Martin M-130

Martin M-130

Martin M-130."CHINA,PHILLIPINE and HAWAIIAN CLIPPERS" A Golden Age Flying Boat


Brief History of the Martin M-130

In 1934 Pan American Airline president,Juan Tripp realized how important the "Pacific Rim" was.Even though it was many years before it became popular he launched Sikorsky's S-40 and S-42 flying boats,but for very long ranges he needed something better.The best and winning design was the Martin M-130, first flown on December 30,1934, Pan Am had not specified just how the new "clippers" were to achieve long range; midair refueling was suggested. Instead, the Martin Model 130 employed streamlined aerodynamics and more powerful engines. Four double-row Pratt and Whitney R-1830 radials, each developing 830 horsepower, were mounted in cowlings faired into the thick monoplane wing. Martin's experience with the XP2M-1 clearly helped here. The Model 130 also incorporated innovative "seawings" that stabilized the planes in the water while also holding fuel tanks. Performance figures were extraordinary. Amazingly, the Model 130 could lift more than its own weight, making for a much better operating ratio than more famous wheeled airliners of the day like the Boeing 247 or Douglas DC-3.

In the Pacific, this meant lifting enough fuel to carry payloads of mail and passengers over the longest overwater air route in the world - the 2,410 miles from California to Hawaii. Beyond Honolulu way stations were developed at Midway, Wake, and Guam, with the terminus at Manila, 8,200 air miles from San Francisco. Mail service to Manila began in November 1935.The China Clipper inaugurated mail service to the Pacific on November 22, 1935 flying from Alameda Seaplane Base in San Francisco Bay before a crowd of 25,000. The inaugural flight to Manila was a momentous occasion. Although the S-42 had paved the way for Pacific air travel, the extra fuel necessary to fly from North America to Hawaii made it impossible for the S-42 to carry passengers. The M-130 was larger and heavier than the S-42 weighing 26 tons, and it carried more fuel. Even on the long leg to Hawaii, the M-130 was able to carry 41 passengers, 9 more than the S-42. On October 21, 1936 the M-130 commenced passenger service and immediately became the premier way to travel first class. The planes were luxuriously appointed, serving full course meals on linen and china, and offering a lounge and sleeping compartment to break the monotony of long flights.

The China Clipper's first flight was unforgettable both for its historical significance and because of its highly unusual take off from Alameda. The crew had practiced heavy weight take-offs in the days before flight, but despite these preparatory runs, the heavy burden of fuel on the actual flight prevented the plane from gaining altitude at a normal rate. It quickly became evident to the captain Ed Musick that the plane would not make it over the San Francisco Bay Bridge, still under construction. Barreling toward the bridge, Musick forced the plane's nose down guiding it between the girders and cables. The planes escorting the China Clipper as well as the crowd of on lookers thought that the maneuver was planned. A few of the small planes even followed the China Clipper through. In spite of an astonishing take-off, the remainder of the flight to Manila was uneventful.

The China Clipper arrived in Manila to a cheering crowd of 100,000. The airmail route to the East was open, another aviation feat had been achieved. A man of extreme brevity, Musick's only official comment about his historic 8,200 mile journey was "Without incident." Passenger service awaited completion of hotels on the island stops, and the eradication of thousands of rats that overran Guam. Public interest was intense: Pan Am had 1,100 ticket applications on file by the time of the first San Francisco-Manila passenger run in October 1936. The three Martin clippers were named for Pan Am's principal Pacific destinations: Hawaii, Philippines, and China. As it turned out, both the first mail and first passenger runs to Manila were made by Clipper NC-14716, "China" - thereby giving her name to the whole class of planes, as well as all the items, from oriental restaurants to postage stamps, that recall them. After another wrangle with the British, the China Clipper lived up to her name in April 1937 by making the first scheduled through-flight to Hong Kong.

Although there were 46 seats in the clippers' cabins, the need for extra fuel between San Francisco and Honolulu meant that only eight to ten passengers could be carried. They were able to stretch out in three large compartments and an even larger lounge/dining salon. With cocktails in the lounge, formal evening meals, and pullman bunks for the night, the China Clippers acquired a reputation for luxury. Fares of $1,600 round-trip to Manila, $720 to Honolulu, limited their passenger lists to the rich and accomplished. Despite the aura of elegance, however, clipper flights meant enduring for long hours the thundering engines in the thin, dry air of an unpressurized cabin flying mostly at 8,000 feet, the clippers' best altitude. The trip from San Francisco to Hawaii took 18 to 20 hours, after which the grateful passengers were given a full day's rest at Waikiki. Total flying time to Manila was 60 hours, spread out over five days.

In November of 1936 the China Clipper became the first aircraft to complete a passenger carrying flight to Maila. World WarII abruptly stopped the Clipper service,but the China Clipper and the Phillipine Clipper were commandeered for military service..
The Hawaii Clipper dissappeared in July of 1938 for reasons still not know to this day, it was on a flight from Guam to Manila, speculation is that the Hawaii Clipper was Hijacked by Japanese agents. The Philippine Clipper managed to survive the Japanese attack on Wake Island just after Pearl Harbor, but in 1943 she hit a mountainside coming in to San Francisco. Appropriately, the China Clipper survived longest. After a spell of Navy service, Pan Am assigned her to its South Atlantic service between Miami and Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo (Zaire); uranium ore for the Manhattan Project was one of the clipper's most important "passengers." A botched landing off Trinidad in 1945 destroyed the final Model 130, after she had flown more than three million miles.



Martin M-130
Wing span: 130 Feet
Length: 90 Feet 10.5 inches
Height: 24 feet 7 inches
Max T/O Gross: 52,252 pounds
Cruise Speed: 157 M.P.H.
Range: 3,200 miles
Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830,Twin Wasp 14 cylinder, radial air-cooled engines, each providing 830 h.p.
Glen L. Martin Company.

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Written & Edited by Darrell Graves


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