April 23rd, 1935: 80+ Years Ago
Ed Musick and the crew of the Sikorsky S-42 flying boat Pan American Clipper returned to Alameda from their first survey trip to Honolulu.
The trip was the first of several survey flights meant to pave the way for regular air service later that year. Each trip would open the way to the next base on the route, before returning eastward again to Alameda.
This very first trip garnered a great deal of public attention, and it was meant to show the world just how normal flying the oceans could be. The overnight flight to Honolulu on April 16th went without a hitch, but the return flight was something else again. The Pan American Clipper had all of its passenger amenities stripped out, and in their place went extra fuel tanks with all the attendant plumbing to extend the normal range of the 17 ton flying boat so that it could safely fly the 2,410 miles from San Francisco Bay to Honolulu.
On that return trip, the plane encountered headwinds, and the flight lasted nearly four hours longer than the flight over. The four Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines were close to sucking the fuel tanks dry when the plane finally touched down outside the man-made harbor at Alameda. The crowd, dignitaries, families of the crew, and waiting newsmen were all on edge waiting for the overdue flight.
What you can hear in this brief interview with Ed Musick, conducted at dockside within minutes of the planes arrival, is his brushing off the veiled skepticism of the newsman, who wonders if the return trip was farther than the trip over, given the somewhat longer time it took. Musick, as good in his laconic way at dealing with the press as he was in handling aircraft he flew, finishes the brief exchange by letting everyone know that the trip was a complete success and it wouldn’t be long till regular air service to the Orient would be an established fact.
You can also ink to video of the Pan American Clipper at InternetArchive. This footage was likely shot by photographer Clyde Sunderland during preparations for Pan American Airways' first transpacific survey flight in April 1935 to Honolulu. The Sikorsky S-42, named Pan American Clipper, was piloted by Captain Edwin Musick and a crew of five others. They were about to open the aerial route across the Pacific to Manila, opening each of five segments on successive flights: Hawaii, Midway, Wake, Guam and Manila.