Exhaust billows yesterday from a restored Boeing 307 Stratoliner warming up for its Seattle departure. Volunteers restored the plane for a second time after a crash landing in Elliott Bay last year.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Fly, fly again for vintage Stratoliner
By Mark Bryant
The last Boeing 307
Stratoliner took off from Seattle under a clear blue sky yesterday morning,
heading to its final resting place at the Smithsonian National Air and
Volunteers had spent six years restoring the silver 1940 aircraft in preparation for its museum-bound journey. But during a March 2002 test flight, its four engines ran out of fuel and it splashed down in Elliott Bay just 50 feet from a busy West Seattle restaurant.
of a bad day in history for me, said Buzz Nelson, the senior captain
aboard the flight.
Im really grateful
to have a chance to fly it again, Nelson said.
Pan Am dubbed this one the Clipper Flying Cloud and used it on a Caribbean route. One-way tickets in those days cost $1,000 about $12,000 in todays dollars. Flights included service by hostesses with stylish caps and white gloves.
During World War II the plane entered service with the Army Air Transport Command. In 1954, after returning to commercial service, it was sold to the Haitian Air Force, and eventually it became the personal airplane of François Papa Doc Duvalier, the nations dictator.
It changed hands a
few more times and in 1972 was acquired by the Smithsonian from a private
owner who had planned to use it as a crop duster. The museum loaned it
to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., which is where Boeing
workers found it and decided to restore it.
Ive always had a love of history and these old aircraft, Dawson said.
The inside has been restored to its original finery, with a row of nine single seats on the port side. On the starboard side are four sections, each containing two rows of three seats that face each other, with a curtain for privacy.
Career aviator Pete
Williams, 79, was on hand for the takeoff yesterday. He flew the craft
for six months, beginning Dec. 30, 1949, according to an original log
book that his wife, Peggy, had.
The Stratoliner is to arrive Tuesday of next week at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Smithsonians new companion museum at Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, Nelson said. First the plane will visit a Wisconsin air show and make other stops before its permanently grounded.
Its very sad for me, said Nelson. As an airplane operator, Id rather see them fly.
© 2003 The Seattle Times Company