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What happens when a Seattle planemaker takes the most advanced, longest-ranged, highest flying super bomber of World War II (the B-29 Superfortress) and adapts it as the longest-ranged, highest flying transport of the immediate postwar world?
The result was Boeing's Model 367, originally conceived as a long-range transport that would have had a role in World War II if the campaign had gone longer, but which was adapted for the commercial market as the Model 377 Stratocruiser. It was the first commercial passenger plane that could provide non-stop Transatlantic service.
The Stratocruiser went on to serve with Pan American World Airways, Northwest Airlines, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), and other airlines, flying both the Atlantic and the Pacific, as well as to the Middle East and South America. It became the gold standard of luxury and efficiency. When Elizabeth II made her first world tour as queen, she flew by BOAC Stratocruiser.
And then there was the Cold War. To counter the Soviet nuclear threat, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) initiated an unprecedented build-up of jet bombers. Because these lacked global range, SAC also required an exceptional build-up of aerial refueling aircraft. The Model 367 became the KC-97, the first dedicated aerial refueling aircraft to be fielded in significant numbers, as 888 were built.
As the family grew long in the tooth, yet another career awaited. Several of the original airframes were rebuilt as the inimitable Guppies, the largest volume transports ever conceived. Working for NASA, they are credited with having made America's victory in the Space Race possible. This book tells and how service continued around the world, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, one of the Guppies is still flying routine missions for NASA.
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