On November 22, 1935, the first "China Clipper" a Martin-130 seaplane aircraft left Alameda Island near San Francisco for a voyage across of 8,000 miles to Manila that took six days, with stops in Hawaii,Midway Island, Wake Island and Guam.
Pan-American airlines, under its executive Juan Trippe, named the planes "China Clippers" after the clipper ships that had made his family's fortune. The Sikorsky-42 plane was also used in the long-distance flights.
The first air-flight carried only airmail. The following year passenger service was inaugurated, with passengers occupying only 28-32 available seats.
According to the World Almanac Website: "The actual time spent in flight was 59 hours, 47 minutes. Now the same trip can be done in one or two legs in about 12-15 hours. The China Clipper averaged 143.3 mph compared to the 650 mph cruising speed of a Boeing 747. But it was a huge leap forward from the ocean liners that would take more than 20 days to cover the same distance. Of course, airfare was exorbitantly expensive, far higher than what even the most brilliant World Almanac editors could afford. When regular passenger service began Oct. 21, 1936, a round-trip ticket to Manila cost $1,438.20 or about $21,000 by today’s prices."
The main purpose of the trans-oceanic flight was to cut the time to travel to the American Commonwealth (colony) of the Philippines and also keep Americans in the race to open up Chinese markets to business and tourist dollars. British, French, Dutch and German airline companies were also investing in air travel to the Far East at this time.
The Second World War put an end to the services but this early achievement of regular air flights across half the globe was a major technological break through just three decades after the very first engine-powered plane flights. It will be celebrated with a commemoration at the decommissioned Alameda Naval Air Station in California later this month.