Tag Archives: Boeing Airplane Company

15 April 1952

The Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress, 49-231, takes off from Boeing Field at 11:09 a.m., 15 April 1952. (Robert F. Dorr Collection)
The Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress, 49-231, takes off from Boeing Field at 11:09 a.m., 15 April 1952. (Robert F. Dorr Collection)

15 April 1952: At 11:09 a.m., Boeing’s Chief of Flight Test, Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston, and Lieutenant Colonel Guy M. Townsend, U.S. Air Force, ran all eight turbojet engines to full power and released the brakes on the YB-52 Stratofortress prototype, 49-231.

With an awesome eight-engine roar, the YB-52 sprang forward, accelerating rapidly, wings curving upward as they accepted the 235,000-pound initial flight gross weight. At V2 (takeoff speed) the airplane lifted off the runway, because of the 6-degree angle of incidence of the wing, and at 11:08 a.m. we were airborne. The initial flight of the YB-52 had begun.

Tex Johnston: Jet-Age Test Pilot, by A.M. “Tex” Johnston with Charles Barton, Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C., 1992, Chapter 13 at Pages 397–398.

Alvin M. "Tex" Johnston, test pilot, after the first flight of the Boeing XB-52 Stratofortress prototype, 2 October 1952. (LIFE via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston, Boeing Chief of Flight Test, after the first flight of the Boeing XB-52 Stratofortress prototype, 2 October 1952. (LIFE via Jet Pilot Overseas)

The YB-52 remained over the Seattle area for approximately 40 minutes while Johnson and Townsend ran through a series of systems checks. When completed, they climbed to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and flew the new bomber to Larson Air Force Base at Moses Lake, Washington, where they stayed airborne for continued testing. The Stratofortress finally touched down after 3 hours, 8 minutes—the longest first flight in Boeing’s history at the time. Johnston radioed that the airplane performed exactly as the engineers had predicted.

The YB-52 had actually been ordered as the second of two XB-52s, but modifications and additional equipment installed during building resulted in enough differences to warrant a designation change. The first XB-52, 49-230, would have been the first to fly, but it was damaged during ground testing.

The Boeing XB-52 and YB-52 were prototypes for a very long range strategic bomber. Both were built with a tandem cockpit for the pilot and co-pilot, similar to the earlier B-47 Stratojet. The wings were swept to 35° and mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”). The eight turbojet engines were in in two-engine nacelles mounted on pylons, below and ahead of the wings. This had the effect of preventing the airplane’s center of gravity from being too far aft, and also provided cleaner air flow across the wings. The B-52’s landing gear has four main struts with two wheels, each. They can turn to allow the airplane to face directly into the wind while the landing gear remain aligned with the runway for takeoff and landing. With the landing gear under the fuselage, the wings could be constructed with greater flexibility.

Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress 49-231. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress 49-231. (U.S. Air Force)

The YB-52 was 152 feet, 8 inches (46.533 meters) long with a wingspan of 185 feet, 0 inches (56.388 meters). The prototype’s overall height was 48 feet, 3.6 inches (14.722 meters). The vertical fin could be folded over to the right so that the B-52 could fit into a hangar. The YB-52 had an empty weight of 155,200 pounds (70,398 kilograms) and gross weight of 405,000 pounds (183,705 kilograms).

The YB-52 was powered by eight Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp YJ57-P-3 turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet developed from an experimental turboprop engine. It had 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages), 8 combustors and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The YJ57-P-3s were rated at 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons), each. The YJ57-P-3 was 183.5 inches (4.661 meters) long, 41.0 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter and weighed 4,390 pounds (1,991 kilograms).

The YB-52 had a cruise speed of 519 miles per hour (835 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 611 miles per hour (983 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its range was 7,015 miles (11,290 kilometers).

The two prototypes were unarmed.

The B-52 was produced by Boeing at its plants in Seattle and Wichita from 1952 to 1962, with a total of 744 Stratofortresses built. The last version, the B-52H, entered service with the Strategic Air Command in 1960. The final B-52, B-52H-175-BW Stratofortress 61-0040, was rolled out at Wichita, Kansas, 26 October 1962. This airplane remains in service with the United States Air Force. The newest B-52 in service, 61-0040 is 55 years old and has flown more than 21,000 flight hours.

