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Sikorsky S-40

Driven from Russia by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Igor Sikorsky always dreamed of building giant aircraft. His partnership with Juan Trippe and Pan American would give him that opportunity. After the overwhelming success of Sikorsky's S-38, Juan Trippe wanted a plane with greater range, better performance and a greater payload capacity. Sikorsky's opportunity came and the result was the S-40.

The largest commercial aircraft of the 1920's, the S-40 was slow and had limited range. It was used for shorter flights to Mexico the Bahamas and Havana. Only three were built, NC80V, NC81V, NC752V, all for Pan Am. Carried a crew of 6. The Sikorsky S-40 was an American amphibious flying boat built by Sikorsky in the early 1930s for Pan American World Airways. It was the largest commercial airliner of its time. The world's largest amphibian at the time - a wing float alone was as large as a sport flying boat hull - with its maze of struts, it was nicknamed "The Flying Forest". A total of three aircraft were built by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of the United Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, Connecticut. All three were retired from service during World War II. The first passenger carrying service was on the November 19, 1931 and was piloted by Charles Lindbergh from Miami, Florida to the Panama Canal Zone. The S-40 was the first of many aircraft known as Flying Clipper and Pan Am Clipper. The S-40 was nicknamed the "Flying Forest" for its maze of support struts.

The first S-40 delivered to Pan Am on October 10, 1931. It was flown to the Anacostia Naval Air Station at Washington D.C. to be christened by Mrs. Herbert Hoover the American Clipper. After Mrs. Hoover smashed a bottle of water from the Caribbean on the nose of the plane, Trippe called it a "flagship," and "the first American example of the great airliner of tomorrow that will speed trade and good will among nations." The Clipper designation was born.

The Clipper name was the brain child of Trippe himself. Trippe felt the flying boats shared a close relationship with the ships of the nineteenth century. Many of the same problems of buoyancy, equilibrium and streamlining that had faced the marine architects of the century before had to be solved on the drawing boards of the designers at Sikorsky and Pan Am as well.

Flying Clippers became one of the most famous names in aviation history. Many of the flight paths of these magnificent flying boats were based on navigational clues that originated in the old Clipper sailing ship logbooks. And the Flying Clipper pilots had to keep the same keen "weather eye" that enabled the salty captains of the Clipper Ship era to sail their way to a living legend. Even after the age of the flying boats had ended, Pan Am continued to name their land based planes Clippers.

The First To Carry A 'Clipper' Name

-38 seats

-115 mph

-34,000 lb. max. gross take-off weight

-900 mile range




ENGINE 4 x Pratt & WHitney "Hornet B", 425kW


Take-off weight 15400 kg 33951 lb


Wingspan 34.8 m 114 ft 2 in

Length 23.4 m 76 ft 9 in

Height 7.3 m 23 ft 11 in

Wing area 174.0 m2 1872.92 sq ft


Max. speed 210 km/h 130 mph

Cruise speed 185 km/h 115 mph

Ceiling 5550 m 18200 ft

Range w/max.fuel 925 km 575 miles

Weight empty 21000lbs 19,764lbs.
Gross weight 34,000lbs. 38,000lbs.
Equipment 1,000lbs. 2,181lbs.
Crew 1,000lbs. 1,000lbs.
Gas and oil (1,000 miles) 7,800lbs. 6,692lbs.
Pay load 3,200lbs. 8,363lbs.
Cruising speed (1,000ft.),m. p. h. 115 157
High speed, m.p.h. 137 182
Horse-power 2,300 2,800
Fuel consumption (cruising, per hr.) 140 gals. 162 gals.
Landing speed, m.p.h. 65 65
Range, miles 1,000 1,000
Time 8-7 hrs. 6-37 hrs.
Wing loading 19.5 28.58

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