The first pressurised passenger airliner in the world was the Boeing 307 Stratoliner. Powered by four radial engines by Wright, the aircraft could carry 33 or 38 passengers in a day configuration or 25 in sleeping berths for night flights.

Just ten aircraft were built, with the first flight taking place on 31 December 1938. Three were delivered to Pan American, five to TWA and one to Howard Hughes for private use. Passenger service commenced in 1940, bringing new levels of comfort to airline passengers.

Boeing 307 Stratoliner video

Following on from the last video about the Douglas DC-7, this week there is a nice little video featuring the Boeing 307. Presented in colour, it is made by TWA and runs for around 36 minutes. Of this, the first 13 minutes or so are about the aircraft.

Titled “Winged Horizons”, it looks at a typical trip from the period. With cabin views plus air to air photography, it gives a great feel for airline travel in 1940. I agree with the narrator, that chicken being served on board looks fantastic!

Buying a Stratoliner was not cheap, costing US$315,000 each when they were ordered in 1937. During World War II, Pan American continued to operate their aircraft to Central and South America, while the TWA machines were requisitioned by the USAAF.

Post-war, you could fly on a TWA Stratoliner all the way through to 1951. Subsequently sold on to smaller operators, the last one was still in commercial service in 1974.

Overall Thoughts

One Boeing 307 exists today, Clipper Flying Cloud, an ex-Pan American aircraft fully restored to flying condition by Boeing volunteers. Unfortunately it ditched in Elliott Bay in Seattle in 2002, was recovered, restored again and finally flew to Washington DC in 2003 for display in the National Air and Space Museum.

Being able to fly up to 20,000 feet meant passengers were above most of the weather for the first time. It really did introduce a new level of comfort for airline passengers.

Did you know about the Boeing 307 and what did you think of the video? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image via the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.