The Long Way Home
July 13, 2014 7:10 PM Subscribe
posted by jedicus (27 comments total)
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"Normal return route canceled
. Proceed as follows: Strip all company marking, registration numbers and identifiable insignia from exterior surfaces. Proceed westbound
soonest your discretion to avoid hostilities and deliver NC18602
to marine terminal La Guardia Field New York. Good luck
Some background: as Eyebrows McGee explained in this comment
, "When Pan Am first started flying across the Pacific
in 1935 (for mail, and 1936 for passengers), it took a week
to get from San Francisco to Hong Kong by plane -- faster by far than the 25 days the fastest ships could manage. They stopped in Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, Manila, and Macao en route."
But those islands were valuable military targets for the Japanese, as were the huge flying boats used by Pan Am to conduct the service, the Pan Am Clippers. In preparation for hostilities, Clipper captains were given sealed instructions to open in case of war: "Plan A." Captain Robert Ford
found himself flying a Pan Am Clipper into Auckland, New Zealand when news of the attack on Pearl Harbor reached him. Plan A instructed him to fly to New York, via the western
route, effectively requiring him to circumnavigate the globe, since the trip had started in San Francisco:
Skirting the trouble zone and watching for enemy aircraft, he headed the flying boat west over Australia, India and Central Africa, then crossed to South America, eventually making a safe landing at the Marine Terminal at what is now La Guardia Airport in New York on Jan. 6, 1942.
The entire trip covered 31,500 miles in 209.5 hours of flying time, some of it over war territory. The Clipper had a range of 4,500 miles, and its longest single flight was 3,583 miles across the South Atlantic from Douala, in what is now Cameroon in Central Africa, to Brazil.
Captain Ford, who was then 35, called his round-the-world flight "a purely routine operation."