Tag Archives: Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser

15 October 1957

Clipper America at McMurdo Sound, 1957. (southpolestation.com)

15 October 1957: A Pan American World Airways Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser, Clipper America, flies from Christchurch, New Zealand, to the United States Navy’s Antarctic research station on Ross Island in McMurdo Sound.

The flight was to test the feasibility of conducting commercial flights to support the U.S. Navy’s operations in the Antarctic. It origintated with a load of passengers from NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and flew to San Francisco, California, then on to Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands. There, command of the aircraft was assumed by Pan Am’s Seattle Sector Chief Pilot, Captain Ralph Walter Savory, who was considered an expert in Arctic flying.

The Boeing Stratocruiser departed Honolulu and flew to Canton Island (named for a whaling ship that went aground there in 1854). Canton was a frequent waypoint for Pan Am’s transpacific flights. Clipper America remained there overnight, and continued to Fiji the next day. After another overnight stay, the airliner headed to Christchurch on the south island of New Zealand.

Airliner Lands in Antarctica

     MCMURDO SOUND, Antarctica, Oct. 15 (UP) — The Pan American Clipper America landed today at McMurdo Sound, completing the first commercial aircraft flight to Antarctica

     Capt. Ralph Savory, veteran of 23 years of arctic flying, lifted the 73-ton Pan American stratoclipper from the Christchurch runway at 10:25 a.m. and set course for McMurdo Sound.

     PASSENGERS on the 2,400-mile history-making flight included U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Francis H. Russell; New Zealand Labor Minister J. K. McAlpine, and 36 U.S. Navy officers and men assigned to Geophysical Year scientific stations.

     The crew had two pretty stewardesses, reputedly the first women ever to reach such a southernly point on the “white continent” as the Ross Island Navy Station on McMurdo Sound.

     They were dark-haired Patricia Hepinstall, 25, former model for I. Magnin, San Francisco, and a native of 3752 Garnet St., Houston, Tex., and blonde Ruth Kelly, 28, former school teacher from Holyoke, Colo., who resembles Princess Grace.

     BOTH ARE BASED in San Francisco and are probably the most thrilled members of the plane’s complement. They were to ride in an American versus New Zealand dog sled race and judge a beard-growing contest among the men at McMurdo.

     Seabees and other Navy specialists had a last fling with card games and steaks 21,000 feet in the sky. In a few more hours they would spread to seven scientific stations for 18-month tours of duty on the blizzard-beaten continent.

     TRAVELING as a passenger was Navy Capt. William F. (Trigger) Hawkes, air officer for Rear Adm. George Dufek, commander of “Operation Deepfreeze.” Hawkes is considered to have more Antarctic flying experience than any other pilot.

The Honolulu Advertiser, 101st year, No. 34,083, Tuesday, 15 October 1957, Page 2, Columns 3–5

“Shown just after climbing down from their nice, warm Clipper at McMurdo Sound is the crew that was on Pan Am’s Antarctic flight. Kneeling are 2nd Officer Earl Lemon, Stewardess Pat Hepinstall, Flight Engineer George Coppin, and 2nd Officer Bob Finley. Standing are Captain Don McLennan, Purser John Bell, Sterwardess Ruth Kelly, Flight Engineer Al Loeffler, 1st Officer Roy Moungovan, and the Aircraft Commander, Captain Ralph Savory.” (Pam Am Museum Foundation)

Following this flight to the Antarctic, Captain Savory was asked for his opinion as to the route’s viability. Because there was no alternate airport should landing at McMurdo not be possible (because of weather, or some other factor), Savory said that it was too dangerous for commercial operations. No further flights were made.

Pan American World Airways Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser, N1022V, Clipper America. (Boeing)

Pan American’s Clipper America was a Boeing Model 377-10-26 Stratocruiser, N1030V, serial number 15930. The airliner was delivered to Pan American on 30 March 1949 and named Clipper Southern Cross. Later the name was changed to Clipper Reindeer, and finally, Clipper America. (Nearly all of Pan Am’s Stratocruisers were named Clipper America at some time during their service with the airline.)

Marie Machris Westbrook. (Los Angeles Times)

On 27 July 1952, N1030V was operating as Flight 201 from Rio de Janeiro when a passenger cabin door opened at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). A passenger, Mrs. Marie Elizabeth Machris Westbrook, was sucked out of her seat and fell to the Atlantic, below. The airliner safely returned to Rio. “Pan American officials were unable to explain how the door could have opened accidentally.” ¹ ²

N1030V was removed from service with Pan Am in 1961, and on 2 February 1962, delivered to Israeli Aircraft Industries, registered 4X-AOH. The airliner was converted to a military transport. In November 1962, it was placed in service with the Israeli Air Force, re-registered 4X-FOH, and finally, 4X-FPV.

The Boeing 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter, from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck, and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized, and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births.

The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). Empty weight was 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms).

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 377-10-26 Stratocruiser N1030V, circa 1952. The airliner is carrying the name Clipper Southern Cross. (R.A. Scholefield Collection)

The airliner was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines which had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., and 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. Maximum Continuous. It produced 3,250 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff (3,500 horsepower with water injection). The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic 24260 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet, 0 inches (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The Wasp Major B6 was 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms).

