Aviation Historian 35
G.Smith - Pan Am's "Rogue" Atlantic Clippers
When the Constellation joined the Pan Am fleet in February 1946, the elegant propliner was painted in a stylish colour scheme, predominantly bare metal with dark blue cheatlines running the length of the cabin, the legend Pan American World Airways on the fuselage and "PAA” titles in blue stripes on the outer fins. This example, NC86520 (c/n 2503), was one of three Connies to use the name Clipper America, although not the one originally used by the Atlantic Division in 1946.
A colourised photograph of Lockheed Constellation NC88837, named Clipper, at Burbank before delivery in late 1945. Colour by RICHARD JAMES MOLLOY.
Constellation NC88832 was delivered to Pan Am in February 1946. It is seen here with just the name Clipper, as per standard procedure at the time, on the forward fuselage below the cockpit, before it was allocated to the airline’s Pacific Division, although it would return to the Atlantic Division as Clipper Flora Temple.
Definitive photographic evidence that NC88860 bore the name Clipper London is provided in this image of the aircraft = note the “860” on the nosewheel door - at London Airport on a typically drizzly day in 1946. This “chameleon” Connie changed its name regularly in 1946, and made the first Pan Am flight into Heathrow on May 31.
Another week, another name - NC88860, clearly bearing the name Clipper Courier, arrives to great fanfare at Prague in Czechoslovakia, probably on June 17, 1946, when the aircraft flew the first Clipper air mail flight from Prague to Limerick in Ireland.
Constellation NC88850 (c/n 2050), Clipper Congo, is listed in the New York Times’ Marine & Aviation Reports as being at La Guardia on 46 days of the published listings, cycling through various destinations as far afield as Bermuda, London, Lisbon, Dakar in French West Africa and of course Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo.
Four Pan Am Constellations at La Guardia following the type’s grounding in the wake of a series of accidents during 1945-46. Photographs of the Atlantic Division’s “rogue” Constellations with geographical names in 1946 are scarce, so if any readers have any in their collections, please do contact the Editor and let us know!
Constellation NC88861 Clipper Atlantic is something of an anomaly in the Atlantic Division fleet in that it was delivered in mid-May 1946 and not given a geographical name, made all the more odd by the fact that the Division had stated that the next two names would be Brussels and Vienna. It is seen here at Heathrow in 1946.
Delivered to Pan Am on March 1, 1946, NC88846 (c/n 2046) is seen here at La Guardia in March or April of that year, still just named Clipper, although by May it would have the name Clipper Bermuda on its nose. This aircraft flew its first transatlantic service from New York to Hurn on April 20. Sadly, it crashed as Clipper Great Republic in Liberia during a Johannesburg-New York flight in June 1951, killing all aboard.
It appears that two Constellations bore the name Clipper London - NC88860, if only for a few days, and NC88831, the latter seen here with the name clearly visible on the nose. According to Peter Marson’s definitive two-volume monograph on the Constellation (Air-Britain, 2007), this aircraft was originally named UNO Clipper.
Minus its No 4 Wright R-3350 engine, NC88858 Clipper America sits on its belly at Willimantic, Connecticut, on June 18, 1946. It was patched up with a strip of sheet metal riveted over the leading edge in place of the engine and returned to Burbank for repairs.
Another splendid promotional item from Pan Am’s publicity department. This excerpt from a September 1946 timetable, using the same photo of Clipper England, runs through the itinerary of an imaginary businessman visiting the UK, with a trip to the Tower of London, a rustic country village and a day at the seaside in Shannon.
This promotional item from Pan Am incorporates a photograph of passengers boarding NC88836 (c/n 2036), Clipper England. This aircraft is mentioned in the Marine & Aviation Reports in early May 1946, but is absent during May 27 - July 3, for unknown reasons - perhaps the aircraft underwent an extended period of maintenance.