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Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Aerial Tanker

History and Development of the Boeing C-97

Boeing KC-97L Boeing KC-97L

After the war Boeing developed the Model 367, a military transport airplane based on the B-29 Superfortress bomber. Its civilian counterpart was the Model 377 Stratocruiser.

The C-97 Stratofreighter had a double-lobe fuselage consisting of two intersecting circular sections, so that the 74-foot-long upper deck had a larger diameter. Cargo was loaded through large clamshell-type doors in the belly of the aircraft using a built-in ramp and a hoist. Its wings, engine gear and other parts were similar to the B-29.

In January of 1945, an XC-97 set a transport airplane speed record by flying 383 mph between Seattle, Wash., and Washington, D.C., with 20,000 pounds of cargo.

The production version that flew in June of 1949 had outboard wing fuel tanks to increase its range. During the Korean War, C-97s were used to evacuate casualties. Other planes became flying command posts for Strategic Air Command personnel.

The C-97 was designated KC-97 when it was equipped with the Boeing-designed flying boom for aerial refueling -- the boom had controls so the boom operator could literally "fly" the end of the boom from the KC-97 aerial tanker into the receiving airplane.

There were 888 C-97s built between 1947 and 1958. Of those, 219 were adapted as KC-97E and F tankers and 592 were KC-97G models. The KC-97Gs had additional 700-gallon external fuel tanks under each wing and could dispense 8,513 gallons of fuel while carrying 96 troops.

To keep its tankers compatible with its newer high performance jet aircraft, the USAF gradually replaced the slower KC-97 planes with Boeing KC-135 jet tankers after 1956.

However, some modified KC-97s continued flying in other roles. In 1964 some of them received two jet engines. The increased speed of these KC-97L aircraft made them more compatible with high performance jet aircraft, and they served primarily with the Air National Guard. The USAF retired its last C/KC-97 in 1973, but other planes remained in use with the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as tankers or search and rescue aircraft.

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser of Pan American World AirwaysBoeing 377 Stratocruiser of Pan American World Airways

Today, several C-97 aircraft have survived and are display around the United States, including the one shown below at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

Boeing 377

The Boeing 377, also called the Stratocruiser, was a large long-range airliner built after World War II. It was developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter.

Put into production in the late 1940s, the aircraft was powered by four piston engines, driving tractor propellers. It had a pressurized cabin—which was a relatively new feature to transport aircraft at the time—and two decks. Airlines were able to make transoceanic flights easier and faster with the new aircraft, which enabled easier international travel to places such as Hawaii.

Only 55 Stratocruisers were built, the result of strong competion from the Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed Constellation.

Guppy and Super Guppy

Several Boeing 377 were extensively modified to carry large payloads. These aircraft were known as a "Guppy", "Pregnant Guppy" and "Super Guppy". See photos below.

Staff Photos of the C-97 and KC-97

Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter S/N 52-2626 in Tucson
Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter S/N 52-2626
Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker S/N 52-2630 in Dayton, OH
Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker S/N 52-2630
KC-97L, S/N 53-298, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
KC-97L, S/N 53-298
Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker, S/N 030240, at the Barksdale AFB airpark in Louisiana
Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker, S/N 030240 at Barksdale AFB
KC-97 Stratotanker, S/N 030240
Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker, S/N 030240 at Barksdale AFB
U.S. Air Force KC-97 Stratotanker, S/N 030240
Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker, S/N 030240, right nose view
Tail section and refueling boom on the KC-97 Stratotanker, S/N 030240
Tail section and refueling boom on the KC-97 Stratotanker, S/N 030240
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser "Mini-Guppy", Tillamook Oregon, May 2013
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser "Mini-Guppy"
Boeing 377 and C-97-based Super Guppy used by NASA, now in Tucson
Boeing 377 and C-97-based Super Guppy used by NASA
Boeing 377-based Super Guppy, N640, used by NASA
Boeing 377-based Super Guppy, N640, used by NASA

USAF C-97 Photos

Boeing C-97 Stratofreigher of the USAF Military Air Transport Service in flight
Boeing C-97 Stratofreigher of the USAF Military Air Transport Service in flight

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