Aircraft of the Month: Boeing 314 Clipper

Boeing 314 Clipper

The Boeing 314 Clipper was a long range seaplane. It was a large plane for its time, and one of the largest aircraft ever built. The Boeing 314 was an engineering marvel due to the ability to land in water and superior range. It was originally built for nonstop passenger flights over the ocean.

Concept & Development of the Boeing 314 Clipper

Pan American Airlines was in need of long range flying boat to meet passenger demand for trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights. Boeing responded to the challenge by developing the 314. Pan American ordered six aircraft, with an option for an six additional aircraft. The company used the XB-15 bomber prototype for design inspiration. The gigantic wing was adapted for the commercial aircraft and the engines were upgraded to the Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone to provide additional power.

Boeing 314 “Clipper” Specs

Length: 106 feet

Height: 28 feet

Wingspan: 152 feet

Weight: 50,268 pounds

Maximum takeoff weight: 84,000 pounds

Cruise speed: 184 mph

Maximum speed: 199 mph

Range: 3,500 miles

The Boeing 314 began flight testing on 7 June 1938. The test pilot found that the tail did not provide enough directional control. Modifications were made to address the issue. The aircraft featured sponsons, wide lateral extensions at the waterline on each side of the hull. The sponsons were shaped to create additional life for the aircraft and created stability during floating. Twelve total Boeing 314 aircraft were produced. Nine aircraft were in service with Pan American and three were sold to British Airways Corporation.

Luxury for Long Range Travel

The Boeing 314 Clipper is often compared to the Concorde due to the extravagant amenities offered. While the passenger seats totaled 74, an easy conversion allowed for the seats to transform into 40 overnight bunks. Each bunk had a curtain for privacy from other passengers. Meals were taken at actual tables and gusts were served cuisine from 4 star hotels. The ladies rest area included a vanity for fixing hair or applying makeup.

WWII Service

When WWII began, the aircraft were drafted into service. They were highly sought for the ability to travel at long range and cargo capacity. The Pan American flight crew stayed on during wartime to use their expertise for the transport flights. The Boeing 314 Clipper was considered a tough aircraft because it could sustain many rounds of gunfire. The Honolulu Clipper only sank after being shot with 1,300 rounds of 20mm cannon fire. The Dixie Clipper was used to transport Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Casablanca conference in 1943.

Boeing 314 Clipper Today

None of the twelve Boeing 314 aircraft survive intact today. The majority of aircraft were ultimately scrapped. An effort was made in 2011 to recover the Honolulu Clipper from the South Pacific, but no progress has yet been made. The Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Ireland is the only place to see a Boeing 314 Clipper replica.