|Boeing 377 Stratocruiser|
|Pan Am Stratocruiser Clipper Seven Seas arriving at London Heathrow in September 1954.|
|First flight||July 8, 1947|
|Primary user||Pan American World Airways|
|Developed from||Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter|
The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was a large long-range airliner built after World War II. It was developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter, a military derivative of the B-29 Superfortress used for troop transport. The Stratocruiser's first flight was on July 8, 1947.
Put into production in the late 1940s, the aircraft had four radial engines mounted in a tractor configuration. It had two decks and a pressurized cabin, a relatively new feature to transport aircraft.
The Stratocruiser was more expensive to buy and operate than the competing Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed Constellation. It had mediocre reliability, chiefly due to chronic problems with the 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major radial engines and their four-blade propellers. Only 55 Stratocruisers were built for airlines.
Design and development
Like the C-97, the 377 was developed towards the end of World War II by grafting a large upper fuselage onto the lower fuselage and wings of the B-29 Superfortress bomber. The 377 was larger and longer-ranged than the Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-6. Production ended in 1950.
The "inverted-figure-8" double-deck fuselage design had 6,600 ft³ (187 m³) of interior space, the lower deck having a smaller diameter than the upper. It could have 100 seats (though fewer was usual) or sleeping berths for up to 28 berthed and five seated passengers. It first flew on July 8, 1947. Pressurization (previously introduced on the Boeing Stratoliner and also designed into the B-29) allowed sea-level cabin pressure at 15,500 ft (4,700 m) altitude. At 25,000 ft (7,600 m) "cabin altitude" was 5,500 ft (1,700 m).
Despite a service record remembered for one or two early disasters arising from the Curtiss Electric propellers fitted to early aircraft, the 377 was considered to be one of the most capable of post-war propeller-driven transports, and among the most luxurious. A total of 56 were built, one prototype (later reconditioned) and 55 production aircraft. 888 more of this general design, with differences, were built as KC-97 aerial refueling aircraft and C-97 military transports.
The Stratocruiser flew premier services to Hawaii and across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is one of few airliners with a double-decker seating arrangement (another being its French contemporary the Breguet Deux-Ponts). The upper deck was for 55–100 passenger seats or 28 sleeper berths, while the lower deck had a lounge and bar. The upper and lower decks were connected with a spiral staircase, which later appeared in the early variants of the Boeing 747.
In 1953 "United's Ray Ireland... described the Stratocruiser as unbeatable in luxury attraction but is uneconomical. Ireland said PAA's Stratocruiser competition to Hawaii induced United to buy the plane [sic] originally." In 1950 United's seven B377s averaged $2.46 "direct operating cost" per plane-mile, and "Indirect costs are generally considered to be equal or greater than the direct costs." So a 57-passenger B377 was unlikely to make money, in 1950 anyway.
Boeing set never-exceed speed at 351 mph IAS or Mach 0.62, but on test the B377 reached 409 mph IAS in a 15-20 degree dive at 13500 ft, Mach 0.67 and about 500 mph TAS.
By 1960 Stratocruisers were being superseded by jets such as the de Havilland Comet, Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. A few were sold to smaller airlines, used as freighters; or converted by Aero Spacelines into enormously enlarged freighters called Guppies. As the airlines began to upgrade so did the militaries. The Boeing 377 was mainly used by two militaries, the US and Israel, both of which began buying jet engined aircraft and replacing their 377s.
- Prototype Stratocruiser; one built. Later brought up to 377-10-26 standard and sold to Pan American World Airways in 1950.
- 20 delivered to Pan American World Airways with round windows and a rear galley.
- 10 refitted with more powerful engines and a larger fuel capacity for Pan American transatlantic flights. Called the "Super Stratocruiser".
- Four ordered by the Scandinavian Airlines System, but taken up by BOAC after SAS cancelled the order. Aircraft had similar features to the 377-10-26.
- Eight delivered to American Overseas Airlines with round windows for the main cabin and rectangular windows for the lower cabin as well as an aft galley.
- Ten for Northwest Orient Airlines with all rectangular windows and an aft galley.
- Six for the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Had a midships galley and all cabin windows were circular.
