Pan Am Era

The Pan Am Era on Midway Island is a significant chapter in the history of aviation and Pacific travel. In 1935, Pan American Airways introduced its Clipper operations to Midway Island. These large flying boats journeyed from San Francisco to China, marking the fastest and most luxurious route to the Orient at that time.  This service not only connected distant regions but also brought tourists to Midway, operating until 1941​​.

Pan Am’s establishment of Midway Island as a stopover was part of a larger strategy to set up refueling stops across the Pacific, which included locations in Hawai’i, Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines. To facilitate these operations, substantial logistics were required, including the transportation of supplies, buildings, gear, and staff by boat to each island. The first shipment from California alone weighed 6,000 tons​​.

Only the super-rich could afford a Clipper trip, which in the 1930s was over three times the annual salary of the average American. Only folks like Ernest Hemingway had the honor of meeting the goonies face to face. The large seaplanes landed in the quiet atoll waters and pulled up to a float offshore. Tourists were loaded onto a small powerboat which whisked them to a pier, where finally they would ride in “Woody” wagons to the Pan Am Hotel or “Gooneyville Lodge.”

Over the years, Pan Am used several different models of “Clippers”. The book, “Wings to the Orient”, deeply details the associated aviation history for those who wish to explore the design variations further. Based on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, the Clippers flew from Honolulu to Midway, then on to Wake, Guam, Manila, and Macau. Other routes were also explored, especially with the onslaught of the Pacific war, which ended Clipper operations at Midway on December 8, 1941.

The onset of World War II brought significant changes. The U.S. Navy assisted Pan Am in constructing facilities on various islands, including Midway. These bases initially served Pan Am’s commercial flights but were later converted for military use once the United States entered the war. Pan Am’s equipment and staff were repurposed to serve the government during this period. Post-World War II, the relevance of flying boats declined, marking an end to this era of aviation​​.

Following the war, in 1947, a Clipper landed at Midway again, in the faded hope that somehow the Clipper days could be revived, but with the new aircraft technology developed during World War II, the days of the Clipper were over.

This coincided with the Civil Aeronautics Authority taking over the airport operations on Midway’s Sand Island, which continued until 1950​​. The Pan Am Era on Midway Island symbolizes a pioneering phase in trans-Pacific air travel, reflecting the significant advancements in aviation technology and the strategic importance of Midway Island during a critical period of global history.

The Pan American China Clipper

PanAm Pan3 PanAm2 PanAm5

Click Here To View The Midway Gooneyville Lodge

Pan Am Anniversary at Midway – 1985

3 thoughts on “Pan Am Era

  1. I have swam at Wakes old pan am dock and saw the ruins of the hotel .The PBS documentary brought it all full circle

  2. PanAm durning the tourist flights to Midway gave out collective silver spoons. Have do I acquire one?

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