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USA to NZ via Hawaii, Philippines, Hong Kong and Macau, 1935 - 37

The first flight of the regular Pan American airmail service (FAM 14) from USA to the Philippines (Manila) left San Francisco on 22 November 1935. The route was via Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island and Guam.

The aim was to provide a regular airmail service to China and the route was extended to Hong Kong via Macau in April 1937. Mail for Australia and New Zealand was accepted for both flights.

USA - Philippines - NZ, 1935

Philippines

The shown cover is postmarked on 22 November 1935 in San Francisco and is addressed to New Zealand.

The postage rate was 75c, the same as to Manila. The subsequent route to New Zealand would be by sea to Singapore, but it is not clear if it was then flown from there to Australia.

A special 25c US airmail stamp was issued to mark the start of the new route and has the inscription November 1935.

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A green cachet was applied in San Francisco with the inscriptions: Trans - Pacific F.A.M. Route 14 and San Francisco (Alameda Airport) Honolulu . The cover was backstamped in Manila on 29 November, but there are no further backstamps.

The plane was the Martin M130 flying boat China Clipper and the chief pilot was Captain Edwin Musick who was to captain the flight carrying the first experimental airmail from New Zealand to the USA in 1938.

USA - Macau - Hong Kong - (NZ), 1937

Macau Macau

This cover was flown on the first flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong in April 1937. The New Zealand address label has been removed.

The Martin M130 flying boat China Clipper left San Francisco on 21 April. The route from the US to Manila was via Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island and Guam.

At Manila, mail was transferred to the Sikorsky S42B flying boat Hong Kong Clipper and flown to Macau on 28 April [2]. The flying boat only waited for an hour in Macau before flying to Hong Kong which was reached half an hour later.

The cover has a San Francisco to Hong Kong first flight cachet and is backstamped Hong Kong on 28 April. It is franked with 70c which was the rate from USA to Macao and Hong Kong as well as being the rate to Australia and New Zealand.

SF to NZ

The cover was then flown from Hong Kong on the Imperial Airways route to Penang on the flight that left Hong Kong on 30 April and arrived in Penang on 1 May. At Penang it connected with the UK - Australia Imperial Airways / Qantas Eastern Route service IE 543 on 2 May.

Penang to Singapore was flown by Imperial Airways while Singapore - Brisbane was by Qantas. This cover was off-loaded at Charleville and flown by Butler Air Transport to Cootamundra and then on to Sydney by rail. Although this cover does not have a Sydney backstamp, Walker reports a cover with a Sydney backstamp of 7 May [1].

Sydney to New Zealand was by sea. The map shows the roundabout route from San Francisco to New Zealand.

USA - Macau - (NZ), 1937

Macau

Macau backstamp

This cover to New Zealand was also flown on the first flight from San Francisco, but as it is routed via Macau, it was off-loaded there.

The cover has a San Francisco to Macao first flight cachet and is backstamped Macau on 28 April. It is correctly franked with 70c.

The S42B was in Macau for just over an hour and so there was no time for the cover to be backstamped and returned to the plane in time to be flown to Hong Kong. It was carried to Hong Kong by surface mail and backstamped there at 1pm on 30 April. which would be too late for the service to Penang on 30 April. It is not clear whether it was sent to Singapore by sea or if it waited for the next flight to Penang on 7 May.

Later Flights: USA - Hong Kong - Australia - (NZ)

hk
December 1937

hk backstamp Sydney backstamp

This cover is postmarked in New York on 6 December 1937 and is routed to be sent to New Zealand by air mail via Hong Kong. It was backstamped in Hong Kong on 20 December and in Sydney on 7 January 1938.

After being flown from San Franciso to Hong Kong via Manila, it would have been flown on the second Hong Kong - Bangkok service on 26-27 December. That would connect with IE 612 from Bangkok on 31 December and be off-loaded at Charleville on 4 January. It would then be expected to be flown Charleville - Cootamundra on 4 January and from there by overnight train arriving early in the morning of 5 January in Sydney. However it was delayed by two days due to bad weather in Darwin which is why its Sydney backstamp is at 6.30am on 7 January.

The Awatea left Sydney on 7 January and arrived in Wellington on 10 January.

