Boeing 307 Stratoliner


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Clipper Flying Cloud, N19903, Boeing c/n 2003:

The Boeing 307 Stratoliner was the largest land-based airliner in its day. It was the first pressurized airliner to go into production. The design of the Boeing 307 was based on the wings and tail of the B-17C Flying fortress. The prototype Stratoliner first flew on January 1, 1938.

Boeing 307 Stratoliner three-view Boeing 307 Stratoliner three-view.

Boeing S-307Stratoliner, NC19903 was delivered to Pan American Airlines on March 22, 1940 at Brownsville, Texas. Its Boeing construction number is 2003. During World War II it flew South American routes under contract to the Army Air Transport Command. Pan Am sold it to Airline Training Incorporated of Homestead, Florida on November 1, 1948. The Haitian Army Air Corps acquired it on December 11, 1953 to be used as the personal transport of president "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Flight Investment Corporation of Dallas, Texas returned it to the U.S. register as N9307R on September 15, 1959. It was registered as N19903 in 1960. Ewell Nold Jr. of South Houston, Texas bought it on November 12, 1962. It flew for Arkansas Air Freight Incorporated until Inter-American Incorporated of Derby, Kansas bought it on November 23, 1965. Numerous liens were placed against Inter-American and it sold the Stratoliner to Aviation Specialties Company of Mesa, Arizona for $11,667 on May 28, 1969. Aviation Specialties flew it to Falcon Field at Mesa and parked it. That's where I first saw it while attending the 1971 Falcon Field airshow.

Boeing 307 N19903 at Falcon Field, Arizona on May 7, 1971 On May 7, 1971, Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, N19903 was sitting at Falcon Field, Arizona still wearing the colors of Inter-American Incorporated.

Boeing 307 N19903 at Falcon Field, Arizona on May 7, 1971 The former Clipper Flying Cloud at Falcon Field, Arizona on May 7, 1971.

Boeing 307 N19903 at Falcon Field, Arizona in April 1972 Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, N19903 at Falcon Field, Arizona in April 1972.

The National Air and Space Museum traded a Lockeheed C-121 Constellation for N199093 on February 20, 1973. N19903 was restored to flying condition for a ferry flight from Falcon Field to Davis-Monthan AFB near Tucson. It was towed from the Air Force Base to the Pima Air Museum.

Boeing 307 N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on March 31, 1974 Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, N19903 at the Pima Air Museum on March 31, 1974.

Boeing 307 N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on March 31, 1974 Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on March 31, 1974.

Boeing 307 N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on December 18, 1979 Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on December 18, 1979.

Boeing 307 N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on December 18, 1979 Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, N19903 at the Pima Air Museum, Arizona on December 18, 1979.

After display to thousands of visitors to the Pima Air Museum over 23 years, Boeing employees "discovered" it while retrieving the 367-80 for restoration in 1996. It was flown to Boeing Field in June 1994.

In the summer of 2001, a Boeing crew completed the complete restoration of the only remaining Boeing 307 Stratoliner, N19903. It appeared at the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconcon shortly after restoration.

On March 28, 2002 Clipper Flying Cloud was ditched in Elliot Bay near Seattle. The ditching was largely the result of inattention to the fuel gauges and poor assumptions about how long the Stratoliner could remain airborne with the amount of fuel on board. It appears that "dipping", the method used to determine the amount of fuel aboard, was not sufficiently precise.  The pilot began the flight under the impression that they had two hours of fuel aboard. The unique antique airliner ran out of gas after about 45 minutes. They had already made a full-stop landing at Paine.  They could have refueled at that time, but they expected to refuel after performing some touch-and-go landings.  The number three engine suffered an overspeed on the first take-off from Paine, so the crew elected to return to Boeing field rather than land immediately at Paine Field. The landing at Boeing was delayed by problems extending the main landing gear. The fuel gauges were indicating correctly, but the attention of the crew members was diverted while the landing gear was being hand-cranked down. The Stratoliner's engines died of fuel starvation, so its pilot was forced to ditch the airplane in Elliot Bay, near Salty's Restaurant. The four-man crew suffered only minor injuries.

The Stratoliner was carefully hoisted from the water on March 29, 2002. On June 14, Boeing announced that they intend to restore the Stratoliner to flightworthy condition within a year. Boeing rolled out the restored Stratoliner on June 13, 2003. It is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport.

Bob Harrington has posted a number of photos of the recovery operation on his web site, AeroBob Images

NTSB preliminary accident report.


