W.T. LARKINS COLLECTION
No. 3769. Consolidated 16-1 Commodore (NC670M c/n 14) Pan American Airways
Photographed at Pan American's base at Alameda, California, USA, ca. 1937, by W.T. Larkins

Consolidated 16-1 Commodore

08/31/2011. Forerunner of the Pan American flying boat Clipper fleets of the later 1930s, the Commodore was built initially to an order for 14 from the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA), set up in 1929 to link the major cities of North, Central and South America. The design (by Isaac.M. Laddon and Roy Miller) was based on that of his earlier Model 9 XPY-1 long-range patrol flying boat for the USN. The prototype, registered NX855M (later NC855M) was completed in 1929, and the first flight was made from the Niagara River near Buffalo, New York, by Consolidated pilot Leigh Wade and NYRBA pilot William S. Grooch on September 28, 1929.

A large twin-engined, twin-tailed flying boat, the original Model 16 had seating for 18 passengers in addition to the crew of three. Only the first three Commodores were built to this configuration, the Model 16-1 (9 built ) seated 22 passengers, and the Model 16-2 (2 completed) had maximum accommodation for 30 passengers; the prototype was later modified to Model 16-1 standard. The cabin of the Model 16-1 was divided into two eight-seat forward compartments, with a six-seat lounge to the rear. On the Model 16-2 the lounge was at the front, followed by three eight-seat compartments. Other features included a toilet, radio compartment and a 200 cu.ft (5.66 cu.m) cargo/baggage hold.

NYRBA made its first route-proving flight with the Commodore (flagship Buenos Aires) in July 1929. Certification was received in November 1929 and the first scheduled services (Miami-Buenos Aires) began in the following February. In August 1930 NYRBA and the ten Commodores then in service were acquired by Pan American, which bought the outstanding four aircraft from Consolidated in October and opened a service from Kingston, Jamaica to Panama in early December. Commodores continued to operate with Pan Am for many years, some still flying on local-service routes in the Bahamas in the mid-1940s.

Pictured at its Alameda base with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the far distance, N670M was the last Model 16 produced and was bought by Pan American in October 1930 and served 10 years with the airline. In 1940 it was exhibited at the Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island and carried the name 'Training Plane No.1' on the nose. Subsequently it was stored and it was scrapped in 1948.

Created October 25, 2004