Vintage Luxury: The Boeing 314 Flying Boat

Man, they don’t make 'em like this anymore. The Boeing 314 Flying Boat. Plied the airways in the 1930s and 1940s. Sleeper bunks, formal dining. A private honeymoon suite in the tail, much more conducive to the Mile High Club. "Could whisk passengers off to such far off places as Hawaii and China in only a matter of a few days."

Especially good photos here.

I’ve posted a link to these things before (I think there was a famous incident I accounted regarding either one of these planes or one very similar to it in video format) but nevertheless, here’s Wiki’s take on it, and it includes operation as a troop transport carrier during WWII. Would that planes be more like this today!

I wonder who all got to use the honeymoon suite.

To borrow a WWI term, “40 men or 8 horses.”

You can’t get that kind of luxury today unless you can afford to private a charter jet. Granted the kind of people who back then are the kind of people who travel by private jet now. Oh, and speaking of early mile high club members; I had a great aunt who scandalized the family when she flew back from a junior year abroad in Germany in the 1930s. Apparently she “shared a cabin” on the Hindenburg with another young man who was also studying abroad. She only had complaint about that flight. :wink:

Similar design: Martin Mars flying hotel.

When I’m a billionaire I’ll buy or build one, props and all.

It’s long been my dream that, upon becoming a successful billionaire playboy, I’ll start an airline exclusively using modernised replicas flying boats from the 30s and 40s- lots of Sunderlands and Boeing “Pan Am Clippers” and so on. And they’ll offer those long, meandering routes that stop at lots of interesting places, including otherwise unremarkable (but still beautiful) islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Ah, but a private jet doesn’t even come close to the interior space in those old airliners; check the photos on Sam’s second link, the next to last one before the plane drawings. That guy is inside the wing.
Flying boats by necessity have spacious hulls/fuselages, not only to have an adequate planning surface width at the bottom but also high enough to keep the propellers well above the water surface.

Besides, you may have to snazziest private jet in the world, but you still need to land it at an airport. With one of these you can land just off the beach of your tropical island hideaway. That’s like 50+ points of style right there.

There are a couple of preserved flying boats from the Golden Era Of Flying Boats in museums around the world, and from what I recall of the ones I’ve seen, the cabin accommodations were about the same as Business Class in a modern airliner before the trend for modernist design and LCD screens in things, in case anyone was wondering.

How much riskier was it to fly on one of those things compared to other commercial aircraft (land-based) of that era? Doesn’t landing a behemoth like that on water present its own unique set of challenges and risks?

That’s really cool. Ken Follett’s novel Night Over Water was set on one of those. I had a really hard time envisioning the space as I was reading it. A diagram really would have helped!

Sadly, no 314s are among them; twelve built, all scrapped.

Great book on the the subject: Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats. Lots of pictures and stories of the 314, the Martin M130 and the Sikorsky S40 and S42.

There is a full-sized replica of a 314 at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Ireland.

I dare say the Boeing Business Jets and Airbus Corporate Jets (particularly the 747-8 VIP and A380) are rather more spacious.

On the more typical “business jet” scale, although narrower, the Global Expressis a similar length and height to the Clipper, and feels rather roomy as well.

For a really interesting first-hand account of flying those kind of aircraft in their heyday, check out Through the Back Doors of the World in a Ship That Had Wings.

The best Boeing 314 story - the trip Pacific Clipper made from New Zealand westward to the US, via India, Arabia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean, after the Pearl Harbor attack. Capt. Robert Ford landed her on rivers and refueled with auto gas where he could find it, The best part was the dawn arrival at La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal, when Ford woke the controller with one of the classic radio calls: ““Pan Am Pacific Clipper, inbound from Auckland, New Zealand, Captain Ford reporting. Overhead in five minutes.”” :smiley:

Also, see Pat O’Brien and Humphrey Bogart in China Clipper the next time it comes around on TCM.

The Sikorsky S-44 in Hartford and the (militarized) Shorts Sunderland in Hendon give some idea of what those planes were like, but also why they were obsoleted as soon as long-range land planes and long paved runways to handle them became available (another WW2 effect). As elegant as they seem in the old posters, they were also slow, loud, and treacherous on the water. Even in the air - there has still been no trace of Hawaii Clipper.

I’d settle for a Grumman Mallard (maybe I get get one for Chaulk’s)

For something a little more modern, how about a Dornier Seastar?
(Dornier website not working for me)

flying boat fan

Ah, that was the one I had posted on here at some point in the past. What a cool story.

I asked upthread about the risk associated with flying on these water-landing behemoths versus land-based aircraft from the same time frame. Anyone know if they were a riskier way to travel than conventionally?

This is a really interesting question and I’m looking forward to the answer!

In my very (very!) limited knowledge involving the accidents and incidents involving the CL-215/215-T/415 from Bombardier - which to me seems to be a more-or-less modern-day model of the Clipper given it’s amphibious nature (and one of my favourite planes!)- the majority of incidents/accidents seem to be due to mishandling the approach, controls or other operation during water scooping or water landing. Things like porpoising, striking the wing floats, failure in opening or closing water doors appropriately, or flipping over.

HOWEVER (and that’s a big however!) the CL-415 and its predecessors are fire-fighting aircraft, where rapid manoeuvrings and functionality on any available water source takes huge precedent over crew/passenger comfort, pilots are under much more stress and fatigue than commercial pilots, and most destination-to-destination landings are done conventionally, on land.

Still; waves, wind, smoke, pilot stress and other factors make it seem that landing on water is generally harder than landing on land. More importantly, perhaps, is that the passenger survivability on water is significantly reduced than it is on land - hypothermia and drowning don’t really occur on land, though fire is a greater risk.

Keep in mind that any weather that affects a land-based airport will also affect water surfaces in the area. A runway remains flat even in a blizzard. A lake does not, and so is that much more risky.

Again, I stress that I am as far from an expert as you can imagine, but knowing what I know about accidents, incidents and their causes (a hobby of mine), I feel pretty comfortable concluding that water landings are, on average, less safe than land-based ones.