November 19, 1931 in the sky: Pan Am’s “American Clipper” begins its first voyage

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History of aviation – November 19, 1931. The Pan Am airline welcomed into its fleet the “American Clipper”, the baptismal name of a Sikorsky S-40 which, on November 19, 1931, will make its very first flight. An entry into service which delighted the president of the company Juan Trippe, who wanted to have an aircraft capable of transporting more than eight passengers, i.e. the capacity of the S-38.

A requirement which is perfectly met by the “American Clipper”, a device which was designed by Igor Sikorsky, an American engineer of Russian origin. The latter has developed nothing less than the largest commercial device: in fact, the “American Clipper” which weighs empty 11,226 kg has a wingspan of 34.75 meters and 174.2 m2 of wing surface.

Aviator Charles Lindbergh will make this very first trip, taking command of the aircraft, with Basil Rowe assisting him on this flight between Miami and Panama, via Cuba, Jamaica and Colombia. Only a month before, the plane had been christened in the waters of the Caribbean by President Herbert Hoover’s wife, Lou Hoover. Why in water? Quite simply because we are in the middle of a period of prohibition…

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