- Seven for United Air Lines. Rectangular windows on the main cabin and circular windows on the lower cabin. Sold to BOAC circa 1954.
- Freighter conversion.
- In the early 1960s the Israeli Air Force wanted to upgrade to the C-130 Hercules which could lift larger payloads, but it was expensive and sales were embargoed by the United States. Israeli Aircraft Industries at Ben Gurion International Airport offered to modify Boeing 377 Stratocruisers. It had with a stronger cabin floor which could handle cargo, plus a C-97 military Statocruiser tail section, which included a clamshell cargo door. These were dubbed Anak (or Giant in Hebrew) and served starting in 1964. Three of these were modified by the use of a swing tail section, similar to the Canadair CL44D-4 airliner. Two others served as aerial tankers with underwing hosereel refuelling pods. Two others were ELINT-platforms for electronic reconnaissance, surveillance and ECM-missions (ECM-Electronic Counter Measures). These were later joined by four KC-97G's with the flying boom system.
Aero Spacelines Guppy
In addition to the Israeli Anaks a company called Aero Spacelines was converting old 377s to aircraft called Guppys in the 1960s. There were three types: the Pregnant Guppy, Super Guppy, and Mini Guppy. They had an extension to the top of the fuselage to enable them to carry large aircraft parts between manufacturing sites.
- Aero Spacelines 377PG Pregnant Guppy
- Conversion of one 377-10-26, incorporating an enlarged upper deck and a fuselage lengthened by 16 feet to carry sections of the Saturn V rocket. One converted.
- Aero Spacelines 377SG Super Guppy
- A single heavy-lift transport similar to the Pregnant Guppy built by Aero Spacelines. The aircraft contained parts of a YC-97J Stratofreighter and a 377-10-26 mated with a larger main fuselage, larger tail and Pratt & Whitney T34 turboprops.
- Aero Spacelines SGT-201 Super Guppy Turbine
- Originally designated the 377SGT, it was similar to the 377SG but with a more aerodynamic fuselage, a Boeing 707 nosewheel, wingspan stretched by 23 feet, and four Allison 501-D22C turboprops. Four were built and were used by Airbus to carry aircraft parts between its factories. In the 1990s Airbus retired them due to rising operational costs and they have been replaced with Airbus Belugas. Three of the former Airbus Industrie Super Guppys remain in the U.K., Germany, and France, while the fourth aircraft was acquired by NASA as part of a barter agreement with ESA for its role as a partner with the International Space Station.
- Aero Spacelines 377MG Mini Guppy
- Conversion of a 377-10-26, it featured a larger main cabin for oversize cargo, stretched wing and a hinged tail.
- Aero Spacelines MGT-101 Mini Guppy Turbine
- Originally designated the 377MGT. Similar to the 377MG but powered by Allison 501-D22C turboprop engines. One built.
- Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik part of Scandinavian Airlines System (aircraft not delivered - passed to BOAC)
- American Overseas Airlines
- DAI Airways
- Northwest Orient Airlines
- Pan American World Airways
- Transocean Air Lines
- United Airlines
This aircraft type suffered 13 hull-loss accidents between 1951 and 1970 with a total of 139 fatalities. The worst single accident occurred on April 29, 1952.
- September 12, 1951
- United Air Lines Flight 7030, a Stratocruiser 10-34 (N31230, named Mainliner Oahu), was being used for a semi-annual instrument check of a captain. At 10:39, the flight was cleared for an ILS approach to the San Francisco Airport. The aircraft, with No. 4 propeller feathered, stalled and abruptly dived from an altitude of approximately 300 feet and was demolished upon impact in San Francisco Bay. All three crew aboard were killed. The probable cause was an inadvertent stall at low altitude.
- April 29, 1952
- Pan Am Flight 202, a Stratocruiser 10-26 (N1039V, named Clipper Good Hope) en route from Buenos Aires-Ezeiza and Rio de Janeiro-Galeão to New York via Port of Spain crashed in the jungle in the south of the State of Pará. Probable causes are the separation of the second engine and propeller from the aircraft due to highly unbalanced forces followed by uncontrollability and disintegration of the aircraft. All 50 passengers and crew died in the worst-ever accident involving the Boeing 377.
