1938: Tributes to Captain Musick and Clipper crew

Captain Edwin Charles Musick
Captain Edwin Charles Musick

Additional material from the Evening Post, 13 January 1938, p 14



“I have learned with deep regret of the disaster that has overtaken the Pan-American Airways Samoan Clipper on its third flight from Honolulu to Auckland by way of Pago Pago,” said the Prime Minister (the Rt Hon MJ Savage) today in an interview.

“It is difficult to realise that Captain Edwin C Musick and his comrades have perished in the Pacific at the flush of a great enterprise. Less than a fortnight ago I had the privilege of taking part in an official welcome to Captain Musick and his men on their arrival at Auckland from American Samoa. The circumstances then were such as to stimulate all observers to admiration and to inspire the utmost confidence in the Pan-American Airways project. The Clipper completed her second trip from Honolulu to Auckland on scheduled time, and the craft represented power and efficiency. Her chief pilot, Captain Musick, impressed everybody with his unassuming manner and fine character in which a ready friendliness was an outstanding quality.

“I had a talk with him and his associates, and they all revealed the merits which set airmen apart as intrepid and competent men. As I have said, it is hard to believe that such men have gone from our ways so soon.

“The warm sympathy of New Zealand people will be with the relatives of the airmen who have lost their lives in blazing the trail for the establishment of regular aviation services across the Pacific between two friendly nations.”



The sympathy and distress of Wellington citizens has been expressed to Mr Harold Gatty, the New Zealand representative of Pan-American Airways, by the Mayor, Mr TCA Hislop, in the following telegram:—

“Oh behalf of the citizens of Wellington, I desire to express their feelings of profound grief at the tragic loss of the Clipper ship and her intrepid crew. Will you please convey our expressions of deep sympathy with the bereaved families of the men whose loss we deplore? We also wish to express to you our sympathy, in the tragic check to the great cause of international communications which you have worked so hard to develop. Nevertheless we know that in the spirit of the men who have gone you will still work on in that cause to ultimate victory.”

The chairman, members, and executive officers of the Wellington Harbour Board have communicated to Mr. Gatty their regrets and sympathy with the relatives of Captain Musick and his officers.



“The news of the disaster to the Pan-American Clipper ship has cast a cloud over the commercial community of New Zealand,” said Mr AJ Curtis, president of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce this afternoon.

“Such a calamity, just at the initial stage of a wonderful enterprising effort in the interests of international commercial progress, shocks the whole Dominion. The Pan-American Airways Company has the sincerest sympathy of the Chamber of Commerce movement.”


A cablegram conveying the sympathy and deep regret of the Union Airways organisation has been sent to Mr Juan Trippe, president of Pan-American Airways, by Mr NS Falla, chairman of directors of Union Airways, and similar regrets have been expressed to Mr Harold Gatty and the Auckland staff by the management and pilots of the company.



(By Telegraph – Press Association.)

Striking tributes were paid today to the late Captain Musick and his crew.

The Mayor of Auckland, Sir Ernest Davis, said that Auckland mourned the loss to aviation of one of its most experienced pilots and his associates. Captain Musick was a true pioneer of commercial* aviation.

The chairman of the Harbour Board, the Hon T Bloodworth, said that Auckland took a deep and personal interest in the Clipper and its crew, and the feeling of grief was very real. The disaster was a blow, but it must not be allowed to deter the establishment of permanent services.

A tribute to “the wonderful men who manned the Samoan Clipper” was paid by the superintendent of the Harbour Board, Mr D Holderness.

City flags were flown at half-mast today.



(By Telegraph — Press Association.)

“How soon the service will be started again is probably a matter for decision in a day or two,” said Mr Harold Gatty today.

Up till early this afternoon the Pan American officials in Auckland had received no direct advice since yesterday and Mr Gatty is awaiting a reply to a cable he sent to Pago Pago asking for details.

Commenting on the reported mechanical fault of an oil leak, Mr Gatty said, “A mishap such as this is not a question of route or of a new service. It is simply one of those things in aviation that are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to foresee. This is so no matter how perfect are the preparations and the organisation which are made before the flight commences.”

Mr Gatty said that Clippers had been operating on a regular service across the Pacific to China for more than two years and no mishaps had occurred.



The Samoan Clipper was the same plane which made the survey flight to Auckland last March and which subsequently returned to the North Pacific and operated on the far eastern link between Manila and Hong Kong. It was a Sikorsky 42B, and was, for the survey flight, a brand-new machine. A sister ship carried out the series of experimental flights across the North Atlantic last year. The cost of this plane is about £40,000.

In dimensions and performance the Sikorsky is closely comparable to the Empire flying-boat Centaurus, though hull, wing arrangement, and rudder assembly are different.

Both were great machines as New Zealand had thought of flying-boats, but in fact neither the Sikorsky nor the Centaurus were the machines with which full transport services over the Pacific and the Tasman could be given. They are rather the types of flyingboat one stage short of full commercial development for passenger carrying over great ocean distances. Pan American Airways did not propose to carry passengers in the Samoan Clipper, but intended to maintain a mail and freight service until March or April, or possibly a little later, when the Sikorsky was to have been replaced by the far larger (forty-ton) Boeing Clipper, with which the full passenger and mail service would be operated.


The factor which governs all long-distance flying is that of load-range capacity. If the range is short then a heavy payload (passengers, mail, and freight) can be carried, but as the range is increased, without possibility of refuelling, payload must give way to petrol load.

In the still greater flying-boats now being built, the Boeings and the Double Empire boats, for instance, the rangeload relation is increased, to thirty, forty, fifty, to seventy passengers as, the ranges vary from what today are still great ocean distances to those on which such machines as the Empire boats and the Clipper Ships now carry fifteen to twenty passengers.

The present Clipper ships — the Martin boats are a good deal larger than the Sikorskys — and Empire boats are in no sense experimental types. They are matter of fact air carriers for people, letters, and goods, within the limits of moderate range, of hundreds of miles, and of mails and express goods only over distances of 1200 miles or more.

The Boeings and the Double Empires will follow on this year and next with load capacity adjusted to greater ranges, and already designers are putting on drawing boards flying-boats doubled in magnificent dimensions again — 2o tons of present major flyingboats, 40 tons this and next year, 80 and 100 tons ahead again.

Terribly tragic though the loss of the Clipper ship has been, it will not halt the plans and the work of the great airways companies of the world. Nor will it halt the interest of Pacific countries in ocean flying, for the realisation has come that progress, mutual benefits and understanding can follow only from rapid transport and communication, and the air offers a special and vital means which no other service can supply.