The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).

Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.

Captain Ralph Walter Savory, Pan American World Airways Master Pilot. (University of Alaska Fairbanks UAF-2008-31-16b)

Captain Ralph Walter Savory, Pan American World Airways Master Pilot, was born 14 October 1909, in Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, California. He was the second child of Walter Adrian Savory, a farmer, and Lillian Frances Philips Savory.

Ralph Savory attended Santa Rosa High School, where he was president of the aeronautics club. He graduated in 1928, then studied at Santa Rosa Junior College. He moved to San Francisco and worked as a mechanic to pay for flight lessons at “Speed” Johnson’s Flying School at San Mateo. He earned his private pilot certificate, No. 8105, in August 1929.

Ralph W. Savory’s Pilot’s Identification Card, issued by the Department of Commerce, 1 September 1929. (University of Alaska Fairbanks UAF-2009-31-7d)

Ralph W. Savory married Ms. Ida Scott (née Ida Elfreda Koffer) at Berkeley, California, 31 March 1934. The marriage was officiated by L.L. Cross Miu. They would have one child, Diane.

Savory and a friend bought a Curtiss Thrush. In 1933, Savory was issued a commercial pilot certificate. In 1935, he had the Thrush shipped to Alaska where he began flying in the remote parts of the territory (“bush flying”).

Ralph Savory’s Curtiss Thrush, 1935 (University of Alaska Fairbanks UAF-2009-31-1)

After a year gaining experience, Savory was hired as a pilot for Star Air Service (a predecessor of Alaska Airlines). He flew for Star for just under two years and then went to work for Pacific Alaska Airways in late 1938. This company was taken over by Pan American Airways.

During World War II, Pan American operated transport flights for the U.S. military. Flight crews were commissioned as reserve officers. Ralph Savory was commissioned a lieutenant, United States Naval Reserve, 22 July 1943, with date of precedence retroactive to 26 April 1943.

Following the war, Savory helped expand Pan Am’s operations in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He was designated as a Master Pilot and made sector chief pilot at Seattle.

In 1958 Captain Savory was one of the first of Pan Am’s pilots to be trained in the new turbojet-powered Boeing 707 airliner. As one of the world’s most experienced commercial pilots, Captain Savory retired in 1969.

Captain and Mrs. Savory in the cockpit of a Pan American World Airways Boeing 707-320, just prior to his final flight from London, England, to Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., 13 October 1969. He reached the mandatory retirement age effective at midnight on that date. (University of Alaska Fairbanks UAF-1993-28-1)

Mrs. Savory died in 1992. Two years later, Savory married Ms. Gladys T. Crum (née Gladys Theawilla Worden). She also died, in 2000.

Captain Ralph Walter Savory died at Spring Lake Village, Santa Rosa, California, 18 January 2010, at the age of 99 years.

¹ The Pittsburgh Press, Vol. 69, No. 35, Monday, 28 July 1952, Page 2, Columns 2 and 3

² For additional information about this incident, see Aviation Safty Network at  https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19520727-1

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 March 1955

Pan American World Airways' Boeing 377-10-26 Stratocruiser serial number 15932, N1032V.
Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Clipper United States, N1032V.

26 March 1955: At 8:15 a.m. Saturday morning, Pan American World Airways Flight 845/26, a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Clipper United States, N1032V, departed Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA, or “SeaTac”) on a flight to Sydney, Australia, with intermediate stops at Portland, Oregon, and Honolulu, Hawaii. The airliner departed Portland (PDX) at 10:21 a.m., with a crew of 8 and 15 passengers on board.

Captain Herman S. Joslyn was in command of N1032V, with First Officer Angus Gustavus Hendrick, Jr.; Second Officer Michael F. Kerwick; Flight Engineer Donald Read Fowler; and Assistant Flight Engineer Stuart Bachman. The cabin crew were Purser Natalie R. Parker, Stewardess Elizabeth M. Thompson, and Steward James D. Peppin.

Clipper United States was cruising at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) when a severe vibration began, lasting 5–8 seconds. The Number 3 engine (inboard, right) was violently torn off of the starboard wing. The damage to the airplane resulted in severe buffeting. The nose pitched down and airspeed increased. Captain Joslyn reduced engine power to limit airspeed. The Stratocruiser quickly lost 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). Because of damage to the engines’ electrical system, the flight engineer was not able to increase power on the remaining three engines. The Boeing 377 was too heavy at this early stage in the flight to maintain its altitude.

At 11:12 a.m. (19:12 UTC) the flight crew ditched the Stratocruiser into the north Pacific Ocean, approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of the Oregon coastline. [N. 43° 48′ 15″, W. 125° 12′ 40″] The conditions were ideal for ditching,¹ but the impact was hard. Seats were torn loose, and several occupants were injured. Evacuation began and all three life rafts were inflated. The water temperature was 47 °F. (8.3  °C.).

