Friday, June 21, 2013
Bill Boeing's Big Trimotor
With business booming, Boeing followed with their much larger Model 80, a trimotor, in 1928. Because of harsh operating conditions on some of the Rocky Mountain airports along the San Francisco - Chicago airmail route, Boeing elected to go with a biplane configuration, as instead of the monoplane used by Ford and Fokker. With the demand for passenger service growing quickly, the Model 80 could carry 12 people in relative luxury (a lavatory with running water was even included.
After building only four of these, Boeing stretched the fuselage and installed more powerful engines so that up to 18 passengers could be carried in the 80A. To care for all these folks, Boeing Air Transport hired a small crew of registered nurses, who became the industry's very first airline stewardesses. The 80As were originally built with just the main vertical stabilizer, but the longer fuselage wasn't enough to compensate for the more powerful engines, so in 1930, Boeing added two supplemental stabilizer/rudder units to each horizontal stab, and the plane became the Model 80A-1.
Boeing Air Transport was merged into United Airlines in 1931, and the Model 80A-1s continued to be operated until they were replaced in 1934 with the much more modern Model 247s. Though retired from main line passenger work, the big Boeings continued to be used, and a number of them found their way to Alaska, where they were operated by famed Alaskan bush pilot Bob Reeve for the Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company. By cutting large doors in the slab side of the fuselage, Reeve could haul up to 11,000 pounds of cargo, more than twice the load that the Boeing engineers designed it to carry.
NC-229M (Boeing c/n 1087) was the seventh Model 80A built and, along with sister aircraft NC-224M (a rare color photo of 224M can be seen here), became part of the MK fleet. At some point, 229M became damaged, then when 224M was wrecked at Anchorage on Marcy 21, 1943, parts of 229M were used to get 224M back in the air. After WWII, 224M was retired in 1946 and sat in storage outside Reeve's hangar, and eventually ended up derelict in an Anchorage dump, and in 1960 it was salvaged and beautifully restored (presumably still incorporating parts of 229M), and is now on display at Boeing's Museum of Flight in Seattle; it is the only surviving Model 80.