Boeing Stratocruiser the opulent jumbo liner 1947-1961
At the end of WWII, the bottom fell out of the bomber business and Boeing needed to shift production to commercial aircraft to survive. Rather than design a new airliner, Boeing modified the C-97 Stratofreighter, a derivative of the B-29 Superfortress bomber. The Boeing Stratocruiser inherited a hefty bomber frame and the spacious and comfortable interiors of the pre-war glamourous Boeing flying Boats. The end result was a jumbo luxury liner flying above the weather at 30,000 feet with a 4,000-mile range and a speed of 340 mph.
In the spring of 1953, our family of five traveled from Paris to New York on a Pan Am Boeing Stratocruiser. I was nine at the time and fascinated by this big airliner. Sixty years later I still have fond memories of that journey and have included a few of them in the pages below.Larry Driscoll
Step on board for the Boeing Stratocruiser experience.
Traveling in style on a Boeing Stratocruiser
Boeing Stratocruiser lounge
Boeing Stratocruiser dining
James Bond and the Boeing Stratocruiser
Author Ian Fleming was familiar with the Stratocruiser. He flew frequently flew BOAC’s Monarch Service from London to New York on to his home In Jamaica. In two of his books, he places James Bond on a Stratocruiser
The flight deck
The Stratocruiser flight deck
It’s interesting to note that it took a crew of 5 to fly 50 passengers across the Atlantic on a Stratocruiser when today, a pilot and co-pilot can fly 290 passengers on the same route in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Why the difference?
The Stratocruiser required a flight crew of a minimum of five because it had had little, or no, systems automation. The correct operation of aircraft primary systems (engines, fuel), navigation, alternate, communication, electrical, hydraulic, oil, etc.), required manual manipulation of 100 to 200 switches and buttons, and monitoring of multiple gages.
In addition, prior to taking off the crew had to complete multiple (and complex) normal, abnormal, and emergency checklists rapidly and efficiently.
I had a front seat view of the flight deck on our flight to New York. At the Shannon refueling pit stop, The captain stepped out leaving the flight deck door open. I stood at the entrance staring in, amazed at the mind-boggling array of dials, switches, levers.
Boeing Stratocruiser at a glance
AIRLINES THAT FLEW THE BOEING STRATOCRUISER
|Pan American World Airways|
|British Overseas Airway Corporation|
|American Overseas Airways|
BOEING STRATOCRUISER AT A GLANCE
|Take-off speed||132 mph|
|Maximum take-off weight||142,500 lbs.|
|Passengers||55 – 114|
|Power per engine||3,500 hp|
|Maximum cruising speed||339 mph|
|Service ceiling||33,000 ft|
|First flight||August 7 1947|
Links and other resources on the opulent Jumbo liner
Read more on James Bond Stratocruiser flights
Pan Am Historical Foundation: Boeing History: CNN Travel Boeing 377
The article in the 1951 edition of The Book of Knowledge children’s encyclopedia had two cutaway illustrations of the Stratocruiser. The first one showed the spiral staircase linking the passenger cabin on the main level with the lounge below. The caption noted that the aircraft could carry 72 passengers at day or 36 at night. The illustration showed 2 x 2 seating. The second illustration showed the arrangement of the night-time bunks. I read the article in 1970 when the Boeing 747 was being introduced and the Stratocruiser resembled a Boeing 747 to me, albeit with the lounge downstairs instead of upstairs. The Book of Knowledge article had a bonus–a photo from Boeing of a bowling game taking place in an unfinished fuselage of a C-97 (the military cousin of the Stratocruiser). The bowling game showed how much space was in the fuselage of the C-97/Stratocruiser. I think the game was staged to promote the C-97/Stratocruiser, but I am not too clear on that theory.
Yes that is about right
Hi. Great article. Thank you. Can you tell me approximately how long the flights were on the Stratocruiser London to Montreal with a refuel in Gander. This was late in its epoch around 1959. I am fact checking and a diary I have says 10 hours. Would this be close to correct
As a teenager I remember flying from Rome to Kano Nigeria at night on a BOAC Stratocruiser having arrived in Rome from Perth Australia on a Qantas Super Constellation.
I was heading to Port Harcourt in Nigeria for School Holidays as my father worked for Shell Company.
There were many English school children on board the Stratocruise and Pillow fights were ongoing along the aisle.
I remember a crew member with a sextant taking a position fix over the Sahara. No navigation systems in those days.
I loved travelling on those old aircraft and eventually became a Commercial Pilot myself.
Adapting the B29 from heavy bomber to high capacity freight and passenger use via such innovations as the “double decker” fuselage is echoed in a converse application, DHComet jetliner to Nimrod ASW recon & attack aircraft.
Thank you for this page.
I remember flying a BOAC Stratocruiser in 1955 from Toronto, Canada to London, UK with my mother as a very young boy. I remember sleeping in a bunk bed with curtains. The most exciting part of the plane to me was the lounge below which was accessed by a spiral staircase which I spent many hours in. It had round porthole style windows through which you could look down at the land, ocean or clouds which looked like cotton balls as we flew so high above. There were lots of snacks and the meals were delicious. The flight was long with a refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. We took a similar flight back to Montreal a year later. The memories of this magical plane have lasted a lifetime. It was a golden unhurried age of air travel.
I was so pleased to discover information on the Stratocruiser, to finally know I wasn’t imagining that I had flown to New York in 1957, sleeping in a proper berth. I felt sure I had, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I think I’ve been very lucky to have flown on both the BOAC Stratocruise and later on Concorde. Both wonderful experiences.
Indeed aged 19 and very naive I applied to BOAC for a job as an air hostess. In those days correct appearance weight, height and figure measurements were essential. I frantically dieted, but all to no avail. The interview was daunting and my final faux pas was in answer to ‘of which country was Tokyo the capital’ – China – I don’t think so!!
I remember flying from Barbados to NY, then onto London on a Stratocruiser, I was put to bed and my parents went to the bar, what plane would that have been.
Ich bin im August 1950 von Berlin-Tempelhof nach Frankfurt/Main mit einer PAA Boeing Stratocruiser eflogen. Damals illegal, da ich im Osten zu Hause war. Der Flug war ruhig bei schönsten Wetter – unvergessen
You are correct the Breguet 763 Provence made its first flight 2/15/49 and was introduced 3/10/53. I have removed language that the Strato was the only double decker. Thanks
Wasn’t the Breguet 763 Provence also a double decker, prop airliner?
How long did it take the BOAC flight from London to West Africa in 1948