Tag Archives: Trans-Pacific Flight

15 March 1962

Color photograph of Flying Tiger Line’s Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6921C. (Pinterest)

15 March 1962: Flying Tiger Line Flight 7815/13 was a chartered flight for the Military Air Transport Service (M.A.T.S. Flight 739/14), from Travis Air Force Base,Fairfield, California, to Saigon, Republic of Vietnam, with scheduled refueling stops at Honolulu, Hawaii; Wake Island; Naval Air Station Agana, Guam; and Clark Air Force Base, Luzon, Philippine Islands. The flight departed Travis at 0545 G.M.T., 14 March.

The airliner was a Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation, N6921C, under the command of Captain Gregory P. Thomas. The flight crew consisted of three pilots, two flight engineers, and two navigators/radio operators. There were four stewardesses in the passenger cabin, with 96 passengers. Three of the passengers were Vietnamese military personnel, while the remainder were U.S. Army electronics and communications specialists.

The Super Constellation departed Guam for Luzon at 1257 G.M.T, 15 March. It climbed to 18,000 feet (5,486 meters). The estimated flight time for this leg was 6 hours, 19 minutes. The airplane carried sufficient fuel for 9 hours, 30 minutes of flight.

At 1422 G.M.T., M.A.T.S.. flight 739/14 radioed the Guam International Flight Service Station, reporting their position at 1416 hours as North 13° 40′, East 140°, and cruising at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters). The navigator gave the flight’s estimated position at 1530 G.M.T. as N. 14° 00′, E. 135° 00′.

There was no 1530 hours position report from Flight 739. Beginning at 1533 G.M.T., the Guam I.F.S.S. began attempting to contact the airliner, but was unsuccessful. At 1943  hours, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers at NAS Agana and Clark AFB began search and rescue operations. At 2227 hours, the airliner was declared lost.

S.S. T. L. Lenzen, built by Mitsubishi Zozen K.K., 1959–1960. 42,277 deadweight tons, 16,000 horsepower. Cargo capacity 319,000 barrels. (The Allen Collection)

The crew of the Standard Oil Company tanker S.S. T. L. Lenzen reported that at 1530 G.M.T., (1:30 a.m., local time), five persons on board had witnessed a midair explosion near Flight 739’s estimated position for that time. The flash was bright enough to illuminate the ship’s decks.

“It was established, upon interrogation of five of the crew members, that shipboard lookouts had observed a midair explosion at the approximate position and time when N 6921C was expected to reach 14°00′ North and 135°00′ East. It was recalled that a vapor trail, or some phenomenon resembling a vapor trail, was first observed overhead and slightly to the north of the tanker and moving in an east to west direction. The Lenzen was cruising on a heading of 077° at this time. As this vapor trail passed behind a cloud, there occurred an explosion which was described by the witnesses as intensely luminous, with a white nucleus surrounded by a reddish-orange periphery with radial lines of identically colored light. The explosion occurred in two pulses lasting between two and three seconds and from it two flaming objects of unequal brightness and size apparently fell, at different speeds, into the sea. During the last 10 seconds of the fall of the slower of the two objects, a small bright target was observed on the ship’s radar bearing 270°, range 17 miles.

“The captain of the Lenzen stated that he arrived on deck in time to observe the fall of the slower object for approximately 10 seconds before it disappeared from view. He estimated its position in reference to a star and ordered the ship’s course reversed and, after aligning the heading of the vessel with the star, found his heading to be 270°—the same as the bearing of the target previously seen on radar. The captain reported that the weather at that time was:  ‘moonlight, clear atmosphere, 1/4 covered sky by small cumulus clouds evenly distributed.’ The ship proceeded to the position of the radar target and searched the area until 2105 at which time the original course was resumed. No signals or unusual sightings were reported.

“The subsequent search, one of the most extensive ever conducted in the history of aviation, covered 144,000 square miles and utilized 1,300 people, 48 aircraft, and 8 surface vessels. A total of 377 air sorties were flown which involved over 3,417 flying hours. Despite the thoroughness of the search, nothing was found that could conceivably be linked to the missing aircraft or its occupants.”

CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD, AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT, File No. 1-0002, 8 April 1963, at Pages 8–9

Probable Cause: The Board is unable to determine the probable cause of this accident from the evidence now available.

The last known position of Flying Tiger Line M.A.T.S. Flight 739/14. (GIS & Environmental Management Technologies, LLC)

BURBANK, Calif. (AP)—Sabotage, already suspected in the mysterious disappearance of an airliner loaded with American troops, would be considered a stronger possibility than ever if it turns out the plane blew up.

A Flying Tiger Lines official said Sunday experts consider it impossible for a violent explosion to occur about aboard its Super Constellation under normal conditions.

“We’ve gone over it thoroughly the last few days,” said Frank B. Lynott, executive vice president for operation. “The only explosions known to happen would be in empty wing tanks, and none of these would have been empty then. So far as blowing completely apart,” he said, “there’s nothing that powerful aboard: fuel tanks don’t just go off like that.”

Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, Volume CXXV, Number 78, Monday, 19 March 1962, Page 21 at Column 2

Another speculative theory was that the airliner had been hijacked in order to kidnap the passengers.

Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6921C. (Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives)
Capt. Gregory P. Thomas (Los Angeles Times)

The flight crew of M.A.T.S. Flight 739/14 were all highly experienced airmen. Captain Gregory P. Thomas had been employed by the Flying Tiger Line since 7 July 1950. He held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, and was type-rated in the Curtiss C-46, Douglas DC-3, DC-4, DC-6, and Lockheed L-1049H. He had flown a total of 19,500 flight hours, with 3,562 hours in the L-1049H. He was 48 years old and lived in Red Bank, New Jersey. According to contemporary news reports, Captain Thomas was “a colorful and heroic flier.” (In 1957, he had ditched a Douglas DC-6 in Jamaica Bay with no loss of life.)

First Officer Robert J. Wish. (Flying Tiger Line)

First Officer Robert J. Wish had worked for FTL since 25 January 1951. He held an ATP certificate, with type ratings for C-46, DC-4 and L-1049H.had a total of 17,500 flight hours, with 3,374 hours in the L-1049H. Wish was also 48 years old, and lived in Hidden Hills, California. Second Officer Robbie J. Gayzaway [Gazaway or Gazzaway?], 39 years old, from Fillmore, California, was employed by FTL 7 January 1953. He held an ATP certificate with an L-1049H type rating. He had flown 5,500 hours, with 900 in the L-1049H.

Flight Engineer George Mitchell Nau was hired by the Flying Tiger Line 15 December 1956. He held an F.A.A. Flight Engineer certificate. He had flown 1,235 hours in the L-1049H. Nau was 38 years old and lived in Pacoima, California. A second flight engineer was Clayton E. McClellan, 33 years old, from San Mateo, California. He was also a certified flight engineer. He had worked for FTL since 4 April 1960. He had approximately 1,090 hours in the L-1049H.

Navigator Grady R. Burt, Jr. (Connie Burt Spolar via Find A Grave)

Navigator William T. Kennedy was hired by FTL 13 February 1962. He was 45 years old, from Braintree, California. He held both navigator and radio operator licenses. Navigator Grady Reese Burt, Jr., was hired 14 February 1962. He also held both navigator and radio operators licenses. He lived in Baldwin Park, California.

The cabin crew were Senior Flight Attendant Barbara Jean Walmsley from Santa Barbara, California; Hildegard Muller; Christel Diana Reiter of San Mateo; and Patricia Wassum.

The Super Constellation remains missing today, and all 107 persons on board are presumed to have died. With respect to the loss of life, this was the worst accident involving a Lockheed Constellation.

N6921C was the second Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation lost by Flying Tiger Line on 15 March 1962.

The first was N6911C (Lockheed serial number 4804), under the command of Captain Morgan W. Hughes of San Mateo, California. It was also a M.A.T.S. chartered flight, FTL Flight 7816/14, and, like N6921C, had departed from Travis Air Force Base on the night of 14 March. It was reportedly carrying a “secret military cargo” to Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa.