All previous versions, B-52A through B-52G, have long been retired to The Boneyard and scrapped. Of the 102 Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bombers, 76 are still in the active inventory. One, 61-007, known as Ghost Rider, was recently taken from Davis-Monthan and after an extensive restoration and update, returned to service.

The YB-52 prototype was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in the late 1950s. By the mid-60s it was determined to be excess and was scrapped.

Captain William Magruder (standing) Boeing Chief Test Pilot Alvin M. Johnston (center) and Lieutenant Colonel Guy M. Townsend with the Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress 49-231. (Boeing)
Left to right: Captain William Magruder, Boeing Chief Test Pilot Alvin M. Johnston and Lieutenant Colonel Guy M. Townsend with the Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress, 49-231. (Boeing)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 April 1945

In one of the most dramatic photographic images of World War II, Wee Willie, Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, is going down after hit by antiaircraft artillery over Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 8 April 1945. (U.S. Air Force)
In one of the most dramatic photographic images of World War II, Wee Willie, Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, is going down after hit by antiaircraft artillery over Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 8 April 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

8 April 1945: Wee Willie, a Flying Fortress heavy bomber, left its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), on its 129th combat mission over western Europe. The aircraft commander was 1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, U.S. Army Air Forces.

Wee Willie was a B-17G-15-BO, serial number 42-31333, built by the Boeing Airplane Company’s Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces at Cheyenne, Wyoming on 22 October 1943, and arrived at Bassingbourne 20 December 1943. It was assigned to the 322nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force. The identification letters LG W were painted on both sides of its fuselage, and a white triangle with a black letter A on the top of its right wing and both sides of its vertical fin.

Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, Wee Willie, December 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, Wee Willie, December 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

On 8 April 1945, the 322nd Bombardment Squadron was part of an attack against the locomotive repair facilities at the railroad marshaling yards in Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt Germany. The squadron was bombing through clouds using H2S ground search radar to identify the target area. Antiaircraft gunfire (flak) was moderate, causing major damage to four B-17s and minor damage to thirteen others. Two bombers from the 91st Bomb Group were lost, including Wee Willie.

The Missing Air Crew Report, MACR 13881, included a statement  from a witness:

“We were flying over the target at 20,500 feet [6,248 meters] altitude when I observed aircraft B-17G, 42-31333 to receive a direct flak hit approximately between the bomb bay and #2 engine. The aircraft immediately started into a vertical dive. The fuselage was on fire and when it had dropped approximately 5,000 feet [1,524 meters] the left wing fell off. It continued down and when the fuselage was about 3,000 feet [914.4 meters] from the ground it exploded and then exploded again when it hit the ground. I saw no crew member leave the aircraft or parachutes open.”

This photographic image precedes the one above. The Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, Wee Willie, is engulfed in flame. The left wing has separated and is crossing over the fuselage. (U.S. Air Force)
This photographic image precedes the one above. The Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, Wee Willie, is engulfed in flame. The left wing has separated and is crossing over the fuselage. (U.S. Air Force)

The pilot, Lieutenant Fuller, did bail out of the doomed bomber. He was captured and spent the remainder of the war as a POW. The other 8 crew members, however were killed.

1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, O-774609, California. Aircraft Commander/Pilot—Prisoner of War

2nd Lieutenant Woodrow A. Lien, O-778858, Montana. Co-pilot—Killed in Action

Technical Sergeant Francis J. McCarthy, 14148856, Tennessee. Navigator—Killed in Action

Staff Sergeant Richard D. Proudfit, 14166848, Mississippi. Togglier—Killed in Action

Staff Sergeant Wylie McNatt, Jr., 38365470, Texas. Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner—Killed in Action

Staff Sergeant William H. Cassiday, 32346219, New York. Ball Turret Gunner—Killed in Action

Staff Sergeant Ralph J. Leffelman, 19112019, Washington. Radio Operator/Top Gunner—Killed in Action

Staff Sergeant James D. Houtchens, 37483248, Nebraska. Waist Gunner—Killed in Action

Sergeant Le Moyne Miller, 33920597, Pennsylvania. Tail Gunner—Killed in Action

In the third photograph of the sequence, Wee Willie has exploded and fragments of the wings and fuselage streak downward in flame. (U.S. Air Force)
In the third photograph of the sequence, Wee Willie has exploded and fragments of the wings and fuselage streak downward in flame. (U.S. Air Force)

Wee Willie was the oldest B-17G still in service with the 91st Bomb Group, and the next to last B-17 lost to enemy action by the group before cessation of hostilities. The War in Europe came to an end with the unconditional surrender of Germany just 31 days later, 8 May 1945.

Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress, Wee Willie, and its flight crew at Air Force Station 121, RAF Bassingbourne, 14 February 1944. The bomber is still nearly new with no mission markings yet displayed. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress, Wee Willie, and its flight crew at Air Force Station 121, RAF Bassingbourne, 14 February 1944. The bomber is still nearly new with no mission markings yet displayed. (U.S. Air Force)

During the 129 missions Wee Willie flew in its 1 year, 3 months, 20 days at war, many airmen served as its crew members. The men in this photograph are not identified, and the date it was taken is not known. A battle-scarred veteran, Wee Willie now has markings showing 106 missions completed. These men are representative all all the aircrews who fought and died in the skies over Europe. (U.S. Air Force)
During the 129 missions Wee Willie flew in its 1 year, 3 months, 20 days at war, many airmen served as its crew members. The men in this photograph are not identified, and the date it was taken is not known. A battle-scarred veteran, Wee Willie now has markings showing 106 missions completed. These men are representative all all the aircrews who fought and died in the skies over Europe. (U.S. Air Force) [Update: The officer in the front row, right, has been identified as 2nd Lieutenant Jess Ziccarello, the navigator for this crew. Thanks to his son, Rick Ziccarello, for the identification.]
© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 March 1936

Boeing P-26 32-414 at Barksdale Field, 23 January 1934. (U.S. Air Force)

8 March 1936: First Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli, United States Army Air Corps, a test pilot assigned to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, was killed when the right wing of his Boeing P-26 pursuit, serial number 32-414, came off over Logan Field, near Baltimore, Maryland.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:

DAYTON HERO

Air Crash Victim.

Robert Giovannoli Dies At Baltimore Field

When Wing Of Plane Falls Off—Lexington, Ky., Man An Army Lieutenant.

     Baltimore, March 8—(AP)—Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli, 31 years old of Lexington, Ky., hero of the spectacular bombing plane crash during army tests at Dayton, Ohio, last October, was killed today in the crack-up of his army plane at Logan Field, here.

     Giovannoli’s single-seated pursuit plane lost its right wing coming out of a glide and hurtled down in a crazy spin from an altitude of less than 500 feet [ meters]. It rolled over after hitting the landing field and was demolished.

     Lieutenant Giovannoli received a medal for his heroism in rescuiing two men from teh flaming wreckage of the Boeing “flying fortress” after it crashed in teh army bomber tests at Wright Field, Dayton.

     The Wright Field hero was taking off for the Middletown, Penn., air station when his plane plunged him to death at Logan Field.

QUIZ TO BE BEGUN.

     The flier had arrived here yesterday.

     Lieutenant Colonel H.C.K. Nuhlenberg, air officer of the Third corps Area and in command of Logan Field, said an Army Board of Inquiry would be summoned promptly to investigate the fatal crash.

     Nuhlenberg, who had just landed at teh field himself, said Gieovannoli had gotten his craft under way and turned back to fly over the field at a low altitude.

     The wing of Giovannoli’s plane wrenched off, Nuhlenberg said, just as the craft was coming out of the glide and starting a zoom to regain altitude.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vol. XCV, No. 334, Monday, 9 March 1936,  at Page 7, Column 1

Lt. Robert K. Giovannoli

Lieutenant Giovannoli had been awarded the Soldier’s Medal and the Cheney Award for his heroic rescue of two men from the burning wreck of the Boeing Model 299, which had crashed on takeoff at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. His citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier’s Medal to First Lieutenant Robert K. Giovannoli, United States Army Air Corps, for heroism, not involving actual conflict with an enemy, displayed at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 30 October 1935. When a Boeing experimental bomber crashed and burst into flames, Lieutenant Giovannoli, who was an onlooker, forced his way upon the fuselage and into the front cockpit of the burning plane and extricated one of the passengers. Then upon learning that the pilot was still in the cockpit, Lieutenant Giovannoli, realizing that his own life was in constant peril from fire, smoke, and fuel explosions, rushed back into the flames and after repeated and determined efforts, being badly burned in the attempt, succeeded in extricating the pilot from an entrapped position and assisted him to a place of safety.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 4 (1936)

The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)

Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli was born at Washington, D.C., 13 March 1904, the second of two sons of Harry Giovannoli and Carrie Kinnaird Giovanolli. His mother died when he was six years old.

