A Flying Experience of the Past

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How glorious it was to fly in the late 1930s


If You Thought Air Travel Was Luxurious In The 1970s, Check Out What It Was Like Aboard The

1938-40’s WW2-Era Boeing Clipper.

The Boeing Company.

Clipper passengers took their meals at real tables, not their seats. For most travelers in the 21st

century, flying is a dreary experience, full of inconvenience, indignity, and discomfort. That wasn’t

the case in the late 1930s, when those with the money to afford Trans-oceanic flight got to take

the Boeing Model 314, better known as the Clipper.  Even Franklin Roosevelt used the plane, celebrating

his 61st birthday on board.

Between 1938 and 1941, Boeing built 12 of the jumbo planes for Pan American World Airways. The

314 offered a range of 3,500 miles — enough to cross either the Atlantic or Pacific —and room for 74

passengers on board.

Of course, modern aviation offers an amazing first class experience (and it ' s a whole lot safer), but

nothing in the air today matches the romanticism of crossing the ocean in the famed Clipper. Thanks

to the Pan Am Historical Foundation for sharing its photos. The foundation is currently working on a

documentary about Pan American World Airways and the adventure of the flying boat age. Find out

more here. 

The Model 314’s nickname Clipper came from an especially fast type of sailing ship, used in the

19th century.

Pan Am Historical Foundation

The ship analogy was appropriate, as the Clipper landed on the water, not runways.

The Boeing Company. 

Here's a diagram of the different areas of the plane.

The Boeing Company [Source: Boeing] 

On Pan Am flights, passengers had access to dressing rooms and a dining salon that could be

converted into a lounge or bridal suite.

The Boeing Company. 

The galley served up meals catered from four-star hotels. If you want to sit at a table to eat

with other people these days, you have to fly in a private jet.

The Boeing Company.

There was room for a crew of 10 to serve as many as 74 passengers.

The Boeing Company.

On overnight flights, the 74 seats could be turned into 40 bunks for comfortable sleeping. 

The Boeing Company.

The bunk beds came with curtains for privacy.

Pan Am Historical Foundation.

On the 24-hour flights across the Atlantic, crew members could conk out on these less

luxurious cots.

Unlike some modern jets that come with joysticks, the Clipper had controls that resembled

car steering wheels.


Navigating across the ocean used to require more manpower in the air.

Pan Am Historical Foundation.

The lavatory wasn't too fancy, but it did have a urinal — something you never see in today’s

commercial jets, where space is at a premium.

Pan Am Historical Foundation.

The ladies lounge had stools where female passengers could sit and do their makeup.

Pan Am Historical Foundation

The Clipper made its maiden Trans-Atlantic voyage on June 28, 1939.

The Boeing Company.

But once the US entered World War II, the Clipper was pressed into service to transport

materials and personnel. In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt celebrated his 61st birthday

on board. 

Pan Am Historical Foundation Source: Boeing.