While on a Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) approach to NAS Adak Island (in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska) the airliner was consistently below the glide path. Despite seven separate warnings from the ground controller, at 1214 G.M.T., the airplane’s landing gear struck rocks 328 feet (100 meters) short of the runway threshold. It then slid for 2,000 feet (610 meters) along the runway, coming to rest just off its edge. The airliner caught fire and was destroyed. Of the 7 persons on board, 1, James M. Johnstone, a flight engineer, was killed.

Captain Hughes had a total of 13,000 flight hours, with 3,055 hours in the L-1049H. The co-pilot, First Officer Thomas M. Mitchell, had 19,000 flight hours with 1,211 hours in type.

The Civil Aeronautics Board determined that the Probable Cause of this accident was “. . . attributed to the pilots’ misjudgement of distance and altitude during the final approach.”

Flying Tiger Line lost two more L-1049H Super Constellations, N6923C and 6913C, in 1962.

Flying Tiger Line’s Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6918C, the same type aircraft as N6921C. (Jon Proctor via Wikipedia)

Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6921C (LAC serial number 4817) was delivered to the Flying Tiger Line in 1957. It was a large, four-engine, long-range airliner. The airplane was operated by two pilots, a flight engineer and a navigator.

The L-1049 series was 18 feet, 4 inches (5.588 meters) longer than the preceding L-749 Constellation, and could be converted from a passenger airliner to an air freighter configuration in a few hours. The L-1049 was 113 feet, 3.7 inches (34.536 meters) long, with a wingspan of 123 feet, 0 inches (37.490 meters), and overall height of 24 feet, 9.5 inches (7.557 meters). The fuselage had a maximum diameter of 11 feet, 7½ inches ( meters).

The total wing area was 1,650 square feet (153.3 square meters).The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 7° 28.7′, while the trailing edges swept forward 3° 13′. They had 7° 36.6′ dihedral.

The L-1049H had an empty weight of approximately 73,000 pounds (33,122 kilograms. N6921C had an maximum allowable gross weight of 141,845 pounds (64,340 kilograms). When it departed Guam, it carried 25,552 pounds (11,590 kilograms) of 115/145-octane aviation gasoline, and its gross weight was 132,554 pounds (60,125 kilograms).

Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation three-view illustration with dimensions. (Lockheed Aircraft Corporation)

N6921C was powered by four air-cooled, direct-fuel-injected, 3,347.662 cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liters) Wright Aeronautical Division 988TC18EA3 turbocompound engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The turbocompound engine used captured exhaust gases to drive three Power Recovery Turbines. These PRTs were geared to the engine’s crankshaft. This system added approximately 450 horsepower to the engine’s total power output.

The 988RC18EA3 had Normal Power ratings of 2,860 horsepower at 2,650 r.p.m. at Sea Level; 2,920 horsepower at 2,650 r.p.m. at 4,800 feet (1,463 meters); 2,450 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 16,400 feet (4,999 meters). Its Maximum Power ratings were 3,400 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m. to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) for Take Off; and 2,600 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 15,200 feet (4,633 meters). 115/145-octane aviation gasoline was required.

The engines turned three-bladed Hamilton Standard or Curtiss Electric propellers through a 0.4375:1 propeller gear reduction. The reduction gears were strengthened to support 4,000 horsepower. The Wright 988TC18EA3 was 7 feet, 5.53 inches (2.274 meters) long, 4 feet, 8.59 inches (1.473 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,640 pounds, ± 1% (1,651 kilograms).

Factory cutaway Wright Aeronautical Division 988TC18 turbocompound engine. (Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

The L-1049 had a maximum speed for normal operations (VNO) of 260 knots (299 miles per hour/482 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed (VNE) of 293 knots (337 miles per hour/543 kilometers per hour) up to 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). VNO was reduced by 9 knots, and VNE reduced by 11 knots, for each 2,000 foot (610 meters) increase in altitude above 11,000 feet.

