Pacific Clipper

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Not to be confused with Clipper Pacific.
Pacific Clipper
Boeing 314 California Clipper at Cavite c1940.jpg
The Boeing 314 California Clipper off the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines, 1939-1941.
Other name(s) California Clipper
Type Boeing 314
Registration NC18602
Owners and operators Pan American World Airways
Fate Retired

The Pacific Clipper (civil registration NC18602) was a Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat famous for having completed Pan American World Airways' first around the world flight. The flight of the then-named California Clipper began December 2, 1941 at the Pan Am base on Treasure Island, California for its scheduled passenger service to Auckland, New Zealand.[1][2] Renamed the Pacific Clipper, it landed at Pan American's LaGuardia Field seaplane base at 7:12 on the morning of January 6, 1942.

NC18602 made scheduled stops in San Pedro, California, Honolulu, Hawaii, Canton Island, Suva, Fiji and Nouméa, New Caledonia en route to Auckland when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Cut off from the United States due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and commanding a valuable military asset, Captain Robert Ford was directed to strip company markings, registration and insignia from the Clipper and proceed in secret to the Marine Terminal, LaGuardia Field, New York.

Ford and his crew successfully flew over 31,500 miles to home via

At Surabaya, Captain Ford had to refuel with automobile grade gasoline. "We took off from Surabaya on the 100 octane, climbed a couple of thousand feet, and pulled back the power to cool off the engines," said Ford. "Then we switched to the automobile gas and held our breaths. The engines almost jumped out of their mounts, but they ran. We figured it was either that or leave the airplane to the Japs."

On the way to Trincomalee, they were confronted by a Japanese submarine, and Ford had to jam the throttles forward to climb out of range of the submarine's guns. On Christmas Eve, when they took off, black oil began gushing out of the number 3 engine and pouring back over the wing. Ford shut down the engine and returned to Trincomalee. He discovered one of the engine's cylinders had failed.

When Captain Ford was planning his flight from Bahrain, he was warned by the British authorities not to fly across Arabia. Ford said, "The Saudis had apparently already caught some British flyers who had been forced down there. The natives had dug a hole, buried them in it up to their necks, and just left them." Ford flew right over Mecca because the Saudis did not have anti-aircraft guns.

A Pan American airport manager and a radio officer had been dispatched to meet the Clipper at Leopoldville. When Ford landed they handed him a cold beer. Ford said, "That was one of the high points of the whole trip." After NC18602 had completed its harrowing flight to safety, Pan Am renamed the aircraft the Pacific Clipper. The name change was mainly for publicity purposes, arising from the first newspaper articles having wrongly identified the aircraft. NC18602 remained the Pacific Clipper from 1942 throughout the remainder of its career. Purchased by the US Navy in 1946, it was subsequently sold to Universal Airlines but was damaged in a storm and ultimately salvaged for parts.[3]


  1. ^ Dover, Ed. The Long Way Home. McLean, Virginia: Paladwr Press, 1999. ISBN 1-888962-00-3.
  2. ^ Cohen, Stan. Wings to the Orient, Pan-Am Clipper Planes 1935-1945. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories, 1985. ISBN 0-933126-61-1.
  3. ^ Klaás 1991, p. 19.
  • Bowers, Peter M. "The Great Clippers, Part I." Airpower, Volume 7, No. 6, November 1977.
  • Bowers, Peter M. "The Great Clippers, Part II." Wings, Volume 7, No. 6, December 1977.
  • Bridgeman, Leonard. “The Boeing 314-A Clipper.” Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Brock, Horace. Flying the Oceans: A Pilot's Story of Pan Am, 1935-1955. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc., 3d edition: 1978, ISBN 0-87668-632-3.
  • Dover, Ed. The Long Way Home - Revised Edition. Self-published through Amazon print-on-demand service, 2008. ISBN 978-0-615-21472-6.
  • Klaás, M.D. "Clipper Across the Pacific, Part One." Air Classics, Volume 25, No. 12, December 1989.
  • Klaás, M.D. "Clipper Across the Pacific, Part Two." Air Classics, Volume 26, No. 1, January 1990.
  • Klaás, M.D. "Clipper Flight 9035." Air Classics, Volume 29, No. 2, February 1993.
  • Klaás, M.D. "The Incredible Clippers." Air Classics, Volume 5, No. 5, June 1969.
  • Klaás, M.D. "When the Clippers Went to War" Air Classics, Volume 27, No. 4, April 1991.

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