This story alert was contributed by FASF member, Eric Lambart, of Portland, OR. His first lead on this item came from “Slashdot” news, popularly known as “news for nerds.” The remainder of the information was derived from additional research elsewhere.
Some of you may remember the years just prior to WWII and immediately after the war, when Pan American Airways was still in business, and flying their reknown Clipper Ships, the first true wide bodied luxury airliners. These magnificent flying machines incuded several floors and spiral staircases for passenger use in flight. But, by 1946 these giant flying boats were retired from all passenger service. The degree of passenger luxury these large flying ships provided was never again equaled in the anals of airline or aviation history. To capture the romance of this famous giant of the oceanic airways, see our earlier short (5 minute) video on the famous “Yankee Clipper – A Long Way Home!” If you haven’t stopped by and viewed this short movie clip, please do so – it’s quite an adventurous yet little known piece of WWII history.
With the news that the Chinese are engineering a rebirth of the flying boat airliner, we have come full circle in time. Here are some photos or drawings of the famous Pan American Airways (PAA) Flying Boat “Clipper Ships.” The first view just below is provided courtesy of iFly Blog and shows one of the giant flying boats at dock and being serviced by her crew. And, below, is a magazine ad for PAA showing its fares and destinations. Rio De Janeiro anyone?
In the meantime, it would appear that China is targeting a market no longer serviced by world air carriers, as it plans to begin building 21st Century Flying Boats, once again. Notice the aethetically attractive styling in their new amphibian in the photos that follow.
Here is the following story from “Slashdot:”
“Chinese aircraft maker China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) has started trial production of its TA-600 amphibious aircraft, claimed to be the world’s largest of its kind. With an expected maiden flight late next year, the Chinese plane would replace Japan’s ShinMaywa US-2 short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft as the largest of its kind globally.” Take a look at a side profile illustration of the TA-600, on this Koreanlanguage page. The TA-600 has a huge maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tons, but looks a bit puny compared to Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules (The last American attempt at a large flying boat, but one that was never realilzed, except for the first prototype).”
The only other currently manufactured large amphibian aircraft is the Japanese fire-fighting and emergency craft, named the US-2, small in comparison the the envisioned new Chinese flying boat. The US-2 is pictured below:
Few photos are available of the coming CAIGA flying boat, the TA-600, but immediately below is a depiction of one in flight and below that, a model of another, along with a large wall mounted painting of the same ship as seen on the Chinese Military Review website:
This same mainland Chinese company, CAIGA, has already made inroads into the aviation industry here in the United States by buying into several U.S. aviation companies. Consequently their footprint is already here. It remains to be seen if any U.S. carriers will lline up to buy this new “TA-600” flying boat in hopes of re-introducing this luxurious style of flying over the oceans and larger inland lakes of the world.
Below is the famous prototype of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, or “Hercules,” the largest flying boat ever built, yet which flew only once, on its maiden test flight, while at its mentor’s steady hand over the waters of Long Beach Harbor in CA. This massive airplane is now on view at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum near Porland, Oregon. You can go to their site to get the full story with many more photos of this huge wooden behemoth.
The Washington Post reports, ‘In the past several decades, the number of private and recreational pilots across the country has plummeted, as has the number of small aircraft being manufactured — trends that some say have been accelerated by increasingly strict federal regulations. If the decline continues, it will spell trouble for entrepreneurs … Since 1980, the number of pilots in the country has nosedived from about 827,000 in 1980 to 617,000, according to the Frederick, Md.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During about the same period, data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association in Washington show that production of single-engine planes plunged from 14,000 per year to fewer than 700.’