The maximum operating altitude for the L-1049 was 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). Its maximum range was 4,140 miles (6,663 kilometers).

N6921C had flown a total 17,224 hours in just under five years. It was properly certified and maintained, and had no known discrepancies. N6911C had 16,038 hours, TTAF.

Flying Tiger Line’s Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6915C, the same aircraft type as N6911C and 6921C. This airplane crashed 24 December 1964 at San Francisco, California.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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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.

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.

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)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23–26 August 1929

Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, 26 August 1929. (M.J. Ford)
Dr. Hugo Eckener (18xx—1954)
Dr. Hugo Eckener (1868—1954)

The rigid airship Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127, under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener, departed Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, 8 August 1929, heading east across the Atlantic Ocean on the first aerial circumnavigation by air. The flight was sponsored by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who had placed several correspondents aboard.

Graf Zeppelin was named after Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin, a German general and count, the founder of the Zeppelin Airship Company. The airship was constructed of a lightweight metal structure covered by a fabric envelope. It was 776 feet (236.6 meters) long. Contained inside were 12 hydrogen-filled buoyancy tanks, fuel tanks, work spaces and crew quarters.

A gondola mounted underneath contained the flight deck, a sitting and dining room and ten passenger cabins. The LZ-127 was manned by a 36 person crew and could carry 24 passengers.

LZ-127was powered by five water-cooled, fuel injected 33.251 liter (2,029.1 cubic inches) Maybach VL-2 60° V-12 engines producing 570 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m., each. Fuel was either gasoline or blau gas, a gaseous fuel similar to propane. The zeppelin’s maximum speed was 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour).

A dining room aboard Graf Zeppelin.
A dining room aboard Graf Zeppelin.

After refueling at the Kasumigaura Naval Air Station, Tokyo, Japan, Graf Zeppelin started east across the Pacific Ocean on 23 August, enroute to Los Angeles, California. This leg crossed 5,998 miles (9,653 kilometers) in 79 hours, 3 minutes. This was the first ever non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean.

LZ 127 arrived at Mines Field (now, LAX) at 1:50 a.m., 26 August 1929. There were an estimated 50,000 spectators.

Airship Graf Zeppelin, D-LZ127, at Los Angeles, 1929. A Goodyear blimp is alongside.
Airship Graf Zeppelin, D-LZ127, at Los Angeles, 1929. A Goodyear blimp is alongside. (M.J. Ford)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 August 1927: The Dole Air Race

The start of the Dole Air Race, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The start of the Dole Air Race at Oakland Field, California, 16 August 1927. In starting position is Oklahoma. Waiting, left to right, are Aloha, Dallas Spirit, Miss Doran, Woolaroc, El Encanto, Golden Eagle, Air King and PABCO Pacific Flyer. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

16 August 1927: Not long after Charles A. Lindbergh had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean, James D. Dole, founder of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (HAPCO, now the Dole Foods Company, Inc., Westlake Village, California) offered a prize of $25,000 to the first pilots to fly from Oakland Field, Oakland, California, to Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, a Great Circle distance of 2,406.05 miles (3,872.16 kilometers). A $10,000 prize was offered for a second-place finisher.

James Drummond Dole, 28 June 1927. (Library of Congress)

There were 33 entrants and 14 of these were selected for starting positions. After accidents and inspections by the race committee, the final list of starters were down to eight.

Accidents began to claim the lives of entrants before the race even began. A Pacific Aircraft Company J-30 (also known as the Tremaine Hummingbird) flown by Lieutenants George Walter Daniel Covell and Richard Stokely Waggener, U.S. Navy, named The Spirit of John Rodgers, took off from North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego, California, on Wednesday, 10 August, en route to Oakland Field. They had drawn starting position 13. 15 minutes later, in heavy fog, they crashed into the cliffs of Point Loma. Both naval officers were killed.

British aviator Arthur Vickers Rogers was killed in his Bryant Monoplane, Angel of Los Angeles, when it crashed just after takeoff from Montebello, California, 11 August.