The December 1937 Pan Am timetable showed that flights left San Francisco on a Wednesday and arrived in Hong Kong the following Wednesday. This cover must therefore have been delayed by bad weather in the Pacific. This cover would have been expected to be flown to Hong Kong on 8-15 December and connect with the Hong Kong - Bangkok service on 19-20 December and leave Bangkok on 24 December and arrive in Sydney on 29 December. The connections were therefore poor and the Mariposa which left San Francisco on 7 December 1937 and arrived in Auckland on 24 December made much better time.

While this cover was in transit, the first Pan American air mail was flown from Auckland to San Francisco.

hk
October 1939
hk backstamp

This cover is postmarked in Cupertino, California on 17 October 1939 and has a Hong Kong transit mark on 25 October. It was flown on the clipper that left San Francisco on 19 October and arrived in Hong Kong on 25 October.

There are no further transit marks. It was likely flown from Hong Kong to Bangkok on 29 October and from Bangkok to Sydney on 2 - 6 November. Sydney to New Zealand would then be by sea.

USA - Hawaii - (NZ), 1937

Hawaii

Air mail on FAM 14 could be off-loaded in Hawaii and sent on to New Zealand by sea. The advantage was that mail that had missed the mail steamer in San Francisco could catch up with it in Honolulu. The service seems to have been little used, although this cover does appear to be a commercial use of the service.

It is postmarked Ferry Annex in San Francisco on December 8, 1937 and has the routing instructions Via Clipper to Honolulu / Steamer from Honolulu on two lines. Unfortunately, it has no transit marks. It would likely catch up in Honolulu with the Mariposa which had left San Francisco on 7 December 1937. It arrived in Auckland on 24 December.

The airmail rate from USA to Hawaii in 1935 was 25c and a further 5c was required for surface mail from Hawaii to New Zealand. By the time that the clipper service was extended to Hong Kong in 1937, the USA - Hawaii airmail rate had been reduced to 20c [1].

Hawaii

This cover is franked with 52c, most of the large number of 2c and 3c stamps being on the back. I assume that the rate was 20c airmail to Hawaii followed by 6c surface to New Zealand and that this large cover was overweight and so required double the rate.

There was an experimental flight from Hawaii to New Zealand a couple of weeks later, leaving Honolulu on 23 December and arriving in Auckland on 26 December 1937. Although mail was flown on the return journey from New Zealand in January 1938, no official mail was carried to New Zealand.

For a short time in June 1940, this service in the opposite direction became the principal (partial) airmail route from New Zealand to Great Britain . Mail went to Honolulu by sea, was then flown from Honolulu to the eastern seaboard of the United States and completed its journey across the Atlantic by sea. The rate was 1s 9d.

(NZ) - Hawaii - USA 1938 - 1939

Hawaii

From March 1938, mail could also be sent by sea from New Zealand to Hawaii to connect there with the FAM 14 service [3]. This cover is postmarked on 14 April 1938 and there is a company arrival backstamp on 3 May. The rate was 1s 6d and so it is not clear why the cover is franked with 1s 8d.

The cover was sent to Hawaii on the Empress of Britain which was making a round the world voyage. She was the largest ship to have visited New Zealand, arriving in Auckland on 12 April and leaving on 15 April.

Hawaii

Censored cover postmarked on 12 December 1939, routed via Honolulu and franked with 1s 6d. On 1 December 1939 the rate had been increased to 1s 9d [3], but the cover does not have any postage due and so I assume that senders were given a few days grace to find out about the new rates.

I bought this cover on eBay - it arrived from USA 11 months after posting!

For a short time in June 1940, this service became the principal (partial) airmail route from New Zealand to Great Britain . Mail went to Honolulu by sea, was then flown from Honolulu to the eastern seaboard of the United States and completed its journey across the Atlantic by sea. The rate was 1s 9d.

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All scans were made by the author.
[1] Airmails of New Zealand, volume 2 (1986) compiled by Douglas A Walker, Air Mail Society of New Zealand
[2] Pan American Airways CAB Docket 851, Air Mail News, vol 46, p 87, August 2003 published by The British Aerophilatelic Federation.
[3] Startup, RM, New Zealand Overseas Airmail Postage Rates, 2012.