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Samoan Clipper: Wikis


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The Sikorsky S-42 was capable of landing on water, making it possible to extend commercial air flight to locations without runways.

The Samoan Clipper was one of ten Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42 flying boats. It exploded over Pago Pago, American Samoa, on January 11, 1938, while piloted by famous aviator, Ed Musick.

The aircraft developed an engine problem shortly after taking off from Pago Pago Harbor. The S-42 was fully loaded with fuel and exceeding the gross weight maximum for a safe landing. Because of this, Captain Musick elected to dump fuel before attempting an emergency landing. However, because of the seaplane's weight and reduced power, the S-42 circled the harbor with flaps extended to maintain lift while fuel dumping was in progress. Apparently, Sikorsky and Pan American had never tested fuel dumping with flaps fully extended. The position of the fuel dump vents on the wing, coupled with the consequent airflow with extended flaps created a back flow of vaporizing fuel which lingered and grew around the trailing edge of the wing.

It is believed that an explosive fuel/air mixture eventually extended to the engine exhaust manifold causing a catastrophic detonation that destroyed the plane in flight.

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