One airplane, Miss Doran, made an emergency landing in a farm field, and a fourth, Pride of Los Angeles, flown by movie star Hoot Gibson (Edmund Richard Gibson), crashed into San Francisco Bay while on approach to Oakland. The occupants of those two airplanes were unhurt.

Wreckage of the Pacific Aircraft J-30, Spirit of John Rodgers, at Point Loma, 10 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Wreckage of the Pacific Aircraft J-30, The Spirit of John Rodgers, at Point Loma, 10 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) 
Spirit of Los Angeles, an International F-10 triplane, crashed on approach to Oakland. The crew were not hurt. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Hoot Gibson’s Pride of Los Angeles, an International Aircraft Corporation F-10 triplane, crashed on approach to Oakland Field. The crew were not hurt. I.A.C. advertised its products as “Airplanes That Fly Themselves”. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The first airplane to take off from Oakland for the Dole Air Race was Oklahoma, a Travel Air 5000, NX911. The crowd of spectators was estimated to number 50,000–100,000 people. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives.
The first airplane to take off from Oakland for the Dole Air Race was Oklahoma, a Travel Air 5000, NX911. The crowd of spectators was estimated to number 50,000–100,000 people. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

By the morning of 16 August, there were eight entrants remaining. Their starting positions had been selected by a random draw. A little before 11:00 a.m., the first airplane, a Travel Air 5000, registered NX911 and named Oklahoma, took off, but soon aborted the flight because of engine trouble. El Encanto, a Goddard Special, NX5074, crashed on takeoff. A Breese-Wilde Monoplane, PABCO Pacific Flyer, NX646, crashed on takeoff. The crews of these three airplanes were not hurt.

The Goddard Special, NX5074, El Encanto, which had been favored to win the race, crashed on takeoff. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The Goddard Special, NX5074, El Encanto, which had been favored to win the race, crashed on takeoff. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1, Golden Eagle, NX913, takes off from Oakland, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, lifts off from Oakland, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The next airplane to take off was Golden Eagle, the prototype Lockheed Vega. Registered NX913, it was flown by Jack Frost with Gordon Scott as the navigator. It soon disappeared to the west.

The Lockheed was followed by the Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan, NX2915, named Miss Doran. Repairs from its unscheduled landing in the farmer’s field had been accomplished. It was flown by John “Auggy” Pedlar with Lieutenant Vilas Raymond Knope, U.S. Navy, as navigator.

Also aboard was a passenger, Miss Mildred Alice Doran, the airplane’s namesake. She was a 22-year-old fifth-grade school teacher from Flint, Michigan. She knew William Malloska, owner of the Lincoln Petroleum Company (later, CITGO), who had sponsored her education at the University of Michigan. Miss Doran convinced him to enter an airplane in the Dole Air Race and allow her to fly along. Two local air circus pilots reportedly flipped a coin for the chance to fly the airplane in the Dole Air Race. John August (“Auggy”) Pedlar won the toss. Just ten minutes after takeoff from Oakland Field, Miss Doran returned with engine problems.

Next off was Dallas Spirit, a Swallow Special, NX941, with William Portwood Erwin, pilot, and Alvin Hanford Eichwaldt, navigator. It also quickly returned to Oakland.

The Travel Air 5000 NX896, Woolaroc, being prepared for the Trans-Pacifc flight at Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. The airplane has been placed in flight attitude for calibration of its navigation instruments and to be certain the fuel tanks are filled to capacity. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The Travel Air 5000 NX896, Woolaroc, being prepared for the Trans-Pacific flight at Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. The airplane has been placed in flight attitude for calibration of its navigation instruments. The airplane is painted “Travel Air Blue” with orange wings. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The last two entrants, a Breese-Wilde 5 Monoplane, NX914, Aloha, with Martin Jensen, pilot, and Captain Paul Henry Schlüter, a master mariner, as navigator; and Woolaroc, a Travel Air 5000, NX869, took off without difficulty.