A North American Aviation F-86F Sabre flown by Captain W. L. Parks, 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group, Oregon Air National Guard, located the scene of the ditching and observed smoke flares which led to two life rafts tied together. A Lockheed Constellation was also inbound to the scene from the south. After confirming that Air Force rescue aircraft were on the way, Captain Parks returned to Portland, very low on fuel.

Miss Natalie R. Parker (Medford Tribune)

The airliner’s purser, Miss Natalie R. Parker,² had been assisting passengers with their life vests and seat belts when the airliner hit the water. Standing in the aisle, she was thrown forward, knocking down five rows of seats as she hit them. She was badly bruised and suffering from shock.

Along with other crew members, Miss Parker assisted the passengers in abandoning the sinking Stratocruiser. After entering the water, some began to drift away. Miss Parker, despite her injuries, swam after one and towed him back to an inflated raft.

Her actions were particularly mentioned in the Civil Aeronautics Board accident investigation report:

The purser, a woman, although suffering from shock swam and towed the only seriously injured passenger to the nearest raft, some 200 feet [61 meters] distant.

—Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report SA-304 File No. 1-0039, 15 November 1955, History of the Flight

The airliner floated for about 20 minutes before sinking. Of the 23 persons on board, four, passengers John Peterson, David Darrow, First Officer Hendrick, and Flight Engineer Fowler, died of injuries and exposure.

The survivors were rescued after two hours by the crew of USS Bayfield (APA-33), a U.S. Navy attack transport.

The U.S. Navy attack transport USS Bayfield (APA-33) during the rescue of the survivors of Pan Am Flight 845/26, 26 March 1955. A Standard Oil Co. tanker, SS Idaho Falls, stands by to assist. Two of the airliner’s life rafts are visible at the right edge of this photograph. One is at the end of the smoke trail crossing the center of the image. The other is a bright object at the right lower corner. (U.S. Coast Guard)

During the Civil Aeronautics Board hearings into the accident, Vice Chairman Joseph P. Adams commended the flight’s purser, Miss Parker:

“. . . all of us feel inspired that a fellow citizen, or just a fellow human being, can rise to such an occasion in the manner in which you did. It is most commendable, Miss Parker.”

—Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report SA-304 File No. 1-0039, 15 November 1955, Footnote 3

Because the engine and propeller were not recovered, the exact nature of the failure could not be determined, but the most likely cause was considered to be a fracture of a propeller blade resulting in a severely unbalanced condition, followed by the violent separation of the engine from the wing. This was the fifth time that a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser had lost an engine following the failure of a hollow-steel Hamilton Standard 2J17 propeller blade.

When the flight engineer attempted to increase the propeller r.p.m. on the three engines simultaneously, an electrical overload occurred which opened the master circuit breaker. This prevented any engine power increase.

Airline stewardesses examine a cutaway model of the Boeing Stratocruiser. (Museum of History & Industry, Seattle)

Clipper United States was a Boeing Model 377-10-26, serial number 15932, registered N1032V. It was one of twenty of a specific variant built for Pan American World Airways. The airliner had been delivered to Pan Am on 21 May 1949. At the time of its loss, it had flown a total of 13,655 hours.

The Model 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter, from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping births.

A color photograph of a Pan American World Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser in flight. (Pan Am)
A Pan American World Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser in flight. (Boeing)

The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms).

N1032V was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 engines. These were four-row, 28-cylinder, radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1.

The B6 had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters), and Maximum Continuous Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters). The Takeoff Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection. ³

The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 24260 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction.

The Wasp Major B6 was 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter and 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long. It weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms), dry. The propeller assembly weighed 761 pounds (345 kilograms).

The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).

Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.

Clipper America, a Pan American World Airways Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. (Boeing)

¹ Captain G.B. Cardew, master of the Matson Lines’ S.S. Hawaiian Educator, which had arrived on scene soon after the ditching, said, “The weather was perfect. The sea was calm and the sky warm and clear.”  —Oakland Tribune, Vol. CLXII, No. 86, Sunday, 27 March 1955, Page 2-A, Column 3

Natalie Parker, 1943. (Crater)

² Miss Natalie R. Parker was born 2 June 1925, the first child of Carold J. Parker, a potato chip manufacturer, and Ruth A. Parker, of Portland, Oregon. She attended Medford High School with the Class of 1943, where she was very active in extracurricular activities. Following graduation from high school, Miss Parker attended Reed College at Portland.

In 1945, Miss Parker enlisted in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps, U.S. Public Health Service, and trained as a nurse at the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated 13 June 1948.

Miss Parker joined Pan American World Airways in 1951.

Miss Natalie R. Parker married Rodney Collins Earnest, a building contractor, in Ellsworth, Maine, 21 October 1956. The wedding was officiated by Rev, S. George Bovill of the Congregational Church. They resided in Seattle, Washington. Mrs. Earnest became a founding partner and business manager of the Acorn Academy in Seattle.

³ During a demonstration of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major engine (military designation, R-4360) a regular production engine was taken from the assembly line and run for 22 continuous hours at 4,400 horsepower, then checked and run for another hour at 4,850 horsepower. It was then run for 100 hours at 3,000 horsepower, and 50 hours at 3,500 horsepower. When the engine was disassembled for inspection, it remained in serviceable condition.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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