Model 377 Stratocruiser
The idea of developing a transport based on a bomber's design was nothing new when Boeing Aircraft Company set about modifying it's B-29 bomber. The Model 367, designated XC-97 mated the B-29's wing, engines, landing gear and tail surfaces to a new fuselage made up of two tubes of unequal length and diameter sitting atop each other with a floor inserted at a point where their curvatures intersected. The first of three XC-97s flew on November 15, 1944. These were followed by ten YC service test prototypes. Six YC-97s and three YC-97As with Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Majors replacing the Wright R-3350s and a single YC-97B was completed as a VIP transport.
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The YC-97A was modified from the XC-97 in much the same way as the B-50 was a modified version of the B-29; receiving more powerful engines, a taller rudder with hydraulic boost to reduce control forces and a steerable nosewheel. No sooner had Boeing received orders for the new transport, when the War ended causing the cancellations of those orders. A civilian derivative of the YC-97A, the Model 377 Stratocruiser was planned in the hopes of keeping Boeing afloat.
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Pregnant Guppy Parts
The first flight of Boeing B-377 NX1024V (c/n 15924), the third Stratocruiser prototype, took place on October 7th, 1948. Although painted in Pan American Airways (PAA) colors and named Clipper America, it was used by Boeing for testing. Delivered to PAA as Clipper Bald Eagle N1024V on June 12, 1949. Retrofitted as a Super Stratocruiser for use on PAA's pacific routes, it was renamed Clipper Cathay. Stored at Miami in 1960, traded to Boeing in 1961. Sold to Lee Mansdorf and later to Aero Spacelines, Inc. (ASI). Used as the main airframe for the 377PG. The 46 section (lower aft fuselage) from the dismantled 377PG was later sent to Airbus Industrie in France for use in manufacturing 377SGT No.4.
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B-377 (c/n 15976) was delivered to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) on Febuary 7, 1950 as RMA Cambria G-AKGJ. Sold to Transocean Air Lines (TAL) in January 1958. Initally registered to TAL as N102Q, later re-registered as N407Q. Neither registration number was painted on. Later sold to Mansdorf, then to ASI. Parts were used in the construction of 377PG. Seen here with both the early and later BOAC livery colors.
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Super Guppy Parts
Clipper Constitution N1038V (c/n 15938) was delivered to PAA on September 29, 1949. Later it was renamed Clipper Hotspur and retrofitted as Super Stratocruiser in 1954. Clipper Hotspur was stored at New York until being traded to Boeing in 1960, then sold to Mansdorf who sold it to ASI who used it as the airframe of registration for the 377SG.
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Boeing converted two KC-97Gs for the USAF as flying testbeds for the then forthcomig Douglas C-133, replacing the Pratt & Whitney 4-row, 28 cylinder R4360 radials; rated at 3500 ESHP, with the new Pratt & Whitney T-34P7 Turboprops; rated at 5500-6000 ESHP each, depending on the source cited. Re-designated YC-97J and operated by Miltary Air Transport Command's 1700th Air Trasport Groups Service Test Squadron. The forward fuselage section including cockpit, wings and engines from YC-97J (c/n 25-2693) were used on the 377SG.
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B-377 OY-DFY (c/n 15944), was originally ordered by Svenensk Inerkontinental Lufftrafik (SILA, a precursor of Scandinavian Airlines System), but was never delivered. Sold to BOAC in April, 1949 and delivered October 24, 1949. Joined BOAC fleet as RMA Champion G-ALSB. It was later sold to TAL and registered as N103Q, before being re-registered as N408Q, although the new number was never painted on the airplane. Auctioned to Mansdorf in 1960, it was sold to ASI and broken up for parts to be used in the manufacture of the 377SG.
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B-377 LM-LAF (c/n 15945) also ordered by SILA but not delivered. Sold to BOAC in April, 1949 and delivered on December 2, 1949, joining the BOAC fleet as RMA Centuarus G-ALSC. Sold to TAL and registered as N101Q. Outfitted as 40 passenger Deluxe type. Re-registered as N406Q on October 14, 1959. Sold to Airline Equiptment Company (AEC) and later to Mansdorf, then to ASI. Broken up for parts to be used on the 377SG.
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Mini Guppy Parts
Sold to United Airlines (UAL) and delivered on December 15, 1949. Joining the UAL fleet as Mainliner Hana Maui N31227
(c/n 15967). It was sold to BOAC December 16, 1954, joining the BOAC fleet as RMA Cordelia G-ANTZ. At some time it was operated under the Ghana Airways (GA) name as seen in the photo on the right, though it's not clear when. BOAC sold it to TAL who registered it as N106Q. It also was re-registered as N411Q, but neither number was painted on the airplane. Later bought by Mansdorf and sold to ASI, it was broken up for use on the 377MG.
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Delivered to NAL on July 29, 1949 as Fleet No.701, Stratocruiser Manila N74601 (c/n 15947). Substantial damage sustained in overshoot landing at Midway Airport, Chicago, Illinois on August 5, 1955. No injuries to passengers or crew. Probable cause was determained to be inproper positioning of reversing circuit breakers. Traded to Lockheed, sold to Mansdorf then to ASI. Stored at Mojave, later used in construction of 377MG.
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Other ASI Stratocruisers
B-377 N74603 (c/n 15949) was delivered to Northwest Air Lines (NAL) as Stratocruiser Chicago, Fleet No.703. It was later renamed Stratocruiser Seattle-Tacoma before being traded to Lockheed in October, 1959. It was sold to Mansdorf, who sold it to ASI in late 1963. ASI kept the original NAL colors but added the Aero Spacelines name to the sides of the fuselage and used it for public relations in the Guppy program. Later it was stored at Mojave and then scrapped. In this picture, the ASI name can be seen just above the open access door on the right side of the fuselage.
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B-377 N74606 (c/n 15952) was delivered to NAL on September 13, 1949 as Stratocruiser Washington, Fleet No.706. It was later traded to Lockheed in December, 1959. It was sold to ASI in 1963, who modified it with the addition of a large cargo door on the forward port side of the fuselage as seen in this picture, before being stored at Mojave and later scrapped.
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B-377 N1034V (c/n 15934) was delivered to PAA as Clipper Westward Ho on July 3, 1949. It was stored at Miami in 1960, and sold to Alfred Equiptment Company, then possibly to Mansdorf, then to Rutas Aereas Nacionales SA (RANSA). RANSA registration marks YV-C-ERK were allocated but never painted on the aircraft. It was converted to all cargo and later stored at Miami before being broken up as a derelict aircraft. Althought no records exist of the fact, compare this photo to the one above. It would seem that ASI had a hand in the addition of the cargo door pictured here.
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The Stratocruiser Scrap Pile
The title "King of the Second-hand Stratocruisers" must surely go to Aero Spacelines who laid claim to no fewer than 27 of the many B-377/C-97s produced. It wasn't out of love of the design that they bought this many Stratocruisers. It was out of their need for spare parts for the Guppy program. Most were stored at Mojave, California with some being stored at Oakland, California. Pictured here is Aero Spacelines' legecy to the Mojave Desert.
In the end all Stratocruisers met the smelter's torch. This situation became critial for ASI while building the components to fill Airbus Industrie's order for 377SGT No.4, and had to purchase a part of the dismantled Pregnant Guppy's fuselage to send to France. There were no other 377/C-97s left to use!
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