Miss Doran made a second attempt and took off successfully. PABCO Pacific Flyer also tried again, crashing a second time.

Miss Moran, Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan NC2915, takes off from Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Miss Doran, a Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan, NX2915, takes off from Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Woolaroc, the Travel Air 500, NX869, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 17 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum archives)
Woolaroc, the Travel Air 5000, NX869, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 17 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Woolaroc, with Arthur Cornelius Goebel as pilot and Lieutenent (j.g.) William Virginius Davis, Jr., U.S. Navy, as navigator, flew across the Pacific and arrived at Honolulu after 26 hours, 17 minutes, to win the race. Aloha arrived after 28 hours, 16 minutes of flight. Lieutenant Davis (later, Vice Admiral Davis) was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Arthur C. Goebel won the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Arthur C. Goebel won the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Golden Eagle and Miss Doran never arrived. A search by more than forty ships of the United States Navy was unsuccessful. Dallas Spirit was repaired and Erwin and Eichwaldt took off to join the search for their competitors. They, too, were never seen again.

Lieutenant (j.g) George D. Covell, U.S. navy, and Lieutenat R.S. Waggener, U.S. Navy, were killed when their airplane crashed in fog, 10 August 1927, while flying to Oakland to join the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lieutenant (j.g) George W. D. Covell, U.S. Navy, and Lieutenant Richard S. Waggener, U.S. Navy, were killed when their airplane crashed in fog, 10 August 1927, while flying to Oakland to join the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Arthur V. Rogers was killed 11 August 1927, shortly after taking off on a test flight for his Dole Air Race entry, pride of Los Angeles, a twin-engine Bryant monoplane, NX705. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
British aviator Arthur Vickers Rogers was killed 11 August 1927, shortly after taking off on a test flight for his Dole Air Race entry, Pride of Los Angeles, a twin-engine Bryant monoplane, NX705. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The crew of Miss Moran, left to right, Auggy Pedlar, Mildred Doran and Lieutenant Vilas R. Knope, U.S. Navy. (Sand Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The crew of Miss Doran, left to right, John August “Auggy” Pedlar, Mildred Alice Doran and Lieutenant Vilas R. Knope, United States Navy. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Miss Mildred Doran. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Miss Mildred Alice Doran: “Life is nothing but a chance.” (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) 
John W. "Jack" Frost and Gordon Scott, crew of Golden Eagle. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
John William “Jack” Frost and Gordon Macalister Scott, crew of Golden Eagle. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Alvin H. Eichwaldt, navigator, and William P. Erwin, pilot, took their repaired Dallas Spirit to join the search for Golden Eagle and Miss Moran. They, too, disappeared over the Pacific ocean, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Alvin Hanford Eichwaldt, navigator, and William Portwood Erwin, pilot, took their repaired Dallas Spirit to join the search for Golden Eagle and Miss Moran. They, too, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Alvin H. Eichwaldt, navigator, and William P. Erwin, pilot, took their repaired Dallas Spirit to join the search for Golden Eagle and Miss Moran. They, too, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Swallow Monoplane NX914, Dallas Spirit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Swallow Special NX914, Dallas Spirit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Woolaroc, the race-winning Travelair 5000, is at the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve, 12 miles southwest of Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

The Travel Air 5000, Woolaroc, NX869, in the collection of the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve. (Tyler Thompson/Wikipedia)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 July 1938, 04:11 GCT

Pan American Martin M-130 Flying boat, NX14714, 9 September 1935. (Glenn L. Martin Co.)
Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130 flying boat, NX14714, Hawaii Clipper, 9 September 1935. (Lockheed Martin)

29 July 1938: At 12:08 p.m., local time, the Pan American Airways System flying boat Hawaii Clipper lifted off from the waters of Apra Harbor on the west side of Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean. The Clipper was on a planned 12½-hour flight to Manila in the Philippine Islands. On board were a crew of nine, with six passengers.

