Samoan Clipper

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Samoan Clipper
The Sikorsky S-42 was capable of landing on water, making it possible to extend commercial air flight to locations without runways.
Accident summary
Date January 11, 1938
Summary In-flight explosion
Site Pago Pago, American Samoa
Passengers 0
Crew 7
Fatalities 7 (all)
Aircraft type Sikorsky S-42B
Aircraft name Samoan Clipper
(formerly Pan American Clipper II)
Operator Pan Am
Registration NC16734
Flight origin Honolulu, Hawaii
1st stopover Kingman Reef
2nd stopover Pago Pago, American Samoa
Destination Auckland, New Zealand

Samoan Clipper was one of ten Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42 flying boats. It exploded over Pago Pago, American Samoa, on January 11, 1938, while piloted by famous aviator, Ed Musick. Musick and his crew of six died in the crash.

The aircraft developed an engine problem (caused by an oil leak)[1] shortly after taking off from Pago Pago Harbor. The S-42 was fully loaded with fuel and exceeding the gross weight maximum for a safe landing. Because of this, Captain Musick elected to dump fuel before attempting an emergency landing. However, because of the seaplane's weight and reduced power, the S-42 circled the harbor with flaps extended to maintain lift while fuel dumping was in progress. Apparently, Sikorsky and Pan American had never tested fuel dumping with flaps fully extended. The position of the fuel dump vents on the wing, coupled with the consequent airflow with extended flaps created a back flow of vaporizing fuel which lingered and grew around the trailing edge of the wing.

It is believed that an explosive fuel/air mixture eventually extended to the engine exhaust manifold causing a catastrophic detonation that destroyed the plane in flight.


  1. ^ Accident description for NC16734 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 6 October 2013.

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