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The Long Way Home. (Bookshelf Ideas).

by Ed Dover, published by the Paladwr Press

This book chronicles the unique flight of one of Pan American Airways' Boeing 314 (B3 14) flying boats from Auckland, New Zealand to New York at the outset of World War II. Caught enroute to New Zealand on a scheduled flight December 7, 1941, Captain Robert Ford and his crew were instructed to return the aircraft to the United States from New Zealand as best they could. Unable to fly eastwards across the Pacific via Honolulu, they had to go the other way around, and this entailed a route westwards across Australia, then through southeast and southern Asia, across Arabia and Africa, and finally traversing the South Atlantic to Brazil, and home to New York. The B314 flying boat was a large aircraft for the time, and virtually none of the places they landed on the journey back had ever seen a plane of its size. This fact led to certain technical difficulties along the way such as the absence of spare parts and the required use of non-standard fuel. Furthermore, with a war being waged in full force in the Dutch E ast Indies, there were problems of aircraft recognition.

This book provides a fascinating look at the earliest days of transoceanic commercial flights. Today, a flight from the west coast to Honolulu (still the longest commercial overwater air route in the world without an alternate landing field) takes approximately 6 hours on an aircraft that cruises at 39,000 feet and is flown by two flight crew. Flight time to Honolulu on the B314 could be as long as 22 hours depending on the winds. The crew was made up of the Captain; First, Second, Third, and Fourth Officers (co-pilots); two Flight Engineers; two Radio Operators; and two Stewards. The fact that crew and aircraft made it back unscathed is truly amazing and their story makes for fascinating reading. Another interesting aspect of the discussion is that the aircraft, along with much of Pan American's fleet, served as the Naval Air Transport Service for the duration of the war. This action established the precedent of utilizing commercial aircraft to support contingency military requirements that continues to this day in the form of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). Anyone with an interest in commercial aviation or strategic airlift will thoroughly enjoy this book.
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Dr. Gourdin, Kent N.
Publication:Defense Transportation Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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