Early Stratoliner History:

Prototype Boeing 307, NX 19901 with two feathered propellers The prototype Boeing 307, NX 19901 flying with two propellers feathered on the right wing. Its Boeing construction number was 1994. This Stratoliner first flew on December 31, 1938 and crashed on March 18, 1939. Representatives of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines were aboard for a demonstration flight. The KLM pilot asked the Boeing pilot to shut down two engines on one side of the airplane. The pilot lost control, and the airplane entered an unrecoverable spin. Ten people aboard were killed in the crash. The vertical stabilizer on the Stratoliner was enlarged to provide additional rudder control authority. The larger stabilizer that had been designed for the Stratoliner was incorporated in the design of the B-17E Flying Fortress.

TWA bought six SA-307B Stratoliners and Pan Am bought three S-307 Stratoliners. The TWA Stratoliners served on domestic U. S. routes. Pan Am based their Stratoliners in Miami and used them on Central and South American routes.

Howard Hughes took possession of one of TWA's Stratoliners before delivery to the airline. It was modified to Hughes' specifications for an attempt to set a new record for time to fly around the world and delivered as the only SB-307B.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Rainbow, NX19902 during early tests by Boeing at Seattle Pan Am Boeing S-307 Rainbow, NX19902 raises a cloud of dust as it takes off from Boeing Field in Seattle. This airframe carried Boeing construction number 1995. Boeing Photo 11739.

Following its service with Pan Am, it passed through the hands of a series of operators. Over the years it was registered as ZS-BWU, HC-SJC-003, F-BHHR, and XW-TAC. It was being operated by the French-Indochina airline Aigle Azur Extreme Orient, registered again as F-BHHR, when it crashed during a storm at Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon, Vietnam on May 22, 1961.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Clipper Flying Cloud, NC19903 during early tests by Boeing at Seattle Boeing 307 NC19903 with the original small vertical stabilizer before its delivery to Pan Am. This airframe carries Boeing construction number 2003. Photo courtesy David Davis.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Clipper Flying Cloud, NX19903 during early tests by Boeing at Seattle Pan Am Boeing S-307 Clipper Flying Cloud was given the experimental registration NX19903 when an enlarged vertical stabilizer was installed.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Clipper Flying Cloud, NX19903 during early tests by Boeing at Seattle S-307 Clipper Flying Cloud on an early flight over Seattle, Washington.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Clipper Flying Cloud, NX19903 during early tests by Boeing at Seattle Pan Am Boeing S-307 Clipper Flying Cloud on March 18, 1940. It has been re-registered as NC19903. Boeing photo 12329B.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Clipper Flying Cloud, NC19903 Vertical stabilizer of Pan Am Boeing S-307 Clipper Flying Cloud. Note the Boeing "bug" trademark.

Pan Am Boeing 307 Clipper Flying Cloud, NC19903 over Mt. Ranier Clipper Flying Cloud, NC19903 over Mt. Ranier, Washington. Boeing posed its new aircraft types over Mt. Ranier for publicity shots.

Following its service with Pan Am, the various owners of the former Clipper Flying Cloud registered it as ZS-BWV, Haiti No. 2003, N9307R, and finally N19903.

Boeing SA-307B Stratoliner, NX1940 in pre-war service with TWA. Boeing SA-307B Stratoliner, NX1940 in pre-war service with TWA. The original registration of this Stratoliner was NX19906, and it carried Boeing construction number 1998. TWA changed the registration for a publicity campaign that featured the Boeing SA-307B as the airliner for 1940. The brighter bare metal reveals where the 6 was removed and the second 9 was changed to a 4.

Boeing SA-307B Stratoliner, NX1940 in pre-war service with TWA. Boeing SA-307B Stratoliner, NX1940 in pre-war service with TWA. Barely visible under the wing are the external flap hinges that distinguished the TWA SA-307B from the Pan Am S-307.

TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner, N1940 Color publicity photo of TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner, N1940 flying above the weather. Following their retirement by TWA, four of the SA-307B-1 Stratoliners were sold to the French airline Aigle Azur in 1951. N1940 was registered as F-BELU. It was flying for Royal Air Lao registered as XW-TFP when it crashed into the Mekong River near the Thai border with Laos on March 13, 1975. The two man crew was captured by the Pathet Lao and held captive for several months.

TWA Boeing 307 Postcard from the 1940s The photo above was the subject of a popular postcard from the 1940s.

Postal cover from first TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner flight Postal cover carried on the first TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner flight from New York to Kansas City. It was cancelled in New York on September 8, 1940 and stamped received in Kansas City on September 10.

Postal cover from first TWA Boeing 307 Stratoliner flight Reverse of the envelope pictured above.

TWA Boeing 307 ashtray manufactured by Pastushin in the 1940s This ashtray featuring a chrome plated model of a TWA Boeing SA-307B Stratoliner was manufactured by Pastushin in the early 1940s

During World War II, the TWA SA-307B Stratoliners were inducted into the Army Air Force under the designation C-75 and received AAF serial numbers. The Pan Am S-307 Stratoliners kept their civil registrations, but they were operated primarily to serve the needs of the military.

