Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner Color Photographs

The Model 307 Stratoliner was an attempt by Boeing to re-engineer their successful B-17 design into a civilian airliner. This was done by marrying the engines, wings, and tail surfaces of the B-17C with an all- new fuselage optimized to carry passengers. The design first flew on 31DEC38. Three months later the aircraft crashed killing all ten people aboard; analysis of the crash led Boeing to increase the vertical tail surfaces by extending the fin along the top of the fuselage. This feature was introduced into B-17 production starting with the E model Fortress.
Despite the crash the Stratoliner entered production, Pan Am receiving their first aircraft in July 1940. TWA ordered five, on this example the B-17 heritage is obvious in the shape of the wings and tail.
Ten Model 307s were produced before America’s entry into the war curtailed all commercial aircraft production. TWA’s five Stratoliners were purchased by the Army for use as trans-Atlantic transports as the C-75. They were modified to carry additional fuel and served shuttling VIPs between America and England until replaced by the Douglas C-54 Skymaster in 1944, when they were returned to TWA. (LIFE Magazine photograph)
Flight crew consisted of a Pilot, Co-Pilot, and Flight Engineer. Passenger capacity was 33, which was increased to 38 after the aircraft were converted back to civilian airliners.
Both Pan Am and TWA sold off their Stratoliners in 1947 to other airlines, replacing them with faster types which could carry more passengers. Airnautic operated its Stratoliner in commercial service until 1974, flying routes out of Corsica.
Millionaire Howard Hughes purchased NC-19904 for an attempt at breaking his own speed record for an around-the-world flight. His attempt was abandoned with the start of the Second World War. He christened his Stratoliner “The Flying Penthouse”.
In an unusual twist, the fuselage of Hughes’ Stratoliner was ultimately sold and converted into a boat and named the “Cosmic Muffin”. She operated out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The last surviving Model 307 is NC-19903. On its flight to the Smithsonian on 28MAR02 it was ditched at Seattle, Washington. The aircraft was successfully recovered, restored to flight-worthy condition, and the second time the donation flight was successful. The aircraft is currently on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Pan Am markings.

B-17 color photographs here: