One of the more unique artifacts on display at the Florida Air Museum is the Cosmic Muffin. Donated to the museum in 2018 by Mr. Dave Drimmer, the Cosmic Muffin is more than she seems. Because she is in need of careful restoration, The Institute for Digital Exploration (IDEx) at the University of South Florida has partnered with the Museum to complete a digital scan of the interior and exterior of the Cosmic Muffin.
IDEx researchers John Northrop and Rebekah McLaughlin began the virtualization process this week by employing terrestrial laser-scanning to map the interior of the Cosmic Muffin. At the conclusion of the project, Florida Air Museum will be able to use the models to develop incremental plans for the craft’s continued preservation.
What Exactly Is Cosmic Muffin?
In 1939, Howard Hughes began plans to fly a goodwill tour of the major world capitals. For that purpose, Hughes paid $315,000 for a Boeing 307 Stratoliner (NC19904). Based on the B-17 Flying Fortress, the SB-307 could fly to altitudes of twenty thousand feet and was the first four-engine airplane to carry a flight engineer as a normal part of its crew. Only ten Boeing 307s were ever built and Hughes’ featured so many modifications that the aircraft was given the designation SB-307B.
Unfortunately, the impending Second World War forced Hughes to cancel his plan for a round-the-world goodwill tour. Hughes put the 307 in the hangar at Union Air Terminal until 1949 when he invested $400,000 to prepare it for sale.
Originally Dubbed Shamrock
The interior was redesigned by Raymond Loewy and actress Rita Hayworth made décor suggestions. Houston millionaire Glenn McCarthy purchased the plane to shuttle Hollywood celebrities to the Shamrock Hotel and named the plane the Shamrock. However, McCarthy defaulted on payments and Hughes took the plane back, again setting it in storage.
Shamrock Becomes Motor Yacht Londonaire
A Florida based company had possession of the plane in 1964 when it sustained significant tail and wing damage during Hurricane Cleo. Not worth the cost to repair, the plane was stripped of its engines and set for a dimmer fate until Ken London intervened. London removed what was left of the tail and wings and spent five years converting it to a motor yacht. In 1974 it was launched as the Londonaire. The plane-boat had twin V-8 engines that were linked to the original aircraft cockpit controls and was a common sight along the canals across South Florida. In 1981 the Londonaire was sold to Dave Drimmer and later renamed The Cosmic Muffin.
Londonaire Becomes Cosmic Muffin
Drimmer’s name for the Boeing 307 honors Jimmy Buffet’s featuring of the Londonaire in his 1992 novel, Where is Joe Merchant? The novel features a rocket ship that the character Desdemona builds to travel to the Pleiades. Lacking both science knowledge and working capital, she bases her rocket ship on the long-abandoned rusting hulk of an airplane fuselage that had once belonged to Howard Hughes (the SB-307B). While theoretically under construction, her ship the Cosmic Muffin also serves as her houseboat and hosts her bakery business.
IDEx Gives A Better View
In order to complete the scans, the team needed to get a birds-eye view of the craft. Ever ready to lend a hand, the SUN n’ FUN maintenance team was there with a lift and driver to facilitate the process. Having an on-site maintenance team with the ability to provide these kinds of services saves the Aerospace Center for Excellence thousands of dollars in outside costs. Those savings can then be invested in educational programs and exhibit development.
With the scans complete, IDEx researchers will begin to synthesize the images and data in order to create a multi-dimensional digital model of the Cosmic Muffin. This model will allow the Florida Air Museum the opportunity to share this historic artifact with our community while it retains limited access due to restoration. Additionally, the model can be used in preparing proposals for future restoration projects that can be shared with potential donors.
Stay tuned to see the outcome of the work being done and to take a virtual tour of the Cosmic Muffin! If you would like to donate to the continued restoration of the Cosmic Muffin please contact museum manager Jayme Jamison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863.904.4042, or donate here.