75th Anniversary of Ocean Air Transport
Remembering the China Clipper in the Era of the Flying Boats
San Francisco’s role as the aerial gateway to the Pacific began in the mid-1930s with a sequence of incremental firsts in opening scheduled airline service to Asia and mid-ocean destinations along the way.
It was Pan American Airways, operating out of Alameda on San Francisco Bay, that pioneered long-haul ocean air transport with breakthrough survey flights in the spring of 1935. By November of that year, having overcome the commercially un-flyable distance from California to Hawai‘i, the company began scheduled airmail service to Manila via Honolulu, Midway, and Wake. Passenger service along the same route was introduced in 1936. Then, 75 years ago, with the Manila to Macao and Hong Kong service added in April of 1937, true intercontinental flights from the United States to China became a reality. For the first time a ticketed passenger could now fly completely around the world, using the German airship service to cross the Atlantic. The age of global air travel had arrived. In 1939, it would again be Pan American that opened the first trans-Atlantic commercial airplane service in their now-famous fleet of flying clipper ships.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of this historic achievement, SFO Museum is presenting a series of special programs retelling the excitement and wonder of this undertaking when commercial aviation came of age. Exhibition highlights, educational programming, and podcast can be found at the following links:
Podcast Part One (50mb please allow a few minutes to download)
Podcast Part Two (119mb please allow a few minutes to download)
China Clipper Exhibition
Current Education Program: China Clipper