8: The Only Class was First Class

One of Trippe’s primary criteria in the design of the Boeing 314 was spacious and comfortable accommodations. Passengers flying the Clippers were guaranteed the most luxurious experience in traveling for its day. First-class was the only class on the Clippers. 

As passengers relaxed in their assigned cabins, stewards prepared a buffet spread in the lounge. Photo courtesy of Pan American World Airways. 

All cabin appointments and arrangements were dictated by Pan Am engineers with guidance from famed industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, best known for his streamlined Art Deco style. And streamlined it had to be in order to utilize available space and conserve weight. Colors were meant to invoke spaciousness without being too bright. “Skyline Green,” “Miami Sand Beige,” “Tango Rust,” and “Pan American Blue,” were chosen for fabrics and bulkheads. Vinylite plastic sheeting was used for wainscoting, overhead lining, and doorway trim. Furniture frames and washbasins were made of Duralumin and floors were covered in lightweight carpeting and linoleum. 

The Art Deco lounge with upholstered seating in medium blue. The back cushions had five white stars against two wavy backgrounds in black and chartreuse. The carpet was “Tango Rust.” Photo courtesy of Being Aircraft Co.

The double-deck Boeing 314 Clippers had more passenger space than any other commercial airliner and could carry up to 58 passengers for shorter day trips or 34 passengers for long over-water flights. Divided into 11 compartments, the planes had five lounge areas that converted into sleeping berths, a deluxe “bridal suite,” two bathrooms, a kitchen galley, and an 860 cubic foot lounge area that transformed into a 14-seat dining room. Every evening guests dressed for dinner and uniformed stewards served gourmet meals on tables laid out with Irish linen, fine Lenox-made china and crystal glassware (with suction bottoms for stability), and sterling silver flatware. Special touches included flowers in vases and printed menus. 

Passengers relax in a private stateroom. Photo courtesy of Boeing Aircraft Co.

Stateroom converted to sleeping berths. Photo courtesy of Boeing Aircraft Co.

The lounge converted to a 14-person dining room at dinnertime. 

Another view of the lounge at dinnertime. Photo courtesy Clyde H. Sunderland_Pan American World Airways.

Grilled steak? You bet! Filet mignon was cooked 90% and delivered to the Clipper frozen solid where it thawed slowly as stewards prepared dinner. The steaks were reheated on a rack inside a steam table and served hot with buttered green beans and roasted potatoes. After dinner, the dining room was converted back into a lounge where a choice of games, cocktails, reading, and conversation closed up the evening. The house Clipper Cocktail enjoyed by passengers consisted of 1 ½ oz. gold rum, ½ oz. dry vermouth, and a ½ tsp of grenadine combined in a chilled glass with ice, topped with a cherry.

The B-314 kitchen galley featured a juice container, automatic coffee maker, and a lidded steamer. Photo courtesy of Boeing Aircraft Co.

After dinner, passengers could play cards in the reconverted lounge. Photo courtesy of Boeing Aircraft Co.

The flight deck was also luxuriously spacious at over 6-feet high and 21-feet long, and 9-feet wide. Flight fatigue was a concern so plenty of room was provided to accommodate two full crews of six each, a necessity for those long-distance routes. The control room was plush with upholstered chairs, drapes, and wall-to-wall carpeting. 

In the spacious control room, the radio operator and flight engineer are at right, the navigator is standing at left, and the pilot and co-pilot are center in the cockpit.

The radio operator is sitting behind the pilot and co-pilot. Every hour he filed a log report on flight progress that related to winds, weather and any other conditions that affected the flight path.

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