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Boeing 247

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Boeing 247
Boeing 247 prototype at Boeing Field, c. 1933
Type Passenger airliner
Manufacturer Boeing
Maiden flight 8 February 1933
Introduced 22 May 1933[1]
Primary user Boeing Air Transport
Number built 75

The Boeing Model 247 was an early United States airliner, considered the first such aircraft to fully incorporate[2][3] advances such as all-metal (anodized aluminum) semi-monocoque construction, a fully cantilevered wing, wing flaps, and retractable landing gear.[4] While Boeing's 247 and 247A had speed-ring engine cowlings and fixed-pitch propellers, the Model 247D incorporated NACA cowlings and variable pitch propellers.[5]

Other advanced features included control-surface trim tabs, an autopilot, and deicing boots for the wings and tailplane. The 247 first flew on 8 February 1933, and entered service later that year. Subsequently, engines and airframes became larger, and four-engine designs emerged, but no significant changes to this basic formula appeared until cabin pressurization and high-altitude flight were introduced in the early 1940s with the first pressurized airliner, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner.[6]

Design and development

Boeing 247 lamp at Future of Flight Museum shop

Boeing had eclipsed other aviation manufacturers by introducing a host of aerodynamic and technical features into a commercial airliner. This advanced design which was a progression from earlier Monomail (Models 200, 221, 221A) and B-9 bomber designs, combined speed and safety. The Boeing was faster than the premier fighter aircraft of its day, the Boeing P-12, which was an open-cockpit biplane.[7] In addition, the 247 was the first twin-engine passenger transport that could fly on one engine. With controllable pitch propellers (standard equipment on the 247D), the 247 could maintain 11,500 ft at gross weight.[8] Its combination of features set the standard for the Douglas DC-3 and other airliners before World War II and was ordered "off the drawing board".[6] Originally planned as a 14-passenger airliner powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines, the preliminary review of the design concept by United Airlines' pilots had resulted in a re-design to a smaller, less capable design configuration.[9] Nonetheless, the 247 was a remarkable achievement and was the company's showcase exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.[10]

File:Boeing 247 ad.jpg
Boeing 247D in its MacRobertson Race markings, c1934. Note the inaccurate race number and dramatic pose in this fanciful 1935 illustrated card art.

As the Boeing 247 emerged from its test and development phase, the company further showcased its capabilities by entering a long-distance air race in 1934, the MacRobertson Race from England to Australia. During the 1930s, aircraft designs were often proven in air races and other aerial contests. A modified Model 247D was entered, flown by Col. Roscoe Turner and Clyde Pangborn. The 247, race number "57," was essentially a production model but all airliner furnishings were deleted to accommodate additional fuselage fuel tanks (eight in total).[11] The MacRobertson Race attracted aircraft entries from all over the globe including prototypes as well as established production types with the grueling course considered an excellent proving ground as well as an opportunity to gain worldwide attention. Turner and Pangborn came in second place in the transport section (and third overall), behind the 247's eventual rival, the new Douglas DC-2.[12]

Winner of the 1934 US Collier Trophy for excellence in aviation design, the first 247 production orders were earmarked for Boeing Air Transport.[11]

The cockpit windshield (windscreen) of the first 247s was angled forward instead of the expected aft sweep. This was the Boeing solution to the problem of lighted control-panel instruments reflecting off the windshield at night, but it came at a significant performance penalty - this was one reason contemporary DC airliners could post comparable or superior performance while carrying significantly greater loads.[citation needed] By the introduction of the 247D, the pilot windshield was sloped aft at about the same angle as the DC-3's windows, and the night-glare problem was resolved by installing an extension {the glarescreen) over the control panel.[13]

Operational history

The 247 was capable of crossing the United States from east to west eight hours faster than their predecessors, such as the Ford Trimotor and Curtiss Condor. Entering service on 22 May 1933, a Boeing Air Transport 247D set a cross-country record pace of 19½ hours on its San Francisco to New York inaugural flight.[1]

Due to the initial demand from U.S. air carriers, Boeing sold the first 60 247s, an unprecedented $3.5 million order to its affiliated airline, Boeing Air Transport (part of the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation, UATC), at a unit price of $65,000.[6] [8]TWA (Transcontinental & Western Air) also ordered the 247 but UATC declined the order, which resulted in TWA President Jack Frye setting out the requirements for a new airliner and funding Don Douglas to design and build the Douglas DC-1 prototype. Douglas eventually developed the design into the historic and enormously successful DC-3 line.[6]

Although the Boeing design had been the first to enter series production, the 247 proved to have some serious design deficiencies. Air carriers considered its limited capacity a drawback since it only carried ten passengers, in five rows with a seat on each side of the aisle, as well as a flight attendant. Compared to the more capacious DC-2 and later DC-3, the passenger count was too few to make it a commercially viable airliner.[12] Another feature influencing passenger comfort was, the 247's main wing spar ran through the cabin area, so persons moving through the cabin had to make a large step over it.[14] The Lockheed L-10 Electra had a similar configuration and while it was a more compact design, the Electra managed to carry the same number of passengers at a slightly better overall performance, and more importantly, at a lower cost-per-mile.[12]

Seventy-five 247s were built; by contrast, Douglas produced over 10,000 DC-3s, including wartime production of C-47, while the rival Lockheed Electra "family" was eventually to reach over 3,000 in its various civilian and military variants. Boeing Air Transport bought 60 examples, United Aircraft Corp. ten, four went to Lufthansa, and one a private owner in China. While the industry primarily standardized on Boeing's competitors, many of United's aircraft were later purchased by Western Air Express at "bargain basement prices".[15]

