In the past we have shared some photos of the 1931 Pan Am airline service between Boston and Halifax, with a scheduled stop in Calais but we didn’t have much information on the details of Calais’ short lived air connection with the wider world. Richard Auletta however has found a copy of the Pan Am brochure on the Pan Am Sky Route so a update is in order.
The Boston to Halifax route map is shown above. It appears that the leg from Bangor to St. John was a bit out of the range of the plane, a Sikorsky S-41 Amphibian pictured below:
…but directly on the route as the crow flies was Calais. Geography for once was in our favor. A suitable site for landing the amphibian was found in Red Beach.
The plane was scheduled to land on August 1, 1931 at Barbour’s Beach which is just below Devils Head at the former Frank Fenderson property. The above photo shows a large crowd of locals waiting for the inaugural flight.
Much to the surprise of a few sceptics the Sikorsky landed without incident and on time. It was greeted by a bevy of local dignitaries. Calais, it seemed, was to be an important cog in airline travel along the east coast.
The fares were somewhat higher than the railroad but not much, only $21.00 from Calais to Boston and $15,00 to Halifax.
According to the schedule the flight from Calais left at 1:45 P.M and arrived in Boston at 5:00 which is certainly a lot faster than the railroad and faster than one can drive even today. In 1931 if you were thinking of a road trip to Boston in your remarkably unreliable automobile you would have packed several spare tires and lots of food because many of the roads, including the airline, were not yet paved. The Sky Route must have seemed too good to believe and sadly it was.
While the Sky Route had a good deal of potential, commercial airplane travel was still in its infancy in 1931. When one of the flights crashed in Boston Harbor in September and some passengers drowned, the traveling public decided spending a few extra hours on the train was not only cheaper but safer. Pan Am canceled the route and Calais remains without commercial airline service to this day. In truth the Calais stop would not have lasted long. Airplanes developed more range very quickly and Calais was destined to see only contrails in the bright, blue sky.