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Boeing 80A-1

Aircraft Info Group

Boeing Aircraft Company
Great Gallery
Great Gallery

"Pioneer Pullman of the Air"

Until the mid-1920s, American commercial airplanes were built for mail, not people. Boeing's Model 80, along with the Ford and Fokker tri-Motors, were a new breed of passenger aircraft. The 80 first flew in August 1928 and was working along Boeing Air Transport's route two weeks later. The 12-passenger Model 80 and the more-powerful 18-passenger 80A (re-designated 80A-1s when the tail surfaces were modified in 1930) stayed in service until 1933, when replaced by the all-metal Boeing Model 247.

The Museum's Model 80A-1, equipped with three Pratt & Whitney 525-horsepower "Hornet" engines, was retired from service with United in 1934. In 1941, it became a cargo aircraft with a construction firm in Alaska. To carry large equipment, including a massive 11,000-pound (4,950 kg) boiler, a cargo door was cut into the plane's side. After the war, the 80 was stored and then discarded. It was recovered from a dump in 1960 and eventually brought to Seattle for restoration. It is the only surviving example of the Boeing Model 80 series.


In 1930, Miss Ellen Church, a student pilot and registered nurse, convinced Boeing management to hire female cabin attendants for their Model 80 flights. Until then, it had been the co-pilot's duty to pass out box lunches, serve coffee, and tend to the passenger's needs. Church reasoned that the sight of women working aboard the Boeing 80s would alleviate the passenger's fear of air travel. She and seven others, all nurses, became America's first stewardesses. Serving on a trial basis, they were very popular and became a permanent part of American commercial aviation.

The Luxury

A passenger flying in Boeing's earlier Model 40 was in for an uncomfortable trip. The 40 was designed for mail -- people were secondary, packed like sardines into the cold and noisy fuselage. The advent of the Model 80 brought some comfort to travel. The 80A had room for 18, a heated cabin, and leather seats. There was individual reading lights and the lavatory featured hot and cold running water. Although the 80 had a luxurious interior, flying was tough by today's standards: the cabin wasn't pressurized, engine noise made conversation difficult, and despite heaters, the cabin was sometimes very cold.

Help us preserve this historic artifact for future generations. Click here to find out about the Museum's Adopt-A-Plane program.