM)

30 March 1934: At Bridgeport, Connecticut, Sikorsky Aircraft Company test pilot Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky made the first flight of the prototype Sikorsky S-42, a large, four-engine flying boat which had been designed for long range passenger and cargo flights.

In discussions with Igor Sikorsky, Charles A. Lindbergh, acting as technical advisor to Pan American Airways System, the two aviation icons established the specifications for a new flying boat. The new airplane would be a significant improvement over Sikorky’s previous S-40.

The Hartford Courant reported:

New Giant Sikorsky Tries Its Wings

Sikorsky S-42 (Associated Press Photo)

    Bridgeport.  March 30.—(AP)—America’s greatest passenger plane, the S-42, destined for the South American service, took to the air for the first time and passed two test flights with flying colors.

     Once for 10 minutes, and again for a longer period, the giant flying boat hovered over Long Island Sound and its shore. Captain Boris Sergievsky, accompanied only by a lone mechanic, was at the controls.

     “Congratulations, sir,” Igor Sikorsky, designer of the plane, hailed the pilot as he came ashore after the flights.

     “The congratulations,” Captain Sergievsky replied, “are yours, sir.”

     “I am very pleased with the results,” Sikorsky said. “It was most thrilling to see the ship take off. Everything seems excellent.”

     Frederick W. Neilsen, president of the Sikorsky Aviation Corporation, who watched the flights with Sikorsky and hundreds of residents of Bridgeport and shore towns, said, “The tests were most successful and we are all pleased.”

     The ship, built for Pan American Airways on specifications by Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, technical advisor for the line, is the first of six such planes to be completed for Pan American.

     Powered with four engines, it is 76 feet long, has a span of 114 feet 2 inches, and a gross weight of 38,000 pounds. It will be fitted with 32 passenger seats, and will have a non-stop range of 1200 miles with a full complement of passengers, five members of the crew and 1000 pounds of mail.

The Hartford Courant, Vol. XCVII, Saturday, 31 March 1934, Page 18, Columns 4 and 5

Interior of a Sikorsky S-42. (NASM)

The Sikorsky S-42 was a four-engine long-range flying boat built for Pan American Airways by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies at Stratford, Connecticut. It was 67 feet, 8 inches (20.625 meters) long with a wingspan of 114 feet, 2 inches (34.798 meters). The S-42 had an empty weight of 18,236 pounds (8,272 kilograms) and gross weight of 38,000 pounds (17,237 kilograms). It could carry up to 37 passengers.

A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42.

The S-42 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,690.537-cubic-inch-displacement (27.703 liters) Pratt & Whitney Hornet S1E-G nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The S1E-G had a Normal Power rating of 750 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), and 875 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., for Takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S1E-G was 4 feet, 1.38 inches (1.254 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.44 inches (1.383 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,064 pounds (483 kilograms).

Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky

The S-42 had a cruise speed 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 188 miles per hour (303 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). The service ceiling was 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). It could maintain 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) with three engines. Its range was 1,930 miles (3,106 kilometers).

During flight testing of the S-42, Boris Sergievsky, with co-pilot Raymond B. Quick, set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for payload and altitude.¹  Later, Captain Edwin Musick, with Sergievsky and Charles Lindbergh, flew the S-42 to set eight Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed.²

Ten Sikorsky S-42, S-42A and S-42B flying boats were built for Pan Am. None remain in existence.

A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42, NC16734, moored at Honolulu, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands. (hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)

¹ 26 April 1934 FAI Record File Numbers: 11583: Greatest load to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet): 7,533 kilograms (16,652 pounds). 17 May 1934: 11582 and 11978: Altitude with a 5,000 Kilogram (11,023 pounds) Load, 6,220 meters (20,407 feet).