Pan American Airways System brochure, circa 1938. (Smithsonian Institution)

Hawaii Clipper never arrived at its destination. What happened to it and the fifteen persons on board remains one of the enduring mysteries of aviation history.

The flight was designated Trip #229. It had originated at Alameda, on San Francisco Bay, California, and flew to Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands, then on to Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam.

The Pan Am crew consisted of Captain Leo Terletzky, First Officer Mark A. Walker, Second Officer George M. Davis, Third Officer Jose M. Sauceda, Fourth Officer John W. Jewett, Engineer Officer Howard l. Cox, Assistant Engineer Officer T.B. Tatum, and Radio Officer William McGarty. The passengers were attended by Flight Steward Ivan Parker.

Captain Terletzky held a Transport Pilot’s License issued by the Aeronautics Branch of the United States Department of Commerce. He had flown more than 9,200 hours, with 1,614 hours in the Martin M-130.

Captain Terletzky's Transport Pilot License, issued 13 February 1930.
Captain Terletzky’s Transport Pilot’s License, issued 13 February 1930. (The Pan Am Historical Foundation)
Leo Terletzky (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

Captain Terletzky (there are alternate spellings, such as Terletsky, and he was also known as Leo Terlitz) was born 18 January 1894 at Odessa, Imperial Russia (now, Ukraine).

Following the Russian Revolution, he left his native country and traveled to Omsk, Siberia, and then to Yokohama, Japan, where he embarked on S.S. Empress of Japan, on 28 March 1919. The passenger liner arrived at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 6 April. He then traveled on to Seattle, Washington, via the Canadian Pacific Railroad, arriving there on 9 April 1919.

Terletzky became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America, 15 December 1924.

On 1 July 1929, he married Miss Helen Sarepta Bowman ¹ at Miami Beach, Florida.

Canadian Pacific passenger liner S.S. Empress of Japan, passing First Narrows, seen from Brockton Point, looking north. This ship made 315 Pacific crossings. (Major James Skitt Matthews)

The airliner’s six passengers were: Lieutenant Commander Edward E. Wyman, United States Naval Reserve, of Bronxville, New York. Commander Wyman was a former assistant to Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American Airways. He was now employed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. Pan American’s traffic manager, Kenneth A. Kennedy, was also on board.

Two scientists, Colonel Earl E. McKinley, M.D., United States Army Reserve, Dean of Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., a bacteriologist, and Fred C. Meier, Ph.D., were collecting airborne bacteriological samples to research transocean bacterial transfer.

Wah Sun Choy

Major Howard C. French, Air Corps, United States Army (Reserve), the commanding officer of the 321st Observer Squadron based at Vancouver, Washington, was also on board.

Finally, there was Wah Sun Choy (also known as “Watson Choy”), of New Jersey. Mr. Choy, an American citizen born in San Francisco, California, in 1901, was the owner of a tea room in Manhattan, New York City, New York, and two restaurants in Jersey City, New Jersey. One of them was named “China Clipper.”

Mr. Sun Choy was believed to be transporting $3,000,000 in U.S. Gold Certificates for the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party of China, which was headed by Chiang Kai-shek.

A United States $10,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. (Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

Hawaii Clipper was a Martin M-130, NC14714. It was the first of three of the type built for Pan American Airways. With the experimental registration NX14714, it had made its first flight at Middle River, Maryland, 30 December 1934. When Hawaii Clipper departed Alameda, it had flown 4,751:55 hours, TTAF. When it made its last position report, it had flown another 55 hours, 58 minutes.

The first Martin M-130, NC14714, undergoing ground testing at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant at Middle River, Maryland, 30 November 1934. (Lockheed Martin)

The Martin M-130 was a large, four-engine flying boat of all-metal construction, designed to carry as many as 36 passengers on transoceanic flights. The 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 flying boat had a maximum takeoff weight of 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

The M-130 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The S2A5-G had a Normal Power rating of 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 3,600 feet (1,097 meters), and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 87-octane gasoline. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S2A5-G was 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.442 meters) long, 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).

