It is coming up to 75 years since Pan Am signed a contract for 29 units of the new Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. The double-decker plane could fit up to 100 passengers inside one of the first pressurized cabins and was a truly innovative aircraft for its time.
A new era
The spacious long-range piston airliner was heralded for its luxurious offering, often associated with the glory days of passenger services. Pan Am scheduled its first flights with this Boeing model in 1949, four years after the end of World War II, marking a new era in aviation. The first service took off in April with an operation between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Introduced April 1,1949 by Pan American, the Boeing 377 #Stratocruiser was considered the most luxurious airliner aloft. Its unique fuselage was equipped with two decks; the upper contained a roomy main cabin, while the lower featured a popular cocktail lounge. #avgeek pic.twitter.com/7rbIutSswP
— SFO Museum (@SFOMuseum) February 1, 2020
Boeing had produced 56 Stratocruisers between 1947 and 1950. The manufacturer states that this plane marked the firm’s first significant success in selling passenger planes to operators across the globe.
Some overseas customers included the Israeli Air Force, Nigeria Airways, and Scandinavian Airlines. Meanwhile, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) flew them on transatlantic routes.
Domestically, along with Pan Am, DAI Airways, Northwest Orient Airlines, Transocean Air Lines, and United Airlines operated the 377.
The Stratocruiser was the first commercial model built by Boeing since the Stratoliner. Using the company’s experience of producing planes during wartime, this aircraft possessed the speed and technical improvements available to bombers at the end of WWII. In fact, it was based on the B-29 Bomber.
Despite its powerful delivery, the cabin of the aircraft is what truly left a legacy. It had set a new standard for air travel with its grand design.
The extra-wide layout was accompanied by gold-appointed dressing rooms. In addition, its circular staircase led to a lower deck beverage lounge where passengers could mingle. Meanwhile, flight attendants prepared hot meals for those onboard in the one-of-a-kind galley.
"Chicken, or the fish?" 🍴
— Bloc Gatwick. (@BlocHotelLGW) December 27, 2018
However, the icing on the cake was the upper-and-lower bunk beds that could sleep 28 fliers. With a range of 6,800 km (3,600 nmi) and a cruise speed of 301 mph, this was the ultimate long-distance luxury aircraft for its time.
Despite its grandeur, after a decade of enjoyment, it quickly became superseded by jetliners. Models such as its counterpart the 707, along with the de Havilland Comet and Douglas DC-8, soon became favored by airlines.
After over a decade of making history with the plane, Pan Am retired its last 377 in 1961. This marked the end of an era for commercial aviation as air travel started to become more accessible.
Several units were sold to smaller airlines and modified into freighters by Aero Spacelines. These variants were heavily enlarged and resembled bloated fish, giving them the nickname of Guppy.
Furthermore, five retired Stratocruisers were modified and used for military missions with the Israeli Defense Force. Despite its twist of fate, the 377 will be remembered for its classy onboard experience.
What are your thoughts about the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser? What is your favorite aspect of this historical aircraft? Let us know what you think in the comment section.