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A 1953 black and white image of a Boeing KC 97G Stratofreighter on takeoff, exhaust spewing from its four engines.

According to Wikipedia, the KC-97 Stratofreighter was an aerial refueling tanker variant of the C-97 Stratofreighter. (Photo from the Paul S. Maynard archive)

Cleared for Takeoff!

Boeing KC-97G Stratofreighter 

BY MARK MAYNARD

This circa 1953 photo appears to show a big Boeing KC-97G “Stratofreighter.” According to the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, its wingspan was 141 feet, 2 inches, and it was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-4360s of 3,500 hp each and two General Electric J47s of 5,970 lbs. thrust each.

At 117 feet, 5 inches long with a height of 38 feet, 4 inches, the plane weighed 153,000 lbs. max. and was capable of cruising at 230 mph with a top speed of 400 mph and had a range of 2,300 miles.

According to Wikipedia, the KC-97 Stratofreighter was an aerial refueling tanker variant of the C-97 Stratofreighter, based on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

The U.S. Air Force began operating the KC-97 in 1950.

“[The plane’s] cavernous upper deck was capable of accommodating oversize cargo accessed through a very large right-side door. Transferable jet fuel was contained in tanks on the lower deck (G-L models). Both decks were heated and pressurized for high-altitude operations. The boom operator lay prone, viewing operations through a window at the bottom of the tail, a configuration later used on the KC-135.

The KC-97G had a dual role of aerial refueling tankers (underwing fuel tanks) and cargo transport. In addition to the plane’s aviation gasoline for the piston engines, the tanker also carried jet fuel for its refueling mission.

“While it was an effective tanker, the KC-97’s slow speed and low operational altitude complicated refueling operations with jet aircraft,” according to the Wiki report. “B-52s typically lowered their flaps and rear landing gear to slow the aircraft enough to refuel from the KC-97.”

There were 592 KC-97G models built.