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Sikorsky S-42 Clipper



First flown on 29 March 1934, the S-42 was a large 36-passenger commercial flying-boat powered by four 559kW Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines. It differed from earlier Sikorsky flying-boats in having a two-step hull with a long stern which supported the tail unit directly. Full use was made of a hydraulically controlled wing flap which extended across the straight portion of the wing. Within a brief period of time the S-42 had established ten altitude-with-load world records.

Ten S-42s were delivered to Pan American Airways, the last three as S-42Bs with increased wing span (from 34.8m) and loaded weight and incorporating refinements in fairing and hull design. The last S-42-B, the Pan American ‘Clipper III’, was delivered in mid-1937.

Pan American Airways appreciated the financial poten-tial of a service across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and ordered two different flying-boats; the Martin M.130 and Sikorsky S-42. It was an aircraft of this latter type which carried out the first survey flight from America to New Zealand, while to the Martin M. 130 China Clipper went the honour of the first mail flight across the central Pacific. The original S-42 was used in survey flights across the Pacific in 1935 by Pan American Airways.

The Sikorsky S42B “Pan American Clipper II” surveyed the route from San Francisco to New Zealand, via Honolulu and arrived in Auckland in March 1937. Just under a year later another S42B inaugu-rated a passenger service, only to explode in midair near Samoa on the homeward journey. PAA suspended their San Fran-cisco-Auckland service.

In 1937 a S-42B was used on the inaugural and scheduled mail and passenger service between New York and Bermuda, the latter shared with Imperial Airways and begun on 16 June 1937. At about the same time the final S-42B delivered to PAA (named Clipper III) made three survey flights across the Atlantic by way of Newfoundland and Foynes.

By the summer of 1937 Pan American began transpacific and transatlantic service with the first “Clipper III” the last of the Sikorsky series.

The four surviving examples continued in airline service until early 1946 and were scrapped soon afterwards.


S-42-B ‘Clipper III’

Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney S-5-D 1G Hornet, 700hp / 515kW
Wing span: 114 ft 2 in (34.8 m)
Length: 67 ft 8 in (20.93 m)
Height: 17 ft 4 in (5.28 m)
Wing area: 123.5 sq.m / 1329.34 sq ft
Empty weight: 3965 kg / 8741 lb
Max TO wt: 38,000 lb (17,250 kg)
Max level speed: 182 mph (291 kph)
Cruise speed: 255 km/h / 158 mph
Ceiling: 4877 m / 16000 ft
Range w/max.fuel: 1930 km / 1199 miles
Crew: 4
Passengers: 32-37

Sikorsky S-42 Clipper




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