June 28, 1939
Ushering in a new age of scheduled transatlantic passenger airplane service, the Dixie Clipper “flying boat” made its first run along Pan Am Airways’ newly established route between New York and Marseilles, France, via the South Atlantic Ocean. This long-range aircraft was one of several produced by the Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 and 1941.
The Clipper, formally classified as Boeing’s Model 314, was among the largest aircraft built during that era. A dozen were sold to Pan Am for transoceanic flight routes. The Dixie Clipper weighed nearly 42 tons (38.1 metric tons), had a wingspan of 152 feet (46.3 meters), and measured 109 feet (33.2 meters) in length.
With a great deal of fanfare and a crowd of 5,000 people on hand for the takeoff from Port Washington, New York, the airplane’s first flight along the new route began at 1:59 p.m. on June 28, 1939. A total of 22 passengers and 12 crew members were on board for this Europe-bound flight, which landed at Marseilles 42 hours and 10 minutes after leaving New York.
The Dixie Clipper featured such amenities as a lounge, a sit-down dining room with linen and china service, a bar, and men’s and women’s dressing rooms. Passengers were served gourmet meals prepared by chefs from four-star hotels. The first-class fare – which was the only option for this transatlantic flight – was $375.00 each way.
The Dixie Clipper made history yet again just a few years later during World War II, when Franklin D. Roosevelt used it to travel across the Atlantic to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco. This marked the first time that a U.S. president flew in an airplane on official business. The Dixie Clipper was subsequently sold to World Airways and scrapped in 1950.
For more information on the Dixie Clipper’s historic 1939 transatlantic flight, please check out https://www.panam.org/explorations/681-1st-transatlantic-passenger-flight.