File:RCAF Boeing 247d.jpg
No. 121 RCAF Squadron Boeing 247D, c. 1939

The 247 remained in airline service until World War II, when several were converted into C-73 transports and trainers. No. 121 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Squadron operated seven Model 247Ds as medium transports during the early part of the war.[16] Some 247s were still flying in the late 1960s, converted either into cargo transports or personal business aircraft.[12]

A number of specially modified variants included a Boeing 247Y appropriated from United for Air Corps use as a test aircraft fitted with two machine guns in the nose. The same installation later was fitted to a 247Y owned by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek; this aircraft also featured a Colt .50 caliber machine gun in a flexible mount.[17] A 247D purchased by the British Royal Air Force became a test mule for new equipment, featuring a nonstandard nose, new powerplants and non-retracting gear.[18]

The Turner/Pangborn 247D still exists. Originally flown on 5 September 1934, it was leased from United Airlines for the 1934 MacRobertson Race and returned to United where it served in regular airline service until 1937. Subsequently, the 247D was sold to the Union Electric Company of St. Louis for use as an executive transport. The Air Safety Board purchased the aircraft in 1939 and it remained in use for 14 years before it was donated to the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC. Displayed today with two sets of markings, the left side is marked as NR257Y, in Colonel Turner's 1934 MacRobertson Race colors, while the right side is painted in United Airlines livery, as NC13369.[19]

Incidents and accidents

On 10 October 1933, a United Airlines 247 was the victim of the first proven case of sabotage of a commercial airliner. The aircraft, en route from Cleveland to Chicago, was destroyed by a nitroglycerin-based explosive device over Chesterton, Indiana.[20]

On 12 January 1937, a Western Air Express 247 flight from Salt Lake City to Burbank crashed near Newhall, California, killing Martin Johnson of Martin and Osa Johnson fame (photographers, explorers, marketers, naturalists and authors).[21]


File:Restored United Boeing 247.jpg
The last airworthy Boeing 247, in United Air Lines markings at Paine Field

Civil operators

Template:China as ROC
  • Private owner operated one aircraft.
Template:Country data Germany
Template:Country data United States

Military operators

Template:Country data Canada
Template:Country data United States


c/n 1699, CF-JRQ
Exhibited in Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa. Donated to the museum in 1967 by California Standard Oil of Calgary, Alberta.[22]
c/n 1722, N18E
Exhibited in the National Museum of Science and Industry, Wroughton, UK
c/n 1729, N13347
Still airworthy, exhibited in the Museum of Flight, Paine Field, Snohomish County, Washington, USA.
c/n 1953, NC13369 / NR257Y
Exhibited in the Hall of Air Transportation at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, USA, with United Air Lines colors and registration as NC13369 on its right fuselage and wing and as NR257Y with MacRobertson Race markings on its left side.[19]

Specifications (Boeing 247D)

General characteristics

  • Length: 51 ft 5 in (15.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 74 ft 1 in (22.6 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 5 in (3.8 m)
  • Wing area: 836.4 ft² (78 m²)
  • Empty weight: 8,921 lb (4,055 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 16,770 lb (7,621 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 16,805 lb (7,623 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney S1H1-G Wasp , 550 hp (410 kW) each




  1. 1.0 1.1 Bryan 1979, p. 109.
  2. Boeing 247.
  3. Van Der Linden 1991.
  4. Bryan 1979, p. 110. The main landing gear did not fully retract; a portion of the wheels extended below the nacelles, typical of designs of the time, as a means of reducing structural damage in a wheels-up landing. The tailwheel was not retractable.
  5. Ace Pilots Pioneer webpage
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Gould 1995, p. 14.
  7. Serling 1992, p. 19.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Seely 1968, p. 56.
  9. Serling 1992, p. 20.
  10. Serling 1992, p. 22.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Boeing Company 1969, p. 35.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Boeing Model 247- USA
  13. webpage showing initial and final windshield angles, and glarescreen installation in 247D
  14. Serling 1992, p. 21.
  15. Serling 1992, p. 23.
  16. RCAF Boeing 247D
  17. Seely 1968, p. 63.
  18. Seely 1968, p. 69.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 NASM Boeing 247D
  20. "Seven die as plane crashes in flames". New York Times, 11 October 1933, p. 1.
  21. Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum
  22. Boeing 247D: Canada Aviation Museum Collection


  • Boeing Company. Pedigree of Champions: Boeing Since 1916, Third Edition. Seattle, WA: The Boeing Company, 1969. No ISBN. WorldCat.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing aircraft since 1916. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1989. ISBN 0-85177-804-6.
  • Bryan, C.D.B. The National Air and Space Museum. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-8109-0666-X.
  • Gould, William. Boeing (Business in Action). Bath, Avon, UK: Cherrytree Books, 1995. ISBN 0-7451-5178-7.
  • Seely, Victor. "Boeing's Grand Old Lady." Air Classics, Vol. 4, No. 6, August 1968.
  • Serling, Robert J. Legend & Legacy: The Story of Boeing and its People. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. ISBN 0-31205-890-X.
  • Van Der Linden, F. Robert. The Boeing 247: The First Modern Airliner. Seattle, WA: University of Washington, 1991. ISBN 0-29597-094-4.

External links

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Boeing 247".