The Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner was the first commercial transport aircraft with a pressurized cabin. This feature allowed the plane to cruise at an altitude of 20,000 ft (6,000 m), well above weather disturbances. The pressure differential was 2.5 psi (17 kPa), so at 14,700 ft (4,480 m) the cabin altitude was 8,000 ft (2,440 m). The Model 307 had capacity for a crew of five and 33 passengers. The cabin was nearly 12 ft (3.6 m) across. It was the first plane to include a flight engineer as a crew member.
A total of 10 Stratoliners were built. The first flight was on December 31, 1938. Boeing 307 prototype NX 19901 crashed on March 18, 1939 during a test flight. By 1940 it was flying routes between Los Angeles and New York, as well as to locations in Latin America. Multi-millionaire Howard Hughes purchased a model for his personal use, and had it transformed into a luxurious "flying penthouse". This plane was later sold to oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy in 1949.
The only surviving Boeing Model 307 (NC19903), operated by Pan Am, is preserved in flying condition at the Smithsonian Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. On March 28, 2002 this particular aircraft was subject to a dramatic crash in which it ditched into Elliott Bay in Seattle, Wash., on what was to be its last flight before heading to the Smithsonian. Despite the incident, it was again restored, flew to the Smithsonian and is now on display.
The fuselage of Howard Hughes' personal 307 survives, although it has been converted into a boat.
Specifications (Boeing 307)
Data from Jane's AWA 1942 (apart from wing area and loading)
Published - July 2009
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