10 years ago today, Boeing 307 crashed into Puget Sound

10 years ago today, Boeing 307 crashed into Puget Sound

Credit: Getty Images

Seattle police survey a 1930s-era Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner that crash landed 100 yards offshore in Elliott Bay March 28, 2002 in Seattle, WA. All four people on board the plane were rescued with only minor injuries. This plane was to be displayed at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images)


by KING 5 News and Associated Press


Posted on March 28, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 15 at 9:12 AM

On March 28, 2002, a 1940's-era Boeing 307 Stratoliner crash landed off West Seattle into Elliott Bay. The plane was eventually restored and is now on display at the Smithsonian.

The following is the Associated Press story from that day

SEATTLE — A 1940s passenger plane owned by the Smithsonian Institution and once used by Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier crash-landed in Puget Sound. All four people aboard were rescued.

The four-engine plane — the only Boeing 307 Stratoliner still in existence — crash-landed Thursday in West Seattle, across Elliott Bay from downtown near a barge and a waterside restaurant.

The pilot and passengers were standing on the plane's wings when rescuers arrived from a nearby Coast Guard station.

The plane began to sink, though rescue boats towed it closer to shore. It came to rest in 60 feet of water, with its nose and wings underwater and its tail in the air, a fire department spokeswoman said.

After rescue boats towed it closer to shore, the plane was secured so it could not drift. Crews were set to begin recovery efforts Friday, said Debra Eckrote of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Cranes were to be used to pull the plane from the water, Eckrote said. A truck will transport it to nearby Boeing Field, where workers will assess whether it was too damaged to fly again.

The plane took off Thursday afternoon from Boeing Field and was in flight for about 30 minutes when the pilot requested clearance to return to the airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said.

The pilot reported having problems with his landing gear before he radioed a mayday.

Eckrote said three Boeing test pilots and an observer had taken the plane up for a pilot proficiency test. All four were checked at Harborview Medical Center and released.

West Seattle residents Cathy and Bob Horton said they had walked out onto their deck when Bob heard the plane's engine sputter. The plane had its landing gear down, they said.

"At one point we were wondering if he was going to get us," Bob Horton said. "He was sputtering and kept getting lower."

About 30 Boeing retirees volunteered and spent six years restoring the plane for the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, which now owns it. When it was originally built, it was the first commercial plane with a pressurized cabin. The Stratoliner could carry 33 passengers and a crew of five.

Only 10 were built. Sixteen months after it was introduced, World War II broke out and Boeing's hopes for European sales were dashed. Boeing then focused on building the B-17 Flying Fortress, based on the same airframe and wings.

The aircraft was delivered to Pan American Airways in 1940 and named the Clipper Flying Cloud. It once served as the presidential plane of the notorious Duvalier, Smithsonian spokeswoman Claire Brown said.

Boeing employees came across the plane at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Ariz., and the company offered to restore it. Boeing flew it back to Seattle in 1994 and it was rolled out of the factory last summer.

The Smithsonian bought it from a private owner who had converted it into a crop duster.

It was to be the centerpiece of a Smithsonian exhibit scheduled to open at Washington Dulles International Airport in 2003.