SEATTLE — 83 years after its successful delivery, the world’s oldest Boeing 247D returned back to Boeing Field, and landed for the last time at the Museum of Flight.
Considered to be the first “modern” airliner at the time, the Boeing 247 incorporated advances such as an all-metal construction in anodized aluminum, a fully cantilevered wing and a retractable landing gear. Other advanced features included control trim tabs, an autopilot and de-icing boots for the wings and tailplane.
The airliner was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney R-1340-S1H1-G Wasp 9-cylinder radial engines, rated at 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. at 6,200 feet (1,890 meters). They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The 247 was 50 mph faster than its contemporaries, and could climb on one engine with a full load.
The Boeing 247 had a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (321.9 kilometers per hour) with a cruising speed of 188 miles per hour (302.6 kilometers per hour. It had a range of 745 miles (1,199 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 25,400 feet (7,742 meters).
Construction and First Flight
The airplane was built at Boeing’s Oxbow factory on the Duwamish River, then barged to Boeing Field where it was assembled and tested. The 247 was originally dubbed “Skymaster” but this was soon dropped.
The first 247 took off on February 8, 1933, commanded by Boeing test pilot Leslie R. (“Les”) Tower and United Air Lines Captain Louis C. Goldsmith at Boeing Field. Two months after the first flight, the first production 247, NC13301, was placed in service with United Air Lines, which took delivery of ten of the type.
The aircraft belonging to the Museum of Flight, registered as N13347 (MSN 1729) was delivered on July 26, 1933 to Pacific Air Transport, which was at that time a division of Boeing Air Transport. Just nine months later, the plane was integrated into the new United Airlines, and flew until mid-1935, when it was sold to Pennsylvania Central Airlines, predecessor of Capital Airlines.
The airliner found a home in Canada in 1940, when it was acquired by the Canadian Department of Munitions and registered it as CF-BTD. Soon, it was transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force under s/n 7839. In 1945, it returned to the United States, now under the ownership of Columbia Airlines, and after a few years of service, the 247 was sold to Costa Rican carrier Aerovias Occidentales in 1951. It carreer with the Central American airline was short, as it was damaged on January 3, 1952.
The aircraft spent the next two years stranded in Costa Rica while it was repaired, and eventually returned to the United States in December 1954, now as a crop duster operated by Marsh Aircraft. Two years later it was purchased by Precipitation Control of Taft, California, and used to seed clouds in order to create rain. This was the last operator of the aircraft before being acquired by the Pacific Northwest Aviation Historical Foundation (now known as Museum of Flight).
To date, only four of these aircraft are still in existence. All of them belonging to museum collections in the UK, Canada and the United States. N13347 was the last one ever to soar the skies.
A Special Crew for the Last Flight
The crew selected for the last flight was comprised by Mike Carriker and copilot Chad Lundy, both former Boeing test pilots. The aircraft made the 15-minute hop down from Paine Field in Everett to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle on a nice sunny afternoon. At the arrival, the aircraft was greeted to a crowd of several hundred people, who came down around noon to watch this plane make its final landing.
Talking with Carriker—being known as the former chief test pilot on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—he said that the flight was smooth. When asked to compare the Boeing 247D with the 787, he chuckled and explained how much more complicated it was to start the engines on this aircraft and what made the 787 easier, however this was more fun of a flight, especially being a tail dragger.
The Museum plans to place the Boeing 247D on permanent display next to its competitor, the Douglas DC-2, in the Aviation Pavilion in the winter. Meanwhile, the aircraft will be standing in the form of the Museum throughout the summer.