The Boeing 307 Stratoliner – What Was It Like To Fly On?

The Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner made history when it performed its first flight in December 1938. It became the world’s first passenger aircraft to hold a pressurized cabin. This feat allowed airlines to avoid harsh weather conditions by cruising at 20,000 feet (6096 meters), which was a revolutionary altitude for the time.

Boeing 307 Stratoliner
The 307 Stratoliner helped bring in new opportunities for commercial aviation. Photo: Boeing

Groundbreaking achievement

Boeing highlights the plane as the first four-engine airliner in scheduled domestic service. Pan American World Airways introduced it on its operations on Independence Day, 1940, marking a landmark moment in United States aviation. The airline operated three units of the Wright Cyclone-powered plane.

In addition to Pan Am, five other carriers in five different countries flew the aircraft type. The following operators performed flights with the 307:

  • Cambodia Air Commercial (Cambodia)
  • Aerovias Ecuatorianas CA (Ecuador)
  • Aigle Azur (France)
  • Royal Air Lao (Laos)
  • Trans World Airlines (US)
Boeing, Type 307, Stratoliner
Aigle Azur took on former Trans World Airlines 307s. Photo: SDASM Archives via Flickr

Greater comfort

Additionally, Howard Hughes, who was a multimillionaire business magnate, with a love for aviation, purchased a Stratoliner for his own use and transformed it into a ‘flying penthouse’. Inside his aircraft, there was a master bedroom, two bathrooms, a galley, a bar, and a large living room. Eventually, the pilot sold it to an oil tycoon, and it soon became a houseboat in Florida.

Even though the interior wasn’t as extravagant as Hughes’ unit, there was still plenty of room to maneuver on standard services. The 307’s circular fuselage allowed for maximum space for its five crew members and 33 passengers on board.

Furthermore, the cabin had a width of nearly 12 feet (3.6 meters) and could fit in comfortable sleeper berths. These beds were perfect for tired passengers on overnight flights.

With the new wave of technology being used on its services, the Stratoliner had a flight engineer as a member of the crew. This was the first plane to have such a role onboard. This professional was needed to maintain power settings, pressurization, and other subsystems. Therefore, the pilot was able to focus more on handling the flight of the aircraft.

307 Stratoliner plane
Pan Am’s 307 Stratoliner named Clipper Flying Cloud. Photo: Erik Drost via Wikimedia Commons

Useful units

Within the US, the plane was usually used on services between New York and California. Additionally, flights to Latin America were often handled with the 307. However, World War II forced the end of production for these original units, and five of them were taken on by the Army Transport Command as C-75 models. However, the cabin’s famous pressurization was removed to save weight on military campaigns.

In 1969, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum purchased the last remaining Stratoliner, flown by Pan American as Clipper Flying Cloud. This marked an end of an era for the ambitious aircraft.

Altogether, by flying in cozy cabins and avoiding bad weather, passengers were able to cruise through the skies smoothly. Pressurized aircraft are now the norm. However, travelers would have loved this Boeing breakthrough 80 years ago.

What are your thoughts on the 307 Stratoliner? Do you have any fond memories traveling on this historic aircraft? Let us know what you think in the comment section.