The Boeing Model 367 was originally developed as a cargo aircraft using the wing, tail, engines, etc. from the B-29. Following unsatisfactory service testing, it was redesigned using those components from the B-50. At the same time, Boeing developed the "Flying Boom" in-flight fueling system and incorporated it in the C-97 design. There were 888 C-97's built and 814 of these were KC-97 tankers. The first production KC-97, the KC-97E, began entering service in 1951. The civilian model 377 Stratocruiser was developed from the model 367. It was flown by several airlines including Pan American, Northwest, BOAC and United. Interestingly, the Boeing designation for the aircraft that was the prototype for both the KC-135 and the Boeing 707 was "Model 367-80".
In-flight refueling is accomplished by use of the "Flying Boom", which is located at the rear of the aircraft beneath the tail. The KC-97 was capable of off-loading 15,000 gallons of fuel. The KC-97E and F were convertible to cargo transports, but the in-flight fueling equipment had to be removed. The KC-97G could carry cargo without removing anything. The museum aircraft was built as a KC-97G and modified to KC-97L when the two jet engines were added.
Originally, the aircraft was equipped with only four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines. Later, two J-47 turbojet engines were added to allow the KC-97 to safely operate from shorter runways with a full load. These aircraft were designated as KC-97L's and were assigned to Air National Guard and Reserve Units.
The KC-97 is the direct predecessor of the KC-135 aircraft. In fact, the last KC-97 and the first KC-135 were rolled out of the Boeing assembly plant the same day. The KC-97 saw service well into the Vietnam Conflict era. Later, they were phased out of active service and transferred to Air National Guard units for the remainder of their careers. The last were retired in 1977.
The aircraft on display at Castle Air Museum saw service with the Strategic Air Command and later with several Air National Guard units before being retired. It was recovered from the Air Force Storage Facility in Arizona. It was restored to flying condition and flew into Castle Air Force Base to join the Castle Museum collection.
By kjfitz @ 2007-03-10 14:02:34