On July 18th at the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, the Pan Am Museum Foundation www.panam.org hosted a live broadcast from the E/V Nautilus, near Pago Pago, searching for the wreckage of the Samoan Clipper .
Linda Friere, Co Chairman of the Pan Am Museum Foundation, began the afternoon with a welcome and a special tribute to honor a 104-year-old veteran Pan Am Captain, Captain Pete Goutiere. During World War II, Captain Goutiere flew over 680 missions with Pan Am’s CNAC (China National Aviation Corporation) division over “the Hump”. The Hump, known as “the skyway to hell” was the treacherous route over the eastern end of the Himalayas, where over 500 airplanes crashed and more than 3,300 airmen died in action. Hailed as a hero of Pan Am’s Africa-Orient division, Captain Pete Goutiere “has truly earned his wings.”
Aviation author Christine Negroni gave a brief background presentation before the live feed from the E/V Nautilus in the Pacific www.nautiluslive.org. On January 11, 1938, eighty years ago, the Pan Am Samoan Clipper, a 4 engine Sikorsky S42B flying boat, under the command of pioneering aviator, Captain Edwin Musick and his crew of six, was lost off the north west coast of Tutuila, American Samoa. The aircraft is believed to have caught fire and exploded midair but neither the remains of the aircraft or its crew have ever been found, nor has the cause of the accident been determined.
Mr. Russ Matthews, President of the Air/Sea Heritage Foundation and his group partnered with the Ocean Exploration Trust, headed by Dr. Robert Ballard and team, joined forces to find the wreckage and solve the mystery of the missing Clipper in a search which began this summer. The Trust owns and operates E/V Nautilus, a state-of-the-art deep-sea science ship. In a special interactive live feed from the Nautilus, Mr. Matthews discussed the importance of this search to aviation history, and showed us the two submersibles being used. The “Argus” is a towed submersible camera, lighting platform and the “Hercules” a ROV (remotely operated vehicle.) To see the ocean floor in a two-mile deep sea through these submersibles is an incredible experience.
To date, no example of this innovative Sikorsky S-42 type aircraft survives in a museum or private collection, nor are there any currently known wrecks.