Your weekend: China Clipper commemorated
By Heather Lyn Wood
This month, the Alameda Naval Air Museum will commemorate the inaugural flight of Pan American Airways’ China Clipper, the world’s first aircraft to complete a Trans-Pacific flight. The anniversary celebration will feature a live re-enactment of the 1935 event complete with vintage vehicles, entertainment by military planes, and a recreation of the original radio broadcast. The Museum will also unveil a new China Clipper Exhibit, featuring photographs, maps and stories from that period in Alameda’s history.
The celebrated flight took off from Pan-American’s headquarters in Alameda in November of 1935, cheered by more than 25,000 onlookers. Captain Edwin Musick, chief pilot for the airline, piloted the plane. William Hosken, whose family owned a meat delivery business in Alameda, was 13 years old that day.
“The crew stayed at Mrs. Carver’s boarding house, and I regularly delivered meat there on my bike. We rode to the end of Alameda on our bikes to watch the take-off. I don’t remember security being tight, and young boys on bikes weren’t hassled,” he recalled.
The site where Hosken and his friends gathered to watch aviation history is now listed as California State Historic Landmark 968 and is marked by a simple plaque.
Musick flew the Martin Company M-130 “Flying Boat” to the Philippines after stopping in Honolulu, Midway Atoll, Wake Island, and Guam. The historic 8,200-mile trip lasted 59 hours and received national press coverage. Later, the Clipper performed commercial service for Pan American, flying its first group of nine passengers from San Francisco to Manila in 1936. A round-trip ticket for the trip cost $1,438.20 – a value of more than $22,500 in today’s dollars.
The Martin Company (which later merged with The Lockheed Corporation to form Lockheed Martin) built just three Model M-130’s: the China Clipper, Hawaii Clipper, and Philippine Clipper. Pan-American purchased all three, of which the China Clipper was the longest living. During World War II, it carried uranium ore from the Belgian Congo to the United States for use in nuclear testing. The China Clipper had flown a career total of three million miles when it wrecked off the coast of Trinidad in January of 1945.
Musick died on January 11, 1938 when Pan American’s Samoan Clipper (a Sikorsky S-42) caught fire in the air above American Samoa.
Commemoration festivities, including food and beverages, will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 21 at the Alameda Naval Air Museum. Admission is $5 and parking is free. The museum is located at 2151 Ferry Point Road (Building 77 at Alameda Point).