The 314 Clipper – Boeing’s Double Decker Flying Boat

Next month will mark 82 years since the Boeing 314 Clipper took to the skies. On June 7th, 1938, test pilot Eddie Allen took off from Seattle to fly for 38 minutes. By the time the 1940s were in full swing, the double-decker flying boat would be an international powerhouse and prove to be one of the most luxurious forms of air travel for its era.

314 Clipper Aircraft
The 314 Clipper was one of many ambitious aircraft types produced by Boeing in the 20th century. Photo: Getty Images

Revolutionary model

Produced between 1938 and 1941, the Boeing 314 flying boat achieved more global success than any other plane at the time. It performed flights from the United States to the likes of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Philippines, Guam, Australia, and New Zealand.

Altogether, 12 of the flying boats were manufactured at the Boeing factory in Seattle. Nine of these entered service with Pan American World Airways.

The historic airline dubbed them Clippers, after the mid-19th-century multi-mast sailing ships, which were famed for their speed. Pan Am performed its first flight with the aircraft with a passenger and mail service on March 29th, 1939. These flights departed San Francisco for Hong Kong.

314 Clipper
The 314 was affectionally called the Yankee Clipper by Pan Am. Photo: Getty Images

A luxurious offering

The 314 had come to symbolize a period when air travel was a grand adventure. Boeing highlights that passengers on the plane were treated as if they were in a five-star hotel. It could host 10 crew members and 74 passengers, which was a revolutionary feat. However, most overnight flights carried no more than 30 passengers.

There was even a separate honeymoon suite onboard. This section was known as the “Deluxe Compartment,” with fully set dining room tables, a bar, a full-service galley, passenger compartments with plush chairs, sleeping berths, and other amenities. Moreover, the aircraft’s seats could convert into 40 bunk beds.

Versatile unit

As the US entered the realm of World War II, the plane was drafted into service to transport military equipment and personnel. Not many of its counterparts could meet the requirements of the conflict.

It also became the first of in series of presidential airplanes that were produced by Boeing. Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated this trend when he flew the Clipper to discuss war strategy with Winston Churchill at the Casablanca conference in 1943. On his return, the former president celebrated his birthday in the 314’s dining room.

Boeing 314 Clipper
The 314 Clipper played an important part in society. Photo: Boeing

The Clipper had a wingspan of 152 feet and a length of 106 feet. Additionally, it had a gross weight of 84,000 lbs. The flying boat could reach destinations within a range of 5,200 miles with a cruising speed of 184 mph and top speed of 199 mph. These attributes were powered by its four 1,500-horsepower Wright GR-2600 Double Cyclone engines.

End of an era

After the war ended, it didn’t take long for the plane to be phased out. According to History Link, Pan Am performed its last Clipper operation in 1946. This move also brought an end to the golden age of flying boats, which had begun less than 20 years earlier. Airlines started to prefer modern units such as the Douglas DC-4 and Lockheed Constellation planes, which took off from land.

Ultimately, the 314 Clipper signifies a prominent period for aviation. Air travel was not as regular as it came to be during the latter half of the 20th century, and aircraft such as this were praised for their groundbreaking achievements.

What are your thoughts about the 314 Clipper? Are there any other historic Boeing planes that you feel left a legacy? Let us know what you think in the comment section.