² 1 April 1934 FAI Record File Numbers: 11517: Speed over a closed circuit of 1,000 Kilometers (621.3 statute miles), 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11518: . . . with a 500 Kilogram (1,102 pounds) Payload, 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11519: . . . with a 1,000 Kilogram (2,205 pounds) Payload, 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11520: . . . with a 2,000 kilogram (4,409 pounds) Payload, 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11521: Speed over a closed circuit of 2,000 Kilometers (1,242.7 statute miles), 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h); 11522: . . . with a 500 Kilogram Payload, 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h.); 11523: . . . with a 1,000 Kilogram Payload, 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h.); 11524: . . . with a 2,000 Kilogram Payload, 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h.).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

20 December 1934

“This photograph of the Clipper, aloft at the mouth of the Middle River, was taken from another plane by Robert F. Kniesche, Sun staff photographer.” (The Sun (Baltimore), Vol. 196–D, Friday 21 December 1934, Page 30, Columns 3–5 )

20 December 1934: William K. (“Ken”) Ebel lifted off from Middle River, Maryland, taking the Martin M-130 “Clipper” for its first flight. The M-130 was airborne for approximately 1 hours. Flying at 1,200 feet (366 meters), it reached 160 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour).

Three-view illustration of the Martin M-130. (Flight, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, Vol. XXVII, No. 1361, 24 January 1935, Page 99)

NC14716, named China Clipper, was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways. It was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila in November, 1935. Built at a cost of $417,000 by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland, it was delivered to Pan Am on October 9, 1935.

The airplane was operated by a flight crew of 6 to 9, depending on the length of the flight, plus cabin staff, and could carry 18 passengers on overnight flights or a maximum 36 passengers.

Cutaway illustration of Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 China Clipper. (Detail from larger image. NASM SI-89-1216-A. Full image at: https://airandspace.si.edu/multimedia-gallery/7135hjpg)

The Martin M-130 was 90 feet, 10.5 inches (27.699 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters). It was 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) high. The total wing area was 2,315 square feet (215 square meters), including the “sea wings”. Its maximum takeoff weight was 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

Martin M-130 under construction, 24 May 1934. (SFO Museum)

The flying boat was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. They had a normal power rating 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S2A5-G was 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter, 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.441 meters) long, and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).

The airplane had a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour). The M-130’s service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).

A Martin M-130, X14714, undergoing ground testing at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant at Middle River, Maryland, 30 November 1934. (Lockheed Martin)
Martin M-130 X14714, 30 November 1934. (SFO Museum)

William Kenneth Ebel was born at Orangeville, Illinois, 2 January 1899. He was the first of two sons of Willam Henry Ebel, a farmer, and Nora Agnes Rubendall Ebel.

Ken Ebel attended Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio. While at Heidelberg, on 1 October 1918, he enlisted as a private in the Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.). With World War I coming to an end in November, Private Ebel was discharged 20 December 1918. Ebel graduated from Heidelberg in 1921 with a bachelor of arts degree.

Ebel returned to military service, enlisting as a private in the 104th Squadron (Observation), Maryland National Guard, based at Baltimore, Maryland.

Ebel continued his college education at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1923, he earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering (B.S.M.E.)

On 11 September 1923, Private Ebel was appointed an aviation cadet, graduating from primary flying school on 3 June 1924. He received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant, Officers Reserve Corps (O.R.C.), United States Army, on 12 June 1925.

Continuing to serve as a reserve officer, in 1926 Ebel went to work as an engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Company, then located in Cleveland, Ohio. As a test pilot and engineer, Ebel flew the Martin M-130 four-engine flying boar

2nd Lieutenant Ebel,still with the 104th Squadron, Maryland National Guard, was promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant on 21 December 1928. The U.S. Army advanced his rank to 1st lieutenant, Air Corps, 15 February 1929.

On 21 October 1929, William K. Ebel married Miss Florence E. Sherck at Seneca, Ohio. They would have two children, William Kenneth, Jr., and Lydia Lynn Ebel.

While testing a Martin BM-2 dive bomber, on 11 August 1932, W.K. Ebel “leaped to safety in a parachute Friday when a bombing plane he was testing failed to come out of a spin and crashed at Dahlgren, Virginia. The plane was going through its final tests before being delivered to the navy. It was wrecked in the crash.” Ebel became Member No. 495 of The Caterpillar Club.

On Thursday, 20 December 1934, Chief Pilot Ken Ebel took the new four-engine Martin M-130 flying boat, Pan American Airways System’s Hawaii Clipper, for its first flight from Middle River, Maryland. He also made the first flight of the M-156 “Russian Clipper” in 1935.

