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Flying Across the Pacific

The China Clipper Today marks 71 years since the first commercial transpacific flight. Pan American’s China Clipper, a Martin M-130, departed from San Francisco Nov. 22, 1935 heading for the Philippines. It arrived at Manila on Nov. 29 after overnight stops at Hawaii and Pan Am “Skyways Hotels” at Midway, Wake, and Guam.
The actual time spent in flight was 59 hours, 47 minutes. Now the same trip can be done in one or two legs in about 12-15 hours. The China Clipper averaged 143.3 mph compared to the 650 mph cruising speed of a Boeing 747. But it was a huge leap forward from the ocean liners that would take more than 20 days to cover the same distance. Of course, airfare was exorbitantly expensive, far higher than what even the most brilliant World Almanac editors could afford. When regular passenger service began Oct. 21, 1936, a roundtrip ticket to Manila cost $1,438.20 or about $21,000 by today’s prices.

Check out a brochure for the China Clipper, some photos, and other memorabilia from the original journeys at David Faige’s amazing on-line collection.
-Andrew Steinitz


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