Pan Am Flight 1104

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Pan Am Flight 1104 [1]
Martin model 130 China Clipper class passenger-carrying flying.jpg
Martin M-130, similar to the one lost in the crash.
Accident summary
Date January 21, 1943
Summary Pilot error
Site Mendocino County, 7 miles (11 km) SW of Ukiah, California
39°04′0″N 123°17′0″W / 39.06667°N 123.28333°W / 39.06667; -123.28333Coordinates: 39°04′0″N 123°17′0″W / 39.06667°N 123.28333°W / 39.06667; -123.28333 [2]
Passengers 10
Crew 9
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 19
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Martin M-130
Aircraft name Philippine Clipper
Operator Pan American World Airways [1]
Registration NC-14715
Flight origin Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii
Destination San Francisco, California

Pan Am Flight 1104, trip no. 62100,[2] was a Martin M-130 flying boat nicknamed the Philippine Clipper that crashed on the morning of January 21, 1943, in Northern California. The aircraft was operated by Pan American World Airways and was carrying ten US Navy personnel from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to San Francisco, California. The aircraft crashed in poor weather into mountainous terrain about 7 mi (11 km) southwest of Ukiah, California.[2]


The Philippine Clipper was one of three M-130 flying boats designed for Pan Am by the Glenn L. Martin Company. It was built as a trans-Pacific airliner and sold for $417,000.[3] At the time, the M-130 was the largest aircraft built in the United States.[4] The Philippine Clipper entered service with Pan American in 1936,[5] and inaugurated passenger service between the United States and Manila in October 1936.[6]

During World War II, the Philippine Clipper and sister ship China Clipper were pressed into service for the Navy, though they remained crewed by Pan American personnel.[6][7] At the time of the crash, the aircraft had logged 14,628 hours of flight time, had flown the Pacific Ocean for eight years, and had survived strafing by Japanese aircraft on Wake Island on December 8, 1941.[8]


The wind was blowing so hard it blew over trees ... The plane was flying very low. It had its lights on and came right over my house and disappeared in the storm to the north.

Mrs. Charles Wallach, Civil Defense aircraft spotter[9]

Flight 1104 departed from Pearl Harbor on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands at 5:30 pm on January 20, 1943.[4][8] The nine-man Pan Am crew consisted of four pilots, three engineers, two radio operators, and a steward. The flight was captained by Robert M. Elzey.[8] By mid-January 1943, Captain Elzey had accumulated about 4,941 flying hours, of which 3,359 were while in the employ of Pan American.[2]

Memorial plaque located at the Hiller Aviation Museum

The 10 passengers on board were all U.S. naval officers. Among them was Rear Admiral Robert H. English, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Submarine Fleet, the submarine component of the United States Pacific Fleet. Rear Admiral English planned to visit submarine support facilities at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard bordering San Pablo Bay, and was accompanied by three of his senior staff officers. Another passenger was Lieutenant Edna Morrow, a Navy nurse diagnosed with terminal cancer who was on her way home to die.[9] Also on board was Captain Robert Holmes Smith, formerly in command of the USS Sperry (AS-12) submarine tender, and recently promoted to Commander of Squadron 2, Pacific Submarine Fleet.

Until the crash, the flight was routine, as evidenced by radio transmissions during the night. A strong tailwind put the flight three and a half hours ahead of schedule.[4]

On the morning of January 21, 1943, the aircraft ran into poor weather as it flew north over California towards San Francisco. Heavy rain, strong winds, thick cloud cover, and fog forced the captain to descend to a lower altitude.[4] At 7:30 am, the far off-course aircraft crashed into a mountain at about 2,500 ft (760 m), descending at an angle of 10°, whereupon it clipped a number of trees before crashing, breaking up, and burning.[1] Over a week passed before the wreckage was located, and after it was found, the area was cordoned off by soldiers to protect any surviving classified military documents that may have been carried aboard.[9]

The Civil Aeronautics Board investigated the crash and decided the probable cause was pilot error.


The Hiller Aviation Museum, in San Carlos, California, is situated very near the flight's destination, San Francisco Bay. A memorial plaque to the aircraft sits outside the entrance to the museum. The memorial plaque includes a brief history of the aircraft, as well as a list of casualties.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Accident description for Pan Am Flight 1104 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2009-05-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e "CAB report for January 21, 1943 incident involving NC14715, Docket No. AC-4, File No. 1413-43." (PDF). Civil Aeronautics Board. Adopted June 4, 1943.  Check date values in: |date= (help) (a text version is also available)
  3. ^ "Chasing the Sun". n.d. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  4. ^ a b c d Don R. Jordan (2006). "The Philippine Clipper". Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  5. ^ "Pan American Philippine Clipper Flight Orders for June 1, 1939". The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  6. ^ a b "The Golden Age of Aviation". n.d. Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  7. ^ "Flying Clippers at War". n.d. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  8. ^ a b c d Pan American Philippine Clipper Memorial Plaque, Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos California. Photo.
  9. ^ a b c Blair, Clay (March 2001). Silent victory: the U.S. submarine war against Japan. Naval Institute Press. pp. 365–366. ISBN 1-55750-217-X.  (Google books online preview)

External links[edit]