Historic Boeing 307 Stratoliner ditches into Elliott Bay on March 28, 2002.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 3/29/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3740

On March 28, 2002, the last surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner ditches into Elliott Bay at 1:15 p.m. after running out of fuel on a flight from Boeing Field to Everett. The 307 first flew in December 1938 and was the world's first pressurized airliner. The Clipper Flying Cloud is the sole survivor of only 10 Stratoliners built before World War II and had been painstakingly restored over six years by Boeing engineers and volunteers for the Smithsonian. The crew was later faulted by the National Transportation Safety Board for failing to manually check fuel levels.

The pilot and three crew members escaped with minor injuries. They were Richard "Buzz" Nelson, a highly experienced pilot with an interest in vintage airplanes; Mark Kempton, head of the restoration team; Nathan Andrews, a Boeing electrician assigned to the project; and Mike Carricker, also a highly experienced pilot.

The restored airplane had been flown several times and was scheduled to fly to Washington D.C. to be the centerpiece of the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a facility of the National Air and Space Museum set to open at Dulles International Airport in Virginia next year.

The airplane had taken off minutes earlier from Boeing Field to Everett when before it ditched. The coast guard and police and fire boats arrived almost immediately. The crew was taken off and paramedics took them to Harborview Hospital. Police attached a line to the rear landing gear and towed the vintage airplane to shallow water for later salvage.

Boeing later agreed to restore the plane a second time. On February 24, 2003, the National Transportation Safety Board released the findings of its investigation, which cited the crew's failure to manually verify fuel tank levels before takeoff.


Elaine Porterfield, "4 Escape Injury as Historic Stratoliner Ditches in Elliott Bay," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 29, 2002 (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com); Ian Ith and J. Martin McOmber, "63 Years of Boeing History Dives into Bay," The Seattle Times, March 29, 2002 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com) Mike Carter and Kyung M. Song, "Lovingly Restored Plane is Model's Lone Survivor," Ibid; AP, "Stratoliner crew faulted for crash," The Seattle Times, February 25, 2003.
Note: This essay was updated on March 28, 2003.

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