The C-97 was the Army Air Forces (AAF) cargo/transport version of the B-29. Between 1943 and 1950, 74 Stratofreighters were ordered; the first flight occurred on 15 November 1944. A tanker version (KC-97) was introduced in 1950 using the flying boom refueling system, and all subsequent USAF contracts for C-97s were for tankers. In all, 890 aircraft were ordered, 74 C-97s and 816 KC-97s. After 1956 USAF KC-97s were gradually replaced by KC-135 jet tankers, but some were modified for continued use in other roles. In 1964, selected aircraft were returned to a tanker configuration (KC-97L) primarily for the Air National Guard. Two jet engines were added to increase speed and altitude, making the tankers more compatible with high performance jet aircraft. Although the last USAF C/KC-97 was retired in 1973, examples remained in use with the AF Reserve and ANG as tankers or air-sea search and rescue aircraft for several years before the last one was retired in 1978.

During the 1950s and 1960s, KC-97 tankers were stationed at Robins AFB with the 19th Bombardment Wing in support of the B-52 bombers assigned to the wing. The Museum’s KC-97L was delivered to the USAF in January 1956 and served with various units all over the world before being retired in 1977. The aircraft was sold to a commercial user and was acquired through an exchange and flown to the Museum in 1986.

  • Span: 141 ft. 2 in.
  • Length: 117 ft. 5 in.
  • Height: 38 ft. 4 in.
  • Weight: 153,000 lbs. max.
  • Armament: None
  • Engine: Four Pratt & Whitney R-4360s of 3,500 hp ea. and two General Electric J47s of 5,970 lbs. thrust ea.
  • Cost: $1,205,000
  • Serial Number: 53-298
  • Maximums speed: 400 mph.
  • Cruising speed: 230 mph.
  • Range: 2,300 miles
  • Service ceiling: 30,000 ft.