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Letters to the





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Letters to the Editor

1. What ever happened to Pan Pacific Airways?

Question: I am a life-long fan of "Tales of the Gold Monkey" in which the main character, Jake Cutter, is described as being a co-pilot of a Pan Pacific Clipper. His "buddy", Corky, is described as a former chief mechanic for Pan Pacific Airways. I recently caught the last hour or so of the movie "China Clipper" which appeared to be describing the history of Pan Pacific Airways from its formation to the first dramatic and successful flight of of its China Clipper. I have, however, been unable to find any other reference to this airline's activities after the 1930's until I stumbled on this internet reference which refers to a "Pan Pacific Airways" based in Seattle, Washington, which is, apparently trying to acquire aircraft.

Is this Pan Pacific Airways the same airline which was referred to in "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and "China Clipper"?

Answer: At the outset we must note that with respect to the motion picture "China Clipper" the name of the airline was "Trans-Ocean Airways" and not "Pan Pacific Airways". In addition we note that, at the beginning of the film, express reference is made to the "Pan American Airways System" and not to "Pan Pacific Airways". However, immediately following this reference, we note that the film then states that it is "fictional. No identification with any actual person or organization is intended or should be inferred." Taken together, we believe that there is no reason to conclude that the film is any more about the "Pan American Airways System" than about "Pan Pacific Airways" as you suggest.

As to the "Pan Pacific Airways" featured on your cited internet site (which link, like others related to the "new" Pan Pacific Airways, has, apparently, "died"), there does not appear to be any connection between that corporation and the company whose activities are documented on the television series "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and, probably, also on the movie "China Clipper". Because of the lack of published information regarding Pan Pacific Airways (and the fact that some at least one esteemed scholar apparently doubts the very existence of the company) we have decided to provided the following facts about Pan Pacific Airways:

What was to become Pan Pacific Airways began in early 1915 as the "Panama Pacific Exposition Aviation Company". Its assets at that time consisted of one seaplane and some rather dilapidated facilities in Alviso, California. [These facilities--which were the so called "'first' new Barataria Boat Works building--were sold to the new company by the Barataria Boat Works.] As its original name indicates, the company was formed to capitalize on the Exposition which was going to begin later that year in San Francisco. The company enjoyed immediate success flying wealthy--and brave--fair-goers from the San Jose area to and from the Exposition as well as providing 1 hour tours of the Bay to even wealthier--and brave--fair-goers while waiting for its regular passengers for the return trip to Alviso.

When the United States entered World War I and its two pilots joined the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps, the Panama Pacific Exposition Aviation Company went "dark" until 1919. With the return of its pilots--and a number of their war-time comrades--the re-named "Pan Pacific Aviation Company" resumed business. From 1920 to 1933, the company flourished as its growing fleet of seaplanes and flying boats were frequently called upon to assist cargo vessels in distress off the West Coast of the United States in lightening their loads--such as the Blancmange.

With the repeal of the Prohibition in 1933, the company--now re-named Pan Pacific Airways--tried to capitalize on the increasing interest in air passenger traffic in the Pacific. As reflected on the recently discovered postcard shown below, successful weekly flights were established to and from the Republic of Carlotta off the South American coast and to and from Juneau, Alaska as well.

PPA 36


In 1935, Pan Pacific was contacted by a representative of the Grand Duchy of Wotanberg which was interested in establishing regular air service between its Pacific colony--the Seiber Islands--and the United States. Coincidently, Pan Pacific was soon thereafter also contacted by representatives of consortium of French and Portugese companies interested in establishing regular air passenger traffic between Macao, French Indo-China, other French and Portugese Pacific colonies, and the United States. Although as reflected in the film "China Clipper" the task of establishing such routes was a daunting one. However, with firm financial commitments from both the Grand Duchy and the French-Portugese consortium, Pan Pacific Airways began searching for suitable equipment and facilities.

In late 1936, the company succeeded in acquiring four Bonavista flying boats from the Aviation Division of the Barataria Boat Works. Although these airplanes did not have the capacity or range of Pan American's more famous (and successful) Pacific Clippers, they had sufficient range to cross the wide expanses of the Pacific from Alviso, California to Saigon--with stops in Hawaii, the Palmyra Atoll, St Hubert, Tagataya/Boragora, Port Moresby, Portugese Timor, and Manila. As reflected on the recently discovered postcard shown below, regular flights were also to be provided to both Macao and Singapore from Manila, and, as required by its French partner, to and from Tahiti and New Caledonia (via Palmyra Atoll, St Hubert, and Tagataya) .

