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Pan-Am Clipper inaugural flight to Auckland

I can clearly remember my father taking us over to Mechanics Bay to view the Clipper when it

arrived. Pan American Airways had established the passenger terminal to service their Sikorsky

Flying boat service, but the crash of the Samoan Clipper resulted in Pan Am going to Boeing for

a replacement flying boat, and the B314 was the result. Passengers boarded over the sponson,

and I can remember walking over it to the entrance door, where Captain Tilson welcomed us

on board, and proceeded to show us (my Mum, Dad and myself) over the aircraft.

I remember the flight deck and the galley, and the smart uniforms the crew were wearing with white-topped peak caps.

The Imperial Airways flying boat Canopus was also in the Bay on a proving flight from Britain, prior to the establishment of TEAL.


The 41½ ton Californian Clipper swooping down to land yesterday afternoon on the Waitemata Harbour after flying the 1117 miles from Noumea in 6 hours 22 minutes. This was the final stage of the 7952-mile flight from San Francisco, accomplished in about 50 hours' flying time. Dwarfed at the right is a Tasman Airways control launch.

(NZ Herald Thursday August 31, 1939)

From the date on the newspaper clipping, I must have been only two and a half at the time, but I am certain that my interest in flying boats, and all aviation in general was started from this visit!

The Clipper riding at her moorings alongside the pontoon at Pan American Airways' base in Mechanics Bay.

Fast forward to 1952, and I and my classmate Brian Perry took a day off college and went to Mechanics Bay to apply for an Apprenticeship with TEAL, and were selected and started a 10,000 hour Apprenticeship In January 1953. I was only 15 years old when I started! Upon completion of my time I was asked to help out in the Drawing Office and became a permanent member of the Draughting Profession, while also a qualified Aircraft Engineer. I stayed in the Drawing Office (which later became the Technical Services Section) for the rest of my career with Air New Zealand (38 years).

The Clipper Don remembers was Registration NC18602 named "Californian Clipper". It was built in 1939 as the second of nine to go into service with Pan-American, and was leased by the Navy in 1942 until after the war. In 1946 the seven remaining B314's were sold to World Airways and NC18602 was the last of the fleet to be retired, being scrapped in 1950.

More information on the design and history of the Boeing B-314 can be found on this website.


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