China Clipper Life ring frame


From an interview with Bill Taylor
Sept 10, 1993

In December, 1935, the China Clipper was making her way eastward, flying home across the Pacific on her first transpacific journey. Young engineer Bill Taylor, who had been working with the team setting up the island bases, was now on Guam, and was tasked with supervising the night landing of the home-bound clipper. He related his story in an interview in September 1993, excerpted here.

“We got word that the China Clipper had left Manila, and as the progress reports came in by radio, we knew that it was going to be later than planned. It was going to be a night landing.  So we towed the landing light floats out into the harbor, lined them up into the wind.  I went out with one of them to be there when the airplane came in.  We waited and after about half an hour we were out there when it finally came in, it came in low over the Orote Peninsula, and landed perfectly right in along side these floats. Everything was fine until he started taxiing over to the float.  He had to turn and taxi across wind. The wind was so strong that the airplane had difficulty in taxiing without dipping one of his wings.  But he worked with it, and I was alongside with the launch to help him get the bow line to get up to the float and he finally made it and everything was okay.    It was the first time I had ever done anything like this, and being a new boy on the street, I was a little concerned that I could do everything just as it should be done.  But it worked out alright. They had not had a night landing on this run before -- they'd all been daylight landings, because flying westbound they were flying with the sun, but coming back it's a different story, so they had night landings to contend with.  And this was the first night landing they'd had on the trip.  But it worked out alright.


Light float for Pan Am flying boat night landings

 Floating landing path light for nighttime flying boat operations


The airplane was there of course over night, and I was all excited, because I knew I was going back on it.  So I had everything all prepared.

We had an early takeoff next morning, before dawn, and just getting in the airplane being on the China Clipper, was just the most fantastic event from my standpoint, because it was only the second time I'd ever been on an airplane, and to be on the China Clipper in the Pacific Ocean was just really exciting event!


 Bill Taylor with China Clipper on Guam

Bill Taylor and Clipper in Guam, 1936


And then to meet Captain Musick, really have a chance to talk with him on the flight was great. And to talk to Fred Noonan . . that time he was doing a great job, and I watched him doing his navigation, and he was an expert at that, and we hit Wake right on the nose.  It made me very happy to know that the Adcock direction finder was working properly which I had laid out before leaving there.  And of course, arriving at Wake and meeting John Borger who was going back with me to Honolulu was really a great event. So it was really something I was looking forward to and really enjoyed very much.


1China Clipper Leaves Manila

2China Clipper Second Leg of Return Trip

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