Map 1


Arguably trying to capitalize on its competitor Pan American's earlier success with the "Clipper" concept--Pan Pacific's four large flying boats were christened the Tagataya Clipper, the Boragora Clipper, the Tahiti Clipper, and the Tonkin Clipper. (Two additional "Clippers" were also ordered and tentantively named the Timor Clipper and the Tibet Clipper.) In keeping with the spirit of the times--and arguably trying to capitalize on its competitor Pan American's earlier success with the "China Clipper"--these aircraft were generically described as "China Clippers". Other aircraft were also obtained including four Barataria Beta Pegasi and four Barataria Brantas.

As documented in "Tales of the Gold Monkey", in 1937 one of the airline's Clippers--the Tagataya Clipper to be exact--went down in the ocean between the Marivellas and the Seiber Islands, presumably due to mechanical failure and was never found. On board that flight were Corky's sister and her baby, as well one "Enoch Arden" and most of the members of Alviso, California's famous Duck Club's Shooting Team, who were on their way to the Seiber Islands to participate in the annual competition of the Seiber Islands Schützenverein ("Shooting Association").

The resulting lawsuits against the company--especially those on behalf of the families of the deceased members of the Alviso Duck Club--forced Pan Pacific to sell its most valuable assets--its headquarters, terminal, and maintenance facilities in Alviso, California (shown on the postcard below)--to the Barataria Aeronautical Corporation in mid 1938. Pan Pacific was also forced to sell its beloved Boragora Clipper to the Wotanberger Overseas Airways Company. (This aircraft remains in service today with Seiber Airlines!!.)

PanPac Card

Declining revenues exacerbated the already precarious financial condition of the company to the point that when "retired" Chinese Air Force Colonel Wong Wei made an almost ridiculous offer in late 1939 to buy what remained of the company, the desperate owners accepted. Capitalizing on his friendship with the President of the Republic of Carlotta, Wong Wei immediately sold Pan Pacific's Carlotta route and its associated facilities and equipment to Aero-Carlotta for as much money as he had paid the former owners of Pan Pacific for the entire airline.

With typical modesty, Pan Pacific Airways' new owner renamed what remained of Pan Pacific after himself--Wong Wei Airline. The airline's two remaining clippers were also re-named Wong Wei Clipper--after himself--and Yangtze Clipper--after his favorite river. The newly re-named airline brought badly needed supplies to the desperate Chinese in their struggle against Japanese imperialism during 1940 and most of 1941. (It must be noted, however, that at least one revisionist historian alleges that most of the airline's cargo going west consisted of American liquor and cigarettes.) With the rapid Japanese conquests beginning on December 7, 1941, the company lost its facilities in Hong Kong, Manilla, and Boragora. (Its facilities in Tagataya had, of course, already been destroyed along with the rest of the island when its volcano erupted catastophically in 1940.) Despite these losses, the company continued to carry out its vital supply missions to China during the remainder of the war.

On VJ day, Colonel Wong Wei died, quite ironically, while attempting to celebrate the Japanese surrender by doing a victory roll in one of his airline's newly acquired, but overloaded, C-47's. His eldest daughter, Wong Feng, immediately assumed control of the company, renaming it Wong Airline. She was initially assisted in her efforts by two of her younger brothers--Bing and Bo-Li--and one of her younger sisters--Jin (who was also a pilot for the airline!) (all of whom would later be fictionally portrayed in the 1979 motion picture "The In-Laws", although, inexplicably, Jin--who married Vincent J. Ricardo in 1946--was portrayed by a white actress). Today, Wong Airline provides Chartered Aircraft and Airline Management Services and is based at Amelia Earhart International Airport, Trevorstein, Wotanberg; Jake Cutter International Airport, St Hubert, the Seiber Islands; and Mogambo International Airport, Mogambo, the Mustela Islands.

Wong Wei


This is a photograph, taken sometime in August 1945, showing one of Wong Wei's newly acquired C-47's.


Special Note: Since the original posting of this item discussing Colonel Wong Wei, another Chinese aviator with a similar name--Lieutenant Commander Wang Wei--became the focus of world wide attention in 1971 in what has been called the Hainan Island Incident. We contacted Wong Airline which informed us that the Wong family is unaware of any relationship between the two airmen.


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