Boeing Model 314A Clipper circa 1943

Boeing 314 Flying Boat – Pan American Airways long-range aircraft. In February1936, Pan Am asked aircraft manufacturers for competitive bids on a new generation of flying boats that could fill the gaps in the airline’s expanding international route network, with a particular eye on the transatlantic routes. The challenge the airline laid out to aircraft builders was for an airplane that could fly 4,000 miles against a 30-mile per hour headwind, and carry a sufficient payload.

Boeing 314 Clipper was a long-range flying boat produced by the Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 and 1941. One of the largest aircraft of the time, it used the massive wing of Boeing’s earlier XB-15 bomber prototype to achieve the range necessary for flights across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Twelve Clippers were built for Pan Am.

What’s the problem?

  • Ask – In the late 1930s, people wanted to travel long distances but there weren’t very many airports. One solution was to fly airplanes that combined boat hull design so the “flying boat” could land on water. How could this combination of airplane and boat be designed and built? What are some special features that would be required?
  • Imagine – Is it a boat with wings? Is it an airplane with boat features? Is it something completely different?
  • Plan, Create – For carrying passengers, the airplane had to be comfortable for the long flights. How would the airline ensure the safety and comfort of its passengers?
  • Improve – What were some of the improvements made as more airplanes were manufactured and put into service?

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • How would you design and build a flying boat big enough to fly across the Atlantic Ocean with passengers, baggage and enough fuel for the trip?