The Boeing 314 Clipper is the quintessential flying boat. It’s what most people think of recalling the era when Foynes flourished as the hub of aviation activity between North America and Europe.
One of the largest aircraft of the time, 12 were built for Pan American World Airways, three of which were sold to BOAC in 1941 before delivery. Since the start of the survey flights in 1937, Pan Am’s Clippers completed a total of 2,097 Atlantic crossings.
The Yankee Clipper
Pan Am’s Boeing B314 NC18603, the Yankee Clipper, was the first B314 allocated to the Atlantic division. It was christened by Eleanor Roosevelt on 3 March 1939. Its first visit to Foynes was on the 11 April 1939 under the command of Captain Harold Gray.
B314 Service and Comfort
The level of service on the Boeing 314 was of a very high standard. There was a 14-seat dining room with linen tablecloths, crystal glasses, and full waiter service. About 300 pounds of food would be loaded up for a transatlantic flight, with all the food prepared by two stewards.
The high level of comfort was important, as some of the westbound flights from Foynes to Botwood lasted as long as 17 hours. Passengers would find their shoes cleaned and polished overnight, and each passenger had a bed to sleep in during the flight.
The Flight Deck
The Boeing 314 Clipper’s flight deck design was groundbreaking, taking new steps to address the serious problem of crew fatigue on nonstop ocean flights. Every B314 flight had at least 11 crew members, but more often than not, they also had crew training on board.
A cross-section of the interior of the B314 shows the anchor and gear room at the bow of the plane, which also held a mooring post. From this room, a gangway leads up to the bridge, which is entirely lined in black to eliminate glare. Here, two pilots handled the controls that operated the plane. At the back of the bridge was the navigation and radio room, the directive brain of the ship. Behind that was the cargo hold, which usually contained mail.
The Passenger Areas
Below the flight deck were the galley and dining lounge, and seven passenger compartments were stretched along the length of the flying boat. The one in the ship’s tail was a deluxe compartment corresponding roughly to a ship’s bridal suite.
The Top and Bottom of the B314
At the bottom of the plane, pumps forced gasoline stored in sponsons up to the wing tanks and engines. The top of the plane featured the celestial observation turret, from which the flying boat’s position was checked against the sun, moon, and stars.
A Busy Day for Foynes
Saturday, 18 August 1945 was a record day for Pan American World Airways operations in Foynes. Two clippers—the Atlantic and the Dixie—arrived from New York in the morning and returned that night. That day, 101 transatlantic passengers were handled at the airport. It was the record for a day’s operation by one airline. Traveling were nationals from Great Britain, Argentina, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, and the USA.
The Fate of the Boeing 314s
Sadly, no B314 Clippers exist today. Below is the catalog showing the fate of the Yankee Clipper and all other B314 flying boats operated by Pan Am and BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation).