In-Box Review
Boeing 307
Boeing 307 Stratoliner, TWA
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by: Is a secret [ JESSIE_C ]

The Boeing 307 was the world's first production pressurised airliner. Developed in parallel with the B-17B/C, it first flew with a similar 'shark's fin' vertical stabiliser, but a disastrous crash destroyed the first production aircraft with its entire crew, including representatives from potential customer KLM. After the cause of the accident was found to be insufficient lateral stability, the familiar wide-chord, swooping fin outline was adapted, which also found itself migrating to the then-new B-17E and all subsequent B-17 and B-29 models.

9 more Stratoliners were built. 3 were delivered to Pan American, 5 went to TWA, and the last was sold to Howard Hughes who called it his 'flying penthouse'. Passenger amenities were luxurious for the time. The wide fuselage allowed for a single row of seats on the port side, and a row of Pullman-type berths on the starboard seating 33 passengers. The luxury extended to the ladies dressing room and even a separate ladies toilet. Cabin altitude at 19 000 feet was the equivalent of 12 000 feet. The ability to climb over the weather made for a much smoother and safer ride than was the industry standard of the day.

Shortly after the US entered the Second World War, all 8 307s in airline service were impressed into service for the military. TWA's fleet was painted in full military markings, the pressurisation equipment removed and long-range fuel tanks installed. In US Army service, they were designated C-75s, although they were most often still flown by their TWA crews. In contrast, Pan Am's 307s were never modified or re-painted. They flew in their civilian markings throughout the war.

At the end of the war, the USAAF returned the C-75s to TWA, which sent them to Boeing who rebuilt them using B-17G parts and engines. The pressurisation equipment was not re-installed, but all the other airline interior fittings were and the passenger seats increased from 33 to 38. In this configuration TWA's 307s were called 307Bs, and allowed the airline to weather the difficulties which were encountered with bringing the new Lockheed Constellation into service.

After their mainline service, the 307s were sold off to secondary airlines. One of Pan Am's ended up in Haiti as that country's Presidential aircraft, before being returned to the USA and eventually being restored to flying condition. It is now on display in the Smithsonian's collection at the Washington, DC airport. One other 307 survives, but not in flying condition. Howard Hughes' 'flying penthouse' had been stored in Florida awaiting restoration when it was destroyed by a hurricane. An enterprising individual salvaged the fuselage and turned the aircraft into a houseboat, which now rejoices in the name 'Cosmic Muffin'. The boat preserves Hughes' luxury interior as it was in 1940. As of this writing, it is displayed in the Florida Air Museum.

First impressions
This kit is very nicely moulded in Roden's familiar slightly brownish plastic. The parts breakdown is entirely conventional with left and right fuselage halves, left and right upper and lower wing halves. The stabilisers are one piece, but the engine nacelles are quite complicated to allow for either the TWA or the Pan Am configurations.

There is a modicum of flash evident, and also ejector pin towers and sink marks under the wing fillets and on the engine nacelles betraying this kit's limited run nature.

Fuselage: The fuselage is two pieces nose to tail with a separate Heller-style cockpit cap. There is no interior detail, but it is very unlikely that any would be seen through the small windows. The fuselage windows have clear inserts which appear to fit very well. Don't forget to paint the interior black. The undersurfaces of the wing fillets are marred by large sink marks which follow the curve of the trailing edge. Getting them filled and smoothed off fr the metallic finish is going to be a challenge.

Wings: Each wing is comprised of an upper and lower half. TWA's aircraft had 5 small triangular external flap hinge fairings on each wing, the holes for which must be opened before assembling the wings.

Empennage: The tailplanes are single piece mouldings. Only the smaller, more triangular pre-war style is provided. Modellers wishing to build a 307B must rob the stabilisers from a B-17G

Engines: The engines and cowlings are moulded separately. Pan Am's aircraft had external carburettor air intake scoops on the tops of their nacelles, resembling that of the DC-3. The Pan Am parts are ignored in the instructions but it's easy enough to figure out which parts to use. Similarly the baffle plates which were installed during Pan Am's early service are provided, but not called for. It's obvious that Roden have planned that a later Pan Am issue of this kit can be released. There are large ejector pin towers in the nacelle halves which must be cut away and carved out before they can be assembled. The carburettor scoops have smallish sink marks which will need to be filled and sanded smooth.

Landing gear: The landing gear struts and wheels have adequate detail for the scale. They will need only a good painting before they can be glued in place.

Accuracy: I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it looks like a Stratoliner.

Decals and markings
The decal sheet has markings for NC-19907, one of the 5 TWA Stratoliners in its pre-war scheme. The decals are Roden's now familiar almost vinyl style, and should work well.

No window decals are provided. Aftermarket sheets are available for Pan Am and TWA from Vintage Flyer Decals. The sheets allow any aircraft from each fleet to be built.

This is the first injection-moulded Boeing 307 in this scale, which automatically makes it the best. Apart from its limited-run nature, there's nothing complicated about building this kit, especially if the builder sticks to the TWA parts as called out in the instructions. Building a PAA aircraft is not terribly complicated with a little background knowledge, and after all, one could wait until Roden issues the kit with PAA markings which if this one sells well should be pretty much inevitable. It would also be nice to see the C-75 markings at some point. The post war Air Aigle Azur scheme will have to wait until a conversion kit for the 307B is issued.

The Real Thing
NX19901 showing the original fin design. This was the only 307 to be built with the short-chord fin.

NC19903 taking off on its final flight to the Smithsonian in 2004.

NC19908 in its post-war 307B configuration. Note the B-17G horizontal tail surfaces and carburetor air intakes, which the pre-war TWA fleet lacked.

Cosmic Muffin in the Florida waterways, enjoying its retirement.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Beautiful mouldings with fine detail. Simple construction.
Lows: Only one decal option, no window decals. Heavy sink marks.
Verdict: Highly recommended. It's a nice contrast to a DC-3, and would look good beside its later cousins.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:144
  Mfg. ID: 339
  PUBLISHED: Jun 06, 2020
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Is a secret (Jessie_C)

Copyright 2021 text by Is a secret [ JESSIE_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Jessie, I think that photo you posted as one of TWA's 307B's is not correct, as IIRC, the four TWA remanufactured examples had wings, engines cowlings, and horizontal stabilizers from a B-17G fitted, and the airplane in the photo has the early stabilizers, cowlings, and wings. The B-17G wings had a different flap arrangement than the ones on the 307A's, but the original outer wings were refitted to the 307B's, which is why you still see the letterbox slots, which were not a fixture on B-17E/F/G wings. Mike
JUN 11, 2020 - 10:05 AM
That's correct, but look closely at the tailplanes, then compare to this early 307 (in fact, the prototype with the smaller fin). Note the much pointier tailplane tips and shorter span. The TWA aircraft does indeed have B-17G tail surfaces in that photo. This one clearly has the B-17G flaps (no more hinge fairings) and you can see that the carburettor intakes are the same as the photo I identified as a -307B in the article. This image is small but the broad tailplane tips, no flap hinges, and the carburettor intakes make it clear that it's a 307B. It's very difficult to find images online which are definitively post-war, but those 3 definitely are. By contrast, this one's definitely pre-war. The image quality is poor, but look carefully at the fairings on the outboard portions of the stabilisers. They're not visible on any 307B because the B-17G stabilisers didn't have them. I think that it's the camera angle in the photo which is foreshortening the stabiliser, making it appear shorter than it actually is.
JUN 11, 2020 - 04:15 PM
Here's more interesting information on the 307's early evolution. Most sources I've read said that only the first prototype NX19901 had the small 'shark fin' tail, yet this photo exists And here's NX19906 with an interim fin design which must have been used as part of the flight test program while evolving the final and familiar fin we all know and love. Both images sourced from Aerofiles.
JUN 13, 2020 - 06:35 AM

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