- July 27, 1952
- Pan Am Flight 201, a Stratocruiser 10-26 (N1030V) en route from New York and Rio de Janeiro-Galeão to Buenos Aires-Ezeiza following pressurization problems during climb from Rio de Janeiro, a door blew open, a passenger was blown out and the cabin considerably damaged. One passenger (of 27 on board) died.
- December 25, 1954
- A BOAC Stratocruiser 10-28 (G-ALSA, named RMA Cathay) crashed on landing at Prestwick at 0330 hours, killing 28 of the 36 passengers and crew on board. The aircraft had been en route from London to New York City, when, on approach to Prestwick, it entered a steep descent before levelling-out too late and too severely, hitting the ground short of the runway.
- March 26, 1955
- Pan Am Flight 845/26, a Stratocruiser 10-26 (N1032V, named Clipper United States), ditched 35 miles off the Oregon coast after the no. 3 engine and propeller tore loose from the wing, causing severe control difficulties. The aircraft sank after 20 minutes in water of about 1,600 m (5,200 ft) deep. There were four fatalities out of the 23 occupants, including two of the crew.
- April 2, 1956
- Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2, a Stratocruiser 10-30 (N74608, named Stratocruiser Tokyo), ditched into Puget Sound after the flight engineer mistakenly failed to close the cowl gills on the plane's engines, an error attributed to confusing instrument layout. Although all aboard escaped the aircraft after a textbook ditching, four passengers and one flight attendant succumbed either to drowning or to hypothermia before being rescued.
- October 16, 1956
- Pan Am Flight 6, a Stratocruiser 10-29 (N90943, named Clipper Sovereign of the Skies), ditched northeast of Hawaii after two of its four engines failed. The aircraft was able to circle around USCGC Pontchartrain until daybreak, when it ditched; all 31 on board survived.
- November 8, 1957
- Pan Am Flight 7, a Stratocruiser 10-29 (registered N90944, named Clipper Romance of the Skies), left San Francisco for Hawaii with 38 passengers and 6 crew. The 377 crashed around 5:25 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean. There were no survivors and the entire wreckage has never been found. Only 19 bodies and bits of debris were recovered. There is speculation that two passengers had a motive to bring the plane down. Eugene Crosthwaite, a 46 year old purser, had shown blasting powder to a relative days prior to the flight, and had cut a stepdaughter from his will only one hour before the flight. William Payne, an ex-Navy demolitions expert, had taken out large insurance policies on himself just before the flight, and had a $10,000 debt he was desperate to pay off. The insurance investigator later suspected him of never being on the plane. His wife received at least $125,000 in payouts.
- June 2, 1958
- A Pan Am Stratocruiser 10-26 (registration N1023V, named Clipper Golden Gate) was on a flight from San Francisco to Singapore with some in-between stops. As the aircraft touched down at Manila (runway 06) in a heavy landing in rainy and gusty conditions, the undercarriage collapsed (as a result of the hard landing). The plane skidded and swerved to the right, coming to rest 2850 feet past the runway threshold and 27 feet from the edge of the runway. One of the passengers was killed when one of the blades of the number 3 prop broke off, penetrating the passenger cabin.
- April 10, 1959
- At the conclusion of a flight from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska, a Pan Am Stratocruiser 10-26 (N1033V, named Clipper Midnight Sun) undershot on finals and collided with an embankment. The aircraft caught fire and was destroyed but all 10 passengers and crew survived.
- July 9, 1959
- A Pan Am Boeing Stratocruiser 10-29 (N90941, named Clipper Australia) was on finals for Haneda Airport when the gear was extended, showing three greens. When power was reduced prior to touchdown, the gear unsafe warning horn sounded and a red gear unsafe warning light illuminated. The captain first called for a go-around, but noticed that the airspeed was too low. The gear was retracted quickly and a belly landing was carried out. All 59 passengers and crew on board survived, but the aircraft was written off.
