Since the dawn of aviation, people have managed to go from drifting in a hot air balloon to tearing across the sky at supersonic speeds. Along the way, inventors, trailblazers, and intrepid adventurers took the little steps that were, at the time, great milestones. Among those was the first transpacific flight.

Into the wild blue yonder

Flights over land had become fairly commonplace by the 1930s. Airplanes had been in mass production since the Wright Brothers opened up shop in the 1910s. During those 20 years, planes evolved from the likes of their rickety Model B to the sturdy, steel-clad Martin M-130. As air travel became safer and more commonplace, airmail grew in popularity. Pilots ferrying packages and letters traveled new flight paths before any other humans had the opportunity, including across the ocean.

In May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean from Long Island to Paris. His nearly 3,600-mile trip was an incredible achievement at the time, but it was nothing compared to the journey across the Pacific. Mail carriers were the first to brave the Pacific Ocean. The historic first passenger flight to cross the Pacific Ocean had to cover nearly 6,900 miles, but first, it made an inaugural tour.

Island hopping

In 1935, the China Clipper, the plane that would eventually make the first fully transpacific flight, made an “All American” tour of the Pacific Island nations. Although it wasn’t until later that the China Clipper would cross the Pacific with passengers onboard, the inaugural tour set the precedent that Pan-American Airways’ flying boat was leagues faster than even the fastest boats. When the plane set off for Hong Kong on April 21, it hopped across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco by way of Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, Manila, and Macau. The trip required 65 hours in the air, and though it took seven days for the China Clipper to complete the crossing, the same trip would have taken the fastest steamboat just over 17 days.