Tag Archives: Boeing 247D

12 January 1937

Wreck of Western Air Express Boeing 247D NC13315, Los Pinetos Peak, near newhal, California, 12 January 1937. (Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures)
Wreck of Western Air Express Flight 7, a Boeing Model 247D, NC13315, at Los Pinetos Peak near Newhall, California, 12 January 1937. (Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures)

12 January 1937: Western Air Express Flight 7, a Boeing 247D airliner, NC13315, had originated at Salt Lake City, Utah, and after a stop at Las Vegas, Nevada, continued on toward Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. Aboard were a crew of three and ten passengers.

In fog and falling snow, Captain William Walker Lewis and co-pilot Clifford P. Owens crossed over Saugus, California,

“. . . at 5,200 feet [1,585 meters], aircraft was already 300 feet [91 meters] too low. . . Pilot tried to contact Burbank without any success. Due to low visibility caused by fog, pilot did not realize he was flying at an insufficient altitude. In a descent rate of 525 feet per minute [2.667 meters per second], aircraft hit Pinetos Peak.”

— Bureau of Air Commerce report.

According to statements after the accident, Captain Lewis suddenly saw a ridge immediately ahead, and unable to avoid it, cut his engines and raised the nose in an attempt to reduce the impact. The accident occurred at 11:07 a.m., Pacific Time.

Illustration from the Los Angeles Times, Vol. LVI, Wednesday, 13 January 1937, Page 6, Columns 3–6.

The crash was heard by patients at the Olive View Sanitorium and ranchers on the north side of the mountains. Two hours later, passenger Arthur S. Robinson arrived at the hospital and said, “Get help up there for the twelve others. It was a forced landing—they’re all injured but I believe they’re all alive.”

Boeing 247D NC13315, 12 January 1937. (Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures)
Boeing 247D NC13315, 12 January 1937. (Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures)

One passenger, James A. Braden, president of the Braden-Sutphin Ink Co., of Cleveland, Ohio, was killed immediately. The co-pilot, Owens, and three more of the passengers died of injuries within the next several days.

One of those who died was famed adventurer and film maker Martin Johnson. His wife, Osa Johnson, was also aboard Flight 7 and was seriously injured. Another survivor, Robert T. Anderson, would later own Pea Soup Anderson, a famous restaurant in Buellton, California.

Osa and Martin Johnson. (Osa and Martin Johnson Safari Museum)
Osa and Martin Johnson. (Osa and Martin Johnson Safari Museum)

The Boeing Model 247 is considered to be the first modern airliner because of its all-metal, semi-monocoque construction, cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear. It was 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load.

The Model 247 was operated by a pilot, co-pilot and a flight attendant and carried up to ten passengers. The airplane was 51 feet, 5 inches (15.672 meters) long, with a wingspan of 74 feet, 1 inch (22.581 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 5 inches (3.785 meters). The empty weight was 8,921 pounds (4,046.5 kilograms) with a maximum takeoff weight of 16,805 pounds (7,622.6 kilograms).

The Duralamin skin panels were anodized, rather than painted, for corrosion protection. This saved weight, and resulted in the 247’s characteristic gray-green color.

Western Air Express Boeing 247D NC13315. The nose baggage compartment door is open. (Ed Coates Collection)
Western Air Express Boeing 247D NC13315. The nose baggage compartment door is open. (Ed Coates Collection)

The airliner was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liters) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S1H1-G nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.03:1. The S1H1-G had a Normal Power rating of 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for Takeoff. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction, when installed on the 247D. The Wasp S1H1-G was 3 feet, 11.80 inches (1.214 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.61 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter, and weighed 930 pounds (422 kilograms).

The Boeing 247 had a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (303 kilometers per hour. It had a range of 745 miles (1,199 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,742 meters).

