Development HistoryPan American issued its specification for a long-range flying boat as early as 1931. Two bids were submitted, one for the Sikorsky S-42 and one for the Martin M-130. Juan Trippe accepted both. The Martin weighed about 26 tons, compared to the S-42's 21, and could carry up to 41 passengers, compared to the Sikorsky's 32. Nevertheless, the Martin's primary consideration was range, and it was designed primarily for this objective. As the pictures show, it was an elegant craft, capturing the aesthetic imagination and evoking the memory of the ships which gave the Clipper flying boats their names.
Fully equipped, the Martins cost $417,000 each, compared with the S-42's $242,000. As an interesting yardstick, the Douglas DC-2, the largest contemporary land-plane airliner, cost $78,000. Contrary to the general impression given by the remarkable place in history which the M-130 justly deserves, it was not produced in large quantities. Pan American only had three.The three Pan Am ships were used almost entirely in the Pacific. None was honorably retired. The Hawaii Clipper was lost without trace between Guam and Manila two years after starting the first passenger service in 1936; the Philippine Clipper hit a mountain in California in 1943; and the China Clipper sank just at the close of World War II at Port of Spain, Trinidad.
On the trans-Pacific hauls, the average passenger load was very low - sometimes only one or two people, and the crew more often than not out-numbered the customers. This was because, with the absolute necessity to carry enough fuel for the critical California-Hawaii segment, with full reserves in case of emergency, the M-130 just could not carry more than about eight passengers. For the other segments, the restrictions were not so severe, but the high fares ensured that the demand did not outstrip the capacity.