This interesting cover came into my possession recently, so I thought I would do a write-up of it here. My thanks go to Ragui H. Michael over on the British Colonies Stamp Collectors Facebook Page for helping supply me with lots of interesting information.
The cover bears King George V stamps, used around a year and a half after his death. It was flown from Hong Kong to San Francisco in 1937 and carried on the aircraft known as the China Clipper.
China Clipper was the first of three Martin M-130 aircraft built by the Glenn L. Martin Company, costing $417,000 and was one of the largest aeroplanes of the time.
It was a flying boat with four engines flown by Pan American Airways and also operated as a commercial passenger service.
The first airmail flight of the China Clipper started on November 22, 1935, from Alameda, California and landed in Manila on November 29th – the route was named FAM 14 or Foreign Air Mail Route 14. It was the only airmail link between the US and the Orient at the time.
The weight of the mail on that first flight was too much for the pilot, Ed Musick, to fly over the Bay Bridge, so he had to pass under it.
Moving on to the 21st April 1937; China Clipper took off from San Francisco and flew over the Pacific Ocean to eventually arrive in Hong Kong on 28th April 1937. The route then was via Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, Manila, Macau, and finally, Hong Kong. This was the first transpacific flight by a commercial passenger airliner.
On the following day and the return flight, our cover was carried across the Pacific.
On the return flight that departed Thursday, 29th April 1937, the aircraft was expected to carry 40,000 letters. The normal Clipper rate from Hong Kong to the USA was $2.80, which this cover bears. This particular cover has a receiving postmark on the reverse showing that it made the trip across the Pacific.
Here is an advertisement for the service in the other direction, from the USA to Hong Kong, including costs by weight.
And some film footage of the actual M-130 aircraft flying in 1935.