S.S. AMERICA, S.S. UNITED STATES sailing on the 'All American' team to Europe

Boeing Stratocruiser

Boeing Stratocruiser the opulent jumbo liner 1947-1961

At the end of WWII, the bottom fell out of the bomber business and Boeing needed to shift production to commercial aircraft to survive. Rather than design a new airliner, Boeing modified the C-97 Stratofreighter, a derivative of the B-29 Superfortress bomber. The Boeing Stratocruiser inherited a hefty bomber frame and the spacious and comfortable interiors of the pre-war glamourous Boeing flying Boats. The end result was a jumbo luxury liner flying above the weather at 30,000 feet with a 4,000-mile range and a speed of 340 mph.

Outside it was an ugly duckling compared to the slim and graceful Lockheed Constellation, or even the cigar-shaped DC 4 and 6. What it lacked in looks was offset by a comfortable, roomy interior and a lower-level cocktail lounge. The The opulent jumbo liner featured an upper deck seating for 55 passengers with 28 sleeper berths. Pan Am flew the Boeing Stratocruiser on premier services to Hawaii and across the Atlantic. BOAC ( The forerunner of British Airways ) describes its premier Monarch Stratocruiser service to New York as a roomy flying hotel with luxurious dressing rooms, comfortable armchairs, sleeper berths with breakfast in bed, and a spiral staircase leading down to the club-like atmosphere of a bar and lounge.
The Boeing Stratocruiser made its Atlantic debut on April 3, 1949, when Pan Am Clipper Clipper Flying Cloud took off from New York bound for London. The following day the European press toured the aircraft. They were enamored by the giant double decker’s space and luxury, especially when compared to the smaller Douglas DC 4 and Lockheed Constellation. Passengers also took to the Boeing Stratocruiser with more than 1,588,737 flyers booking passage in the plane’s first three years.
If the plane had a downside, it was with its mechanically temperamental with cantankerous engines. Compounding the problem were propellers that flew off the wings and vibrated, causing engine separation—the high maintenance cost limited commercial sales to 56 aircraft. Fortunately for Boeing, the Air Force stepped in with a large order.
The last flight of the Boeing Stratocruiser with BOAC was in 1959, replaced by the Boeing 707. By November 1960, only a weekly Pan Am Honolulu to Singapore flight remained, and the 377 was retired by Pan Am in 1961.
Today, those of us who flew on the lumbering giant remember it fondly, for it represented a time when flying was fun and an adventure we looked forward to.

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In the spring of 1953, our family of five traveled from Paris to New York on a Pan Am Boeing Stratocruiser. I was nine at the time and fascinated by this big airliner. Sixty years later I still have fond memories of that journey and have included a few of them in the pages below.

Larry Driscoll

Step on board for the Boeing Stratocruiser experience.



Traveling in style on a Boeing Stratocruiser

Welcome to flying in the 1950s a time of civilized air travel before security lines, locked cockpit doors, knee-numbing seating, and enraged passengers. Step aboard a Pan Am Boeing Stratocruiser for a first-class flying experience ...
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Boeing Stratocruiser lounge

The Boeing Stratocruiser lounge, AKA the Stratoboozer lounge was the cozy cocktail stop before and after dinner. Among its regulars was British Formula 1 driver Mike Hawthorne. “The fat old Stratocruiser is still my favorite ...
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Boeing Stratocruiser dining

Pan Am's Boeing Stratocruiser Presidential service provided a stellar dinning experience . Boeing Stratocruiser dining In the early days of Boeing Stratocruiser transatlantic flying (the 1950's) competition for passengers did not depend so much on ...
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Boeing stratocruiser

James Bond and the Boeing Stratocruiser

Author Ian Fleming was familiar with the Stratocruiser. He flew frequently flew BOAC’s Monarch Service from London to New York on to his home In Jamaica. In two of his books, he places James Bond on a Stratocruiser

In Diamonds Are Forever, James and the glamorous criminal Miss Tiffany Case board the opulent Boeing 377 Stratocruiser BOAC Monarch Flight 505 from London to New York, with a stopover at Shannon Airport in Ireland.

Fleming lamented the passing of the luxury Stratocruiser in For Your Eyes Only.

Two days later, Bond took the Friday Comet to Montreal. He did not care for it. It flew too high and too fast and there were too many passengers. He regretted the days of the old Stratocruiser — that fine lumbering old plane that took hours to cross the Atlantic. Then one had been able to have dinner in peace, sleep for seven hours in a comfortable bunk, and get up in time to wander down to the lower deck and have that ridiculous BOAC ‘country house’ breakfast while the dawn came up and flooded the cabin with the first bright gold of the Western hemisphere.

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The flight deck

The Stratocruiser flight deck

It’s interesting to note that it took a crew of 5 to fly 50 passengers across the Atlantic on a Stratocruiser when today, a pilot and co-pilot can fly 290 passengers on the same route in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Why the difference?

