View Full Version : Stratoliner had about 50 gallons of fuel as it crashed

12th Feb 2003, 17:08

Stratoliner had about 50 gallons of fuel as it crashed
Wednesday, February 12, 2003


The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to rule within days on the probable cause of last year's crash of The Boeing Co.'s one-of-a kind Stratoliner, the first commercial airplane with a pressurized cabin.

It's been clear since soon after the restored four-engine plane ditched into Seattle's Elliott Bay that it apparently ran out of gas.

The board could issue that final report late this week, although it will more likely be next week.

The Stratoliner is now being restored in a hangar across from Boeing Field.

The restoration is going well and the Stratoliner should make its public rollout at the Museum of Flight on June 14, said Boeing's Dave Knowlen, restoration manager.

Self Loading Freight
12th Feb 2003, 20:51
I particularly liked the closing quote from the piece:

""These two planes represent incredible pieces of history when you look at the impact they had on Seattle," Knowlen said."

...which if you go pootling around with 45 gallons of gas in the tank may be quite a considerable impact, I guess.


13th Feb 2003, 15:37
Little birdy in Seattle says that they were off on a jolly of their own, and since they had to pay for their own gas, they only put in 300 gallons. They flew from Boeing field to Paine field to do circuits and were probably having too much fun to notice the low fuel state. The hand-cranking of the gear is not related. They had to do that cos the hydraulics for that gear were powered by the engine that failed. Although they feathered that prop, they somehow omitted to feather the others when they failed.

So, big question. Why, after No 3 spluttered, did they make for Boeing field, instead of Paine field right underneath them?

Cos that's where their cars were parked.

Could only happen to top test pilots.

14th Feb 2003, 22:46
Just looking at a photo of NX19901 in Flight of February 16, 1939 (interesting to see that date protocol in those days). The caption reads:

ON TEST: The new Boeing 307 Stratoliner flying at 11,000ft. with its two starboard Wright Cyclones stopped and the airscrews feathered. During this flight the machine had an all-up weight of 45,000 lb. The way in which the rudder is being held over to counteract the drag of the stopped engines is noticeable, but more interesting is the white leading edge of the tailplane. This is a paint coating to record the direction of the flow of fuel in dumping tests during which coloured water was used instead of petrol.

15th Feb 2003, 19:28
A few months later, in Flight's June 8, 1939 edition....

...incidentally, the second Boeing 307, or Stratoliner, has recently been going through further tests in the hands of Mr. E. T. Allen. The first 307, it will be remembered, was over-stressed and suffered structural failure in an extremely severe pull-out. At the time of the accident, which involved the death of, among others, Mr. P. Guilonard, of K.L.M., the high-altitude cabin equipment, which gives the machine its name, had not been installed, and this remains to be tested during the flight programme with the second machine.

25th Feb 2003, 15:37
As forecast, here's the confirmation.
NTSB link: http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20020401X00435&ntsbno=SEA02FA060&akey=1

Associated Press copy.

SEATTLE (AP) - A meticulously restored Boeing 307
Stratoliner ditched in Elliot Bay last year because the
crew had incorrectly estimated how much fuel was left,
federal aviation officials said.
The last of the Model 307s - the first commercial aircraft
with a pressurized cabin - splashed into the bay on March
28 on a test flight.
All four engines lost power when the plane ran out of gas,
the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday. The
report found fault with the crew for relying solely on fuel
gauges, failing to verify levels through other methods,
Nobody was injured when the four-man crew ditched the
plane into the bay, just 50 feet (15 meters) from shore in
front of a west Seattle restaurant lunchtime crowd.
The plane was originally flown by Pan American Airways in
1940 as the Clipper Flying Cloud. It took six years to
The Stratoliner is being repaired and is to be the
centerpiece of the Smithsonian's new National Air and Space
Museum at Dulles International Airport near Washington,

4th Mar 2003, 11:02
Kind of side note...

In May of 2002 my wife and I were planning our wedding. Our reception was at Salty's on Alki in Seattle . During the weekend of the 24th of March we decided that we were not going to get insurance to cover our wedding in case of accident or natural disaster. Insurance of that type is not uncommon here in the U.S. You can imagine my surprise when latter that week I saw the following picture:


The restaurant in the background is Salty's! I spoke to the guy coordinating our reception and he said he saw the plane come in. When the plane came to a rest he called out to the pilots to see if they were O.K.. They said they were fine and asked him to call the police. Everyone evacuated onto the wing and awaited a boat to pick them up. A couple of the folks on the flight didn't even get wet! They made sure to land in the shallows so the aircraft would not sink to bottom. Parts of the sound in that area can be very deep.