Ebel was promoted to captain, Air Corps, on 5 January 1935. On 21 August, he delivered the new Martin Model 146 “mystery bomber” to Wright Field for evaluation by the Bombardment Board.

In 1948, Ken Ebel became director of the Airplane Division of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after, Curtiss-Wright sold its airplane division to North American Aviation. In 1950, the U.S. Navy’s primary submarine builder, the Electric Boat Company, appointed Ebel as Vice Pressident of Engineering for its Canadair Ltd., aircraft manufacturing subsidiary in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (In 1952, after acquiring Convair, the corporation reorganized as General Dynamics.

William K. Ebel

Ebel returned to the United States in 1961 and served as a consultant for General Dynamics in Washington, D.C. Ebel retired in 1963, purchasing the Mount Pleasant Orchards near Baltimore.

Mrs. Ebel died in 1968. He later married Helene H. Topping.

William Kenneth Ebel, Ph.D., died at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, 12 July 1972.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

24 June 1939

Boeing 314 NC18603, Yankee Clipper (Harris and Ewing)
Boeing 314 NC18603, Yankee Clipper (Harris & Ewing)

24 June 1939: The Pan American Airways System began scheduled air service from the United States to Britain. The Boeing 314 Yankee Clipper, NC18603, made the first flight from Port Washington, New York, departing at 8:21 a.m. It made intermediate stops at Shediac, New Brunswick, and Botwood, Newfoundland, where fog delayed the flying boat until 12:49 p.m., 28 June. Continuing across the Atlantic, Yankee Clipper made another stop at Foynes, Ireland, and finally arrived at Southampton at 7:25 p.m. that evening.

The largest airplane of the time, the Pan American Clipper flying boat could carry 77 passengers in “one class” luxury, with a ticket priced at $675—that’s in 1939 dollars. ($12,389.82 in 2020) Uniformed waiters served five and six course meals on silver service. Seats could be folded down into beds.

The flight deck of a Boeing 314. At the left, standing, is the airliner's navigator. Beyond him are the captain (left) and co-pilot. On the right side of the cabin are the radio operator and flight engineer. (Unattributed)
The flight deck of a Boeing 314. At the left, standing, is the airliner’s navigator. Beyond him are the captain (left) and co-pilot. On the right side of the cabin are the radio operator and flight engineer. (Unattributed)

The Boeing Model 314 was a large four-engine, high-wing monoplane flying boat designed and built by the Boeing Airplane Company to take off and land on water. It had a crew of 10. The wings and engine nacelles had been designed for Boeing XB-15 heavy bomber. It was 106 feet (32.309 meters) long with a wingspan of 152 feet (46.330 meters). It had a maximum take off weight of 82,500 pounds (37,421 kilograms).

The Boeing 314 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.737-cubic-inch-displacement (42.668 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 14 GR2600A2, two-row, 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 7.1:1. They were rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 1,550 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff, burning 91/96 octane gasoline. These engines (also commonly called “Twin Cyclone”) drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic full-feathering constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 14 feet (4.267 meters) through a 16:9 gear reduction. The GR2600A2 was 5 feet, 2.06 inches (1.576 meters) long and 4 feet, 7 inches (1.387 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,935 pounds (878 kilograms). The engines could be serviced in flight, with access through the wings.

Pan American Airways’ Boeing 314 NC18603, Yankee Clipper.

The Boeing 314 had a maximum speed of 199 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour), with a  range of 3,685 miles (5,930 kilometers) at its normal cruising speed of 183 miles per hour (295 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 13,400 feet (4,084 meters). The fuel capacity was 4,246 gallons (16,073 liters).

Boeing built six Model 314 and another six 314A flying boats for Pan American Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation.

Yankee Clipper was destroyed 22 February 1943 at Lisbon, Portugal. A wing hit the water on landing. 24 of the 39 persons aboard were killed.

This iluustration shows the interior arrangement of the Boeing 314. (Unattributed)
This illustration shows the interior arrangement of the Boeing 314. It was published in LIFE Magazine, circa 1937. (Boeing)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes