Aviation in the 1920s developed at an incredible pace. Instead of the fragile wood and fabric of early biplanes, aircraft were soon being constructed of sturdy, streamlined metal propelled by increasingly light and powerful motors. As planes became more safe and reliable, people began to realize the amazing potential of flight. U.S. Airmail, first flown in May 1918, began regularly scheduled transcontinental flights only two years later. Commercial travel developed alongside airmail, bringing passengers to their destinations quicker and easier than ever before. But as fast as flight was progressing, the oceans still proved a formidable obstacle.
The China Clipper over San Fransisco’s shoreline on its inaugural transpacific airmail flight.
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis made the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic. A year later, the famous Graf Zeppelin airship began transatlantic passenger and mail flights. International air travel was becoming a reality for the first time. Realizing the huge economic potential, airlines began developing the infrastructure necessary to make worldwide scheduled flight routes possible. It was a huge undertaking – not many countries had airfields large enough for a commercial aircraft to land, or access to the supplies and parts needed to maintain those planes.
Why Flying Boats?
Pan American Airways had a novel solution to bring airmail and travelers to destinations without an airfield: The company began to create a fleet of seaplanes, capable of landing anywhere with a sheltered harbor. Continue reading