- August 1967
- An Aero Spacelines Stratocruiser 10-29 (N90942) suffered a ground collision with Stratocruiser 10-32 N402Q at Mojave, California; the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
- May 12, 1970
- The Aero Spacelines 377MGT was a converted Boeing Stratoliner. Prototype N111AS first flew on March 13, 1970. In the following period flight testing was carried out, a.o. at Edwards AFB. The accident occurred during the sixth takeoff of Flight Number 12 following the scheduled shutdown of the engine number one at about 109 knots IAS (indicated air speed). The takeoff was being made on runway 22 and the wind was from approximately 200 degrees at about 10 knots. Rotation occurred at about 114 knots and several seconds after rotation, according to one witness, the aircraft turned and rolled to the left, settling as it did so. The left wingtip subsequently contacted the ground, causing a severe yaw. The forward fuselage struck the ground, causing the flight deck to be destroyed. All four crew aboard were killed.
Data from Airliners of the World
- Capacity: Up to 100 passengers on main deck plus 14 in lower deck lounge; typical seating for 63 or 84 passengers or 28 berthed and five seated passengers.
- Length: 110 ft 4 in (33.63 m)
- Wingspan: 141 ft 3 in (43.05 m)
- Height: 38 ft 3 in (11.66 m)
- Wing area: 1769 ft² (164.3 m²)
- Empty weight: 83,500 lb (37,876 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 148,000 lb (67,133 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360-B6 Wasp Major 28-cylinder radial engines four-bladed propellers, 3,500 hp (2,610 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 375 mph (603 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 301 mph (483 km/h)
- Range: 4,200 mi (3,650 nmi, 6,760 km)
- Service ceiling: 32,000 ft (9,800 m)
- Max cruise: 340 mph (547 km/h)
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Canadair CL-44
- Douglas DC-7
- Lockheed L-188 Electra
- Lockheed Constellation
- Lockheed L-049 Constellation
- Lockheed L-649 Constellation
- Lockheed L-749 Constellation
- Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation
- Lockheed L-1649A Starliner
- Lockheed Constitution
- Tupolev Tu-70
- Wilson (1998), p.16
- "Boeing History: Stratocruiser Commercial Transport". Boeing.com. 1947-07-08. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- Pushing the Envelope: The American Aircraft Industry by Donald M. Pattillo
- "Stratcruiser". Ovi.ch. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- "Ernest K. Gann's Flying Circus: Lady with a past". Ovi.ch. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- Aviation Week 31 August 1953 p57. The article discusses CAB rulings, and Ireland was perhaps speaking at a hearing.
- American Aviation 23 July 1951 p37
- American Aviation 8 January 1951, p23
- Flight Simulation is Stimulation - Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Retrieved 3/31/11
- Israeli-Weapons.com - Anak(Boeing 377) Retrieved 3/31/11
- Flickriver - Israel07 Israel Air Force Museum by brewbooks Retrieved 3/31/11
- All About Guppys.com Retrieved 4/1/11
- Accident description for CCCP-M25 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 17 November 2013.
- Accident description for N1039V at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 15 September 2011.
- Accident description for N1030V at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 24 September 2011.
- Accident description for G-ALSA at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 18 November 2010.
- Accident description for N1023V at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 17 November 2013.
- Accident description for N1033V at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 17 November 2013.
- Accident description for N90941 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 17 November 2013.
- Accident description for N90942 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 17 November 2013.
- Accident description for N111AS at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 17 November 2013.
- Wilson, Stewart (1999). Airliners of the World. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-44-7.
- Wilson, Stewart (1999). Airliners of the World. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-44-7.
- Boeing 377 – Stratocruiser A very comprehensive enthusiast page on the type
- The Aviation History On-Line Museum – Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
- Wilson, Stewart (1998). Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8 & Vickers VC-10. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-36-6.
- California Classic – The Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser
- Air Disaster, Vol. 4: The Propeller Era, by Macarthur Job, Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd. (Australia), 2001 ISBN 1-875671-48-X
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing 377.|
- Stratocruiser article excerpts
- Anak (Israeli Boeing 377)
- "Speedbird Stratocruiser: A New Aircraft for B.O.A.C.'s Western Route", Flight magazine, January 27th, 1949