In the early 1950s, Boeing was concentrating its future transport studies on advanced jet or turboprop versions of the C-97 Stratocruiser. Feeling the heat from across the ocean with the success of the British Comet, Boeing was convinced that the answer had to be a jet.
To design a prototype, Boeing engineers first searched through their blueprints to see if they could piece together a jetliner from wings, tails, and fuselages already on hand. The initial designation, Model 367-64, represented the 64th variation in the Stratocruiser series. In fact, it did resemble the older plane with its large fuselage and modestly sweptback wings, each of which was fitted with a single pod containing two engines. The engine arrangement had been copied from Boeing's jet bombers of the time, as had much of the original design. By late 1951, all of the 367-series studies were centered around the use of four Pratt & Whitney JT3 turbojets, the civilian version of the J57 turbojet that appeared on Boeing's B-52 Stratofortress. Studies continued searching for the right combination and arrangement of wing, engines, and landing gear. Although further modifications were leading the aircraft increasingly away from the Stratocruiser concept, Boeing continued to number the new designs as if they still bore a resemblance to the old piston-engined plane. This was in part for the sake of secrecy. Should any of Boeing's competitors follow what they were doing, it would appear as if they were simply attempting to improve upon the design of the existing C-97.
In early 1952, the 367-80 configuration appeared to Boeing to be the best that could be achieved at that time. The wing featured a 35° sweep, carried the engines in separate, widely spaced pods that hung well forward and below the wing, and rested on two four-wheel main landing gear that retracted inward to occupy large bays in the fuselage. The wings were mounted low on the fuselage and incorporated high-speed and...
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