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"Musick's Trippe to Paradise"


In 1927, Juan Trippe (pronounced “trip”) formed Pan American Airways System, which he would build into a commercial aviation giant. In October, 1927, Edwin C. Musick joined Pan American Airways as a pilot, and made the inaugural flight from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba. Edwin Musick was instrumental in establishing new routes to Central and South America, and worked with world famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was hired by Juan Trippe in 1929. Besides working on the Central and South American routes, Charles Lindbergh was hired to establish new routes to Europe and Asia.

detail of china clipper painting.
Detail from the painting "Musick's Trippe to Paradise"

In 1930, Edwin Musick became one of Pan American’s chief test pilots, and set ten world records for seaplane performance in the Sikorsky S-42. He was famous for his four survey flights for Trans-Pacific routes, and at one time had more officially recognized aviation world records than any other pilot on Earth. He piloted aircraft over 1,000,000 miles and was one of the first pilots to log 10,000 flying hours in his career. A pioneer in commercial aviation, he was awarded the Harmon Trophy in 1935, which was awarded annually to the world’s outstanding aviator. His most famous aviation achievement was the first airmail flight of the Martin M-130 China Clipper across the Pacific.

On October 9, 1935, the Glenn L. Martin Company delivered to Pan American Airways the first of three M-130 flying boats at a cost of $430,000 each. The first M-130, NC14716, was named the “China Clipper” after one of the countries to which Juan Trippe hoped his Clippers would fly passengers. Juan Trippe and Charles Lindbergh, two famous pioneers in aviation history, piloted the China Clipper on her acceptance flight. The China Clipper was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830 geared, air-cooled, 14 cylinder radial wasp engines, rated at 830 hp - each equipped with Hamilton Standard constant speed controlled metal propellers. The aircraft was 90 feet, 10 inches long, 24 feet, 7 inches high, and had a wingspan of 130 feet. It had a top speed of 180 mph, a cruising speed of 145 mph, and a range of 3,000 miles. The Clipper could carry 46 passengers, mail, and freight.

On November 22, 1935, Edwin Musick piloted the China Clipper from San Francisco, California, to Manila in the Philippines, with stops at Honolulu, Midway, Wake, and Guam. The crew consisted of 1st Officer R.O.D. Sullivan, 2nd Officer George King, 1st Engineer Chauncey Wright, 2nd Engineer Victor Wright, 1st Radio W.T. Jarboe, and Navigator Fred J. Noonan. Fred Noonan is well known in aviation history as the navigator on Amelia Earhart’s famous and mysterious flight. The China Clipper’s inaugural flight carried 110,865 letters in 58 bags of mail, for a total weight of 1,837 pounds. 206,414 stamps were sold, and letters were cancelled with a unique cachet designed by Pan American employees at each stop along the route. The flight from Treasure Island, San Francisco, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was 2,410 miles. Seen flying past Diamond Head, Hawaii, the Pan American Clippers, which brought luxury, comfort, and romance to air travel, were the jewels of the Pacific.

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