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

A pair of Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Hawaii Aviation)
A pair of Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Hawaii Aviation)

Hawaii Clipper departed its mooring at Apra Harbor at 11:39 a.m., local time (3:39 a.m., Manila time) and lifted off 29 minutes later. In addition to its six passengers, the airliner was carrying 1,138 pounds (516 kilograms) of cargo. The duration of the flight was estimated as 12 hours, 30 minutes. The M-130 carried sufficient fuel for 17 hours, 30 minutes of flight. Its gross weight was 49,894 pounds (22,632 kilograms) at takeoff, well under its maximum takeoff weight.

At 04:11 Greenwich Civil Time (12:11 p.m., local time), Radio Officer McGarty sent Hawaii Clipper‘s coded 04:00 Ded Reckoning ² position report. The deciphered message read:

Flying in rough air at 9,100 feet. Temperature 13 ˚C., wind 19 knots from 247˚ Position N. 12˚27, E 130˚40, ground speed made good, 112 knots, desired track 282˚. Rain. During past hour conditions varied. 10/10ths sky above covered by strato cumulus clouds, base 9,200 feet. Clouds below 10/10ths sky covered by cumulus clouds whose tops were 9,200 feet. 5/10ths of the hour on instruments. Last DF bearing from Manila 101˚

Great Circle line between Apra Harbor, Guam, and Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands: 1,592 miles (2,562 kilometers). (Google Maps)

This placed the Clipper approximately 582 nautical miles (670 kilometers) east-southeast of Manila. The transmission was acknowledged. When the land-based radio operator tried to make contact one minute later to provide updated weather information, he received no reply. There were no further radio transmissions from Hawaii Clipper.

When Hawaii Clipper did not arrive at Manila, a large ocean search was begun. On 30 July, the Unites States Army transport ship USAT Meigs discovered an oil slick approximately 28 nautical miles (52 kilometers) south-southeast of the flying boat’s last reported position. The slick was described as being approximately 1,500 feet (457 meters) in circumference.

No physical evidence of the Martin M-130 has ever been found. What happened to cause its disappearance is unknown. While it is assumed that the airplane went down at sea, that might not have been the case. A telephone company employee on Lahuy Island (a small island off the coast of Luzon, east-southeast of Manila) reported having heard a large airplane above the clouds at 3 p.m., Manila Time. In 1938, the number of large airplanes operating in the Philippine Islands must have been fairly limited.

As with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan the previous year, there was no shortage of “conspiracy theories.” An example is that agents of the Empire of Japan had stowed away aboard Hawaii Clipper, hijacked the airplane and it was flown to Ulithi, an atoll in the Caroline Islands, and then on to Truk. The story goes on that the passengers and crew were murdered and their bodies buried under the foundation of a hospital then under construction.

Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Large Flying Boat.

Another story is that the Clipper was intercepted by a Japanese flying boat, such as the Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Large Flying Boat, which forced it to fly to an unknown destination, similar to the story above.

Only six months earlier, another Pan American flying boat, Samoan Clipper, a Sikorsky S-42B, NC16734, disappeared about two hours out of Pago Pago in the Samoan Islands. The airliner is believed to have exploded in midair. In that case, an oil slick and wreckage were found.

Recommended: Guy Noffsinger’s “The Lost Clipper,” at https://lostclipper.com

¹ Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Captain Terletzky’s widow, Mrs. Sarepta B. Terletzky, (née Helen Sarepta Bowman), a graduate of Smith College, joined the United States Navy. She was commissioned as a Lieutenant, W-VS, United States Naval Reserve, 4 August 1942. On 1 December 1945, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander, and to commander, 1 January 1950. Mrs. Terletzky had been born at New York City, New York, 28 September 1895. She died at Miami, Florida, 4 August 1970.

² Ded Reckoning (Deductive Reckoning), often erroneously referred to as “dead reckoning,” is a method of navigation which uses a previously known position, time of flight, estimated speed and course of the aircraft based on forecast weather conditions, etc., to estimate the current geographical position. It is the standard method of navigation in the absence of radio aids or satellite position.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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