Image: NASM via Air and Space

It’s November 8, 1957, and Pan Am’s luxurious Boeing aircraft, Clipper Romance of the Skies, embarking on a round-the-world trip. The journey is set to take the plane westward from San Francisco all the way to Philadelphia with stops along the way. But the Clipper will never arrive at its first destination, Honolulu – and even decades later, no one will have ever figured out why.

Just as World War II came to a close, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing realized a potential for profit: many of its military designs could do double-duty as commercial aircraft. After all, the large, long-range planes would work just as well carrying passengers around the world. And the company’s engineers could outfit the vessels for luxurious long-haul treks.

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