He graduated from Lexington High School in 1920 and then attended the University of Kentucky, where, in 1925, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta and Tau Beta Phi fraternities. He was employed by the General Electric Company at Schenectady, New York.

Giovannoli enlisted in the United States Army in 1927. After completing the Air Corps Primary School and the Advance School at San Antonio, Texas. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve, 20 October 1928. Lieutenant Giovannoli was called to active duty 8 May 1930. In 1933, he was assigned to a one year Engineering School at Wright Field. He then was assigned to observe naval aircraft operations aboard USS Ranger (CV-4) in the Pacific Ocean, and had returned just a few days prior to the accident.

At the time of his death, Lieutenant Giovannoli had not yet been presented his medals.

First Lieutenant Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli was buried at the Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky.

The P-26, Air Corps serial number 32-414, was the last of three prototype XP-936 pursuits built by Boeing in 1932. Boeing’s chief test pilot, Leslie R. Tower, conducted the first flight of the type on 20 March 1932. Leslie Tower was one of the two men that Lieutenant Giovannoli had pulled from the burning Boeing 299.

The first of three Boeing Model 248 prototypes, XP-26 32-412. (Boeing)

The Boeing P-26 was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. It was the first all-metal U.S. Army pursuit, but retained an open cockpit, fixed landing gear and its wings were braced with wire. The airplane was 23 feet, 7 inches (7.188 meters) long with a wingspan of 28 feet (8.534 meters). The empty weight of the prototype was 2,119 pounds (961.2 kilograms) and gross weight was 2,789 pounds (1,265.1 kilograms).

The Y1P-26 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-21 (Wasp S2E), a single-row, nine-cylinder radial engine. The P-26A and P-26C were powered the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-27 (Wasp SE), while the P-26B used a more powerful, fuel-injected R-1340-33 (Wasp D2). Each of these engines were direct drive and had a compression ratio of 6:1. The engine was surrounded by a Townend Ring which reduced aerodynamic drag and improved engine cooling.

The R-1340-21 had a Normal Power rating of 600 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters); 500 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters); and 500 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. for takeoff. It required 87-octane gasoline. The –21 had a diameter of 51.44 inches ( meters) and weighed 715 pounds (324 kilograms).

The R-1340-27 had a Normal Power and Takeoff power rating of 570 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m., to 7,500 feet (1,524 meters), using 92-octane gasoline. The –27 was 3 feet, 7.25 inches (1.099 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.50 inches (1.308 meters) in diameter and also weighed 715 pounds (324 kilograms).

The R-1340-33 was rated at 575 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,120 r.p.m. for Takeoff, with 87-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 10.75 inches (1.187 meters) long, with the same diameter as the –27. It weighed 792 pounds (359 kilograms).

The engines drove a two-bladed, Hamilton Standard adjustable-pitch propeller.

The pursuit had a maximum speed of 227 miles per hour (365 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and a service ceiling of 28,900 feet (8,809 meters).

As a pursuit, it would be armed with two air-cooled Browning M1919 .30-caliber machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.

Boeing built 136 production P-26s for the Air Corp and another 12 for export. Nine P-26s remained in service with the Air Corps at the beginning of World War II.

A Boeing P-26 at Wright Field, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing P-26 at Wright Field, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 February–2 March 1949: B-50 Lucky Lady II

Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)

26 February–2 March 1949: A Boeing B-50A Superfortress, Air Force serial number 46-010, named Lucky Lady II, flew from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, and with inflight refueling, circumnavigated the Earth non-stop, landing back at Carswell after 94 hours, 1 minute. The bomber had traveled 23,452 miles (37,742 kilometers).

Lucky Lady II was the backup aircraft for this flight, but became primary when the first B-50, Global Queen, had to abort with engine problems. It was a standard production B-50A-5-BO (originally designated B-29D) with the exception of an additional fuel tank mounted in its bomb bay.

