The Longest Nonstop Flight in the United States

via CNN

There are 50 states in the United States, but only 48 of them are collected together, or contiguous, to use a fancy word. Alaska, the 49th state, is separated from the lower 48 by Canada, and Hawaii, the last state to enter the Union, lies across nearly 2,500 miles of open Pacific ocean. The US Navy tried to fly from California to Hawaii in 1925, but one aircraft had to turn back after just 300 miles, and the other ran out of fuel 400 miles from Oahu. The crew tried to finish the journey with a sail rigged from aircraft fabric, and were finally rescued, somewhat emaciated but otherwise in good health, after a week floating in the Pacific. Two more years passed before the US Army successfully flew a Fokker C-2 trimotor from California to Hawaii, a feat made even more daring because the aircraft had no floats to make an emergency ditching possible.

Where Progress and Romance Meet, Featuring a Boeing 314 soaring over a Hawaiian beach, this 1939 painting by Ruehl Frederick Heckman depicts the meeting of the modern and the exotic as the world continued to shrink. (Ruehl Frederick Heckman)

By the 1930s, with the Golden Age of Aviation in full swing, Pan Am was flying island-hopping routes across the Pacific from San Francisco all the way to the Philippines and China, with Honolulu as a stop along the way. Their large Martin M-130 flying boats, which usually held more mail and cargo than passengers, began regularly scheduled service in October 1936. By 1939, Pan Am was making flights to Hawaii in massive Boeing 314 flying boats and carrying more and more passengers. A trip that used to take days in a ship could now be completed in a matter of hours.

Following WWII, large piston-powered airliners that had grown out of the demands of war, and later jet-powered airliners, began making flights to Hawaii from departure cities in states other than California, but they still required a stop on the west coast for fuel. But now, in an era of ultra-long range twinjet airliners, Hawaiian Airlines is offering service from Boston (BOS) to Honolulu (HNL) flying the Airbus A330. The flight from the easternmost major airport in the US to the country’s westernmost state covers nearly 5,100 miles and takes about 10 hours to complete—about twice as far as the Pan Am Clippers, in about half the time. With the launch of this service, Hawaiian Airlines now claims the longest nonstop flight in the United States, a record they are not likely to relinquish, unless some other airline adds Portland or Bangor, Maine as a destination. For now, the airline is making the trip five times a week, and expects to add a sixth flight as the summer travel season picks up. So, for those lucky Northeasterners who can afford the $800-1000 ticket (or as much as $5,000 in first class) to wiggle their toes in the warm Hawaiian sand, there’s no need to stop in California, or anywhere else for that matter, along the way.

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