Boeing Model 95 NC397E
“BOEING-HORNET SHUTTLE” AND THE NITTANY
This airplane is a Boeing Model 95 (S/N 1057; ATC #106),
manufactured in February 1929 by the Boeing Airplane Company,
Seattle, WA. It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney
Hornet C engine (S/N 266) of 500 HP. It was a large, single-place
airplane, weighing 5,840 pounds.
NC397E was used by the Boeing Company as a demonstrator
by none other than Erik
Nelson. Nelson was pilot of the Douglas
World Cruiser, Chicago. He and his team of other pilots and
aircraft won the Mackay Trophy for the very first around-the-world
flight, April 6th to September 28, 1924. After resigning
from the military, Nelson joined Boeing as a corporate officer.
After a flight test by L.R. Tower, the airplane was ferried
south to Oakland,
CA and “south” on March 2,
1929 by Nelson. Below, from the San Diego Aerospace Museum Flickr stream (SDAM), is a photograph of NC397E (lower airplane) flying in formation with another Boeing, NC381. We know from the Flickr stream that the pilot of the upper airplane is Mike Doolin.
NC397E in Formation With NC381 (Source: SDAM)
NC397E landed at Tucson three times, on March 4th, March
19th and March 28, 1929. Each time it was flown by
Erik Nelson. On the 4th he was southeast bound from
Phoenix, AZ to San Antonio, TX. This was undoubtedly a continuation
of his flight to Oakland begun on March 2nd. On the 19th,
he was westbound from El Paso, TX to Yuma, AZ. And
on the 28th he was eastbound from Los
Angeles, CA to El Paso.
The airplane was returned to the factory on July 10, 1929
and modified to a two-person airplane with Hornet C engine
S/N 505 installed. It was changed to “NR” registration. Continuing
as a Boeing demonstrator, it was ferried “south” again
by pilot B.F. Thompson on August 24, 1929.
It acquired the name “Boeing-Hornet Shuttle” about
this time, and was used in September 1929 by USAAC pilot
Capt. Ira C. Eaker for endurance and refueling flights. Unfortunately,
the airplane was wrecked in a storm and returned to the factory
on September 20, 1929 to be rebuilt as a single-person airplane. There
was no injury to the crew from the wreck. It is not clear
from the record if the “NC” registration was
returned to the airplane after the rebuild. Note in the photograph above that NC397E is a single-cockpit airplane. We can deduce the photograph was taken either before July 10, 1929, or after September 20, 1929.
On October 16, 1929, 397E was transferred to Boeing
Air Transport Corp. of Seattle, WA. There is no record of
what the airplane was used for over the next year or so. It
sold on June 13, 1930 to National Air Transport, Inc. of
Chicago, IL and assigned N.A.T. #85.
On May 4, 1931, during a run of C.A.M. 17 between Newark,
NJ and Chicago, IL, the “Shuttle” struck a mountain
(Nittany Ridge) near Bellefonte, PA. Pilot James D. Cleveland
was killed. The airplane, “struck big Nittany Mtn. & [was]
completely destroyed by fire.”
UPLOADED: 03/28/06 REVISED: 10/13/07, 03/22/14