The Sikorsky S-42 flying boat was built by Sikorsky Aircraft to a requirement set out by Pan American World Airways. Powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet engines, the first aircraft took flight on 29 March 1934.
Up to 37 passengers could be carried in a day configuration, in contrast to 14 when setup for overnight flights with sleeping berths. With a cruising speed of 160-170mph (257 to 273kmh), the long-range flying boat could reach places up to 1,200 miles (1,900km) away before refueling.
Sikorsky S-42 Video
Following on from the last video about the Short 360, this time we head over to the USA to look at the Sikorsky S-42 flying boat. The first video runs for just under two minutes and shows one landing in Hong Kong, taxiing, and the passengers getting off into a dinghy.
Next up is a 48 second excerpt from what must be a longer film. With its camp period voiceover, I’d love to see the rest of this. The snippet is well worth it though!
Great, isn’t it? The real treat is coming though, with some amazing colour footage of the Sikorsky S-42 in this period travelogue for Rio de Janeiro. It features air to air shots, a brief cabin piece, landing and taxiing.
After the first minute, it goes on all about Rio. Great to see that though! For the last one we switch back to black and white footage, with the first one minute and eight seconds showing the aircraft.
The second half of the thing is all about gliders, which is interesting but irrelevant for this article. I’d still like to know what is going on though!
With large round windows that resembled the portholes on a ship, the interior was designed to be a “Flying Clipper Ship” as Pan American put it at the time. You can see this illustrated well in the images below.
All aircraft of the era were quite loud inside, which must have become annoying after hours and hours of travel. Still, with flying being such a novelty, I imagine people didn’t mind.
Just ten Sikorsky S-42 flying boats were produced, all for Pan American. Six were lost in accidents and the remainder were withdrawn from service in 1946, making a service history of 12 years. Three of the remaining four were scrapped and one was turned into a houseboat. The fate of the houseboat is unknown.
While the flying boat era is considered quite glamorous, it was a pretty dangerous way to travel. Landing and take-off were quite hazardous with many aircraft being lost during these phases of flight. That is one of the many reasons we don’t travel in flying boats today.
What did you think of the videos? I imagine no-one reading has ever been on a Sikorsky S-42! Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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