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August 22, 2012

MY Cosmic Muffin – Fort Lauderdale Plane Boat

Filed under: Miscelaneous — Richard Jordan @ 12:00 am

Cosmic Muffin docked on SW 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale

Cosmic Muffin is one of a handfull of iconic boating symbols in Fort Lauderdale along with the dismasted Floridian and that blue sailboat without any portholes. Sometimes these icons move on like that Wooden Schooner that was slipped for so long on the New River or the famous Tropic Rover which sunk in the jetties of Nassau Harbor. But I think and hope we will have M/Y Cosmic Muffin forever. Florida is a colorful place, and nothing is more colorful than a Boeing 307 Stratoliner owned by Howard Hughes that was converted into a boat and featured in a novel by timeless troubadour Jimmy Buffett. See below for a historical timeline of the boat.

The Beginning

The plane-boat started its improbable journey as a Boeing 307 Stratoliner originally owned by industrialist and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes who acquired the plane in 1939 as part of his purchase of TWA. The 307 was the world’s first commercial pressurized aircraft that was a variant of the B-17 Flying Fortress. Only ten were built in the late 1930s as production was discontinued by government order at the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. (One 307 has survived fully intact and has undergone a complete restoration by Boeing in Seattle for its owner, the National Air & Space Museum).

Howard Hughes: 1938 – 1949

In 1938, Hughes shattered the around-the-world flight record in a twin-engined Lockheed 14 for which he received a tumultuous hero’s recognition. In an apparent effort to beat his own record he prepared the 307 with extra fuel tanks, but was forced to cancel the attempt with war in Europe. After denying use of the plane to the military, in 1948 Hughes had a new interior built by industrial design pioneer Raymond Loewy, with decor suggestions from Rita Hayworth to become one of the first conversions of a commercial airliner into a plush executive transport.

Glenn McCarthy: 1949 – 1969

As part of his Shamrock Hotel grand opening in March 1949, Houston oil millionaire Glenn McCarthy bought the Hughes 307 to bring Hollywood celebrities to the event. McCarthy was the “King of the Wildcatters” who struck oil and became the real-life inspiration for the Jett Rink character in the Edna Ferber novel Giant. In the 1956 movie classic based on the book, James Dean portrayed Rink.

The plane, dubbed The Shamrock by McCarthy, was sold in 1962 to Florida Jet Research in Fort Lauderdale, renamed The Flying Penthouse, with the flight from Houston almost ending in disaster when a cockpit electrical fire over the Gulf of Mexico forced an emergency landing in Gulfport, Mississippi. Then in 1964 Hurricane Cleo roared through Broward County, Florida, causing wing and tail wheel damage to the 307, ending its flying days forever. It had logged a remarkably low total of 500 flight hours over 25 years, only to become an abandoned derelict, stripped of its useful parts and waste away.

Kenneth London: 1969 – 1981

Apparently destined for the scrap heap, the 307 was rescued by Fort Lauderdale Realtor® and pilot Kenneth W. London in 1969. Unable to make the plane airworthy again, he cut the wings and tail off, trucked the remaining fuselage to a nearby marina and spent the next four years converting the four-engined airliner into a sleek and uniquely sensational motor yacht. Launched in July 1974, the Londonaire was seen throughout south Florida to the delight of spectators and the media. The “plane-boat” featured twin V-8 inboards incorporating the original aircraft cockpit controls that were used to fly the plane, propelling the vessel over 20 mph. Electrical, plumbing, sanitation and air conditioning systems were installed along with a new interior that included restored chairs and bar.

Dave Drimmer: 1981 – ?

The boat was bought by Dave Drimmer in 1981 as a liveaboard and extensively remodeled and rebuilt after he discovered the original hull was barely keeping the plane fuselage afloat. He later named it the Cosmic Muffin after publication of Jimmy Buffett’s novel Where is Joe Merchant? Boeing has restored the only other remaining 307 Stratoliner to flying condition for the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

Conclusion
Who knows what the future of Cosmic Muffin will hold. Maybe she will leave dock and be a tourist boat once more. That would bring back some active color to the New River. Please see my other articles about Wooden Schooner and Tropic Rover for other iconic yachts of Fort Lauderdale. Go to PlaneBoats.com for more information and photos of Cosmic Muffin. The quotes above were taken from this informative website.

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