B-377 ✪ Stratocruiser
The B-377 Stratocruiser was the last propeller-driven transport aircraft built by Boeing. This aircraft was created on the basis of the B-29 "super fortress" bomber. The wing, engines, tail unit and landing gear were taken from the bomber as it is, and the fuselage has changed quite significantly: it was made double-deck, attaching another larger circle to the circular section of the fuselage from above. As a result, the aircraft changed from a mid-wing to a low-wing aircraft, and the fuselage acquired a characteristic figure-eight section (in English “double-bubble” - “double bubble”).
"Stratospheric cruiser" ("stratospheric cruiser") was designed for 55-100 passengers, depending on the layout of the cabin or 28 beds ("night" version). On the "lower deck" behind the wing there was additional saloon with 14 seats , which could be reached by a spiral staircase; this cabin was used as a bar and not to accommodate additional passengers. Women's and men's toilets were provided, and the kitchen, located at the rear of the aircraft, was the most perfect at that time.
Judging by the number of aircraft built, the Model-377 cannot be called a successful airliner: only 55 units were built, while the main "competitors" - Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed L-049 "Constellation" ("Constellation") - were sold in the amount of 600 and more than 200 pieces, respectively.
The reason for this failure lay primarily in the propeller group. The new P&W P-4360 Wasp Major engines had an enormous power of 3500 hp. from. (later versions - 3800 hp), otherwise it would have been impossible to achieve any decent performance from an aircraft with a flight weight of 66 600 kg.
But the 28-cylinder four-row engine was incredibly complex, for which it received the unflattering nickname "corncob engine". It took two years to eliminate his "childhood diseases"; during this time there were so many refusals that a joke appeared: "Stratocruiser" is the best three-engine aircraft flying across the Atlantic!
For the most part, these failures were caused by engine overheating: the R-4360 was turbocharged, but with strong compression, the air is known to heat up (for which reason, heat exchangers are installed on turbocharged cars to cool the charge air). Aircraft engines did not have such heat exchangers, and since four-row radial engines are generally prone to overheating, it is not surprising that failures rained in one after another.
According to John Borger, the problem was aggravated by the extremely poor design of the engine hoods. By the way, at first they wanted to install the Wright R-3350 engines on the Stratocruiser - the same ones as on the XC-97, but they tormented the designers on the B-29, and the trust in the Wright company was lost.
The problem with the propellers was even more serious: initially their blades were hollow, and the ends of the blades were filled with special plastic for balancing. From strong heating in flight, these balancing weights often loosened and began to dangle inside the blade, and the strongest vibration resulting from the imbalance led to the destruction of the engine - for this reason, two catastrophes occurred. The problem was solved by replacing the hollow steel blades with solid aluminum ones.
The reason for the commercial failure was also the high cost: Model-377 cost 1.75 million dollars, and DC-6 and L-049 - about a million. Nevertheless, the Stratocruiser was in many ways superior to its competitors.
As elegant as Lockheed "Constellation" was, the "Stratocruiser" looked just as heavy and awkward; but this impression was misleading - "377" flew 160 km / h faster than the first version of "Constellation" L-049; (then the L-749 and L-1049 appeared), and 40 km / h faster than the DC-6 - the enormous power of the engines made itself felt.
The propellers had a large diameter and therefore rotated rather slowly, due to which the level of noise and vibration was extremely low - and this is important for intercontinental flights: noise and vibration tire passengers.
The 377th surpassed all the airliners of that time in the chic finish of the 377th (hence the high cost) - in the cabin there were adjustable armchairs and "coupes" for newlyweds (!). The bar on the “ground floor” was especially popular with passengers, where you could walk to diversify your pastime - flights across the Atlantic took 16 hours at that time.
The aircraft was designed to provide the crew with optimal working conditions; in particular, the view from the cockpit was the best for those times (the DC-6 and Constellation pilots unanimously complained about poor visibility). The Stratocruiser was the first passenger aircraft to have a cockpit designed to minimize the possibility of error in piloting.
Also, for the first time in the electrical circuit, wire markings were introduced, which facilitate troubleshooting. Today, the nameplates on the wires with its markings seem to be an absolutely necessary attribute, and it seems that it should not be otherwise. Finally, the structure of the aircraft was very solid, probably due to its "military roots".