TWA crews operated the C-75s for the Air Transport Command. They were assigned to trans-Atlantic duty, first across the South Atlantic from South America to Cairo, Egypt, and later across the North Atlantic to London, England.

Howard Hughes' plans to fly around world were interrupted. His Stratoliner was not flown from September 1939 to May 1947.

TWA Boeing SA-307B serving the Army Air Corps as C-75, 42-88627 First TWA Boeing SA-307B, NC19909 to be converted to the SA-307B-1 configuration during tests at Boeing's Seattle plant after the war. This airframe carried Boeing construction number 2001. It still carries the Army Air Corps serial number, 42-88627 that it carried as a C-75. The original B-17C style wings and horizontal stabilizer were replaced with B-17G style units. The horizontal stabilizer was mounted three feet farther to the rear. The new wing lacks the external flap hinges of the original. The 900 hp Wright GR-1820 Cyclone engines were replaced with 1,200 hp R1829 engines. The pressurization system was removed to reduce weight.

SA-307B-1, NC19909 was sold to Aigle Azur and registered as F-BELZ in 1951. It crashed into a cliff on Monte Renosa near Ajaccio, France on December 29, 1962, killing all 25 in board.

TWA Boeing SA-307B-1, NC19908 in post-war service with TWA TWA Boeing SA-307B-1, NC19908 in post-war service with TWA. This airframe carried Boeing construction number 2000. The original B-17C style horizontal stabilizer has been replaced with the larger stabilizer design of the B-17G. Note that the elevator hinge line is even with the rudder hinge line.

SA-307B-1, NC19908 was sold to Aigle Azur and registered as F-BELY in 1951. It was operated by Royal Air Lao registered as XW-PGR when it was written off at Luang Prabang, Laos on February 27, 1971. There is no other information available about this crash.

After the war, Hughes sold his Stratoliner SB-307B, NC19904 to Glen McCarthy of Texas. The airplane was written off after a hurricane hit the airport where it was parked in Florida.

SA-307B-1 F-BELX at Pleiku, South Viet Nam in 1962 Photographer: Daniel Gressang SA-307B-1 F-BELX at Pleiku, South Viet Nam in 1962. It was originally registered as NC19905 by TWA and its Boeing construction number was 1999. TWA sold it to the French airline Aigle Azur in 1951. It was one of three SA-307B-1s based in Saigon. The French registered Stratoliners operated under U.S. control, but they were the only civil aircraft allowed to operate between Saigon and Hanoi. Photographer: Daniel Gressang

SA-307B-1 F-BELX at Pleiku, South Viet Nam in 1962 Photographer: Daniel Gressang F-BELX was later sold to Cambodia Air Commercial and registered XW-TFR.

SA-307B-1 F-BELX at Pleiku, South Viet Nam in 1962 Photographer: Daniel Gressang This Stratoliner crashed three minutes after taking off from the Battambang Airport in Cambodia on June 27, 1974, following the loss of power from three engines. Nineteen of the thirty-nine people on board were killed.

It should be noted that five of the eight Boeing 307 Stratoliners to enter airline service were lost in crashes in Loas, Cambodia, and Viet Nam between 1961 and 1975. One of them was shot down by a U.S. fighter due to "misidentification".

You can charter the Boeing 307 houseboat Cosmic Muffin from Plane Boats, Inc. The fuselage of Howard Hughes Stratoliner SB-307B, NC19904 has been converted to a houseboat and is named Cosmic Muffin. It is available for charter in Florida. Photo courtesy Plane Boats Inc.

Link to the web site of the unique Stratoliner houseboat, the Cosmic Muffin.The unique Stratoliner houseboat, the Cosmic Muffin

Airliners of the 1930s

  First Flight Wing Span Length Passengers Wing Area Gross Weight Engines
Boeing 314

1938

152ft,00in

106ft,00in

74

2,607

82,000

4 x 1,200 hp R2600
Boeing 307 Stratoliner

1938

107ft,03in

74ft,04in

30

1,486

42,000

4 x 900 hp R1820
Douglas DC-3

1935

95ft,00in

62ft,00in

24

987

28,000

2 x 1,000 hp R-1830
Douglas DC-1

1933

85ft,00in

60ft,00in

12

942

17,500

2 x 690 hp SGR-1820
Boeing 247

1933

74ft,00in

51ft,04in

10

836

12,650

2 x 550 hp Wasp S1D1

Link to Boeing's June 19 press release about the rollout of the restored Clipper Flying Cloud.

Link to the the Aviation Group's page describing the Boeing 307.

Link to the Aviation Safety Network's list of Boeing 307 crashes.

Maquette of Russia has released a 1/72-scale model kit of the Boeing 307 Stratoliner.


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