The Stratocruiser required a flight crew of a minimum of five because it had had little, or no, systems automation. The correct operation of aircraft primary systems (engines, fuel), navigation, alternate, communication, electrical, hydraulic, oil, etc.), required manual manipulation of 100 to 200 switches and buttons, and monitoring of multiple gages.
In addition, prior to taking off the crew had to complete multiple (and complex) normal, abnormal, and emergency checklists rapidly and efficiently.

I had a front seat view of the flight deck on our flight to New York. At the Shannon refueling pit stop, The captain stepped out leaving the flight deck door open. I stood at the entrance staring in, amazed at the mind-boggling array of dials, switches, levers.

Boeing Stratocruiser at a glance

AIRLINES THAT FLEW THE BOEING STRATOCRUISER

Pan American World Airways
British Overseas Airway Corporation
American Overseas Airways
United Airlines
Northwest Airlines
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BOEING STRATOCRUISER AT A GLANCE

Take-off speed132 mph
Maximum take-off weight142,500 lbs.
Passengers55 – 114
Power per engine3,500 hp
Maximum cruising speed339 mph
Service ceiling33,000 ft
Range4,200 miles
First flightAugust 7 1947

13 thoughts on “Boeing Stratocruiser

  1. Joel Bader

    The article in the 1951 edition of The Book of Knowledge children’s encyclopedia had two cutaway illustrations of the Stratocruiser. The first one showed the spiral staircase linking the passenger cabin on the main level with the lounge below. The caption noted that the aircraft could carry 72 passengers at day or 36 at night. The illustration showed 2 x 2 seating. The second illustration showed the arrangement of the night-time bunks. I read the article in 1970 when the Boeing 747 was being introduced and the Stratocruiser resembled a Boeing 747 to me, albeit with the lounge downstairs instead of upstairs. The Book of Knowledge article had a bonus–a photo from Boeing of a bowling game taking place in an unfinished fuselage of a C-97 (the military cousin of the Stratocruiser). The bowling game showed how much space was in the fuselage of the C-97/Stratocruiser. I think the game was staged to promote the C-97/Stratocruiser, but I am not too clear on that theory.

  2. Kay Beckett

    Hi. Great article. Thank you. Can you tell me approximately how long the flights were on the Stratocruiser London to Montreal with a refuel in Gander. This was late in its epoch around 1959. I am fact checking and a diary I have says 10 hours. Would this be close to correct

  3. Michael Macaulay

    As a teenager I remember flying from Rome to Kano Nigeria at night on a BOAC Stratocruiser having arrived in Rome from Perth Australia on a Qantas Super Constellation.
    I was heading to Port Harcourt in Nigeria for School Holidays as my father worked for Shell Company.
    There were many English school children on board the Stratocruise and Pillow fights were ongoing along the aisle.
    I remember a crew member with a sextant taking a position fix over the Sahara. No navigation systems in those days.
    I loved travelling on those old aircraft and eventually became a Commercial Pilot myself.

  4. James Marchment

    Adapting the B29 from heavy bomber to high capacity freight and passenger use via such innovations as the “double decker” fuselage is echoed in a converse application, DHComet jetliner to Nimrod ASW recon & attack aircraft.
    Thank you for this page.

  5. Clive Crowe

    I remember flying a BOAC Stratocruiser in 1955 from Toronto, Canada to London, UK with my mother as a very young boy. I remember sleeping in a bunk bed with curtains. The most exciting part of the plane to me was the lounge below which was accessed by a spiral staircase which I spent many hours in. It had round porthole style windows through which you could look down at the land, ocean or clouds which looked like cotton balls as we flew so high above. There were lots of snacks and the meals were delicious. The flight was long with a refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. We took a similar flight back to Montreal a year later. The memories of this magical plane have lasted a lifetime. It was a golden unhurried age of air travel.

  6. Carol

    I was so pleased to discover information on the Stratocruiser, to finally know I wasn’t imagining that I had flown to New York in 1957, sleeping in a proper berth. I felt sure I had, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I think I’ve been very lucky to have flown on both the BOAC Stratocruise and later on Concorde. Both wonderful experiences.

    Indeed aged 19 and very naive I applied to BOAC for a job as an air hostess. In those days correct appearance weight, height and figure measurements were essential. I frantically dieted, but all to no avail. The interview was daunting and my final faux pas was in answer to ‘of which country was Tokyo the capital’ – China – I don’t think so!!

  7. Toni

    I remember flying from Barbados to NY, then onto London on a Stratocruiser, I was put to bed and my parents went to the bar, what plane would that have been.

  8. Robert Schnick

    Ich bin im August 1950 von Berlin-Tempelhof nach Frankfurt/Main mit einer PAA Boeing Stratocruiser eflogen. Damals illegal, da ich im Osten zu Hause war. Der Flug war ruhig bei schönsten Wetter – unvergessen

  9. Larry Driscoll Post author

    Hello.
    You are correct the Breguet 763 Provence made its first flight 2/15/49 and was introduced 3/10/53. I have removed language that the Strato was the only double decker. Thanks

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