75 Model 247s were built. 60 were operated by Boeing Air Transport.

[Note: the windshield was canted forward to prevent instrument panel lighting from reflecting into the cockpit at night. Unfortunately, ground lighting was reflected instead. This was soon changed to a rearward slant and resulted in a slight increase in speed.]

Western Air Express Boeing 247D NC13315, 1933. (SCVhistory.com)
Western Air Express Boeing 247D NC13315, 1933. (Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 October 1934: MacRobertson International Air Race

Poster by Percival Alerbert Trompf (Australian National Travel Association/State Library of new South Wales a928613)

20 October 1934: As a part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the city of Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia, Sir Macpherson Robertson sponsored the MacRobertson International Air Races ¹ from the newly-opened Royal Air Force station, Mildenhall Aerodrome, in Suffolk, England, to the Flemington Racecourse at Melbourne, Victoria,  Australia. The distance was approximately 11,300 miles (18,185 kilometers). The winner of the race would receive a prize of £10,000 (Australian), which was approximately £7,500 (British Pounds Sterling) or $5,700 U.S. dollars. All competitors who finished the course within the 14-day race would receive an 18-carat gold medallion.

The course included five mandatory stops: at Baghdad, Kingdom of Iraq; Allahabad, Indian Empire; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Darwin, Northern Territory, and Charlevile, Queensland, both in the Commonwealth of Australia. Fuel was provided at these and more than 20 other locations along the route.

Map of MacRobertson International Air Races from Pilot’s Brochure. (State Library of NSW, call number 93/889)

The race was scheduled to start at 6:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, 1 minute before sunrise on Saturday, 20 October. Competitors were scheduled to depart at 45-second intervals. There had been “more than seventy” airplanes entered, but only 20 actually started the race.

Two de Havilland DH.88 Comets and a Gee Bee at Mildenhall Aerodrome prior to the 1934 MacRobertson Race. The airfield had opened 4 days earlier. In the foreground is the Mollisons’ “Black Magic.” (BAE Systems)

The first to take off were James Allen Mollison and Amy Johnson Mollision, C.B.E., in their black and gold de Havilland DH.88 Comet racer, Black Magic (#63, registered G-ACSP). The race included three airliners: a modified Boeing 247D, Warner Brothers Comet, flown by Roscoe Turner and Clyde Pangborn; a Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (KLM) Douglas DC-2 named Ulver (Stork), with a flight crew of 4 and 3 passengers; and a De Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide.

Turner and Pangborn’s Boeing 247D, “Warner Brothers Comet.”
KLM Douglas DC-2 PH-AJU (National Library of Australia 144684167)
O. Cathcart Jones and K.F. Waller, de Havilland DH.88 Comet G-ACSR, #19.

Jackie Cochran and Wesley L. Smith flew the “Lucky Strike Green” Granville Miller DeLackner Gee Bee R-6H, Q.E.D., race number 46. Difficulties with the airplane forced the pair to abandon the race at Budapest.

Jim and Amy Mollison with their DH.88 Comet.
Flight Lieutenant C.W.A. Scott, A.F.C., circa 1931 (Scott Family Collection)

First place went to Flight Lieutenant Charles William Anderson Scott, A.F.C., and Captain Tom Campbell Black in the DH.88 Grosvenor House. Their elapsed time was 2 days, 23 hours, 18 seconds, with a total 71 hours, 0 minutes flight time. Placing second was the KLM Douglas DC-2 at 81 hours 10 minutes air time, and in third place were Turner and Pangborn’s Boeing 247D. Only nine of the competitors finished the race, with the final finisher, the Dragon Rapide, arriving on 3 November.

In 1941, the MacRobertson Trophy was donated to the Red Cross “to be melted down for the war effort.”

¹ The race was named after Sir Macpherson’s business, MacRobertson’s Steam Confectionary Works at Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. The race is also known as the “MacRobertson Trophy Race,” the “1934 MacRobertson London-to-Melbourne Air Race,” or “The Melbourne Centenary Air Race.”

The MacRobertson Trophy.

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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