Tag Archives: Robert Oliver Daniel Sullivan

16–17 April 1935

Pan American Clipper NR823M over San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, en route to Hawaii on the first survey flight, 1935. Photographed by Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr. (1900–1989). (National Air and Space Museum SI-90-3001)

16 April 1935: At 3:42 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (23:42 Greenwich Mean Time), Pan American Airway’s Sikorsky S-42 Clipper, NC823M, pulled away from the dock at Alameda, California, on a survey flight to determine the feasibility of long range passenger flights across the Pacific Ocean.

After a 30 second takeoff run of about 1,700 feet (518 meters), the S-42 lifted from the waters of San Francisco Bay at 3:50 p.m., Pacific Standard Time (23:50 G.M.T.).

Crew of the first Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42 survey flight in Hawai’i , 7 April1935. Left to right: Radio Officer Wilson Turner Jarboe Jr.; Junior Officer Harry R. Canaday; First Officer Robert Oliver Daniel (“Rod”) Sullivan; Captain Edwin Charles Musick; Navigator Fred Joseph Noonan; Engineer Officer Victor A. Wright. (SFO Museum)

The Clipper’s crew were Captain Edwin Charles Musick; First Officer Robert Oliver Daniel (“Rod”) Sullivan; Fred Joseph Noonan, navigator; Victor A. Wright, flight engineer; Harry R. Canaday, junior flight officer; and Wilson Turner Jarboe, Jr., radio operator.

The airplane carried 150 pounds (68 kilograms) of mail and two tons (1,814 kilograms) of mechanical and engineering equipment for Pan Am’s base in Hawaii. Postage for the approximate 10,000 letters varied from $1.00 to $2.50. ($22.80 – $56.99 in 2024 U.S. dollars). The Clipper carried 3,000 gallons (11,356 liters) of gasoline and 300 gallons (1,136 liters) of oil.

The flight was made at altitudes varying from 4,000 to 8,500 feet (1,219 to 2,591  meters).

Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42 NC832M passes Diamond Head on the island of Oahu, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands, in 1935. (Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum PP-1-8-013/Hawaii State Archives)

NC823M arrived overhead Diamond Head, Territory of the Hawaiian Islands, at 7:05 a.m., Hawaii Standard Time (17:35 G.M.T.), 17 April.  [In 1935, Hawaii Standard Time was G.M.T. + 10 hours, 30 minutes] The S-42 was joined by an escort of five patrol planes from the U.S. Navy Patrol Squadron 10 (VP-10) and ten “pursuit” planes. (These were not not specified in contemporary newspaper articles, but the Navy planes were probably Consolidated P2Y-1s, while the “pursuits” were most likely U.S. Army Boeing P-26 monoplanes.)

The Clipper circled the city at about 1,000 feet (305 meters). It spent 52 minutes circling the city, Waikiki Beach, the Ewa plantation, and the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks.

A U.S. Navy Consolidated P2Y-1 of Patrol Squadron 10, circa 1934. (U.S. Navy)

The S-42 touched down at Pearl Harbor at 7:57 a.m., H.S.T., 17 April, (10:27 a.m., P.S.T./17:27 GMT.) after a flight of 17 hours, 45 minutes.¹ Flying a Great Circle Route, the total distance flown was approximately 2,090 nautical miles (2,405 statute miles/3,870 kilometers).² The average speed was about 117.75 knots (135.5 miles per hour/218 kilometers per hour).

This image depicts the Great Circle Route from the Alameda Naval Air Station (NGZ) to Honolulu International Airport. (Great Circle Mapper)

After landing, the flying boat shut down two of its engines and taxied to the seaplane ramp at Ford Island.

Pan American Clipper NR823M at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 17 April 1935. (Pan Am Historical Foundation)

NC823M was only the twelfth airplane to successfully fly from California to Hawaii. The first was the U.S. Army’s Atlantic-Fokker C-2, Bird of Paradise, on 29 June 1927.³  For reference, VP-10s six P2Y-1s had taken 24 hours, 45 minutes to reach the islands in 1934.

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.

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).

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).

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

¹ “Flight time” is generally defined as from the time the aircraft first moves under its own power for the purpose of flight until it comes to rest after landing. In this case, the flight time commenced when the S-42 pulled away from the dock in Alameda, not the time it actually lifted from the water of San Francisco Bay.

² In actuality, the S-42 taxied on San Francisco Bay before taking off, then flew west over the Golden Gate Bridge before turning on its course to Hawaii. It arrived overhead Diamond Head on the island of Oahu before landing on the waters of Pearl Harbor. The actual distance flown is therefore an approximation.

³ Please see This Day in Aviation at https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/28-29-june-19/

© 2024, Bryan R. Swopes

22 November 1935

Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 flying boat, China Clipper (NC14716), leaving the Golden Gate enroute to Honolulu, 22 November 1935. Photographed by Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr. (1900–1989).

22 November 1935: The Pan American Airways flying boat, China Clipper, a Martin M-130, NC14716, departed Alameda, California (an island in San Francisco Bay) at 3:46 p.m., Friday, and arrived at Honolulu at 10:39 a.m., Saturday, completing the first leg of a five-day trans-Pacific flight to Manila in the Philippine Islands.

The aircraft commander was Captain Edwin Charles Musick, with First Officer Robert Oliver Daniel (“Rod”) Sullivan. The navigator was Frederick Joseph Noonan, who would later accompany Amelia Earhart on her around-the-world flight attempt. There were also a Second Officer and two Flight Engineers. The cargo consisted of 110,000 pieces of U.S. Mail.

Captain Edwin Musick and R.O.D. Sullivan, at the center of the image, next to the China Clipper before leaving San Francisco Bay with the first transpacific airmail, 22 November 1935. The three men at the right of the image are (left to right) Postmaster General James Farley; Assistant Postmaster General Harllee Branch; and Pan American Airways’ President Juan Trippe.

Pan Am personnel called the Clipper “Sweet Sixteen,” referring to its Civil Aeronautics Board registration number, NC14716. The airplane and Humphrey Bogart starred in a 1936 First National Pictures movie, “China Clipper.”

NC14716 was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways and 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’s serial number was 558.

Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130m China Clipper, NC14716, over San Francisco, California. (Clyde Herwood Sunderland, Jr./Library of Congress 94509045)

The M-130 was operated by a flight crew of 6–9, 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. (National Air and Space Museum SI-89-1216-A)
Martin M-130 3-view drawing. (Flight)

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).

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).

Martin M-130 NC14716, right rear quarter view.

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).

Martin M-130, NC14716, China Clipper, moored at some distant exotic locale.
Martin M-130, NC14716, China Clipper, moored at some distant exotic locale. (Unattributed)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes