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November 22, 1935, the First Air Link between the US and Manila was Established

A crowd of around 125,000 spectators gathered on the shores of San Francisco Bay to witness the take-off of the Pan American World Airways famed flying-boat, it was the famous China Clipper, bound for a 59-hour flight to Manila. The Pan American Airways flight that took off on Nov. 22, 1935, was the first regularly scheduled flight across the oceans of the world. It was the first trans-Pacific commercial flight in history.

3A Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boat, the China Clipper, leaves San Francisco Bay for Manila carrying the first United States trans-Pacific air mail on Nov. 22, 1935. In the background is Coit Tower and the San Francisco skyline. (AP Photo/PanAm)AP (Photo Credit:

It was hailed in The Chronicle as the beginning of “a giant new age,” and the Martin 130 seaplane named China Clipper was called “the greatest airplane ever built in America.”

Commanded by Captain Edwin C. Musick, the China Clipper soared over the Golden Gate and after 59 hours, 48 minutes flying-time landed on the waters of Manila Bay, establishing the first air-link between the Philippines and the United States.

(China Clipper was the first of three Martin M-130 built for Pan American Airways used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila)

The arrival of the China Clipper was an epochal event for the people of the Philippines. Until then, the only link with the Western world had been time-consuming surface travel. Via ship, it had taken passengers, mail, and express, weeks to reach the United States. The coming of the flying Clippers slashed that travel time to a matter of days!

For six years, Pan American continued to serve the Philippines. Then the Japanese struck. It was to be four years before the people of the Philippines again saw the familiar insignia of the Clippers. During the war interval, John Oppenheimer, PAA’s District Traffic Manager at Manila, and 33 other employees of the airline were interned at the Santo Tomas and Los Baños prison-camps. Two years after the Japanese surrender, the flying Clippers were playing a vital role in making Manila one of the great aerial crossroads of the world.


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