The aircraft commander was Captain James G. Gallagher, with 1st Lieutenant  Arthur M. Neal as second pilot. Captain James H. Morris was the copilot. In addition to the three pilots, the flight was double-crewed, with each man being relieved at 4-to-6 hour intervals. The navigators were  Captain Glenn E. Hacker and 1st Lieutenant Earl L. Rigor, and the radar operators were 1st Lieutenant Ronald B. Bonner and 1st Lieutenant William F. Caffrey. Captain David B. Parmalee was project officer for this flight and flew as chief flight engineer, with flight engineers Technical Sergeant Virgil L. Young and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Davis. Technical Sergeant Burgess C. Cantrell and Staff Sergeant Robert R. McLeroy were the radio operators. Gunners were Technical Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Staff Sergeant Donald G. Traugh Jr.

Four inflight refuelings were required using the looped hose method. Two KB-29M tankers of the 43d Air Refueling Squadron were placed at air bases along the Lucky Lady II‘s route, at the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands. The KB-29 flew above the B-50 and lowered a cable and drogue. This was captured by equipment on the bomber and then reeled in, bringing along with it a refueling hose. The hose was attached to the B-50’s refueling manifold and then fuel was transferred from the tanker to the bomber’s tanks by gravity flow.

Each refueling occurred during daylight, but weather made several transfers difficult. One of the two tankers from Clark Field in The Philippines, 45-21705, crashed in bad weather when returning to base, killing the entire 9-man crew.

A Boeing KB-29M tanker refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing KB-29M tanker, possibly 45-21702, refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)

On their arrival at Carswell, the crew of Lucky Lady II was met by Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington, Jr., General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Roger M. Ramey, commanding 8th Air Force, and Lieutenant General Curtis E. LeMay, Strategic Air Command. Each member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They also were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

The arrival of Lucky Lady II and its crew was met by the Secretary of the Air Force. (LIFE Magazine)
The arrival of Lucky Lady II and its crew at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas, was observed by the senior civilian and military members of the United States Air Force.. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, now named "KENSMEN," circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, now named “KENSMEN,” circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

At 11:25 a.m., 13 August 1950, B-50A 46-010, under the command of  Captain Warren E. Griffin, was on a maintenance test flight and returning to its base, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona  when all four engines failed. Unable to reach the runways, Captain Griffin landed in the desert approximately two miles southeast. Though the landing gear were down, the bomber was severely damaged with all four propellers bent, the belly dented and its tail breaking off. The 11-man crew were uninjured except for the bombardier, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Hastings, who was scratched by cactus which entered the cockpit through the broken Plexiglas nose.

The Superfortress was damaged beyond economical repair and was stricken from the Air Force inventory (“written off”). The unrestored fuselage of Lucky Lady II is at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California.

The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California. (Stefan Semerdjiev)
The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California. (Stefan Semerdjiev)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 February 1933

Boeing 247 NC13300 (Boeing)
Boeing 247 NC13300 (Boeing)

8 February 1933: Boeing test pilot Leslie R. (“Les”) Tower and United Air Lines Captain Louis C. Goldsmith made the first flight of the Boeing Model 247, NX13300, a twin-engine airline transport, at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. The first flight lasted 40 minutes and Tower was quite pleased with the airplane. He took it up a second time later in the day.

The Boeing Model 247 instrument panel used gyroscopic-stabilized instruments for instrument flight. (Unattributed)
The Boeing Model 247 instrument panel used gyroscopic-stabilized instruments for instrument flight. (Boeing)

The 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 (80.5 kilometers per hour) faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load.

The airplane was built at Boeing’s Oxbow factory on the Duwamish River, then barged to Boeing Field where it was assembled and tested. The 247 was originally named “Skymaster,” but this was soon dropped.

Two months after the first flight, the first production 247, NC13301, was placed in service with United Air Lines. It was the first of ten 247s bought by United.

This postcard illustration shows the interior arrangement of a Boeing 247 airliner. (United Air Lines)
This postcard illustration shows the interior arrangement of a Boeing 247 airliner. (United Air Lines)

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.

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. 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 (321.9 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (302.6 kilometers per hour. It had a range of 745 miles (1,199 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,742 meters).

A contemporary photo post card depicts United Air Lines stewardesses with a Boeing Model 247 airliner. The post mark on the reverse side is faintly visible.
A contemporary photo post card depicts ten United Air Lines stewardesses with a Boeing Model 247 airliner. The post mark on the reverse side is faintly visible. (United Air Lines)

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

NC13301, the first production Boeing Model 247 airliner. (NASM)

[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.]

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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